January 31, 2002

Packing and coughing, coughing and packing. The big move is coming up in about 36 hours, and with exquisite timing I've come down with something horrible and achy. No time or inclination to do any real posting, so instead I'll offer this Kingsley Amis quote from Lucky Jim. It was written about a hangover, but is a pretty fair description of how I felt this morning.
He lay sprawled, too wicked to move, spewed up like a broken spider-crab on the tarry shingle of the morning. The light did him harm, but not so much as looking at things did: he resolved, having done it once, never to move his eyeballs again. A dusty thudding in his head made the scene before him beat like a pulse. His mouth had been used as a latrine by some small creature of the night, and then as its mausoleum. During the night, too, he'd somehow been on a cross-country run and then been expertly beaten up by secret police. He felt bad.

Okay, let's say you're Satan. You're tooling around the western coast of Florida in your...um...Satanmobile, when you come to the scenic little town of Inglis. But wait! The dastardly Mayor Carolyn Risher has issued an official government proclamation banishing you from the town! So where can you go now? Where else but to Inglis' two closest neighbors: Crackertown and Yankeetown! Yeehaw! Let's party!

January 30, 2002

Joe Netsfan offers his First Half Report for your Atlantic Division leading New Jersey Nets.
Boxing looks behind sofa, finds last remaining shred of decency.

In a somewhat surprising move, the Nevada Athletic Commission yesterday rejected Mike Tyson’s bid for a boxing license to fight Lennox Lewis in April. The fight would have given a much-needed boost to Vegas’ troubled tourism, but apparently yet another Tyson crazed rampage with ranting and cannibalism was just too much for the Commission to take.

Matters were probably not helped by Tyson arriving a half-hour late to the hearings and leaving early, but at least it’s better than back in 1997 when he skipped town and failed to show up at all. In any case, it’s a strong showing by the Commission, with the added bonus that whatever city ends up picking up the fight (that is, if Tyson even wants to fight Lewis) will know that they’re hosting an event even Las Vegas couldn’t stomach.
Future Reports and Statements from the President’s Council on Bioethics
"In crucial cases…repugnance is the emotional expression of deep wisdom, beyond reason's power fully to articulate it. [...] In this age in which everything is held to be permissible so long as it is freely done…repugnance may be the only voice left that speaks up to defend the central core of our humanity. [...] We are repelled by the prospect of cloning human beings not because of the strangeness or novelty of the undertaking, but because we intuit and feel, immediately and without argument, the violation of things that we rightfully hold dear."

From "The Wisdom of Repugnance," by Leon Kass, current Chairman of the President's Council on Bioethics.

Council Calls for Ban on Oysters on the Half Shell
"They’re just real slimy and icky," declared Leon Kass, Chairman of the President’s Bioethics Council. "Especially the raw ones. I mean….BLEH!"

President’s Council Comes Out Strongly Against Spandex Leggings with Stirrups
"I was standing in the Safeway checkout line behind some woman wearing these things, and I had to turn away before I hurled," explained Dr. Leon Kass, Chairman of the President’s Bioethics Council. "Seriously, it looked like eight cats fighting in a garbage bag!"

Bioethics Council Recommends House Arrest for Mariah Carey
Council Chairman Leon Kass presented the council’s findings in a strongly worded statement, "I mean, did you SEE "Glitter?" It was horrible beyond belief, and now she’s going to be in a movie with Marisa Tomei?! Have these people no sense of decency?"

Emergency Research Funding Needed to Eradicate "That Gunky Stuff that Feels Like Paste In Your Mouth When You Wake Up," Declares President’s Council
"Hello! You’re telling me we can put a man on the moon and I still gotta wake up feeling like I slept face-down in a vat of rubber cement? What’s up with that?" queried Leon Kass, Council Chairman.

January 29, 2002

Dewey Plagiarizes Truman! InstaPundit today publishes, without comment, an odd letter from reader Richard Riley "about the Noah non-plagiarism flap and the nature of weblogging:"
Yesterday's business where a mis-formatted re-post of Tim Noah's Slate piece gave rise to plagiarism accusations, then my messages to the posters correcting them, and then retractions and the end of the matter, is a good instance (since I was involved!) of what you often observe — what a remarkable phenomenon is weblogging. A combination of publishing (since it's out there for public consumption, and thousands of people do read them) and intimate personal conversation (since my own quick research and email messages resulted in the retractions). Leaving aside all the hype over the last 5 years, I think it is really a new medium. I can't think of anything comparable. And it's weblogging that really seems to bring out these characteristics.

I’ve written my share of gushing posts about this exciting new medium, but somehow I don’t think I’d want to use this particular example to show why blogging is such a "remarkable phenomenon." Sure, from where Riley’s sitting the system works, since his quick response and the directness of the medium were essential in clearing up the incident, but it’s a bit disingenuous not to notice that it was those characteristics that created the incident to begin with; at best, it’s zero-sum, and almost certainly quite a bit less. The instantaneous call-and-response nature of blogging is the source for much of its success and appeal, but also has an obvious downside, evidenced in this incident.

Look, this Noah story isn’t a huge deal, and I’ll admit that had I been in that position I probably would have jumped on it, too. The blogger who first "broke the story" generally does excellent work and has owned up to this error with requisite and expert crow-eating (the phrase "I’m an IDIOT" was used, in fact). But if I cause an accident with my reckless driving, after which I’m able to rush my victims to the hospital in record time, I’m not going to stay up nights wondering why I haven’t been proclaimed a hero.

Via real smart guy Spencer Sundell, a link to the September 11 Sourcebooks from The National Security Archive of George Washington University. Hundreds upon hundreds of primary source documents relating to all aspects of the war, including the CIA biographic reports on Usama Bin Laden and Mohammad Omar, Pentagon reports about the attacks on the USS Cole and the Khobar Towers, the official U.S. analysis of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, information about Nixon’s decision to end biological weapons programs, and countless other fascinating and vital subjects.

And if that doesn’t interest you, they also have a complete record of Elvis Presley’s visit to the Nixon White House.

January 28, 2002

Just because I moved away doesn't mean that the fine people of Seattle shouldn't get their monorail transit system. According to local weekly The Stranger, the plan to build a regional monorail transit system is gaining support in Olympia. What could possibly be cooler than gliding to work in a sleek monorail train?

Originally built for the 1962 World's Fair, Seattle is one of the few cities that offers a working monorail. The monorail operates on a short stretch between downtown and the Seattle Center (home of the Space Needle, Key Arena, Paul Allen's Experience Museum). When I lived there one of my favorite things to do was to rush to the front of the lead car so I could have the co-pilot's perspective as the train zipped through downtown. How I miss it so.
He’s a witch! Burn him! Caught up in the whole plagiarism craze that’s sweeping the nation (or at least The Weekly Standard, a pair of intrepid bloggers pounced on Slate writer Tim Noah, a potentially delicious target because of his recent articles about the plagiarism epidemic.

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), it turns out that Noah had quoted Robert Novak properly, but the proper html tags had been deleted in the (admittedly misleading) MSNBC posting of the article, eliminating the blockquote indentations, making it appear as though Noah had lifted large chunks of text directly from Novak. Both bloggers quickly acknowledged the error with apologetic updates (as opposed to my what I might have done, which would have been to delete the offending posts, hope that Google hadn't cached them yet, and then put up about 25 other links and cheesecake shots as a distraction), and will almost certainly check a few more sources before going forth with their next scoop, a fine lesson for all of us would-be muckrakers.
What do "Bush is bad donkey," "meteor donkey," "kissing donkey pictures," "donkey cartoon near small wall," "patriotic monkey," "naked teens in Pakistan," "warblogger idiots," "palm readings in Vermont," "crack side effects," and "Tonya Harding pictures" have in common? They’re all Google queries folks have used recently to find The Illuminated Donkey! Welcome, you big pile of freaks!
The packing continues, as I once again go through the process of winnowing out the dross that I have collected over the past dozen or so years. This move is forcing me to make some harsh choices, as the condo I’ll soon be living in will be my smallest living space ever (it has a lot of wonderful features, but storage space isn’t one of them). Anyway, I came across a batch of personal papers I hadn’t looked at since I got back from Seattle 16 months ago: essays, anguished letters to myself, embarrassing scraps of attempted wisdom, reminders of moods I’d rather forget, and the like. This has happened to me before, me coming across some deep, heartfelt notes to a future me, and rather than appreciate the honesty I just want to go back in time and slap myself around. Of course, my next thought was that it all might make a decent blog post, so the cycle continues, I suppose.
For those of you who own squares in a Super Bowl grid pool, I’ve run the stats for the past 35 SB’s, plotting how many times each combination has occurred (it’s not as bad as it sounds; it only took about a half-hour). Anyway, there are no real surprises in the results, with the most-common winning squares being what you’d expect: 7-0 has come up 18 times out of the 140 quarters (I’m combining the two variants, AFC 7 / NFC 0 and NFC 7 / AFC 0 here, but I also did the breakdowns), with 3-0 coming up 12 times, and 0-0, 7-4, 7-3, 6-3, and 4-0 following close behind. On the other end of the spectrum, 22 of the 55 combinations have never happened. Of course, the recent addition of the two-point conversion opens the door to some unlikely combinations. Anyway, if you’re interested in your odds, drop me a line.
Raymond A. Schroth referenced Marc Herold’s much-discussed and debunked 4,000 Afghan civilian casualties figure in yesterday’s Newark Star-Ledger (not available online), in a piece entitled "Is the U.S. losing the moral high ground?" Herold’s estimates are described as "the best available estimates," ignoring other reports, such as that of Human Rights Watch and Reuters, which put the figure at closer to 1,000.

The article uses Herold’s figures to bolster the argument that U.S. actions have led to a sacrifice of national honor, as summarized in a quote from former Army Major and current Susquehanna University associate philosophy professor Jeffrey Whitman: [It doesn’t serve U.S. interest] "to commit a whole bunch of casualties against civilian targets. Because then the terrorists can turn and point to us and say, see, you are no better than us. And that’s what this fight is all about. It’s about, actually, attaining the moral high ground." I've heard a number of different reasons and rationales, but this is the first time I've heard anybody suggest that our goal should be some vague concept of moral superiority.

January 26, 2002

One week to the big move, and my life is boxes, boxes, boxes.

January 25, 2002

Sure, Rutgers beat Princeton in the first intercollegiate football game back in 1869, but since then it's been pretty downhill for the Scarlet Knights regarding our Ivy League neighbors.

That's why the following article brought a smile to my face. Okay, Princeton might be a world-renowned academic institution with a beautiful campus, but at least Rutgers students can sleep without injuring ourselves.
PRINCETON -- Contrary to Sir Isaac Newton's rule that a body at rest tends to remain at rest, two Princeton University students fell out of their bunk beds recently, prompting an e-mail reminder from the Ivy League school to be careful while sleeping.

My tooth is feeling much better, thank you, and I should be able to hold out until my Monday dentist appointment. Life is so much better without constant, throbbing pain
I imagine one of the perils of writing a weekly column is the temptation to cram a week’s worth of news and insight into your 1000-word space. That’s the only excuse I can think of for Daniel Henninger’s piece in today’s Opinion Journal, Talk Falls, Mariah Fired, America Gets Real. Hmm…what were the big non-war stories this week? The continuing Enron fallout, the collapse of Talk, Mariah Carey’s contract buyout….a few seemingly unrelated stories, perhaps a common theme of comeuppance….or maybe…THE LAST GASP OF THE CELEBRITY CULTURE!
Talk was run by a famous New York editor who was said to have an unerring feel for these things. So it must mean something that Talk tanked. It looks to me that what it means is the golden age of American celebrity is over at last. Or maybe it died some time ago and no one living in the caves noted above noticed. If we've learned anything from Enron it's that people who earn their daily bread by conjuring another fantasy before heading home--offshore shell companies, another Brad Pitt cover--also have a way of pretending that the fat lady couldn't possibly ever sing for them.

Or it could mean that Tina Brown went to the well one time too many (People still has the highest ad revenue of any magazine, and the Oprah, and Martha Stewart magazines are doing very well), or that Enron finally ran out of shells, or any one of a thousand things. The piece reminds me of nothing as much as the myopic bleatings commonly heard on the 24-hour cable financial news networks: the Dow’s up three points! It’s boomtime! Wait, NASDAQ’s dropped five points! Batten down the hatches!

Henninger’s main point seems to be that the modern age of celebrity begin with Muhammad Ali, whose standards nobody since has been able to match. Or perhaps it’s that television created a new type of celebrity who wasn’t able to live up to the standards of the earlier movie stars and athletes. Or that since the bar for fame is now so low, the age of celebrity is dead. Or maybe something else; I can’t quite figure it out. Perhaps when the increasingly terrifying Joan Rivers is no longer allowed to roam free I might accept that we've come to the end of an age of celebrity, but not one second sooner.

Anyway, what really caught my eye about the piece was that besides the aforementioned Mariah and Tina, Henninger managed to squeeze in Muhammad Ali, Brad Pitt, Britney Spears, Will Smith, Russell Crowe, Josh Hartnett, Benicio del Toro, Madonna, Prince, Drew Barrymore, Tonya Harding, The Beatles, Elvis, Barbara Walters, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jim Jeffords, Emeril, J.Lo, Fergie, Dwight Yoakam, Howard Cosell, Prince Harry, Frank Sinatra's granddaughter, Anna Kournikova, Alberto Giacometti and, of course, Andy Warhol and his "world-famous for 15 minutes" remark. This impressive display certainly qualifies Henninger for some sort of Googlebait award.

January 24, 2002

The debut of a new feature here at The Donk: Incomprehensible (at least to Americans) Foreign Entertainment News!

"The BBC's decision to name The Tweenies' dog Squiggles could cost them up to £500,000."

Yes, it's Incomprehensible (at least to Americans) Foreign Entertainment News, exclusively at The Donk!
Damn I'll miss this show! Just watched The Tick, where Dave Foley danced around in Arthur's moth costume while singing the theme to "The Greatest American Hero." Now, that's entertainment!
Jason Kidd is featured on the cover of this week's Sports Illustrated, making him (I think) the first Net to achieve this honor since Dr. J (who had actually been sold to the Sixers by the time his last Nets cover hit the stands). This only refers to featured covers; I'm sure there's dozens of SI covers showcasing some superstar dunking over the likes of John Bagley or Otis Birdsong.

Update: New Jersey dissed! So I arrive home to find the new issue in my mailbox and what do I find? Sure, Kidd is on the cover...standing in front of the New York skyline! Would it have killed SI to pose him in front of some sort of Jersey location, or maybe show him playing Skee-Ball or something? Sheesh.
The nominess for the 2002 Weblog Awards have been announced, and voting is now open. Even if, like me, you don't know enough about the majority of nominees to vote on them, it's a great introduction to a lot of cool blogs and tools. And best of all, the increasingly terrifying Joan Rivers is not involved!
Will Vehrs of QuasiPundit passes along some much-needed facts from The Wall Street Journal about the much-maligned Enron 401(k) plan.
Continuing on the art theme: one of the most wonderful moments of my life was when I burst through the crowded streets of downtown Bilbao to see the Guggenheim in all its soaring, breathtaking glory. As Herbert Muschamp described it in The New York Times Magazine: "Frank Gehry's new Guggenheim Museum is a shimmering, Looney tunes, post-industrial, post-everything burst of American optimism wrapped in titanium."
For your enjoyment, a selection of three recent articles about art.

When Art Becomes Inhuman, by Karl Zinsmeister, from The American Enterprise.
Many of today’s avant-garde artists, I’ve decided, have modeled themselves on that well-known societal fixture, the snot-nosed teenager. Since the 1960s, the hippest modern art has aspired to exactly what every garden-variety 13-year-old brat aims for: maximum opportunities to shock, flout, insult, and otherwise chuck rocks at polite society. And so “artists” spread American flags on the floor and invited gallery and museum patrons to walk on them. “Sculptors” stacked bricks in low heaps and convinced collectors to pay bags of money for something they could have made themselves after a shopping trip to Home Depot. Damien Hirst piled up empty beer bottles, cigarette butts, and other garbage at a party and it was instantly proclaimed a valuable sculpture. Fraternity brothers everywhere, you have a future!

I See Lowbrow People by Doug Harvey, from L.A. Weekly.
While the squabbling factions of the academic/gallery/museum/critical nexus known as "The Art World" argue about who’s on top this week, an entire spectrum of parallel systems of production and distribution is operating outside TAW’s rapidly eroding authority. Whole subcultures devoted to folk and outsider art, landscape painting, public art commissions, "crafts," nature photography, and cowboy art thrive in spite of the sometimes open derision of the entrenched arbiters of "historically significant" art practice. The most ornery of these alternate realities is the globally widespread movement often called "Lowbrow," whose roots go back to California custom-car and surfing culture, particularly the cartoonish grotesqueries of the late hot-rod surrealist Ed "Big Daddy" Roth.

The Follies of Modern Art: a Bilious Harangue by James Lileks.
Nowadays, art that prompts "controversy" usually has one thing in common: it’s bad. Bad in conception or bad in execution, and frequently bad in both. Many in the arts world believe it is necessary to defend bad art , just like it is necessary to defend unpopular speech. On the contrary: it is necessary to attack bad art in the interests of raising the general level of quality in art. These, of course, are nasty code words - "bad" and "quality" are subjective judgments, and cannot be uniformly defined. Well, let me make a start: a. If art contains shit, we should take it at its word.

January 23, 2002

Jim Henley of Unqualified Offerings is not mad at me. This is quite the relief. His torture argument, which I appear to have misunderstood, wasn't so much that he opposed it for practical reasons, but rather that he opposes it on a moral basis and was using the practical doomsday scenario to counteract any arguments for it. If I'm wrong about this I blame the acetaminophen with codeine I smuggled across the Canadian border, so you should probably just read it yourself. I might respond more coherently to this at a later time when I don't want to knock my tooth out with an ice skate blade like Tom Hanks in Castaway.
bobanddavid.com The home of one of the funniest damn sketch comedy shows ever, with updates on their upcoming movie (Run Ronnie Run, featuring Jack Black, Dave Foley, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, Andy Richter, Garry Shandling and Ben Stiller) and the DVD releases of their old HBO show. Support Bob and David!
I've read a pile of stories about the Kmart collapse, but it seems clear to me that the company's fate had been sealed for some time, since at least my elementary school days. For the entirety of my central-NJ childhood, there was almost nothing that left kids more open to ridicule than learning that their clothes were purchased at Kmart. "Where'd your Mom get that -- Kmart?" "Blue Light Special" was a common derogatory term referring to some poorly made clothing or item. I'm not sure how widespread this was, or is, but where I grew up Kmart meant a complete lack of status and style, and I still feel a little twinge of that when I walk into one. It never seemed to me to be a corporate image that could survive, and when they brought back the Blue Light Specials I knew it was over. And do you know anybody (excepting creditors) who's even a little sad?

January 22, 2002

God, my tooth is killing me! Ow ow ow ow. If I ever have children, I will make sure they brush and floss when they wake up, after every meal, and before bedtime, and I will save my dental bills and x-rays to scare them into complying. I keep starting to write things but then the throbbing pain returns and I need to lie down. So I'll leave you with a link to Baltimore's National Museum of Dentistry, complete with gift shop!
"As long as bloggers post monkey pictures, grandiosity will not be a major worry." -Joanne Jacobs
Rutgers presents art show based on protein images, through Feb. 9 in Piscataway, New Jersey

NEW BRUNSWICK/PISCATAWAY, N.J. – "The Art of Science – Images from the Protein Data Bank," an exhibit of artwork based on molecular structures, will open Monday (Jan. 21) at The Gallery in the Busch Campus Center, 604 Bartholomew Road, Piscataway. The exhibit is free and open to the public, as is a reception scheduled Wednesday (Jan. 23) from 4 to 6 p.m.
Illuminated Donkey Media takes a giant leap towards mainstream credibility with the announcement that we will have an Olympics Correspondent in Salt Lake City. My sister will be there for a month, working for NBC logging tapes, and will hopefully be filing behind-the-scenes reports. Take that MSNBC!

January 21, 2002

Via my friend Mike, the latest hot Ebay collectible.
Rumble! What would sports be without a growing and pointless rivalry, and there seems to be a fine one brewing between Nets fans and Wizards fans. It’s a strange one, between two long-suffering teams now among the league-leaders, built almost entirely on some Jordan-related hype and two home-team blowouts. But dammit, after a decade of being ignored by our should-be rivals across the river (who are now too pathetic and discombobulated for us to even pay attention to), we’ll take whatever vitriol we can inspire! February 21, baby!
Do Blogs Hurt the Economy? Since I began spending a great deal of time working on The Donk and reading other blogs, the amount of money I’ve spent on magazines and books has declined precipitously. At my peak I had ten active magazine subscriptions, including five weeklies, as well as a regular supply of books. Over the past few months I’ve let a number of these subscriptions lapse and there are at least four books on my nightstand still waiting to be read, meaning that no new books are about to be bought. Tina Brown is blaming 9/11 for the fall of Talk, but is it just a coincidence that its fall coincided with blogging's rise? Probably yes, but still!
Jim Henley continues the Abdallah Higazy conversation over at Unqualified Offerings, thankfully refusing to follow my descent into doggerel and instead focusing on the case as a cautionary tale about the potential use of torture in interrogation. No new details seem to be forthcoming about the case, so our questions regarding the path and specifics of the investigation remain unanswered.

I have to admit I'm a bit unclear about Henley's argument. His leading point seems to be that the track record of government terrorist investigations simply doesn’t warrant entrusting the authorities with that sort of power, with the Higazy case being the current example (though it appears that coercive interrogative methods approaching torture were used to elicit some sort of confession).

I’m not really sure how he moves from that point to the doomsday scenario he describes, however. His argument seems to be that if we take the step of allowing torture in order to prevent potential attacks, there will still be situations (imagine a worst-case Higazy scenario) where this leads us to make wrong choices, hypothesizing a case where a torture-induced false confession leads agents down a blind alley with disastrous consequences. But even if this were the case, it’s not as if investigation is the zero-sum game he describes, where we have to throw all of our resources at one location. Some of his statements indicate that he has a moral position against using torture, while others indicate that his take is a more practical one.

I suppose that Henley’s position on torture might be similar to my recent shift on the death penalty. While I have no true moral stance against the death penalty, a history of errors and bias have led to a nagging feeling that for the vast majority of cases the system simply can’t be trusted with this ultimate power. That being said, there are occasional extreme cases where the case is clear and the death penalty is justified.

Anyway, I suppose that Henley is busy now with his shiny new InstaPundit and Justin Raimondo links. And more power to him.

January 19, 2002

Michael Jordan, continuing to save the NBA. Today's NBC game is Washington at Chicago. The storyline is, of course, Jordan's return to Chicago. The reality is a comically awful game, with the two teams having scored a combined 40 points halfway through the second quarter. Whooo. The Lakers are playing in San Antonio right now, but since Shaq's still serving his suspension they're showing this garbage.
Jim Henley of Unqualified Offerings continues the "Egyptian Radio Man" inquiries (I'm working on a snazzy CNN-style logo and theme song for the ERM segments). He expresses a little doubt about the neat wrapup and links to some photos of aviation transceivers, with the implication being that the average hotel employee would not have necessarily have been able to identify one. Unfortunately, I can't find out what type of transceiver was found, or if it would have had any other identifying markings. My guess is that this story will fall through the cracks, but it certainly has me intrigued.

Another mystery is why the name of the Millenium Hilton Hotel features an incorrectly spelled "millennium," but I'll let this go for now.

Well anyway, in a blatant ripoff of Unremitting Verse, I've decided to present my baseless speculation in limerick form:

An Egyptian named Abdallah Higazy,
Drove a poor hotel clerk crazy.
The clerk planted some props,
And then screamed to the cops,
"Go arrest him! Or are you just lazy?"

January 18, 2002

Wallace and Gromit hit the Web. Nick Park, creator of the feature film "Chicken Run," is reviving his original characters Wallace and Gromit in 12 "Wallace's Workshop" films to be released online later this year. Each film, which will be available free of charge, features one of Wallace's unique new inventions and runs for approximately one minute.
Framed? Confused by the "Egyptian Radio" story from yesterday regarding the student released from custody after an aviation radio was allegedly found in a safe, along with a Koran and a gold medallion, in his New York hotel room? You’re probably not alone.

All of the news reports I saw and read indicated that Abdallah Higazy was released yesterday after another guest, a private pilot, claimed that the radio that was found in Higazy’s room safe was his. This raised the obvious question: how did the radio get into Higazy’s room safe to begin with? Here’s the AP report, which seems to have been the basis for yesterday’s news reports:

Detainee Forgives FBI for Detention

By LARRY NEUMEISTER, Associated Press Writer

NEW YORK (AP) - Shouting "nothing tops freedom,'' an Egyptian student forgave the FBI on Thursday for throwing him in jail after an aviation radio was found in his hotel room near the World Trade Center on Sept. 11.

This is where that fine word "allegedly" would come in handy. A private pilot staying one floor below Higazy, who had no knowledge of either the case or Higazy, inquired about his missing aviation radio, at which point investigators questioned the hotel employee who had originally discovered the radio. According to the Times, "On Wednesday morning, the case fell apart completely. Agents reinterviewed the hotel employee and he said he recalled finding the radio on a table in Mr. Higazy's room, not in the safe."

So this case might be a simple mistake, an investigative screwup, a plant by an attention-seeking hotel employee, or something else entirely. I'm guessing that the FBI isn't finished talking to that hotel employee.

Back in high school I was lucky enough to fall in with a great group of friends.

Anthony, Kieran, Scott and I spent countless hours at Dunkin’ Donuts, Denny’s, Point Pleasant, and various living rooms (though rarely Anthony’s, due to his dog’s almost maniacal hatred of me). They’re what I think of when I think back to those days: good, smart people, great conversations, and tons of laughs. After high school Kieran went to college in western Pennsylvania, then headed down south for graduate school, a teaching position, and marriage; Anthony got married soon after high school and moved to Atlanta; Scott stayed in central New Jersey; I ended up in Seattle, then back here in Jersey.

Though I had seen each of them occasionally over the last ten years, it takes something either very good or very bad to unite the entire group, and unfortunately this time it was the latter. Earlier this week Anthony’s mother, a fine woman, passed away peacefully after a long illness, which brought us all together in New Jersey for the first time in ten years. On Wednesday we went out for a long, enjoyable dinner in Freehold, where we talked about our lives, faith, family, September 11, pork roll, and, of course, the familiar litany of my embarrassing school days (the bowling fall, the lunchroom fall, the reckless driving ticket…they’ll be talking about those at our 50-year reunion). It was a wonderful, too-rare, experience.

The reason I'm posting this is because without Anthony, there would be no Illuminated Donkey. There might be some kind of blog, but Anthony was the man who originally gave me the official Illuminated Donkey that has served me so well over the years. Thank you, Sir.
Et tu, Tim? Ken Layne struggles to remove the knife from his back. If blogging is a movement, as some have said, then it definitely seems to be entering the dogmatic infighting period.
From the current issue of Fortune, Starting Over, the story of the struggle to rebuild Sandler O’Neill, a small Wall Street firm devastated on September 11.

January 17, 2002

Sports Report: Nets 111, Wizards 67! Justin Slotman of the Insolvent Republic of Blogistan joins me in triumphantly celebrating our New Jersey Nets after their crushing of Michael Jordan’s silly little team. I haven’t been this excited to be a fan since the early days of Derrick "Whoop-De-Damn-Do" Coleman! Granted, neither one of us is probably 1% as excited as Joe Netsfan, who runs a fine site covering everything related to the Swamp Dragons (I still think they should have changed the name).

January 16, 2002

Nicholas von Hoffman (he of the Andrew Sullivan Von-Hoffman Awards for "most prophetically challenged pieces of media war-wisdom") weighs in with his take on Bernard Goldberg and media bias. Von Hoffman’s take is that yes, there is a liberal media bias, but it’s old news that everybody already knows, and "if you're smart, you know it's there and you view or read accordingly."

So what is von Hoffman’s best example of how thoroughly this bias has already been covered by the very media that commits it?
"Bernie, Bernie, Bernie, you are not exposing liberal bias to the light of day for the first time. Indeed, television itself acknowledges it and uses it to provide viewers with some marvelous entertainment. If you haven’t seen any of the episodes in the cable series Beggars and Choosers, you’ll do yourself a favor by dialing on this funny, funny comedy built around life in the West Coast headquarters of a major television network. is funny, funny comedy built around life in the West Coast headquarters of a major television network. You will see the caving in to screech-owl feminism, the ass-kissing of ethnic-minority-rights racketeers […], the kowtowing to preposterous claims of political homosexuality, the whole nine yards of craven, cotton-headed, automatic reflex liberalism."

Sounds great, but wondering where you might catch this seemingly groundbreaking show? It might be tough, especially because Beggars and Choosers, a short-lived Showtime series, was cancelled last February, and I believe now only appears in reruns on one of the auxiliary Showtime networks (Showcase).

So I guess von Hoffman’s point is that Goldberg needn’t have bothered writing the best-selling Bias, which has garnered huge media attention, since the topic has already been completely covered by a nearly unknown, now-defunct cable television show. Makes sense to me.

Via Jim Romenesko's Media News, several links to stories about the upcoming New York daily newspaper, The New York Sun. The paper's Managing Editor is Ira Stoll, the creator of SmarterTimes.com. I'm definitely looking forward to it. Here, here, here, and here.

January 15, 2002

Via Boing Boing, a link to "The Internet's Only Fan-Site Dedicated to the Best Saturday Morning Cartoon Show That Ever Wasn't": The Adventures of L'il Bill and Hil and Friends. Remarkable.
Lauren Weedman is my favorite performer, a wonderful and hilarious talent who I was fortunate enough to see several times during my years in Seattle. She moved to New York a little before I moved back east, and is now gaining national attention for her work on The Daily Show. She'll be performing Homecoming, her show about her search for her biological mother, in New York through March 17, and it is highly recommended by The Donk.
Via Andrew Hofer's More Than Zero, a link to the site of Bjorn Lomborg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist, where he offers detailed responses to his numerous establishment critics. As Andrew says, it's a good read.
Odd but perhaps telling interlude about a country's nostalgia for happier days, in Nancy Dewolf Smith's Afghan Dispatch, in yesterday's Opinion Journal:

A country where the fruit hung so heavy on the trees, an old man once told me, that when it fell to the ground nobody bothered to pick it up, but people simply walked through carpets of mulberry slush, like the rest of us wade through mud or snow at certain times of year. A country where there was crime, to be sure, but where a kind-hearted king pardoned every convicted murderer except one, a case where the family of the victim refused to grant permission for a death sentence to be lifted.
These memories, gilded with nostalgia, sustained Afghans for so long.

Not to deny a troubled people their dreams, but it seems a golden age that included blanket pardons of convicted murderers, as well as the wasting of natural resources (not to mention the accompanying mess and odor) might not be the best foundation to build a future on.
This might just be some spin, but if the below is even slightly accurate it could have a bigger effect on candidate donations than any dozen campaign finance laws.

Bush team may have feared Enron aid.

by Marcy Gordon, Jan. 14, 2002 | WASHINGTON (AP)

The meltdown of Enron Corp. threatened broader financial problems, but administration officials chose to do nothing -- even after being reminded by Enron that the government intervened in 1998 to prevent the collapse of a big fund for wealthy investors.

Fears of a conflict of interest involving a big Bush donor may have led to the inaction, analysts suggest.

Because of Enron's heavy donations to President Bush's campaigns, administration officials "were tied at the hip to Enron," said Bill Allison, an official of the private Center for Public Integrity. That made it hard to help. "The appearance would have looked terrible," Allison said. "They felt that they couldn't act on behalf of Enron because of the political fallout."

January 14, 2002

Steven Den Beste has a good post about the Enron situation, moving past the non-developing political angles (the summary seems to be that Enron gave dozens of candidates donations, but when the time came for hoped-for payback in the form of a federal bailout or influence none was forthcoming) to focus on the real issue: the relationship between auditors and the corporations they work for:

But the biggest story is Arthur Andersen, the auditor in this case. How did such a long-standing pattern of "accounting irregularities" get past one of the so-called Big-5 accounting firms for so long? As a company, Andersen is history. It doesn't really matter whether they get sued out of existence because their reputation is irretrievably shattered. Any company which has Andersen as its official auditor will be changing to someone else as soon as possible. Without business, the company is finished.
The great character actor and comedian Larry Miller, who automatically makes any scene he’s in funnier, has a new regular column debuting today on The Weekly Standard site. He’s pretty late to the party so this one covers some fairly well-trod ground, but dammit, it’s Larry Miller!

January 12, 2002

Life after the boom, part 372. Poor Internet Advisory Corporation. One day you're riding high, livening up a dull company name by going public with the ticker symbol "PUNK," announcing high-falutin things like "We have entered into a new frontier with voice activated web sites." and "We will offer Web hosting solutions utilizing Cobalt Networks Linux-based server appliances." Less than three years later you're enacting a 1:50 reverse stock split, getting completely out of the tech field and trying to rebuild the company by acquiring a strip club.

Scores has established a reputation for providing a quality-assured environment that we feel will expand well into the markets we have targeted," said Internet Advisory Corp.'s chairman and chief executive, Richard Goldring in a release Thursday.

Somehow, though, I can't see strip clubs taking down their flashing "Topless!" neon signs and replacing them with "Quality-Assured Environment!" ones.
Housing Update. Barring any horrible developments, I will be moving to Jersey City on February 1, just in time for the city's only remaining daily newspaper to either go out of business or keep publishing as a shadow of its former self.

There is even less joy in the newsroom, where more than half the paper's reporters, photographers and editors will soon be updating their résumés. "It's like there's a big, fat dead elephant in the middle of the newsroom," said Sally Deering, 49, a scrappy, raspy-voiced columnist who writes in the same unvarnished way she speaks. "It feels like death warmed over."

I've never even read Deering and already I miss her. Well, at least I should have plenty of local material to write about. How could you not look forward to living in a city where a former mayor is described in an aside by the Times as "one of the few Jersey City mayors left untouched by scandal."
Haven't posted in days, but brain hurts....out late last night and very very tired....must stay awake to posssssszzzzzzz.......

January 10, 2002

Eliminate the Middleman. While Natalie Solent and Joanne Jacobs hash out a workable system of micropayments in order to compensate bloggers, Jeff Jarvis floats the idea of paying $100 for a premium Blogger service. My suggestion: Jeff should send Natalie and Joan $25 each and $50 to Blogger, saving somebody the trouble of developing that pesky micropayment program.

Hmm...I definitely seem to be posting more blog-related items lately. I know most readers have come to The Donk from different blogs and are familiar with many of them (and my friends are used to be being confused by me, anyway), but I think I need to make an effort to move away from this a bit.

To start.....MONKEYS!
Moving Update. Just back from from looking at a place in Jersey City, and if all goes well The Donk should have a new base of operations very soon. A big building of condos with an indoor pool and jacuzzi, an exercise room, and much, much more! I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
The Snarkiness Continues. Fresh off of vanquishing a score of targets, most recently those dastardly anti-circus activists, the current pattern of relentless Blogger A-List snottiness continues with Tim Blair’s Thursday post about an Australian Broadcasting Corporation current events roundtable. I was drawn to the post by Glenn Reynolds’ link stating that "Tim Blair outdoes himself with this one," and I can certainly concur.

The discussion is certainly worth either ripping apart or ignoring completely, filled with the standard assortment of above-it-all self-satisfied ruminations, with a few Australian references mixed in for good measure (the panel, as well as Blair, are all Australian, of course). Rather than pick apart a few choice bits of nonsense, Blair instead includes the entire, lengthy transcript, and then proceeds to insert heckling comebacks into the text, the columnists’ equivalent of drawing mustaches on campaign posters. And while there are one or two decent and relevant lines, for the most part Blair is content to offer up a personal insult or interject some nonsense:

MAXINE McKEW: Well, I was just going to say, aren't you putting a lot on one man? I mean, why do we only look for leadership from the political class?

LINDA JAIVIN: I think, you know, Australians never look to cultural figures for leadership. You know, we look to sports figures for leadership.

TIM BLAIR: Linda, given the quality of cultural figures around this table, it'd be more sensible if we looked to sports equipment for leadership.

MARION HALLIGAN: We don't look to articulate people for leadership but I suppose we are thinking of this because we've just had an election where I think there was no vision, there was no imagination and I felt it was a very low point, that there was no sense of any ideas, let alone ideals.

TIM BLAIR: (whispering) Marion, take your hand off my knee!

And so on. Here’s another example, with my addition.

MARION HALLIGAN: In a way, we are them, aren't we? I mean, my grandfather was a boat person. My great-great-grandfather was a boat person of a kind.

LINDA JAIVIN: I'm a migrant.

TIM BLAIR: I'm a moon alien.

KEN GOLDSTEIN: Hey Tim, you’re ugly and your feet stink! And yer mudder wears combat boots! Nyah!

I mean, sure this is fun to do, but it’s certainly not fair or insightful and barely even counts as commentary.

If I’ve been writing more blog-related items lately, it’s because I’m becoming disappointed by attitude shifts I’ve seen the last few weeks in some of my favorites. I’ve recommended several of the big sites lately to friends, and the response I’ve been getting is that while the form is promising and some of the information is valuable, much of it is wrapped in a self-congratulatory tone that leaves a bad taste in their mouths. In any case, the reaction is certainly a lot different than when I was reading and forwarding these same sites a month or two ago.

Of course, the attitude is a big part of what makes the form so valuable and readable, but lately I've read too much writing from people utterly convinced of their rightness, flush with the knowledge that their readers would readily agree and applaud. It's attitudes like that which turned me off to most other forms of news and commentary. Though my comments only refer to a small percentage of what I'm reading, that small percentage goes a long way.

January 09, 2002

Is it too early for Internet nostalgia? The dancing baby! I Kiss You! Treeloot! And, of course, The Hampsterdance. I remember the fateful day when I first heard the Hampsterdance song. My friend Mike at work had discovered it, and for months hardly an hour went by when somebody didn't cue up that fine site to the delight of all. Dan at Happy Fun Pundit also remembers. Would that there were more like him.
The Wilson Quarterly is a great little history journal filled with a ton of interesting articles and essays. I've listed a few below, but I've only begun to work my way through the extensive online archives.

"The Lost Promise of the American Railroad" The potential and ultimate abandonment of the streamline train in the United States.

"The Selling of the KGB" A deeper look at the wave of Soviet espionage literature arising from the KGB archives.

"The Dust Bowl Myth" The reality and myths of the Depression.

"The Forgotten Forerunner" An overdue study of William Jennings Bryan, a political pioneer.
The cover-up continues.
Apparently, when Bush said "reduction" he meant "take from left pocket and put in right." This is a disappointing development, especially for those of us who used the nuclear reduction agreement as argument fodder during the ABM treaty debate. Boy, that new era of strong relations with Russia sure lasted a long time, didn't it?

Some weapons would be stored, not destroyed.


WASHINGTON, Jan. 9 — The Bush administration told Congress yesterday that many of the warheads, bombs and intercontinental missiles involved in the president’s promised two-thirds reduction of deployed strategic nuclear forces over the next 10 years would be kept in reserve under its new strategic policy, according to congressional sources.

January 08, 2002

Blog Watch III: Your Guide to What I'm Saying, Here. Not satisfied by Blog Watch I or Blog Watch II? Introducing Blog Watch III, exclusively devoted to recapping what's happening here at The Illuminated Donkey!

The Illuminated Donkey: Pieces about sports and Star Wars geeks, as well as the rash of "Pundit" blogs. There's a big honking piece about the whole circus thread, and now I want to go to sleep.
FOUND Magazine, the repository for life's missing pieces. This site reminds me of the great batch of 1950's love letters I found out by the curb in NYC a few years back. The letters were filled with period details like her disappointment at Eisenhower's victory and her raves for great new things like Pogo and Scrabble. I need to transcribe these some day.
Ozzie Smith was the only player elected by the BBWAA this year to the Hall Of Fame, with Gary Carter missing by 11 votes (one for each of his All-Star Game appearances). Ozzie Smith is definitely a deserving choice, of course for his defense, and also for his better-than-you-remember hitting (at least from 1985 onward). The Hall of Fame elections are kind of a big deal around the Goldstein house, as my dad and I collect autographs (with an emphasis of HOFers), and I plan to make it up to Cooperstown again this year for Induction Weekend (it's huge amount of fun). The Carter miss was especially disappointing to me, as I've always liked him and was sure he'd have gotten in by now. With a B-List group of first-timers coming up next year (Eddie Murray, Ryne Sandberg, and Lee Smith are the best bets), it's looking good for Carter in 2003, though that year-long wait must be a killer.

Some notes on the balloting (besides the fact that I'm now officially old, since there are now HOFers whose entire careers I witnessed):

Steve Garvey and Dale Murphy, both considered by many to be sure HOFers during their playing days, are earning little respect, with 28% and 15% respectively (75% needed for election).

Speaking of Murphy, is the consensus really that Jim Rice was that much better a player? Rice received over 55% and will probably get in within a couple of years. Though I always thought the two had an equally decent chance at election, I guess Murphy's almost instantaneous collapse at the end of his career has stuck in voters' minds, as opposed to the two MVP's.

One player who should be getting more support is Bert Blyleven (third all-time in K's, 287 wins, 3.31 career ERA), a damn good pitcher for some bad teams.

Very disappointing to see Lenny Dykstra only get one vote (hell, Mike Greenwell got two!). I know he isn't anywhere near the HOF, but he was one of my favorite players back in his Phillies days, and was hoping he'd at least stay on the ballot for a year or two.

Here's Rob Neyer's take on the voting, as well as the very unofficial Baseball Prospectus voting.
Has this ever happened to you? You're hanging out with a new group of people, maybe you met one or two of them through work or school, and you've been invited to hang out with the whole crowd. So you're at their house, drinking a beer or two, shooting the breeze, having a fine old time, when all of a sudden somebody stands up and says, "Okay, who wanted heroin and who wanted meth?" or "Ken, I understand you haven't yet been introduced to your personal savior," or "Good, I see everybody's brought somebody new to hear about the wonders of Amway."

So anyway, that's how I've felt the last day reading the latest target of blogger whack-a-mole: animal rights activists, an instigated by Collin Levey's Opinion Journal piece, "Anticircus Freaks."  Fresh off the latest attacks of Cornell West and Stephanie Salter, the blog-mob saw fresh blood, so to speak, in PETA and other assorted groups, and moved in for the kill.  While I have no love for the animal-rights movement, the gloating, yay-meat attitude and vindictive response elicited by the slanted article has left me a little cold.

Levey's article portrays Ringling Brothers as the poor, besieged little group bravely going about their job of entertaining America despite unwarranted harassment from vicious and vengeful animal-rights groups.  Until now, that is, since they can't stand no more, and they've begun taking on the groups with a series of full-page newspaper ads.   In truth, Ringling Brothers' behavior has been far from stoic, with tactics that have gone far beyond simple PR campaigns.  The Salon story "The Greatest Vendetta on Earth" details the company's owner's obsession with surveillance and revenge, and the eight-year campaign to ruin an author who had reported critically about the organization and its owners.  (Thanks to Justin Slotman for reminding me about this article

The company didn't only spy on nosy journalists, however.  Keep in mind, Levey has earlier said that "Ringling Brothers is not easily provoked" and that the company saw dealing with animal-rights groups and the "subsequent
public-relations skirmishes as just another cost of doing business in the modern world."

"The fun doesn't stop there. […] In another amusing twist, PETA filed a lawsuit this summer accusing Ringling Bros. of espionage, after the company hired the CIA's Reagan-era special-ops director to infiltrate PETA with moles to find out about future activities."

Imagine those "screeching," "snarling" activists, being so ridiculous to accuse Ringling Brothers of espionage when all the company did was sic A FREAKING FORMER SPECIAL OPERATIONS DIRECTOR OF THE CI-FREAKING-A on them!  What a silly little prank!

As for the abuse charges, while there's no point in me trying to summarize reams of data and arguments in this forum, I'll just say that what I've seen makes me unable to dismiss the complaints out of hand, as opposed to Mr. Levey, whose article reads like it came straight from the Ringling Brothers PR department.  Unfortunately, little of what I read has bothered to make any sort of argument or address any issues, but has simply been used as an opportunity to pile on the lefties. I had hoped for a bit more from the crowd besides the assorted knee-jerk victory dances from the past few days.

January 07, 2002

Direct from my old stomping grounds, it's the Seattle Star Wars Society, the homepage of two men who have lined up over four months in advance for Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones.

Now, you're probably thinking: two geeks with nothing better to do than sit outside a movie theater for 136 days waiting for the sequel to a movie that practically nobody liked. But wait, it's actually an art project about two geeks with nothing better to do than sit outside a movie theater for 136 days waiting for the sequel to a movie that practically nobody liked:

"Waiting for Star Wars is an art project designed to capture the evolution and journey of one person's wait for a single event. [...] This project also explores the issue of the pursuit of happiness. It asks how much will a person sacrifice for a temporary acquisition, and questions whether a person can be happy with just food and shelter in pursuit of that acquisition. [...] Finally, as we move into the next millennium, I wonder if our fast-paced society has become unwilling to slow down and wait for the things that bring us the greatest joy. This wait will test my mettle as I attempt to do just that."

The most boring video footage in history will be available at www.waitingforstarwars.com.

As a side note, my favorite line in the ABC News article I linked to is, "They were unavailable for comment." Two guys are sitting outside a movie theater for four months and they're unavailable for comment?

How does IlluminatedDonkeyPundit sound? Traversing the blogging world lately has reminded me a lot of Battle Creek, Michigan at the turn of the 20th Century, dramatized recently in the book and movie The Road to Wellville. Dozens of cereal manufacturers found their way to Battle Creek trying to find their fortune in corn flakes, including brothers and bitter rivals John Harvey Kellogg and William Keith Kellogg.

What does this have to do with blogging, you may ask. Well, during the course of my reading today I scanned InstaPundit, QuasiPundit, Muslimpundit, SmarterPundit, HappyFunPundit, and starting today, DailyPundit (formerly The Blogical Suspects).

The Blogical Suspects, an Illuminated Donkey Best Bet, officially changed its name today (though the link won't change until next week), due to a general regret at picking "a pun of painful dimensions" for a name, and just in case The Wall Street Journal should happen to call. Hey, William, I received a semi-respectable media mention that mentioned my silly blog name, so it's an obstacle that can be overcome (though this site does abbreviate to ID as opposed to BS).
Um, that's why they play the games, Lee. Just got to a oddly unsporting sports column posted on The Weekly Standard site last Thursday, going over the college football BCS vs. playoff system controversy. Lee Bockhorn makes the usual anti-BCS arguments before discussing the obstacles to a playoff system. Again, some familiar points, before this strange paragraph:

"And for all their virtues, playoffs aren't perfect either. Many people argue that playoffs reward teams "that are playing the best right now," as Colorado was before Tuesday night. But rewarding teams who luck into getting hot at season's end (instead of excelling consistently over the whole season) can also lead to ridiculous outcomes. Recall the 2000 NCAA basketball tournament, when a moderately good Wisconsin squad got on a hot streak...and made it all the way to the Final Four. Was Wisconsin really one of the top 4 teams in college basketball that year--or even one of the top 8 or 16? No way."

Apart from the fact I've never heard anybody talk about teams getting hot at playoff time (or "lucking into getting hot") as an argument against the playoffs themselves, I guess Bockhorn's point is that playoffs would be a perfect system if only those darn underdogs wouldn't keep mucking things up by winning when they weren't supposed to.
It's snowing in Central Jersey, really hard now. Those readers from, say, Buffalo or Atlanta will have to excuse me my excitement, but it's the first real snow of the season here. Whooo!!!

January 06, 2002

A New Jersey Commuter's Choice. Hmm...should I drive to work and use an E-ZPass automatic toll system that may accrue a deficit as high as $300 million by 2008, or take NJ Transit buses and trains, which just raised fares by an average of 10% and attempted to eliminate off-peak discounts to nearly double some fares. I think I'll go with the one with the better stereo system.
We have a winner! Almost three months ago, back in the days before I had readers I didn't know personally, I ran a dumb contest that was essentially a desperate cry for mail, essentially saying that the first person to write to me would get a random prize. Well, while I have received some e-mails over the past few weeks, I finally received a letter from some brave soul who had journeyed through the dark lands of archives and found that long-ago post. So congratulations to a certain Mr. Blodgett, and keep checking your mailbox for your fabulous prize!
Just watched Michael Strahan break Mark Gastineau's sack record, on a play where Brett Favre basically wandered around for a few seconds and fell down so Strahan could get the "sack." It brought to mind nothing more than the King of the Hill episode "Bills Are Made to be Broken," where Arlen's cross-town football rival allows the injured Ricky Suggs to limp into the end zone untouched to break the hapless Bill's school touchdown record, as Bill stood by in shock. I know Strahan's well-liked and all, as opposed to the strike-breaking, repeat offender Gastineau, but frankly, this sort of thing annoys me and cheapens the record, though nobody on the field seemed to care.
The Law of Unexpected Consequences in action, as a partial explanation for shifts in my political views of late.  The first in a series.

  • Countries which make it more difficult to fire workers tend to have higher unemployment rates, since companies are far more hesitant to hire workers they know they will not be able to let go.  Here and here.

  • Attempts to make AIDS treatments more readily available in poorer countries by weakening patent protection have resulted in the lowest level of anti-retroviral development research in ten years, ending years of increasing research and success, without any notable improvements in helping people.  Here, from Tech Central Station.

  • Strict rent control laws may have the ultimate effect of reducing available affordable housing.  Here and here.

  • Speaking of Jersey Pride, I'm currently looking for a new apartment in the NY Metro area, maybe in Jersey City. Perhaps with a roommate, perhaps on my own. Any situations are welcome to contact me at kengoldstein@hotmail.com.

    January 05, 2002

    Jersey Pride. 225 years ago this weekend George Washington began his winter encampment in Morristown, New Jersey, following the "Ten Crucial Days" that were the turning point of the American Revolution. Beginning with the Christmas Day Delaware River crossing and continuing through the victories at Trenton and Princeton, a retreating Continental Army on the verge of defeat, demoralization, and desertion was newly invigorated and on a course towards independence.
    Everything changed forever, and then changed right back.

    In case you're wondering when exactly everything will once again be like it was, the FBI has named March 11 as the official date:

    U.S. to remain on high alert till March 11
    WASHINGTON (AP) — The government has called on law enforcement personnel across the nation to remain vigilant against domestic terrorism until March 11, extending a standing alert through the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

    So apparently as of March 12, law enforcement officials will no longer have to be vigilant against terrorist acts. Whew! That's a relief!

    Other signs of the complete reversion (Project 9/10): Zacarias Moussaoui wants trial shown on TV and brittle Secret Service agents claiming discrimination, making life even more difficult for the Job-like American Airlines.

    Great show of support by Bush there, by the way. Three freaking days earlier Richard Reid tries to blow up an American Airlines flight, and Bush basically hangs AA out to dry for the horrible crime of making a suspicious passenger take a later flight, saying he stands by his agent and would be "madder than heck" if it turns out the agent's ethnicity played any part in the incident. Nothing like adding the fear of frivolous anti-discrimination lawsuits to the mix to really improve airline security. The fact that a man who is supposed to put the protection of the President above even his own life is doing this is an absolute disgrace.
    Great moments in ad placement. Driving home from work today, listening to Opie and Anthony (NY-based syndicated shock-jocks), when a commercial comes on, spoken over lilting piano music by a very sensitive-sounding man:

    "In 776 B.C., the Greek states of Elis and Pisa were at war. This was not unusual by any means. What was unusual was this: In honour of the forthcoming Olympic games, both sides agreed to lay down their arms and allow participants to pass through enemy territory unharmed. This became a tradition, and in over 1,000 years of ancient Olympic competition, this sacred truce, known as the ekcheiria, was never violated. We invite the countries of the world to embrace this ancient tradition once more by suspending all hostilities during the Olympic games. If we can stop fighting for 16 days, maybe we can do it forever. The Olympics."

    The reasons this type of plea is misguided were covered fairly well back during the pre-Ramadan period. The war against terrorism isn't some random whim of ours, but and attempt to find and stop people who are trying to kill us. Besides, this is the Winter Olympics we're talking about here; I kind of doubt that Al Qaeda, not to mention India, Pakistan, Israel, and the Palestinians, are going to stop whatever they're doing in order to watch some Swedish guy can go sledding down a hill.

    But anyway, back to the terrible ad placement: to give you a little background, in between making fun of the stupid and putting naked teens on the air, Opie and Anthony have been loudly and consistently in support of the military action since the beginning, as have most of their guests and on-air callers. So when this Olympic ad was played it was greeted with complete dismissal and derision, and the next half-hour was spent bashing it from every angle. Rather heartening, really.
    Why am I up so late? A rather sustained blast of excellence on cable: Trainspotting followed by Body Heat. Everything's starting to collapse on William Hurt now, and the first few drops of that realization are seeping through his thick skull.

    January 03, 2002

    Good column by Jonah Goldberg at NRO, asking if mutual understanding is the key to peace, then why have many of history's most brutal conflicts been between groups with comparatively slight cultural differences (just recently: Serbs and Croats, Pakistan and India, Iran and Iraq, Hutus and Tutsis, Irish and British, etc.).
    Regarding the threatening but harmless letter received by Daschle's office, I wish I had the transcript from this afternoon's press conference outside the Capitol building. The television in the pizza place where my department ate lunch was turned to CNN, and for about a half-hour I got to hear some FBI official repeatedly explain that the letter tested negative for any poisonous substance, while an increasingly desperate press corps kept trying to get him to say that it was possible that at one point the letter may have possibly contined....something. Basically it was 50 versions of the same question followed by 50 versions of the same answer, the cable news version of variations on a theme.
    3:30 to go in the first half, Miami is up 34-0 Boy, there's something just so completely....pure about an utter demolition like the one I'm half-watching right now (I'm flipping back-and-forth between the game and Office Space on Comedy Central). The game resembles nothing so much as one of those first-week-of-the-season games where Nebraska schedules some patsy like the Southwest Kansas Teaching College for the Blind and Clumsy to get the season off to a roaring 73-0 start. The Nebraska players barely look like they've ever seen a football before, and they definitely don't look like they belong on the same field as Miami.

    Of course, that's what pretty much everybody was saying before the game even started, since Nebraska finished fourth in both the writers' and coaches' polls, but finished second in the BCS standings, the only poll that counts. No matter what happened tonight it wouldn't have stopped the grumbling about the BCS, but a dull disaster like tonight might be the impetus for some sort of brief playoff system. Hell, when the network announcers start questioning the system at halftime, you know something ain't right.

    January 02, 2002

    I am French, no? Courtesy of Protein Wisdom, a link to the Washington Times article "Euro Gets Lukewarm Welcome," filled with snotty French people! My favorite part: A waiter threw up his hands when a reporter asked for his check, listed in francs, to be converted to euros. "Ooh la la," he said. "You actually want to pay in euros. I am sad. I'll have to work it out." The waiter did not return. Okay, do you think the waiter actually said "Ooh la la" or was reporter Paul Martin perhaps just exacting a little revenge?
    To follow up on my earlier story "No Hunger-Related Deaths," Catherine Bertini, executive director of the United Nations' World Food Programme, has announced, "There will be no famine in Afghanistan this winter. There will be deaths, because the country was in a pre-famine condition this summer before the war started. But it will be isolated, and not large-scale." Check out this Washington Post article for more information regarding relief efforts.
    Blogging about bloggers blogging about bloggers. In what Glenn Reynolds of InstaPundit calls "the beginning of an infinite regress," Joshua Bittker's SmarterPundit began publication today with a fury of posts (Dude, pace yourself, trust me). The site's motto is "analyzing the analysts," an absolutely brilliant idea which ensures that dozens of bloggers just like me will be checking the site thrice daily looking for links and mentions. Damn, I should have thought of that.

    Now, that being said, I need to take issue with the point he makes in his first post, giving the reason behind his starting SmarterPundit. Bittker takes issue with the widely discussed idea that blogging has changed the composition of the media, giving the "outsiders" a voice. Bittker's argument is that since most, if not all of the "major" bloggers (a narrowly defined group of about eight or so blogs) are also published regularly in more widely seen publications, then these outsiders are really insiders, leaving the true voice of blogging to outsiders such as himself. From this point he deduces that "the reason the above are all well read is because of their other writings," while at the same time (in the same sentence, even) stating that he came across the big blogs through Slate's Mezine Central roundup.

    Now, it's true that many bloggers also have regular paid writing gigs, but even if you focus on only the most-read ones it's highly unlikely that they obtained most of their readers from these other writings. Certainly Mickey Kaus and Andrew Sullivan would probably fall into this category, but I hadn't heard of Glenn Reynolds, Josh Marshall, or Virginia Postrel -- at least not more than a passing reference or an article -- before I came across their sites through links on Slate or other sites. It's the same kind of reasoning found in indie rock (I'm waiting to hear the first cry of "sellout" thrown at a blogger), that once more than a handful of people start reading a site it can no longer be considered "outsider," and falls into the same category as The New York Times and the network news reports A definite change has taken place in the media world over the past few months, and if some sites become popular and influential this seems like proof of the change, rather than proof that nothing has changed.

    I keep referring to Bittker's focus on the major bloggers, which brings up the other thing I find a little odd about the site. For somebody who's starting a blog about blogs, he doesn't seem to have much curiosity about them outside of the A-list. InstaPundit, for example yet again, has links to about two-dozen sites, including great ones such as U.S.S. Clueless and Matt Welch's Warblog, yet he had never gotten around to checking out, say, the excellent and fairly well-known (at least around these parts) QuasiPundit until they mentioned him. It's sort of self-fulfilling that blogs will seem to be a new form of insider media if you only read the most popular ones.

    Ah well, more power to him. Bastard's probably already gotten more hits and mail than me...
    And we're back! It's been a long time between posts here at the Donk, but I hope to be back at full posting strength within a few minutes. New Year's Eve was spent in historic Philadelphia with Rachel and my friend Keith at the home of friends of Geoff and Shannon Dimasi (whose wedding was a highlight of 2001), followed by some much-needed crashing at the home of my sister's boyfriend Pat. Shannon's spanakopitas were delicious, the beer was cold and tasty, and, most importantly, Rachel looked absolutely stunning in a backless number. I'm a lucky guy.

    Now, the more observant and Northeastern among you will have already said, "Wait a minute! New Year's Day?! Philadelphia?! Drunken 50-year-old Irish guys wearing harlequin costumes with feather-covered angel wings?! That can only mean one thing: MUMMERS!" Yes, the Philadelphia Mummers Parade, a New Year's tradition for over 100 breathtakingly strange years. The Mummers Parade, an event that's huge inside Philadelphia and almost virtually unknown outside, lasts over 12 hours and involves groups competing in a dizzyingly complex variety of categories, pretty much all of which seem to involve the aforementioned drunk 50-year-old Irish guys wearing feathers. We didn't actually see any of the parade proper (at least not live, though we did catch some of the wall-to-wall local coverage), but we ate at a diner near the parade route end, so we were able to see some of the aftermath. Ah, nothing gets me ready for eggs benedict like a smashed, overall made-up fat guy doing the two step down the middle of a busy street.

    As an amusing side note, the worst beating I ever saw a guy get was at the other New Year's Day I spent in Philly, back in 1996. The Eagles had just destroyed the Lions in the Wild Card and were getting ready for a big game against the Cowboys (which they would lose 30-11). Geoff, Shannon, and I were watching the parade when I noticed the extremely bizarre sight of some guy wearing a Cowboys jersey in Philadelphia. I turned to notify Geoff, so that he may have a story to tell his grandkids, but by the time we turned back the man was invisible beneath a sea of fists and boots, all wielded by men wearing Eagles green. There's a lesson there, folks.

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