August 2006, Part 1
Jim Miller on Politics
Three Copies Of Windows: Time for a little computer geek discussion, which you can, of course, ignore if you wish. Yesterday, I think I finally figured out what all Hewlett-Packard installed on my new laptop.
First, of all, there is the main NTFS partition, which contains the working copy of Windows and the application programs. About 8 gigabytes* of spaces is being used. After that comes a FAT32 partition, which is, not coincidentally, about 8 gigabytes. That partition, it became clear from the very sketchy documentation, holds a recovery copy of the operating system and the applications. Finally, at the very end of the disk drive, there is an unidentified 1 gigabyte partition. I am fairly sure that the last partition is used for the direct play programs.
(The laptop, like many others sold now, can play DVDs and CDs without booting into Windows, or perhaps I should say without booting the full Windows system. There is a power key on the top left, which turns the computer on and off, as usual. To the right of the power key are two keys, one for playing DVDs and one for playing CDs. If you press one of those keys, the computer starts, but does not load a full copy of Windows, though it does display a Windows boot screen. You then put in the disk and play the movie or music. This is quicker and, as I understand it, uses less of the battery than playing them under Windows. And I should add that movies look pretty good on the 17 inch screen and the music from the Altec-Lansing speakers isn't too bad, either, though I suspect that a real audiophile would switch to earphones immediately. I am fairly sure that the system that runs these players is stored in that mysterious third partition.)
Altogether, Hewlett-Packard used about 10 percent of the not too large hard drive so that it would not have to supply me with two or three DVDs that would let me reinstall the operating system and applications. (If they had supplied DVDs, I would have begun by reinstalling the system, since that would let me get rid of the programs I didn't want.) It would be interesting to know why HP chose this other course — though it is common in recent years. Perhaps it cuts down on user-caused disasters.
All that description is now in the past tense. While I was writing this post, I was also repartitioning the laptop's hard drive and installing SuSE Linux 10.1 in the last third of the hard drive. SuSE is now mostly working, though I have to add networking and some other features. I used Partition Commander (version 9) to do the partitioning, and it worked like a charm. (WARNING: Partitioning programs are powerful tools and should be used with extreme caution. Though I have done this many times before, I did not proceed with the partitioning until I had made sure that I could boot with my recovery CDs. And I would have done a full back up if I had any data on the laptop.)
(Some will wonder why 8 gigabytes, since, as large as Windows is, it should not take that much space. I haven't checked, but I think much of it is devoted to a trial copy of Microsoft Office.)
- 4:48 PM, 8 August 2006 [link]
Will Lamont Defeat Lieberman In The Primary? In July, I said that I thought Lieberman was the strong favorite, and that, if defeated in the primary, he would certainly win running as an independent in the general election.
Since then, his challenger, Ned Lamont, has opened up a significant lead, though Lieberman had probably cut the gap in the last week. Does he have "Joementum"? Perhaps. But as of now, I would have to rate Lamont as the solid favorite, and say that it is no longer entirely certain that Lieberman will win the general election, if defeated in the primary.
And if he does lose his seat to Lamont, the country will be worse off.
(Why the uncertainty, given Lamont's lead in the polls? Because polling for primary races is more difficult than polling for general elections. In particular, it is difficult to predict turnout. For what it is worth, election officials are saying that turnout is high, which, if earlier polls are any indication, would help Lieberman.)
- 1:56 PM, 8 August 2006 [link]
This Is Puzzling: Today, the big story in this area is the oil field shutdown in Alaska.
The Seattle PI headline says: "Oil field shutdown will boost gas prices." And other news sources have been giving us the same message.
But these same news sources have been, for years, quoting politicians who told us that opening a small portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling would not make any difference in what we paid for gas.
Those two conclusions aren't necessarily in conflict, but they do imply a very strange market for energy. And the second conclusion, that prices would not be lower with additional supply, conflicts with all the historical data on oil prices.
- 12:36 PM, 8 August 2006 [link]
Well, Well, Well: I must admit that the extent of these sentiments surprised me.
MANCHESTER, N.H. - Dick Bennett has been polling New Hampshire voters for 30 years. And he's never seen anything like it.Nearly half hate her, they really hate her.
(For the record, I wouldn't agree with any of those characterizations, though I do have a small criticism or two of my own for New York's junior senator.)
- 3:47 PM, 7 August 2006 [link]
Worth Reading: A pair of columns, one from John Fund, arguing that Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid's obstructionist tactics are bad politics.
Right now, polls show that voters view both parties in the most negative light they ever have. That could mean this fall's election will be a contest to see how many voters stay home. That could work to the advantage of Mr. Reid and his Democrats, but they shouldn't be surprised if their strategy backfires.Fund is probably right; partisans love this kind of fighting, but swing voters mostly despise it. But it is true that in low turnout off year elections, there can be surprises.
And one from Martin Peretz, who is broken hearted over the possibility that Ned Lamont will defeat Joe Lieberman in the Democratic primary tomorrow.
It was then that people like Joe Lieberman emerged, muscular on defense, assertive in foreign policy, genuinely liberal on social and economic matters, but not doctrinaire on regulatory issues. He had marched for civil rights and is committed to an equal opportunity agenda with equal opportunity results. He has qualms about affirmative action. But who, in his hearts of hearts, does not? He is appalled by the abysmal standards of our popular culture and our public discourse. Who really loves our popular culture--or, at least, which parent? He is thoroughly a Democrat. But Mr. Lieberman believes that, in an age of communal and global stress, one would do well to speak with the president (even, on rare occasion, speak well of him) and compromise with him on urgent matters of practical law.(Peretz may be too polite to mention that the Europeans have been doing exactly that — and getting nowhere.)
Together these two columns make a powerful argument. Being obstructionist and catering to the extreme left may please your partisans, but it is unlikely to be a successful strategy for the Democrats, at least in the long run. As a Republican, I can't help but being pleased to see the Democrats behaving foolishly; as an American, I am distressed that we may no longer have two responsible parties. And the second emotion is much stronger than the first.
(Peretz refers to Lamont's great uncle, Corliss Lamont, who may be less well known than he once was. Here's a sappy biography from Wikipedia, which celebrates his career as an advocate for civil liberties, and sees no conflict between that and Lamont's support for the Soviet Union. Here's a clearer sketch from FrontPage. And here's a fine summary of Lamont's career from a man of the democratic left, Oliver Kamm.
Lamont was nominally also a professor of philosophy (at Columbia), whose contributions to that discipline were nugatory, while his apologetics for Stalin outdid in mendacity almost anyone else on the American Left.Wouldn't it be fun if some enterprising reporter asked Ned Lamont if he was not making the same kind of mistakes his great uncle did?)
- 9:29 AM, 7 August 2006
Correction: Corliss Lamont is Ned Lamont's great uncle, not his grandfather. I have corrected the text above.
- 1:32 PM, 8 August 2006 [link]
Of Course The Pictures From Hezbollah Land Are Dishonest: While I was lazing around this week end, other bloggers were catching some Photoshop fraud from Reuters. The key post is this one from Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs.
This Reuters photograph shows blatant evidence of manipulation. Notice the repeating patterns in the smoke; this is almost certainly caused by using the Photoshop "clone" tool to add more smoke to the image.Shortly after this critique appeared, Reuters stopped distributing the picture and cut all connections with the free lance photographer who had created it, Adnan Hajj.
None of this should come as a surprise to anyone who thinks about how Reuters acquires these photographs. In general, the photographs are taken, not by full time employees of Reuters, but by stringers or free lance photographers who live in the Middle East, often in Lebanon.
And the pictures are taken — and this is the key point — in areas controlled by a terrorist organization, Hezbollah. Now, with that in mind, ask yourself these questions: Which photographers will Hezbollah allow to operate in their territory? What conditions will they impose on those photographers? And what will happen to photographers who displease Hezbollah?
As soon as you think about those questions, the answers should be obvious. Hezbollah will allow only photographers they believe will help their cause. Hezbollah will allow them to operate only as long as they think the photographers are helping the cause of Hezbollah. And photographers who displease Hezbollah will get expelled at best, and murdered at worst. (And Middle East journalists who displeased terrorist organizations have been murdered, from time to time.)
In those circumstances, it would be naive to expect the photographs from Hezbollah Land to be honest, just as it would be naive to expect photographs produced with the cooperation of a communist dictatorship to be honest.
This is not a difficult analysis, at least to anyone even vaguely familiar with the history of the 20th century. But somehow Reuters, and other "mainstream" news organizations, don't make that analysis, or if they do make it, do not act on it. Photograph editors at Reuters accepted this crude forgery, and have accepted many other dubious photographs.
Why are they so gullible? I'm not entirely sure, but I think the desire for access to a hot news area prevents them from seeing what should be obvious, that Hezbollah sees them as a propaganda arm and will do what they can to ensure that Reuters, and other Western news organizations, get the "right" pictures, and stories. (And perhaps, in private, editors at Reuters would admit that they are transmitting propaganda, but justify it by arguing that they have to slant their coverage in order to get access.)
That would explain why Reuters is not planning, as far as I can tell, to investigate the other pictures they have gotten from Haqq. (Or from similar photographers.) Doing an investigation would disturb their relationship with their photographers and make it harder for Reuters to provide photographs from the area. That the photographs are often deceptive, and sometimes blatantly false, is something the people running Reuters don't even want to think about.
(There is another, more sinister, reason that some editors at Reuters might accept these photographs. They might sympathize with Hezbollah. Some months ago, Charles Johnson received a crude death threat, which he traced back to a Reuters internet address.
Both Charles Johnson and Michelle Malkin have other posts on this fake, which you will want to look at to get more of the story.)
- 7:45 AM, 7 August 2006
Ed Driscoll has a fine discussion of the decline in the quality of Reuter's reporting, especially after 9/11. As I did in this post on the New York Times, he criticizes Reuters for their unwillingness to admit mistakes — and to correct them.
- 11:02 AM, 7 August 2006 [link]
Worth Reading: Mark Steyn contemplates a curious statistic; there are said to be 50,000 Canadians in Lebanon.
The scandal is not that the government has been tardy in its evacuation plans for these "50,000 Canadians." The scandal is not even that so many Lebanese have gamed Canada's immigration system. The scandal is that there's no system to game and, with the exception of the Toronto Sun's Peter Worthington, no Canadian media bigwigs seem to mind. Indeed, the obvious fact that the bulk of these passports are flags of convenience only intensified the outrage at the sloth and incompetence of Ottawa in standing on guard for these paragons of Canada's post-nationalist national identity.And there are many "Americans" in Lebanon, as well, and many more "Americans" here, and elsewhere. I don't know what to do about them, other than making it harder for them to get citizenship in the first place, and making it easier for them to lose it, if we find that they lied when they promised allegiance to their new country — as many of them did.
(I sometimes wonder: When these "Canadians" and "Americans" take the oaths of citizenship, do they cross their fingers behind their backs, as little kids do to invalidate a promise?)
- 3:53 PM, 3 August 2006 [link]
The Medpundit is back.
Well, it's official. I'm a blogging addict. I can't give this up. Not quite two months away from it, and I'm forsaking my family to rejoin the blogging life.Which is good news for those who have come to appreciate her medical advice and her interesting commentaries.
(And I must say that her kids sound awfully smart.)
- 2:55 PM, 3 August 2006 [link]
Maybe He Isn't a typical Ohio Democrat.
A pizza shop in Avon Lake Towne Center was robbed Tuesday and police are still looking for the culprit.But I think we can be certain that he isn't a Republican.
(By way of the Wall Street Journal's "Best of the Web".)
- 2:26 PM, 3 August 2006 [link]
One Side Is Wrong. But Which? The conventional wisdom is that Israel does not want a ceasefire until Hezbollah is damaged, seriously. But, until this vague statement came out today, Hezbollah wasn't calling for a ceasefire, either.
Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, delivered a speech broadcast today in which he praised his "heroic" fighters but said that if Israel halted its bombardments in Lebanon, the group would halt its rocket attacks on Israeli cities.In fact, Nasrallah still did not call for a general ceasefire (assuming that brief article accurately describes his speech). He just said that if Israel stopped used its air force, Hezbollah would stop firing rockets. But he said nothing about the ground forces. (And he may be about to run out of rockets.)
So, which side is right in rejecting a ceasefire, at least for the moment? The history of Arab-Israeli wars would make me think that Israel was winning — and that Hezbollah did not yet know it. In general, the Arabs did not realize in earlier wars that they were losing until it was too late; they believed their own boastful press releases, rather than the evidence from the front. Nasrallah is said to be shrewd, but so were most Arab leaders in the earlier conflicts.
But the history may not be a perfect guide. If the vague news accounts I have been seeing are at all accurate, the Israelis have been surprised by some aspects of this conflict. Still, until I see better information, I would be inclined to think that what happened in previous wars is happening in this one. The Israelis are winning, but the leader of Hezbollah, Nasrallah, doesn't know it — yet.
- 1:55 PM, 3 August 2006 [link]
The Unlearned Lesson Of The Jayson Blair Scandal: Remember Jayson Blair, the New York Times reporter who invented stories, or details in stories, and who stole stories from other journalists? He embarrassed the New York Times greatly, and American journalists in general. But most journalists have yet to learn the central lesson of this scandal.
Here is the odd fact about the scandal (which I discussed at more length here). Jayson Blair was caught, not because of a false story, though he wrote many, but because of a true story, one he had plagiarized from the San Antonio Express-News.
After the scandal broke, some, including the publisher of the New York Times, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., wondered why readers had not reported Blair's errors. But some readers had complained, and the New York Times had ignored them. But the Times did not ignore a complaint from other journalists; when the San Antonio paper complained, the New York Times finally paid attention.
What mattered, we can see, was who made the complaint, not the validity of the complaint. And the many readers who saw Blair's errors and did not complain were right in thinking that their complaints would be ignored. (And my own experience has led me to the same conclusion as those readers. When I have sent letters of correction to individual journalists, they sometimes ignore them, they often look for a nit to pick in my correction, and they almost never make a correction, no matter what evidence I supply.)
Here's the unlearned lesson of the Jayson Blair scandal. Newspapers should listen to their readers, especially when the readers complain. The reader who tells a journalist that he has made a mistake is, sometimes, doing that journalist a favor — though it may not feel that way. If journalists at the New York Times (and elsewhere) want readers to trust them, then they must do a better job of correcting errors — which will require listening to readers, as if they were members of the guild, not annoying outsiders.
Briefly, the New York Times tried to improve its listening. But they are now, if anything, behaving worse than they did before the Jayson Blair scandal. The $TimesSelect program cuts off some of the worst offenders at the Times from many critics. The letters editor, Thomas Feyer, often acts as a censor, protecting the journalists at the Times from criticisms of the kind they are only too willing to dish out. In my opinion Feyer has gotten worse over the years, more protective of those at at the Times who err so often, and so badly. The editorial page editor, Gail Collins, (and most of the columnists) live in such a closed world that they do not realize that many editorials and columns appear not just wrong to moderate and conservative critics, but absurd. (And in Frank Rich's case, usually poorly written.) The new public editor, Byron Calame, is a big step down from the first public editor, Daniel Okrent. For whatever reason, he is generally unwilling to tackle the larger questions that Okrent at least occasionally touched on. (Though to give Calame his due, he does sometimes publish letters that Feyer will not.)
The New York Times is not alone in having gotten worse at listening. When Israel and various bloggers raised questions about the Qana story and some of the pictures illustrating it, the AP reacted with nitpicking on timestamps, and a whitewash. And then gave the photographers an award.
Since our journalists have not learned that central lesson from the Jayson Blair scandal, that they should listen to their readers, I can make two predictions with great confidence: Trust in journalists will continue to decline, and so will readership.
Will journalists ever learn that lesson? I don't know. A few have. A few more may, but I have my doubts whether most will.
- 5:11 PM, 2 August 2006 [link]
New York's Continuing Decline In Crime: Crime has declined all across the United States, as I noted in this post, but it declined most dramatically in New York city, and has continued to decline there.
New York City has shattered criminology's central myth, but criminologists remain in denial. Policing, they still insist, can do little to lower crime. Economic inequality, demographic trends, changing drug-use patterns—these determine crime levels, they say, not police tactics. Nevertheless, since 1994, New York City has enjoyed a crime drop unmatched in the rest of the country—indeed, unparalleled in history—and only Gotham's revolutionary style of policing can explain it. Yet rather than flooding the city to study this paradigm-breaking phenomenon, most criminologists are busy looking the other way.Why the decline? Heather MacDonald is sure she knows the answer: New York city police are more effective at finding and convicting criminals — and therefore at preventing crime. The key, she believes, is a combination of a computer system that tracks crime and a police bureaucracy that holds precinct commanders responsible for crime in their precincts.
But to his immense credit (and that of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has backed him), [Police Commissioner Ray] Kelly has maintained the heart of New York's policing revolution—the now-famous accountability mechanism known as Compstat, a weekly crime-control meeting where top brass grill precinct bosses about every last detail of their command—even as he has refined the department's ability to analyze and respond to crime trends.It is only fair to mention that criminologists had good reasons to believe that policing did not much affect crime rates, at least within broad limits. Many studies supported that conclusion. For example, some cities had done randomized studies, assigning more police to some areas to see if that reduced crime, In general, these variations in patrolling seemed to make no difference in crime rates. What the New York experience shows is that you need smarter police work, not necessarily more police work, but some criminologists still find it difficult to accept that conclusion.
I think we can generalize from those results. New York put great effort into getting better current measures of crime, held precinct commanders responsible for results, and provided a way to share the methods of the more successful commanders. I think those same things would work in many other areas, including education. Measure what you are doing—frequently. Make individual managers responsible (and give them the authority to go with the responsibility). Share what works. That sounds simple, but you would have to search many bureaucracies to find all three.
(Want to know more about Compstat? Here's the official description, and here's the Wikipedia article.)
- 9:01 AM, 2 August 2006 [link]
The Interruptions are better than the programs.
In the middle of newscasts and programming from Hezbollah's Al-Manar station, Israeli technicians are hacking the signal and replacing it with a 90-second spot that begins with a gun site superimposed on a crude drawing of Hezbollah's leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, looking at the ground.Those who fought against Hitler in World War II would have loved the chance to do the same thing.
- 6:40 AM, 2 August 2006 [link]
The New York Times is not above the law.
A federal appeals court on Tuesday ruled that federal prosecutors investigating a leak about a terrorism funding probe can see the phone records of two New York Times reporters.Though they may have to pay a lot more money to their lawyers before they understand that point.
(The AP story is sketchy about the incidents that prompted this legal fight, so I will fill in the details. As I recall, the reporters called the suspected terrorist organizations BEFORE the agents could make their raid, giving the terrorists, or suspected terrorists, a chance to destroy evidence.)
- 4:00 PM, 1 August 2006
Tom Maguire has much more here, including a link to the decision, and some sharp criticism of the Times' coverage of the decision. Deservedly sharp, I would add.
- 5:51 AM, 2 August 2006 [link]
Fortunately, Many Criminals are not that bright.
A bar waitress checking to see if a woman was legally old enough to drink was handed her own stolen driver's license, which was reported missing weeks earlier, police said.(Although I sometimes worry that we have come to that conclusion because we catch fewer of the smart criminals.)
- 3:40 PM, 1 August 2006 [link]
The HP Laptop I ordered a few weeks ago arrived this morning. Somewhat to my surprise, since FedEx had said it would arrive tomorrow. So I was not quite as sheveled as I would have liked to have been when the FedEx lady knocked on my door. (I don't know if sheveled is the opposite of disheveled, but it should be.) The laptop is now busily making the system recovery CDs, all 13(!) of them, so I have to tend to it every 15 minutes or so.
It is not a task I want to skip, because when I install Linux on it, things could go wrong. I have never lost Windows when I installed Linux, but there is no reason not to be careful. (It's something you should do even if you are not installing Linux, of course. In fact, systems should ship with recovery disks included.)
I have already run across a couple of the expected silly bits. The computer's serial number and the Windows ID are both on the bottom of the computer. The very brief manual has not even a hint at how long it takes to charge the battery, though I suppose I will be able to find that somewhere in the manuals stored on the hard disk.
Other first impressions: The screen is quite easy to read, even at the default resolution 1440x900) with the default fonts. The keyboard seems acceptable, at least for a laptop. The touch pad seems a little touchy, but I can turn that off if I like. The laptop is big and heavy, but that's the price you pay for the big screen, which I am beginning to need. The CD/DVD tray seems exceptionally flimsy, but that seems common on laptops. And, the laptop detected some wireless networks within range — which almost certainly belong to one of my neighbors. It would be wrong to use them without permission, and so I won't. Though I will check, just out of curiosity, to see what is available in this neighborhood. (I assume that the polite thing to do when you find such unsecured wireless networks is to warn the person who runs it, but maybe I am wrong.)
- 2:43 PM, 1 August 2006 [link]
Were The Deaths At Qana Staged? In this post, I said that I was suspicious about the deaths at Qana, that I suspected that they may have been arranged by Hezbollah for propaganda reasons.
I had no particular reasons for the suspicions, other than previous examples of staged events, and the fact that the deaths were awfully convenient for those who wish to destroy Israel and (eventually) the United States.
Other bloggers had similar suspicions and did the hard work digging up evidence that makes me even more suspicious. Many, including Israel's IDF, have calling attention to the strange time gap; the building collapsed eight hours after it was bombed. Richard North spotted some suspicious photgraphs, which he analyzed here and here. And Reuven Koret says the dead people shown appear to have been dead for days.
But Israelis steeled to scenes of carnage from Palestinian suicide bombings and Hezbollah rocket attack could not help but notice that these victims did not look like our victims. Their faces were ashen gray. While medical examination clearly is called for to arrive at a definitive dating and cause of their deaths, they do not appear to have died hours before. The bodies looked like they had been dead for days.Are some Lebanese morgues missing bodies? Maybe.
There may be an innocent explanation for the time lapse. Sometimes, as we know from all those demolitions shown on TV, buildings do not collapse immediately even after explosions that should have taken them down. (And Israel did strike targets near there close to the time of the collapse.) And there may be a semi-innocent explanation for those photographs; Hezbollah may be staging them to please the news organizations. There may be an innocent explanation for the appearance of the bodies. (Or Koret may just be wrong. I don't believe that he is a pathologist or coroner). But all these things do require explanations.
That Hezbollah is making it impossible to check their accusations should make us even more suspicious. It should even make "mainstream" journalists more suspicious, but probably won't.
- 9:03 AM, 1 August 2006 [link]
Party Time in Miami
Little was known of Fidel Castro's condition Tuesday after he underwent an operation and temporarily turned over the Cuban presidency to his brother Raul, ushering in a period of uncertainty at home and celebrations by his enemies abroad.Are they celebrating too soon? Maybe. Castro might recover, and even if he does not, his regime might endure after his death. Conditions in the Soviet Union improved after Stalin died in 1953, but the regime persisted (There's one very funny bit in the New York Times article.
Talk of Castro's mortality was taboo until June 23, 2001, when he fainted during a speech in the sun. Although Castro quickly recovered, many Cubans understood for the first time that their leader would eventually die.Many Cubans did not realize that Castro was mortal, until 2001? I find that hard to believe.
- 7:11 AM, 1 August 2006 [link]