Monday, February 28, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Congrats to James Joyner and the gang over at Outside The Beltway for hitting the three million mark on the sitemeter in just over two years of existence.

Literally from 0 to 3,000,000 in less than 25 months!

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By Steven L. Taylor

Not to get overly optimistic, but today’s events have been quite stunning. Further, it is worth noting that Lebanon, despite its bloody civil war, does have experience with democratic governance–indeed, was once thought to be an examplar of multi-sectarian democracy.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Breaking news via Reuters: Lebanon’s Prime Minister Says His Government Resigns

Lebanon’s Syrian-backed Prime Minister Omar Karami, under popular pressure after the assassination of an ex-prime minister, said Monday his government was resigning.

This fits with a post by Kate at OTB concerning the street protests in Lebanon today.

ABC news has a lengthy story on today’s protests: Anti-Syrian Protesters Fill Beirut Streets

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By Steven L. Taylor

I didn’t watch any of the Oscars last night, but WaPo‘s Tom Shales did, and apparently wasn’t impressed with Chris Rock’s hosting skills: Rock, Well . . . Didn’t

Chris Rock jokingly welcomed viewers to “the 77th, and last, Academy Awards” last night but this Oscar show, nervously televised from Hollywood on ABC, will more likely turn out to be the first, and last, to be hosted by Rock. Though a brilliant and caustic stand-up comedian, Rock’s stint as an Oscar host was strangely lame and mean-spirited.


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By Steven L. Taylor

I think not.

Audiences strike back at pre-film ads

In January, Andrew Fleischmann, a Democratic state representative from West Hartford, Conn., proposed legislation to make theaters announce precisely when movies, not ads and previews, begin. Unlike most bills proposed in Connecticut, Fleischmann’s has already been selected to receive a public hearing from the general law committee. He expects it to pass easily.

I mean, gee whiz, this is a problem requiring legislation?

Plus, if advertisers know that there will be less fannies in the seats prior to the actual movie starting, they won’t buy the ads, and all that will mean is higher ticket and popcorn prices. Further, does one really want everyone showing up exactly when the flick starts?

In Illinois the situation was worthy of a lawsuit:

“To steal people’s time in the way that movie theaters are doing, it is as bad as stealing their money,” said Mark Weinberg, a Chicago lawyer who took the Loews Cineplex Entertainment Group to court for consumer fraud.


Weinberg’s quest has proved more difficult. His case was thrown out of Cook County Circuit Court two years ago, but he is to bring it before the Illinois Appellate Court in April.

His friends wonder why he has devoted so much time to this issue, and in response Weinberg recalls the words of an elderly friend: “I’m 76 years old. Ten or 15 minutes is a long time to me!”

So, instead, wasting hours and hours and more money in court is a good trade-off?

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By Steven L. Taylor

Robert Reich, former Secrtary of Labor in the Clinton administration, author and professor has n interesting piece in today’sNYT that was inspired by the fight in NYC over Wal*Mart, Don’t Blame Wal-Mart, wherein he hits the nail on the head as to why Wal*Mart, and other discounters are so successful:

But isn’t Wal-Mart really being punished for our sins? After all, it’s not as if Wal-Mart’s founder, Sam Walton, and his successors created the world’s largest retailer by putting a gun to our heads and forcing us to shop there.

Instead, Wal-Mart has lured customers with low prices. “We expect our suppliers to drive the costs out of the supply chain,” a spokeswoman for Wal-Mart said. “It’s good for us and good for them.”

Wal-Mart may have perfected this technique, but you can find it almost everywhere these days. Corporations are in fierce competition to get and keep customers, so they pass the bulk of their cost cuts through to consumers as lower prices. Products are manufactured in China at a fraction of the cost of making them here, and American consumers get great deals. Back-office work, along with computer programming and data crunching, is “offshored” to India, so our dollars go even further.

Meanwhile, many of us pressure companies to give us even better bargains. I look on the Internet to find the lowest price I can and buy airline tickets, books, merchandise from just about anywhere with a click of a mouse. Don’t you?

The fact is, today’s economy offers us a Faustian bargain: it can give consumers deals largely because it hammers workers and communities.

We can blame big corporations, but we’re mostly making this bargain with ourselves. The easier it is for us to get great deals, the stronger the downward pressure on wages and benefits. Last year, the real wages of hourly workers, who make up about 80 percent of the work force, actually dropped for the first time in more than a decade; hourly workers’ health and pension benefits are in free fall. The easier it is for us to find better professional services, the harder professionals have to hustle to attract and keep clients. The more efficiently we can summon products from anywhere on the globe, the more stress we put on our own communities.

I disagree with his policy solutions (indeed, I think that they would lead to even more job/dollar flight) and, further, the assumption that the government can fix, for relatively little expense, the results of these rather powerful market forces strikes me as naive at best. No only do I think it would cost more than Reich assumes, but I am not certain it solves the problems in question.

Really: his basis thesis is that consumer like cheap stuff and that the main way by which producers and retailers provide the cheap stuff is by lower labor costs by outsourcing services or buying products from overseas manufacturers–which is all true. So, how could it possibly be the case that the way to solve the problem is to make anyone with 50 or more employees provide health insurance or via hiking the minimum wage or increasing the power of employees and unions to negotiate contracts? Won’t all of those things lead to higher labor costs, and thereby accelerate the problems concerning Reich in this column?

It seems to me that perhaps finding a way to lower labor costs in the US might help the problem, and the main ways the government can do that are through tax and regulatory policy (or via subsidies).

Part of the harsh reality is that some of these jobs are gone forever because of the lower labor (and other) costs abroad. This is simply a function of the market. And you can’t fight the market and win.

Another thing that bothers me about his overall argue (the “faustian bargain” part) is that it may simply be the case that adaptation of those workers and communities will have to take place. As economies evolve on a macro leve, micro level changes have to take place.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via the AP: Suicide Bomber Kills at Least 106 in Iraq

A suicide car bomber blew himself up Monday in a crowd of police and Iraqi National Guard recruits south of Baghdad, killing at least 106 and wounding 133, police and witnesses said. It was one of the deadliest insurgent attacks since President Bush declared the war over in May 2024.


“A suicide car bomb hit a gathering of people who were applying for work in the security services. The incident led to the death of 106 people and injury of 133 citizens,” Babil province police said in a statement released to reporters

It added that “several people” were arrested about the blast. It did not elaborate.

Horrible. Surely there is a better way to project these recruits?

Update: CNN has more and has upped the death toll to 125, at a minimum:

A suicide car bomber Monday morning drove into a crowd of Iraqis outside a government medical office in Hilla, killing at least 125 and wounding up to 200 others, Iraqi government and health officials said.

Iraqi police recruits were lining up outside the building to be given physicals, officials said.

Hilla is located about 55 miles south of Baghdad.

A second car bomb exploded about 15 miles to the north in Musayyib. Iraq’s Interior Ministry said it had reports of wounded but no other details.

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Sunday, February 27, 2024
By Steven L. Taylor

Sean Hackbarth says “bah humbug” whilst Cap’n Ed (“looking more towards political idiocy rather than the choices made for the awards.”) and Ann Althouse are living blogging.

Me? I don’t really care: the only movies I saw at the theater last year were The Incredibles and The Polar Express and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Hence, I have no rooting interests, or, really, any interest at all. Any TV watching tonight will be predicated on what’s on the TiVo.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Captain Ed reports that Syria captured Saddam’s half-brother, and turned him over to the Iraqis. Futher, he notes an AP story with the following info:

Iraqi officials said Sunday that Syrian authorities had captured Saddam Hussein’s half-brother and 29 other officials of the deposed dictator’s Baath Party in Syria and handed them over to Iraq in an apparent goodwill gesture. …

They added that al-Hassan was captured and handed over to Iraqi authorities along with 29 other members of Saddam’s collapsed Baath Party, whose Syrian branch has been in power in Damascus since 1963.

Ironically the bombing in Lebanon may have put Syria in this position, as the international pressure on Damascus has gotten pretty intense of late.

This news also bolsters the theory that at least part of the insurgency is being coordinated and funded via former regime elements in Syria.

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By Steven L. Taylor

Via El Tiempo (Colombia’s most significant daily paper): La re-blog-lución

Mientras en Estados Unidos el 27 por ciento de los usuarios de Internet leyeron blogs en el 2024, en Colombia, para la gran mayoría de la gente la primera noticia de su existencia fue el caso de la renuncia forzada del periodista de CNN Eason Jordan.

Quick translation: “While in the United States 27% of internet users read blogs, the great majority of persons in Colombia first heard of their existence as a resut of the forced resignation of Eason Jordan of CNN.”

The piece notes (along with a typo of the url), Captain’s Quarters and its role in covering the Jordan flap:

La prensa de Estados Unidos adjudicó un gran papel en la salida de Jordan al papel de un blog (Captain’s Quarters –, que no dejó pasar por alto sus afirmaciones en el Foro Económico Mundial, de Davos (Suiza), en las que acusaba al Ejército de E.U. de dar muerte en Irak a doce periodistas.

It also mentions the role of blogs in the RatherGate business and links to a couple of Peggy Noonan columns on the subject of blogging.

Mostly it is an interview with some folks who have done research on blogs and is a “What is a Blog?” story that we were getting in the US press about a year ago.

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