Monday, December 31, 2001

All right, it's official, I'm concerned

Thanks to Steven den Beste and others, in the aftermath of the Great Blog Breach, I'm now concerned about the future of Blogger.

Don't misunderstand me, I really like this service. It's handy to be able to update my blog from anywhere. I've paid for my ad-free page, and thanks to Glenn Reynolds' suggestion, a number of other people have, too. I just don't want to wake up one day and find my site retired. Evan Williams sacrificed a large portion of his Christmas to get Blogger back up after the hack, and I appreciate it. But if it happens again, will he prop it back up, or will he decide he's lost enough money and move on?

I've really enjoyed having this opportunity to get my thoughts in order. So while I'm not prepared to abandon Blogger, I am looking into ways to continue without Blogger.

Sunday, December 30, 2001

God bless us, every pair

In a sequel to this item, it is my pleasure to inform you of this report in the St. Petersburg Times, that

Leaders of Without Walls International Church in Tampa decided Saturday [12/23] to accept gifts gathered by strippers at a Brandon club who flashed their breasts for a toy donation.

They didn't really want to accept them, but the kids really needed the toys. Well, does any kid really need toys? But I know what they mean. I have kids myself.

How does it go? "God moves in mysterious ways His wonders to perform." Sometimes sex does make people stupid. I'm encouraged that, at least this time, it didn't make them lose sight of their goal.

Saturday, December 29, 2001

It's Been One Week...

...since Evan Williams listed me as a Blog of Note at, which hosts this journal. In the approximately two months previous to that, I'd accumulated not quite 300 visits. In the last week, I've been hit 3000 times. Not bad for a school-free, gamer-free, SurvivorTM-free blog. If you ever want to find me after I roll off the "Blogs of Note" list, better bookmark me now.

(Oops, now I'll show up in the search engines when people search for the keyword "Survivor". Too bad. Hee hee.)

Is it Osama or Usama?

I think I'm the only one who doesn't think Osama bin Laden appears to be at death's door in his latest statement. (Why do reporters insist on calling it a "home video"?)

"He looks gaunt." He always did. He's 6'4".

"His beard's grey." Yes, it is, in exactly the same places it was the last time we saw him. Try to remember that most of the video we see of him is months or years old.

"His face is pale." Well, yes, but so are his clothes. This leads me to think it's more a function of the color of the lighting than his health.

"He never moves his left arm, and he's left-handed." He always did move stiffly. He doesn't come across to an American audience as exactly the most charismatic speaker the world has ever known.

Come on, people. Just say "I don't know" and move on.

The flip side of Gander is Hicksville?

Well, maybe. Previously I'd commented on the warm welcome and fellowship that so many stranded travellers received in Gander, Newfoundland on September 11.

But I'm so far behind with things that you've probably already seen this story, about the Day's Inn that "accidentally" raised its rates up to triple the posted rate on 9/11. Yeah, they've been fined, and yeah, they've refunded the money, and yeah, they're so sorry, but I'd feel a lot better about staying in a Day's Inn if they could offer any kind of reasonable explanation as to how such a thing could be an "oversight".

Why Blog?

This is why.

Friday, December 28, 2001

Returning to Normal -- Sort Of

Vandals mystify me. Eggs on the car, spray paint on an overpass, hacking a web site, releasing a virus, it all looks the same to me. Are people truly that bored?

This entry is an experiment. As I type, my blog archive appears to be gone, eradicated by a hacker with time on his hands. Blogger (my host) was hacked on Christmas Day, for those of you who don't already know it. So far I'm the only one I know who actually lost content. What a wonderful Christmas present -- a clean start. *ahem*

I suspect that I'm giving the vandal too many column inches by even acknowledging that anything happened -- but it appears I cannot restore my blog, so I may as well explain it.

I had some interesting stuff up here, I thought. Many of you who read it were kind enough to tell me you thought so, too. But because this expletive has hosed my profile, I've had to manually rebuild my archive. Here are direct links to previous weeks, for as long as they last. If they fall out of BlogSpot, I have some other server space I can post them in. But it's a pain.


[Later: I was able to recover and re-post this week's comments, which you'll see below. If anybody linked directly to any of those messages pre-hack, those links won't work, but they'll at least bring you to this page. I also made hard links to the archives that Blogger is no longer automatically minding for me. All's relatively well that ends. Hackers are still jerks, though.]

[Later still: Had an "a-ha" moment. Now, if anybody linked to these messages pre-hack, those links will still work. No, really, it was nothing, all in a day's work, service with a smilie. :) ]

Censored Comics

It will attract my attention when other people decide what I may be allowed to see. Don't get me wrong, though: Newspapers have a right to choose what they publish. (Freedom of the press belongs to him who owns one.)

But when a headline reads Albuquerque Journal pulls comic strip for sexual content, who would suspect that the strip in question is Funky Winkerbean?

Les and Lisa Moore have decided that the time is right to have a baby. So far, so good. It worked for Gasoline Alley, Blondie, and For Better or For Worse. But Les and Lisa are having, er, fertility issues. The center of the controversy is a three-day sequence beginning on December 20, where Lisa coyly informs a nervous Les that "I took my temperature like the doctor said to, and I think I'm at my peak." On the 21st, they are shopping for a mood-setter, a romantic video. "You like *her*? Since when?" Les responds, "You know, this isn't turning out to be one of your better ideas."

Ah, but on the 22nd, the strip opens with Les and Lisa in bed, covers drawn, shoulders bare, with a sated Lisa asking Les, "That wasn't so gruelling, was it?" Suddenly I think I know what the Albuquerque Journal is nervous about.

Fortunately, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer is not so shy, and the strips can be read on their web page -- even if you live in Albuquerque. (The official site is ten days' delayed, but these strips should be coming up there next week.)

Personally, I found the strips in good taste, and captured a feeling I know from experience. Sex is scary, even with one's loving partner, when you know you're making a baby -- even if you intend to get pregnant. Perhaps especially so. Is it out of bounds to say so in a comic strip?

So, what did they think Sally Forth was talking about that day she told her husband, "We were putting beans in the jar: Now we're taking them out"?

So, given that these strips are viewable on the web, is there any point to the Journal's decision not to run them?

Tuesday, December 25, 2001

Put that down, you don't know where it's been

The charity of strippers embarrasses church
Without Walls leaders must decide whether to distribute toys collected at a Brandon strip club.
TAMPA -- Every year the Without Walls International Church holds a toy drive for needy children, and this year the church was thrilled [when WXTB-FM DJ] Bubba The Love Sponge Clem promised "a truckful" of toys.
Thrilled, that is, until discovering Friday the toys had been gathered by strippers at the Deja Vu nude club who agreed to flash their breasts in return for a toy donation.
"We certainly don't stand for that at all," church spokeswoman Jennifer Mallan said. "We wouldn't condone anything that has to do with something offensive ... something that degrades women."
The WXTB-FM 97.9 (98 Rock) disc jockey had urged listeners to join his toy drive and go to the strip club in Brandon on Friday morning.
...[Mallan] said she will meet with church officials about whether to accept the toys, which are supposed to be delivered today in time for a Christmas charity event at 2 p.m. More than 1,000 parents have registered to get toys for their children.
Well, what do you suppose will happen if they don't? Will the church have enough to go around without them?

Does anyone have an update on this? I'm consumed with curiosity how they resolved this moral issue.

Monday, December 24, 2001

You're a Mean One, Father Grinch

What? "Suspended Priest 'Does Not Believe in Xmas'"?

Oh, okay, I see. I think. This has to be one of those "Don't Take Christ Out of Christmas" rants we sometimes get around this time of year. So I read on...
DUBLIN (Reuters) - An Irish Protestant minister who does not believe in Christmas or that Jesus was the Son of God has been suspended from his post for three months to "reflect on his statements.''
Now, correct me if I'm mistaken, but don't we have a word for men of God who don't believe Jesus was His son? We call them "Rabbis".

Oh, well. It doesn't say anywhere that I have to understand anything. Happy World Mercantile Day, everybody.

Sunday, December 23, 2001

Gander, Newfoundland

Maybe I'm the last to hear about this. I wouldn't have known about it if mine hadn't been one of several dozen addresses on a mass e-mailing from a friend. I typically regard these skeptically, and a few minutes of research on or typically proves me right. But even a broken clock is right twice a day, and this story is dramatically, wonderfully true. The full story is in the New York Times of November 18. More details are at A summary follows:

Shortly after 9:30am on September 11, numerous westbound transatlantic flights were told that American airspace was closed, and to put down immediately wherever you can. For many of those flights, "wherever" was the town of Gander, a well-known (among those who need to know such things) refueling stop and one of the few airstrips in the area large enough to land a 747. But they normally get them one at a time: On 9/11, 37 planes landed there.

It took many hours just to deplane everybody: Thousands spent the night on the planes. This little town of 10,000 people found itself with over 6,500 unexpected guests, with no luggage (for security reasons, luggage wasn't released when the passengers were) and no projected departure time.

The good people of Gander, as well as nearby Lewisporte and the surrounding area as far as Twillingate, came through, with lodging, food, clothing, medical services -- whatever was needed.

No one could ask for better neighbors.

This is the best we can do?

According to, this is the funniest joke in the world. You'd better prepare yourself.
Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson are going camping. They pitch their tent under the stars and go to sleep. Sometime in the middle of the night Holmes wakes Watson up.
"Watson, look up at the stars, and tell me what you deduce."

Watson says, "I see millions of stars, and if there are millions of stars, and if even a few of those have planets, it's quite likely there are some planets like Earth, and if there are a few planets like Earth out there, there might also be life."

Holmes replied: "Watson, you idiot, somebody stole our tent!"
All right, the joke is pretty funny, but anything would be a letdown after an introduction like that.

But surely we can do better.

Saturday, December 22, 2001

It was time.

Welcome to the all new (well...) ad-free me. I've convinced myself that I'm going to keep doing this, so paying for the service (as Glenn Reynolds reminded us) was the Right Thing to Do. Thanks to all for the encouragement.

Thanks, as well, to Evan Williams at for providing this handy weblog service, and for listing me as a Blog of Note. I'm just cynical enough to suspect a connection between that and having just paid for ad-free service, but no less appreciative.

And to all you people who are seeing this because I am a Blog of Note, Hello! Pull up a chair. As they say, if you like what you see, tell your friends. If you have something to say about it, tell me. The address is right up there.

Thank You, MSNBC

I am learning so much about what life is like in Afghanistan. Not just that "the people are poor", which is generally all that the humanitarian organizations have traditionally wanted to tell us before picking our pockets, but what life is like. For example, they had hydroelectric dams, which generated reliable electricity for a significant fraction of the country ... but they (or their armed tourists) looted the power plants and stole the wires for scrap metal, and now they have one power plant, that sorta works, some of the time.

The more I learn about that part of the world and its people, the more I respect everything that allows me to sit here and chat about it. The technology, the culture, the value we place on individual achievement, all that I take for granted, they don't have. The USA might as well be on the moon for them, and the idea that anything we think or do has anything to do with them must seem as unlikely... as the reverse seemed to us on September 10.

Even (especially!) the assumption that government derives its power by consent of the governed. Afghanistan doesn't have that. (However distrustful I may get of government agencies, I know that the occasional *bang* I hear outside my window is only a vehicle backfiring, and the water in my tap is safe to drink.)

The important part of the press coverage of this adventure *ahem* is not the war news, but the stuff that fills time around the war news. The wider dissemination that gets, the more we may realize just how rich we are.

(Further reading: P. J O'Rourke, All the Trouble in the World.)

Monday, December 17, 2001

The FBI's Magic Lantern

I can't imagine why the FBI has publicly revealed this, but they are developing a trojan-horse-like program with which they can "infect" a computer they suspect is being used for illegal purposes. This program will allow them to monitor communications and computer usage.

The big deal with this one is that they don't have to achieve physical access to the computer they want to monitor. They can e-mail it to you, just like the authors of "ILOVEYOU" and "nimdA" did. Think of it as slipping your landlord a fifty to let the FBI into your apartment.

Oh, no, the FBI would never abuse this tool. ``Like all technology projects or tools deployed by the FBI it would be used pursuant to the appropriate legal process.''

Well, fine, but the above statement was delivered as a response to the question "Would it require a court order to use it?" Response it may be, but it ain't an answer.

This also puts the anti-virus companies in a difficult position. Such a trojan clearly falls into the realm of destructive and invasive programs that anti-virus software is designed to disable. Would an existing product catch it? Do the anti-virus companies have an obligation to update their product so that it will? Can the FBI, in the name of the War Effort, forbid the companies from doing this?

Will the FBI be able to preserve the secret of their "back-door"? Will other hackers be able to discover and exploit it? And if they do, will the FBI insist that this door be left open regardless?

Am I too paranoid? Is there such a thing as "too paranoid"?

Have I used too many question marks in this comment?

Friday, December 14, 2001

"Cavemen with AK 47's" has decided that this letter (adult language warning!) is probably a fake. In my opinion, Snopes is using "false" when "not proven" would be more appropriate.

You may have heard it: It purports to be a letter from "Saucy Jack", an American soldier on duty in Afghanistan, describing living conditions there -- and "how the war goes" devoid of any possible network news spin. You may find yourself wanting it to be true.

I refer you to it primarily for the imagery of the phrase "cavemen with AK 47's", which "Jack" uses to describe the belligerent, unsophisticated people of Afghanistan. This, sadly, is consistent with what we have seen of them on American television. Yes, everyone seems to carry guns over there (and that much, I have heard from a reliable source, is quite true), but they're as likely to swing them club-like by the barrel as to actually fire them at anybody.

But whatever else one can say about the Afghans, they are -- must be -- adaptable and tough. The fact that people do still live in Afghanistan is ample proof of that.

Wednesday, December 12, 2001

Bad Headline, Good News

Bookstore assailant gets shelved
CARLISLE -- When a would-be robber walked into Erin Moul's used-book store and demanded that she open the cash register, she told him, "no."
When the man persisted on Tuesday, she showed him why she wasn't going to open it -- the 9mm pistol she pulled from her purse.
This is the kind of encounter that simply doesn't get counted when the gun control crowd is advocating the abolition of the second amendment.

If you should happen to find yourself in Cover to Cover Books in Carlisle PA, buy one. Buy several. Good deeds should be rewarded.


I just got my 200th hit. It took two weeks from #100. Somehow I don't think I'm responsible for's bandwidth problems, but thanks for visiting anyway. At this rate, I'll be in the rarified atmosphere of in... oh, 2025.

Sunday, December 09, 2001

Please, No Moore No More

Is anybody paying attention to Michael Moore anymore? Here's a typical scrap from his most recent online comments:
And please, dear friends, let's look at the bright side for once: The last time a Bush took us to war and got a 90% approval rating, he was toast and a ghost the following year. You can't get better than that.
The President has done pretty much everything you've been saying he should do. What does it take to satisfy you? Never mind, I think I know. He has to apologize to Al Gore and pack his bags. Nothing less will do, will it?

Moore hasn't had time to post to his website lately, probably because he's rewriting his new book, Stupid White Men and Other Excuses for the State of the Nation. (Gee, I wonder what it's about.) There are an "unspecified number" of copies (Moore himself has used the number 100,000) sitting in a warehouse somewhere. The original release date was September 11. Apparently events of the day have convinced him that possibly as much as half of the book requires revision and rewriting.

Given the remarks that remain on his web site, I'm pretty darned curious to know what he thought was so outrageous that it had to be changed.

I'm also wondering how many new faces and fresh voices are watching their advances disappear -- or never being considered for publication -- while ReganBooks throws away 100,000 hardback copies of an embarrassing book.

Thursday, December 06, 2001

The Afghan Economy

I've commented before that on September 11, we didn't know much more about Afghanistan than the average Afghan knew about us. (That is to say, most of what both of us knows is wrong.) But I didn't know just how right I was until I stumbled across this story from, dated now but still moving.

You may have already seen it. In a surreal variation of "Jack and the Beanstalk", Afghans spend their last few afghanis (the local currency) on a flashlight bulb and battery. They take the makeshift light into the mountains, and anchor it to create the illusion of life, so the Americans will bomb the place. Then they can trek back up there the next day, harvest the scrap metal from American munitions, and sell it for some real money.

Let me try to establish a scale. "A kilo of the bomb metal is sold for about 500 afghani (about a Pakistani rupee)", the article says, enough to buy a piece of bread. The exchange rate (as of this morning, from is 4,750 afghanis to the dollar: 500 afghanis would be about eleven cents.

Let's see, that 25 million dollar reward we were offering for the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden converts to... over 118 thousand million afghanis.

Heck, why don't we just drop money? It'd be cheaper to drop a sack full of quarters, and we'd throw the local economy into utter chaos. I mean, more so.

Can any of us really, emotionally grasp being so desperate as to try to attract bombing in order to collect the shell casings?

Think of that the next time you're trying to decide whether a penny is worth bending over to pick up.

Wednesday, December 05, 2001

Holiday Crunch

The closer it gets to Christmas, the less time I'll have for these comments. I promise I won't forget about them if you don't.

Live, from Kandahar, it's CBS Smackdown!

From the moment I heard that Dan Rather was going to interview Donald Rumsfeld, I felt certain there would be at least one classic Rather Moment in it. Proving that he knows what his audience wants, he delivered it with the first question.
Rather: Is it true that the U.S. military is indeed close to moving another force into this country possibly around Jalalabad and the Tora Bora cave section?
Rumsfeld: We don't announce anything with respect to prospective deployments.
Rather: I'm going to take that to mean that at least it may be under consideration.
Rumsfeld: It would be a mistake to take it as anything other than a standing Department of Defense and Don Rumsfeld policy that it puts people's lives in danger if we speculate about what might or might or might not happen in the future.
Rumsfeld 1, Rather 0.

Well, once they established once and for all just who's driving this interview, it ended uneventfully.

(Thanks, Oreta.)

Monday, December 03, 2001

So That's "It"?

You remember, "It", sometimes called "Ginger", that maybe-scooter that was all the buzz for about fifteen seconds back before the Election That Wouldn't Quit?

Well, the secret of It is finally Out. And since I never developed excessively high expectations for It, I have to say It actually looks like a clever little gadget. The combination of a small, powerful power source, and sophisticated gyroscopics that actually work to keep you on It, appears to result in a genuine New Thing.

I still think It's going to look pretty silly when Atlanta's Finest start taking to the streets on It -- er, Them -- early next year, as they've announced they will. I wonder what It's top speed is? If an officer has to pursue a suspect on foot, can he do so aboard It? And if he hops off to give chase on those not-quite-obsolete feet, will It still be where he left It when he goes back for It?

On the other hand, if you stole It, you couldn't ride It without people knowing where you got It.

(Yeah, I know the inventor calls it Segway. It's more fun to call it It. Besides, "Segway"? If this thing's gonna fly, it's gonna need a new name.)

MORE ABOUT SEGWAY: Hmm. Max capacity 250 pounds. That *ahem* lets me out.

17 mph. That is faster than a four-minute mile, so a policeman riding a Segway could, theoretically, outrun a running man. Assuming the man could stop laughing long enough to run effectively. But then what?

Runs for 2 hours on a 6 hour charge. This is the kind of nonsense that is killing electric automobiles.


Why would anyone buy that when they could afford this?

Saturday, December 01, 2001


"While the rest of the country waves the flag of Americana, we understand we are not part of that."--Mayor Bill Campbell of Atlanta
Quoted in the Washington Post, and requoted at, and now here. Although Mr Bill has said and done some awful things in office, I had no idea until now that he doesn't consider himself an American citizen, and that recent unpleasantness near Battery Park had nothing to do with him.

I repeat it just to let you know that he doesn't speak for me. And, for what it's worth, he's only got another month or so in office. Good riddance. You know what they say about people who aren't part of the solution.

Thursday, November 29, 2001

"Duh!" Headline of the Week

Drinking 'may help conception'
A moderate amount of drinking may actually help a woman to become pregnant, research has found.
Scientists found that women who do not drink at all can actually take longer to become pregnant than those who drink up to two alcoholic beverages a day.
Really. Can you imagine that? Wait, there's more:
Dr Peter Bowen-Simpkin, a spokesman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, said the study confirmed what he had long suspected.
He told BBC News Online: "I always advise women who want to get pregnant to take a glass of wine before they go to bed.
"They will more relaxed, happy and much more likely to have sex at the right time."
And they spent how much to figure out what every college student already knows? (Or, at least, hopes. Well, all but the pregnant part.)

Okay, I reformatted my blog template.

I hope it isn't obvious to those of you using some iteration of Microsoft Internet Explorer, but since it has come to my attention that somebody is reading this page with Netscape, I thought I'd remove all that nasty MS-only style sheet gunk and replace it with HTML generic enough to be seen approximately the same way on both major browsers. No sacrifice is too great, and all that.

Wednesday, November 28, 2001

Another Overblown Teapot?

J. Max Robins, writing for TV Guide, blows the whistle on an interesting marketing arrangement.

Those of you who watch news programming from any of the NBC sisters (MSNBC, CNBC, or the broadcast network) may have seen a commercial from encouraging you to browse to a special URL for books mentioned in the broadcast you're watching. Well, says I to myself, how handy. What a public service.

Well, not exactly. It seems that NBC gets 10% of each sale generated by that page.

Robins (or at least Tom Rosenstiel of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, and Deborah Potter, executive director of NewsLab, both of whom he quotes) is hot and bothered over blurring the line between news program and infomercial. "Undermines journalistic integrity", blah blah blah.

Big whoop. This is just an extension of something Amazon has been doing all along, their Associates program. I'm an Amazon associate myself, and that doesn't mean I'm an employee: On my ARTC page, I have a link to, and ARTC gets a cut of any purchases you make if you go there from Not the 10% NBC gets, but then I bring fewer people into the tent. So what?

(If it isn't obvious, the "Amazon associate" link above is just such a link. ARTC also gets a cut of anything you buy if you go there from here. Fair disclosure. Costs you nothing, puts a couple of pennies in the pocket of a non-profit that can use it.)

Maybe I'm missing something. Authors don't appear on talk shows at seven in the morning because they enjoy it: They enjoy seeing their books sell. This sells books, painlessly. This motivates authors to appear on the show in the first place. Television demands a steady stream of people with something to say: People who've just written a book should have something to say.

There is even an advantage to the viewers, who otherwise will be stuck at the mall the next day explaining, "I want that book by that guy about that thing. I saw it on Today. The cover's blue, I think." Everybody wins. Duh.

I swear. Next they'll be wanting to close down Oprah's Book Club.

UPDATE: You have to respect the publicists at the Project for Excellence in Journalism, though. The LA Times and the Denver Post must be on their mailing list as well: Both join TV Guide in breaking the story that the broadcast networks use their morning shows to publicize the rest of their schedules, as well as the products of their corporate siblings.

Uh, guys? They always have. I remember when Barbara Walters was the Cute Girl on Today, rather than the Grande Dame of Television News. Heck, I remember Dave Garroway and Jack Lescoulie. Those guys read their own commercials, live. Was that a conflict of interests?

Oddly, although all of these stories cite the Project for Excellence in Journalism as a source, none of them take the initiative and link to it. As they are the professionals in the field and I am an amateur, I'll risk it. (I guess they're saving the exposes of news organizations that package press releases as if they were "real reporting" for the next sweeps week.)

(And before someone else says it: Yeah, I'm doing pretty much the same thing. But I'm not getting paid.)

There Are Brains in California...

...but I think they're outnumbered.

Here, for your amusement, is an article by Rob Long (writing for the WSJ, documenting a painful realization:

You see, out here in Hollywood, we like to feel useful. And to be useful, we must first feel important. But it's hard to feel important when the biggest terrorist of them all, Osama bin Laden--really, let's face it, the guy who practically defines the A-list of villains--hasn't had the common courtesy to so much as name us in a fatwa.

And, as if to pound the point home that Los Angeles Really Does Not Matter, Steve Lopez (of the Los Angeles Times) shares what passes for judgment by KCAL's news director:

The first story on the 10 o'clock news was about a Britney Spears concert in Anaheim. ... No one in their right mind expects to be enlightened or informed by local television news. But in more ways than one, what we were watching had nothing to do with the news. We were witnessing the triumphant resurrection of bad taste.
A day or two ago Virginia Postrel and I had an exchange about Los Angeles' influence on the rest of the country vs the domination of Serious Commentary by the pundits in New York. I tried to stick up for LA, but they're not making it very easy for me. Does a "mere" serious journalist stand a chance?


I just got my 100th hit. It took three weeks. I have no idea if that's good or not: I just know most of 'em aren't me, so thanks for hanging in.

Monday, November 26, 2001

Harry Potter and MSNBC

I won't often get this specific here, but I must warn you not to watch the "special edition" of MSNBC's Headliners and Legends spotlighting Harry Potter.

Unless you've been living under a rock for the last five years -- or unless you've avoided the Potter phenomenon on the advice of your minister -- you already know all the "secrets" this hour reveals. If you're new to the party and you want to be caught up to speed, you won't want the spoilers this program presents, most especially the dramatic surprise in book four (as tragedy strikes one of Harry's friends).

The approach this program takes -- that Harry Potter is a real person, and J. K. Rowling merely his biographer -- gets very old, very fast. Even the children who are Harry's primary market know better than that. The rhyming "when we come back" voiceovers that lead into each commercial break are excruciating.

Clips of Rowling speaking are moderately interesting -- although if you're going to tell people that her British publisher insisted she use her initials in her byline (the better to market the book to boys who might not like it if they know a woman wrote it), it seems conspicuous not to reveal what the initials stand for. She's the second-richest woman in England, it can do little harm now. (Joanne Kathleen. You're welcome. I just scooped MSNBC!)

Never mind. Just change the channel.

Please, don't make me defend Hillary Clinton

Did the apocalypse happen over the weekend? Is the world spinning backward and the sky orange?* (Hey, I work third shift, I might have missed it.)

Senator Clinton's by-line can be found on an opinion piece at Those who instinctively twitch whenever her name is mentioned have already queued up at their word processors, and I confess that the only reason I can bear to type the phrase "Senator Clinton" is that, after all, she isn't my senator.

But I actually read this short essay beginning to end, and you know what? (It's OK to be folksy like that since the President says it.) Much to my surprise, I found myself nodding in agreement.

Okay, she didn't waste any time reminding us she used to live in the White House. Big surprise. If I'd ever spent the night in the White House, I'd talk about it too. And, okay, she takes a little too much credit for having recognized the conditions under which women lived in Afghanistan. All you had to do was pay attention, but a lot of people weren't doing that much.

And yes, nobody asked her what she thought about Afghanistan. But everybody else has an opinion, why not her?

We cannot simply drop our bombs and depart with our best wishes, lest we find ourselves returning some years down the road to root out another terrorist regime.
I defy you to disagree with that. But wait, there's more. Does America have a right to impose its values on Afghan society?

Women's rights are human rights. They are not simply American, or western customs. They are universal values which we have a responsibility to promote throughout the world, and especially in a place like Afghanistan.
Yes, universal values. Human rights weren't created by the American Constitution, and they exist even outside American jurisdiction. Of course, other cultures have a right to exist in their own fashion, but not to the extent that they hold their own people in terror.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator [not named] with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness..."
(Read the rest, it's fascinating.)

If we really believe that, we have an obligation, not to impose our way of life on the Afghans, but to show them the advantages of ours and to allow them the basic human right of choice.

* Sorry. It's a Buffy the Vampire Slayer reference. Call it my membership card in the geek club.

Sunday, November 25, 2001

Happy Thanksgiving

My family is all happy and healthy. I hope yours is too. I actually have enough time on my hands to worry about something as inconsequential as this blog.

Life is good.

Wednesday, November 21, 2001

Please, don't make me defend Doonesbury

For those of you who didn't see last Sunday's strip (and I don't encourage you to visit it, although the link is above), Karl Rove told President Bush that the September 11 attack had helped to advance everything on the Bush agenda, to which the President replied, "Wow... What a coincidence... Thanks, Evildoers!"

Now, aside from the traditional "Bush is too dumb to be President" subtext (face it, they're never going to get tired of that), I consider this a golden example of the broken clock that's right twice a day. It's no coincidence that Bush's agenda is strengthened by the current national resolve, and I think the President knows it.

But something about this strip has attracted far too much attention.

James Taranto, of the Wall Street Journal's, says (among other things),

Worst of all, though, he can't draw--or at least he's too lazy to draw... now just about every "Doonesbury" strip we see depicts a conversation between invisible people.
Worst of all? You mean you don't mind his political statements, but dialogue from off-panel characters is the last straw?

At, multiple posters suggest... Well, let's not even go there. Sometimes I'm embarrassed to admit I ever read the page.

Even Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit, asked

Will Garry Trudeau be ... denounced for 'Bush hating?'
Of course not. Among liberals, that's a badge of honor.

If it's offensive to suggest that the events of 9-11 have advanced any part of President Bush's agenda, then what are we to make of the President's own words of November 9:

This fall I had planned a new initiative called Communities of Character, designed to spark a rebirth of citizenship and character and service. The events of September the 11th have caused that initiative to happen on its own in ways we could never have imagined.

It's only a comic strip. Garry Trudeau is entitled to his opinion. And be honest, does it really come as a surprise? He's a liberal, always has been. So what? It's not like anything he says actually matters, does it?

(You really don't want to see my list of comic strips that are a waste of space...)

[Later: Oh, please. It's all over last night's O'Reilly Factor too. C'mon, people, this is a non-issue. Let it go.]

The Wonderful and Scary Thing About E-mail

So I wrote to Virginia Postrel and told her what I'd said about her below. Well, so? If you're going to complain when people do things wrong, you should occasionally say something when they do things right. Ms Postrel often does things right.

Well, I'll be superamalgamated. She answered me. (Hope she doesn't mind if I tell you what she said.)

That's all well and good if you're an actor or sitcom writer, or if you want to talk about Hollywood. But having run a political magazine for 10 years out of L.A., written a book there, and been a regular contributor to the LAT op-ed page, I can safely say that New York and Washington have an absolute death grip on that market. You might as well not exist if you're on the West Coast (or, for that matter, anywhere else in the country except the Bos-Wash corridor). As an excellent columnist, now living in New York and writing for the NYT, wrote me recently, "But to think, someone remembers my LA Times columns--that kind of thing is invisible in the East, as you probably know."
And I responded:

First, let me say thank you for your reply, far more reasonable than my tongue-in-cheek comment probably deserved.

Perhaps it it because I am a native and resident of Atlanta (a city known primarily for Ben Matlock and the Dukes of Hazzard -- and you know, most of us even wear shoes) that I reacted as I did. If the East Coast does not recognize L.A. as a hotbed of serious political thought, the Deep South attracts even less notice -- except for CNN, and I don't think I want to be judged by my proximity to them either.

Which is actually all the more reason that I should appreciate your point -- and I do.

It's my opinion that there's nothing that makes New Yorkers especially well suited to analyze politics (or anything else) for the rest of us. That's just where the media are.

Except for one medium. This one. The internet is everywhere. If you have something reasonably intelligent to bring to the table, you can.

I love the web.

Friday, November 16, 2001

Blogs away!

Virginia Postrel said:
"...this new medium may somehow break the death grip of Washington and New York opinion masters. If it weren't for that hyperblogger in Knoxville, the red hot center of me-zines would be L.A."
Do you mean to suggest that Los Angeles is collectively feeling under-represented in the nation's media? The vast majority of this country's -- perhaps the world's -- entertainment programming originates in L. A. And it is far more pervasive than a handful of news channels.

But you're certainly correct that the increasing ease of creating one's own web page is making it possible to hear other points of view. Didn't I hear someone else say that recently? Oh, yeah. It was me.

Thursday, November 15, 2001

Truth in Advertising

All right, maybe I'm being too picky. I just saw a commercial for Walgreen's that explained how easy it is to do Christmas shopping there. Well, that's as may be. (For myself, if you have to do your Christmas shopping at the corner drugstore, just get me a card.)

But the commercial concluded with a counter-level shot of purchases being passed over an under-counter scanner at checkout. They were careful to show the product logos to the camera, of course.

Let me repeat that. The camera, with a scanner-level point of view, is seeing the *front* of the packages.

UPC symbols are typically on the *back* of retail packages.

Therefore, sound effects to the contrary, *none* of these packages were actually being scanned.

I'm just detail-oriented enough to be distracted by that. I mean, I *know* I'm being lied to, I just resent being lied to ineptly.

Tuesday, November 13, 2001

How Old is History?

That is, how long is long enough before a given event is no longer a Current Event?

Well, according to the History Channel's President and CEO, Nickolas Davatzes, it's two weeks. I'm sure that played a part in the channel's decision to run a program documenting the construction of the Twin Towers on October 17.

The feature was completed before the attack, and originally intended to run in December. I can't fault the decision to run it earlier: If History is only two weeks old, then the WTC might be ancient history by December.

No, no, I'm only kidding. I think. I'm told it was a fine show (we don't get cable in the Purple household). I'm just wondering when the other end of history is. How old does something have to be to be so remote as to be completely irrelevant?

I feel a need to ask my children's teachers that question.

"Duh!" Headline of the Week

Pilots Could Do Little if Engine Fell Off
The New York Times
The Airbus A-300 that crashed shortly after takeoff from Kennedy International Airport shed part of one of its two engines, raising the possibility that the jetliner suffered a catastrophic breakup of the engine or that the engine itself detached from the plane an event so severe that pilots do not even train for it.

The plane carried two General Electric CF-6 engines, one under each wing, and these normally would have been at or near maximum thrust on departure. Fast-rotating internal parts have been known to come lose on such engines, sometimes penetrating the outer shell of the engine and sending parts as missiles into the plane.

...The plane can fly on one engine, but if an engine fell off or broke up, it could destroy the three hydraulic systems, which are required to fly. The plane's flight control surfaces, the moveable panels that the pilots use to make it bank, climb, dive and change direction, are run by the hydraulic systems, and the loss of an engine means the automatic loss of two hydraulic systems.

(Thanks for drawing my attention to this, Ron. Get your own blog and I won't steal material from you. [g])

Well, yeah, count on the New York Times to state the obvious. Well, I guess it's obvious that when a plane falls apart in mid-air, it's going to fall.

But even as late as 11pm (when I arrived at work and heard this on MSNBC), the live anchor (Lester Holt, with the cutest little model of an Airbus A300, complete with American Airlines colors: Do they keep them around the newsroom just in case?) was clarifying this same point with an expert observer (whose name will be protected because this had to be embarrassing for him -- and besides I don't remember who it was).

Holt had him explain -- and I got the feeling from his tone that this wasn't the first time today he'd said it -- that yes, the plane could fly controllably if the engine had simply failed, but not if it actually fell off.

Do the media think we're that stupid? Or is it something unique about New Yorkers?

Or is it possible that they are right?

[Later: The chirpy morning anchor (Jeannie Ohm of MSNBC) apparently hasn't been listening to her own network's coverage. "The question that people are asking is, 'How can a plane just fall out of the air?'" Well, last I heard, even aeronautical engineers are divided over what exactly holds them up in the first place (Angle of attack! Bernoulli principle! Angle of attack! Bernoulli principle! Duck season! Wabbit season!), but somehow I don't think that's where MSNBC wanted to go. Hey, Jeannie? Check your web site. Search for "Engine falls off", if you're having trouble finding it.]

Monday, November 12, 2001

Is Urban Sprawl a Disease?

I have a lot of friends at the CDC, intelligent and hardworking people all. None of them (to my knowledge) are at a policy-making level: Thus, I hope they will remain my friends after this. One of them wrote a letter to the local newspaper (link has expired):
Starting with the Reagan era the federal employees, were tasked to do "more with less." Over the years our missions have steadily increased, even as our employee base has steadily decreased. We have continued to do "more with less."

Now we are in a time of national crisis. Suddenly the public is crying for the federal government to protect them from terrorists in the skies and diseases on the ground. They want "more."

There isn't any more. Years of cutting back has produced the size government that the taxpayers demanded, and it doesn't have the resources to take on additional workloads.

The logical response to seeing an agency's budget trimmed would be for that agency to focus on its core business, do the work for which it was created, and avoid diluting its resources on tangental or irrelevant issues. This the CDC has failed to do. Walter Olson at
The Centers for Disease Control were established to combat outbreaks of infectious disease, but have been steadily expanded and politicized to the point where the agency has recently crusaded against 'epidemics' of gun ownership, tobacco use and domestic violence. The newest initiative of agency officials? A joint effort with the Sierra Club to put over the notion that housing sprawl is a public health risk, in part because suburbanites don't get exercise walking to shops or work the way many city dwellers do.
Regrettable, perhaps. The CDC's business? No. As Virginia Postrel (who cites the Olson article) continues:
Every penny the CDC spends on telling people not to smoke, drink, eat too much, own guns, live in the suburbs, or otherwise how to live should be zeroed out of their budget and given to the folks at Ft. Detrick, who don't confuse behavior and disease.
Now that the CDC is being criticized for its response to the anthrax scare, asking for more of our money to rebuild its ability to perform this pesky Disease Control thing, will anyone ask if maybe now is a bad time for the CDC to attack urban sprawl?

[Later: *Sigh* Sometimes I get tired of finding out that InstaPundit was there first. "Bureaucratic mission-creep", Dr Reynolds calls it, and I don't think I can improve on that.]

Thursday, November 08, 2001

Unexpected Humor

All right, maybe Jim Carrey and Robin Williams aren't losing sleep. But as a former journalism student...

Well, what is a former journalism student? My degree is in journalism (much good has it ever done me), and I still observe those who use that word to describe what they do. Often I would use different words to describe their antics. Occasionally I am impressed: Ashleigh Banfield of MSNBC and Rita Cosby of Fox News have both achieved a much higher profile since the attack, and I've seen neither of them put a foot wrong. The list of those at whom I roll my eyes is too long to recount here.

But for sheer outrageous laughs, you can't beat the daily Department of Defense briefing at the Pentagon. Don't depend on the snippets you get on the evening news: Read the full transcripts. I get the idea that some of these reporters aren't sure what line of work the Department of Defense is in. Fortunately for their egos, the official transcripts do not name the reporters asking the questions.

On November 6, for instance, one reporter asked Secretary Rumsfeld to elaborate on his estimate that the Taliban could be defeated "within months".

It is clearly an estimate. I did not suggest one, two or three months; I said months rather than years. That means it could be as long as 23. (Laughter.) I've got a full range from one or two to 23. And I thought to myself when I was asked that question, I spontaneously responded to the best of my ability and said, Hmm, I'll bet you it's months, not years. Could I be wrong? I suppose. Do I think I am? No. (Laughter.)

Now, I don't know if the reporters are just dim, or accustomed to interviewing people who might challenge the definition of the word "is". But if you're going to ask the Secretary of Defense "Why are we dropping bombs?" you have to know you might get the answer "Because we want to kill them."

That might not be a thigh-slapper where you are, but it made me smile.

(Yes, of course InstaPundit was there first.)

Wednesday, November 07, 2001

Next You'll Be Telling Us Wrestling is Fixed

For years I've been telling everybody I know not to believe everything you see on television. In some contexts I've insisted that you shouldn't believe anything you see. But I have to admit that even I, skeptical as I am, am taken aback by this story from Electronic Media Online, in which we learn that you can't even believe the word "live".

This could have been a trivial story, but that the implications are so dramatic. It seems many television stations own a gadget they call a Time Machine (manufactured by Prime Image). The Time Machine allows them to perform time-compression on a live program, on the fly. Given that our homes are being invaded by TiVo technology (which allows consumers to "pause" live television and record multiple programs simultaneously), the existence of such a machine really shouldn't be much of a surprise. The article doesn't explain what this gadget's intended, legitimate use might be.

But it seems that KDKA Pittsburgh was using the machine to "create" additional local commercial time in the Steelers / Chiefs game on Oct. 25. This might have gone unnoticed if a reporter (Dimitri Vassilaros of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review) hadn't been watching the game on TV and listening to the radio play-by-play -- and noticing that "live" television was running about 30 seconds behind the "live" radio.

Even so, the only thing CBS seems to be worried about is that KDKA is contracturally forbidden from altering the programming the network offers them. The machine's existence itself isn't challenged, just the legal obligations inherent in the network / affiliate relationship. There are deeper issues here, unaddressed. Does CBS use a similar machine to regulate the length of commercial breaks in live events? The temptation must be strong: How else can you be sure that a time-out will last long enough to use two 30-second spots?

Is it used for programs other than football games? If Ellen DeGeneres sounds more like a chipmunk than usual, it is because a 24-minute "The Ellen Show" has been compressed into a 22-minute hole? Timing is everything in comedy: How can a producer be sure the network isn't fnorking the show itself to make room for another "Survivor" promo?

The same article reports that a 64-second break in the Oct 26 "King of Queens" repeat actually ran 94 seconds on KDKA. And a similar 64-second break in "Becker" stretched to 154 seconds on WJZ Baltimore. The local stations are being hung out to dry over this, but is CBS doing the same thing on a network level? How can we know?

What is "live"?

Too Bad To Last

It's fascinating, watching us cope. The world has not changed (pundits to the contrary), but our perspective on it has.

We were abruptly shown that some of the people with whom we share this planet aren't very nice. After eight years of Clinton, many of us weren't sure if we could or should do anything about that. I'm so grateful for a Chief Executive capable of setting the right tone. Someone must say it: Mass murder is intolerable.

In this respect, the 9/11 attack was a cultural Reset Button. And for several weeks, everyone was on the same page. Some things are above partisan politics. But all things seek their own level, and as we achieve some distance from the attack, our temporarily homogenized society returns to its discrete, identifiable segments.

Don't get me wrong, in a lot of ways it's encouraging to watch us get back to normal. We may never reach exactly where we were, and that's probably a good thing, but shock can't last forever. And the world, after all, did not come to an end.

It seems to me that among us Average People, recovery came pretty fast. The Media are still in crisis mode, and may never chill.

And politicians are more entertaining than ever -- until I remember that they have the power to create more law. Keep your eyes on 'em!

Thursday, November 01, 2001

They Don't Know Us Either

An interesting, under-reported thing about the world post-9/11 is the opportunity to learn -- for Americans, to learn more of a neglected corner of the world, and what our own role should be in improving the quality of life there; for the rest of the world, to learn what Americans are truly like. What we offer our neighbors, and what we expect from them; what we want, and what we are prepared to do to get it.

I wish that the people of Afghanistan had the same opportunity to learn about us.

Yes, I will concede, the average American hadn't given five minutes' thought to living conditions in Afghanistan, or elsewhere in the Middle East, previous to 9/11. The average Afghan knew even less of what life is really like here. However, we have the resources to learn, and this we have done, while the Afghans know no more than they knew then. After all, not only do they not have the books, references, or media from which they might get that information, but those media are illegal there.

This may be the single biggest crime of the Taliban, as it enforces everything else. Their human rights offenses, their treatment of their female and Christian population, the quality of their education, their lack of concern for quality of their peoples' lives -- reprehensible as these conditions are, they are underscored by the fact that the people of Afghanistan don't know there's any other way to live. They are forbidden by Taliban law to encounter anything else.

Sewage runs in open ditches beside the street in all but the best neighborhoods of the largest cities. Only boys go to school -- and they have no books. Therefore, there's no point in learning to read, so few people do. There is no clean drinking water: Everyone who can possibly afford one, owns a water purification kit of the type sold here in camping supply stores. Those who can't afford one tend to die young. (What is the point of a government if it can't even deliver drinking water?)

Life expectancy in Afghanistan is 47 years. I am 47.

Wednesday, October 31, 2001

"Hello, This is the Government, We're Not In Right Now..."

I keep finding things. Interactive Week reported back on 9-17 that if you were looking for official information in the immediate aftermath of September 11, well, you didn't find any.

And the FBI wants to set up a handful of nodes through which all internet traffic will flow, making it easier to perform surveillance. Well, that should effectively solve the "problem" of how smoothly the 'net worked after the destruction of so much of its infrastructure in lower Manhattan.

Look, J. Edgar, the whole idea of the internet is that it is decentralized, making it virtually invulnerable to attack. E-mail was about the only thing that did work in New York for those few days in mid-September. Do you really want to fool with that?

Who's on First?

Again, I hope to avoid the temptation to turn this blog into a string of links to other places, but this comment from made me laugh out loud.

High? We Couldn't Get Much Higher: Late yesterday afternoon Attorney General Ashcroft alerted us to an alert that our high alert has just been made higher. We are now more alert than we were before we were on high alert. We are now highly alerted to the fact that we are on high alert. Hopefully, someone will soon explain what we have been alerted to. In the meantime, Gov. George Pataki has said our patrolling National Guardsman can carry guns. This, sounds sound. And alert. Some feel being so highly alert makes them want to get high and perhaps a little less alert.

Sunday, October 28, 2001

“The day we lose Custard the Clown, Betty, we’ve lost the war.”

Some of you may recall “Remember WENN”, a charming comedy series created by Rupert Holmes that ran for four years on AMC back when AMC was worth watching. Set in the late thirties and early forties, it chronicled the activities of the actors, writers and managers of a local radio station. (Say, AMC, whatever happened to “Remember WENN”?)

The final episode, which now seems prophetic, concerned the cast’s reaction to the news of the Pearl Harbor attack (mentioned at the end of the previous episode). Betty Roberts, the station’s head (and only) writer, felt that the regular schedule of comedies, dramas, and music would seem, well, trivial in light of current events. "I mean, war's no laughing matter," she told the station manager, Victor Comstock. So, she suspended them all in mid-plot and went to an all-news and analysis format.

Victor set her straight:

What do you think this country is fighting for, hm? Life. Liberty. And the right to do silly radio programs.

...The reason we are in this thing is so that men and women of every race and creed can come home after a hard day's work and take a beer out of the icebox and sit in their underwear listening to Rance Shiloh, US Marshall.

The day we lose Custard the Clown, Betty, we've lost the war.

This may be the most patriotic thing I’ve ever heard.

(Thanks to Linda Young for the transcription, which I've edited.)

Talking to Hear Myself Talk

When I decided to attempt a weblog, I determined that I wasn't going to say anything unless I had something original to say. That's why I only update this thing every few days: Much of what I would have said has already been said, faster and better than I could have said it.

If I were talking just to hear myself talk, I would talk to my kids like everybody else does. :) And the planet really doesn't need one more collection of links to other sources.

But every now and again I stumble onto something that I think you should see.

L. Brent Bozell III, for instance, whose column is available both at and, offers this gem:

CNN offers to grant time to bin Laden, yet finds that there are some people who are so evil and misguided that they cannot be allowed a platform on CNN – for example, opponents of the global warming theory.

And Bill O'Reilly, who has a visible enough soapbox on Fox News, is currently on a story I'd like to see a speedy resolution to:

Here's an interesting ethical question. Say you're a celebrity, and you agree to do a benefit for the families of the victims of the terror attack. You go on television and ask your fellow Americans to donate money. And they respond. Hundreds of millions of dollars have poured in from the TV telethon and the concerts. You feel good that various charities are flush with donated cash partly generated by you. And of course you benefited from the public seeing you in an altruistic situation.

But then a logjam occurs. And the donated money does not get to the families very quickly. In fact, six weeks after the attack, less than 10 percent of the $1.4 billion pledged to help those grieving families has actually been distributed. Some families have received no donations at all. So what do you, the celebrity, do? What is your responsibility in this situation?

...Well, maybe you should go on television and ask some direct questions.

Tuesday, October 23, 2001

Democracy on the Web

Shortly after I first set up my own web page, back in February 1996, I said this (only slightly edited to update cultural/political references and URLs):

The World Wide Web reminds me of an old Judy Garland / Mickey Rooney musical. "I've got a PC!" "Great, I've got a modem!" "And Uncle AOL has a couple of megabytes of disk space to spare. Let's put on a show!"

I mean, think about this. For a few hundred dollars' worth of computer parts (and you don't even have to own the computer!) and a few dollars a month paid to a service provider, I can reach the world. I'm writing these words in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. Where are you?

You downloaded these words from a file server. Where exactly that server is, I have no idea, nor do I need to know, nor do you. You may be seeing them minutes or hours after I write them. All you have to know is the phrase, and they're all yours. I'm not Dan Rather or George W. Bush, that you should have such timely access to what I say. I'm just a person--no more, no less.

The point is, we exist (I, as I write this, and you, as you read) in a community that could not have existed when we were born. We are not particularly exceptional people, as people go: Yet we share a global forum in which exchanging thoughts with someone on the other side of the planet is no more difficult than ordering out for pizza. (Which, come to think of it, can also be done on the Web in some cities.)

Microsoft has a web site. So do I. Except for the fact that they have a ton of software available for downloading, it's not immediately apparent that they put far more money into their web presence than I put into mine. That's democracy. There's no real difference between their site and mine. Mine is just as "real" as theirs is, whatever that means on the Web.

What we have here is a medium that can sweep across cultural and economic lines like no other medium before it. The average individual can't afford to own a television station, or a radio station, or a newspaper, or a magazine, or anything that can be described as a mass medium. (Feature films have been financed with personal credit cards, but only in unusual cases.) Yet here I am, gently tossing my thoughts into the ether, where they are paradoxically as close as my fingertip and as far away as Moscow, Tokyo, and Sydney.

Or Washington, D.C.

Certainly, anybody who has taken any traditional route to Power (political or financial) has to be intimidated by the Internet, the planet's first and largest functioning libertarian society. Certainly, white racists and black affirmative action activists are united in their distrust of a culture in which people really are judged by the content of their minds and not the color of their skins. And people (or organizations) with money are discovering that there is nothing about having money that makes one better able to create HTML code.

The value of a Web page is in the thoughts and ideas it expresses. Imagine that.

Now, I bring it up again to mention a couple of other things, possibly symptomatic of a sea change.

First, something that happened here in the Atlanta area: A couple of weeks ago, some pilot in a private plane thought it would be funny to buzz the Fayette county fair. The FAA got right to work, based on a partial registration number from the plane's tail and a rough description of the type of plane, and within 24 hours or so, had narrowed the suspect plane list down to about 3000 planes. Major Bruce Jordan of the Fayette County Sheriff's Department told them thanks, but local talk show host (and aircraft owner and aficionado) Neal Boortz, with a few minutes' search of public records posted on the internet, had already narrowed the list down to 16.

Yeah, they got their man. An employee at a local flight school.

Second, remember those parts from the helicopter the Taliban are so proudly claiming to have shot down (but refusing to show anyone the rest of the wreckage). CNN was more than happy to cover the Taliban in their moment of triumph -- without asking the kind of questions that come naturally to the readers at After "three minutes" of research on the internet, Erik Riker-Coleman was able to narrow it down to two possibilities, the Boeing CH-46 Sea Knight or CH-47 Chinook. The Pentagon later confirmed that the parts were from a Chinook, which lost a front landing gear on touchdown in Afghanistan, but which was able to take off at the conclusion of the mission and return to Pakistan, with crew intact. (But I heard about that from, not CNN.)

Had CNN had the wit to do the same research, they might have been able to ask the Taliban representatives some embarrassing questions. But then, they could always have asked the Army if they were missing a helicopter, and they didn't do that either.

(Or maybe they did, and maybe the Army knows whose side CNN is on. But that isn't really my point here.)

Do employees of CNN and the FAA not have access to the internet? Or are they forbidden to use it, as in so many workplaces?

Or are they too busy playing Bejeweled or downloading porn to pay attention?

The internet is an intensely powerful tool, and I'm glad it's in everybody's hands, not just those of the Rich and Powerful -- since it's obvious that the Rich and Powerful sometimes don't have a clue.