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Tuesday, September 09, 2003
Hey, look over here! No, I mean over here.
We're moving! Blogger has been good to us for the last 18 months, but we think we're ready to move over to the slightly snazzier MovableType, so, here goes...

Point your bookmarks, assuming anybody has actually bookmarked this page, to http://www.oobleck.com/tollbooth. Same name, same great taste, fancier packaging.

Sunday, September 07, 2003
Self vs. Un
The New York Times reports on the latest unemployment data in its usual unbiased way.
The Labor Department announced yesterday that 93,000 jobs were lost in August, countering expectations that employment would finally begin to expand. The economic recovery in the United States is now in its 22nd month, without reversing constant job losses.

The unemployment rate declined to 6.1 percent from 6.2 percent in July, but economists said that was apparently because of a surge in the number of people who, having lost jobs, listed themselves as self-employed rather than unemployed. The Bush administration, however, cited the drop as a positive sign.
First, note how the Times sets up the story: to begin with, it describes what "economists" say, as if there's some well-established, undisputed Economic Truth here. Only then does it describe the Bush administration position, introducing it with a "however" to make it clear that the Bush administration is in opposition to "economists" generally, and hence wrong.

Second, note the phrasing: they "listed themselves as self-employed." The Times is apparently accusing these people of lying. No evidence is presented to support this accusation, of course. Why shouldn't we believe that people who list themselves as self-employed really are?

By the way, the few people who bother to read to the end of a story like this will find, in paragraph twenty-four, the one economist the Times quotes in support of this theory of dishonest unemployed losers:
"Whenever you see a spike in self-employment in this kind of economy, you know that is involuntary entrepreneurship," said Jared Bernstein, a senior labor economist at the Economic Policy Institute.
Ah. Count the problems with that:
  1. One economist is not "economists."
  2. The Times fails to identify the left-wing orientation of Jared Bernstein and the Economic Policy Institute.
  3. It's yet another statement made without any backing.
  4. Even if true, it doesn't support the Times' version of analysis. So what if the entrepeneurship is "involuntary"? Either the people have jobs or they don't. That they wish they had different jobs is in no way synonymous with them not having jobs at all.
I remember hearing, a few years ago, a radio interview with a self-styled advocate for the poor; he was talking about the "hidden homeless" in this country. But he wasn't talking about people who slept in sewers and couldn't be seen; no, he was talking about people living long term with friends and relatives. Well, that may not be ideal, but the only reason their homelessness was "hidden" was because it was completely imaginary. Same here; the Times and their pet economist are trying to spin possibly-less-than-ideal-employment as unemployment, because it fits their agenda. Can't the Times try not spinning things for a change?

Reading really is fundamental
Breaking new ground, John Zuccarini became the first person in the country to be charged with violating the recently-passed Truth in Domain Names law.
Prosecutors said that as part of the scheme, the defendant, John Zuccarini, had registered 3,000 domain names that included misspellings or slight variations of popular names like Disneyland, Bob the Builder and Teen magazine. Mr. Zuccarini used more than a dozen variations of the name Britney Spears, the prosecutors said.

A child who accidentally mistyped a name into an Internet browser would be directed to a Web page controlled by Mr. Zuccarini and barraged with X-rated advertising, the authorities said. The child would also be "mousetrapped," they said; that is, unable to exit from the Web site.


"Children make mistakes," Mr. Comey said. "The idea that someone would take advantage of that, of a young girl, for example, trying to go to the American Girl Web site to look at dolls or a child trying to visit the Teletubbies Web site, and mistypes, to take advantage of those mistakes to direct those children to pornography sites is beyond offensive."


In the misspelled domain names, Mr. Zuccarini used spellings like "Dinseyland," "Bobthebiulder," "Teltubbies" and "Britnyspears," prosecutors said.
Perhaps I'm slow, or really naive, but what exactly is the point of this? The article quotes prosecutors as assuming this is a moneymaking scheme of some sort, and Zuccarini's past activities make that seem plausible:
Mr. Zuccarini has long been the subject of complaints, including lawsuits, over his use of domain names, records and news reports show. In about 100 complaints raised in arbitration proceedings to resolve domain name disputes, panels have ruled against him almost every time, prosecutors said, and ordered him to transfer the names at issue to the legitimate holder.

In 2002, the Federal Trade Commission got a permanent injunction against Mr. Zuccarini, ordering him to end his activities, dismantle certain Web sites and pay a $1.9 million judgment. But he continued to use misleading domain names to promote advertising for pornography to minors, according to a criminal complaint filed in Federal District Court in Manhattan.

It added that Mr. Zuccarini got a referral fee of 10 to 25 cents each time a visitor to one of his Web sites moved to the site of one of the advertisers. He earned $800,000 to $1 million a year through the scheme, the complaint said.
And yet, I don't quite get it. How do those schemes translate into this one? Is there a large untapped market for pornography among dyslexic eight year olds? I would understand the plan if he took advantage of sites intended for adults, like Amazon, CNN, or ESPN. But Teletubbies or Bob the Builder (whatever the heck that is)? Where exactly does the profit come from? Not that this guy sounds like a rocket scientist, but I would think he would have thought through at least this part of his plan.

Whatchoo talkin' 'bout? (Sorry, but how can I not use the pun?)
Gary Coleman is upset that people don't respect him.
So why is the aging action star taken more seriously than the erstwhile child actor?

"It's the height," Mr. Coleman says with a twinge of bitterness. "He's an adult-size superstar male."
Well, that might be it.

Or it might be that the littler Arnold has the IQ of, well, a sitcom actor:
He has appeared on CNN, Fox News and foreign programs. Sean Hannity, the conservative, asked Mr. Coleman to name the vice president of the United States. He could not.
Nah, it's probably the height.

Saturday, September 06, 2003
My faith in humanity is gone
If you can't trust a murderous dictator, who can you trust? What's this world coming to?

Friday, September 05, 2003
If a senator filibusters in a forest and there are no cameras, what's the point?
In the past, I've wondered why we only see virtual filibusters nowadays, rather than the real thing. Well, over at the Volokh Conspiracy, Randy Barnett quotes Larry Solum's explanation approvingly as to why a real filibuster (which Solum calls a 24/7 filibuster) won't work:
The contemporary filibuster is a polite affair. Charles Schumer does not talk through the night, bleary eyed and exhausted. Why not? Couldn't the filibuster be broken if the Republicans forced the Democrats to go 24/7? No. Because the 24/7 option actually gives an advantage to the minority. Why? In order to force a 24/7 filibuster, the majority must maintain a quorum at all times, but the minority need only have one Senator present to maintain the filibuster. So 24/7 both exhausts and distracts the majority, while allowing the minority the opportunity to rest and carry on their ordinary business. No modern filibuster has been broken by the 24/7 option. For more on this, see my post entitled Update on Filibusters.
Interesting, but I'm not entirely convinced. Of course Larry's right, if the goal of forcing a real filibuster is simply literally to wear your opponents down; the filibusterers can always outlast the filibusterees, for the reasons stated.

But the point of requiring the Democrats to filibuster for real was never to wear them down until they gave in; the point was to create bad publicity for them. Republicans hoped that Democratic filibusters could be exploited in the press to make the Democrats look obstructionist, and get the voters angry with them -- but that plan never got off the ground. Why? Because the non-filibuster didn't have any legs in it. There was no reason for the media to cover the story, because it just wasn't very exciting. In particular, there was no video footage.

On the other hand, a real filibuster is sexy. (I don't mean that literally, unless Mary Carey moves on to the Senate after her bid for California governor succeeds.) It's news. It's not quite as exciting as a high speed car chase, but at least there's something to show to the public. Republicans would have something to point to while saying, "See? Look how ridiculous Democrats are being." It might have backfired; it might have made Republicans look like bullies. But at least it would have put pressure on one side or the other to resolve the situation. This way, Miguel Estrada was just strung along indefinitely, until he finally gave up. Which means that there's no reason to think this won't continue to happen unless and until one side picks up sixty seats in the Senate, which doesn't look too likely too soon.

The world turned upside down
Tyler Cowen happens to mention this odd description of the co-editor of the Almanac of American Politics:
"Michael Barone is to politics what statistician-writer Bill James is to baseball, a mix of historian, social observer, and numbers cruncher who illuminates his subject with perspective and a touch of irreverence."--Chicago Tribune
I remember, growing up, hearing Bill James compared to others all the time. Galileo and Einstein were popular choices, but my favorite was one, coincidentally from the same Chicago Tribune, labeling him "the Mozart of baseball statisticians."

James was always something of a cult figure among a small group of geekydedicated baseball fans, so it feels weird enough to see that James has so hit the mainstream that people are now being compared to him. But what makes this comparison particularly strange is that Barone has been editing the AAP since 1971; the first Bill James Baseball Abstract didn't come out until 1977, and it wasn't really anything more than a pamphlet until the early 1980s. And (though I can't seem to find the figures) Barone has to have sold many more copies than James has over the years. Plus, Barone is regularly on television; James isn't. And yet it's Barone being compared to James, rather than the other way around? It seems as anachronistic as describing CNN as "the Instapundit of television news" would be. Bizarre.

Actually, it's John Ashcroft, out to get you.
To answer Partha's question -- though the answer can be found elsewhere now -- it's not just Partha's computer. YACC, who provides our commenting service, is down, and will be down through the weekend. I would do something about substituting another service for YACC, but we're planning some big changes behind the scenes which will be unveiled shortly and make it unnecessary, so I see no great urgency to act right now. So if you want to complain about something Partha wrote (and who doesn't?) you'll have to respond to us via email.

Thursday, September 04, 2003
November 2004
In an Associated Press story today, we read:

"It's like your building is half built, and the contractor comes in and says that to finish the building and put the roof on, it's going to cost a lot more," said Rep. Scott McInnis, R-Colo., a stalwart Bush supporter. "What's your choice? You've got to put the roof on."

That's a heck of an analogy. For, it's true... you need a roof, so you have to pay your contractor. You've got no choice. However, what are the odds that you'll hire this contractor again? Somewhere between slim and none, and probably you'll tell your friends and neighbors not to hire him, either.

To follow "stalwart Bush supporter," Representative Scott McInnis' analogy to conclusion, it doesn't bode well for the Bush team in 2004.

Is it just my computer?
Is it just me or are the "comments" part of this page not working? If they are working, sorry, I haven't been able to read them for about a week so I haven't been able to respond to anything said there. And, if they're not working, well, I don't know how you'll be able to leave a comment to tell me so.

Mr. Ness! I do NOT approve of your methods. Oh yeah? Well, you're not from Chicago.
In a quite disingenuous post, Glenn Reynolds provides a quote and then comments:


"Isn’t it just about time that the left was asked what its plans are for combating terrorism?
The left doesn’t want us in Iraq, where we are bringing the fight right to the terrorists’ own backyard? Okay - what’s their plan?"

Yes. Given that what we're up against is, essentially, "the Klan with a Koran," you'd think they'd have some ideas. I don't recall anyone suggesting that the FBI shouldn't have been in Birmingham just because there was a bombing there. . . .

Putting aside the fact that there were many people (not from the "left") who did not want the FBI in Birmingham after the 16th Street Baptist Church was bombed (see: states rights, outside agitators)...

First, YOU'RE in charge. Don't pass the buck. Don't start trying to deflect blame on "the left." Just because your plan isn't going that well, it's not time to start criticizing others for their plans (or supposed lack of plans). It sounds like a little brother whose been bad and tries to distract everybody by complaining that his sister has hit him. Suck it up and deal with what you've made. It's not too late for a successful outcome.

Second, who amongst the major Democratic presidential candidates was not for all-out war against the Taliban? Who wasn't for all-out war against the terrorists? Who didn't want to end the evil-doers? Now, that was a plan, and it was a good one.

The fear is, however, that, in Iraq, we've taken the war to the "terrorists' own backyard" but we haven't taken it to the terrorists. With no WMDs and no connections to al-Queda, are these fears not grounded?

Third, the Birmingham analogy is, to put it mildly, troublesome. Mr. Reynolds, are you implying that if one believes this war is not being fought as promised, that he is of the same moral quality of those who believed that the deaths of the four girls inside the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing was no big deal? And that we believe that the bombers and those who supported the bombers shouldn't have been hunted down with all the retribution the United States had to bear?

The Vietnam analogy
Amitava Mazumdar writes that one aspect of the Iraq/Vietnam analogy may be valid:

It's pretty clear to me what these men are doing. The prospect that the Iraq project will come off successfully looks increasingly dim. So dim, that the nation's most visible war proponents have begun distancing themselves from the Bush administration's Iraq policy.

But they aren't admitting that the whole idea of the unilateral occupation and rebuilding of Iraq was an awful idea. They're arguing that if only the Bush administration spent enough money and sent enough troops, things would turn out as sunny as Kristol, Kagan, Pearl, and Sullivan had always predicted.

This is, of course, what the Vietnam War hawks said after we belatedly abandoned that costly effort. The lesson we should have taken from that war was that no matter how many troops we sent, or how many more billions of dollars we spent, we could not win the Vietnam War because the Vietnamese did not want us to win it, or at least did not care who won it. The history of Western occupation throughout Asia, should have taught us the same lesson.

But Kristol, Kagan, Pearl, and Sullivan never learned that lesson. They were seduced by the myth of the inevitable success of all things American. If they were honest and honorable, they would admit their error: that the number of troops and amount of money necessary to rebuild Iraq was predictably unaffordable, and that's only after adopting the dubious assumption that the occupation ever had any chance of success at all. Instead, they are retreating to a defense that conveniently cannot be disproved: if Bush did everything their way, everything would have gone well.

As they say, read the whole thing.

When was?
When was the last time you heard the phrase "coalition of the willing"?

And, do you know what alert status we're in now? Is it red, orange, yellow, or mauve?

I wonder why these have gone by the way-side?

(Actually, I'm not wondering...)

Kos alerts us to this pre-war statement by Richard Pearle:

Saddam Hussein's reign of terror is about to end. He will go quickly, but not alone: in a parting irony, he will take the UN down with him. Well, not the whole UN. The "good works" part will survive, the low-risk peacekeeping bureaucracies will remain, the chatterbox on the Hudson will continue to bleat. What will die is the fantasy of the UN as the foundation of a new world order. As we sift the debris, it will be important to preserve, the better to understand, the intellectual wreckage of the liberal conceit of safety through international law administered by international institutions [...]

The chronic failure of the security council to enforce its own resolutions is unmistakable: it is simply not up to the task. We are left with coalitions of the willing. Far from disparaging them as a threat to a new world order, we should recognise that they are, by default, the best hope for that order, and the true alternative to the anarchy of the abject failure of the UN.

But, of course, the REAL reason we're going to the U.N. now? Not poor planning. Not poor management. Not poor ideas. No one is admitting to major mistakes because no such mistakes have been made. We're going to the U.N. because of the American Left. Stanley Kurtz writes:

The president’s decision to turn to the United Nations for assistance in the occupation and rebuilding of Iraq makes a great deal of sense. It certainly isn’t the ideal approach, but given the divisions within our country, and our general unwillingness to enlarge our military, the president’s decision is reasonable.... Our culture war is real. Now it has taken its toll. In many ways we are strong. Yet disunited we are weak. Our turning to the U.N. is not necessarily a disaster. But it is a sign that our internal divisions have finally exacted a cost.

In this era of "personal responsibility," you can't lose if you blame other people.

You might not be a NASCAR Dad if...
In a promo for the Brian Lehrer Show yesterday morning on New York City's National Public Radio affiliate WNYC, Mr. Lehrer tells us that the topic of the day is "NASCAR Dads" (a term that is fast replacing "Soccer Moms" as the political demographic cliche of choice) and asks anyone who considers themself a NASCAR Dad to call in to his show later that morning.

Of course, there is an inherent contradiction in his request, for a sure sign that you are *not* a NASCAR Dad is if you listen to NPR call-in shows!!

Wednesday, September 03, 2003
What does he mean by that?
Over at the Volokh Conspiracy, Daniel Drezner writes:

Just got back from seeing Bend It Like Beckham -- destined to become this year's My Big Fat Greek Wedding, with all the positives and negatives that title confers.

[First off, where has he been? It's "destined to become"? It's hardly a new movie. Cripes, I saw Bend it Like Beckham in Philadelphia last November.]

I wish he would have expanded on his analysis. I mean, *how* is it like My Big Fat Greek Wedding? He's not the first to make this comparison, but, other than they're both about immigrant families and they both have happy endings, how are the two movies similar? Did Drezner find the Anglo-Indian family in Bend It comic like the Greek-American family was portrayed as being? Did he think the similarities portrayed concerning second-generation assimilation in the Chicago and London rang true?

Monday, September 01, 2003
Shoe eating
I don't get it. Conservatives really like eating their shoes. So this Kathryn Jean Lopez will be eating her shoes on August 29, 2004.

Is this Hillary talk anything more than some odd sort of conservative wish fullilment? Do they really believe if they say she's running enough times that she will?