Wednesday, March 15, 2006


Cross-posted from Gus Van Horn

I'm still coming off a severe schedule crunch here. Yesterday evening, coming off six hours' sleep in two days, I stumbled home, quickly posted on "Sudden Jihad Syndrome", and crashed. I really feel like getting a little more sleep this morning, but I'd like to get my blogging back on track so I can capitalize on some recent momentum.

An Army of Davids

Glenn Reynolds doesn't need my help promoting his book, but this review piqued my interest enough to make me want to buy it. (I've been ignoring the hype so far, and have not been following Instapundit as much as usual.)

The full title of the book does a good job of setting up the context for the following excerpt. An Army of Davids: How Markets and Technology Empower Ordinary People to Beat Big Media, Big Government, and Other Goliaths.
[Reynolds's] greatest strength ... is in describing what he knows best: blogging. He sees communications technology making repression steadily harder. An ordinary video camera can be confiscated and its tape destroyed. But if a video blogger were transmitting footage wirelessly to hundreds of other people as he films it -- as will soon be possible -- it would be a rash secret policeman who shoots him.

Mr Reynolds understands that the blogging revolution has ill effects as well as good. The same technology that spreads protests against tyranny can also be used to stoke sectarian riots, as happened recently in Nigeria. And there are some things the little guy cannot easily do. With a few exceptions (Mr Reynolds lauds a do-it-yourself war correspondent in Iraq), bloggers do little original reporting. Posting opinions online is cheap, but news-gathering is not. Mr Reynolds sees this changing as technology costs fall still further and bloggers find niches in local news. But the revolution is unlikely to destroy "old media" entirely. For one thing, with no MSM, what would bloggers deconstruct?
Not to be overly "deconstructive" here, but couldn't you say that all technology -- if you recall that evil people exist and technology hasn't any moral scruples -- has "ill effects"? And this being the case, mightn't it be better to frame this in terms that lay the blame where it belongs: evil men? I suspect that Reynolds won't make this very basic mistake and look forward to seeing whether I am right.

In the meantime, I do wonder whether this reviewer thinks that such "ill effects" provide a good rationale to crush -- er "regulate" -- this new "army" -- er these new technologies.

New Jersey Free -- for Now

And, speaking of an "army of Davids", this article shows this army in action in a skirmish that is taking place in New Jersey. (And pardon me if I seem be slow on the uptake here.... I do recall seeing mention of an "Internet civility bill" somewhere recently, but didn't follow up on it. I think it was this one.)
A New Jersey Assemblyman's Internet civility bill is on ice since opponents blasted it as an assault on free speech.

Assemblyman Peter Biondi and his staff said they were trying to curb malicious exchanges on some local discussion boards when they introduced a bill requiring people to provide their real names and addresses before posting on public Web sites. The bill also stated that hosts could be sued for failing to disclose the identities of people disseminating false or defamatory information.

Biondi's staff drafted the measure late last year. In was introduced in January. The bill hadn't even made it to committee before a small weekly newspaper published an article about it and Internet news providers began spreading the word. Then, callers from as far away as Canada deluged Biondi's office with complaints.
And not only does the article show the "army" in action, it shows us why we need such an army in the first place: Despite the fact that our Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, our media often either fail to use it adequately (e.g., the massive failure to display the cartoons that "provoked" Moslem rioting and murder recently) and sometimes even misuse it (e.g., Rathergate. See article discussed in previous section for mention and mild whitewashing thereof.)! This is a shame since our media ought to be very interested in protecting freedom of speech by doggedly exposing government attempts to abridge it, not aiding them by inaction or collusion!

As an example of inadequate reporting, consider that if you were busy and simply skimmed the article, you'd think that the battle against this bill had already been won! However, buried near the bottom is an ominous warning that Biondi isn't done with his attempt to subordinate our freedom to "civility".
[Biondi's Chief of Staff Scott] Ross said that Biondi and his staff were responding to requests from local constituents who complained about the viciousness of local discussion boards littered with name-calling. They were shocked that the bill -- drafted to bring decorum to Internet discussions -- drew an intense response from Internet users far beyond the Garden State's boundaries.

Critics said the law would be unconstitutional and impossible to enforce. Ross said he can see things from their perspective, but he still believes people should maintain civility online.
If Ross really did "see things from their perspective", he'd understand the importance of freedom of speech and advise Biondi to withdraw his bill or even resign from his staff in protest.

Medical Experiments of Another Kind

This cost-benefit analysis of socialized medicine makes a decent point about the fact that Americans have access to more cutting-edge technology than those whose medical costs are subsidized by governments looking to cut corners.

But then it sells freedom down the river!
In my view, either single-payer health care or a return to individual responsibility represents a radical change. It would be more prudent to have individual states experiment with these alternatives before we commit to any single approach at a national level.
No! It is not any more "prudent" to "experiment" with some states violating the rights of their physicians to set the terms for which they will work than it was to "experiment" with making the income tax constitutional in 1913 so the feds could levy a 1% tax. It is a precedent made dangerous because the principle of individual rights is ignored at the outset by a myopic concern with the details of a wholly wrong scheme of government interference in the economy.

This argument plays into the hands of those who, like Ted Kennedy, would socialize our medical industry incrementally. Assuming Arnold Kling is against socialized medicine, his is not merely a strategic mistake. It is made possible by a more fundamental error: failure to vigorously support the principle of individual rights.

No citizen -- not even even a physician, Mr. Kling -- should be forced to work for any other. Not in America, or anywhere else for that matter.

Synergy: "Freedom" and "Discipline"

There's a short, interesting piece at City Journal by Theodore Dalrymple that discusses how British complacency plays into the hands of Moslems who want to snuff out the hopes and dreams of their own children. It includes the following sad vignette.
There was a strange paradox about the young Muslim women I saw in the hospital, usually after they had tried to kill themselves. Their manners and deportment were infinitely better than those of young white women of the same economic class, and they were better educated than their white peers, although they had received at least four, and sometimes as many as seven, years fewer education.

In fact, they often were often estimable young women. They wanted desperately to learn, to accomplish something, to enter a profession, and to earn a living. If I had been an employer, they were just the kind of people I would hope to find. But their truncated education clearly had the purpose -- usually achieved -- of thwarting any ambition they might have. The young women found themselves in an utterly wretched position: hence the suicide attempts.
Dalrymple could have made his excellent point even more forcefully, but it is obscured by his title, his terminology ("freedom" used to denote both actual freedom and complacency), and his final paragraph.
Here, then, is proper material for reflection, of the kind that the opportunistic Blair couple will never give it. Discipline without freedom leads to misery, but freedom without discipline leads to chaos, shallowness, and misery of another kind.
It is precisely freedom that young women like this lack. It is complacency or worse on the part of Brits, free for the moment anyway, who too willingly accommodate the religious customs of Moslems, while forgetting the better aspects of their own culture. It is not freedom, but the failure to take advantage of it, that is the problem in Britain and so many other places in the West.

Free Blog Hosting, Chinese Style

The Gaijin Biker notes that in China, even if your blog's hit totals are in a league with Instapundit, you will not make a dime from your advertising. GB invites the reader to "Take a moment to digest the wonderfully oxymoronic concept that a company should be compensated for providing a free service."

Turk Stopped at Sub Base

Bubblehead has some thoughts on a recent incident at our submarine base in Connecticut.
From another article in The Day (posted over at Rontini's BBS), it appears the guy said he was trying to visit the Sub Force Museum. At 0630. Congressman Simmons actually voices the concern that it may have been an attempt to probe base security, so someone else is thinking the same thing. [link omitted]
Bombs Away!

I fully agree with Martin Lindeskog that we should take out all the Iranian nuclear capability we can find. And do follow the link to "signs that the United States is about to bomb Iran".

I only play a kindly, wise man on TV.

Willy Shake notes (with a disappointment I share) that Issac "Chef" Hayes is quitting Southpark.

But I refuse to wallow in disappointment. Hayes's action is also an amusing admission on his part that no amount of Scientology training will ever make him able to simply will Matt Stone and Trey Parker to cease poking fun at his "religion", or otherwise supernaturally actualize his wishes. Perhaps Hayes ought to consider quitting something else. Hint: It would be the activity that is giving him a negative cash flow.

-- CAV