Monthly Archives: September 2008

You’re All Going Down!

So, the bailout bill has failed.

Cool. Scary too, but cool. I hope it stays this way.

As word got out that the bill was failing, the market fell. It fell a lot. It fell more than ever before, even more than it fell on 9/11.

Of course, when I say “the market,” I’m talking about the Dow Jones Industrial Average, which isn’t really the market, it’s just an indicator of the market. And the market isn’t our economy, it’s just an indicator of our economy.

Look at it this way. The Dow was down to somewhere around 10,600 a couple of weeks ago. Then, as the bailout bill started working its way through congress, it went higher for a while, as everyone in the financial sector thought they were going to get a few hundred billion dollars without having to work for it. Now that they’re not getting the money, the Dow is back down to around 10,400. Which is probably where it belongs.

The point is, the Dow wouldn’t be jinking around like this if the politicians weren’t screwing around with this bailout. Instead of trying to judge the market and handle their money wisely, everyone is busy trying to guess what congress will do. Or worse, trying to change what congress does.

For example, if you’re running a financial institution, and you’ve got a lot of “toxic” securities, you might have been thinking of accepting another institution’s offer to take them off your hands for, say, 30 cents on the dollar. It would be a loss, but you’d receive liquidity in return. However, as long as Treasury Secretary Paulson just might get a $700 billion authorization next week to buy them from you at a higher-than-market price, you’re going to sit tight and see what happens, aren’t you?

I think a lot of this market volatility is really just an effect of congressional volatility.

I hope.

Hey Everybody! Link To Me!

I just noticed that Windypundit is up to Google PageRank 6!


Last time I hit PR 6, about a year and a half ago, it didn’t last very long. This time, I’m going to try to make it stick. I suppose the best way to do that is to publish high-quality, timely, and original content that attracts attention and starts discussions in the blogosphere. In fact, I’d like to think that’s what I’ve been doing all along.

But what if I’ve already gone as far as quality content can take me? What if, in order to go further (PR 7, where the cash really rolls in) I’ll have to do something more? Clearly some SEO tactics may be advisable. To that end, I’m going to pursue a multi-pronged strategy.

First, I’ve begun a program of small improvements. For example, I just took the menu at the top of the page and moved the code for it to the end of the page as sent from the server. When the page finishes loading, a bit of Javascript moves the menu to the top of the page. This shortens the apparent load time, makes the page easier for the visually impaired to navigate (because their page reader doesn’t have to skip all the menu links), and moves the blog content closer to the top of the file for better search engine indexing.

Second, blatant link whoring. (See title of this post.)

Third, in order to encourage you folks to post my stuff to sites like Digg or Reddit or, you may notice that I’ve added a few social tags at the end of each blog entry. Like this:

Tweaking the Site

I’ve been exploring the new version of the Movable Type blogging engine, and I’ve decided to try turning on some of the caching options.

For various reasons, I run Windypundit in dynamic publishing mode, which means that every time someone refreshes the page, the back end rebuilds the entire page from scratch. That’s a little slow, but the new Movable Type allows me to specify parts of the page that are generated once and then cached, so that next time someone requests the page, those parts are pulled from the cache instead of being rebuilt from the database.

I’m not sure any of you will notice a change. Most of the loading time for Windypundit is spent on third-party Javascript thingies such as advertising and statistical counters.

Let me know if you notice a difference. Especially if I broke something.

Obama, and Attacking Free Speech

Over at Marathon Pundit, blogger John Ruberry accuses Barack Obama of being a “free speech phony” and quotes with approval from an editorial by Ann Woolner:

When WGN-AM Radio in Chicago scheduled a two-hour interview last week with David Freddoso, who wrote The Case Against Barack Obama the campaign sent out an alarm to supporters, sparking an avalanche of angry phone calls to the station.

I think this misses the mark. It’s one thing to try to shout down an opponent trying to give a speech in an auditorium, but Freddoso was appearing on a talk show. People are supposed to call in to talk to the guest. Executive producer Zack Christenson has only said that the extra volume of calls made it more difficult to run the show, but the show still ran and Freddoso still got to say his piece. Calling this an attack on free speech is silly.

Woolner tries to characterize the incident as a deliberate attempt to “jam a radio station’s phone lines with angry callers” and argues that the Obama campaign should have sent someone to the station for a debate.

Maybe. But asking supporters to call the station is certainly a reasonable alternative. The proper response to “bad” speech is “good” speech, and that’s what the callers where doing. Woolner is just arguing about who should be delivering the speech.

What’s especially odd about Ruberry’s excerpt of this piece is that there are clearer examples of the Obama campaign’s attempts to suppress opposition speech.

For example, the National Rifle Association is running this ad, accusing Obama of all kinds of anti-gun nuttiness, which may or may not be true. I’ll let Jesse Walker explain the problem with the Obama campaign’s response:

Instead of, say, crafting a response ad, Obama’s team had general counsel Robert F. Bauer send stations a letter arguing that “Failure to prevent the airing of ‘false and misleading advertising may be ‘probative of an underlying abdication of licensee responsibility.'” And, more directly: “For the sake of both FCC licensing requirements and the public interest, your station should refuse to continue to air this advertisement.”

(Copy of the letter here.)

So, while the stuff John Ruberry was complaining about earlier is not worth worrying about, this is a genuine threat to use the government to squelch what someone is saying. It makes me wonder about the things Obama will try to do if we actually put him in charge.

(And while we’re at it, I don’t think the NRA is totally off the mark. Bauer’s letter includes a detailed explanation of how the NRA twisted Obama’s position on guns, and they didn’t have to twist very far. His statements on gun control have left him a lot of maneuvering room, and the NRA was able to use some of it against him.)

On the other hand, when it comes to using the law to attack election-related free speech, Obama’s just playing it by the book. And John McCain wrote the book.

Thanks to the McCain-Feingold Law and others like it, when a group of Americans wants to band together to discuss politics with other Americans, they need permission from the government. It’s called campaign reform, but it’s arguably the greatest attack on free speech in my lifetime.

Hang On Tight

The bailout plan has apparently hit a snag after a meeting of congressional leaders at the White House broke down into a “contentious shouting match.” Add to that the failure of WaMu last night and I think the folks on Wall Street are going to go apeshit react strongly.

Then again, if I could really predict what happens on Wall Street, I’d be an advisor to a large investment fund, and they would treat me as a god.

Update: As Tim Cavanaugh reminds us, my inability to predict the market is rivaled by that of Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who’s been seeing doom in every down-tick for a year now.

Update: Actually, people who pay more attention than I do probably weren’t surprised by the WaMu failure. Shares declined from $35 a year ago to $1.69 yesterday, so I’m guessing the market isn’t really going to be all that shocked this morning.

Update: Eh, the market open wasn’t so bad.

How Joel Rosenberg Cost Me $99

I just upgraded the Movable Type blogging software that powers Windpundit from version 4.01 to version 4.21. I did it for all the usual reasons—better, faster, stronger…

No, maybe not stronger.

Movable Type is supposed to be easy to upgrade. Just download the gzipped archive of the latest version and dump it right on top of the existing MT installation. Then I just login to the control panel and it kicks off the automatic upgrade process which integrates the new data files, updates the database, and so on.

Everything seemed to go pretty smoothly. I did the upgrade early this morning and Windypundit was back up in a few minutes.

Then I tried to log in and post something, and all I got was a missing-file error. No menus, no posting interface, nothing.

I poked around and couldn’t find anything, so I logged a support ticket at Six Apart, who make the Movable Type blogging engine. I also logged a support ticket with my web hosting provider, Downtown Host, in case they saw anything unusual on the server.

The Downtown Host people got back to me pretty quickly, and we exchanged a few ideas, but they couldn’t find anything. An hour later, Six Apart sent me a message back asking for information and pointing out that my support agreement had expired.

The Six Apart support agreement costs $99 per year, but I decided to renew it because last year they helped me with a problem that I never would have found myself. After renewing, I answered their questions and told them I had renewed my support agreement.

Two hours later, they asked a couple more questions.

After another hour, they suggested the problem might be in the ImageMagick toolkit used by MovableType. I had found dozens of 25MB core dumps from the perl interpreter on the web site, indicating that perl had crashed while trying to build the main user interface dashboard.

I asked Downtown Host to reinstall ImageMagick for me, and they did, but that didn’t help.

After this, I tried something on my own. I dumped the fresh Movable Type 4.21 install into a separate folder and renamed the folders so that the fresh install would run Windypundit. Then I tried to login to the publishing back end again.

This time it worked. Of course, without all the custom templates and plugins I use, the main Windypundit front page was totally hosed up. But I had proven that the problem was with something in the Movable Type software folder—as opposed to a database problem or a server configuration problem—and it was some file that my old folder had in it that was different or missing in the fresh install.

So I put my upgraded MT folder back and downloaded both it and the fresh install to my PC, ran a comparison between the directories, and spent started poking about temporarily deleting or changing files on the live website until I finally found the change that made it start working again.

Movable Type is indeed mysterious. I don’t know how, and I don’t know why, but all it took to get Movable Type working again was to delete one small image file sitting in the mt-static/upport/uploads folder.

Here. Take a look at the culprit:


That’s Joel Rosenberg of Twin Cities Carry. I guess he tried to upload a profile picture of himself when he was leaving comments on my blog, and somehow that one file made everything blow up.

An Arrest That Doesn’t Pass the Sniff Test

When I first spotted the headline that some guy was charged for the crime of farting, it just struck me as one of those inexplicable voids of common sense. The summary at WSAZ explains everything:

When police were trying to get fingerprints, police say Cruz moved closer to the officer and passed gas on him. The investigating officer remarked in the criminal complaint that the odor was very strong.

In other words, the charge sheet may say something about Battery, but the real crime was clearly Disrespect of Cop.

(Hat tip: John H. Bryan)