Monday, April 30, 2007

Book to recount VA Tech shootings

PW reports that Plume acquired the rights to an account of the Virginia Tech shootings. April 16: Heartbreak in Blacksburg will be written by journalism professor Roland Lazenby and co-authored with three of his students. This is the first book deal on this topic to be announced. It's slated to publish this summer.


Tenet on nuke scares, Bernstein on Hillary fibs

George Tenet's At the Center of the Storm continues to generate a lot of press. Besides taking issue with how Dick Cheney and others in the Bush Administration have used his "slam dunk" comment, the book reveals a number of Al Qaeda plots, including their plan to assassinate Al Gore and attempts to acquire nuclear weapons.

Some of what Tenet's writes about is scary. I'd heard of the NYC nuke scare, but this recall of a cyanide subway bomb team because they had something bigger in mind is news to me. I think I'm going to need to order a copy of this.

Meanwhile, Carl Bernstein's forthcoming book on Hillary Clinton, A Woman in Charge, is reported to "[reach] conclusions that stand in opposition to what Senator Clinton has said in the past and has written in the past."

Hillary, a liar? I'm shocked. Shocked! I wonder what Sir Edmund Hillary thinks...

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

40% of Muslims support suicide bombings

Reuters buried some disturbing information in an article with the headline "Muslims believe U.S. goal to weaken Islam: poll." In a poll of Muslims from Egypt, Pakistan, Indonesia and Morocco , 1/3 said that Islam does not oppose attacks on civilians, and 40% support suicide bombings.

Incredibly, Reuters spun this as a positive -- as in "Hooray! Sixty percent of Muslims don't want to blow us up!" The article goes on to share this inane quote from, the organization that conducted the poll:

"Attitudes toward al Qaeda are complex. On average, only three in ten view Osama bin Laden positively. Many respondents express mixed feelings about bin Laden and his followers and many others decline to answer." [emphasis added]
How is this "complex?" A significant minority of Muslims in these countries want to kill us. That seems pretty simple to me. And here's something from's site that Reuters chose to omit:

Equally large majorities agree with goals that involve expanding the role of Islam in their society. On average, about three out of four agree with seeking to “require Islamic countries to impose a strict application of sharia,” and to “keep Western values out of Islamic countries.” Two-thirds would even like to “unify all Islamic counties into a single Islamic state or caliphate.”

Religion of peace, anyone?

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

eBay propped up by PayPal, but Google's still killing 'em

eBay reported earnings that beat Wall Street estimates, thanks in large part to the ongoing strong performance of PayPal. From Reuters:
Net revenue at online payments service PayPal grew 31 percent to $439 million, while the number of registered users of the credit card alternative rose 36 percent to 143 million.

Merchant services, the PayPal unit that supplies online payment services to Web sites beyond eBay's own properties, reported payment volumes grew 51 percent to $4.38 billion.

Competition from rival merchant payment system Google Checkout appears to be continuing to help drive PayPal's own growth, Whitman said. "Amazingly enough, we had 51 percent growth. The interest in this category is helping [PayPal]."

Readers of my book, The PayPal Wars, should know that it's no surprise to me that PayPal remains the engine of growth for eBay. The company's core auction business is facing strong competition from Google Adwords, and its management still suffers from the same lack of vision that I described in the book. All of this means that eBay is lucky that it has PayPal on its side to fuel revenue and user growth.

Additionally, I'll comment on Meg's statement about Google Checkout. I think she's not seeing the forest for the trees here. The reason that PayPal's non-auction volume is growing rapidly is primarily because Google's ad program continues to decentralize online commerce; it's not because of any press that Checkout is getting. This growth is coming at the expense of eBay's auction websites, which offer costly centralized commerce. Meg admits that their U.S. and German marketplaces are lagging, but this failure is a symptom of the same underlying trend that's lifting PayPal's non-auction growth. At least Google's ability to harm eBay Inc. is mitigated by PayPal's ability to profit from this shift.

(Interested readers are welcome to download a free chapter of The PayPal Wars.)

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Imus firing hurts publishing; Kerry support hurts Imus

Terry Keenan from "Cashin' In" writes in the NY Post that the firing of Don Imus will hurt the publishing industry, which relied on him to feature prominent nonfiction authors. Keenan writes, "Big publishing stood by Imus throughout the week, even as far larger sponsors, including Proctor & Gamble and GM, ran for the exits."

Besides "big publishing," Imus received some surprising support from a man not generally known for having a backbone: John Kerry. Maybe it's because Sen. Nuance can empathize with saying something stupid on air. Or perhaps it's so he can say he supported Imus before he turned against him.

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Osteen gets huge print run, Amazon has e-book reader

OK, to the extent it's possible, I'm going to refocus on publishing news...

PW reports that Free Press (an imprint of S&S) has decided on a staggering first printing of 3 million for Pastor Joel Osteen's next book, Become a Better You: 7 Keys to Improving Your Life. Osteen reportedly signed with S&S for $13 million, and this book is scheduled to release on Oct. 15.

There's also another development in the never-ending e-book saga (e.g. see here, here, and here). Amazon has used the London Book Fair to unveil its own reader, which is said to be comparable to Sony's.

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Images from Virginia Tech

Keep the Tech community in prayer as they begin the process of recovering from this tragedy.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Heroes in the face of evil

James Taranto's daily column highlights a pair of Virginia Tech-related items that need to be shared:

First, a Jerusalem Post article that details the heroic actions of an Israeli professor killed in yesterday's attack. The 76-year-old Holocaust survivor threw himself between the shooter and his students as the murderer attempted to enter his classroom, buying a few precious seconds so that all of his students could escape out the windows. Taranto notes that Prof. Liviu Librescu perished as a hero on Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Second, an archived column that recounts how armed students at another school in Virginia were able to subdue a rampaging gunman in 2002. After killing 3 people at the private Appalachian School of Law, the rampaging murderer was confronted by a handgun-wielding peer and subdued with the help of other students. Liberals using the Tech tragedy to advocate gun control would do well to consider this example.

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Liberals grandstand after VA Tech shootings

The Virginia Tech shootings continue to reverberate. This naked display of evil chilled me all the more chilling because I have connections to the Tech community. Both of my parents grew up near the Blacksburg area, and I visited that gorgeous campus many times during the happy summers of my childhood. Each fall my father still watches Tech games on Saturdays, my sister and her fiancee are Michael Vick fans, and my mother spent yesterday morning trying to learn if her counsin's son, who attends Tech, was OK. (He's fine, thank God.) All of this made the tragedy more shocking and real for me as I watched events unfold on cable news yesterday morning.

Unfortunatley, national grief was quickly tossed aside in favor of political opportunism as liberals turned a tragedy into an excuse for political grandstanding. Some Democrats and left-wing groups are calling for more gun control, while European newspapers blame Charlton Heston and the NRA for the shootings. Jane Smiley at Huffington Post calls "casual" gun ownership a "national fetish," and the NYT ran an editorial -- with an exploitative title "Eight Years After Columbine" -- to plead for "stronger controls over the lethal weapons that cause such wasteful carnage." (Is terming the tragic loss of human life as merely "wasteful" the best that a pro-choice newspaper can do?)

I'd just as soon ignore them, but the fact is that they're wrong. Gun control wouldn't have prevented this massacre. Quite the contrary, Virginia's existing gun control laws (including a 30 day waiting period between handgun purchases) didn't impede the gunman's meticulous planning at all. Moreover, Tech's prohibition on concealed handguns meant the murderer knew he'd face unarmed victims. In fact, WND reports that last year a state bill to allow qualified college students with concealed handgun permits to carry their weapons onto campus was defeated, a development which at the time drew praise from Tech spokesman Larry Hincker.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

How do u txt msg "we r all going 2 die"?

Evidently cell phones are wiping out bees. Which means that we are not far behind.

(Someone should notify John Derbyshire.)

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Tenet's tell-all and Gore's polemic

The Washington Post reports that former CIA director George Tenet takes some shots at Dick Cheney, Condi Rice, and Paul Wolfowitz (who's made himself an easy target) in his soon-to-be-released memoir, At the Center of the Storm. With Tenet's publicity tour kicking off on "60 Minutes" on April 29, I'm sure HarperCollins thinks this tell-all will be a slam dunk.*

The Post also says that Al Gore's forthcoming book, The Assault on Reason, "is a polemic about how the enemies of reason -- using fear and secrecy and blind faith and cronyism -- are doing a number on democracy in this country." No doubt after denouncing Bush along these lines, Gore will make the ironic case that the courts and the UN must impose measures to save us from certain death by global warming.

* Sorry, couldn't resist the pun.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

"Slaughterhouse-Five" author is beamed up

Novelist Kurt Vonnegut is dead at 84. This AP article (which is no doubt one of those lengthy obits that news services write up years in advance) provides a thorough summary of his tragic life and quirky career. Among his many bizarre intellectual contributions is this grand idea:

"We probably could have saved ourselves, but we were too damned lazy to try very hard... and too damn cheap," he once suggested carving into a wall on the Grand Canyon, as a message for flying-saucer creatures.


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Frontpage interview of Ike author

Frontpage has an interview with Kasey Pipes, the author of Ike's Final Battle. Pipes gives a concise description of how Eisenhower's views on civil rights evolved over his time in the army and the presidency, and how he found himself at odds with both civil rights icons and the GOP leadership that followed his term in office.

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Backdating & bonds vex bookstore chains

Last year was a tough one for booksellers that ended on low note, which prompted the president of Books-A-Million to bemoan the period as "a tough fourth quarter for bookselling." And unfortunately it sounds like 2007 is off to a rocky start for the nation's two largest chains -- although for different reasons.

In an SEC filing, Barnes & Noble admitted it had improperly backdated stock options, a mistake it blamed on a "widespread misconception" held by senior management and faulty advice provided by its outside lawyer. There's no word if this will become a criminal investigation, but the WSJ article notes that there have been 10 recent criminal prosecutions for stock option manipulation. The B&N executives and directors who benefited from the backdating have agreed to forfeit any gains.

Borders is also having a tough time right now. Last year the retailer brought on a new CEO as part of a turnaround effort, but today management scuttled the sale of $250 million in convertible bonds "based on shareholder feedback." This article from the WSJ also has an interesting rumor -- some investors are pushing for the company to merge with B&N.

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