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Friday, December 31, 2004

Koranic justice 

'Saudi executed and crucified' - headline, United Press International.

One would think that "executed" and "crucified" are redundant. Actually, the convict was "beheaded and crucified," presumably in that order.

One thing about the Saudis -- they have the courage to execute criminals the old fashion way, with lots of blood and in public. Or maybe political and moral courage isn't required in a Muslim country. Are there are still a lot of people in those lands who are entertained by public executions?

I go back and forth on the merits of the death penalty, but I deplore our antiseptic executions. If you are going to execute people, public hangings, firing squads, and even beheadings make sense to me. I am offended, though, by the American taste for oh-so-nice executions away from the public eye. It is as if we want our retribution, but we don't want to confront it in the light of day. We need executions at dawn in front of the courthouse, with television crews there to record it. Only after a few of those will we know whether we really believe that capital punishment is good public policy.

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The G-Movie Paradox 

There is an interesting article (subscribers only) in the January 10 issue of Fortune that discusses a discontinuity in the production of movies. It turns out that G-rated movies are, on average, vastly more profitable than movies with other ratings, yet account for a mere 3% of the movies that major studios produce.
No matter how you slice the movie business—by star vehicles, by budget levels, by sequels or franchises—by far the best return on investment comes from the not-so-glamorous world of G-rated films. The problem is, these movies represent only 3% of the total films made in a typical year.

Take 2003, the last year for which Motion Picture Association of America statistics are available. Of the 940 movies released that year, only 29 were G-rated. Yet the highest grossing movie of the year, Finding Nemo, was G-rated.

On the flip side are the R-rated films, which dominate the total releases and yet bring easily the worst return on investment. A whopping 646 R-rated films were released in 2003—69% of the total output—but only four of the top 20 grossing movies of the year were R-rated films.

This trend—G-rated movies are good for business but underproduced; R-rated movies are bad for business, and yet overdone—is something that has been driving economists batty for the past several years.

In other words, if the maximization of profits is the principle objective of Hollywood movie studios, they are acting irrationally. Hollywood is investing its capital without regard to its return.

Fortune suggests that the underinvestment in movies suitable for family viewing is a function of Hollywood's culture:
If Hollywood were run like a real business—instead of, say, like a clubby, insecure, award-crazy, star-groveling high school—where things like return on investment mattered, there would be one unchallenged, sacred principle that studio chieftains would never violate: Make lots of G-rated movies.

In a way, this should be reassuring to almost everybody. Leftists who are concerned that "corporations" will destroy the artistic merit of movies in the pursuit of profits can now rest assured that that has not happened. Conservatives who argue that Hollywood ignores families and produces corrupting R-rated movies to advance some nefarious social agenda can safely conclude that that has happened.

There are a couple of additional observations to make about this. First, the G-movie paradox surfaces interesting questions about the strange political beliefs of most movie stars, who are the most leftist rich people in the economy. Why is it that so many movie stars insist that "corporations" are motivated only by the pursuit of profit when it is so clearly the case that that does not reflect their own experience? Though it does explain why so many celebrities seem to believe that the economy has money to burn on wasteful social programs. What more wasteful a social program is there than a money-losing R-rated movie?

Second, it seems to me that there are other industries that attract irrational amounts of capital, presumably because of the glamor or other inherent satisfaction in the business. Airlines come to mind, as do restaurants, both of which industries seem to attract an enormous amount of money to losing ventures. Perhaps the production of R-rated movies is just fun.

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Who is John Galt? (Via email) 

I took up my own dare (see "Notes from the TigerHawk birthday" a few posts
back) and am wearing my new "Who is John Galt?" sweatshirt around Princeton
today (at the Princeton-Loyola MD game right now). Contrary to
expectations, I am attracting neither disapproving scowls nor fist-pumping
approval. But several middle-aged women have asked me "Who
is John Galt?" Isn't that interesting? I mean, how many people
are there who ask about slogans on logo attire? I wear a lot of clothing
with stuff written on it, and this is the first time I remember it happening
to me.

Atlas Shrugged is one of the great subversive novels of all time.
It is both a story of subversion and it profoundly influenced two
generations of American conservatives to subvert our version of the
regulatory welfare state. "Who is John Galt?" was the iconic question of
the novel. It surprises and entertains me that it attracts inquiries 50
years after the book's publication.

BTW, Princeton is destroying Loyola, 55-33 with 11:31 to go. Heh.
--------------------------
Sent from my BlackBerry Wireless Handheld

UPDATE: Blogger ate this email and didn't barf it up for more than two hours after I sent it for some unknown reason. Accordingly, I updated the time stamp on the post to the time that I sent the email, as opposed to the publication of the post.

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Satellite photographs of tsunami damage 

DigitalGlobe has an amazing series of satellite images showing "before and after" photos of areas hit by the tsunami. Also, there are links to very interesting multipage analyses of those photos at the top of the DigitalGlobe page (pdf format). (Via LGF.)

On a related note, Amazon.com alone has collected more than $7,000,000 for disaster relief. Go here to make a donation.

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Headline 

'Countdown to Iraqi election reaches final month' - headline, DefendAmerica.

I'm not sure I'd be calling this a "countdown." At least if I were the DOD.

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Photo of the day 

 Posted by Hello

A U.S. soldier conducts a patrol as the sun sets near Logistical Supply Area Anaconda, Iraq, May 3, 2004. Defense Dept. photo by Staff Sgt Aaron Allmon II. This photo is part of the Army's pictorial look at the past year — Serving a Nation at War, The Year in Photos 2004.

From DefendAmerica.

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Thursday, December 30, 2004

Bin Laden the populist 

Look carefully at this picture. Look at the t-shirt on one of the people in the background.

This war will not end when we have bin Laden. We are in a struggle that will last a generation, and had better get used to the idea.

CWCID: Jonah Goldberg.

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Notes from the TigerHawk birthday 

Yesterday was the TigerHawk birthday. Falling as it does between Christmas and New Year's, it has always been at risk for being forgotten. That did happen once (if your family completely forgets your birthday, you get a "lifetime free pass," according to Charlottesvillain, a topic to which I may return in a future post), but by and large my family does a great job rousing themselves from the post-Christmas let-down in time to celebrate mon anniversaire.

This year, we had dinner at one of our favorite restaurants (the Santa Fe Grille in Rocky Hill) and opened presents and had birthday cake at home. Among many generous gifts, this one may be of particular interest to our righty-libertarian readership:
 Posted by Hello

Thanks to the Tigerhawk Mother. Now, do I dare wear it around Princeton?

And here is my most excellent birthday cake, lovingly crafted by Mrs. TigerHawk and the TigerHawk Daughter:
 Posted by Hello


Thank you all very much.

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The Isrealis cut a deal 

This is a huge development:
Israel came a step closer today to having a unity government that will enforce next year's planned pullout from the occupied Gaza Strip where five Palestinians were killed in an upsurge of violence.

After weeks of bargaining, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's office announced a deal that would see Labour Party leader Shimon Peres serve as his number two in a new coalition government.

"(Mr) Peres will be named as number two to the prime minister and will be considered the most important member of the cabinet after the head of government," it said.

I've thought for a long time that Ariel Sharon was the only person who could achieve the only plausible peace agreement: the final definition of Israel's borders and the end of the occupation of Palestinian territory outside of those borders. He put his government at risk in pursuit of the first step in that strategy, and has built a coalition government with the center-left Labour party to rescue it. Would Peres have bailed out Sharon just to achieve the withdrawal from Gaza? Unlikely. He is in because he knows that Sharon is working toward a complete resolution.

If Sharon succeeds, there will be no adulation from the world, and certainly no Nobel Prize. But there will be peace for his people and, finally, a wedge of hope for the Palestinian Arabs, who have preferred to hate Jews than accept a separate peace for more than 80 years.

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Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Ramsey Clark joins Saddam Hussein's legal team 

Former Attorney General of the United States Ramsey Clark, appointed to that post by Lyndon Johnson, has apparently joined Saddam Hussein's legal team.
Clark, who served as attorney general under the late President Lyndon Johnson for three years in the 1960s, is a staunch anti-war opponent who has met Saddam several times over the last 15 years. He was considered a friend of Iraq under Saddam when the United Nations slapped an embargo on Baghdad following its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

Ramsey Clark is one of 25 "lead lawyers" working on Saddam's case. He is 77 years old. He cannot possibly help Saddam's legal team defend the dictator on the substance of the indictment against him. There will be no jury in this case, so he cannot even hope to impress the trier of fact with his gravitas and reputation, such as it is. Clark's only purpose is to score a propaganda victory against the United States. He cannot help Saddam, but he hopes to discredit the United States in the eyes of the world. This may not be treason under the law, but it is nothing less than treason in spirit.

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No dead animals 

It is a cliche to say that modern man has lost touch with the environment, that we've lost something we once had. But if this is not the case, how can we explain this?

Sri Lankan wildlife officials are stunned -- the worst tsunami in memory has
killed around 22,000 people along the Indian Ocean island's coast, but they
can't find any dead animals. Giant waves washed floodwaters up to 3 km (2
miles) inland at Yala National Park in the ravaged southeast, Sri Lanka's
biggest wildlife reserve and home to hundreds of wild elephants and several
leopards.

"The strange thing is we haven't recorded any dead animals," H.D.
Ratnayake, deputy director of the national Wildlife Department, told Reuters on
Wednesday. "No elephants are dead, not even a dead hare or rabbit," he
added. "I think animals can sense disaster. They have a sixth sense. They know
when things are happening." At least 40 tourists, including nine Japanese,
were drowned.





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How to help the tsunami victims 

The Command Post has an extensive list of charities and other means for helping the victims of the Indian Ocean tsunamis. It looks like a pretty comprehensive resource.

Via Rick.

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Nick Coleman spits into the wind 

Minneapolis Star Tribune columnist Nick Coleman seems to be taking ill-informed shots at Power Line, and Hindrocket is responding like, well, a litigator. Hindrocket just pounds away at Coleman. It is an amusing read.

I will say, though, that if I were Nick Coleman I would certainly hate Power Line, particularly for the "homeless of Nazareth" kerfuffle. Coleman had suggested the Mary and Joseph were "homeless" in an otherwise inoffensive Christmas column about helping those less fortunate. A reader named David quite politely took issue with Coleman in an email to the columnist, to which Coleman replied that David "maybe ought to consider becoming a Christian." David responded, Coleman piled on the stupidity, and several emails later David had an email thread in which Coleman made himself appear to be a complete imbecile. And a mean one, to boot, quite out of keeping with the spirit of the season. Power Line republished the exchange, which (if genuine) exposed Coleman as ignorant and mean-spirited.

As I said, no wonder he hates them.

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Japan destroyed 

Some of the tsunami news coverage bears an eerie similarity to the awesome National Lampoon's Sunday Newspaper Parody published more than 25 years ago. Who can forget the Dacron Republican-Democrat? On the front page of that cultural icon (pdf), a three-column headline shouts "Two Dacron Women Feared Missing in Volcanic Disaster." Right underneath it, in teeny-weeny type, is a sub-head that tells the reader "Japan Destroyed."

Well, take a look at this headline in today's Des Moines Register. Heh.

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Laughing at The New York Times 

Friday's New York Times has two laughable, hilarious, roll-on-the-floor headlines. First, it says that "Ohio recount gives a smaller margin to Bush." How much smaller?
The recount, conducted over the past three weeks, showed that Mr. Bush won Ohio by 118,457 votes. Most county elections officials completed their recounts last week, but the state had to wait for Lucas County, where Toledo is located, to complete its tally. Lucas County reported the results of its recount on Tuesday.

The secretary of state's office had earlier reported that Mr. Bush won Ohio by 118,775 votes and plans to record the newest tally officially later this week.

The 318 vote reduction in Bush's margin amounts to 0.0058% of the total vote case in Ohio, and 0.27% of the size of the margin of Bush's victory. Both of these percentages are so miniscule that they are far within the margin of error of the recount. So while it is literally true that the recount gave "a smaller margin" to Bush, the change was so slight and so meaningless statistically that it is ridiculous for the Times to have framed the story this way. The real story is that the recount in Ohio revealed substantially no change in Bush's margin of victory.

You might even say that this headline is true, but inaccurate.

But that's not all.

The Times slapped the headline "The Year The Earth Fought Back" over Simon Winchester's op-ed article about plate tectonics, and the possibility that this year's spate of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are part of a cascade of linked events.
Given these cascades of disasters past and present, one can only wonder: might there be some kind of butterfly effect, latent and deadly, lying out in the seismic world? There is of course no hard scientific truth - no firm certainty that a rupture on a tectonic boundary in the western Pacific (in Honshu, say) can lead directly to a break in a boundary in the eastern Pacific (in Parkfield), or another in the eastern Indian ocean (off Sumatra, say). But anecdotally, as this year has so tragically shown, there is evidence aplenty.

Plate tectonics as a science is less than 40 years old. It is possible that common sense suggests what science has yet to confirm: that the movement among the world's tectonic plates may be one part of enormous dynamic system, with effects of one plate's shifting more likely than not to spread far, far away, quite possibly clear across the surface of the globe.

Winchester makes passing reference to the Gaia Theory, which holds that the earth is an eternal living organism, but he never suggests (as Gaia lunatics propose) that the planet has some sort of consciousness that is visiting retaliation for man's environmental depredations. The idea that the earth "fights back" reflects the liberal guilt of a newspaper that serves the most physically unnatural city on the planet. If the Times readers believe that the earth really does "fight back," and I do not doubt for an instant that many of them do, why are they living on a densely populated slab of bedrock almost entirely covered in concrete?

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Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Germany's geriatric crime wave 

In November, police busted a fairly successful gang of bank robbers who had taken in €400,000 ($541,000) in the last five years. The three men, who demonstrated their seriousness to bank employees with pistols, sledge hammers and hand grenades, were aged 63, 72 and 74.

“There is an increase in the number of elderly people committing crimes and we have to face this problem,” said Jutta Rosendahl of the justice ministry in the state of Lower Saxony. Officials there are working out plans for the country’s first prison designed exclusively for the over 60 set.

Why the surge in elder crime? Demographics are certainly part of it -- Germany's population is aging rapidly, so elder criminality may just be keeping pace. Germans being Europeans, they have also identified any number of social reasons.
Poverty rates among older people have been inching up as prices rise and pension rates remain stagnant or the incremental increases fail to keep up with inflation....

Experts also say that as family bonds weaken in Germany and state-supported programs for seniors fall victim to budget cuts, older people are becoming increasingly isolated. Some resort to petty crimes like shoplifting just for the thrill of it, seeing it almost as an adventure to spice up an otherwise colorless existence. Others hope to get caught, happy that someone, security personnel in these cases, is paying attention to them since generally, no one else does.

These are people who were teenagers in Nazi Germany during World War II. They need to spice up an otherwise colorless existence? Turn o' the millenium Europe not exciting enough for them?

Maybe they're just criminals.

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I hope he wasn't wearing a thong 

A red-faced man wearing a mini-skirt was rescued by police on Sunday after he became wedged head-first in a clothing donation bin in an act of Christmas charity gone wrong.

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What would India do without experts? 

'Work on Indian Ocean tsunami warning likely to begin in January: expert' - headline, Khaleej Times Online.

The political aftermath is unfolding just as Wretchard predicted:
Now that a tsunami has struck the Indian Ocean there were will probably be a clamor to invest in monitoring and warning systems costing billions. Ironically, these magnificent systems will probably go unused for years, perhaps centuries, before politicians in the future elected by voters whose memory of these tragedies has faded say 'what are these White Elephants for?' and abolish them in favor a more immediately beneficial project. The characteristic of rare events is that they are rare.

Poor bastards.
 Posted by Hello



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Military Times poll 

John Podhoretz reports on yesterday's Military Times poll, which reveals persistent strong support for the war in Iraq among our soldiers, with the support apparently increasing with the amount of time that the soldier has served in country. Podhoretz, not surprisingly, turns these data into an unhelpful partisan screed, but that doesn't make them any less interesting.
That poll of 1,423 active members of the military indicates that the armed forces of the United States are passionate supporters of the Coalition's efforts in Iraq.

Support for the war inside the military stands at 60 percent, 25 percent higher than the latest Gallup measurement of the American people as a whole.

When it comes to President Bush's handling of the war effort, the results are even more lopsided. Only 42 percent of Americans approve, according to ABC News. In the military, Bush garners 63 percent support.

In other words, support for Bush's Iraq policy is an astounding half again as big in the active military as in the American body politic.

And, in the words of the Army Times report on the poll, "Support for the war is even greater among those who have served longest in the combat zone: Two-thirds of combat vets say the war is worth fighting."

Is two-thirds support among combat veterans an indication of strong support, as it would be among the civilian population, or is it actually quite low? I have no idea, and Podhoretz does not tell us. He does, however, quote the Military Times as saying that the proportion of active duty soldiers who support the war has not changed in the last year. The same cannot be said of the American civilian population, which suggests that there is a gap opening in attitudes about the war between the military and the homefront. Is this gap the result of protective denial within the military? Who, after all, wants to think that they are placing themselves at mortal risk in a futile effort? Or is the change in perceptions between American civilians and their military the result of relentless negative press coverage, reinforced by the Kerry campaign?

These are the interesting questions.

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Monday, December 27, 2004

Easter Island prototypes 

Walking through the woods in a fairly remote part of the Adirondacks, I came across this rock: Posted by Hello

It is, quite obviously, the prototype for these, the final production models:
 Posted by Hello

So how did they get the prototypes from upstate New York to Easter Island more than 1000 years ago? Maybe we should call in this guy....

It is obviously time for me to call it a night.

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Cleophilus 

A chocolate Lab on a frozen Adirondack lake. Under that thin layer of snow there is beautiful, smooth ice that you can skate on. If you are willing to carry your skates several miles through the woods to Heaven's Lake, that is. Posted by Hello

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Bin Laden calls for a boycott in Iraq 

In an audiotape broadcast Monday by Al-Jazeera satellite television, a man purported to be Osama bin Laden endorsed Abu-Musab al-Zarqawi as his deputy in Iraq and called for a boycott of next month's elections there.

We will soon learn the depths of al Qaeda's support in Iraq, for it now can fairly be said that merely showing up to vote is a vote against bin Laden. It always was -- President Bush has said so from the start -- and now bin Laden is agreeing with him. Is this a public relations battle that he can win, even against the United States (which loses just about every public relations battle that it joins)? I think it is a mistake for bin Laden to force Iraqis to take sides at this point, but that is what he has done. I predict that Iraqis are going to show up and vote in force. No pun intended.

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Michael Crichton's university 

If you are a center-right libertarian and want to have a lot of fun, run out and buy Michael Crichton's new novel, State of Fear. Narrowly defined, it is about a group of environmentalist activists who try to stage ecological disasters to build the case for drastic action against global warming, and various people trying to stop them or caught in the middle. More broadly, the novel is an anguished call to resist the fear-mongering that has become pervasive in politics, law and the media -- what Crichton calls the "politico-legal-media (PLM) complex," which he argues has replaced the "military-industrial complex" as the enemy of our freedom. Crichton argues that the American university is the backbone of the PLM complex. One of his minor characters rants thusly:
"[T]he universities transformed themselves in the 1980s. Formerly bastions of intellectual freedom in a world of Babbittry, formerly the locus of sexual freedom and experimentation, they now became the most restrictive environments in modern society. Because they had a new role to play. They became the creators of new fears for the PLM. Universities today are factories of fear. They invent all the new terrors and all the new social anxieties. All the new restrictive codes. Words you can't say. Thought you can't think. They produce a steady stream of new anxieties, dangers, and social terrors to be used by politicians, lawyers and reporters. Foods that are bad for you. Behaviors that are unacceptable. Can't smoke, can't swear, can't screw, can't think. These institutions have been stood on their heads in a generation. It is really quite extrardinary.

"The modern State of Fear could never exist without universities feeding it. There is a peculiar neo-Stalinist mode of thought that is required to support all this, and it can thrive only in a restrictive setting, behind closed doors, without due process. In our society, only universities have created that -- so far. The notion that these institutions are liberal is a cruel joke. They are fascist to the core, I'm telling you."

Indeed. And it is even more extraordinary that the generation that brought us the "free speech movement" has been the moving force behind this depressing transformation of the American campus.

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George Carlin enters drug rehab 

"I'm going into rehab because I use too much wine and Vicodin," Carlin, 67, whose latest book "When Will Jesus Bring the Pork Chops?" is a national bestseller, said in a statement. "No one told me I needed this; I recognized the problem and took the step myself."

George Carlin? With a substance abuse problem? I'm shocked! Shocked! There's gambling drug abuse going on here!

For some reason, the A.P. story about his drug rehab includes a bit about his most recent controversy, which involves insulting people who go to Las Vegas. In Las Vegas.
The announcement came weeks after the veteran stand-up comic caused a stir at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas with a performance that questioned the intellect of people who visit the resort city.

According to media accounts of the incident, Carlin's bit about "moronic" Vegas tourists touched off a bitter, profane exchange with members of the audience, including one woman who shouted "Stop degrading us."


First of all, anybody with skin so thin that they take personally a comedic insult aimed at a class of people -- such as Las Vegas tourists -- is, indeed, a moron. If that person then voluntarily buys a ticket to see George Carlin live, that person is not just a moron, but absolutely deserving of any insult that might plausibly describe that person.

Second, it is interesting that an actual Las Vegas tourist called upon Carlin to "stop degrading" his audience. It is fun to go to Vegas and I certainly have been, but there is no argument -- none -- that it isn't degrading. Face it: begging for sex is less degrading than going to Vegas, and the woman who complained that Carlin degraded his audience proved the point.

Third, anybody who sees fit to have a "bitter exchange" with George Carlin is just asking for it. That's like tugging on Superman's cape, or messing with Jim. Why would you do such a thing? And if you did, could anybody with a whisp of a sense of justice have sympathy for you?

Actually, I am a big fan of George Carlin, just bought Pork Chops, love him live and on HBO, and wish him only the best. I just hope sobriety doesn't chase away his muse. After all, what's the addiction of one comedian compared to the laughter of millions?

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Vanishing auditors 

Tom Kirkendall thinks that Fannie Mae, having fired KPMG, may have a very difficult time finding an auditor among the remaining "big four" firms. Why? Because the government decided to prosecute Arthur Andersen out of existence.
Consequently, the Fannie Mae situation highlights one of the largely ignored consequences of the federal government's dubious decision to prosecute Anderson out of business over its role in the Enron accounting scandal. There are simply not enough big accounting firms left to provide audit services for the big companies that need them. Complicating matters even further is that each of the Big Four are literally under siege from civil lawsuits seeking large damage awards that could cripple any or all of them.

So, we already know that the government's regulation of Anderson through criminalization of their audit services cost the marketplace thousands of jobs and one of the relatively few accounting firms that could provide the specialized services that big companies need. Now, we are coming to understand that this dubious governmental policy of criminalizing auditors may result in big companies not being able to to find auditors capable of providing adequate audit services at all.

This problem extends far beyond Fannie Mae, and its consequences are not helpful for those who call for "improving" corporate governance. Corporate governance nannies -- you know, the people who think that American public companies should be held to uncompromising standards of financial probity not required of any other institution on the planet -- say that "good governance" requires that companies switch auditors every few years. They also get jumpy if a company hires anything less than a "big four" firm to do its auditing. They have demanded and secured legislation that virtually requires companies to put directors with public accounting experience on their own audit committees. They then get extremely jumpy if there is the slightest financial conflict of interest between a board's directors and the company's business. How is a public company supposed to comply with all of these demands when there are so few large auditing firms as a result of the government's own policies? The result will be that more public companies will hire no-name or small-name firms to do their auditing, and there will be less transparency in financial statements, rather than more.

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Might be time to clean the basement 

Who knows what you'll find down there? This woman put a couple of old ceramic insulators on ebay for $5.99 apiece, and then watched in awe as the collectors circled.
Just a few hours later, she checked to see how it was doing - and found 10 urgent messages from collectors, telling her that the glass insulator dated to the 1890s, was extraordinarily rare and listed in price guides at up to $10,000. In a panic, Quimby went to pull the insulator off and put a higher price on it. Instead, she found 22 bids already posted, vaulting the price to $5,100.


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What do Indian Ocean tsunamis and September 11 have in common? 

Wretchard:
In an abstract way, the information flows surrounding the Tsunami of December 2004 structurally resembled those preceding the Pearl Harbor and September 11 attacks. The raw data announcing the unfolding threat was there, yet the pattern so evident in hindsight was invisible to those who were not looking for it. But if tsunamis and asteroid strikes are rare events, they are comparatively more common than that still rarer object, the unprecedented event: the something that has never happened before. Threats like that can emerge suddenly out of chaotic systems, like WMD terrorism or new viral plagues. Against such events, specific precautions are impossible because no one can prepare for what cannot be foreseen. The real challenge is not so much to create a new dedicated network of staring systems against known threats but to tie current sensors to systems which are capable of cognition. The most valuable survival asset is situational awareness -- the ability to recognize threats you have never seen before and respond in an evolving manner -- and that capability has not yet come to the world as a whole.

Read the whole thing.

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Sunday, December 26, 2004

Do you speak Yankee or Dixie? 

Take the test. I'm 52% Dixie, which sounds about right. I've never lived in the South, but I have a lot of southern family so it is perhaps not surprising that some Dixie seems to have crept into my speech.

I'm sure that we are all interested to find out how Charlottesvillain scores...

CWCID: Cassandra.

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Saturday, December 25, 2004

It wasn't about oil after all 

Apparently the Saudis, Iranians, and Syrians are spreading the story that the American military is harvesting organs from dead Iraqis for sale at a profit. According to MEMRI, the Arab and Iranian media are reporting the following:
Secret European military intelligence reports indicate the transformation of the American humanitarian mission in Iraq into a profitable trade in the American markets through the practice of American physicians extracting human organs from the dead and wounded, before they are put to death, for sale to medical centers in America. A secret team of American physicians follow the troops during their attacks on Iraqi armed men to ensure quick [medical] operations for extracting some organs and transferring them to private operations rooms before they are transferred to America for sale.

This, apparently, was one of the motives for murders at Abu Ghraib.

The reporting of news in that part of the world is really just so much oozing of pus. Arabs learned the power of the Big Lie from the Nazis, and they continue to exploit it to achieve their own geopolitical objectives. It is telling that the governments of these countries view stories such as this as valuable for mobilizing their own citizenry. It shows that they have contempt for their own people, that they are the enemies of the United States, and that they have an enormous fear of successful representative government in Iraq.

Of course, we knew all of that already.

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Tom Friedman on education 

Merry Christmas.

I actually do plan on posting my Christmas present to you -- some Adirondack wilderness pictures -- once I get my hands on some bandwidth. Until then I'm keeping it simple. And tonight, picking on Tom Friedman is simple.

In tomorrow's column, Friedman lists ten seemingly unrelated recent news stories about such subjects as military logistics and declining test scores among fourth graders compared to students in Asian countries and asks his readers to find the common denominator. Failing to hear from us right away, he tells us how they tie together:
So what is the common denominator of all these news stories? Wait, wait, don't tell me. I want to tell you. The common denominator is a country with a totally contradictory and messed-up set of priorities.

We face two gigantic national challenges today: One is the challenge to protect America in the wake of the new terrorist threats, which has involved us in three huge military commitments - Afghanistan, Iraq and missile defense. And the other is the challenge to strengthen American competitiveness in the wake of an expanding global economy, where more and more good jobs require higher levels of education, and those good jobs will increasingly migrate to those countries with the brainpower to do them. In the face of these two national challenges, we have an administration committed to radical tax cuts, which, one can already see, are starting to affect everything from the number of troops we can deploy in Iraq to the number of students we can properly educate at our universities. And if we stay on this course, the trade-offs are only going to get worse.

Now, I myself doubt whether all the Bush tax cuts make sense either as a matter of fiscal probity or wise tax policy. I also believe that we should not send the message to our most affluent citizens that they should party like it's 1999 during the middle of a war of such magnitude and stakes. However, the ineffectiveness of our public schools has nothing -- nothing -- to do with the amount of money that we spend on them. We massively outspend virtually all of the countries that are producing more capable students than ours. Our public schools fail to educate against a global standard for all sorts of reasons, most of which have to do with the utter failure of state governments -- our public schools are, after all, creatures of state government -- to hold incompetent school boards, principals, and teachers accountable for their incompetence. As long as our public schools are organized as local monopolies they will suck, and no increase in federal spending would change that. So Friedman may be ultimately correct that we do not have the right fiscal policy for wartime, but the last thing our public monopoly schools need is more money to waste.

Tom Friedman is in many ways the most frustrating of the regular columnists of The New York Times. To his credit, he is unpredictable, at least compared to the other guys, so it is worthwhile to read him. Of the current crew, only David Brooks is as unpredictable as Friedman. Unfortunately, the quality of Friedman's analysis varies tremendously. There are some days when he nails it, and other days when he sort of blurts the conventional center-left agenda all over the page. This was one of those latter days.

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Friday, December 24, 2004

Iowa vs LSU, and a missed opportunity for a turducken 

College Football News has published its preview of the Capital One Bowl, predicting a 23-16 LSU victory over the Iowa Hawkeyes. If I could I would pick out the flaws in their analysis that would lead me to a different conclusion, but in this case that is tough to do. LSU is the defending national champ and the best team the Hawkeyes have played in awhile. It will take some breaks for the Iowa to win. The one wild card is that, given the layoff, Iowa has had time to rebuild something of a running game, something completely absent during the regular season as a result of catastrophic injuries in their backfield. But that may not be enough. Against other opponents I would also have confidence that Captain Kirk Ferentz would be able to outmatch his counterpart across the field, but Nick Saban is one of a handful who negate that advantage as well.

The game did give me the opportunity to call an old prep school buddy down in Nawlins to talk a little trash. I offered him a some action on the game, and was surprised when he turned me down. (Hmm, does he know something that CFN does not?) I was disappointed, as I thought I had at least a long shot opportunity to win a turducken in a Hawkeye victory, but apparently there was nothing of equal value I could provide if LSU wins. I guess I could send him a Smithfield ham, but I will admit that New Orleans has the upper hand in this type of contest. I guess I'll have to order my own turducken.

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Thursday, December 23, 2004

Overheard in Lake Placid 

The TigerHawk family has retreated to the Adirondacks for a few days, safe behind miles of ice-covered dirt road and phone lines that snip download speeds to almost nothing.

The weather was terrible today -- a driving rain on top of snow and ice -- and we had some pre-Christmas errands to run, so we went to Lake Placid. There we took lunch at the Great Adirondack Brewing Company Restaurant, which is a pretty decent microbrewery down on the main drag.

The place was fairly empty, so toward the end of lunch I couldn't help but drop eaves on an elderly but hale man holding forth at the next table. He was telling the eight or so other people with him about the Battle of the Bulge, which began with a German attack against thin American lines on December 16, 1944, and which still raged sixty years ago this day. He spoke about the Bulge with some knowledge, because he had been there and won a bronze star after the battle. Interestingly, the old soldier said that he had no idea why he had won his bronze star, and explained to the table that he "didn't apply for it." That made me wonder whether he was taking a shot at John Kerry, or whether the controversy over John Kerry's medals is forcing decorated veterans to explain that they didn't fill out the forms for their medals. Either reason would be yet another small but sad result of the pettiness of the last presidential campaign.

The old soldier did tell an interesting story, though. If I understood him correctly, he had learned from a Belgian nurse that the Germans were preparing an attack and duly reported same to his commanding officer. Apparently this bit of intelligence was discounted or ignored or never made it up the chain of command, because it is manifest that the Germans achieved surprise in their last ditch effort to cut the Allied armies in half. Indeed, if the Germans had reached Antwerp, it would have put the Allies in a very tight spot. Only Anthony McAuliffe's famous stand at Bastogne prevented a major German victory.

This anecdote about a discounted bit of intelligence and the Battle of the Bulge tells us something about our war. First, it suggests that today's military is not the first to discount important intelligence that turned out to be valuable. Only the volume of contemporaneous recriminations has changed. Can we imagine the outrage at the end of 1944 if the Associated Press had been able to interview our soldier off the record and had published, in real time, a story that proved that the military "ignored" evidence that would have tipped us off to the German attack? Would the "greatest generation" have reacted to this sort of revealed "intelligence failure" stoically, or were Americans of that generation so resolved because they were kept in the dark?

Second, the Germans achieved tactical surprise at the Bulge because Americans thought that the Germans were not capable of launching a major counterattack. We were overconfident, and thought the Germans were once and truly licked. We appear to have made that mistake in Iraq.

Third, notwithstanding our overconfidence and the scary setback in the Ardennes forest during that December sixty years ago, we still achieved total victory over the Germans.

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Cancer research finally pays off 

'Cancer research yields clues to gray hair' - headline, Associated Press.

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France's Quagmire 

A nice little article in Frontpage describes France's trouble in Ivory Coast and wonders why France can't get it right.

Côte d'Ivoire is a Third World nation with a relatively open society and a
non-totalitarian government. This is precisely the kind of place in which a
competent western intelligence service and a sophisticated European government
should have the local players penetrated to the hilt. And it’s not like the
French have all that many countries to keep an eye on anymore. Tracking
developments in Côte d'Ivoire, Tahiti, and a few others places shouldn’t lie
beyond the wit of Chirac and crew.



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Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Anti-Americanism 

I am reading Anti-Americanism by Jean-Francois Revel, a bracing polemic that deconstructs the decadent roots of the anti-Americanism that pervades the academic, political and media elites of Europe in particular and the world in general. It is an excellent short book well worth reading if you need, as I do, an occasional break from the rage of the Left. (You may not feel that need as acutely, of course -- remember that I live in an absurdly affluent and ridiculously liberal college town, and I spent six weeks in Europe on business this year.)

I may work my way around to a full-fledged review of the book. Until then, I'll post interesting tidbits in the hope that you run out and read the book yourself.

At the end of a long chapter on "Contradictions," which carefully describes the profound inconsistencies in most European or Left criticisms of America and American policy, Revel devotes a few paragraphs to the American way of talking to the world:
It's understandable that Americans, confronted by such a host of inconsistencies, are sometimes tempted to think of themselves as crusaders invested with a kind of universal mission; this is why their spokesmen are not unlikely to indulge in irritating, obnoxious or comical remarks, sometimes verging on megalomania. This unfortunate tendency calls for some comment.

First, such remarks -- however over-the-top -- have a basis in indisputable fact. Second, thousands of equally grotesque statements have issued from French mouths, celebrating, over the course of the centuries, the "universal radiance" of France, the "country of human rights," burdened with the responsibility of spreading liberty, equality and fraternity throughout the world. Likewise, the Soviet Union regarded itself as the bearer of universal revoution, while Muslims want to force even non-Muslim countries to obey the sharia.

Third, the concept of a state policy, or realpolitik, indifferent alike to morality and the interests of others was discredited as a principle of international politics after the First World War. It was replaced by the principle of collective security, brought to Europe from the United States by Woodrow Wilson in 1919 and strongly reaffirmed by Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman in 1945.

The style of international politics inspired by this principle is an American invention and has been played out since 1945 under American leadership; it's hard to see what other approach could take us towards a less flawed world. For the politics of collective security (which naturally includes the war on terrorism) not to give rise to American "hyperpower," many other countries must have the intelligence to work together towards its fulfillment, instead of slandering its foremost champion.

Indeed. Read the book.

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An unusual year  

It is an odd year in the NFL to say the least. Down here in Redskins country the high hopes that accompanied the return of Joe Gibbs have been tempered considerably, as the Redskins have limped to a 5-9 record with two games to go. The surprising thing is that they still have a shot at the playoffs. The analysis below was submitted by a regular reader and leather-lunged Redskins fan, who for many years made his living diagraming securitization cash-flows (as should quickly become apparent by what follows):

The Skins make the playoffs if:

A. The Skins win out; AND
B. The Giants lose one of their next two games; AND
C. The Panthers and Saints lose one of their next two; AND
D. Either
1. the Rams lose to the Eagles this week, or
2. the Seahawks lose both of their games.

As for "C" above, since the Saints and Panthers play each other in the last week of the season, at least one has to lose this week. Then, this week's loser has to beat this week's winner in the last game of the year. Of course, if they both lose this week, we don't have to worry about any NFC South team.

This week we root for:
1. a Skins win; and
2. a Giants, Panthers, Saints and Rams loss. If that happens, the Skins would control their future; a simple win against the Vikings would get them in with no scoreboard watching. (I expect to lose my voice at FedEx at that one.)

The facts behind the scenario: The Skins are fighting for the second wildcard spot because they can't finish with a better record than either Green Bay or Minnesota, but one of them will win the division and the other will take the first wild card.

Other than the Giants, the Skins win head-to-head or conference tiebreakers with all of the other 5-9 teams.

Then:
A. If the skins win out they are 7-9 overall and 7-5 in the conference and 2-4 in the Division.

B. If the Giants win out they win on the division record tiebreaker (Giants 3-3 vs Skins 2-4). If the Giants lose one more, they finish 6-10 and lose on overall record;

C. If the Panthers or Saints win out they'd have a better record. If they both lose one more, the Skins win against both on Conference record tiebreakers (7-5 for Skins vs. 6-6 for the Panthers and 5-7 for the Saints);

D. 1. If the Rams lose to the Eagles, the Skins best the Rams on Conference record tiebreakers (7-5 vs 6-6); or2. If the Seahawks lose both, the Rams win the NFC West (they beat the Seahawks twice). The Skins would then best the Seahawks on Conference record (7-5 vs. 6-6).



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A new low 

Phone scammers are nothing new. We've all been warned that using a phone card in a public place can result in thousands of dollars in charges as your access number is swiped and hits the streets within minutes. The rise of the cell phone has no doubt made business more difficult for this crowd, so they are resorting to more aggressive tactics. Beware.

A voice at the other end of the line told the 46-year-old Spring Hill father
that his son was in a life-threatening automobile accident and would need
specialized medical care to stay alive... The person who phoned Roman wanted the
father to telephone another phone number beginning with star 72 to allow the
emergency room doctor to begin treating 21-year-old James...If a resident calls
the star 72 number, the citizen's telephone is locked to the scammer's number,
allowing that person to make unlimited long distance phone calls at the victim's
expense.




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Alford beats Knight 

Iowa basketball coach Steve Alford finally got the monkey off his back, beating his mentor Bob Knight's Texas Tech squad 83-53. Alford, of course, was an All-American guard under Knight at Indiana, leading the Hoosiers to the national championship in 1987 (won over Syracuse on a heroic last second shot from the corner by the otherwise forgotten Keith Smart). Alford also played on the Knight coached Olympic team that brought back the gold from Los Angeles in 1984 (back when the USA used to do that)*.

The media generated tension between Alford and Knight is well documented, and will probably be fabricated everytime they play. That's fine with me, as it gets an otherwise unspectacular matchup televised on ESPN. An uninteresting game for all but the most rabid Hawkeye fans, the game did reveal an Iowa team that, for the first time under Alford, is starting to resemble a Knight coached Indiana team characterized by a tenacious defense and a patient, efficient offense, with hard working players who can execute both.

Fortunately, Alford has yet to display Knight's other tendencies, such as strangling players, throwing chairs onto the court, and cursing out the press after the game. Alford's relationship with Iowa fans remains rocky, but with the Hawkeyes off to a 10-1 start, and no seniors on the squad, perhaps he has turned the corner in Iowa City.



*A classic Bob Knight story from that team was when he stopped practice, got down on his hands and knees on the basketball court, and wrote "Wayman Tisdale hustled here" on the floor. He also referred to guard Leon Wood as Leon "Woo." When asked why he replied that there was no D in Leon's game.

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The attack in Mosul 

Wretchard explains how the enemy deliberately attacked the medical personnel working to save the wounded. He also explains how the media's tendency to ignore the war crimes of the insurgents is giving our enemy aid and comfort:
The enemy chose the weakest point he could find to attack; exploited the known limitations of the American response; and understood that he was to all intents and purposes exempted from the condemnation attendant to attacking the wounded and medical personnel. The chaplain and the medical personnel knew this and did not mill around expecting the Geneva Convention to protect them from those who have never heard of it, except as it applies to their own convenience. They knew the true face of the enemy; a face which bore no resemblance to the heroic countenance often presented by the media to the world.

Of the first three factors, the advantage of choosing the weakest point of attack has been a combatant's right from time immemorial. That is a purely military condition. But the enemy ability to exploit the limits of American response and attack medical personnel with public relations impunity are examples of military advantages that arise from political restraints....

The world's mainstream media (MSM), even the American MSM, do not hold our enemy to the same standards of behavior that they hold America. Why? Is it because they feel sympathy for this enemy that is committing war crime every day as a matter of military doctrine? Or is it because they are racist, and just don't believe that Arabs know how to conduct war according to its rules? Is there a third explanation I haven't thought of?

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Is Israel responsible for anti-Semitism in other countries? 

Tony Judt promotes that idea in The Nation:
Zionists have always insisted that there is no distinction between the Jewish people and the Jewish state. The latter offers a right of citizenship to Jews anywhere in the world. Israel is not the state of all its citizens, much less all its residents; it is the state of (all) Jews. Its leaders purport to speak for Jews everywhere. They can hardly be surprised when their own behavior provokes a backlash against...Jews.

Andrew's guest blogger destroys him here.
But in its ethnic-national identity, Israel is like other nation-states. Jacques Chirac, for example, speaks routinely "on behalf of the French people." As one can see from this collection of statements by heads of state, that's the norm. Jiang Zemin purports to represent not only the Chinese government, but also the Chinese people. As Time has reported, Vicente Fox "has said that he intends to be President to 'all Mexicans' — at home and abroad."

But nobody thinks that their political disagreements with President Fox is a good reason to burn down a bodega in Chicago.

Judt's essay is a fairly shocking example of the degree to which Europe has become anti-Israeli and, in my opinion, anti-Semitic. Like almost all such tracts, it blames the victims.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Shere Kahn 

This is why the local authorities have given honey-gatherers human facemasks to put on the back of their heads.


Why? This is why:

 Posted by Hello


Terrible stories are told on Gosaba, an island of widows close to the Sunderbans national park of India’s West Bengal state, of the tigers who drag fishermen and honey-gatherers into entangled mangrove swamps.

Tigers are killing off between 20 and 30 people a year around the Sunderbans park. It is quite terrifying.
On Gosaba tigers are called “great uncle”. Locals speak of the animal’s psychology, its sly intelligence.

“Generally, a tiger hides, watches its prey and jumps on it,” says Bhutnath Mondal, a honey-gatherer who once had a narrow escape and whose father has been badly mauled.

“If it fails, he goes off only to come back.”

However, “if the tiger sees you looking him straight in the eye he does not pounce because he thinks the man is going to attack,” says M.A. Wohab, of the Sunderbans development directorate.

Hence the masks that project a face looking backward.

Read the whole thing. Fear the tigers.

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Ode to Eliot 

Paul Winston, editorial director of Business Insurance, has written some lyrics in honor of Eliot Spitzer. He calls his song "Carol of the Smells," and it is to be sung to the tune of the "Carol of the Bells." If you don't know that tune, think of the Andre champagne song.

I reproduce it here, in its entirety, for your holiday reading pleasure. Hum quietly to yourself if you are at work, but sing robustly if you are at home or in a Starbucks (if the latter, please report on the reaction of other patrons in the comments section below).
Hark, something smells,
bad, rotten smells,
all seem to say,
trust thrown away.

Spitzer is here,
stirring up fear,
looking to scold
how risk was sold.

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong,
that is his song,
with doleful ring
all accusing.

One seems to hear,
words of great fear
from ev'rywhere,
filling the air.

Brokers expound,
as if dumbfound,
o'er the loud wails,
needing details.

Buyers dismayed
trust was waylaid.
Time to renew,
their brokers, too.

Very, very, very, very troubling...
Very, very, very, very troubling...
So on it goes,
Spitzer's salvos,
more to follow.

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. Wrong.
Hark, something smells,
bad, rotten smells,
all seem to say,
trust thrown away.

Spitzer is here,
stirring up fear,
looking to scold
how risk was sold.

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong,
that is his song,
with doleful ring
all accusing.

Insurers claim
they're without blame,
but can that be?
It's their money.

Officials, too,
seemed to eschew
a closer look
what brokers took.

And none was strong,
to say it's wrong,
`til Eliot
had filed his writ.

Very, very, very, very troubling...
Very, very, very, very troubling...
So on it goes,
Spitzer's salvos,
more to follow.

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. Wrong.
Hark, something smells,
bad, rotten smells,
all seem to say,
trust thrown away.

Spitzer is here,
stirring up fear,
looking to scold
how risk was sold.

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong,
that is his song,
with doleful ring
all accusing.

Now, time to look
at the playbook,
set a new course
all can endorse.

Pay above board,
no one to hoard.
Fair play in bids,
fraud it will rid.

But above all,
heed an old call:
For your welfare,
buyer beware.

Very, very, very, very troubling...
Very, very, very, very troubling...
So on it goes,
Spitzer's salvos,
more to follow.
Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. WRONG.

Eliot Spitzer is a populist in an almost tradition sense. Like all American populists, he is quickly piling up enemies in the business community. If money were still hard, he would want to make it soft.

My chief complaint about Spitzer does not relate to the substance of his prosecutions, although I certainly think that some of them have demanded and obtained remedies that run counter to the best public policy. My objection to Spitzer is that he has used his office as a state official very cleverly to undermine national regulation of matters that should be consistent within the internal free trade zone that is the United States. It is as simple as this: Spitzer's prosecutions disrespect the legacy of John Marshall.

The insurance industry, however, is at least arguably getting what it deserves. For obscure and obsolete reasons, virtually all regulation of insurance is a matter of state law, rather than federal. The insurance industry has, until now, preferred the more corruptible state regulators to any federal alternative. That is why there is no equivalent to the Securities and Exchange Commission for the insurance industry.

Looked at that way, in going after the insurance industry Spitzer is (for once) doing the job he was hired to do.

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Monday, December 20, 2004

Schneeman mit Ballon 

 Posted by Hello


One of the many fine snowglobe products available from the online store of Erwin Perzey's Die Original Weiner Schneekugel Manufaktur (Original Viennese Snowglobe Manufacturer).

Perzey's grandfather invented the damned things more than 100 years ago, and the company still pumps out more than 300,000 a year. Perzey operates at the high end of the market, having made custom models for Cartier and with the Seal of the President of the United States. (Why is it not surprising that this last was for Bill Clinton's Inaugural? Indeed, if you are going to have a President from Arkansas, it would be disappointing if there weren't a custom inaugural snowglobe.)

Perzey's patrimony is something to envy: How cool would it be to invent such an enduring type of kitsch? And classy. If there is a classy sort of kitsch, it is the snowglobe. They are heads and shoulders above engraved spoons, little figurines of any sort, or even glossy wooden plaques. Snowglobes are more dynamic than logo shot glasses, and give even keychains -- considered in some circles to be the ultimate souvenir collectible -- a run for their money.

The next time you find yourself with time to kill in an airport newsstand, grab yourself some schneekugeln and experience the joy.

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Reason enough to destroy Europe 

"All my friends demand that their husbands or boyfriends sit down," said Jessica.

CWCID: Andrew Sullivan.

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Sunday, December 19, 2004

Naomi Wolf takes on 'Desperate Housewives' 

As with all of Wolf's work, there are some good bits:
Desperate Housewives lets us indulge in this fantasy of escape back into coddled dependency; it lets us tour the interiors that we would never have time to keep so immaculate, lets us imagine that the toned bodies of a Gabrielle or an Edie could be ours, were it not for our pesky jobs. But the sting is built into the program, so that by the end of the hour we are happy to be home in our own chaotic lives. Because the handsome man who pays all the bills can also impose his mother on your home – he can treat you, as Gabrielle's husband does, more as a pet than a partner.

And there are silly bits to the point of self-parody (for those few of my readers who also read Wolf):
The opening montage of every show has the two most shocking seconds I have seen on mainstream TV: a cartoon woman weeps and then punches a cartoon man on the jaw. Victimised women's hostility towards men has never been shown so directly before.

What? There has scarcely been a cop or lawyer show in the last decade that didn't regularly feature episodes where an aggrieved woman whacked or hacked away at a husband who beat her or otherwise offended her sensibilities. And in any case, how can the abstract cartoon at the beginning of 'Desperate Housewives' be the "two most shocking seconds" Wolf has seen on mainstream TV? Unless, of course, she hasn't seen any mainstream TV since 1978.

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The homeless of Nazareth 

Power Line (Time Magazine's "blog of the year," by the way) has republished an absolutely hilarious exchange between the Minneapolis Star-Tribune's columnist Nick Coleman and a reader named David. It seems that in writing a perfectly reasonable seasonal column about the social problem of homeless people, Coleman asked us to recall that Mary and Joseph were homeless, to wit:
If we can't [take care of the needy], you have to wonder what we're celebrating this Christmas. After all, once upon a time, a homeless couple came to Bethlehem, looking for shelter.

WTF?

That's what reader David thought. But when he very politely points out the small detail that Mary and Joseph weren't homeless, Coleman loses all spirit of the season and suggests that David "maybe ought to consider becoming a Christian." It goes down hill from there.

Anyway, read the whole thing. For a laugh.

CWCID: Brainshavings.

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Prep school application essay 

The TigerHawk household has been learning, or in my case, re-learning, the joy of prep school applications. This involves us hectoring the TigerHawk son into laboring for hours over his computer, torturing the keyboard to produce essays on any number of important questions of the day. For example, the poor fellow has to write 200-400 words about a choice he has made, a risk he has taken, or a place or object that is especially meaningful. Apart from parsing the question to understand its true intent -- something we do a lot of around here -- there comes the question, what to write? The son decided to write about our place in the Adirondacks, which has been in our family almost 100 years and has been a gathering place for the many descendents of his great-great-grandparents for most of that time. Fertile soil from which to grow an essay, I would think. But it turns out that the mechanics of it all are quite essential:

Me: "I think it is a great idea to write about how Big Wolf is meaningful to you. Why is it meaningful?"

Son: "It is peaceful."

Me: "OK. How are you going to get to 200 words on that?"

Son: "I won't use contractions."

Sigh.

Here's a picture of the place. It is peaceful.

Posted by Hello

(2) Comments

India 

The accusation that the administration of George W. Bush is unilateralist or broadly incapable of dealing respectfully with the world is a lie of Western elites, including the Europhile press in the United States. The Bush Administration has developed new alliances for a new century, and nowhere on earth has this been more important than in central and southern Asia. India, the emerging dominant power in the region, is closer to the United States than at any time in its history. C. Raja Mohan:
There is a straightforward explanation for India's enthusiasm for the Bush administration. New Delhi has transacted more political business with Washington in the past four years than in the previous four decades. After nearly half a century of estrangement, India and the U.S. rapidly drew closer during the first Bush term. Whether it is the commitment to the war against terrorism or the exploration of missile defense, Mr. Bush has found a partner in Delhi.

Professor Mohan believes that the United States and India have a great deal more in common than the war against Islamist jihad.
There is a deeper philosophy that has united India and the U.S. in the last four years: They both are revisionist powers. Well before Sept. 11, 2001, and more clearly after, the Bush administration saw the need for a new set of rules for managing the emerging threats to international security. The tools and doctrines of the Yalta system had outlived their utility and had to be recast, the Bush administration concluded. India could not agree more.

Despite its significant contributions (under the aegis of the British Empire) to two World Wars, India was left out in the cold by the Yalta arrangements--especially the United Nations. To be accorded its rightful place in the global order, India needs a drastic revision of existing international rules--from those relating to nonproliferation to the management of international peace and security. The Bush administration, pursuing its objectives in the global war on terror, is determined to engineer changes in the spheres that are of greatest import to India. Having missed the boat at Yalta, India can only wish President Bush all success in his endeavor to transform the international order.

Very few countries in the world share the Bush administration's contempt for the U.N. when it comes to maintenance of international security. India is one of them. India went to the Security Council in 1948, to find a way out of its impasse with Pakistan over Jammu and Kashmir after the messy Partition of the Subcontinent in 1947. Although India has never stopped regretting its decision, its experience at the U.N. has cured New Delhi of all illusions about collective security in the international system.

Do not believe the Democrats or The New York Times when they tell you that we don't have allies in our struggles. It is just that we have learned that Germany and France are not among them. No matter. The future is in India, and it would be wise for future American administrations and our leftist elites to recognize that.

UPDATE: Rob A. has written an extensive following post connecting our new relationship with India to our strategic map, at least as conceived by Thomas P.M. Barnett. Interesting stuff.

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Hitchens on the Sixties 

For me, there are only two really memorable scenes in ''Easy Rider.'' The first is when Jack Nicholson edges in from the side of the screen and we know at once that something has happened to American acting. The second is when Fonda and Hopper pull up at a remote rural commune where, among other things, bearded boys and full-skirted girls are broadcasting seeds into furrows from improvised sacks. (''You can tell just by looking,'' said a comrade of mine at the time, ''that nothing's gonna grow in those furrows except footprints.'') There was always a slight embarrassment to be experienced when these would-be Amish came sidling back to town, to resume work in brokerages and banks and universities. To this day, that especially vile reminder of the epoch -- the graying and greasy ponytail trailing off the balding pate -- is their living memorial.

Indeed.

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Saturday, December 18, 2004

The TigerHawk blogiversary post: My blog year in review 

One year ago today, I started this blog. I did so at the suggestion of a friend who was probably tired of hearing me carry on. I had no idea whether I would take to blogging, or whether anybody would read TigerHawk. Not wanting to fail in front of friends and family, I told very few people during the first few weeks. Most of them, even just one year ago, had no idea what a blog was.

Whence the name "TigerHawk"? It really just popped into my head. By late 2003 Technorati was already tracking almost 2,000,000 blogs, so many of the cutsy play-on-words names had already been taken. I wanted something that would be memorable and Googleable and that would reflect my interests at some level. The name TigerHawk just seemed to fit. It happens to be the slang term for the University of Iowa's fierce hawk logo, and while I am not an Iowa alumnus I did grow up in Iowa City and have loved the Hawkeyes from a very early age. The name has the further advantage of combining imagery of Iowa and Princeton, where I did go to college and where I now live. Finally, the name evokes hawkishness, which certainly describes my orientation toward the war on Islamic fascism, which I supposed would be a recurring subject.

Has TigerHawk been rewarding? Candidly, it is probably the most significant creative exercise of my life, at least of the arts and letters variety (business and family life both taxing my creativity in more mundane ways). I was never capable in music, lack virtually all capacity to visualize or render images, am colorblind, and have poorly defined senses of smell and taste, so my creations really have to be verbal. I always fantasized about writing for an audience, but I never found a way to overcome the inertia that keeps so many of us from doing what we really want to do. Sure, I would write ranting emails on one subject or another and circulate them among my friends to some small acclaim or blow in the occasional letter to the editor of a big newspaper, but blogging promised to be different. Blogging allows me to write on anything at any time, all while hoping for the possibility that somebody else out there may find it as entertaining as I do.

And people do read this blog. TigerHawk is definitely small potatos in the blogging world (only occasionally making it into the top 1000 blogs in terms of traffic and top 1500 measured by in-bound links), but I get about 180 visits in a normal day, roughly a third of which are "returning visitors" who have come back for more on purpose. I figure that we have perhaps 200 reasonably regular readers who check in at least once a week or so. And readership has grown significantly in the past few weeks, both before and after my first "Instalanche" for this post. Reason enough to keep going.

Indeed, to keep the content flowing during my many business trips and Adirondack interludes, in August I brought in my co-blogger, Charlottesvillain, who has (by default more than anything else) become TigerHawk's principal sportswriter. The 'Villain has proven up to the task, having back in August picked the Hawkeyes to win the Big Ten title in football this year.

Many of our readers, including members of our family and old friends and blogger friends too numerous to mention here, have only been reading TigerHawk since the summer. Not wanting them to miss out on the classics of our first year (out of well over a thousand posts), the rest of this post is a link dump of some of the highlights, organized by topic.

International affairs

My early posts on international security matters were pretty weak, in retrospect, but to my eyes they have improved as the year went by. In early October I got a lot of attention and a then record number of comments for my long post justifying the Iraq war. Leading up to that, though, were posts on a wide range of related topics including, by the way, our mistakes in Iraq, and how the oil-for-food corruption undermined the containment of Saddam's Iraq and increased the probability of war. I wrote about the war on terror in the Sahara here, and what Iran's ties to al Qaeda actually support our rationale for the invasion of Iraq. I wrote here and here about the culpability of the media for the dislosure of Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan, the al Qaeda computer whiz, and Iran's support for parts of the Iraqi insurgency. I blogged about a buried article that shows that the American invasion rescued Iraqi antiquities rather than permitting the looting of them. I wrote about Richard Clarke's apparent belief that al Qaeda influenced the Oklahoma City bombing. There were literally hundreds of shorter linking posts, or discussions of subjects that loomed large at the time because of the presidential campaign or a twist in the war, all of which are in the archives but are otherwise not worthy of inclusion here.

Israel

TigerHawk is a supporter of Israel. I'm not a "blank check" supporter, but I believe that it is in America's geopolitical interests to back Israel. I also believe that it is the right thing to do. I believe that most Europeans and even many Americans do not share my view because they apply a double standard -- conduct that is acceptable by or among Arabs is somehow evil if done by Jews and the suffering of Jews, even if comparable to the suffering of Arabs, somehow does not seem to count for as much. For example, I wrote about our asymmetrical view of Arab and Jewish refugees. Palestinian refugees are famous for their alleged suffering at the hands of Israel, but nobody sheds a tear for Jewish refugees. Why? Because Israel absorbed its refugees, and Syria, Jordan and Egypt did nothing for theirs.

Other matters pertaining to Israel:

Its deepening ties with India

Victory over the intifdada

Annoying matters pertaining to presidential politics

While I was no strong supporter of George W. Bush (why must he be so slow on his feet?), I did vote for him. While I served up all my left brain reasons here, my right brain wanted to vote for Bush just because I found John Kerry so darn unappealing. Remember when he "forgot" Saint Patrick's Day? That was hilarious. And the one about "his family" owning his SUV, after sanctimoniously denying that he drove one? And how he complained about "Benedict Arnold CEOs" but nevertheless invested in their companies? And the "throwing back the medals ribbons" kerfuffle? Oh. And claiming that he hates Evian?

I wrote about the slinging of mud in campaigns, and why campaigns sling mud about the slinging of mud.

I occasionally published my own round-up of lefty blogs, which I called "Carnival of the Commies." Here's how the lefty blogs reacted to the RatherGate forged memo scandal.

I thought that we were all overreacting to claims of campaign violence.

Whom would you rather have as a boss, Bush or Kerry?

Notes from business trips and family vacations

One of my early uses of the blog was to report on my travels, including family vacations. On my fourth day of blogging, for example, I reported on our flight out to Durango, Colorado for Christmas last year. I also reported on our visit to Mesa Verde National Park, skiing on Christmas Day, and our day at a Roman beach. Some of these stories have not been kind to largely innocent strangers that crossed my path. Or hotels in Miami Beach and Houston. I have written on the surgical instruments business concentrated in Tuttlingen, Germany, and on the tradition of gondoliering in Venice.

Health policy and related rants

Since I have been in the medical technology business for more than half my professional life, I have more than a passing interest in health policy. I'm not a mediblogger per se -- we leave that to actual healthcare professionals -- but when I have seen an opportunity to unload I've taken my shot. I have written on the irrationality of the "mad cow" scare, wondered why insurance companies pay for the removal of pylar cysts, and considered the intersection between infectious disease and individual rights. I have advised my readers how to think about the way we pay for healthcare and objected to single payor systems. I have discoursed on the uses and abuses of deception in public health, the unintended consequences of too much sanitation, and the ethics of separating conjoined twins.

Our obsession with personal safety, school discipline and litigation

I view the rise of regulation by civil litigation and our national passion for safety in small matters to be part and parcel of the same idiocy. The laws against talking on a cell phone while driving, for example: I showed you how stupid they are, here. I also deplore ridiculous applications of discipline in our schools against both students and teachers, which are becoming too numerous to catalogue. It rankled me that Puyallup public schools banned witches costumes because they didn't want to offend witches, and that a school in Louisiana disciplined a child for using the word "gay." I called for the reform of the civil litigation system, proposed an "apology privilege" to promote civility and dispel the anger that leads to lawsuits in the first place, and argued that expert witnesses are disabled by observer bias that we would not permit in any other context. I was appalled that in Pennsylvania, the best legal advice is to lie to your doctor.

Random musings

There were a lot of them, too numerous to mention here. But I got a lot of fan mail when I wondered what the world would be like if people urinated submissively. You know. Like dogs.

We discussed nuclear proliferation with our daughter.

I'm quite interested in similes that begin with "all over it like...."

We cleaned out our pantry and found some old food. And some angels straight from heaven.

I defended the practice of talking on cell phones in public places.

I tried my hand at kitten blogging, and crippled kitten blogging, even though we no longer own felines.

And then we abandoned cat-blogging for eagle-blogging, which is way cooler.

I remembered my father, as I do every day.

I also remembered Donald Justice, a great American poet.

I was really wrong -- at least so far -- about the Google IPO.

We (the 'Villain and I) tracked the Olympics medal count, measuring the Coalition of the Willing vs. the Unwilling. Here's the introductory post, and here's the final tally.

I wrote about the left's dominance of universities. I wrote about charter schools, and pointed out that the politics around these schools was partly a matter of nomenclature (this post generated my first link from a big blog, Winds of Change, on March 1). I thought that our national concern for the political opinions of "9/11 families" was more than a little overdone. I ranted about the fascist tendancy in real estate development and the tyranny of authoritarian neighbors. I really don't think that journalism is "the first draft of history." I considered our assumptions about the nature of leadership. I wrote about Kofi Annan trying to glom on to the "Olympic Spirit," whatever that is. And I trashed the Gray Lady's defense of Kofi here.

I have occasionally picked on Eliot Spitzer

I am troubled by Eliot Spitzer's ambition to regulate the national economy from his offices in Albany and lower Manhattan. I don't like that he, of all people, is taking on Richard Grasso. I wanted to know why Spitzer thought it was the attorney general's job to run a website with drug prices. I don't like the way that he is putting people out of their jobs while pretending to be the defender of the little guy. And I wonder about this.

New Jersey

I write about New Jersey from time to time, and am considered by some to be a "Jersey blogger," which is no better than being a pajama-blogger, if you think about it. I have complained at length about New Jersey's war on employers and the dubious impact of the millionaire's tax, and I argued that James McGreevey was exploiting the gay rights movement, and that the activists were falling for it.

And, finally, numismatics

I've collected coins off and on for my entire life, and occasionally have spouted off on the subject here, much to the dismay of my regular readers. I try, though, to make my numismatics posts topical, such as this discussion of the origin of "In God we Trust" on our coinage, or the sad unpopularity of the Sac dollar, or the appalling Louisiana Purchase nickel. My most widely read numismatics post, though, was "tip jar temptations," which has been circulated fairly widely among coin collectors. As it should: Where else but TigerHawk will you see coin collecting and Seinfeld discussed in the same post?

Thank you all for reading, and being so damn civil about it. Let's see what happens in our second year.

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