slanted or planted?

In a recent Philadelphia Inquirer op-ed titled "Impeach Cheney now," House Judiciary Committee members U.S. Reps. Robert Wexler (D., Fla.), Luis Gutierrez (D., Ill.) and Tammy Baldwin (D., Wis.) state that a large number of Americans believe Dick Cheney should be impeached:

The charges against Cheney are not personal. They go to the core of the actions of this administration, and deserve consideration in a way the Clinton scandal never did. The American people understand this, and a majority supports hearings, according to a Nov. 13 poll by the American Research Group. In fact, 70 percent of voters say the vice president has abused his powers, and 43 percent say he should be removed from office right now. The American people understand the magnitude of what has been done and what is at stake if we fail to act. It is time for Congress to catch up.
Think about that for a moment.

43 percent of the American public want Cheney impeached?

Sorry, but I don't think that reflects reality. It just doesn't pass my common sense smell test.

What or who in the hell is the American Research Group?

The poll is here and it claims to be based on a representative sample, but I just wonder....

The indispensible A Jacksonian did some digging into the mystery man behind ARG, and while the guy doesn't seem to rise to the level of Norman Hsu, there certainly seems to be a suspicious aroma. A Jacksonian also cites a Washington Post article which consigned ARG to the graveyard back in 2004. (Hmmm.... Maybe it should be called the "American Zombie Research Group"....)

Commenters in various places are saying things like this:

ARG is a fraud. They have no boiler room and don't actually make calls. Dick Bennett is basically a pay-for-play extortionist. If you slide him some money, he puffs up your numbers.

He also did "work" for Charlie Bass. Bass was the GOP congressman who got bounced out of office by Rep. Paul Hodes, Obama's national co-chair. Bennett has an axe to grind with the Obama camp, and he's cooking up bogus numbers as a way of getting even.

And then there's this:
Dick Bennett is a sleazy second tier pollster with a pay-for-play reputation.

Consider this. He's based in Manchester, NH. But the only candidates who have hired him (former US Rep. Charlie Bass, Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta, and former US Senator John Durkin) also hired other firms to conduct their "real" polling. Campaigns occasionally throw money at Bennett because they know that he will leak puffed up numbers to the Union Leade and Telegraph.

It's also telling that the major media putlets in NH never utilize ARG. WMUR-TV is located about a quarter mile from ARG's two room headquarters, but they generally hire UNH to conduct their polls. The Concord Monitor and Boston Globe also use other Mass/NH firms, but don't want their name associated with the con man Bennett.

And more:
I've worked in the trenches in NH politics for twenty years. I've run for office myself and run campaigns for others. I know all about Dick Bennett's act. I know the campaign operatives who paid him off the books to get a nice story in the local papers. I know about his two room office with a grand total of two phone lines. I know that nobody ever seems to receive an actual call from ARG. I know about Bennett's releasing cooked polling data while failing to reveal that he had been paid by a particular cmpaign to come up with a pre-ordained result.

ARG is a joke, and the national media are fools for giving him any credibility.

I don't know who this commenter is, but he claims to have the inside skinny on ARG:
I'm chiming in on ARG because they are literally down the street from me. I know that they play some ethically shady games here at home, so I have to presume that they do the same thing in Iowa. I also leave open the possibility that ARG doesn't actually poll anyone at all.
When the Quinnipiac University poll revealed that Connecticut Senator Lieberman had a "healthy double digit lead" the ARG declared the race a dead heat and that Lamont was ahead -- a claim reported as serious news by Blitzer. And Bloomberg.

Yet Lieberman won over Lamont handily -- with a healthy double digit lead Quinnipiac poll had reflected.

How many times is a pollster allowed to be wrong before he loses credibility?

Interestingly, from what I can see, ARG gets more criticism from the left than from the right.

I'd never heard of this outfit before, and had it not been for the Inquirer piece, my curiosity would never have been aroused.

But isn't there something odd about polls being cited uncritically when a pollster has a well-established track record of being wrong?

MORE: Don't miss A Jacksonian's post, or the comments like this one:

Thanks so much for this post. I actually came across your blog trying to get information on American Research Group myself. I follow Real Clear Politics, which captures all the various polling and noticed that ARG always has poll results way off the mark compared to other polls conducted at the same time. Something is definitely fishy. I would love to see the MSM break this suspicions indicate some relation to the Clinton camp.
If that's the case, I wouldn't expect the story to be broken by the MSM....

UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and welcome all!

I also agree with Glenn that it would be fun to see Cheney preside over his own impeachment, but I doubt it will ever happen.

posted by Eric at 11:54 AM | Comments (5)

Stifling diversity in the name of diversity?

Insensitivity in the name of sensitivity?

A few weeks ago I bought Mark Steyn's America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It at and sent it to the Canadian Human Rights Commission at the address Glenn Reynolds and Kathryn Jean Lopez gave.

Much to my disappointment, today I received an email from that the book was undeliverable:

Greetings from

A shipment from the above referenced order has been returned to our fulfillment center as undeliverable.

We have listed some common reasons for undeliverable packages here:

Since this package was undeliverable, we have returned the item(s) to inventory. If you have not already requested a replacement order, you will receive a refund for these item(s).

The following is the breakdown of your expected refund:
Item(s) Returned:
1 "America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It"
Reason: Unknown Reason
Item Details:
Price $18.45
Shipping $8.98

Total: $27.43

We'll send you an e-mail confirmation once the refund has been completed.

For your reference, the shipping address we have on file for the returned order is:

Canadian Human Rights Commission
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K1A 1E1

Please take a moment to verify that the correct shipping address is listed for each open order you may have. You may view your order status online by clicking the "Your Account" link at the top of our web site.

If you would still like to receive these items, we encourage you to return to our web site and place a new order. We are unable to reship packages which are returned as undeliverable.

Thank you for shopping at

Thinking I must have screwed up the address, I checked and rechecked. No error at all. That can only mean one thing: the Canadian Human Rights Commission has refused delivery of a book which:
  • is at the center of a dispute they are hearing; and
  • was sent by a citizen of another country who is concerned about freedom, and who believes that human rights include the right to free speech.
  • Frankly, I feel discriminated against, both because of my national origin (I am a U.S. citizen), and because I believe the refusal to accept the book is evidence of viewpoint and content based discrimination -- the very antithesis of the "diversity" that the Commission is supposed to uphold. Refusing this book is, I believe, intended to negate the existence of divergent viewpoints in support of Mark Steyn, and I can only wonder whether the Commission would refuse to accept mailings in opposition to Mr. Steyn.

    I noticed that the Chief Commissioner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission, Jennifer Lynch, Q.C., also serves as a Board of Governors Member at the University of Ottawa, so I decided to send the book there in the hope that she will get it.

    Here's the alternative address for Commissioner Lynch:

    Jennifer Lynch, Q.C.
    Board of Governors
    University of Ottawa
    550 Cumberland
    Ottawa, Ontario K1N 6N5

    I know it's a workaround, but I don't like the feeling that the bureaucracy over which Commissioner Lynch presides may be thwarting the process they are in theory supposed to uphold, and I want her to receive the book. My hope is that a university might be more accepting of ideological and political diversity.

    We'll see.

    While I don't like to sound petulant, I have to say that my feelings are a little bit hurt, because I paid money for this book and intended it as a sort of educational gift as well as a way of expressing support for the much-maligned Mark Steyn. Is it too much to ask out of simple politeness that a gift -- even an unwanted gift -- not be summarily refused without so much as a comment? At Christmas? Yeah, I'm not religious, but do they know I'm not? Must they act so Grinch-like? I'm a big boy, and I'll get over it, but I can easily see how this might damage a gift-giver's self esteem.

    I realize life is not fair, and of course some people can be expected to be insensitive.

    But the Canadian Human Rights Commission?

    I thought sensitivity was what they're all about.

    If a Human Rights Commission needs lessons in sensitivity training, what is the world coming to?

    UPDATE: My thanks to Mark Steyn for the link!

    Adds Steyn,

    If enough Americans have their copies returned by the CHRC, I suggest a class-action complaint to the CHRC about the CHRC's Yankophobia.
    It certainly strikes me as discrimination based on national origin.

    posted by Eric at 10:59 AM | Comments (3)

    Fred's Message To Iowans
    About 17 minutes

    HT Instapundit

    posted by Simon at 05:36 AM | Comments (0)

    A Marine Needs Help

    A lawyer in Chicago, Jay R. Grodner, appears to have been caught in the act of keying a Marine's car and it looks like he is going to get away with it. Black Five has the details.

    Marine Sgt Mike McNulty is on activation orders to Iraq (second tour). On December 1st, 2007, Mike went to visit a friend in Chicago before deploying to say goodbye. In order to get to his friend's residence, and keep in mind that Chicago is a myriad of diagonal and one-way streets, the front entrance (right way) to the one-way street was blocked. Mike, being a Marine, overcame and adapted by driving around the block to the other end of the street and backing up all the way to his friend's place.

    While saying goodbye, at about 11am, he noticed a man leaning up against his car. Mike left his friend's apartment and caught the man keying his car on multiple sides.

    That is bad. However, the police were called and arrested the lawyer.

    However the weasely lawyer looks like he is going to skate on the charges.

    As it turns out, the man is Chicago lawyer Jay R. Grodner, who owns a law firm in the city and has offices in the suburbs.

    After sending the car to the body shop, it was determined there is $2400 in damage, making this a felony. Mike went to court Friday morning to collect the damages against Mr. Grodner and file felony charges. Though the damages are over $300 (the amount which determines felony or misdemeanor) Grodner offered Mike to pay his deductible, $100, and have Mike's insurance pay for it.

    The Illinois States Attorneys tried to coerce Mike into accepting the offer. Appalled, Mike said he wanted this to be a felony. The state told Mike that it was not worth pursuing felony damage against Grodner because they don't have the time. In addition, the state prosecutors told him that he would never it 'would be difficult to recover the damages' from Grodner because he is a lawyer.

    Instead, the State asked Mike if he would accept probation for Grodner. Mike accepted, probation was offered to Grodner, and Grodner declined the offer, saying within ear shot of Mike, "I'm not going to make it easy on this kid". Mike's next court date is tomorrow, Monday, December 31st, to pursue misdemeanor charges against Grodner.

    Mike's leave is over on January 2nd when he reports to Camp Pendleton before heading to Iraq.

    Jay Grodner knows this and is going to file for a continuance until Mike is gone and cannot appear in court.

    By account of the Illinois State's Attorneys, Grodner is likely to get away with defacing Mike's car with no penalty because, 1) Mike is about to deploy to Iraq and will not be available to appear in court, and 2) Grodner is a lawyer and can get out of this very easily.

    So, does anyone have any ideas about how to proceed? All peaceful and rational ideas are welcomed. We are contacting the media about this, too.

    If you have any ideas on how this can be resolved (yeah I know - but the Marine wants to do it legal like) contact Black Five at his blog or send him an e-mail


    A commenter at Black Five suggested contacting Mr. Grodner who appears to be a paternity lawyer:

    Law Offices of Jay R. Grodner

    Principal Office-Deerfield
    625 Deerfield Road -Suite 406
    Deerfield, IL 60015
    Phone: (847) 444-1500
    Fax: (847) 444-0663

    Downtown Chicago
    30 N. LaSalle St. - Suite 1210
    Chicago, IL 60602
    Phone: (312) 236-1142
    Fax: (312) 236-6036

    Be as nice as you can. After all he is a lawyer.

    Might I also suggest having a look at what other Black Five commenters have recommended?

    Search Google for Jay R. Grodner. It appears that Jay is getting a lot of - shall we say - interesting press.

    Update 01 Jan 008 0944z:

    It appears that Mr. Grodner is in a bit of legal trouble with the Illinois State's Attorney. A Black Five reader provides this eye witness account of yesterdays court proceedings.

    I am writing to produce an update of the results of Sgt McNulty's case against Jay R Grodner. I was present in support of Mike and thought you may be interested in an update for this story.

    Sgt McNulty was called forward by the State's Attorney in order to discuss the case. I am not sure what transpired behind the closed doors, however, I overheard the State's Attorney expressing her intent to prosecute this guy to the fullest extent. It seems as if BlackFive is the sole catalyst to this story getting out and I am sure Sgt McNulty has probably heard the effect of yours and other blogs from the results of today's proceedings to include several Marines and civilians who showed up in his support.

    Jay R Grodner was called before court and in his absence, the Judge issued a warrant for his arrest effective immediately. Sgt McNulty was departing the court when Grodner rolled in to the courtroom more pathetic than anyone I had ever seen. The Judge had questioned him on his tardiness and he explained that traffic had been busy and he 'made a wrong turn'. The Judge chastised him for his tardiness, pathetic excuses, and that he was lucky the warrant had not been executed prior to his arrival.

    It seems the blogosphere has put the ball in Sgt McNulty's court. Furthermore, it is also apparent that the State's Attorney's Office has decided to take this matter on a much more serious level. A new and very aggressive State's Attorney seems to have a genuine interest in pursuing this case to the extent that it warrants.

    It seems that all the heat bloggers brought to bear on the situation is going to create some light. Way to go guys. Kudos to Black Five and Instapundit for helping to get the word out.

    Update: 03 Jan 008 0629z

    The Chicago Tribune has more details on the story.

    H/T Instapundit

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 03:56 AM | Comments (92)

    Recreating a past we only imagine

    Have you ever wondered what it must have been like to cross the prairies and the Rockies, then make the truly perilous trip through the snowy mountains to California during the first half of the 19th Century?

    Celia Hayes (best known to the blogosphere as "Sgt. Mom") has written a great book -- To Truckee's Trail: the Greatest Adventure... Never Told -- which will take you on this harrowing journey in a way that reading history can't. What's unusual about this is that unlike many historic novels it has a documentary feel to it (it is loosely based on real characters and events). The action is punctuated by diary entries, and a (fictionalized) 1932 interview of one of the members of the party who lived into his late 90s and recalls his childhood memories.

    It is a riveting read. Close calls with Indian war parties, political treachery, near starvation and freezing to death, and inevitable illnesses and deaths. It's truly amazing that they made it.

    Some great observations along the way. I loved this one:

    A good wife will re-load for you, a great one will take up a knife and slit your enemies' throats.
    Very rugged people, these pioneers.

    I found myself wondering how so many of their descendants came to evolve into the soft people we've become today.

    Don't miss this book. It's a real treat. I loved every page.

    UPDATE: Thank you, Glenn Reynolds for the link, and welcome all!

    I have to say, it renews my faith to know that the quote above refers not just to nameless women in in the 1840s, but to Dr. Helen!

    UPDATE: I'm delighted to see that Sgt. Mom has linked this post -- and even more delighted to see that thanks to Glenn's link there's a resulting uptick in sales!

    posted by Eric at 05:17 PM | Comments (19)

    Finding Islam

    If you have lost Islam and need to find it, Finding Islam can help.

    Schools. Colleges. The local Muslim Student Association. Islamic Centers. The Koran. Hadith. Fiqh and Fatawa. It is all there. Be nice. There is plenty to learn.

    If you meet any Muslims during your researches you might want to ask them what they think of Muslims Against Sharia. Just to get an idea of the lay of the land so to speak.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 09:57 AM | Comments (2)

    Skirting my responsibilities

    I try to be fair, and I like to think that I don't suffer from regional bias.

    However, I'm afraid that my Northern regional bias might have been exhibited in several posts in which I repeatedly compared Hillary Clinton to Lurleen Wallace.

    I also compared both Hillary Clinton and Lurleen Wallace to Peronist wives...

    For using Lurleen Wallace to criticize Hillary, I might owe Lurleen Wallace an apology. Whether I owe the Peronistas or their wives an apology is more complicated, as it depends on what moral standard should be used in judging Third World regimes -- a topic beyond the scope of this post.

    More properly, maybe I owe Glenn Reynolds's mother an apology, for this is what she said:

    "I remember Lurleen Wallace. I was a citizen in Wallace's Alabama. And Hillary Clinton is NO Lurleen Wallace!"
    OK, fair enough.

    I never really studied Lurleen Wallace, although I'm sure that she and Hillary are politically dissimilar enough that the point is well taken. My focus was not on political similarities so much as on the circumvention of constitutional provisions. In the case of Lurleen Wallace it was the Alabama Constitution:

    Wallace devised a plan in which his wife, Lurleen, would run for governor while he controlled the policies and procedures of the governorship in the background, duplicating the strategy in which Ma Ferguson won the 1925 election for governor in Texas.

    Wallace's attempt to change the succession rule before the 1966 campaign failed. However, using his wife as his electoral surrogate succeeded, and Mrs. Wallace won the Democratic nomination for governor in 1966. She was elected Governor of Alabama in November 1966, and was inaugurated in January 1967.

    Of course, in Bill Clinton's case, the roadblock is the United States Constitution. No reasonable person believes that Hillary would be a candidate for president but for the fact that she is the wife of Bill Clinton, and there is considerable agreement across the political spectrum that her candidacy represents an end-run around the 22nd Amendment.

    Whether the voters care about the ethics is another matter, but I think it would be more honest to let them have a crack at dumping the 22nd Amendment and then simply being allowed to vote for Bill.

    (I wish some GOP prankster would get Maria Shriver to run on Arnie's behalf.)

    Interestingly, Jane Fonda called Clinton "a ventriloquist for the patriarchy with a skirt and a vagina." Ann Althouse correctly perceives some problems with Fonda's comparison, but I'll take it at it's face value and add that actually, I do think Hillary could quite possibly be a ventriloquist, but only for that portion of the patriarchy with a skirt and a vagina.

    Just don't expect me to PhotoShop such gruesome details.

    posted by Eric at 08:45 AM | Comments (3)

    Minority rule, or "outlier" rule?

    Burt Prelutsky takes a look at a frustrating question much on everyone's mind -- what's so special about Iowa and New Hampshire?

    Don't ask me. We should probably all be grateful that the first primary isn't held in the city of Philadelphia (where in the last mayoral election the Republican whats-his-name got a full 17% of the vote).

    It's a ridiculous and artificial situation which Prelutsky analogizes to flipping a coin:

    how was it decided that those two improbable states would be given so much importance? I understand that for reasons I can't quite fathom they get to kick off the primary season, but so what? To me it makes about as much sense as inflating the importance of winning the coin toss at the start of a football game.
    As to why, it does not seem to matter to anyone. Once such insane things have in place over a long period of time, so many people rely on them that they develop constitutencies which will defend them as pillars of our democracy. Even our very way of life. Why, I'm sure the argument could be made that Iowa and New Hampshire primaries are part of traditional American values!

    Here here!

    On another pet topic, Prelutsky asks another excellent question:

    How is it that people who drive around with bumper stickers that read "War is Not the Answer" aren't the least bit embarrassed to be seen in public?
    I think they are as clueless as people who claim -- like many of these letter writers in today's Inquirer -- to be "against violence" (but who scream and yell every time their favorite Eagles linebacker makes a good tackle).

    Don't get me wrong. I have nothing against violent contact sports. It's just that I'm enough of a realist to agree with Orwell:

    "Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence. In other words: it is war minus the shooting."
    Saying "war is not the answer" presupposes that we are not at war when we are. Moreover, the notion that all war is wrong means that it was wrong to go to war against Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, and it would have been wrong to stop the Rwandans from slaughtering each other. I think the slogan should be superimposed over the smokestacks of Auschwitz or something.

    But, much as the "war is not the answer" people are lacking in common sense, they turn out and vote in the primaries. Even though they are what economists and statisticians would call "outliers," under the primary system the outliers out-vote the people with common sense. Unfortunately, those who aren't outliers (and who don't sport inane bumperstickers) also tend not to drive to the primaries in outlier states.

    Which is why, in the name of democracy, the rest of us are ruled by outliers in outlying areas.

    posted by Eric at 10:01 AM | Comments (8)

    Up And Down

    The Drug Czar says says that the current cocaine price spike shows progress in the War On Druggies. NPR reports on the story.

    For the past few months, the federal government has been celebrating the fact that U.S. cities are experiencing "an unprecedented cocaine shortage" due to increased law enforcement in the southwestern United States and Mexico.
    Great news for prohibitionists. They are finally starting to defeat the drug market. Something I said they would never do. I guess I'll have a big dish of crow.

    But wait. NPR did some fact checking. What did they find?

    But fact-checking by NPR reveals that while there are indeed spot shortages of cocaine, they are neither nationwide nor unprecedented. And the scarcity may have unintended consequences.

    The price of cocaine is one of the main ways the government tallies the score in its war on drugs. The reasoning is that if prices go up, it means that agents are winning -- they're squeezing the supply. For the past three months, the federal government has been reporting that its counter-drug strategy has created an unprecedented nationwide cocaine shortage.

    I think we are going to need some details before we buy into some anecdotes by NPR.
    Walters said reports indicate that these interdictions have choked the cocaine supply in 37 cities across the country. The list included 15 major cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Milwaukee and Grand Rapids, Mich., Walters said.

    NPR contacted the police departments in each of those 37 cities to find out what narcotics commanders had to say about the reported cocaine shortage.

    The results suggest how difficult it is for law enforcement to create any long-term disruption in retail sales in America, which is the largest cocaine market in the world.

    And they tend to confirm long-established trends: that price spikes are transitory, and that over time, dealers find other distribution routes, while users may find other drugs.

    Ten of the 37 cities confirmed that the cocaine scarcity is real. Among them were the largest cocaine markets in the nation, such as New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta and San Francisco.

    Lt. Daniel Simfer, commander of the vice/narcotics unit in the St. Louis Police Department, said, "In the last six months it has become less available than it was at the beginning of the year. The price has increased accordingly probably by about a third."

    Four cities declined to respond to questions about the local cocaine supply; five said there was simply no shortage.

    The question brought laughter from Sgt. Roger Johnson of the Detroit Police Department.

    "No, we don't have a problem finding it at all," Johnson said.

    In Pittsburgh, Commander Sheryl Doubt of the Pittsburgh Police Department said, "I spoke to my detectives out there in the streets making buys, and we all kind of agreed that if there's a shortage here in Pittsburgh, we are not aware of it and don't find that necessarily to be true."

    The Drug Czar lying to us? How can that be? He is an honorable man and a public servant. I mean if you can't trust public servants what is he world coming to? A former budget control director in the Czar's office tells us.
    John Carnevale is a former budget director in the drug-control office who served under four former drug czars. He says the office had the Rand Corporation analyze long-term cocaine price trends.

    Of the findings, Carnevale said, "One, the long-term trend adjusted for purity has been one of decline. It just keeps coming down and coming down. Two, there's been occasional moments where we've seen spikes in cocaine prices, and they may last three months, four months, five months -- but eventually the trend continues to decline."

    And fleeting price spikes, Carnevale said, did not meaningfully affect demand -- another point where he differs with the drug czar.

    So we have a short term upward spike in a long term downward trend.

    Well the Drug Czar tells us that after examining the bodily fluids of hundreds of thousands of Americans he has proof of progress that can't be denied.

    Further proof of the cocaine shortage, Walters says, is that the nation's largest workplace drug-testing company has observed a 16 percent decline in positive cocaine drug tests during the first half of 2007.

    But in an interview, a scientist from that company, Quest Diagnostics, said that during the same period, the company also noticed a nearly 7 percent uptick in methamphetamine detection.

    That phenomenon shows the nature of addiction, several police officials said. To the extent there is, or was, a cocaine shortage, they have seen regular users turn to meth, heroin, prescription drugs, and high-potency marijuana. In other words, enforcement had not appeared to curtail demand -- one of the chief aims of the war on drugs.

    "The truth is, we see addicts getting drugs even in the worst times," said Sgt. Sutherland of the Washington, D.C., police. "When it's really hard to get it, they'll do just about anything to get some kind of drugs."

    So drug users are switching from coke to meth and heroin. I'd call that real progress. For sure.

    The USA Today has noted another positive aspect of the crackdown.

    In Cleveland, police noted a contraction in drug markets in January. Homicides are up as local drug organizations vie for the shrinking cocaine supply, says Mayor Frank Jackson, who lauds a six-city, federally led task force for cracking down on local traffickers.
    Isn't that special. Fewer drugs more murders. I'm sure that city life has improved because of it.

    Mayor Jackson had some further comments on the effectiveness of the crack down.

    "Interdiction isn't the cure-all. The police cannot solve this problem. It's one leg on the stool."
    There is more than enough evidence that the stool is beginning to stink. It is well past flushing time. The unfortunate thing is that there is a lot of money supporting this stool. In other words the toilet is backed up and the overflow is making the whole house stink. Of course this is America and we are getting all the house we paid for.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 04:39 AM | Comments (3)

    LEAPing on McCain

    Working New Hampshire police officer Bradley Jardis confronted Senator John McCain on November 25, 2007, at a Presidential Campaign stop at Franklin Pierce College in Ringe, New Hampshire, about Senator McCains's support for The War On Drugs.

    Here is the transcript:

    Bradley Jardis: I have served here in my state as a law enforcement officer for going on nine years now. And after nine years of working the street, I have come to the conclusion that the war on drugs is a terrible failure. I saw first hand that the war on drugs causes crime. It causes children to have access to drugs easier and it does nothing to curb the problem of drug trafficking or use--just as alcohol prohibition after the 18th amendment passed. Then we wised up and passed the 21st amendment, which curbed the violence problem within this country greatly. What is it going to take for powerful politicians, such as yourself, to realize that the war on drugs is a failure and we need to get smart about drugs? Not tough, we need to be smart about drugs.

    John McCain: "Thank you sir. It is going to take a lot before I adopt your viewpoint, although I must say, (Applause) express my respect and appreciation for keeping our families and our neighborhoods in the state of New Hampshire safe and I am grateful for your service. But I've heard your comparison between drugs and alcohol. I think most experts would say in moderation one or two drinks of alcohol does not have the affect on one's judgment or manual acuity or physical abilities. I think most experts will say that the first ingestion of drugs leads to mind-altering and other experiences and effects that can lead over time to serious problems. Now I will agree with you to this extent, that too often we put first time drug users in prison. (Applause) In my home state of Arizona we a program that puts first time drug offenders, not dealers but first time drug offenders, that they have the eligibility on rehab program that is associated with very significant testing procedures. And if they successfully complete that rehabilitation course, then they are allowed to move forward with their lives. We have too many first time drug offenders in prison. I think we all know that. But I will do everything I can to help you with your work. I will do whatever I can do to help you combat these drug dealers, these terrible people that prey on America but there have been experiments in Europe; some places there where basically the use of drugs is freely and openly used and some of those places they have had to shut down those places because of the terrible effects of not restricting the use of drugs from those places. So I would like to refer you to those places where they have done that. And I don't in any way diminish the magnitude of your job and terrible affect that drugs have on Americans. And a lot of it, as you know, comes across our southern borders. And I'm happy to tell you that we seem to have a president of Mexico now who is very serious about enforcing the border and cooperating with us against drug dealers. Now I think in full disclosure, with drug cartels there is such problems that I don't think he is going to be able to do it. But my friends, I want to help him and I want to help him clean it up but that also is a big problem. Now I just want to ask one other thing, do you think methamphetamine ought to be legal?

    Bradley Jardis: I think what we need to look at is the drug policy.

    John McCain: Yea but you know it's one thing to talk about policy; it's another thing to talk about specific comments. With all due respect, do you think methamphetamine should be made legal?

    Bradley Jardis: I don't think if someone is caught with methamphetamine we should put them in prison, period. We should be helping them. We should help people who are addicted to drugs (Applause) and not spend 69 billion dollars a year to imprison them. (Continuing applause) If you arrest somebody, it does not solve the problem. You just said there are drug cartels. There would not be drug cartels if we were to regulate drugs. In Switzerland they have public heroin clinics where people can come and get help with clean needles and to get off drugs. There is no doubt that drugs are dangerous but our policy does not do anything to help people who are addicted. If you arrest a sixteen year old for marijuana and they get a criminal conviction, you can get over an addiction but you will never get over a conviction. They loose their funding to go to college and no one can ever say, that keeping a kid from going to college because of prohibition sounds good. Not at all. Thank you very much. (Applause)

    John McCain: "I'm sorry he didn't have a position on methamphetamine but I do agree with you. I do agree with you strongly. As I said, we have this program in Arizona which I would like to see adopted nation wide: the first time offender is given an opportunity to rehabilitate themselves and to have clean record. I thank you for your service and I appreciate the discussion and I look forward to continuing this dialogue because I in no way mean to diminish the magnitude of this problem and the terrible tragedies it inflicts on America everyday. Thank you and thank you for your service.

    LEAP is asking for donations in order to keep confronting politicians with people they can't easily dismiss. Working police officers. Do what you can.

    posted by Simon at 07:06 PM | Comments (4)

    the poof is in the putting

    Glenn Greenwald may be many things.

    But as a poof reader, his skills leave much to be desired. (Via Glenn Reynolds, who dared to utter this multifaceted four letter word.)

    The way Greenwald rants, you'd almost think he imagines poof is nothing more than a synonym for Republican fear of ick.

    I mean, what is this? Even Maureen Dowd is allowed to express intolerance over the slightest whiff of poof, but Peggy Noonan can't even use the word in its proper context?

    Oh the hypocrisy!

    In the interest of full disclosure, I had no ick reaction to the alleged poof in dispute. (Quite the opposite, in fact...)

    MORE: Justin made me do this.


    UPDATE: It's "poof or consequences" time!

    My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking this post, and a warm welcome to all.

    As I take a broad general view of things and really don't care who anyone is around here, all commenters -- even sock puppets -- are always welcome!

    MORE: I don't know how off-topic this is, but years ago when I worked in a stodgy San Francisco law firm, I first learned the derogatory meaning of the word "poofter" from a British working class co-worker from Manchester. He complained to me constantly about the "poofters" he believed were lurking everywhere making passes at him until I finally reached the end of my patience and told him I was one too. He was horrified, but after he recovered from the shock, he stated that while I might be gay, I wasn't a "poofter." So, not only did I learn a new word, but I learned there was some sort of distinction - at least in his mind. While I don't know how accurately his usage of the term was, it was clear to me then that the closest American equivalent to the term (at that time in San Francisco) would have been the word "queen." How derogatory such words would seem to depend on context.

    A Virginia activist recently won a legal battle to get the word "POOFTER" on his custom license plate.

    Am I supposed to be offended?

    MORE: The Washington Post's Marc Fisher digs into the details behind the Virginia "POOFTER" battle:

    Then and now, Phillips found the name funny but hardly offensive. Merriam-Webster says "poofter" is "usually disparaging," and the Oxford English Dictionary calls the word "derogatory slang," but it's routinely aired on broadcast television, and Phillips says it's less disparaging than "nancy boy," which happens to have been his previous license tag message ("NANCBOY," for four years, with no complaint from the state). "Poofter," Phillips contends, "is a pretty neutral word. It gets past any e-mail filter."
    Yes, but Glenn Greenwald isn't just any email filter....

    UPDATE (01/13/08): My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking this post for a second time in a new context!

    More thoughts on whether "POOF goes the Culture" (as well as Greenwald modeling theory) here.

    posted by Eric at 05:14 PM | Comments (15)

    An "ugh" rating is not an "ick" rating

    I'll concur with Glenn Reynolds in saying "Ugh" to this sort of thing:

    Mike Huckabee last year accepted $52,000 in speaking fees from a bio-tech giant that wants to research human embryonic stem cells, a non-profit working to expand access to the morning after pill and a group pushing to study whether tightening gun control laws will reduce violence.

    Huckabee opposes embryonic stem cell research, emergency contraception and stricter gun laws - all of which rank high on the list of deal-breakers for many of the religious conservatives whose support he's ridden to the top of the Republican presidential field.

    With Huckabee, the list of "deal-breakers" just goes on and on.

    This morning Dennis sent me a link to another Huckabee horror. In addition to a gun control problem, he also has what's being called a "muzzle control problem":

    ....At one point, Huckabee's party turned toward a cluster of reporters and cameramen and, when they kicked up a pheasant, fired shotgun blasts over the group's heads.

    This, friends, is dangerously bad hunting form.

    Your Swamp correspondent, the son of a longtime hunter education instructor, grew up plying the corn rows and stream banks of rural Oregon with a Labrador retriever and a Mossberg 20-gauge pump shotgun. On our hunts for pheasant, grouse and quail, merely swinging a gun barrel in the general direction of another person was grounds for day-long banishment to the truck (which smelled like wet dog).

    What's with the rush to embrace this guy?

    I mean, what does he have to do to get the attention of his apparently unquestioning supporters? Tap his foot in the wrong direction?

    (No, I am in not implying anything about the man. It's just that sex scandals seem to be the only thing that matter enough in modern Republican politics to register real levels of disgust. Probably has to do with the difference between "Ugh" and "Ick.")

    posted by Eric at 02:25 PM | Comments (1)

    peace on earth, good will towards tigers....

    Via Glenn Reynolds, John Podhoretz reflects on the political implications of the Bhutto assassination:

    American politics would dearly love to take a holiday from history, just as it did in the 1990s. But our enemies are not going to allow us to do so. The murder of Bhutto moves foreign policy, the war on terror, and the threat of Islamofascism back into the center of the 2008 campaign. How candidates respond to it, and issues like it that will come up in the next 10 months, will determine whether they are fit for the presidency.
    Hey, I'd like to take a holiday from blogging, because there's no way to keep up with the relentless pace of current events during the holiday crunch. Perhaps that means I should take a holiday from the holiday.

    I've remarked before about the clever way the Democrats appeal to the voters' desire to change the channel (from "war" to "peace") -- as if voting is like hitting a TV remote.

    Unfortunately, human nature being what it is, such an approach might just work.

    Infuriating as it is for me to admit this, blogging can, in its own way, operate as a TV remote. Yesterday, for example, I spent hours researching and attempting to analyze the fatal tiger attack at the San Francisco Zoo. It seemed that I was at war with the facts, but the facts were at war with themselves, as they kept changing. First the wall was 18 feet high and impossible for a tiger to jump. Later, the same zoo director who said the wall was 18 feet high admitted it was just over 12 feet, and denied making other statements he was quoted making. There was a disappearing shoe, disappearing blood, conflicting accounts, allegations the tiger had been provoked, a possible "copycat" incident at another zoo, and an infuriating silence by the two survivors of the attack, who it now appears lied to the dead boy's father and have police records. The zoo appears to have been negligent, and to have a lousy director. Beyond that, there's still no way to know what happened. The "news" is a shifting pile of sand. (Just skim my humongous post and useless speculations and see.)

    In terms of importance, a tiger attack in a zoo is nothing compared to the assassination of a major opposition figure in the most troublesome area of the world. Yet my uncontrollable need to know what happened took over, as I cannot stand it when the facts are murky. This is why I'm not inclined towards war blogging. I like to figure things out, and when I can't, or when the facts change, I feel as if I am spinning my wheels.

    Not that I can add anything to the innumerable observations which have already been made about the Bhutto assassination. That vicious Islamists killed her is no more surprising than the fact that a vicious tiger will attack.

    Being prepared is what it's all about, not changing to the peace channel.

    That the tiger may have been provoked by juvenile delinquents is secondary to the inherent danger posed by poor zoo security which could have prevented even a vengeful tiger from attacking.

    Letting down defenses against enemies has far worse consequences.

    UPDATE: Ann Althouse has eased my guilt:

    it is worth analyzing the campaign commercials -- even on the day Benazir Bhutto died.
    (But bear in mind that the campaign commercials may have a more lasting national effect than a tiger attack in a zoo.)

    posted by Eric at 12:43 PM | Comments (2)

    We will not be questioned!

    In what voters ought to be taking as the final insult, the wife Bill Clinton is using in a 22nd Amendment circumvention scheme is now refusing to answer questions:

    Before the brief Christmas break, the New York senator had been setting aside time after campaign speeches to hear from the audience. Now when she's done speaking, her theme songs blare from loudspeakers, preventing any kind of public Q&A.

    She was no more inviting when a television reporter approached her after a rally on Thursday and asked if she was "moved'' by Benazir Bhutto's assassination. Clinton turned away without answering.

    Her daughter, Chelsea, had the same reaction when a reporter approached her with a question.

    Hillary Clinton's no-question policy didn't sit well with some of the Iowans who came to see her speak.

    "I was a little bit underwhelmed,'' said Doug Rohde, 46, as he left her a rally in a fire station in Denison. "The message was very generic -- and no questions.''

    Clinton campaign officials said that she may take questions in the coming days.

    I don't know why Hillary believes she's Above It All. Maybe she's imagining herself to be some sort of royal figurehead, who really shouldn't have to be running for office.

    I think it would be more fun if she gave a generic answer for all questions which displease her with the regal "we."

    "We are not amused!"

    If this no-questions "strategy" works, it's just more proof that P.T. Barnum was right.

    (But if you think Madame Clinton will be more forthcoming after her coronauguration, think again.)

    posted by Eric at 09:53 AM | Comments (1)

    One For Fred

    posted by Simon at 04:35 PM | Comments (4)

    Support Fred
    Fred08 - Contribute Now

    A great story and why you should support Fred

    posted by Simon at 03:01 PM | Comments (1)

    I don't ask readers for money, BUT.....

    I'm glad to join Rick Moran's blogburst for Fred Thompson, which Glenn Reynolds linked yesterday.

    Analogizing to Washington's perilous crossing, here's what Rick said this morning:

    To be brutally frank in appraising the situation realistically, Fred Thompson's chances of winning the nomination are not good. I will not attempt to snow you, gentle readers, with the idea that the Thompson campaign is anything but a hope and a prayer at this point. But where there is a will to fight, so there is a will to win. It doesn't matter how many pundits, pollsters, and assorted "experts" have written off Fred Thompson. What matters is that there is still a chance, still life in the campaign, and still a belief that the race can be won. Your support is absolutely crucial to propel the campaign forward, to build on the momentum generated by Thompson's bus tour through Iowa by giving as much as you possibly can.
    I've been partial to Fred Thompson's candidacy since before he was running, and I've already made a modest donation. I plan to donate more, because he's by far the best the GOP has to offer right now, and now is an especially important time. Because, if Huckabee gets it, we'll see eight years of Hillary.

    That last statement is of course a Machiavellian argument for Fred Thompson -- intended for those who consider themselves in the ABC (Anyone But Clinton) category. But Fred Thompson is the most experienced candidate the GOP has, he goes way back, and I think he has integrity. Moreover, he dares to be a Federalist -- someone who actually publicly supports the Constitution as it was written. As a strong constitutionalist who believes the Constitution has been disregarded for far too long, few things could appeal to me more. It's music to my ears. Sure, the cynic in me could argue that he's "just saying that" and "doesn't really mean it," but this is where his years of experience and political wisdom tend to kick in. Simply for being the only vocal federalist of the bunch, he deserves support.

    Any readers who feel the same way, I hope you'll join in the blogburst. I say this as someone who does not usually join things or participate in blogbursts.

    I also remind readers that I do not have a tip jar. Instead, I occasionally ask people to donate to one worthy cause or another.

    So please, any of you who aren't into having Hillary as president and who like this blog, I hope you'll consider clicking on this link and donating to Fred Thompson.

    UPDATE: My thanks to M. Simon for helping out!

    posted by Eric at 09:49 AM | Comments (3)

    Benazir Bhutto dead

    This is very bad news:

    Pakistan opposition leader Benazir Bhutto has died after a suicide attack at a political rally.
    She was shot in the chest and neck shortly after her speech in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.

    Ms Bhutto was attacked as she got into her car and the gunman then blew himself up.

    "At 6.16 p.m. she expired," said Wasif Ali Khan, a member of Bhutto's party at Rawalpindi General Hospital.

    "She has been martyred," said party offical Rehman Malik.

    The explosion went off just after Ms Bhutto left the rally in Rawalpindi, minutes after her speech to thousands of people.

    Her supports have smashed windows at the entrance to the hospital where she was being treated, some calling "Dog, Musharraf, dog,".

    It is the first major attack since President General Pervez Musharraf lifted emergency rule two weeks ago.

    It not only does not bode well for democracy in Pakistan, but by highlighting the growing instability of a nuclear power, it's a reminder that isolationism -- whether of the Ron Paul, Pat Buchanan, or Dennis Kucinich varieties -- is not a great idea.

    I hope cool heads prevail.

    (There have to be cool heads over there, right?)

    MORE: Al Qaeda is reportedly claiming credit for the assassination -- a claim U.S. intel officials are checking out.

    AND MORE: Glenn Reynolds and Pajamas Media have roundups of reports and reactions.

    While it's too early to predict, this could have very serious consequences.

    posted by Eric at 09:16 AM | Comments (3)

    crouching tiger, hidden agenda?

    I don't know.

    But yesterday I was very suspicious when I read that a tiger supposedly "jumped" an enclosure said by experts to be impossible for a tiger to jump.

    The story is on the front page of today's Philadelphia Inquirer, and a story at the Inquirer website is now fueling speculation about human error:

    Police Chief Heather Fong said the department has opened a criminal investigation to "determine if there was human involvement in the tiger getting out or if the tiger was able to get out on its own."

    Police said they have not ruled anything out, including whether the escape was the result of carelessness or a deliberate act.

    Fong said officers were gathering evidence from the tiger's enclosure as well as accounts from witnesses and others.

    One zoo official insisted the tiger did not get out through an open door and must have climbed or leaped out. But Jack Hanna, former director of the Columbus Zoo and a frequent guest on TV, said such a leap would be an unbelievable feat, and "virtually impossible."

    "There's something going on here. It just doesn't feel right to me," he said. "It just doesn't add up to me."

    Instead, he speculated that visitors might have been fooling around and might have taunted the animal and perhaps even helped it get out by, say, putting a board in the moat.

    Negligence by a zoo employee would obviously be the most likely cause of the tragedy. But if there was an intentional act, it comes down to a question of why.

    A psychopathic prankster, possibly?

    How about a demented activist who does not believe tigers should be kept in zoos?

    Something about the timing of this statement seems a bit too, um, convenient:

    San Francisco, Calif. -- In the wake of Siberian tiger Tatiana's escape and attack on visitors at the San Francisco Zoo--which left one person dead and two others seriously injured--PETA sent an urgent letter this morning to Manuel A. Mollinedo, executive director and president of the San Francisco Zoo, urging him to phase out the zoo's tiger exhibit.

    Since 1990, there have been more than 220 dangerous incidents in 40 states involving big cats. Four children and 15 adults have lost their lives, and more than 50 others have lost limbs or suffered other injuries after being mauled. The animals involved are victims too--75 big cats, including Tatiana, have been killed because of these incidents.

    Captive tigers are forced to spend their entire lives in barren enclosures, which, on average, are 18,000 times smaller than their natural roaming range, according to an Oxford University study. The study also shows that it is simply impossible for captive tigers to express instinctual behaviors, such as staking out territory in dense forests, choosing mates, running, climbing trees, and hunting. Oxford scientists concluded that big cats--who have extraordinarily complex physical and psychological needs--become neurotic when they are confined.

    "In the past, the San Francisco Zoo made the honorable decision to close its elephant exhibit and send its elephants to a sanctuary," says PETA Director Debbie Leahy. "In light of this latest tragedy, it is time for the zoo to do the right thing once again and protect its animals and the public by phasing out its tiger exhibit."

    Another animal activist claims that the blame lies with people who breed tigers:
    Who knows what happened to this tiger? ... It isn't the tiger's fault. It is the fault of the people breeding these animals in the first place that leads them to be here.
    By that logic, people breeding dogs are responsible for vicious dog attacks, and horse breeders are responsible for people thrown or trampled by horses.

    Here's a report that one or more of the victims may have provoked the attack or enabled the animal to escape:

    The three victims in the fatal tiger attack at the San Francisco zoo may have provoked the tiger into attacking, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

    Officers found a shoe and a trail of blood inside the tiger's cage...

    They found it in that area between the cage gate and the 20 foot moat.

    That's leading them to believe one or more of the tiger's three victim's may have climbed over the wall and dangled their feet into the cage.

    What police don't know just yet is whether it was an accident or they were intentionally trying to provoke the tiger.

    Police and zoo officials holding a press conference this morning at 11:30...That may give us at least some clues.

    I'd like to know more about these "victims." Who are they? And why aren't they being called alleged victims?

    As I tried to make clear during the battle over the Philadelphia Zoo's elephants, it is well known that animal rights activists believe animals should not be in zoos.

    While this is pure speculation, I don't think it is inconceivable that a group of people deliberately tried to free the tiger in the hope of accelerating the animal rights agenda, but the game plan backfired.


    Would that make them martyrs instead of victims?

    Of course, it's entirely possible that the victims were not in any way involved with freeing the cat, and that the criminal culprit(s) are at large.

    UPDATE: More on the deceased alleged victim here:

    "I didn't want to believe it. It's hard to believe that your only son in such a big world is picked for death by a tiger," Carlos Sousa Sr. told the San Jose Mercury News.

    "Unfortunately, he was at the wrong place at the wrong time," he added. "I miss him very much. He's all I have."

    Experts on animals said that the tiger might have been taunted and possibly helped to get free. But cousin Christina Sousa-Habenicht, 27, said she couldn't imagine Carlos doing anything so dangerous.

    "Carlos was not stupid," she said emphatically.

    She described her tall and handsome cousin as a "normal teenager" who played football and basketball and had "a lot of good friends."

    "He wanted to be a deejay," she said with a sad smile. "He took a couple of courses in school to learn how. He used to deejay out of the garage for family parties and he used to mix his father's '70s music with hip hop and rap."

    No sign of AR activism, nor has any evidence been revealed placing him inside the tiger enclosure.

    AND MORE: In repeated accounts like this one, there are references to a shoe and blood having been found by police inside the tiger enclosure. They could spare everyone a lot of speculation by simply disclosing what they probably already know.

    Whose blood? Whose shoes?

    (Sorry, but I get a little impatient when I'm made to wait for news I know is out there.)

    If the zoo closes the tiger exhibit because of this, I think it's an unfortunate sign of the times.

    As there are numerous updates to this post, click to continue below.

    Continue reading "crouching tiger, hidden agenda?"

    posted by Eric at 08:02 AM | Comments (2)

    Faking Sock Puppets

    I hate it when people imitate sock puppets.

    How can you tell the real sock puppets from the fake ones when that happens?

    Inspired by the discussion about Glenn Greenwald at Protein Wisdom.

    H/T Instapundit

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 05:16 AM | Comments (0)

    We'll make static analysis work this time!

    What is it about the left and the refusal to learn from history?

    In an earlier post, I wrote about the refusal to learn about the danger of appeasement, and now I see that the movement to raise taxes on alcohol has not gone away. Far from it. A New York Times report story editorial that Glenn Reynolds links all but demands major new alcohol taxes.

    Great. So the great minds which refuse to learn the lessons of Chamberlain are also adamantly refusing to learn the lessons of Gorbachev.

    Granted, more people know about Chamberlain's Munich appeasement folly than Gorbachev's alcohol tax folly, but would the people who know what's best for us even care that what they propose has been tried and failed?

    When I clicked on the piece Glenn linked, I found not only naked advocacy masquerading as a news report, but no mention of the likely consequences of the action the writer so obviously wants:

    Since the early 1990s, the federal tax on wine -- $1.07 a gallon -- hasn't budged. The taxes on beer and liquor haven't changed either, which means that, in inflation-adjusted terms, alcohol taxes have been steadily falling.

    Each of the three taxes is now effectively 33 percent lower than it was in 1992. Since 1970, the federal beer tax has plummeted 63 percent. Many states taxes have also been falling.

    At first blush, this sounds like good news: who likes to pay taxes, right? But taxes serve a purpose beyond merely raising general government revenue. Taxes on a given activity are also supposed to pay the costs that activity imposes on society. And for all that is wonderful about wine, beer and liquor, they clearly bring some heavy costs.

    Right now, the patchwork of alcohol taxes isn't coming close to covering those costs -- the costs of drunken-driving checkpoints, of hospital bills for alcohol-related accidents and child abuse, and of the economic loss caused by death and injury. Last year, some 17,000 Americans, or almost 50 a day, died in alcohol-related car accidents. An additional 65,000 people a year die from other accidents, assaults or illnesses in which alcohol plays a major role.

    Mr. Cook, besides being a wine lover, has been thinking about the costs and benefits of alcohol for much of his career, and he has come up with a blunt way of describing the problem. "Do you think we should be subsidizing alcohol?" he asks. "Because that's what we're doing."

    The failure to raise taxes is a subsidy?

    Amazing. I always thought subsidies meant payments to producers, but never mind.... This call for tax hikes is static analysis at its absolute worst, and it reminds me of the way Philadelphia bureaucrats keep raising taxes on businesses, then wonder why businesses locate themselves outside the city limits.

    By attempting to analogize alcohol to cigarettes, the article avoids any mention of a very important -- perhaps the most telling -- point.

    Alcohol is -- in one very major respect -- not like gasoline or cigarettes.

    As Gorbachev's commissars learned (and probably should have known), anyone can make it.

    Look, I know I'm repeating myself, but I really think I need to spell it out for the static analysts, so here I go again:

    Home brewing is already a fairly major industry, and if these people are serious about raising beer taxes (as they appear to be), it might be a good time to "get in on the ground floor" as the saying goes.

    Who knows? If they're stupid enough to raise the beer taxes, they might be stupid enough to raise them even higher when the projected revenues don't pan out. Then home brewing would skyrocket, and then they'd really have to raise the taxes. (This process is called static analysis, and it's typical of the bureaucratic mindset.)

    As far as the bureaucrats are concerned, this history lecture is probably a waste of time. Like the people who know that socialism doesn't work, these people also know that prohibition (even in the form of high taxes on alcohol) will not work.

    But hey, if the program doesn't work, it's back to the drawing board for more meetings and more programs. And hiring new people to figure out how to "improve" on the old program.

    If it failed before, and it fails again, we'll just have to keep getting it wrong so we can keep fixing it again.

    It's as silly to ask why they don't learn from past failures as it is to ask why a dog licks its tail. (Or other unmentionable areas.)

    If you don't want a program to work (but want its failures to generate more programs), why, not learning from past failures becomes part of the program.


    Might be a good time to invest in companies that sell brewing and home distillation equipment, and sugar.

    posted by Eric at 05:16 PM | Comments (9)

    Slouching towards altruism

    Something good has come from Will Smith's ill-thought-out Hitler remarks.

    Or can I say that? I sometimes worry that Godwin's Law may be swallowing most Hitler discussions, especially for a yakker like me, because nearly everything I might say about Hitler or Nazis contains something that might be considered an analogy or a comparison. Or (shudder!) even a moral equivalency argument. It's a shame, really. Because I've read many, many books on Hitler and the Third Reich, and I've read even more about Stalin. Yet, I don't feel my internal censor tugging and tsking at me to remove Stalin or Communist references the way I do with Hitler references.

    So I have a dark but true confession: usually I edit out most of the hastily written Hitler and Nazi references, comparisons, and analogies that might initially find their way into these posts. I have to. Because not only is there Godwin's Law, but I regularly invoke Godwin's Law for implicit moral support whenever I attack other people's Nazi or Hitler comparisons. A perfect example was my ridicule of the comparison between RU-486 and Zyklon B. In general, I don't like overwrought political diatribes of any sort -- even when I agree with the conclusions, and the Hitler analogies are usually a sign of desperation. Still, to inject Hitler and the Nazis into any debate is to invite scorn and moral disapproval from anyone who might feel that his "side" is being unjustly compared. So it's best avoided -- even though in my case this means not talking about Nazis.

    I've often felt that the "Hitler=Bush" stuff, while intended as an attack on Bush, actually trivializes Hitler. Trivialization of evil in this manner is a lot more harmful than attacking a hated politician, and I've often wondered whether the people making this comparison realize that to compare Bush to Hitler necessarily compares Hitler to Bush. Thus, they're really acting as Hitler apologists, because they are diminishing the evil role of Hitler in history. (If Bush=Hitler and Guantanamo=Auschwitz, then Hitler=Bush and Auschwitz=Guantanamo. But I don't feel free to say things like that, because people will accuse me of trvialization of trivialization....)

    Bringing up Hitler is a rhetorical mess. Naively or not, Will Smith stepped into it when he was caught saying that Hitler tried to be (or meant to be) good.

    While I think Smith was wrong, I'm glad he spoke his mind, because the remark did present an educational opportunity. When the dust settles, though, I'm afraid that the only thing learned will be along the lines of "Don't Mention Hitler Ever!"

    In a very refreshing essay, Roger Kimball takes a fearless look at Smith's remarks, which he sees as symptomatic of a mindset which tends to sympathize with benevolence-based fanaticism, and what Kimball calls "the imperatives of political correctness and tyranny--between what Robespierre candidly described as 'virtue and its emanation, terror.'":

    That is the conjunction that should give us pause, especially when we contemplate the good intentions of the politically correct bureaucrats who preside over more and more of life in Western societies today. They mean well. They seek to boost all mankind up to their own plane of enlightenment. Inequality outrages their sense of justice. They regard conventional habits of behavior as so many obstacles to be overcome on the path to perfection. They see tradition as the enemy of innovation, which they embrace as a lifeline to moral progress. They cannot encounter a wrong without seeking to right it. The idea that some evils may be ineradicable is anathema to them. Likewise the traditional notion that the best is the enemy of the good, that many choices we face are to some extent choices among evils--such proverbial wisdom outrages their sense of moral perfectibility.
    To Hitler, the Jews had to be eradicated because they stood squarely in the way of human perfectibility. To Stalin it was first the Kulaks, and ultimately, anyone who might possibly pose a threat to Stalin.

    I think it's debatable whether either Hitler or Stalin saw themselves as good. They certainly wanted to be seen that way, because it helped maintain their power. I think the primary difference between them was that Stalin was more of an opportunist, whereas Hitler was a fanatic -- a true believer in his own nonsense. Hitler was possessed of an artistic temperament, and he didn't just want to win; he wanted to be perfect. Or else. Stalin, on the other hand, would in my opinion have been willing to don the swastika and become Hitler's under fuehrer of the East rather than lose all power and his life (something which Hitler perceived quite accurately). The clash between Hitler and Stalin can be seen as a clash between rational, purely opportunistic evil, and irrational, fanatical evil. Stalin's primary mistake (the biggest one he made) was in misjudging Hitler as a rationally evil man like himself. Thus, it was unimaginable that Hitler would act against his own interest and invade Russia. (There were many things Hitler did that were against his interest and driven by sheer fanaticism -- another was to put Jew killing ahead of Germany's military necessity.)

    The idea that either man wanted to truly be "good" evinces not only an ignorance of history, but a John Lennon-like "Imagine" mindset. Are they forgetting that this had been tried and had failed by Chamberlain in Munich? Or don't they even know about Chamberlain and Munich?

    The notion that man is good and humans are perfectible is contradicted by the endless killings of the bad ones by those determined to build a better world. Stalin was smart enough to know better than to believe in his bullshit. Hitler was in the end a true-believing fool. Both attracted hordes of mindless dupes who believed in "goodness," in benevolence, in altruism, so much that they were willing to become executioners in order to achieve a better world.

    The problem with these observations is that by having discussed Hitler in the context of "them" -- that tough-to-define group of people who want to build a better world and will shove their damned better world down our collective throats -- I have run seriously afoul of Godwin's Law.


    Should I take it all back? Maybe go back and substitute Pol Pot and Torquemada?

    Godwin forbid that I might offend.

    Maybe the best way out of this mess is to remember the rule that in the future, everyone will be Hitler for 15 minutes.

    Nah, can't do that either. I'm already running the risk of trivializing the dark side. Guess I should have thought about that before attempting to grapple with the complexities of good and evil in a blog post.

    (Hey, at least I tried to be good....)

    UPDATE: This post by Dr. Helen makes me feel less guilty about my Godwin's Law violations (and Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism looks very interesting.)

    posted by Eric at 10:02 AM | Comments (4)

    Still in the Christmas spirit!

    Earlier today, Coco and I saw a Christmas wreath hanging on a door. Nothing especially unusual about that, except it wasn't a door to a type of building where people usually hang wreaths.

    So we stopped and posed in front of it.


    I don't think Coco fully understands product placement issues, but we can't have everything.

    posted by Eric at 09:54 PM | Comments (4)

    Ha Ha Huckabee, and Ho Ho Hillary

    More words of wisdom from Ann Althouse:

    I don't see myself as the candidate-endorsing sort of blogger.
    Nor do I.

    However, sometimes I see myself as the opposite of the candidate-endorsing sort of blogger.

    My problem is that I just want the Republicans to come up with someone who can beat Hillary (or, for that matter, Obama). And instead of doing that, they seem hell-bent to come up with Huckabee.

    While it's hardly an endorsement, I did contribute money to Giuliani, and more recently, I contributed to Fred Thompson, whose federalism I find refreshing. But if they can't beat Huckabee, how the hell are they going to beat Hillary?

    I guess I'm beginning to hear my Christmas prayer in all of this.

    Dear God, please don't let it be Huckabee versus Hillary.

    For starters, that would be an alliterative abomination.

    (Well, at least it's not an Onomatopoetic Obamanation...)

    Anyway, after considering the election horrors, Bert Prelutsky has nominated Santa Claus:

    Old Saint Nick goes around bestowing gifts on those who haven't worked for them, just like the Democrats, who do the same for the chronically unemployed and illegal aliens. And just as the little people do all the heavy lifting for Santa, the Democrats have their own set of elves; namely the middle-class taxpayers. Furthermore, Santa is obviously a liberal. Even though he, himself, only works one day a year, he thinks he's entitled to decide who's naughty and who's nice.

    Maybe I should rethink my policy of no endorsements....

    AFTERTHOUGHT: I try to be fair about these things, and I don't like to put people down because of their physical appearance. But the fact is, we live in a cruel and superficial, appearance-based world, so a question necessarily arises.

    Does this guy really have the necessary sex appeal it would take to win?


    posted by Eric at 05:05 PM | Comments (3)

    Ethernet Cable Help

    I need to get a 100ft Ethernet indoor (non-plenum) cable with connectors on both ends.

    I have seen such cables on the net for around $10 or much more.

    Are the $10 cables any good? If so where is a good place to buy?

    posted by Simon at 08:51 AM | Comments (16)

    Political Lexicon

    A. Jacksonian has put up a political lexicon for this election season. My favorite?

    A fresh face from Illinois - An individual with Chicago Mob connections running for high office before their Mob connections come to light.

    Go read the whole thing.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 07:15 AM | Comments (0)

    Merry Christmas!

    Gotta run out, and I don't have time for posts (or quality photography) right now.

    But a very Merry Christmas from Coco!


    (And her master, who was unable to leap into the picture in any kind of satisfactory manner.)

    MORE: Here's a slightly different spin on the holiday season:


    UPDATE: I know it is bad manners to add to my host's posts. But I want to wish all our readers and commenters a Merry Christmas. - Simon

    posted by Eric at 04:34 PM | Comments (1)

    FEC Shutdown?

    The Federal Election Commission (FEC) has been shut down. And how did I find this out? I was over at DKOS looking for a Bussard Fusion Post by Roger Fox and came across this one on the FEC. It links to a Washington Post story.

    The federal agency in charge of policing the torrent of political spending during the upcoming presidential primaries will, for all practical purposes, shut its doors on New Year's Eve.

    The Federal Election Commission will effectively go dark on Jan. 1 because Congress remains locked in a standoff over the confirmation of President Bush's nominees to the panel. As a consequence, the FEC will enter 2008 with just two of six members -- short of the four votes needed for the commission to take any official action.

    "There is, in effect, nobody to answer the phone," said Robert F. Bauer, a leading Democratic campaign finance lawyer.

    Although the 375 auditors, lawyers and investigators at the FEC will continue to process work already before them, a variety of matters that fall to the commissioners will be placed on hold indefinitely. Chief among them are deciding whether to launch investigations into possible campaign finance violations and determining the penalties.

    Seven presidential candidates have applied to receive public matching funds for their campaigns, but they may not be able to access the money until the FEC certifies their requests. That takes four votes.

    The national political parties each anticipate an infusion of about $1 million from the U.S. Treasury to help pay for their national conventions. Releasing that money takes four votes.

    So who exactly is behind these shenainans? (Actually I approve of shutting down the FEC. What I object to is changing the rules in the middle of the campaign.) Let's have a look.
    he FEC is composed of three appointees from each party, all nominated by the president. There is already one vacancy, and three recess appointments will expire on Dec. 31.

    The potential for an FEC shutdown has been looming for weeks, as a handful of Democratic senators voiced opposition to one of Bush's nominees to the commission, Hans A. von Spakovsky. Their concern stemmed not from von Spakovsky's work on the FEC but from his tenure in the Justice Department's civil rights division.

    His critics contend that von Spakovsky advocated a controversial Texas redistricting plan and fought to institute a requirement in Georgia that voters show photo identification before being permitted to cast ballots.

    "I am particularly concerned with his efforts to undermine voting rights," Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) said in a statement released in September after he placed a hold on von Spakovsky's nomination. Obama and others gathered more opposition to von Spakovsky's nomination by drawing civil rights advocates into a lobbying effort for its rejection. They attracted the involvement of a number of groups, including the NAACP and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, that typically would not be engaged in a battle over an FEC nomination.

    The blockade worked, but Republican leaders in the Senate countered with one of their own. If von Spakovsky were rejected, they would not allow the two Democratic nominees to be appointed, either.

    "The Democrats have picked their nominees, and we've picked ours," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said as the Senate prepared to recess for the holidays. "What we have here," he said, is "the Democrats trying to veto one of our nominees. That isn't going to happen. They're all four going to go together, or none of them will be approved."

    Ah. Mr Clean Barrack Hussein Obama is at the center of this. Now why would he do something like that? I may have an answer.
    When it comes to federal matching funds, Democrat John Edwards has the most to lose. The FEC certified the payment of the first installment of funds this week, including $8.8 million for Edwards. But matching payments for money he has raised this month, or will receive in subsequent months, may have to wait until the FEC has four members.

    There is debate among campaign finance lawyers about whether matching funds could be released without a formal commission vote, one Edwards campaign official said. Because the next installment of funds would not arrive until after the early primaries, strategists inside the Edwards campaign said they are not worried.

    "We have the necessary resources to wage an aggressive campaign with the funds we currently have on hand," said Eric Schultz, a spokesman for the campaign. "We fully expect the FEC to meet their obligations under the public financing system."

    As senators left town this week, the small community of lawyers and advocates who monitor campaign finance law tried to take stock of the new reality. There will not be total lawlessness, they said. The statute of limitations on most campaign finance violations does not run out for five years, so when the commission is at full strength, it will be able to pursue complaints.

    But the notion of a decapitated agency is not sitting well with many of the nation's top election lawyers.

    "For all of the complaints about the FEC, when it comes to campaign finance law, it is the enforcement agency," said Lawrence Noble, a former FEC general counsel. "We're in the middle of one of the most hotly contested elections in recent years -- where you have a campaign that started so early, where they're raising more money than ever before, where there are new concerns about fundraising and about the bundling of contributions. I think the public would like to know that someone is keeping an eye on all this."

    So, Obama is working to block his rival in the name of "honest government". Right.

    Which made me think of Simon's Law:

    The politician who campaigns hardest on cleaning up corruption is the biggest crook.

    This will not sit well with Edwards supporters. Not well at all.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    Welcome Instapundit readers.

    posted by Simon at 10:58 AM | Comments (5)

    You might think it's a hoax, but read on....

    Further information on the Toshiba mini-reactor can be found here and here...

    A small-scale design developed by Toshiba Corporation in cooperation with Japan's Central Research Institute of Electric Power Industry (CRIEPI) and funded by the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute (JAERI) is the 5 MWt, 200 kWe Rapid-L, using lithium-6 (a liquid neutron poison) as a control medium. It would have 2700 fuel pins of 40-50% enriched uranium nitride with 2600°C melting point integrated into a disposable cartridge. The reactivity control system is passive, using lithium expansion modules (LEM) which give burnup compensation, partial load operation as well as negative reactivity feedback. As the reactor temperature rises, the lithium expands into the core, displacing an inert gas. Other kinds of lithium modules, also integrated into the fuel cartridge, shut down and start up the nuclear reactor. Cooling is by molten sodium, and with the LEM control system, reactor power is proportional to primary coolant flow rate. Refuelling would be every 10 years in an inert gas environment. Operation would require no skill, due to the inherent safety design features. The whole plant would be about 6.5 meters high and 2 meters in diameter.

    For much more, see Brian Wang's postings here and here.

    I can see why people might think it's a hoax. Toshiba's official site has got nothing on it. Nevertheless, it would seem to be legit.

    UPDATE: Title suggested by M. Simon, who has more.

    (Bumped to the top by Eric, in a fit of Christmas Eve altruism.)

    posted by Justin at 09:42 AM | Comments (3)

    When the unusual becomes virtually usual

    Dr. Helen said something with which I can readily identify:

    ...before the internet, I could count on one hand the number of people I felt I had anything in common with.
    That is so true. I feel the same way. The Internet (especially the blogosphere) is great for finding kindred spirits who share similar philosophical outlooks. It is to non-conforming political and philosophical perspectives a bit the way ebay is to finding buyers for unusual items. Once the size of the overall pool is increased, the odds change.

    Human nature (including my own) being what it is, though, it sometimes worries me that this wonderful discovery along the lines of "I am not alone!" might lead to an inaccurate misperception that there are more like-minded thinkers than there are.

    For example, I'm a small "l" libertarian war supporter who loves pit bulls, a monogamous person who believes in maximum sexual freedom, someone who has not consume any illegal drugs but believes they should be absolutely legal, and a constitutional literalist. I lived for decades in both Berkeley, California and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and I used to think that there were very few people like me. Of course, now that I've been writing this blog for over four years and reading countless more blogs, I know that there are others -- many others -- who share life philosophies similar to or quite compatible with mine. I am delighted to say that I have met a number of them and consider them friends.

    This is indeed a wonderful thing. My only concern is that it should not lead me to develop a false sense that there are more like me out there than there really are. This is the real danger that when you surround yourself with like minded people, similar thinkers, and "kindred spirits," you can become insular, isolated, out of touch. So, while nothing could be nicer than knowing there are plenty of others more or less like me, I don't want to lead myself down the garden path into elitism or snobbishness of the sort typified by Pauline Kael's Nixon remark:

    I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don't know....
    I don't know whether the Internet is a rather special world, but I know a lot of people who voted for Bush, and a lot of people who voted for Kerry (as well as a lot of people who voted against Bush, or against Kerry).

    While I think the elitist dangers inherent in surrounding yourself with like-minded thinkers are obvious, and the Internet provides infinite online opportunities to do just that, fortunately its very nature can simultaneously work against the blind, clueless insularity which worries me. Because, anyone willing to make the slightest attempt to see the other side of any argument will readily see that for every virtual community of like-minded souls or thinkers, there are numerous virtual communities of the "unlike-minded." Whatever it is you think or believe, you'll be sure to find plenty of people with diametrically opposing views.

    Some of them might even want to kill you!

    You might consider them foes, and you may even characterize them as "the enemy." As "insane." Or even as "traitors." (OTOH, they're free to characterize you!) You can ignore them, you can ridicule them, or you can say they should all be locked up or shot. For that matter, you might even try to engage them in civil dialog.

    But it's tough to say you didn't know they were there.

    Still, I have to admit that I am human, and I prefer friends to enemies. It may be self delusion, but I like to think the former outnumber the latter.

    (Hey, I'm just going by the poll results!)

    posted by Eric at 09:18 AM | Comments (2)

    OPEC Strategy

    If OPEC is restricting supply all the peak oil hysteria may be unfounded.

    What if their strategy is to keep production restricted encouraging alternatives and then open the valve wide to cause the alternatives to fail economically?

    I wouldn't put it past them.

    Prompted by the discussion at Top Ten Oil Stories Of 2007.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 04:10 AM | Comments (8)

    Dust-up At The Cato Corral

    There's a bit of a back and forth going on over at Cato Unbound regarding the wisdom of pursuing radically longer lifespans. So far, not too many people have been paying attention.

    On the pro side we have Aubrey De Grey and Ron Bailey. Long time readers will no doubt already know that my sympathies lie with their side of the argument.

    On the side of human dignity (and death), we have Daniel Callahan and Diana Schaub. Though I disagree with them, simple honesty forces me to note that both of them are superlative, albeit unwitting, entertainers.

    Sadly though, it appears that Mr. Callahan's heart wasn't really in it. I found his response perfunctory, unreflective, and more than a little sad. We shall leave him for much later, or perhaps never.

    Ms. Schaub however, does not disappoint.

    Here's an example of what I'm talking about. Mr. De Grey made the matter of fact observation that some bioethicists indulge in what amounts to tabloid Socratics...

    A venerable rhetorical tactic in the promotion of fragile positions is to raise in the audience's mind the specter of some terrible consequence of the opposing position without actually spelling it out. Unnerving questions are asked - but then, rather than answers offered, the subject is changed, leaving the concern to fester in the subconscious. The author escapes, however, with the knowledge that if challenges are raised to the validity of these concerns he can resort to the claim that he never actually said that.

    Much the same technique is used in those vulgar TV documentaries about UFO abductions, or demonic posession, and I have seen it again and again in the works of Kass, Schaub, Meilaender, et al.

    One would think that forewarned is forearmed, but in this instance one would be wrong. Ms. Schaub responded with a textbook example of the type. I have edited it to accentuate the point. You can read the entire piece here...

    How would one feel at, say, 370 years of age, contemplating pet number 30-something? The physical energy required for a new puppy is nothing compared to the psychic energy. So, I don't think it's absurd to worry about the effects of extremely long life on our commitments, aspirations, and receptivity to new life and love....

    But how would human relations be affected?

    How would monogamy fare? It's not doing great as it is, but could one even imagine the vow "till death do us part" when death might be nine centuries away?

    If monogamy simply disappears as a promise and an expectation, we might be confronted with the human version of the puppy problem: would there be enough psychic energy for ever-renewed love?

    Life takes its toll on the spirit as well as the body. What would the tally of disappointments, betrayals, and losses be over a millennium?

    Would we love other people more or less than at present?

    Would we be better partners, parents, friends, and neighbors?

    What would it be like to experience the continued vitality of the body in conjunction with the aging of the spirit?

    Would it mean the best of both worlds: the vitality of youth with the wisdom of maturity?

    Or the worst of both worlds: the characteristic vices of age with the strength of will to impose them on others?...

    Since tyranny is an aspiration coeval with political life, we might wonder what the effects of millennial existence would be on the possibilities of tyranny. Would a 1,000-year lifespan also mean 1,000 years of the likes of Stalin -- a Stalin who perhaps uses agelessness (and other biotech discoveries) as a tool of political control?

    Even without the threat of vastly extended tyranny, a nation of ageless individuals could well produce a sclerotic society, petrified in its ways and views.

    Senescence escorts us, more or less gracefully, off the stage, making room for fresh generations.

    Upon reading such a deeply troubling compendium, I sometimes ask myself a deep question of my own. How, in all the wide world, could we possibly get meaningful answers to these questions? I mean, short of going ahead with the program and giving it our best shot? I've tried and tried, but I can't come up with a anything. Can you?

    Lacking answerability, just what is it, exactly, that we're trying to determine? We might just as well ask ourselves what did the Clark's see that night?And what about that mysterious star map? Was the circular pattern of warts on Barney's torso just a coincidence? In either case, all you'll get back is opinion.

    Ron Bailey noted this in his response...

    So what about the social consequences of radically longer and healthier lives? In that regard, Diana Schaub in her reaction essay raises many questions for reflection about those consequences, but curiously she fails to actually reflect on them.

    Schaub isn't "willing to say that agelessness is undesirable," but she simultaneously "can't shake the conviction that the achievement of a 1,000-year lifespan would produce a dystopia."

    She then simply recapitulates the standard issue pro-mortalist rhetorical technique of asking allegedly "unnerving questions" and then allowing them to "fester in the mind." Sadly, all too many bioethicists think they've done real philosophic work by posing "hard" questions, then sitting back with steepled hands and a grave look on their countenances.

    That last was somewhat unfair of Mr. Bailey, who tends to be flippant and irreverant. Actually, I always liked flippant and irreverant. But I wouldn't want any readers to think that Ms. Schaub hasn't done real philosophic work. She is, after all, the author of Erotic Liberalism: Women and Revolution in Montesquieu's "Persian Letters" . And surely the world is a finer place for it.

    And, too, she serves on the President's Council on Bioethics, where I am certain she is doing much social good.

    If I had more time, I would ask Ms. Schaub some questions of my own.

    More on that later.

    posted by Justin at 08:45 PM | Comments (7)

    A Dr. Schaub Christmas Sampler

    First, here's a little bit about her...

    Dr. Schaub earned her bachelor's degree with highest honors from Kenyon College in 1981. Her master's degree and doctorate are from the University of Chicago. Prior to entering academe she was assistant editor of The National Interest magazine in Washington, D.C.

    She is a member of the American Political Science Association, the Society for Greek Political Thought, The Montesquieu Society, and is the author of Erotic Liberalism: Women and Revolution in Montesquieu's "Persian Letters".

    She is also a member of the President's Council on Bioethics, and is currently participating in the Cato Institute's dialogue, "Do We Need Death? The Consequences Of Radical Life Extension". Let's dive right in...

    So, to anyone interested in these issues, I strongly recommend Star Trek, the original series, of course, not any of the second-rate sequels...

    you might expect that the show would be gung-ho for the conquest of nature, including pushing the envelope of our human nature. In fact, however, episodes of Star Trek repeatedly confirm the needfulness of human limitations...

    Many episodes of the show dealt with issues of mortality and immortality. Let me mention just two, an episode entitled "Miri" (a name intentionally reminiscent of Shakespeare's Miranda who delivers the famous line "O brave new world that has such people in't!") and an episode entitled "Requiem for Methuselah"...

    In the first episode...the crew happens upon the results of a Life Prolongation Project that went disastrously awry...All the adults on the planet are dead...The planet is populated entirely by children, who are hundreds of years old...As a result of the Life Prolongation Project, they age one month for every one hundred years of real time, until reaching puberty at which point the virus causes them to age rapidly and horribly.

    The show raises some important considerations...Perhaps most fascinatingly, the episode is premised on the connection between mortality and fertility-a connection highlighted by the Council's report. Apparently, in the research conducted thus far, the most common side-effect of age retardation is sterility or reduced fertility. It seems as if, in pursuing an ageless body, the balance between the individual and the species is altered.

    When we choose vastly longer life for the individual, the propagation of the species is sacrificed...In a sense, the virus is the internal truth of their project, for the virus makes impossible the succession of the generations. Fertility brings with it an immediate sentence of death...Without any power of regeneration, this society of perennial youngsters is slowly dying.

    Actually, that turns out not to be the case.

    It all depends on which intervention strategy you use, and how you use it. Caloric restiction for instance, has been known to shut down fertility, yet it also preserves it. Mice that reached the equivalent of 80 human years of age were still sexually active, and when ad libitum feeding was restored, were still capable of reproducing.

    As well, I believe Dr. Kenyon's researches have turned up some new genetic modifications that have little or no effect on her worms fertility. A ten percent reduction in sex drive in return for a doubled or tripled lifespan? Not really a problem.

    Best for last. The Case Western supermice were not only stronger, hungrier, longer lived, and capable of greater endurance and activity than everyday mice, they were also more aggressive.

    It was evident from the beginning that these mice were very different from average mice. Hakimi commented, "From a very early age, the PEPCK-Cmus mice ran continuously in their cages." She said she could identify which mice were from this new line by simply watching their level of activity in their home cage. Animal behavior studies later demonstrated that the PEPCK-Cmus mice are seven times more active in their home cages than controls; in addition, the mice were also markedly more aggressive.

    "The enhanced level of activity noted in the PEPCK-Cmus mice extends well beyond two years of age; this is considered old-age for mice," the researchers said.

    Perhaps we should call them the Khan Noonien Singh mice. Now, back to our sampler...

    The other episode, "Requiem for Methusaleh," examines another sort of immortality, lest we think that perpetual maturity would be better than perpetual youth. The Enterprise encounters Flint, a 6000 year old man...He was born in 3834 BC, inexplicably endowed with the capacity for instant tissue regeneration. He has lived a thousand different lives...Over the centuries, he has amassed wealth and knowledge. And yet, he is now as cold and unyielding as his name, Flint.

    He is quite prepared to kill the whole crew of the Enterprise in order to protect his privacy...

    Actually, he was prepared to not kill them. Here's an excerpt from the episode itself...

    "You'd wipe out four hundred lives?"

    "I have seen a hundred billion fall! I know death better than any man -- I have tossed enemies into his grasp! And I know mercy; your crew is not dead, but suspended."

    "Worse than dead! Restore them; restore my ship!"

    "In time; a thousand, two thousand years. You will know the future, Captain Kirk."

    Really folks, I can't stress this enough. It always pays to check your primary sources.

    By the way, this episode of Star Trek was written by Jerome Bixby. Perhaps you remember the Twilight Zone episode " It's A Good Life"? He wrote the short story it's based upon, submitted here, for your approval.

    He died, prematurely in my opinion, just a few years ago, and a project that was dear to him has just been released on DVD. It's called "The Man From Earth", and it explores many of the same themes as "Requiem for Methuselah", albeit from a rather different perspective.

    Experientially, it views very much like an extended "Twilight Zone" episode, depending on lots and lots of dialogue in a one room setting to carry the show. Sorry kids, no special effects here! To tell the truth, I actually enjoyed it quite a bit. That's because I'm so sentimental. "Woofie!"

    Perhaps Dr. Schaub should consider adding it to her Netflix list...

    His longevity has rendered him misanthropic...In the end, Flint learns that in leaving Earth's atmosphere, his immortality has been compromised. From now on he will live out a natural lifespan. This knowledge of his mortality immediately improves his character, as he resolves to devote the remainder of his now precious days to helping his fellow man.

    Again, it seems that a major point is being missed. Flint began his many lives as a Sumerian soldier. The 23rd century version that Kirk and Spock deal with is cut from immeasurably finer cloth. He has become a scholar, an inventor, a cultured man who is now capable of sympathy, and of being shamed. The memory of Contantinople during the plague years can still can horrify him, a thousand years on.

    Had he only lived his "first" life, he would have died, as the show itself states, "a bully...and a fool."

    My years watching Star Trek have left me receptive to the view that mortality is, if not precisely a good thing, then at least the necessary foundation of other very good things, and that there is something misguided about the attempt to overcome mortality. Still, one can't help but wonder "what if...?"

    Knowing that Mr. Kass has recently published a book on Genesis, I have just one question. We are told in Genesis that the earliest generations of men, through Noah, had lifespans closer to a millenium than a century. We also know that things ended rather badly for them. While Star Trek's "Methuselah" reforms, the Biblical Methuselah was done away with in the Flood.

    Would greater longevity for modern man result in the same incorrigibility?

    Or do we have more resources now-psychological, political, religious-for dealing with the consequences of longer life?

    Antediluvian man was unfamiliar with death. Perhaps our sense of mortality is sufficiently well-established to allow us to delay the actual blow. So long as we still die, and we know we still die, no matter how far in the future that date is, won't we still have the experience the poet speaks of: "But at my back I always hear / Time's winged chariot hurrying near"?

    And if so, if time still presses us, won't the salutary human responses to death perdure?

    Wouldn't even long-lived men walk the now well-worn paths of transcendence: procreation and poetry, philosophy and faith?

    Since the quest for immortality will never be satisfied through an ageless body, won't human beings still seek participation in the eternal?

    I tinkered a bit with the page layout to emphasize the reliance on questions. I hope nobody minds.True to form, many are asked but none are answered.

    Age retardation is already being pursued with quite remarkable results in animals. Through genetic manipulations, researchers have achieved a sixfold increase in the life span of worms. Genetic manipulations coupled with caloric reduction have produced a 75 percent increase in the life span of mice.

    So now would be the time, before a dramatically extended human life span is on the horizon, to conduct some thought experiments aimed at ascertaining whether longer life holds promise or peril for us.

    Why? We're going to do it anyway.

    The report does this by speculating about possible transformations in our outlook on life and death, our level of commitment and aspiration, and our familial and societal relations. It struck me while reading the report that science fiction has always been a good source of these sorts of thought experiments, and perhaps also that science fiction could help informing the sort of public opinion that will be necessary to stave off some of these developments.

    Emphasis mine. What does "stave off" mean in this context? To slow down? To stop? It seems to me that either course would condemn many people to needlessly premature deaths. Is this a desirable goal? More to the point, is it even achievable? I think not.

    I believe that wishful thinking is merging with hubris here, and that clarity of thought is being crushed to death beneath their mighty hams.

    But what the heck do I know?

    Here's some more graceful poeticism/ tortured metaphore from our eminent guest scholar...

    On the cover of Human Cloning and Human Dignity: The Report of the President's Council on Bioethics is the image of a fingerprint. It's an inspired choice, for the fingerprint, as the Council's Chairman, Leon Kass, explains in the Foreword, "has rich biological and moral significance." The fingerprint is at once emblematic of our common humanity and our individual uniqueness... As Kass points out, fingerprints are the marks left by our grasp on things--a grasp that is sometimes illicit.

    This is why the police know as much about fingerprints as scientists do. And it is why the decisions to be made about cloning are properly political decisions. It belongs to citizens and legislators to police the bounds of the human grasp...

    Again, emphasis mine.

    Let me suggest another metaphoric image that comes to mind while reading the Report: not the fingerprint but the navel, and especially the exercise referred to as "contemplating your navel."

    I hope the readers will forgive me while I indulge in a practice which is disreputable at best. I refer of course to the act of quoting one's own self, and approvingly, no less.

    Perhaps Ms. Schaub could find something definitive in Leviticus, or even The Omega Glory, proscribing such an action. Regardless, I shall press on, since the words are as relevant today as when I first spewed them, squid-like, onto these phosphor-dot pages.

    Fingerprints. Bellybuttons. These people could find equal significance in just about anything. Color me unimpressed. I could say much the same things about a bookcase, with equally little meaning. In fact, just for the hell of it I think I will...

    The vertical members betoken the male, upright societal principles, providing overall structure and a firmly clasping support to the horizontal female elements, or shelves. Encouched upon these uplifting yet supportive planes of well-finished wood (a material itself starkly revealing of the organic and therefore ultimately transient nature of humanly acquired knowledge and its origins) we find the ontological reasons for this embodied integral unity, the books themselves.

    Yet I am not sure of these books. I just don't know if they (if such can be said to constitute a they) can be said to articulate a reason in and of themselves.

    Nestled warm and snug (much like eggs in a nurturing ovary, themselves symbols rich with meaning) upon their shelves, they are revealed as deeper symbols of humanity, or more accurately, humanity's focused volition, or more accurately yet, of volition itself, which leads me to a sober meditation upon why I didn't just say that to begin with.


    It's a gift. I can spin this stuff out by the yard, without even thinking about it, which is perhaps why I hold it in such low esteem. Want another? Sure you do. Just give me a minute here...


    The mystery of the vacuum bottle is concealed within a smoothly reflective shell, giving nothing to the outside observer by giving back everything. Concealed within this cool paradox is the yet more paradoxical core of hot dark nutriment.

    Former life pressed into the service of current life, death enabling growth, it waits decently hidden, behind a curtain-wall of mirrored glass, which is itself encircled and protected by an aegis of tough sheet metal, perhaps with a decorative plaid pattern.

    Such a pattern harkens back to older days and ways, when pastoral peoples wove their own garments and slaughtered their own provender, thus remaining mindful of nature's given order. When one reflects upon the ancient Greek root word (one need merely think of Thermopylae, the "Hot Gates", where the oiled and glistening youths of Sparta formed a muscular, nude bulwark against swathed Persian aggressors), one sees the rooted wisdom of the inventors.

    They named their contrivance for the essential quality of that which is carried within it. Therm. Thermo. Thermos. There is a satisfying fittingness to it. And yet, a thermos can also keep things cool...

    There now. Don't we all feel more thoughtful?

    posted by Justin at 07:21 PM | Comments (0)

    Barsoom: The Reboot

    I see that Glenn Reynolds has been touting S.M. Stirling's latest novel, In The Courts Of The Crimson Kings.

    If you don't feel like waiting until March eighteenth, the first six chapters are available online, for free, right here. From what I've read so far, I think I'll enjoy it much more than The Sky People. Battling Venusian cavemen is okay, I guess, but tales of amazing and decadent super-science truly rock.

    Also, it's nice to see Burroughs lovingly updated for the oughts. I've always rather enjoyed the Bottoms of Barsoom, and I'm not talking about the Folsom Street Fair.

    Though they are rather reddish, come to think of it. Ahem.

    If you're the type who's reluctant to follow a link, here's an excerpt for you. I chose it to illustrate the insidious perils awaiting us in the Brave New World...

    Biotech from this planet was revolutionizing a dozen industries on Earth, from waste disposal to fuel production. The powers-that-were viewed archaeology and cultural studies mainly as a means to get the Martians to cough up their knowledge, and to figure out ways of keeping them from lynching or poisoning or infecting the irritatingly inquisitive Wet Worlders.

    "I just know enough of the cultural ins and outs not to get killed. Yet." With a wry twist to her mouth: "At least they're more likely to listen to you on short acquaintance, you God-damned beanpole."

    The labor gang squatting on the many-footed cargo pallets trotting forward to the flier's freight ramp were the reason for her complaint. They were De'ming, bred for menial labor by the geneticists--or possibly wizards--of the Crimson Dynasty era. They didn't really look like Earth-humans; they were just thick-bodied and short by this planet's standards, enough that they were well within the Terran bell-curve. That was enough to get anyone below six feet perceived as inherently stupid and servile here.

    And I don't like their eyes. There's nobody home there.Their kind had been working with that same placid, witless docility for the last thirty thousand earth-years or so, just smart enough to take simple directions...

    posted by Justin at 03:14 PM | Comments (0)

    cop targets wrong house for home invasion

    In what I hope is just an isolated incident, an eleven year veteran Philadelphia police officer has been arrested after allegedly participating in a home invasion in nearby Montgomery County, then leading police on a 130 m.p.h. chase:

    Malik Snell, an 11-year veteran of the police department, was the alleged getaway driver after the home invasion turned violent, Ferman said yesterday. Ferman said Snell led Pottstown police on a chase that reached 130 m.p.h.

    Philadelphia police said Snell was suspended for 30 days with intent to dismiss. Snell has been a police officer since 1996, according to city payroll records. He is assigned to the 18th District in West Philadelphia.

    The break-in took place after midnight on Rowland Street in Pottstown, Ferman said. Snell waited in an SUV while his brother-in-law, Tyree Aimes, also of Philadelphia, and Stephon Gibson, forced their way inside the property, she said.

    Ferman said the men were looking to retaliate against someone they thought had stolen money from a friend of theirs who was a drug dealer.

    Apparently, the men picked the wrong address and broke into the apartment of a couple who were not involved, Ferman said. Aimes and Gibson beat the couple at gunpoint and fled, Ferman said. Snell and Aimes left in the SUV; Gibson was left behind, she said.

    Pottstown police were soon in pursuit of Snell's vehicle, traveling north on Route 422. The high-speed chase spilled into Berks County, where Exeter Township police tried to lay out spike strips to stop the SUV.

    More here. While it's bad enough to think that the cop was the getaway driver, absent from both reports is a more chilling detail which found its way into Fox News:
    The victim of a home invasion and robbery tells Fox Philadelphia a police officer was one of the men who tied his girlfriend up with an iron cord.

    Investigators say Philadelphia Officer Malik Snell was an active participant in a robbery and break-in in Pottstown over the weekend. It's also believed he drove the getaway car for two other men involved in the crime.
    Homeowner Stephen Stackhouse spoke first with Fox's Sharon Crowley.

    "They came in, grabbed me by my throat, pushed me to the wall and told me to get down," said Stackhouse.

    Stackhouse eventually broke free and called police. He says while he did that, Snell went to upstairs and tied up his girlfriend with the cord from an iron.

    "They belong in jail. I don't care if he's a cop," said Stackhouse.

    And suppose he'd not been caught. How many other crimes might the man have committed? Will we ever know how many of them might have been committed under color of police authority?

    This is the sort of thing which typifies police in Third World countries.

    I'm ashamed to see it in Philadelphia, and I sincerely hope it's not a trend.

    (Of course crooked cops and the war on drugs go hand in hand.)

    UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and a warm welcome to all.

    Any ideas, I'd love to hear them.

    MORE: M. Simon points out that this web site features a weekly "corrupt cops section."

    UPDATE: James Fulford at VDARE thinks this is about race:

    ...the important point here is that the Philadelphia cop who was allegedly assisting in a home invasion robbery was named Malik Snell, and his associates are called Tyree Aimes, and Stephon Gibson. What that means is that they're African-Americans. There is actually a photograph available at, Philadelphia: Philadelphia Cop Arrested In Home-Invasion, Chase, December 18, 2007. That means this isn't a "bad cop" story, it's also "black crime" story-if you know that the suspects are black.
    Absent a racial motive in the crime (none appears), I don't see why the race of the suspects would matter any more than it would if they were white.

    In fact, if the officer had been white, I'd have said exactly the same thing. Corruption in law enforcement -- especially when it involves vice -- was alive and well when police departments were mostly all white, and I don't think the race of the officers changes anything.

    posted by Eric at 12:50 PM | Comments (5)

    How the Democrats must love the Republican "base"

    Is there any way for me to avoid having to write about Mike Huckabee?

    It's one thing to contemplate an Obama versus Romney race, but Huckabee versus Obama?

    Right now, the polls show Obama defeating him by more than 10 points. Interestingly, he does better against Hillary (losing only a six point spread -- which does not bode well for Hillary Clinton vis-a-vis Barack Obama.)

    Seriously, I try to stay on top of political developments, but the Huckabee surge is as deeply disturbing as it is irrational and incomprehensible. I previously called him a "flash in the pan," but was I wrong?

    Is the Republican Party hell-bent on slittting its collective wrists?

    Rick Moran takes a long and thoughtful look at the Huckabee phenomenon, arguing that this represents the long predicted party crackup, and he concludes that if Huckabee wins, it will be nose-holding time for Republicans edged out by those who claim to be "the base":

    The party now finds itself in a dilemma; defeat Huckabee and risk alienating the base of the party or embrace the former governor of Arkansas and risk losing big in the general election. While the latter is not written in blood, the former is a sure thing. And that's why in the end, if Huckabee wins through and captures the nomination, I suspect the libertarians, the federalists, the anti-porkers, and the hawks will end up holding their nose and supporting him.
    As someone with years of experience in holding my nose, I can probably hold it again, and maybe supplement it with a barf bag. But this really shouldn't be a question of libertarianism versus social conservatism. To win an election, everyone has to give something up. Typically, this means agreeing on someone who has enough broad appeal to the center that he can capture the "great silent majority" of voters who don't vote in primaries, but whose votes simply have to be captured in general elections.

    I don't see how Huckabee can do that. Even if we discount completely whether his religious conservatism is palatable to the majority, he's a documented flip-flopper on many issues, he is ridden with conflicts of interest, and his foreign policy knowledge is pathetic. So pathetic that I agree with Ann Althouse that it alone should have doomed his candidacy.

    And frankly, when I find myself screaming "RIGHT ON!" to the words of Rush Limbaugh (a social conservative with whom I often disagree), it's a barometer that something is not right.

    The Democrats must be drooling in anticipation.

    (I guess I can always cling to the hope that their base is nuttier, and that the GOP base will wise up before it's too late.)

    UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking this post, and a warm welcome to all. Comments welcome.

    Earlier Glenn linked Bill Quick, who says it's going to be Huckabee, he's going to lose, and it's going to be ugly:

    Obama and the young hustler, John Edwards, for the Dems, and Huckabee and Some Sacrificial Lamb for the GOP, with the Donks winning in a landslide.

    It's going to be an ugly four years, folks.

    I hope he's wrong, but the problem is, I'm afraid he might be right, and if I said what Bill said I'd hope I was wrong.

    (It gets a little tedious hoping to be wrong, though.)

    Also, more on the Rush Limbaugh kerfluffle here.

    posted by Eric at 12:04 PM | Comments (12)

    Small Fission Reactors

    There has been a rather interesting discussion in the comment section of a recent post here about the advent of small fission reactors for local power generation.

    Lets start with this link to Next Energy News. First thing let me say that Next Energy news has had false reports from time to time and it is also heavily involved in fringe science such as zero point energy. Here is what they have to say:

    Toshiba has developed a new class of micro size Nuclear Reactors that is designed to power individual apartment buildings or city blocks. The new reactor, which is only 20 feet by 6 feet, could change everything for small remote communities, small businesses or even a group of neighbors who are fed up with the power companies and want more control over their energy needs.

    The 200 kilowatt Toshiba designed reactor is engineered to be fail-safe and totally automatic and will not overheat. Unlike traditional nuclear reactors the new micro reactor uses no control rods to initiate the reaction. The new revolutionary technology uses reservoirs of liquid lithium-6, an isotope that is effective at absorbing neutrons. The Lithium-6 reservoirs are connected to a vertical tube that fits into the reactor core. The whole whole process is self sustaining and can last for up to 40 years, producing electricity for only 5 cents per kilowatt hour, about half the cost of grid energy.

    Toshiba expects to install the first reactor in Japan in 2008 and to begin marketing the new system in Europe and America in 2009.

    No control rods OK. Good from a safety standpoint to avoid control rods in nukes. They can be a hazard as I will discuss below. However the question you have to ask is: how do they keep the reactor from running during shipment? There must be some method. What it is Next Energy doesn't say. Another important question is about the liquid lithium. It is highly reactive and corrosion will be a problem. The US Navy quit using liquid metal cooled reactors for that very reason. A third question is: is this just a heat producer or is electrical generation also part of the package? If there is electrical generation there is no mention of how it is done. If it is just a heat generator then it is most likely that water is used as the coolant. This is where the liquid lithium causes real problems. If the water is heated above the boiling point it will have to be pressurized. That means a heat exchanger. If the lithium comes in contact with the water in the heat exchanger (or any where else) there will be at minimum corrosion and possibly a chemical explosion. Not good.

    So let us see if we can find out more. Instapundit is also covering this story and provides some links.

    Discarded Lies has some stuff on it and a link to a story from 2005. 2005? Yep. It must be a hot story. Latest news. etc. Well, what do they have to say?

    The small town of Galena, Alaska, is tired to pay 28 cents/kwh for its electricity, three times the national average. Today, Galena "is powered by generators burning diesel that is barged in during the Yukon River's ice-free months," according to Reuters. But Toshiba, which designs a small nuclear reactor named 4S (for "Super Safe, Small, & Simple"), is offering a free reactor to the 700-person village, reports the New York Times (no reg. needed). Galena will only pay for operating costs, driving down the price of electricity to less than 10 cents/kwh. The 4S is a sodium-cooled fast spectrum reactor -- a low-pressure, self-cooling reactor. It will generate power for 30 years before refueling and should be installed before 2010 providing an approval by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
    Well there is some very interesting stuff there. Like sodium cooling. As I said. Next Energy is not very reliable when it comes to news stories. That fast spectrum stuff is a point against it as well. It means no moderator in the reactor. Which is good. It also means that it is harder to control due to the fact that a fast spectrum reactor produces fewer delayed neutrons. Delayed neutrons are what make a reactor controllable. Maybe I can find more about this with further effort.

    Here is another link from Instapundit Alaska Village Moves from Diesel to 'Micro-Nuke'. Note this story is from 2005.

    The design is described as inherently safe, but it does have one riskier feature: It uses liquid sodium, not water, to draw heat away from the core, so the heat can be used to make steam and then electricity.

    Designers chose sodium so they could run the reactor about 200 degrees hotter than most power reactors, but still keep the coolant depressurized. (Water at that temperature would make steam at thousands of pounds of pressure a square inch.) The problem is that if sodium leaks, it burns.

    So it does have a steam generator and a steam powered electrical plant. And they are going to keep all this sealed for 30 years with no maintenance? I don't believe it.
    Toshiba calls its design the 4S reactor, for "super-safe, small and simple." It would be installed underground, and in case of cooling system failure, heat would be dissipated through the earth. There are no complicated control rods to move through the core to control the flow of neutrons that sustain the chain reaction; instead, the reactor uses reflector panels around the edge of the core. If the panels are removed, the density of neutrons becomes too low to sustain the chain reaction.
    Ah. So they do have to control the sucker. What do you use to reflect fast spectrum neutrons? Uranium is traditional. Peachy. Neutrons absorbed in the uranium will tend to produce Plutonium. This is a feature not a bug. However, the use of Uranium as a reflector is just speculation. Maybe we can find out how it is really done. BTW this reactor seems to have a lot in common with an early American reactor (don't you just love the finish on the wood?) called Clementine which dropped a reflector to shut down the reactor in an emergency.

    The Alaska Journal from Dec. 2004 has a few words.

    The analysis showed that, presuming the nuclear battery went into operation in 2010, by 2020 it could supply electricity to Galena for 5 to 14 cents a kilowatt hour (kWh), assuming the reactor is a gift from Toshiba and the community pays only operating costs.

    In comparison, improved diesel generation could provide Galena power for 25 cents to 35 cents per kWh. Coal-fired power comes in as a serious alternative in the study, at 21 cents to 26 cents per kWh, Chaney told the mining group. A small coal-powered plant could use coal extracted from a thick coal seam about 12 miles from the community.

    The nuclear option looks good even if Galena were to pay for the reactor. In that case the power costs were estimated at 15 cents to 25 cents per kWh in the study, Chaney said. Toshiba has estimated the cost of the 4S reactor at $25 million. Galena's power is now 28 cents per kWh.

    However, the nuclear costs vary so much because of uncertainty over the number of security guards the federal NRC may require at the site, Chaney said. Toshiba told SAIC that if the NRC's current regulations are followed, 34 security guards would be needed at the Galena site.

    Chaney said a terrorist attack in a small, isolated rural community like Galena is unlikely because an unknown outsider would quickly be recognized. The 4S unit would be encased under several feet of concrete, "and if people show up with jackhammers, everyone in town will be aware of it."

    A more appropriate staffing for security might be 4 guards, augmented by a state trooper and Galena city police who are nearby, Chaney said. If the NRC accepts that, the operating costs will be low enough to deliver electricity for 5 cents, according to the study.

    They must be getting those guards for minimum wage. i.e. 5¢ a KWh for a 200 KW reactor is $10 an hour fully burdened. A real confidence builder that. I wonder if they get vacation pay?

    I looked around and couldn't find a thing on this from Toshiba. None of the sites have a link to the Toshiba so I can get actual detailed technical explanations. I wonder why?

    So let us go back in history and look at one of the first small nukes. It was a different design from the Toshiba nuke, but its history is very interesting. The small Army nukes didn't work out so well. The rods were manually operated. Which led to America's first nuclear accident with fatalities. There were three guys in the reactor bldg. One of them was banging one of the other guy's wife. The guy whose wife was getting it from his "friend" yanked a rod from the SL-1 reactor and caused a melt down. Murder/suicide. The rod itself was propelled by the steam explosion through the yanker's stomach and pinned him to the ceiling. I saw the pictures. Ugly. The other guys were killed as well. Clean up was a real mess. I was in Idaho in winter of '65/'66 at Naval Nuke Power School when the story was still fresh. None of the sites I have visited mentions the social situation. Except for the suicide explanation without details. Well any way, an object lesson to be careful around nukes.

    You can look up the SL-1 accident. A site called Brain Candy casts doubt on the social situation theory.

    Now a days we have terrorists. How do you protect 10,000 of these suckers from terrorism?

    The proliferation of small nukes is the stupidest idea I have ever heard. I want big nukes with lots of armed guards and heavy material barriers.

    The Navy quit using sodium cooled reactors because they were prone to corrosion leaks in the steam generator. The gas cooled ML-1 didn't work out well either.

    The problem with nukes is that they have many years worth of energy stored in them. Not so with fusion plants. Let us hope we get working fusion before too many of these jobs get built and distributed. Like this possibility: Easy Low Cost No Radiation Fusion.

    I could see such nukes used in a guarded industrial processes. Sitting unguarded in your local neighborhood? Too risky. Once you add guards the cost of electricity goes way up because of the low capacity. Not enough KWhs to spread the cost sufficiently. You are back in the price range of oil plus you have all the problems of nukes. Plus the Alaskans are getting the reactor for the cost of the fuel. Suppose they had to pay for everything? Not much left over advantage.

    It makes no sense.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 11:40 AM | Comments (5)

    My seconding of Maureen Dowd's giant seconding sound!

    Who is responsible for what Maureen Dowd says in her column? I'd like to give credit where credit is due, and I don't just mean the link. While I saw it this morning, I now see that Glenn Reynolds linked it late last night. He liked the "humiliating Hillary and lighting an exploding cigar when things are going well" part, but the whole thing is a hoot.

    It's almost as if [Hillary's] offering herself to Clinton supporters as the solution to the problem of the 22nd Amendment.

    Bill is a narcissist, but he's also within his rights to think that she has invited him onstage. If she is his legacy, why should he muzzle himself? After all, you can't ask Elvis to behave like Colonel Parker.

    If voting for Obama is a roll of the dice, as Bill suggests, voting for Billary is a sure bet: an endless soap opera.

    OK, I couldn't agree more.

    But there's a problem right there with my not being able to agree more, because I have devoted no less than two blog posts to Hillary Clinton and the 22nd Amendment issue. In one of them, I quoted Ann Althouse, on the question of whether Hillary's support among women "represents 'a hunger to make history':

    I don't believe it... unless the "history" in question is: first President to make an end run around the 22nd Amendment.
    As I said, I couldn't second that enough, and as I can't get enough of my not being able to second that enough (especially now that it's been seconded by Maureen Dowd), I'm going to go out of my way and second (for the second time) my inability to second it enough:
    I can't second that enough! That's exactly what this race is. A tawdry and tacky solution to a constitutional inconvenience:
    I'm sorry, but the idea of a wife of a president who could never become president on her own becoming president as an end-run around the Constitution is cheap, tawdry, and above all tacky.

    From a feminist perspective, it is insulting and degrading for women. But the feminists don't especially care how they smash the Last Glass Ceiling.

    I realize that it is more than repetitive to second the seconding of yourself seconding someone else, but I hope readers will indulge me, as this is not only a special occasion, but a doubly special one. After all, not only are we talking about seconding views of the 22nd Amendment, but the Dowd column was posted on the 22nd of December. That's a lot of 2s!

    But the question of who should be seconding whom goes to my question of who is responsible for Maureen Dowd's views. Am I agreeing with Maureen Dowd? Or is Down agreeing with me, and Ann Althouse (and doubtless countless others who take a dim view of Hillary's wink-wink Second Term Twenty Second Amendment Distress Candidacy)?


    Maybe that's too much of a mouthful.

    Should I have said maybe "Hillary's wink-wink 2nd Term 22nd Amendment Distress Candidacy"?

    And what about the "soap opera" bit? Is that genuine Dowd?

    Or is it Dowd as Limbaugh? How about Dowd as Surber?

    I have to say, it was gratifying this morning to see some of my own thoughts echoed (if not seconded) by a left wing feminist.

    Let me go on record as being at least the second to second the seconding of the "second term" 22nd Amendment second rate candidacy!

    posted by Eric at 10:22 AM | Comments (3)

    More Than One

    Small Times is reporting the development of a solar cell that can deliver more than one electron for each photon absorbed.

    Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), collaborating with Innovalight, Inc., say they have shown that a new and important effect called Multiple Exciton Generation (MEG) occurs efficiently in silicon nanocrystals. MEG results in the formation of more than one electron per absorbed photon.

    Silicon is the dominant semiconductor material used in present day solar cells, representing more than 93% of the photovoltaic cell market. Until this discovery, MEG had been reported over the past two years to occur only in nanocrystals (also called quantum dots) of semiconductor materials that are not presently used in commercial solar cells, and which contained environmentally harmful materials (such as lead). The new result opens the door to the potential application of MEG for greatly enhancing the conversion efficiency of solar cells based on silicon because more of the sun's energy is converted to electricity. This is a key step toward making solar energy more cost-competitive with conventional power sources.

    This is very helpful except for one minor point. The wavelength of the absorbed light is required to be 420 nm or less. This is in the ultraviolet. There is not a lot of ultraviolet at the earth's surface. The atmosphere absorbs most of it. However, it is a step in the right direction and it will definitely help with solar satellite arrays. There is a lot of ultraviolet available in space.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 08:55 AM | Comments (0)

    Preferential treatment for homeless dogs

    Clayton Cramer has a good post about Homelessness, Mental Illness, & Medical Costs.

    While it's well known that "homeless" is often code language for mentally ill people with bad hygiene, a lot of people don't realize the amount of money which is wasted on people in need of longterm care, but who instead tax society's resources by consuming piecemeal emergency "treatment."

    Especially ambulances. Just ask San Francisco paramedic Niels Tangherlini:

    "...I don't want to get into a war with the advocates, but I strongly disagree. We get some of these guys into supportive housing and they can't handle it."

    And most of all, Tangherlini thinks that the current system of support, where a 911 call sends an ambulance rushing out to treat someone who is likely to be a "chronic inebriant," is an ongoing disaster. Some of those who call clearly need medical care, but many are using the ambulance and the Fire Department as a personal taxi to the emergency room. He says it is stressing the system, the care providers and the city's financial well-being.

    So who is Tangherlini, and how can he say these things?

    On one hand, Tangherlini is a local success story. A paramedic with the Fire Department, Tangherlini went back to school for a degree in social work, then pitched the city on his idea that, instead of an ambulance and fire truck, "what a lot of these people need is a van with a paramedic and a social worker."

    Here's Cramer's conclusion:
    The pleasant little theory about deinstitutionalization was that the severely mentally ill would end up back in their communities, receiving community-based psychiatric treatment. It didn't happen, because many of the mentally ill are not sufficiently well--or at least, not consistently so--to hunt up all the social services that they need to keep from freezing to death, or dying of pneumonia, or getting murdered by either other mentally ill homeless people, or common thugs looking for a thrill. As much as the mental hospitals of the 1950s were denigrated as horrible institutions, they at least simplified the providing of basic services to many of the most seriously disturbed parts of our society. What we are doing today in places like San Francisco is not only cost inefficient, it is profoundly inhumane.
    Inhumane is exactly what it is. I remember riding the New York subway once and being overcome by the stench of a man who was sleeping on five or six seats. The car was nearly empty, and people kept moving out of it and into other cars simply because the foul smell of rotten vomit and fecal material was strong enough to make a normal person wretch. (Really, the people leaving looked like they were going to get sick if they stayed.)

    "We'd never treat a dog that way!" I remember thinking at the time.

    And we wouldn't. Because, to our enlightened way of thinking, dogs have the right to be cared for when they are clearly unable to care for themselves, whereas humans don't. In the name of some perversion of "rights" theory, humans are allowed to rot away in public places, because society has no right to help people who are clearly unable to take care of themselves if they are unwilling to accept help.


    I'm wondering why the animal rights people don't make the same argument about dogs. Why isn't the argument made that they have just as much right to live in squalor and disease in the streets as people do? Don't "rights" work that way? Or is it the old "some animals are more equal" thing?

    (I don't have the answer. It's just one of life's many contradictions.)

    posted by Eric at 04:52 PM | Comments (6)

    Bussard Fusion Update

    The New Mexican has some interesting news about the progress on Bussard Fusion Reactor.

    Last August, as Bussard was losing his battle with cancer, the funds were restored with the support of Alan Roberts, EMC2's longtime Navy contract monitor. The company now has $1.8 million to pursue his work. If it is successful verifying the 2005 results, it would seek funding for a full-scale model, big enough to make net power, Nebel said. Bussard has estimated that such a demonstration model would cost about $200 million to build.

    "Unless somebody can repeat and show other people that it's operating, it's really not scientifically acceptable," Hirsch said. But "if the idea works the way he thinks it could, and there's a good chance he's right, it will not take very big machine to show net energy."

    The latest device, WB-7 (the WB refers to the children's toy Wiffle Ball), is currently under construction at a machine shop in San Diego and will be shipped to Santa Fe, where a small group of scientists is setting up a testing facility in an office park off Rufina Street. The device, like previous ones, was designed by engineer Mike Skillercorn.

    "These are garage-scale experiments," said Nebel, pointing to the stock tank purchased at a local feed store. "We shop at interesting places," he added, mentioning both Home Depot and the Black Hole in Los Alamos.

    Although Europeans are building a huge device to demonstrate the scientific and technical feasibility of fusion power, the U.S. has spent relatively little -- about $300 million a year -- on fusion research. Much of that has been focused on a competing idea called Tokamak, a program that Bussard and Hirsch started at the Atomic Energy Commission in the 1970s, which uses deuterium and tritium as fuel. Later both determined that the concept, which produces a lot of radioactivity, was impractical from an engineering standpoint.

    With his own device, Hirsch said, Bussard was "swimming upstream as far as fusion community was concerned." Still, he was able to get about $14 million in funding from the Navy for his work.

    Bussard felt enormous pressure to solve the fusion problems. In a letter to an Internet forum on his 2005 results, Bussard wrote that he believed that "the survival of our high-tech civilizations depends on getting off of fossil fuels ASAP, and -- if we do not -- we will descend into a growing series of 'oil wars' and energy confrontations that can lead only to a huge cataclysm. Which CAN be circumvented if only we build the clean fusion machines in our time."

    That is one of the reasons I support this research. Civilization depends on it.
    Nearly a year after shutting down the lab, Bussard presented his work -- for the first time in more than a decade -- to the International Astronautical Congress. He later discussed his results with Google, the online search engine company in a talk titled, "Should Google Go Nuclear?" that is widely available on the Internet. Before his death, he also set up a nonprofit organization to solicit donations to restart the work. Information is at

    Bussard's wife, Dolly Gray, who co-founded EMC2 with him in 1985 and served as its president and CEO, has helped assemble the small team of scientists in Santa Fe. Besides Nebel, 54, the group includes Jaeyoung Park, a 37-year-old physicist who is also on leave from LANL; Mike Wray, the physicist who ran the key 2005 tests, and Wray's brother, Kevin, who is the computer guru for the operation.

    "If this works, it's going to be a big deal. It could take the entire energy market," Nebel said. "And drag the oil companies into the 21st century," Gray added.

    Someday, they said, if they're right, a machine just 20 times bigger than the one sitting in the corner on Parkway Drive could run the city of Santa Fe.

    Park and Nebel [pdf] are the researchers who discovered the POPS effect which was corroborated in part by computer simulations done at MIT by McGuire[pdf] and Dietrich[pdf].

    I estimate we will see the results of these experiments some time between March and May of the coming year. I have my fingers crossed.

    The New Mexican article has a great review of Dr. Bussard's life. You should go and read the whole thing.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 03:26 PM | Comments (3)

    In Passing

    This one is for all those who who have lost some one dear this year. I have lost a couple of people who fall in that category. Have a good cry and pick up the song and the dance.

    Triticale R.I.P.
    Dr. Bussard has died.

    posted by Simon at 01:16 PM | Comments (1)

    Running On Empty

    Fourmilog: None Dare Call It Reason has a review up of the book Energy Victory. It is all about how making our vehicles easier to use with various liquid fuels would get us off our dependence on imported oil. Here is the money quote:

    Here we have an optimistic, pragmatic, and open-ended view of the human prospect. The post-petroleum era could be launched on a global scale by a single act of the U.S. Congress which would cost U.S. taxpayers nothing and have negligible drag on the domestic or world economy. The technologies required date mostly from the 19th century and are entirely mature today, and the global future advocated has already been prototyped in a large, economically and socially diverse country, with stunning success. Perhaps people in the second half of the 21st century will regard present-day prophets of "peak oil" and "global warming" as quaint as the doomsayers who foresaw the end of civilisation when firewood supplies were exhausted, just years before coal mines began to fuel the industrial revolution.
    We are very far from running out of energy resources. And if this can be made to work: Bussard Fusion Reactor we will be good for the next 10,000 years at least.

    H/T Instapundit.

    posted by Simon at 12:58 PM | Comments (0)

    Top Energy Stories of 2007

    R-Squared Energy Blog has a list of his top ten energy stories of 2007. Interestingly none of his top ten includes wind.

    Here is his list:

    1. Oil price soars as media becomes Peak Oil aware
    2. Criticism of biofuels mounts
    3. The Chevy Volt is announced
    4. Nanosolar begins to deliver
    5. LS9 starts up
    6. Range Fuels breaks ground
    7. First application for US nuclear plant in 30 years
    8. Carbon capture & sequestration moves forward
    9. Progress on next generation biofuels
    10. US Navy funds Bussard Fusion

    Go read the whole thing for more details. Of course if Bussard Fusion interests you I have focused my attention on that here:

    Bussard Fusion Reactor
    Easy Low Cost No Radiation Fusion
    Bussard Fusion Reactor Funded

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 11:52 AM | Comments (0)

    the holiday gift hump

    Here's a great gift idea for he or she who has everything -- a USB humping dog!

    I never saw a dog that wanted to hump a USB port, but then, I can't keep up with today's trends.

    They have a picture of the little guy in action -- doing his thing on the edge of someone's laptop while making utterances in a strange language:


    I'm assuming the pup limits itself to dry humping. Too much realism might ruin the keyboard.

    posted by Eric at 11:38 AM | Comments (0)

    Look For The Union Label

    Michael van der Galien is reporting on the latest news from Amsterdam's red light district.

    The Red Light District is a neighborhood in Amsterdam where women sit, barely dressed, behind windows, while trying to persuade passersby to come inside to have some good ol' fun. Most of these women are from Eastern Europe, and, contrary to prejudice, beautiful. They wear incredibly revealing clothes; their beautiful, long legs are spread out as if they want to welcome you... OK, sorry about that, what I mean to say is: it's the prostitute district.

    Sadly for those of us who like to look at beautiful women - and even sadder for those who actually want to use their services - Amsterdam has decided to clean up the neighborhood. This week, Amsterdam Mayor Job Cohen said that prostitution and drugs shouldn't be made illegal, but that he nonetheless wants to shut down the "shops" where prostitutes are sitting behind windows. This, of course, is exactly what made the Red Light District so famous.

    The reason for the decision to clean up the city is that the approach taken back in 2000 isn't working. Back then the city (and government) decided to legalize prostitution. They hoped that this would improve the conditions under which prostitutes worked and that criminals would make less money off these women.

    Sadly, the plan didn't quite work out so well.

    Cohen himself explains: "We want in part to reverse it, especially with regard to the exploitation of women in the sex industry." He added that "[w]e have seen in the last years that women trafficking has been becoming more [prevalent], so in this respect the legalizing of the prostitution didn't work out."

    It has been my belief for quite some time that making prostitution legal would reduce the trade to those women who actually wanted to work in it. I thought that the illegality was keeping some prostitutes from coming forward to the police about their personal situation. Sadly I was mistaken.
    "The city will force escort services and 'security' firms for prostitutes, which usually are not registered businesses, to obtain a license, a fixed address and telephone line, and subject them to financial auditing," Cohen told reporters.

    Such a move would result in a decrease in sex tourism, however, which means that the city will earn less money, at least in the short run. As a result, some citizens oppose the plans. Prostitute unions (yes, they've got their own unions down here) are especially unhappy.

    Red Thread (one such union) spokeswoman, Metje Blaak, told the AFP, that "[s]ome 200 jobs are threatened." She went on to say: "The situation will not get better for the women."

    Sadly for Mrs. Blaak, cracking down on prostitution won't make life as such more difficult for the prostitutes themselves, but for their pimps and other criminals who get rich by exploiting these women.

    This is so sad. However, reality is what it is. As Michael points out.
    But other cities aren't following in Amsterdam's footsteps. This means that sex tourists can come to one of the other cities mentioned in this article if their wives aren't enough for them and if they are willing to spend money to have sex with a woman who had sex with approximately 500 other men.

    In the end, no matter what the government does, the oldest profession will never disappear. We can push it back into the shadows, and we can limit the damage it does - directly and indirectly - to society, but we will never succeed in completely erasing it from our cities.

    If only Americans could see it that way. It is difficult to help people forced to live in the shadows. They are hard to find.

    And as long as I'm at it. What about the War On Drugs? The same applies.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 10:05 AM | Comments (4)

    A Little Walking Around Music
    posted by Simon at 09:33 AM | Comments (1)

    Rushing through the contractions of the solstice

    I'm seriously overwhelmed by last minute Christmas stuff, and while it's my own fault, there won't be much time for blogging until later today.

    On the bright side, at least it's the shortest day of the year.

    The solstice will occur tonight at 1:08 a.m. EST. 11:08 p.m. in Utah. And if I'm lucky, I won't turn into a shriveled pumpkin like the one on my front porch.


    Expresses my mood perfectly!

    UPDATE: Er, maybe that should be a flashback. Anyway, Tim Maguire wanted a "before" picture, and I'm happy to oblige:


    posted by Eric at 09:42 AM | Comments (1)

    4-year-old dies from "epidemic"

    Well, that's what it says in the paper.

    What's the epidemic?

    Guns, of course. The 4-year-old found his father's gun, and shot himself with it:

    Yesterday afternoon, Nahdirah Jaamar dropped by a rowhouse on Salford Street to pick up her younger brother and ran into her 4-year-old cousin, Dyshon Boyd, a boisterous toddler that family members called "Pooh Bear."

    Dyshon gave Jaamar, 15, a big hug and a kiss, and ran off.

    Roughly a half-hour later, the 4-year-old lay dying from an apparently self-inflicted bullet wound, another young victim of Philadelphia's gun epidemic.

    If you read the story carefully, you will see that the gun is clearly made out to be the culprit. It's, well, it's really as if the gun shot the boy all by itself:
    . Police said Dyshon shot himself once in the throat about 4:50 p.m. inside the Southwest Philadelphia rowhouse belonging to a grandmother and great-grandmother.

    The toddler was rushed to Children's Hospital of Philadelphia but was pronounced dead about 5:30 p.m., according to police and news accounts.

    Last night, one local channel, CBS3, was reporting that the weapon was a 9 mm handgun and that Dyshon's father, Djuan Boyd, was also in the rowhouse - on Salford Street near Chester Avenue - at the time of the shooting incident.

    Jaamar said Djuan Boyd was "a great father" to Dyshon.

    "Everywhere you saw Dyshon, his father wasn't far behind," she said.

    "He gave Dyshon the world."

    Yeah, and apparently he gave him access to his gun too. It's all part of the "epidemic."
    Jaamar described her little cousin as a playful toddler who loved eating pizza from the nearby deli and watching cartoons on Nickelodeon.

    When Jaamar returned to the house after the shooting last night, she screamed and pounded the windows in grief.

    Meanwhile, police and fire crews were searching the house and the area outside, even looking on the roof of the rowhouse for the magazine of the weapon that killed Dyshon.

    There's more about the boy, and there's no denying the tragedy of what happened here. But I want to stay with "the weapon that killed him."

    How did this "epidemic" kill the boy? Presumably, the epidemic is a result of a lack of gun control laws which might have stopped the boy from having access to the gun. You know, a "but for" causation.

    Had there been a gun control law in place, this boy might be alive today.

    Does that sound like an unreasonable hypothetical? Read on. Because, as it turns out, the Philadelphia Inquirer was responsible enough to report some additional details about the father's possession of the gun.

    Amazingly, the gun was seriously illegal! This "great father" was, it seems, a career criminal who had served time on gun and drug offenses, and it was a felony for him to so much as possess the gun which the 4-year-old found:

    The District Attorney today approved criminal charges against the father of 4-year-old Dyshon Boyd, who accidentally shot and killed himself Monday in Southwest Philadelphia.

    Djuan Boyd, 24, a convicted gun felon with multiple drug-dealing arrests, will be charged with involuntary manslaughter, various counts of illegal gun possession, and endangering the welfare of a child, said Cathie Abookire, spokeswoman for District Attorney Lynne Abraham.

    The father, whose birthday was last Wednesday, has a pending drug-dealing case that is listed for trial next month.

    In 2004, he pleaded guilty to carrying a gun without a license and drug dealing, and was sentenced to 11-23 months in county prison, court records show.

    So, there were laws in place which would have protected this child. His criminal father was not allowed to have guns.

    So if is this father's violation of existing laws is part of a gun epidemic, then what exactly is the epidemic? The guns? Or the breaking of the laws against felons possessing guns?

    Philadelphia's Police Commissioner seems more concerned with sending a message about guns generally than with sending a message to criminals. In his statement, he does not mention criminal possession of firearms:

    Police Commissioner Sylvester M. Johnson said the father apparently tossed the gun from a window.

    Johnson said the father reported that the gun had been in his coat and that his son found it there.

    "We have to send a message out to Philadelphia that guns are dangerous. If you have firearms, you can't leave them in an unprotected place," Johnson said.

    Why is it that no one wants to send the message that guns are dangerous as well as illegal if possessed by felons? Like, "We have to send a message out to Philadelphia that felons with guns are dangerous."? The point here isn't whether they leave them in an unprotected place; they're not allowed to leave them anywhere!

    With all this talk of gun "epidemics," and "availability" of firearms, you'd almost think they didn't want Philadelphians to know they already have strict gun control laws in place which apply to criminals. (And which, if they had been obeyed and/or enforced, would have prevented the father from having the gun.)

    They might realize that if there is an "epidemic," it involves criminals who don't obey gun laws.

    UPDATE: My thanks to Bill Quick for the link!

    UPDATE: And my thanks to Emperor Misha for the link!

    posted by Eric at 11:03 AM | Comments (4)

    Sweetness And Light

    For those of you who think Iraq was sweetness and light before the American invasion and who think that suicide bombing by Islamic fascists brought death to Iraq that was unknown before the American intervention you might want to look at the picture below and then check out Mass Graves. Be warned - there are some very ugly pictures of mass graves being dug up in search of the remains of lost loved ones.

    Mass Graves
    posted by Simon at 03:43 AM | Comments (2)

    Best protection against a SWAT team?

    I keep reading that pit bulls are the "number one dog of choice for drug dealers."

    While the line sounds as if it had been scripted for Hollywood or MSM consumption, what really shocked me was to see it echoed by the Humane Society of the United States.

    When inflammatory code language like that is voiced by a leading humane organization, everyone who loves these dogs (or just believes in preserving what freedom we've still got) ought to take notice, because it is not their fault if "drug dealers" want them. They are strong, loyal, canine athletes.

    Linking them to drug dealers really raises my hackles, and I don't give a rat's ass whether they are the dog of choice for drug dealers -- any more than I care about the drug dealers' car or SUV of choice, cell phone of choice, mp3 player of choice, or underwear of choice.

    What the drug dealers might "choose" is not the fault of anyone but themselves, and it should not reflect on other people, nor should it in any way be used as an argument against whatever damned product they like.

    In the case of pit bulls, the drug dealer rhetoric has contributed to making the police (along with countless social worker busybody types) terrified of these dogs, and trigger-happy -- thus leading to a plethora of recent dog shooting incidents which have been termed "puppycide."

    If you think about it, if you are a drug dealer, having any dog makes a lot of sense. In the event of one of the increasingly common SWAT raids, the dog will not only blow the element of surprise (they hear and smell threats better than we do) but they keep the cops occupied, and if they shoot the dog, that's even more of a distraction. The hassle and the delay buys time, which can be used to flee, or ditch the drugs. To a drug dealer, they're not pets, but simply part of the cost of doing business:

    These dogs aren't pets. To a dealer, they are equipment, inventory and a cost of doing business.

    That's why the dealers don't often reclaim their confiscated dogs from shelters.

    Sometimes the dogs are left behind in apartments or set free on the streets. They are as disposable as old girlfriends and back rent.

    "All they care about is drugs or money," Klose says. "They don't care about the dogs."

    Unfortunately, I can see why a dog -- any dog -- would be important to a drug dealer. It is a misuse of the animal, but is it fair to blame the animal which is being misused? Why? Simply because they're braver and stronger than other dogs? Because they're better at taking abuse?

    If pit bulls are being used by drug dealers, how is that the fault of the dogs? And how is it in any way the fault of people who aren't misusing these wonderful dogs as an anti-SWAT team firewall system?

    If all pit bulls disappeared, does anyone think the drug dealers wouldn't simply use another breed?

    It occurs to me that pit bulls would also make a great dog of choice for researchers who want hardy and sturdy lab animals. I am serious; I don't like the idea of animal research, but they'd be great for it.

    So, let's just suppose some of these animal lab scientists were to discover that pit bulls adapt better to lab settings (check; they're known for adaptiveness), are more pain tolerant (check), less likely to bite during procedures (check), and just plain healthier overall (again, check). If they eventually became the leading research breed, I'm sure some animal rights groups would scream that pit bulls are "the number one dog of choice for cruel animal research."

    But would anyone use that as a argument for banning the dogs?


    It would make about as much sense as it would to ban Korean Noo-rung-yee dogs because they're "the gourmet dog of choice in Korean dogmeat markets."

    (But who ever said inflammatory rhetorical phraseology was supposed to be logical or sensible?)

    posted by Eric at 02:02 PM | Comments (7)

    Surface Air Temperature

    The Goddard Institute For Space Studies explains the meaning of surface air temperatures.

    Q. What exactly do we mean by SAT [Surface Air Temperature - ed.]?

    A. I doubt that there is a general agreement how to answer this question. Even at the same location, the temperature near the ground may be very different from the temperature 5 ft above the ground and different again from 10 ft or 50 ft above the ground. Particularly in the presence of vegetation (say in a rain forest), the temperature above the vegetation may be very different from the temperature below the top of the vegetation. A reasonable suggestion might be to use the average temperature of the first 50 ft of air either above ground or above the top of the vegetation. To measure SAT we have to agree on what it is and, as far as I know, no such standard has been suggested or generally adopted. Even if the 50 ft standard were adopted, I cannot imagine that a weather station would build a 50 ft stack of thermometers to be able to find the true SAT at its location.

    So. We do not know the real surface air temperature, but we can use the number we get from weather stations to determine climate. OK.

    It gets better.

    Q. What do we mean by daily mean SAT?

    A. Again, there is no universally accepted correct answer. Should we note the temperature every 6 hours and report the mean, should we do it every 2 hours, hourly, have a machine record it every second, or simply take the average of the highest and lowest temperature of the day ? On some days the various methods may lead to drastically different results.

    So there is no no standard of measurement, but we can use the non-standard numbers we have to determine climate. OK.
    Q. What SAT do the local media report?

    A. The media report the reading of 1 particular thermometer of a nearby weather station. This temperature may be very different from the true SAT even at that location and has certainly nothing to do with the true regional SAT. To measure the true regional SAT, we would have to use many 50 ft stacks of thermometers distributed evenly over the whole region, an obvious practical impossibility.

    So. It is practically impossible to measure surface air temperatures and from this number we get from the weather stations can derive local and regional and global climate? OK.
    Q. If the reported SATs are not the true SATs, why are they still useful?

    A. The reported temperature is truly meaningful only to a person who happens to visit the weather station at the precise moment when the reported temperature is measured, in other words, to nobody. However, in addition to the SAT the reports usually also mention whether the current temperature is unusually high or unusually low, how much it differs from the normal temperature, and that information (the anomaly) is meaningful for the whole region. Also, if we hear a temperature (say 70F), we instinctively translate it into hot or cold, but our translation key depends on the season and region, the same temperature may be 'hot' in winter and 'cold' in July, since by 'hot' we always mean 'hotter than normal', i.e. we all translate absolute temperatures automatically into anomalies whether we are aware of it or not.

    Ah. So the temperature really has no meaning except as a rough guide as to whether you can go out in a T shirt or need a heavy overcoat. Or should you take a jacket with you on a warm afternoon. And from this meaningless temperature we can derive climate. OK.
    Q. If SATs cannot be measured, how are SAT maps created?

    A. This can only be done with the help of computer models, the same models that are used to create the daily weather forecasts. We may start out the model with the few observed data that are available and fill in the rest with guesses (also called extrapolations) and then let the model run long enough so that the initial guesses no longer matter, but not too long in order to avoid that the inaccuracies of the model become relevant. This may be done starting from conditions from many years, so that the average (called a 'climatology') hopefully represents a typical map for the particular month or day of the year.

    Well at least he is hopeful about climate guesses. That is something. If I were placing trillion dollar bets with people's lives at stake (lack of energy leads to premature death) I'd want to be hopeful too. If aircraft were designed with hope, I think very few people would fly.

    Now what NASA Official was responsible for the above text? None other than James "coal trains are death trains" E. Hansen.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 01:04 PM | Comments (1)

    Brother can you spare me a flat?

    There are plenty of excuses not to write blog posts, and most of them are not worthy subjects of blog posts. However, this morning I was all ready to write a post after I returned from an errand, but I was delayed by an irritating "tock-tock-tock" sound which seemed to be coming from the rear wheel of the car. When I got back, I examined the rear wheel closely, but found nothing out of the ordinary. I even shook it, and nothing was loose. So I proceeded to the front wheel, ran my hands around the tire, and sure enough, there was a heavy metal wire about eight inches long, around an inch or so was embedded in the tire, and the rest had been flattened into a semicircular shape which hit the road with an audible "fwap" with every rotation of the wheel.

    Here's the tire, shown with the offending wire (partially reinserted for the photo):


    Infuriating! I wondered how on earth a wire could manage to bend itself into a shape almost fiendishly contrived to puncture the next tire to drive over it, but my thoughts soon turned to a worse problem.

    The pitiful object in the trunk of the car which calls itself a "spare tire." I guess they're known as "temporary tires," but this one's life is so temporary that I refuse to drive on it. For starters, it's almost completely flat.

    Who in his right mind would drive the highways on this?


    If there's one thing worse than a flat tire, it's a flat spare tire!

    So I have to drive the damned tire somwhere and because there's also a little tear on the side, no ethical tire seller would repair it, and I'll probably have to buy a new one. Yes, I know, that's good for the economy, but it doesn't help me write my morning blog post!

    Hey wait! It just so happens that the very tire that was so rudely impaled was itself the subject of a previous blog post. Nearly three years ago (at the height of the tire blogging craze), I replaced all four tires in this car, and I wrote a post on my air card from the Hub Tire Company in Norristown.

    I had forgotten the name of the company and the receipt was not in the glove box, but all I had to do was search the blog, and there it was -- right down to a picture of the place.


    I just called them, and while their warranty doesn't cover punctures like this, with any luck, they'll be able to repair the tire.

    So I'm headed off for an exercise in tire blogging nostalgia.

    Why, this is more fun than getting upset....

    posted by Eric at 08:48 AM | Comments (3)

    The Life Of Rielle

    Kaus Files has a story on John Edwards. It seems the National Enquirer is flogging a story that claims Rielle Hunter is having John Edwards' love child.

    The Enquirer posts the gist..... One initial point: There's no reason to conclude this story was planted by one campaign or another. I'm familiar with how the initial Rielle Hunter/Edwards rumors, true or not, got to at least one news outlet--and no campaigns, Dem or GOP, were involved. It was a story going around--I'd been hearing it for months. Not all rumors are plants. And some are true. Even in the Enquirer.
    I liked the Hillary is gay rumor better. Lesbians. Yum. Except you know, Hillary is really not that appetizing. Even if she is gay. Wnokette's Nooky Report has this to say:
    Last month's National Enquirer story on John Edwards and his alleged affair with campaign staffer Rielle Hunter may or may not be total bullshit. One insider said "there's a lot of smoke... no smoking gun,"
    If they do find the smoking gun on that one I don't want to see it. Lesbians. Yum. Wonkette had the story in mid October.
    Rielle Hunter, wannabe actress/producer (aspiring double threat!), was paid $114,461 by Edwards' One America Committee to produce a series of "webisodes" introducing people to the casual, "authentic" John Edwards. Why they picked this lady to make these videos is unclear -- she really didn't have much experience doing anything beyond being, in the words of Jay McInerney, "an ostensibly jaded, cocaine-addled, sexually voracious 20-year old." That was a couple years ago, though. Now she's a 44-year-old former all of those things, and a weirdo new agey spiritualist flake, according to her website.

    But why is the HuffPo so obsessed with her and these totally boring videos?

    Because they mysteriously disappeared of course! Conveniently right around the time Edwards officially announced his candidacy! Why would he delete these harmless clips at that particular moment? Because he was having a tumultuous affair with the producer?

    Who could believe this stuff? Death by 1,000 Papercuts for one.
    John Edwards has a love child, the National Enquirer has photos and the Edwards' campaign has a mega-headache.

    Pass the aspirin.

    Shades of the Monkey Business.

    The National Enquirer has once again made a foray into the political arena.

    It has returned with the blow-dried head of John Edwards.

    I think if when the baby is born its first words are not "Wahhhhhhhhh" but "I'm gonna sue" that would be good evidence of Edwards' involvement.

    Speaking of lawyers, Overlawyered has some thoughts.

    Who is the "formerly hard-partying girl who claims that she found enlightenment" who met John Edwards in a bar and was paid six digits by the campaign to make videos of him that "lingers over the former senator's behind as he tucks a starched white shirt into his pants," and why is the campaign suddenly hiding the webvideos she made of Edwards on questionable legal grounds?
    I think the coverup is more damaging than the original offense. What does Edwards have to hide?

    This scandal is just so wrong for Edwards the uber devoted husband to his ailing wife. A scandal like this would really help Thompson. There would be headlines galore about Thompson's fire down below. Thompson is not too old, he can still hit it.

    Of course Thompson already has that one covered. Just look at this picture of Thompson's wife. A real hottie. She really fills that dress. What there is of it. And she is better looking than Rielle. Plus, she married the guy. After he divorced his first wife.

    For those of you who want original source material, such as it is, here is a jpg of the Enquirer article.

    A comment on the story at the Democrat Underground is priceless.

    1corona4u Tue Dec-18-07 10:33 PM

    I care... if we are going to elect a duplicitous person, I'd like to know in advance.

    There is absolutely nothing I can add to that. Nothing at all.

    H/T Instapundit

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 03:10 AM | Comments (1)

    She's No Richard Nixon

    She's worse.

    From the trailer for Hillary The Movie.

    Side note: if any one recognizes the guy who said that in the trailer I'd like to give him credit.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    Update: 20 Dec 007 0755z

    Reader Vince P - Chicago at Classical Values says the guy with the Nixon bit is Peter F. Paul. You can learn a bit more about him at Paul vs Clinton.

    posted by Simon at 12:42 AM | Comments (2)

    Unthinkable thoughts...

    But they are being thought anyway, and I don't like reading that this kind of paranoid thinking is alleged to be taking hold among black Americans:

    Online and in the streets Black folk are saying they won't vote for the senator because of fears of assassination attempts. The senator's wife, an incredibly bright and engaging woman, has told national publications she and her husband have discussed every aspect of what a successful candidacy means. Undoubtedly, the fatalistic notion of an assassination has been part of the couple's discussion.

    So the issue becomes, if they are willing to brave a run at all costs, how can anyone Black be too chicken and small-minded to believe their vote(s) will bring about his demise. We need to shed that kind of thinking.

    I completely agree that such thinking should be shed, and I don't know who is fueling it or why.

    I'll be blunt here.

    Short of a devastating enemy attack, I can think of no worse tragedy for the country than for Obama to be assassinated.

    Rick Moran wrote about this last February:

    how does this affect the Presidential campaign? First and foremost, it places a responsibility on candidates, their staffs, and their supporters to be circumspect in their criticisms of Obama. You can lay into a candidate without inviting the public to hate them. One can even personalize their criticism without it degenerating into the kind of mindless hate that is so often directed at Bush. And this challenge will be monitored by a more sensitive press who will probably come down harder and quicker on transgressors.

    It also behooves those of us who write for political blogs to be cognizant of the danger. Obama is one of the most liberal candidates ever to seek the Presidency. I doubt whether many conservatives agree with much of anything he espouses. But will it really kill us if we keep our criticisms focused on the issues of the campaign - including personal issues like his lack of experience and an emerging portrait of a mushy headed idealist? I think not.

    I'm not telling anyone what to write or to limit themselves in any way except to understand the historic nature of Obama's candidacy and the very real danger that the same kind of treatment the right gave Clinton could prove tragic. As I said, it isn't just the odd, angst ridden social deviant armed with an automatic weapon that would feel enabled by such an atmosphere. There are very serious men fully capable of making serious plans who might not need an enabling atmosphere to kill but who might actually be encouraged by it.

    And there are also plenty of dangerous whack jobs floating around.

    Similar fears were expressed at Wonkette:

    Like an RFK or MLK who doesn't stand for anything beyond "audacity," Obama has apparently upset the Powers That Be who want a Walnuts/Hillary race in 2008. Be careful, Barry.
    Daily Kos echoed the same concern in October:
    There are plenty of reasons for voting for or against anyone. But this is not one of them.

    If you're afraid that a racist will assassinate Obama because they don't want a black man to be president, then basing your vote on that just achieves the racist's goal faster, by having you do their dirty work for them. That would mean you don't want a black man to be president because a racist doesn't want a black man to be president. You're letting a racist tell you what to do. What the hell century is this?

    I agree with that too, although the poll they ran asks what is in my view a premature question:
    Gut check. If Obama were president, how concerned would you be of assassination?
    I think it should be more along these lines:
    Gut check. If Obama wins the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries, how concerned would you be of assassination?
    But then, I guess I'm more paranoid than Daily Kos.

    I know I'm a worry wart, but I'm curious about how the readers here feel, so I reworked the Kos poll:

    If Obama wins the Iowa and New Hampshire primaries, how concerned would you be of assassination?
    Not at all
    Very slightly
    Very seriously
    I would vote against Obama in the primary to prevent it
  free polls
    posted by Eric at 08:56 AM | Comments (13)

    The Hillary Evolution?

    It's hardly breathtaking news, but here's an enjoyable little lesson in politics for Machiavellians and political junkies:

    Mayor-elect Michael Nutter last week wholeheartedly threw his support behind Hillary Clinton in next year's presidential race.

    "Philadelphia, we need a friend in the White House," he said at an Electric Factory fund-raiser for the New York senator, before a crowd of about 1,000 people - including former President Bill Clinton.

    That might be.

    But several months earlier, Nutter left the distinct impression that Philadelphia might need a different friend.

    At a mayoral forum at Central High School in Philadelphia last February, each of the five Democrats running in the primary was asked to predict the next president.

    Nutter's answer: "I'll go out on a limb. Sen. [Barack] Obama." His response triggered a round of applause and whoops from the young audience.

    Of course, that was before the Illinois senator distributed an e-mail to the supporters of U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, one of Nutter's rivals in the race, asking them to contribute to Fattah's campaign committee.

    Asked last week about why it was Obama then and Clinton now, Nutter said: "That was during the election campaign, and I certainly wish him well. I wish him the best. That's what campaigns are about. They evolve over time."

    Campaigns evolve? That's a fun statement to interpret. Whose "campaigns" are we talking about? Nutter's, Obama's, or Hillary's?

    When Nutter favored Obama, he was running for Mayor against a number of candidates in the Democratic primary. During the primary race, Obama had endorsed one of his opponents, Philadelphia Congressman Chaka Fattah. So, while an obvious question is whether this is political payback against Obama for endorsing Fattah, that wouldn't really be "campaign evolution," because Nutter won the Democratic primary in May, and the general election in November was a mere formality in which the token Republican "opponent" got a pathetic 17% of the vote. So the fact that Nutter's Hillary endorsement came last week tends to rule out any possibility that this was part of his campaign evolution.

    Nutter must therefore be talking about the evolution of either Hillary's or Obama's campaigns. What has changed since last February? The only thing I can see is that Obama has more of a chance than he did then. And if we assume that Nutter was speaking his true feelings and not pandering to the crowd, his statement about how campaigns evolve can only mean that Hillary's campaign has been able to reach out and touch him in such a manner that he cannot refuse them.

    Might wannabe first-husband Bill's recent Philadelphia visit have had anything to do with what is being called a "key endorsement"?

    I think Bubba wants back in the White House, and he wants it bad.

    But is it evolution?

    posted by Eric at 08:31 AM | Comments (1)

    Another mistaken SWAT raid. When will it end?

    There is too much of this kind of stuff going on:

    A Minneapolis police SWAT team kicked in the wrong door yesterday during an early morning raid, prompting the man of the house to grab his gun and open fire on the officers who entered the house.

    "He took out his shotgun and he said if they are bad guys I'll shoot, I'll scare them away," Dao Khang, the brother of the homeowner, Vang Khang, tells the Star Tribune. "He fired first, he told me it was two shots."

    Dao Khang says his brother was trying to protect his wife and six children. No one from the family was hit during the exchange of gunfire. Vang hit two officers, but the Pioneer Press says they were protected by ballistic vests and helmets.

    "I must've heard over 20 or 30 shots, I swear, it was scary," Ruth Hayes, the family's next-door neighbor, tells WCCO-TV. "It was like 30 SWAT guys out here ... it was crazy it was just like havoc."

    KARE-TV reports that Vang was detained at the scene and released a few hours later. Police say there may have been a "language barrier" between the residents and the officers.

    (Via Clayton Cramer.) And they're now contemplating charging this innocent man with a crime. What crime? Defending himself and his family against armed invaders who look for the world like criminals?

    How many incidents like this will it take before people realize that militarization of the police is going down the wrong road? Police once knew the neighborhoods they patrolled, and neighbors knew them. Increasingly, they're an armed hostile force (that is, when they're not spending their time as revenue agents). These raids are conducted without warning in a manner more appropriate to combat, and even innocent family dogs are being shot. The way the cops think they have the right to treat anything that moves as an enemy reminds me more of war than police work.

    Hmmmm.... Maybe it's no accident that when they act this way, they claim to be "fighting" the "Drug War."

    What bothers me the most is that I fully expect to see such tactics being used as another justification for gun control.

    posted by Eric at 02:33 PM | Comments (7)

    Historical Amnesia?

    In a previous post, I described Hillary Clinton having "no scruples or ideals whatsoever."

    What I said cannot be overstressed, and it is shocking to me how much people have forgotten about recent American history.

    In a mini-history lesson on Clintonism, Diana West argues that not only is the "Clinton crime family" back, but something is missing in the coverage:

    That something is their past -- the Clinton past of political malfeasance and corruption. I'm not just talking about Bill's impeachment, although that's part of it, what with Hillary's never-revised contention that "a vast right-wing conspiracy" was behind all her husband's political travails. But I refer also to the commonplace lies and routine treachery the American people were confronted with, subjected to and degraded by over two Clinton terms. In other words, the Clinton past is our past as well -- the history of every American who lived through those years. And it has gone missing. To behold this presidential election cycle, it seems as if the entire nation has metaphorically put their Clinton libraries in their attics.

    The resulting gap in national discourse keeps presenting itself to me, particularly when called on to discuss Mrs. Clinton just as though she were an ordinary presidential candidate -- someone with a modest Senate record and a keen interest in political affairs, weighing in on the events of the day.

    She's not. There's not only all that shameful Clinton "baggage," but all those questions about what's inside that baggage, questions she has never, ever acknowledged, let alone answered. It's as though Hillary Clinton believes she has no past to reckon with; no broken trust to mend; no reason to acknowledge that, to name one example, amassing hundreds of FBI files of Reagan and Bush (I) officials for political use in the White House is a bad thing, even if neither she nor anyone else in the White House was actually indicted for it. And it's as though everyone else agrees.

    Read it all.

    I keep talking about Clinton nostalgia. But what about Clinton amnesia?

    Seriously, why is it that Hillary Clinton is so exempt from media scrutiny, as if the past is erased, or does not matter? It seems that unanswered questions from the past never need to be answered, as if all is forgiven.

    Is that it? Did a group of holy media figures get together and give Hillary Clinton absolution, and then say "Ego te absolvo"?

    I have to admit, from a purely Machiavellian standpoint it has to be admitted that the Clintons' one-two punch is very effective. If media access to Hillary is limited, it hardly seems fair to blame them for not asking questions -- even if they'll never be answered.

    I pity the big guys in the media. It must be very frustrating not to be allowed to ask the questions that would never be answered anyway.


    (And if you think it's tough to ask questions about the past, look at all the trouble Tim Russert got into for asking about the present.)

    I'm a little concerned about another detail. Is "amnesia" really the right word for what's going on here? Can there be such a thing as coerced amnesia? Or should it be called something else?

    posted by Eric at 12:00 PM | Comments (6)

    Selective fear of religion
    I would like to criticize Islam much more than I do publicly, but I'm afraid for my life if I do.
    So says "West Wing" producer Lawrence O'Donnell in an interview on Hugh Hewitt's radio show. This revealing statement occurred while O'Donnell attempted to explain his rather over-the-top attack on Mitt Romney's Mormonism.

    Roger L. Simon examines O'Donnell fear of not speaking out (and its pervasiveness in the arts):

    O'Donnell's kind of fear is all around us. We have it among artists who censor themselves and journalists who are afraid to speak out. These people have buried their traditional liberal values under a veneer of false tolerance and trendy cultural relativism and essentially turned liberalism on its head.

    O'Donnell is no longer a liberal in the sense I understood it growing up. In fact, he runs away from defending the basic cannon of liberalism without which it cannot exist - free speech. A true liberal is a man like Flemming Rose who had the courage to defend that freedom against the onslaught of opposition to the publication of the Danish cartoons. Where was O'Donnell on that? Quivering in his corner, worrying whether he will be shot? Where was O'Donnell (a man of the entertainment industry, no less) when director Theo Van Gogh was stabbed to death by an Islamist on the streets of Amsterdam for making a film critical of Islam? Busy attacking George Bush, I imagine. The courage of Rose and Van Gogh (and Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Ibn Warraq and Wafa Sultan, etc.) is paying O'Donnell's check from the McLaughlin Group in a very real sense. He owes them all a commission.

    What intrigues me is why so many of those who are afraid to criticize Islam are nonetheless quite fearless when it comes to other religions.

    It's easy to dismiss this as cowardly hypocrisy, as selective religious bigotry, or as anti-Western bias, which of course a lot of it is.

    But I think another dimension is post-9/11 denial. This is not ordinary denial, as it's closely related to the fiercely anti-war people whose hatred toward Bush is often characterized as "Bush Derangement Syndrome." Before 9/11, there was plenty of hypocrisy, and religious bigotry, plenty of anti-Western bias, and plenty of cowards, but they generally did not hesitate to criticize Islam. Feminists in Berkeley used to demonstrate against the veil.

    Yet the fact, is, this "fear" of criticizing Islam is comparatively recent, and closely related to 9/11. The tenets of Christianity -- even over-the-top fundamentalist zealotry -- has not changed since 9/11, nor has Mormonism. But Western religions are attacked as never before. I think they're substitute targets.

    I have criticized Christian zealotry in a number of posts. But as I've tried to make clear, there is no moral equivalency between Christian zealots and Islamic zealots:

    Obviously, I'm a lot more familiar with Christianity than I am fundamentalist Islam. And while I find radical Christian zealots annoying, experience tells me that they are nowhere near as dangerous as radical Muslim zealots. True, there are a few Army of God types who do occasionally murder abortionists and "sodomites" in the name of Christianity, but usually, the worst thing Christian fundamentalists do is spout nutty theories. Telling me that Hurricane Katrina was "God's punishment" for "sodomy" is a lot less threatening than executing sodomites -- to say nothing of thousands of Americans. There is simply no comparison.
    What I'm wondering is, what rational person would think that Christian fundamentalists are more dangerous than Islamic fanatics? Fear might offer a partial explanation of why criticism of the latter would suddenly be avoided entirely after 9/11. But what explains the sharp increase -- in tone and volume -- of attacks on Western religions? If we assume the attackers are more afraid now of radical Islam than they were before 9/11, this would explain the reluctance to criticize Islam. But fear of radical Islam does not explain the upsurge in attacks on Western religion, unless the fearful classes are involved in projection.

    But what is rational about projecting a fear of Islam into a fear of Christianity? That's like saying Bush is scarier than bin Laden.

    Even atheists -- who by their own logic ought to condemn all religion equally -- often become highly selective when the conversation turns to fundamentalist Christianity vis-a-vis fundamentalist Islam. Very odd, because atheists are freely tolerated in the West, while under Islam..... well, this comes from the Wiki entry on persecution of atheists:

    Non-believers--atheists--under Islam do not have "the right to life". Apostasy in Iran is punishable by death.
    But Christianity is worse?

    I guess this is not a rational process.

    UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and the thoughtful observations. If it is better to be feared than loved, then Islam is better than Christianity, as it is more feared.

    But if we add to that the paradox that "you always hurt the one you love," it gets even more complicated, because in the ordinary course of things, the "one you love" also loves you. And in theory at least, Christianity is built on love. Which means that those who hurt Christians are supposed to be loved by them in return.

    To love without being feared (and without even being loved reciprocally) would almost seem to make Christianity a no-win.

    I might be wrong about this, and I make no claim of being a Christian theologian, but it strikes me that hating people whose religion charges them with loving you in return is a fairly risk free venture. (Little wonder that "radical" artists feel free to do things like submerge crucifixes in urine and toss excrement at images of the Virgin Mary, but would never dare mess with the Koran or Mohammad.)

    Comments welcome.

    posted by Eric at 09:54 AM | Comments (34)

    Conservative Blog Awards at Right Wing News

    Check out the 6th Annual Right Wing News Conservative Blog Awards!

    Find out which blogs were voted as the best -- and worst -- by their fellow bloggers. You can see won these once per year awards, which are the oldest and most prestigious in the conservative blogosphere....
    The results are quite interesting, and I participated (which is not something I normally do). I don't spend much time putting down other bloggers, so the toughest part of this survey was disclosing which blogs annoy me the most.

    (It's interesting to see proof that what annoys me does not necessarily annoy others, but then I always knew I was a bit of a crank.)

    Nicely done survey. I won't spoil it by repeating the results, but it absolutely intrigues me that one of the top vote-getters in the "Favorite Columnist Who's Not A Blogger" category was also one of the top vote-getters in the "Least Liked Columnist Who's Not A Blogger" category. But then, maybe that's because it's not entirely clear whether the person in question is also an entertainer.

    And there's a well-known blogger who managed to be a top vote-getter in the "Most Annoying Left-Of-Center Blogger" and the "Most Annoying Right-Of-Center Blogger" categories. (Just for the record, I didn't vote to put that blogger on either list, but it's a fascinating sign of the times that anyone could be considered an annoying leftist and an annoying rightist at the same time.)

    So stop reading my sneaky, thinly-disguised hints, and go check out the survey.

    posted by Eric at 08:10 AM | Comments (2)

    The Great Climate Debate

    Commenter Papertiger has given me a heads up about a Climate Debate on Blog Talk Radio.

    By popular request, I present the Great Climate Debate.

    The participants in the debate are Dr. Andrew Dessler, a professor of atmospheric science at Texas A&M University, and Dr. Timothy Ball, a retired professor from the University of Winnipeg. They will conduct their debate online next Monday, Dec. 17, at 2 p.m. Central Time [19:00 GMT ed.].

    You will be able to listen online through BlogTalkRadio's service. You will also be able to participate by:

    * Calling in during the show.

    * Leaving a question for Dr. Dessler or Dr. Ball in the comments below.

    * Leaving comments during the show.

    Here is a chance to grill some scientists on the question.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 11:22 PM | Comments (0)

    Careful what you ask for?

    For years now (as I remarked on Friday), I have adhered to the assumption that Hillary Clinton Absolutely Will Be the Democratic presidential nominee, and I am having a great deal of trouble even considering the possibility that the nomination might go to Obama.

    Maybe I've been in denial. It isn't an easy thing to admit you're wrong about something you saw as virtually inevitable, and to my way of thinking Hillary was as inevitable as the sun rising.

    Of course, if I am in denial, then so is the entire pack of Republican candidates:

    ....the Republican Party is in a predicament. Its nominee faces an uphill fight against Clinton or any other Democrat because of the Iraq war, a precarious economy and, perhaps most important, President Bush's unpopularity. With the race still fluid, Republican hopefuls are selling their electability to GOP voters.

    That often translates into: "I can beat Hillary."

    It's true that Clinton no longer is viewed as the guaranteed nominee. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, her chief rival, recently rose in Iowa and New Hampshire, and former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina remains a strong third.

    But Clinton remains solidly ahead in national polls. She appeals strongly to many women voters. She is well-financed, well-organized and battle-seasoned from her experience as a New York senator and as a first lady in a White House that was scandal-prone but also associated with prosperity and peace.

    Many Democrats think she is the most electable from their party. GOP candidates seem to agree; each uses her aura of inevitability to enlist conservative voters to his cause.

    "That sort of falls into the 'Be careful what you ask for' category," said Jon McHenry, a GOP pollster in Alexandria, Va. "She may galvanize the Republican base, but she, as a candidate, and her campaign, as an organization, are probably best able to handle the rigors of a general election."

    I don't know how much of this is grounded in conventional assumptions or a need to raise money, but as a polarizing figure, Hillary is Wicked Witch Supreme -- someone with a long and hated history who can be depended on as the best way to make Republicans with money write out a check. I get a lot of political junk mail, but the envelopes with the malevolent-looking pictures Hillary always get my attention, and I am much more likely to open them to read the lurid details.

    This one (which alluded to college lesbianism) is a perfect example:


    And who can resist juicy tabloid spreads like this?


    In a truly strange way, it's hard not to love Hillary (even if you hate her).

    Whether any of the details in any of these things are true really doesn't matter. The fact is, after all is said and done, Hillary remains the hottest GOP fund-raiser.

    I rarely listen to Rush Limbaugh, but the other day I was just flipping through the radio dial in the car and I paused to hear him in the middle of an anti-Clinton rant. Like him or not, the man is a great anti-Clinton performer, Mr. Clinton-basher extraordinaire. Being someone who does not like the Clintons and who appreciates quality entertainment whenever I find it, I just stopped and listened. I have to say, Rush was so marvelous that it brought back genuine feelings of what can only be called anti-Clinton nostalgia. Or is that the right word? Is it possible to have feelings of nostalgia for something you have loathed, even dreaded? I don't know, but in any case, Rush was skeptical about whether the recent Obamamania truly meant the End Of Hillary, and he made a remark that the cynical anti-Clintontainment fan in me found touching:

    Until the house falls on Hillary (reference to the Wicked Witch in "The Wizard of OZ" for those of you in Rio Linda), I won't rest.
    (Quote verified here.)

    While clearly the man would love to see the house fall on her, there was something wistful about the way he said it. Enemies (even those who want to kill each other) have a perverse way of bonding, and there's no reason not to expect a genuine Limbaugh/Clinton bond to have developed over the decades. Rush of course discussed the latest Clinton smears against Obama, and had a ball with Andrew Young's famous remark about Bill Clinton having had more black women than Barack Obama. He repeatedly characterized the Clintons as a "soap opera," which is not only accurate, but displays that in his heart he must be as fond of them as they are of him.

    Let's face it, people like villains. It's an American tradition.

    So where does that leave the GOP with a young black man who strikes people as offering freshness and hope?

    In dire straits. Career politicians don't like the unpredictable, and Obama is disruptive to the status quo.

    I'm worried that the sooner later, the Republicans will wake up and realize that along with the Clintons, they have a mutual stake in stopping Obama. While he hasn't won Iowa and New Hampshire, if he does, Super Tuesday looms large, and all signs point to Obama:

    The first survey of likely Illinois voters leading up to the state's accelerated presidential primaries also shows that Democrats are vastly more optimistic of their chances of returning to the White House than Republicans are confident of holding onto the presidency.

    The findings of the poll, conducted among separate samples of Democratic and Republican voters, provide an early sounding about voter favorites who have campaigned extensively in neighboring Iowa, home of the nation's first caucuses Jan. 3.

    By joining a host of other states that moved to the so-called Super Tuesday date of Feb. 5, there is a very real chance Illinois voters will play a role in the presidential nominating contest for the first time in years. But the outcomes in Iowa, New Hampshire and other earlier states could affect which candidates Illinois voters ultimately support.

    Half of respondents for Obama

    Among the 500 likely Democratic voters surveyed Dec. 9 to 13, Obama, a first-term U.S. senator from Illinois, was the choice of 50 percent; Clinton, a senator from New York who was born in Chicago and raised in Park Ridge, followed with 25 percent.

    I'd hate to think that the Republicans might somehow help assist in a Clinton victory and I hate to sound ominous, but... anything could happen.

    It's a shame, really, because I put stopping Hillary first. Ahead of everything else. As A JACKSONIAN put it in a comment to my earlier post,

    I am an ABC voter: Anyone But Clinton.
    I realize there are many objections to Obama, but I think having Hillary as president would be worse -- and far, far worse -- for the country than having Obama as president. (For starters, she'd have far more power than Obama would, because she has an existing system all ready to put in place and knows how to use it, and she is a true Machiavellian, with no scruples or ideals whatsoever. I could be wrong, but I think Obama is still possessed by a semblance of youthful idealism and decency. He's perhaps naive, but more a JFK or a Carter than a Clinton. And less likely to have a second term, to be followed by yet another Clinton or a newly manufactured Bush.)

    The way I see it, the less powerful of a Democratic president we have, the better.

    This is anything but an endorsement of Obama.

    I just hate to see Republicans actually wanting Clinton.

    They ought to realize that when the dust settles, she'll ultimately be harder to beat than Obama. (And once she's in, they'll never beat her in 2012.)

    UPDATE: Let's not forget the importance of useful gridlock.

    What's bad in traffic is good for government!

    posted by Eric at 10:17 AM | Comments (7)

    So You Don't Have To

    I was reading Michelle Malkin on the recent vote by the Senate to authorize funds for the war with no strings attached. The vote was something like 90 to 3. I thought to myself, certainly there will be outrage at the DU, probably fodder for a blog post. So I'll go have a look and see if I can find something. So I'm looking. And looking. And looking some more (so you don't have to). Nada. Zip. Zilch. Bupkiss.

    If I was to tender some kind of meaning for this I'd say that outrage has given way to denial and will soon be followed by depression.

    I did find some dissension in the ranks though. It seems Hillary supporters are not too fond of Obama supporters. And vice versa. So there is a good fight to watch. I got no dog in that one. Here they are attacking Obama over his cocaine use. Here is the purge wing of the party attacking Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and the Blue Dog Democrats who made their majority in the House. Still no direct mention of the appropriations bill.

    Here is an uplifting post - why none of the Dem contenders for President have a chance in '008. If only it were true. It does give some hints for attacking the Dem candidates so it may not be entirely useless.

    This one is really good. In a post titled "As usual, #1 post blames Pelosi for years of repuke's crimes" they rip each other to shreds. The tone is much like the Socons (social conservatives) and fiscal conservatives ripping of the Republicans in '006. It looks like the Democrats are a united party. United in their hatred of each other.

    Not all Democrats are depressed about their prospects. This one explains what they have to do to win 2008. These suggestions are so good (for Republicans) I'm going to repeat them.

    1. Impeach them all

    2. End the funding

    3. Ban handguns

    And the best thing is
    you can get it all with
    one candidate.

    The poster claims that this is all snark. I'm not so sure. In any case, which candidate is the poster referring to? Doesn't say. Not to worry. The post (which has been up for a couple of days) has gotten exactly zero comments so far.

    Here is a choice one attacking Hillary's campaign operatives. One commenter is really disgusted because Hillary wants the nomination and will do anything to get it. Isn't that a Republican complaint?

    This one is about Jewish support for various candidates and what it all means. It gets ugly.

    Obama is a stalking horse for the Republicans according to the commenters. It could be.

    The Progressive (Communist Wing) of the Democrat Party is not happy. They feel taken for granted. Sounds a lot like the Socons in the Republican Party in '006.

    Well I have had enough time in the pit. My conclusion? The Republicans are a lot more unified and may have the advantage in '008 despite fielding (on the Presidential level) a really motley band of candidates.

    The Democrats? I predict listlessness and depression followed by grief.

    No matter what this will be fun to watch.

    The war? I was unable to find even one article referring to the war funding vote in the Senate.

    I blame Bush. He has outmaneuvered the Dems at every turn despite his party being in the minority in Congress. Sun Tzu had a word or two on the subject:

    To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting.
    Bush is helping the Democrats defeat themselves. The stupid evil genius strikes again.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 04:19 AM | Comments (2)

    Tough On Crime

    Ilya Somin at The Volokh Conspiracy is discussing how the war on drugs impedes progress in the War On Islamic Fascism. So I ask a question:

    Which is more important - using prohibition to subsidize criminals or winning the war against the fascist?

    Americans repeatedly choose to subsidize criminals.

    The common complaint is "too many criminals". The common answer is "raise the subsidies for the criminals" (tougher laws). We call this "tough on crime".

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 10:29 PM | Comments (0)

    Saturday Afternoon
    posted by Simon at 07:25 PM | Comments (0)

    Triticale, R.I.P.

    Via Glenn Reynolds, I just learned that Triticale has died. Glenn hadn't heard of his leukemia, but says:

    I enjoyed his blog posts and comments. He will be missed.
    He certainly will. Triticale's name, (it turns out, according to Old Grouch) was Tom Dee.

    This is really sad. I hate to lose not only a friend I never got to meet, but a voice of brilliance, of many original insights.

    Triticale has been a regular and valued commenter for years here at Classical Values, and he was a good friend of M. Simon, who has a nice obit.

    Rest in peace, Triticale.

    UPDATE: Nick Schweitzer has more details, with a picture.

    AND MORE: Anyone who is curious to see Triticale in action as a commenter here, check out this post.

    UPDATE: M. Simon notes that Triticale's real name was Tom Arnold. More at My Friend Triticale Has Died.

    posted by Eric at 09:08 AM | Comments (3)

    Chasing The Moonlight
    posted by Simon at 10:17 PM | Comments (2)


    In the last month or so I have posted a couple of pieces on government interference with industry. One post contained this quote from Thomas Edison:

    "Any extension of the Government into business affairs -- no matter what the pretense and no matter how the extension is labeled -- will be bound to promote waste and put a curb on our prosperity and progress." --Thomas Alva Edison
    The other post (Its Taxing To Make A Buck) was about GE and other companies trying to get coal fired electrical plants banned in order to profit from the ban. Now what is so ironic about all this is that Edison founded General Electric. What is even more ironic about all this is that Edison was at war with Westinghouse to determine if AC or DC distribution of electricity was to be the favored standard.
    Edison carried out a campaign to discourage the use of alternating current, including spreading information on fatal AC accidents, killing animals, and lobbying against the use of AC in state legislatures. Edison directed his technicians, primarily Arthur Kennelly and Harold P. Brown, to preside over several AC-driven executions of animals, primarily stray cats and dogs but also unwanted cattle and horses. Acting on these directives, they were to demonstrate to the press that alternating current was more dangerous than Edison's system of direct current. Edison's series of animal executions peaked with the electrocution of Topsy the Elephant. He also tried to popularize the term for being electrocuted as being "Westinghoused".

    Edison opposed capital punishment, but his desire to disparage the system of alternating current led to the invention of the electric chair. Harold P. Brown, who was at this time being secretly paid by Edison, constructed the first electric chair for the state of New York in order to promote the idea that alternating current was deadlier than DC.

    When the chair was first used, on August 6, 1890, the technicians on hand misjudged the voltage needed to kill the condemned prisoner, William Kemmler. The first jolt of electricity was not enough to kill Kemmler, and left him only badly injured. The procedure had to be repeated and a reporter on hand described it as "an awful spectacle, far worse than hanging." George Westinghouse commented: "They would have done better using an axe."

    So despite Edison's great rhetoric, I think he really meant that he was against government interference in his business. He was not against using it against his competitors.

    You have to keep an eye on these boys.

    We are lucky Westinghouse won the battle because the AC system was technically better. Just think of how much it would have delayed progress if Edison had been able to get a national ban on AC electrical transmission.

    In a way we are faced with the same prospect. GE wants to get its cheaper competitors banned (fossil fuels) so it can profit from the sales of its higher cost production methods. They aren't doing anything unusual here. Just reverting to their roots.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 08:44 PM | Comments (2)

    Obama versus Romney?

    It's a bit of a shock for this to sink in, but even in my wildest political prognostication I never imagined the presidential race shaping up as being between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

    It would be foolish to say that this will happen, but it certainly appears possible:

    Barack Obama has come from behind to turn the Democratic presidential race in New Hampshire into a toss-up, according to a new Monitor opinion poll. The results - which show Obama with a one-point edge over Hillary Clinton - mirror other polls released this week, indicating that Clinton's once-imposing lead has evaporated in the run-up to New Hampshire's Jan. 8 primary.

    The poll suggests that the Democratic race could hinge on the turnout of undeclared voters, who aren't registered with either political party. Much of Obama's backing comes from undeclared voters, while registered Democrats make up the bulk of Clinton's support. In New Hampshire, undeclared voters can vote in either party primary, giving them sway in both contests.

    "The more undeclared voters that decide to vote in the Democratic primary, the better chance Obama wins," said Del Ali, president of Research 2000, the Maryland-based nonpartisan polling firm that conducted the poll for the Monitor on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. "What Hillary Clinton has to hope is that more of the established Democrats come out to vote."

    If the Democratic race is in flux, the Republican race in New Hampshire has remained constant in recent months, with former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney continuing to hold a double-digit lead over his nearest competitors.

    If we look at the current Obama versus Romney polls (averaged from 11/11 through 12/11) Obama beats Romney by 11.5 points, (Romney 37.5, Obama 49).

    Against Hillary Clinton, Romney does somewhat better, but he still loses by 10.2 points to Hillary (40.0% to her 50.2%)

    Giuliani does better against Obama than Romney, and 43.0% to 46.0% is a three point spread which means a much tighter race.

    McCain's the only candidate who can really give Obama a run for his money;
    45.3% McCain to 46.3% for Obama is probably within the cumulative error margin.

    Fred Thompson does better against Obama than Romney (39.3 to 50.3), but is nowhere near as close as Giuliani or McCain.

    None of this means Republicans should start freaking out about Obama, because the polls consistently show he's easier to beat than Hillary (although he still wins).

    Still, a lot will depend on whether the Republicans are interested enough in winning the election to run a candidate who can win.

    With Obama as a potential opponent, Romney as the nominee worries me, because he is the easiest candidate for Obama to beat.

    He's also the easiest candidate for Hillary to beat.

    So what the hell is wrong with the Republicans? Why is Romney -- the easiest guy to beat -- leading the pack?

    Is it that they just don't care whether they lose? Because, if that's the case, it might be time for them to start worrying about whom they most want to lose to.

    I'm wondering whether anyone has polled registered Republican voters to see whether they'd prefer Obama or Hillary. Because if they're going to pick Romney, they might as well decide on his opponent now.

    This will sound cynical, but I'd rather see Barack Obama as president than Hillary Clinton. Yeah, I know he's more left wing, but his administration would give the country a chance to finally repudiate its racist vestiges. It would be nice to have a break from the endless cycles of the Clinton-Bush hate machines. Try as I might, I just don't think a major case of Obama Derangement Syndrome is likely. There will be some, but it won't be "payback time again" as it would if Hillary were elected.

    If Romney must run, maybe it would be better for the country to have him lose to Obama rather than Hillary.

    From a purely selfish standpoint, it would be easier for me to vote for Romney over Hillary, because while I might have to hold my nose, it wouldn't be any worse than it was to vote for Bush against Kerry. But it'll be harder to hold my nose if the alternative is Obama. In fact, it would be agonizing, excruciating, and I might need a barf bag. So in that respect, having Hillary run would make my job as a voter easier.

    I never imagined that she might not be on the ballot, though.

    It's challenging.

    MORE: I know it's not scientific, but I thought this called for a poll:

    Assuming he loses, which candidate would you rather see defeat Mitt Romney?
    Hillary Clinton
    Barack Obama
  free polls

    MORE: Glenn Reynolds links some speculation about Mitt Romney being "the right's John Kerry." If he is, that might make it easier for Obama, who lacks Hillary's rather notorious negatives.

    Many have remarked that in the last election Bush didn't win, but Kerry lost.

    Are we entering a political era in which victory is determined more by who loses than who wins? A battle of the dilemmas? (You know, instead of "may the best man win," it's "may the worst man lose!")

    MORE: Morton Blackwell has endorsed Fred Thompson.

    (Worth reading. Maybe Romney isn't as certain a deal as everyone thinks.)

    posted by Eric at 05:22 PM | Comments (10)

    Surprise endorsement for Hillary!

    I just watched this video of Hillary Clinton's mother endorsing -- SURPRISE! -- her daughter Hillary.


    This, BTW, is one of those professional "I'm Hillary Clinton and I approved this message" ads.

    I'm thinking back over the years, and I can't recall the last time I saw an official campaign ad showing a candidate's mother endorsing him or her.

    But now that I think about it, I wanna see Ron Paul's mother!

    (Hey don't laugh. She made pretty good fish sticks.)

    posted by Eric at 10:51 PM | Comments (3)


    Marxist Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States" is being made into a major television series:

    Zinn's 1980 book influenced a generation of students with its negatively-framed distortions of American history which minimized successes like WWII. It exchanged traditional history for marginal topics such as Great Railroad Strike of 1877, Joan Baez and Angela Davis while omitting Washington's Farewell Address, the Wright Brothers and the Normandy Invasion.

    The December 10 Variety stated production begins in Boston this January. Ironically, it will use wealthy celebrities like Matt Damon, Danny Glover and Josh Brolin to convey the book's Marxist theory (bold mine).

    Excuse me while I throw up.

    No doubt the next step will be using the film as "educational" material.

    You know, for the morons who can't be brainwashed by the text because they can't read?

    posted by Eric at 07:26 PM | Comments (8)

    Struck By Lightning

    Scientific American looks at the radiation risks of living near a nuke plant vs. living near a coal fired plant. Their conclusion: the coal plant is more dangerous. How dangerous? Not very.

    Dana Christensen, associate lab director for energy and engineering at ORNL, says that health risks from radiation in coal by-products are low. "Other risks like being hit by lightning," he adds, "are three or four times greater than radiation-induced health effects from coal plants." And McBride and his co-authors emphasize that other products of coal power, like emissions of acid rain-producing sulfur dioxide and smog-forming nitrous oxide, pose greater health risks than radiation.
    It turns out that the death toll from the radiation emitted by Chernobyl has been greatly exaggerated. The Times Online has a story to tell.
    Only 56 people have died as a direct result of radiation released in the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident, and the final death toll could be thousands fewer than originally feared, the UN nuclear watchdog said today.

    However, anxiety caused by fear of death and illness from radiation poisoning is causing major mental health problems among the affected population and such worries "show no signs of diminishing and may even be spreading," the agency said, citing a new report compiled by 100 scientists.

    The final death toll attributed to radiation could reach 4,000, said the report, compiled on behalf of the Chernobyl Forum. The Chernobyl Forum includes the International Atomic Energy Agency, based in Vienna, as well as seven other UN agencies and the governments of Ukraine, where Chernobyl is located, neighbouring Belarus and Russia.

    Ukraine has previously said it had already registered 4,400 deaths related to the accident, and early speculation following the radiation release predicted tens of thousands would die.

    But Dr Burton Bennett, the chairman of the forum, said that previous death tolls had been inflated, perhaps "to attract attention to the accident, to attract sympathy".

    Well what do you know? The risks are greatly exaggerated in order to attract cash. Where have I heard that story before?

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 07:20 PM | Comments (2)

    Meanwhile, in the party of Lincoln....

    Stephen Green drunk-blogs the latest Republican debate, and it isn't a pretty picture:

    We're in a very fluid race. The frontrunner, Rudy Giulliani, is down almost everywhere. A scary populist preacher is taking the lead, almost everywhere. The war hero and the TV star are getting no respect, almost anywhere. These should be exciting times. Instead we have... well, we have what we had at today's debate -- candidates who don't seem to want to win, performing for audiences who don't much care which one wins, either.
    Alan Keyes (who polls around one percent) is definitely attracting attention:
    Blogger Wyoming Cowboy wrote in the comments on my site, "It was a four martini affair. If Alan Keyes hadn't shown up everyone would have fallen asleep." What he left unsaid was, "What the hell was Keyes doing anywhere near real candidates? Did PBS feel the need to bring someone new in to make Ron Paul look sane? And did anyone let the Secret Service know that Keyes was going to be near the real candidates?"
    Keyes seems to be good for jokes everywhere. Here's John Podhoretz:
    Alan Keyes says he would, upon assuming the presidency, instantly commit himself to an asylum. Okay, he didn't say that.
    He is a deeply unpleasant buffoon.
    (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    In October, Ed Morrissey characterized Keyes' ranting as "jaw dropping demagoguery." Forgive me if my jaws don't drop when I hear it, as I've grown quite accustomed to it. (Likewise, please forgive me for taking humor more seriously than I probably should.)

    Still, I'm glad Keyes is in the race, because I think the shrill and angry wing of the Republican Party is its worst enemy.

    On the other hand, Dean Barnett thinks Keyes is not a serious candidate:

    I would be remiss if I left this analysis without dedicating at least a few sentences to Alan Keyes. If moderator Washburn was Nurse Ratched, Alan Keyes was a patient who went off his meds. I'm quite confident that he broke the presidential debate record for most frequent usage of the word "womb."

    To bring it full circle, Keyes's distracting presence was yet another indictment of the unworthiness of the Iowa media for the enormous role it plays in this process. Keyes isn't just a frivolous candidate for president. He's not a candidate at all. And yet he was allowed on the stage to toss bombs and to perversely whine about his lack of airtime. Thompson and Romney, alone amongst the contenders, had the good sense to use Keyes as a comic foil.

    The problem with the Keyes/WorldNetDaily wing of the GOP is that a number of people claim (on the right and on the left) that its support within the GOP is far greater than it actually is.

    It's easy to dismiss Keyes as lunatic fringe, and much as I'd like to do that, it should not be forgotten that Keyes was the guy the Republican Party saw fit to run for United States Senate against the same man who may become the Democratic Party party presidential nominee. I'd like to know when and how an officially sponsored Senatorial candidate (in Illinois, by the way, an important state), whose supporters claim to be the true Republican base, came to be such a total joke. Why wasn't he a joke all along? Why wasn't he considered a joke when he called homosexuality "the thermonuclear device--that is aimed at the soul of America," and "a direct repudiation of our most important principles." Seriously, I would have liked to think he was a joke when he ran against Obama. In fact, I was so upset that I grabbed the url -- not because I especially liked Obama, but as a sort of protest, and I pointed it to one of my anti-Keyes posts, this one, I think. (I dropped it after a year, but I see it's for sale. Damn! If only I'd kept it, I might have been able to make a few bucks selling it.)

    But now the man is a joke. Maybe he's more of an embarrassment. And maybe marginalizing Keyes is an attempt to corral the voters who sympathize with what he says, while blurring their strength.

    Once again, I'd like to know how precisely many people support Keyes' nonsensical views. I'm sick of hearing them scream about how they are the true base.

    "Iowans suck at picking winners," concludes Stephen Green.

    My worry is that so does the GOP.

    posted by Eric at 10:10 AM | Comments (3)

    "I never inhaled with Bill!"

    Say what you will about Hillary, but the claim that she's a feminist (or even an independent woman) is getting pretty lame.

    As has been the pattern all along, whenever she gets into trouble, it's her husband Bill who comes to the rescue.

    Ann Althouse wonders what Hillary never did with Bill. A lot, I'd say. Anything he didn't do she didn't do better!

    So, because it's "their" (not her) Democratic Party, a Clinton campaign chair and hardball henchman (who just happens to be a trial lawyer as well as a major operative in the Carter and Gore campaigns) has stepped up to bat to do the dirty work:

    CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - A top adviser to Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign said Wednesday that Democrats should give more thought to Sen. Barack Obama's admissions of illegal drug use before they pick a presidential candidate.

    Obama's campaign said the Clinton people were getting desperate. Clinton's campaign tried to distance itself from the remarks.

    Bill Shaheen, a national co-chairman of Clinton's front-runner campaign, raised the issue during an interview with The Washington Post, posted on

    Shaheen, an attorney and veteran organizer, said much of Obama's background is unknown and could be a problem in November 2008 if he is the Democratic nominee. He said the Republicans would work hard to discover new aspects of Obama's admittedly spotty youth.

    "It'll be, 'When was the last time? Did you ever give drugs to anyone? Did you sell them to anyone?'" said Shaheen, whose wife Jeanne is the state's former governor and is running for the U.S. Senate next year.

    "There are so many openings for Republican dirty tricks. It's hard to overcome," Shaheen said.

    Clinton's campaign said it had nothing to do with his comments.

    Oh, absolutely nothing. It's a pure "coincidence."

    And of course, now he's "apologized."

    What are the Clintons trying to do, anyway?

    Bring back the "I DIDN'T INHALE" era?

    I don't care who inhaled, or with whom. I don't want to care.

    Must I?

    posted by Eric at 08:45 AM | Comments (0)

    The Manufacturing Decline

    Control Engineering asks the provocative question: is manufacturing in decline in the USA?

    Boston, MA - The keynote address at Aberdeen's first annual Manufacturing in the 21st Century Executive Summit served as a stronger wake-up call for attendees than the free coffee. During this session, best-selling author Michael Treacy highlighted the dramatic evolution of workplaces during the past several decades and asked the provocative question "does manufacturing even matter anymore?"
    Well does it? The magazine has some answers.
    Subsequent presenters, however, demonstrated that manufacturing in North America is not only relevant, but thriving.

    Innovation is indeed the engine which keeps our factories running, and the transformation of raw production data into actionable business information is central to improving the performance, productivity and ultimately the productivity of any industrial endeavor. Case in point: the transformation highlighted by Juan Carlos Sol, special projects manager of Sigma/Q.

    Sigma/Q, a leading provider of custom packaging products in North and Central America, recognized a need to improve the performance and return of multi-million dollar equipment within their plants while simultaneously decreasing operational costs. To accomplish this, however, the organization needed to transition to an automated data collection process without creating significant downtime. Once in place, the data could then be used effectively to drive continuous improvement and facilitate better decision making in real-time.

    As per usual the answer is to work smarter and harder. Control Engineering agrees.
    However, as the name implies, continuous improvement is a journey, not a destination. Even the most robust data is of little value unless that data is used to consistently measure the performance of the business. This point was reinforced by continuous improvement experts and co-presenters Richard Kunst, VP of continuous improvement for La-Z-Boy and Mariela Castano-Kunst, continuous improvement manager for Nestle Waters Canada.

    "A few years ago, a case of our water would sell for around $12 - $15," said Castano-Kunst. "This week, one of our customers will be selling two cases for $5. Change happens rapidly and the business must be equipped to react."

    To maintain profitability and competitive advantage, manufacturers need to continually challenge themselves to seek new ways to work smarter, better, and more cost-effectively. Processes must be both repeatable and sustainable to deliver the desired results. Methodologies, such as lean, six-sigma, 5S, and others truly can create a positive effect. However, even with data-centric programs such as these, the most critical success factor is properly engaging the workforce and getting them to embrace the changes such programs enforce as part of their day-to-day activities.

    Kunst described how success at La-Z-Boy begins and ends with trusting and empowering employees, providing the audience with insights on team dynamics and how to best mobilize a workforce to improve the chance of successful results.

    "Every workforce or team, regardless of industry, tends to share a similar composition," said Kunst. "Twenty percent of your workers will be positive leaders, 20% will be negative leaders and the remaining 60% will be neutral and can shift from one camp to another. It's critical that you focus your attentions on the positive leaders and leverage their enthusiasm to sway the 60%."

    So the real question is as always: do American's still have the competitive spirit that G. S. Patton described so well.
    When you, here, everyone of you, were kids, you all admired the champion marble player, the fastest runner, the toughest boxer, the big league ball players, and the All-American football players. Americans love a winner. Americans will not tolerate a loser. Americans despise cowards. Americans play to win all of the time. I wouldn't give a hoot in hell for a man who lost and laughed. That's why Americans have never lost nor will ever lose a war; for the very idea of losing is hateful to an American."
    Interestingly enough manufacturing represents about the same percentage of the economy as it has for the last 50 years. So output is actually increasing to match the growth of the economy. So why all the talk of decline? In a word. Jobs. We are making more stuff than ever with fewer people. Just as the mechanical revolution eliminated farming as a mass employer, automation is in the process of eliminating manufacturing as a mass employer. So the question is - what next?

    As usual there is no obvious answer. It is up to you to determine where the economy will go. Your best bet? Join the enthusiastic 20%. Figure out how you can be of service and just do it.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 06:23 PM | Comments (13)

    The damned broccoli! I just knew it!

    I have finally learned what will eventually kill me.

    You'll die from an Unlikely Illness (like the plague).

    You will unfortunately succumb to a random and unlikely disease. Only to find out after death that eating more broccoli would have cured you.

    'How will you die?' at

    Via Dr. Helen, who gets to die of a heroin or ecstasy overdose.

    Well, who ever said life was fair?

    And if life isn't fair (rule number one) then why should death be?

    MORAL: A heroin overdose is better than a broccoli underdose.

    posted by Eric at 03:15 PM | Comments (5)

    What was bad then is progress now!

    I think I have discovered the primary purpose of the endless recorded loops of voice dialogue prompts. They are there to make people grateful for the privilege of finally being put on hold.

    In the old days, I used to hate being put on hold.

    Much as it galls me to admit it, I now see "getting to hold" as a sign I am making, um, "progress."

    posted by Eric at 01:06 PM | Comments (0)

    Climate change causes war, right?

    That's what they say.

    "Climate change" is responsible for the Darfur conflict, right?

    This meme has been parroted endlessly (and of course it made it into Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth"), but trained economist Chris Blattman asked a basic question:

    The pundits say yes, but what do the data say?
    Well, among other things, this:
    Rainfall in Darfur did not decline significantly in the years prior to the eruption of major conflict in 2003; rainfall exhibited a flat trend in the thirty-years preceding the conflict (1972-2002). The claim that climate change explains the conflict rests on the observation that rainfall in Darfur has declined when comparing the present thirty-year period of 1972-2002 with earlier periods. This is strongly evident for El Fasher and El Geneina but less clear for the more southerly rainfall stations. Rainfall is basically stationary over the pre- and post-1972 sub-periods. A theory linking climate change around 1972 with an outbreak of conflict in 2003 has no compelling supporting evidence at present.
    Blattman is quite objective and does not discount rainfall as a factor. However, his careful analysis reveals that "we ought to take a look at the supporting data before we make a conflict the poster child for the rainfall-conflict relationship."

    Proponents of the climate change "narrative" have limited their focus to rainfall as the causal link "from low incomes to the outbreak of civil war." According to Blattman, this violates what economists call the exclusion restriction.

    While I'm not an economist, I enjoyed his understated conclusion:

    Statistically speaking, the exclusion restriction on the instrument is potentially violated.
    Just don't expect to read that in the Daily Narrative or whatever your local newspaper is called.

    posted by Eric at 11:33 AM | Comments (2)

    Drug warrior combats drug war nostalgia flick

    Last week I saw "American Gangster," which I thought was a great film. It deals with the rise and fall of black gangster Frank Lucas, and also explores the inherently corrupt (and corrupting) nature of the Drug War. The lead character, played by Denzell Washington, was a thorough Machiavellian who mastered not only a novel heroin distribution technique (I won't spoil the plot), but astutely played on white racist assumptions like a chess master. Because he had never been more than a black chauffer for a Harlem gangster, it was natural for the cops (and the white mobsters) to assume he was working for "The Man." In reality, he was working for himself!

    Even though I generally don't review the films I see, I highly recommend "American Gangster."

    What prompted this spontaneous plug was reading Annie Jacobsen's report that a group of DEA agents are claiming that the film has libeled the DEA:

    The day after Thanksgiving, a New York lawyer named Dominic Amorosa wrote a letter to NBC Universal--the film studio behind American Gangster --threatening a class action lawsuit on behalf of a group of Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agents. The way in which DEA agents were portrayed in the film, the lawyer said, was "destroying the reputations of honest and courageous public servants."

    It's a bizarre premise for a lawsuit; what Hollywood film involving federal agents doesn't portray at least one of those federal agents as corrupt?

    But Amorosa's threatened lawsuit took on an even flimsier footing when the New York Post reported last week that the would-be plaintiff was a "retired federal agent" named Gregory Korniloff.

    Folks, this is a movie. OK? I went to see it neither knowing nor caring whether all of it or any part of it was true. Sure, I'd heard it was "based on a true story" but I always take such claims with a grain of salt. (Oliver Stone's fantastic tales of historical revisionism are often marketed that way, and I judge them on their own merit, as works of art. I have learned not to expect truth from Stone, but he still has his merits as a director.)

    But now, a man I had never heard of before (and never want to again) is claiming that the film made him look like a bad guy:

    Dominic Amorosa's current charge is that the Korniloff character is portrayed in "the most awful and corrupt manner" in the fictional film. He says that his client's "honest and courageous" reputation has been intentionally made bad by the movie studio. Amorosa says the public deserves the truth and, on behalf of public servant Korniloff, demands that Universal studio re-cut the end of the film--or else.
    Korniloff? Sorry, but the name didn't ring a bell.

    I thought I'd better check the imdb list of characters. Guess what? The name "Korniloff" does not appear.

    So how was this man defamed?

    By filing the lawsuit, he's invited public scrutiny, and Annie Jacobsen explores a litany of complaints against Korniloff, including:

    .... tampering with evidence, threatening people with violence, tampering with evidence, and destroying government property to a degree that makes real life seem far stranger than fiction. Had Korniloff neglected to step into the limelight last week, perhaps none of this would have come to bear. But Korniloff put the cameras on himself. On the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving, Korniloff gave an exclusive, live telephone interview to FOX News (from inside his Department of Homeland Security office which, incidentally, is against federal policy). This self-promoting act triggered a landslide of news reports. Suddenly, the relatively unknown Gregory Korniloff was a household name as far away India, Vietnam and Russia.

    And there's a lot more. Read the whole thing. If even half of it is right, it's a crying shame that a rogue agent like this is still permitted to drink from the public trough. Jacobsen reports that his attorney was rude, Korniloff refused to answer questions, and that this looks like a classic case of a glass house:

    Corruption is a serious charge. It means, "dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power." That Korniloff is charging the studio behind "American Gangster" with libel because they make him look corrupt seems like a man in a glass house throwing stones.
    One principle of defamation law is so widely repeated that it's almost a legal maxim.

    Truth is a defense.

    Who knows? The lawsuit might even help the film.

    The lawsuit (thanks to Annie Jacobsen's excellent reporting) has certainly helped motivate me to give the film a plug.

    So I'll conclude by plugging it again. "American Gangster" an exciting, action-packed film, with something for nearly everybody, right, left, or center, communitarian, libertarian, pro-Drug War, anti-Drug War, and even those in the "Not Sure" categories.

    I especially recommend it to those who think prohibition works.

    Right. They took down Lucas in 1975, and that ended the heroin problem.

    This will sound counterintuitive, but since I'm on the subject of the Drug War, I'll end on a note of pessimism about optimism. I think America's failed (though constitutional) experience with prohibition of alcohol had the paradoxical effect of causing the old guard (the cops who'd been around long enough to recall the hopeless corruption, and the folly inherent in waging war against the human appetite for pain-avoiding pleasures) to throw up their hands, and remark the obvious -- that the Drug War was similarly doomed to failure. What this did was generate a determined new optimism among the "young turks" of the 1960s and 1970s, many of whom tended to see the Drug War as a Culture War (something Prohibition tended not to be, although it would have been impossible to start without anti-German hysteria). These new "optimists" introduced a number of (IMO) foolish ideas -- one of which was the meme that relegalization would be a "surrender" (and therefore immoral and cowardly), and the other was the even more irrational idea (a perversion of optimism, IMO) that "we can make prohibition work this time." Generation after generation of neo-socialists have made the same claim (which is made today), despite the fact that socialism does not work. In both cases, closed loop systems of circular thinking prevail, in which everything that happens, and every statistic that can be found or manufactured, is seized upon as evidence in support of the master plan. Either there are signs that they are winning (in which case the efforts must be redoubled -- "this is no time to let down our guard") or else there are signs that "we are losing" (and therefore must redouble our efforts.

    Thus, my worry is that prohibition may be as ineradicable as socialism.

    Which is more corruptive of the human soul is beyond the subject of this post.

    But don't miss "American Gangster."

    posted by Eric at 10:19 AM | Comments (1)

    Winning in theory

    According to Drudge, this "DNC press release attack summary" shows the amount of time the Democrats have devoted their resources to attacks on candidates:

    DNC Press Release Attack Summary:

    Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA) - 37% (99 press releases)
    Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R-NY) - 28% (74)
    Senator John McCain (R-AZ) - 24% (64)
    Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN) - 8% (20)
    Governor Mike Huckabee - 2% (4)

    While it is natural to expect the top candidates to be attacked the most often, what fascinates me is the disproportionate amount of fire which McCain has drawn compared to his actual strength in the Republican race.

    This can only mean one thing: McCain is the most feared possible opponent of Hillary Clinton -- regardless of how well he polls within the GOP.

    In a hypothetical one-on-one national race, McCain consistently outpolls Hillary by wider margins than either Giuliani or Romney. (Which is very impressive, considering his lackluster performance in the primaries.)

    Fortunately for the Democrats, Republican primary voters are not guided by who has the best chance of winning in the general election.

    Drudge's analysis is intended to make the point that because Mike Huckabee is "an easy kill" (which I think he is), the DNC has decided to completely back off from attacking him, thus making it easier for his primary campaign.

    I think the recent Huckabee surge is a flash in the pan, though, and were I advising the DNC, I'd tell them that they're making a strategic mistake in attacking McCain. Attacks on McCain from the left could generate Republican voter backlash in his favor.

    It's a shame that McCain's name is forever tied to the hated McCain-Feingold bill, which is one of the worst blows dealt the First Amendment in recent years. I can forgive almost anything (and I would certainly vote for him against Hillary), but it makes him a hard sell.

    Other than the McCain-Feingold albatross, though, the guy is a real statesman, the closest thing the country has to a modern Eisenhower.

    If he ever got on the general ballot, he could win big.

    So much for alternate history theorizing....

    posted by Eric at 07:51 AM | Comments (1)

    Tis the season to be smoking....

    Via Glenn Reynolds, I'm glad to see that Evan Coyne Maloney reached a settlement with Indiana University, which alleged he infringed on their trademark. I don't think he did, and I wrote a post about it.

    But that got me to thinking about the right of others to use a logo which the owner still owns, but is forbidden by the government to use.

    Back in 1999, in a comprehensive settlement, nearly all forms of tobacco advertising were prohibited, and so were the many peripheral products bearing the various tobacco company logos:

    Following President Clinton's lead, U.S. Attorneys General from 46 states (5) joined forces to file a single lawsuit that has made the participating tobacco companies (6) willing to settle to terms that will change the tobacco industry forever. (7) This settlement is known as the Master Settlement Agreement. For example, banned are advertisements on billboards, in sports arenas and stadiums, shopping malls, buses and trains. Sales of T-shirts, caps and other merchandise are banned, as well as promotion of tobacco products in movies, TV shows, theater productions, music performances, videos and video games. (8)

    Because a number of the terms contained in the Master Settlement Agreement have sharply restricted the tobacco industry's ability to market and advertise its products, the settlement agreement has First Amendment commercial speech implications. Should challenges to the Master Settlement Agreement arise, the Supreme Court would employ the pathbreaking decision for determining when the government may restrict commercial speech, Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp. v. Public Service Commission of New York (9) and its progeny to assess its constitutionality. (10)

    T-shirts, caps and other tobacco-related items are still for sale on ebay, but I'm wondering....

    Are they illegal?

    Can commercial speech which is not sold by the commercial entity be called commercial speech and restricted, or it is treated like "free" speech? I mean, suppose someone thought that digital camera cases with Marlboro and other cigarette designs on them would be purchased by people who think it's cute that cameras are now the size and shape of cigarette packs, and they'd like to put them in cases that look like cigarette packs. For fun. I have no idea how many people would buy them, but what's the deal here? The tobacco companies would seem to be barred from selling them, but isn't that only intended to prevent tobacco marketing? What about electronics stores selling them to customers who think they're cool?

    What about me? What about people who don't like the anti-tobacco movement, and don't mind showing contempt for it? Don't they have a right to buy tobacco logo merchandise as a protest statement? Is that commercial speech?

    What if you think the campaign against tobacco has gone too far, and you want to express solidarity with "forbidden products"?

    Some of the stranger nuances of commercial speech (such as whether a manufacturer can be forced to pay for commercialized attacks on his product) are discussed here, and I find myself wondering about whether the First Amendment has been essentially nullified in the case of tobacco. Sure, tobacco is unpopular, but so are Nazis, and they're free to run billboard ads.

    Seriously, what about my right to advocate on behalf of cigarettes and smokers' rights? Suppose I think that the best way to do that is to brandish them and urge people to smoke. Why shouldn't I be just as free to do that as I am to brandish condoms and urge people to screw? Why can't I put a giant Marlboro billboard on my property as protest art? Does the First Amendment prohibit me from engaging in a little Warholesque guerilla theater?

    There are all kinds of cute products that pro-tobacco protesters could sell.

    This "smoker phone" for example, is really nifty.


    And here's an ordinary looking pack of Marlboro cigarettes which contains a wireless video camera and transmitter.


    Assuming that they both had company logos on them, would the above products violate the 1999 settlement, or are only the companies prohibited from selling them?

    Or could the government force the tobacco companies to sue infringers?

    How much power do the bastards have?

    posted by Eric at 09:45 PM | Comments (1)

    Doin' the write thing

    Ann Althouse has an interesting discussion of a Times piece about why dyslexics become entrepreneurs, and she asks a good question:

    I love these stories of how people find special powers in their mental deficiencies. (Oliver Sacks is a master at presenting material of this kind.)

    Bonus topic: What are the mental deficiencies that prevail in the world of blogging?

    (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    Well, I love talking about my mental deficiencies, and it just so happens that I am a failed entrepreneur and a disgruntled attorney. I don't know whether that means I was insufficiently dyslexic, or simply overwhelmed by circumstances beyond my control. The business was a popular success, but that did not translate into paying the rent. I should have called it quits after six months of failure, but being a glutton for punishment, I kept it going through a full three years of failure. Something about the large crowds created the illusion of success, and I loved the place. But the place closed in 1994, and it's all water under the dam that failed to protect the damned bridge.

    What I'm fascinated by now is my inability to ignore problems that I probably should ignore, but can't. That drives the blog, and I often see the mechanics of blogging as analogous to the game of Tetris, a game which cannot possibly be won. The goal is not winning, but getting better at postponing the inevitable defeat. (All issues of "getting to the truth" and other possible virtues notwithstanding....)

    As I observed recently, anything you write about will cause you to not write about the many other things which are also worth writing about. The more you write, the more you neglect. But of course, the less you write, the more you neglect. And if you think that you are fixing anything by writing about it, you will likely be wrong, because even things that you think you have "fixed" do not stay fixed. I like to keep in mind my "exposé" of Capitol Hill Blue as an example. Any thought I might have had that by exposing (discrediting, debunking, whatever) a bogus "news site," that I might defeat it or make it go away was silly, as not only is there a First Amendment right to crank out bogus news and a right to promulgate lies, but there is no shortage of gullible readers to consume them. (So another determined blogger came along years later attempting to stake the same vampire I thought I had already staked, and it will probably happen again and again.) Blogging does not really fix things -- not for good. On the other hand, if you like to tinker and you enjoy a challenge, there's no shortage of challenges out there.

    In addition to the Internet, the daily newspaper and the television are like a dart board of issues for blogging. Just pick anything. But remember, you'll be neglecting everything else while you do!

    Using today's Inquirer as a dartboard, I found an interesting quote about a favorite topic for bloggers: journalism. In this case, it's a review of a film about student journalists at Penn State. We often stereotype students as starry-eyed young idealists out to save the world, and many students who want to be journalists would certainly seem to supply support for the stereotype. What intrigued me about the piece was the apparent area of agreement between the Penn State students in the film and the Inquirer reporter about the purpose of journalism:

    The students in The Paper may skip classes left and right to pursue their journalistic duties and passions, but they are not journalism nerds.

    And they are probably a little more lovable in their youthful struggle to do the right thing than some of us more seasoned journalists, but they care just as much as we do about the two age-old problems of journalism: How to provide readers with what they want and what they need.

    If we take it as a given that readers are analogous to customers, providing them with "what they want" would seem to be the goal of nearly every successful entrepreneur. Because, after all, if they don't get what they want, they might not come back for more, and that's bad for business. In that sense, journalists are entrepreneurs.

    But what about dyslexia? Say what you will, but I think "dyslexic journalism" has an oxymoronic ring to it. (I'd say the field would be mostly barred to them.)

    On the other hand, what if "what they want" is plenty of blood and gore? Or sexual titillation? Sports? Hate? Spirituality? Wealth?

    Where is the distinction between what they want and what they need? Does this go to the purpose of a newspaper? I might not want to know that a huge storm is due to hit the area tomorrow, but I certainly need to know about it so I don't get trapped in it.

    To continue with the entrepreneur model, are journalists supposed to be catering to the wants and needs of their readers? Or are they supposed to be creating wants and needs for them? Many entrepreneurs have become successful not by selling people what they want, but by offering something new that they never realized that they might want. And want has a sneaky way of crossing over in the human mind to the need section. (I think most of us have purchased things we thought we needed, but which on reflection it turned out we only wanted.)

    Are bloggers doing the same thing as journalists and entrepreneurs and either finding wants and needs and catering to them or creating new wants and needs? Does this touch on what we call "providing a service"? If so, what is the service? In theory, conventional news reporting is supposed to be providing the service of reporting news, right? People want news, but should they have a role in determining what news is reported based on what they like? I'm thinking that speaking in terms of "wants" and "needs" might not be precise, and it might depend on how many people want news that conforms to their tastes, as opposed to how many want to get what Joe Friday used to call "just the facts, Maam."

    I think that a general distinction between bloggers and straight reporters is that the former offer opinions, and they make no bones about what they think, while the latter are supposed to adhere to something called a "code of journalism" which frowns on the presentation of opinions as facts. Because many bloggers (and I'm no exception) are often obsessed with distinguishing between fact and opinion, bloggers are cast in the role of being watchdogs constantly sniffing out opinions concealed as facts, then howling in the hope the world will hear them. Considering the dishonesty inherent in presenting opinions as facts, they often howl quite loudly, thus creating constant tension between bloggers and journalists who are caught violating their code.

    But in light of stated goals of the budding journalists at Penn State, maybe bloggers have it all wrong. If the goal of journalism is to serve up "what they want and what they need," and if what they want and what they need are determined with reference to sales, things like a lack of credibility and concealed biases might be peripheral issues.

    After analyzing how the students struggled to find stories that would interest the readers (a gay kiss fest was a real attention grabber, natch), the Inquirer concluded with a vague reference to doing "the right thing":

    These kids are fascinating as they struggle to do what they think is the right thing both for their publication and for the public.

    We professionals may not be quite so charismatic, but we're struggling, too.

    Is providing for readers' wants and needs necessarily the right thing?

    My biggest problem with hidden bias stems from my aversion to being led. Ideally, I don't like being led at all, but it's when I feel tricked, misled, or manipulated that I really get my hackles up.

    I'm worried that some journalists think that "doing the right thing" consists not of reporting, but in leading the minds of their readers.

    This may have the effect of generating tension with readers (to say nothing of bloggers), because many people recoil at having their minds led by people they want to trust as straight-shooting information providers.

    If someone wants to lead me, I simply want that fact disclosed, so I can decide whether I should follow. That used to be the purpose of editorials.

    posted by Eric at 11:08 AM | Comments (3)

    A "former Christian" who "hated Christians"?

    That's what is being reported about Matthew Murray, the gunman who (fortunately) was shot dead after opening fire on a church but before he could kill more people.

    Reports also state that he is a "loner" from a "devoutly religious family," was home-schooled, and was rejected as a missionary. While his family was described as an "integral part" of the church he attacked, the gunman apparently attended another church:

    Pastor Jim Wurst said that the Murray family was an integral part of the church. He said Matthew Murray stopped going a several years ago but continued to attend another church in Littleton. His mother is in charge of Love Fellowship's women's ministry.
    None of this makes a lot of sense to me. Whether he was in fact a Christian or not (or whether this was an attack on Christians for being Christians) my fix on the gunman is that he was probably a paranoid schizophrenic. He has been described as hearing voices and being engaged in strange behavior.

    Above all, it's another argument for an armed citizenry.

    Thank God they shot him, whether he was a former Christian who hated Christians, or one of the innumerable ticking time bombs who need treatment but can't get it.

    MORE: According to this Fox News report, Murray may have shot himself.

    AND MORE: Murray's Internet ravings would appear to confirm a hatred for Christians, especially Pentecostal Christians:

    "You Christians brought this on yourselves," Murray wrote on a Web site for people who have left Pentecostal and fundamentalist religious organizations.

    It was the most recent posting of his on the site, dated Sunday, December 9 at 11:03 a.m.

    Murray lived with his parents in a home in unincorporated Arapahoe County where police conducted a search on Sunday night.

    In the Web writings, which are now being investigated by Colorado Springs Police, Arvada Police and the FBI, Murray warned, "I'm coming for EVERYONE soon and I WILL be armed to the @#%$ teeth and I WILL shoot to kill. ...God, I can't wait till I can kill you people. Feel no remorse, no sense of shame, I don't care if I live or die in the shoot-out. All I want to do is kill and injure as many of you ... as I can especially Christians who are to blame for most of the problems in the world."

    If the time on the posting is accurate, it was posted after the 12:30 a.m. shooting Sunday morning in Arvada and before the 1:10 p.m. Sunday afternoon shooting in Colorado Springs.

    Murray's first posting on the day of the shootings is time stamped 10:50 a.m. It begins with a goodbye to those he has corresponded with for the past several months.

    "You guys were awesome. It's time for me to head out and teach these (expletive) a lesson."

    Murray continued, "Thanks for listening and all ... even though even many of you ex-Pentecostals don't understand ......(sic) See you all on the other side, we're leaving this nightmare behind to a better place."

    Then Murray posted the 11:03 writing quoted above. That writing mirrors written statements by Columbine gunman Eric Harris.

    Christians are to blame for most of the problems in the world?

    That sounds like familiar leftist hyperbole to me. I certainly hope activists weren't encouraging a mentally ill man, but it's been known to happen.

    MORE: A lot of speculation here about whether the man suffered from schizophrenia (with some arguing he suffered from "demonic possession"). I thought this one was the most interesting:

    My information is that the perp had exhibited dangerous/threatening behavior for years but a relatively wealthy and well-connected family had kept it from being handled officially. This is very, very similar to an incident earlier in Colorado which you might have heard of, called the "Columbine High School Massacre".

    There a group of well-connected bullies terrorized other students with impunity, due to spineless police, local government and school authorities, until two of their victims snapped.

    Something definitely stinks in Colorado. It looks more and more like place not to raise a family.

    If that's the case, it might explain why there's no documented history of mental illness other than accounts that he heard voices and behaved strangely.

    MORE: In a number of reports, I keep seeing this explanation from the missionary school as to why Murray was kicked out:

    Murray was enrolled in a Discipleship Training School but did not complete the program, which is a 12-week classroom course followed by a 12-week field assignment.

    "Murray did not complete the lecture phase of his Discipleship Training School, nor did he participate in the field assignment," the statement said. "The program directors felt that issues with his health made it inappropriate for him to do so. Murray left the Arvada training center and no one at the facility recalls that he has made any other visits or had any communication with the center since that time." (Emphasis added.)

    What issues with his health? Why is there not more discussion of this?

    AND MORE: Glenn Reynolds has a great roundup of posts and reactions, and wonders why the reports keep trying to spin the heroic church worker Jeanne Assam as a "security guard."

    Probably it's because they don't like armed citizens, which explains why news reports involving successful defenses against criminals tend to be suppressed. Or surgically altered.

    If the "reports" that the gunman took his own life turn out to be unfounded, that might related to a similar mentality.

    MORE: "The "security guard" meme. Ditto, Philadelphia Inquirer:

    Jeanne Assam, a church member who volunteers as a security guard, shot and killed Murray. Boyd, the pastor, called her "a real hero."
    If I shoot a psychotic invader, would I be called a "volunteer security guard"?

    Don't I need a license for such a title? Or are the news media now involved in the security guard licensing business?

    AND MORE: This CNN report quotes Murray's Internet writings, the "issues with his health" statement, and someone who knew him:

    Werner, of Balneario Camborius, Brazil, said he had a bunk near Murray's and that Murray would roll around in bed and make noises.

    "He would say, 'Don't worry, I'm just talking to the voices,' " Werner said. "He'd say, 'Don't worry, Richard. You're a nice guy. The voices like you.' "

    Werner said he instantly suspected Murray when he heard the news of Sunday's shootings.

    "I turned to my wife and I said, 'I know who did it. It's Matthew,' " he said. "It was so obvious.

    "For four months, he was sleeping right next to me. Those are the things you don't imagine, but when it happened it was so obvious."

    Werner said his "heart is crushed" by news of the shootings.

    CNN also posted the only picture I've seen of Murray, shown playing a keyboard:


    Normally, I'm not interested in pictures of dead psychotic killers. However, if you look closely, you'll see the photo is marked "COURTESY ROBERT WERNER" -- the same man who described the rolling and the voices.

    Unless someone is involved in fabrication, this would appear to lend credibility to Werner's claims.

    AND MORE: Not to dwell on this detail unduly, but the Philadelphia Inquirer article was written by AP reporter Judith Kohler, and it's interesting to watch how it is being reinterpreted. Here's a version headlined "Killer was full of hate" which states flatly that "Murray was shot dead by security guard Jeannne Assam."

    Note how the word "volunteer" is becoming superfluous.

    Now I'm forced to speculate about which interpretation most closely resembles the original and what the AP report might have actually said, and even what it might as well have said.

    Can they do this?

    MORE: While none of this is conclusive proof of anything, in yesterday's AP reports by Kohler, the word "volunteer" does not precede "security guard." So maybe the later reports are attempts at revision.

    Who knows? The goal is to cloak the woman with officialdom before word gets out.

    UPDATE: It's not scientific, but I polled Google. The Kohler report about Murray with "Security guard" gets 2440 hits, while "volunteer security guard" gets only 133.

    MORE: The coroner has ruled Murray's death a suicide:

    "The death of Matthew Murray has been ruled a suicide," the El Paso County Coroner's Office said in a statement.

    "It should be noted that he was struck multiple times by the security officer, which put him down. He then fired a single round killing himself," the statement said.

    Police Sgt. Skip Arms told The Associated Press that Murray shot himself in the head.

    Get that? Now she's an "officer."

    I still don't think we're getting the full story, but OTOH, I think it's a huge mistake if (as is claimed here) the "secular media" is being blamed for the shooting.

    It's the gunman's fault. And if he was crazy (which I think he probably was), then those who failed to help him -- and the legal system -- maybe ought to share in the blame.

    Blaming the "culture" when a nut goes off is irresponsible.

    MORE: Here's what purports to be a lengthy collection of Matthew Murray's postings, for those who are interested. Reading through them does little to change my initial reaction -- that the guy suffered from paranoid schizophrenia.

    Here's one example, titled "Drowning in Despair":

    You raped the soul from the child in me.......
    Bow down to the land of the free
    Bow down to your world that made me me
    Bury the nails into the one like me
    Consecrating the lies and exalting false prophecy
    Tearing apart souls of man and all his goals
    Offer benedictions and wills to plague your... made, in a so-called God
    The taste of sulfur and rain
    Your churchianity christ now turns on man
    And brings him pain
    Bow down to a lying clergy of sodomy
    Bow down to the world that rejected me....
    A gun to the temple of a world enslaved
    by the lies that bind us to a faded hope
    And a promise of salvation that is only a lie
    Ensures the perversion that you try to hide
    will become as dust that will fade in time
    To take this world of hate
    Of torture, our fate
    Will rest in hands
    That sow the seeds of rape

    Mister Crowley......what went on in your head?

    Who's mistake am I anyways?

    I think the evidence is overwhelming that the man was severely mentally ill.

    posted by Eric at 11:09 PM | Comments (7)

    Death, birth, whatever!

    Via Glenn Reynolds, who calls her a "supply sider," Whoopi Goldberg's latest remarks show so much common sense that she's starting to remind me of my late father.

    Whoopi actually stated that the inheritance tax amounts to double taxation:

    During a discussion of Republican Presidential candidates on ABC's The View, which the comedian co-hosts, Ms. Goldberg said, "I'd like somebody to get rid of the death tax. That's what I want. I don't want to get taxed just because I died." The studio audience started applauding, but she wasn't done. "I just don't think it's right," she continued. "If I give something to my kid, I already paid the tax. Why should I have to pay it again because I died?"
    Why? Because the government believes that your money is not yours. You are not free to give it away when you're alive, or after you're dead. You are not free to pay people to perform labor without reporting them, and increasingly, you are generally not free to buy things for more than $10,000 without reporting the transactions. Even though you might think you have earned it, your money is not yours, and paying the taxes does not make it yours.

    The idea that the government is taxing you "just because you died," well, the government really doesn't need death as an excuse to tax people.

    They could just as well use birth.

    (And to "save the planet" they probably will.)

    UPDATE: More on the "baby tax" idea:

    Writing in today's Medical Journal of Australia, Associate Professor Barry Walters said every couple with more than two children should be taxed to pay for enough trees to offset the carbon emissions generated over each child's lifetime.

    Professor Walters, clinical associate professor of obstetric medicine at the University of Western Australia and the King Edward Memorial Hospital in Perth, called for condoms and "greenhouse-friendly" services such as sterilisation procedures to earn carbon credits.

    And he implied the Federal Government should ditch the $4133 baby bonus and consider population controls like those in China and India.

    I'm sure the IRS would love having a new source of revenue.

    posted by Eric at 08:58 PM | Comments (4)

    Horses, Himmler, and horseless carriages....

    The times they are a changin' and morality changes with the times.

    There's a movement now to abolish horse-drawn carriages in New York, ostensibly because of cruelty to horses:

    NEW YORK (AP) - The horse-drawn carriages that clip clop around Central Park could be banned under City Council legislation to be introduced at the urging of animal advocates who say the horses are treated inhumanely.
    OK, stop right there. New York has plenty of animal cruelty laws which would cover any inhumane treatment of horses.

    However, there is a mindset which believes that if existing laws are being broken, the solution is to pass more laws. I'm not sure how this works, but I think it has something to do with lazy policing coupled with the belief that laws act on their own.

    Councilman Tony Avella, who plans to introduce the bill next Wednesday, said the horses that have entertained tourists and New Yorkers for decades are exposed to cruel conditions and are at risk of injury or death as they weave through city traffic.
    Again, if there are cruel conditions, why isn't someone enforcing the laws against animal cruelty? Why is it necessary to ban horses?
    In September, a horse died after it was spooked by street musicians with drums and bolted down Central Park South. It was the second such incident in less than two years.

    "This situation is only getting worse - the animals are not being treated properly, and enough is enough," Avella said. "Horses are incompatible with traffic - especially midtown traffic."

    The horse in question (the death of which seems to be driving the current proposal) was definitely spooked, no question about that. Here's the NYT account:
    According to witnesses, a man walked past the horses while beating a small drum, which caused a brown horse that was hitched to a carriage to bolt onto the sidewalk, darting between two poles that were about two feet apart. The horse made it through but the carriage did not, and as the horse struggled to move forward, it collapsed and died, witnesses said.

    "It fell into a panic and then fell on the ground, kicking," said Roger Watkins, who was walking by and tried to help. "He kept shaking and then went into shock and collapsed."

    At the same time, a second horse ran into the street and leaped onto the hood of a passing Mercedes-Benz, witnesses said. That horse survived, and the passengers in the car, which was badly damaged, said they were not injured.

    Ordinarily, horses have long tolerated ordinary street noises, so I'm wondering whether the decibels were particularly loud, and whether noise ordinances were violated. I'd have probably been spooked too, but not as badly as the horse, and I find myself wondering whether something might have been wrong with the horse, or its driver. It is not normal for a horse to be spooked to death by noises. I notice the horse was fairly new to the carriage trade and I'm wondering whether it was a high-strung retired race horse or something.

    But because a horse was involved in a fatal accident, is the solution to ban horses?

    This website (run by activists, naturally) seems to think it is. Does this mean that horse-drawn carriages in the country should be banned too? What's the theory? How about dogs? Plenty of dogs get killed by cars; millions, in fact, are spooked by urban stresses, run into the street, and are killed. Should dogs therefore be banned?

    The article continues, quoting statements which seem to imply that there's more going on than concerns over accidents involving horses.

    On Saturday, the Queens Democrat was to announce his legislation with the coalition and a number of animal rights activists, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and television star Jo Anne Worley.

    "The industry is inherently inhumane, and we feel that way because it denies a horse its most basic instincts," said Elizabeth Forel, president of the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages.

    In September, an audit by the city's comptroller found that the horses work in an area without enough water spigots, shade or drains for their waste - and without enough oversight by authorities.

    Again, if horses are not being cared for properly, there are laws in place to deal with that.

    I'm wondering about the statement that the carriage industry "denies a horse its most basic instincts." What instincts might be included?

    Reproduction, perhaps?

    Did you know that there's a "horse overpopulation" problem? I didn't, but a number of animal "rights" groups say there is.

    I'd love to get to the bottom of what is meant by the term "overpopulation."

    While some of the activist sites say there is horse overpopulation, here's a horse advocacy site which claims there isn't:

    The annual number of horses slaughtered in the US dropped from over 300,000 in the 1990s to less than 50,000 in 2003, with no special infrastructure needed to absorb the thousands of "unwanted" horses that were not slaughtered. Horses are being kept longer, sold to others, humanely euthanized, or donated to retirement and rescue facilities. The "surplus horse population" is a myth.
    How is overpopulation to be determined? There are said to be 6,900,000 horses in the United States. Presumably, this figure refers to owned, not wild, horses. (More on that distinction here.)

    But to stay with the domesticated variety, there were 24 million horses in 1900, when the United States had a population of 76,212,168. Today, the United States has 303,560,147 people.

    Which means, simply, that while the human population has nearly quadrupled since 1900, the horse population is less than a third of what it was.

    Again, what is overpopulation? Might it mean the point at which the "supply" exceeds the "demand"? Obviously, there was a lot more demand for horses in 1900 than there is now. But who gets to decide what constitutes overpopulation?

    Is there a human overpopulation problem? Many claim that there is, but what does this word mean? Starvation? Children sitting unadopted in adoption agencies? Convicts sitting on death row? Unemployment? A lack of available land?

    Are horses starving because of a lack of food (or mismanagement of food resources) the way some humans are? I haven't read about an excess of starving horses, although I'm sure that some horses occasionally starve as a result of human neglect, but that's not overpopulation.

    What I think is going on is philosophical, and closely related to the relentless campaign against dog breeding. Animal rights groups which are philosophically opposed to all human ownership or use of animals consequently see the breeding of any animals as evil, because breeding means more owned animals, and in an ideal world there should be none.

    Whether the animals be horses, dogs, cats, or even fish, the bottom line is that there are no responsible breeders, and therefore all breeding should be stopped.

    A billboard campaign in New York has accused breeders of being responsible for the fact that dogs are killed in shelters, and they've also produced a video which analogizes breeding a pet to breeding a daughter.

    Very funny. Like a famous anti-fishing film I saw which showed a fisherman getting hooked and dragged into the water to be drowned and eaten by fish. Or this clever brochure for kids:

    Children will read: "Imagine that a man dangles a piece of candy in front of you. ... As you grab the candy, a huge metal hook stabs through your hand and you're ripped off the ground. You fight to get away, but it doesn't do any good... That would be an awful trick to play on someone, wouldn't it?"
    But why is there no film showing what "responsible" parents should do, which is clearly to take the daughter to the doctor for an ovarectomy?

    Please bear in mind that I don't that animals and humans are moral equivalents. But many people do, and they are winning these debates because people with common sense don't challenge them.

    Is hooking and drowning a little girl the same as fishing?

    Since the philosophical premise of both the anti-breeding and horse eradication campaigns is based on human-animal moral equivalency, I have a few questions.

    The same organization which attacks breeders and animal ownership itself has a documented history of killing animals -- for which they doubtless blame "the breeders." Now, breeders are creating (at least arguably creating) animal lives, while they are destroying animal lives. If animals are the moral equivalent of people, why is the former considered evil, while the latter is considered good?

    I can't think of a clearer example of this moral equivalency argument than the famous statement (from another campaign) that "the leather sofa and handbag are the moral equivalent of the lampshades made from the skins of people killed in the death camps."

    Are they? I don't think so, but if I did, what would that make me if I engaged in the killing of animals myself? A Himmler? Not normal Himmler, though, but a hypocritical Himmler, a Himmler who philosophically opposed what he was doing.

    But wait! I'd only be a hypocritical Himmler if I held to a different standard. If OTOH, I thought it was just as permissible to destroy "excess" or "overpopulated" humans as it was to destroy overpopulated animals, no one could accuse me of hypocrisy, could they? The same, fair standard applied to all creatures, right?

    Which means there's no reason not to make a video showing parents doing the right thing and having their daughter sterilized.

    And their son too, by God! Think of the decrease in crime that would result if every boy had his nuts done at the right age. (No seriously. I'm not Bill Bennett on the radio, and I can get away with telling the truth. Mandatory castration of male humans would cut the crime rate by as much as 95%.)

    Also, if animals are the moral equivalent of humans, what are the moral implications of the pit bull eradication campaign? If it's "ethical" to wipe out an evil breed, then why isn't it ethical to wipe out an evil variety of human?

    Once you start the moral equivalency argument, why not? This is why I don't like the human/animal moral equivalency argument, because like many other moral equivalency arguments, they're a slippery slope, a rhetorical trap for the unwary.

    Just to be clear, I do not think that PETA is the moral equivalent of the Nazi SS. The problem is that by their own logic, they are.

    And if I fell into this trap, I might find myself saying something like "There are no responsible death camp operators," even though I don't think that animal euthanasia (or KFC) is the moral equivalent of Auschwitz. Nor would I blame "Jew breeders" for the fate of "unwanted Jews."

    I don't think two wrongs ever make a right, so much as I understand the frustrations of angry breeders and people in the animal business, I don't think it's right to say that PETA is the moral equivalent of the SS. Animals are not like people.

    However, animals are animals. And if killing animals is not immoral, if KFC kills animals and PETA kills animals, then it is not an abuse of the moral equivalency argument to claim that PETA is the moral equivalent of KFC. While it is true that the former kills animals to stop overpopulation (or exterminate a "vicious breed"), and these purposes are said to be good, the latter kills animals to feed humans, purposes which are also said to be good. But these rationalizations do not change the morality of the killing.

    Back to the moral equivalency of overpopulation, and the contention that horses are overpopulated even though there are two-thirds fewer now than in 1900. If horses are to be prohibited in cities, because urban stresses are deemed too much for them, why should other animals be forced to live in cities? And what about humans? As I said, I'd be spooked by someone beating a drum in my ear, and I think Coco would be too. And personally, I find all these cars driving around to be very distracting and annoying. But is it really fair to force animals and humans to live in uninhabitable, stressful places? Rather than forcing the horses out, wouldn't it be better to remove the stress factors? Doesn't this particular problem stem from the fact that there is a serious car overpopulation problem?

    In an earlier post comparing car overpopulation to dog overpopulation, I examined this in greater detail:

    ....if we apply the AB1634 model, the sponsors would have to first declare that there was a severe "car overpopulation crisis" (there is), that it causes "traffic" (it does), and that many cars end up being abandoned by their owners (they do), that they therefore often have to be impounded at taxpayers' expense (how true!). And that tragically, many of these impounded vehicles are "unwanted" and never find new owners, and have to be destroyed!

    The sponsors of the "Healthy Car Initiative" could simply require that all existing cars would have to be rendered incapable of highway travel, and that no new cars could be manufactured except for rare, certified collectors cars, along with specially built cars to be used at NASCAR events. Any such cars could not be sold or licensed in the future unless they were "neutered" in such a manner as to prevent their ever being used on the highways. True, there'd still be plenty of cars in private hands, but there'd be fewer and fewer over time.

    Let's turn to cars as a public health issue. By any standard, the public health would benefit far more by getting rid of cars than by getting rid of dogs. Cars killed 4225 Californians just last year, while dogs killed only 30 Californians in the entire period of 1979-1995. Considering that California has around 24 million cars, and 8-10 million dogs, it becomes clear that cars are a far, far, more significant public health issue than dogs -- and by an enormous ratio.

    So what are we waiting for?

    While it's not an argument I expect to see from the AR people (because obviously, cars are not animals), I don't see why they couldn't team up with the Global Warming people and at least address some root causes of animal stress as well as human stress.

    How many animals are killed by cars each year? Glad you asked. Here are the stats from the Wiki entry on a gruesome subject we callously refer to by the euphemism of "roadkill":

    * 41 million squirrels
    * 26 million cats
    * 22 million rats
    * 19 million opossums
    * 15 million raccoons
    * 6 million dogs
    * 350,000 deer
    Why horses and farm animals aren't included, I don't know. But when they're factored in, along with the tens of thousands of dead humans, it amazes me that these death machines continue to be allowed to exist.

    Getting rid of horse-drawn carriages is only a very modest start.

    DISCLOSURE: I think it's fair to point out that I was once a PETA supporter. But once I learned that they advocated exterminating the dogs I so love, I found myself overcome with a sense of seemingly ineradicable guilt, shame, and even self hatred over my role. I hope that my objectivity has not been unduly affected, but it is possible that it has been, so I thought it fair to point this out.

    posted by Eric at 10:58 AM | Comments (5)

    Armor canemque cano

    Well maybe that should be "Lorica canumque cano," but the pun would be lost.

    Anyway, via Ann Althouse (hmmm, maybe that should have been Glenn Reynolds, although I had thought he was talking about squirrels) I just found a link to a place called the Pit Bull Armory, which has -- you guessed it -- medieval style armor for pit bulls!

    No really:


    I don't know how Coco would look in that, and I'm not sure she'd really want to wear it around the house.

    Maybe only for special events.

    posted by Eric at 08:37 PM | Comments (2)

    No Doubt, Not Science

    The scientist has a lot of experience with ignorance and doubt and uncertainty, and this experience is of very great importance, I think. When a scientist doesn't know the answer to a problem, he is ignorant. When he has a hunch as to what the result is, he is uncertain. And when he is pretty damn sure of what the result is going to be, he is still in some doubt. We have found it of paramount importance that in order to progress, we must recognize our ignorance and leave room for doubt. Scientific knowledge is a body of statements of varying degrees of certainty--some most unsure, some nearly sure, but none absolutely certain. Now, we scientists are used to this, and we take it for granted that it is perfectly consistent to be unsure, that it is possible to live and not know. But I don't know whether everyone realizes this is true. Our freedom to doubt was born out of a struggle against authority in the early days of science. It was a very deep and strong struggle: permit us to question--to doubt--to not be sure. I think that it is important that we do not forget this struggle and thus perhaps lose what we have gained. - Richard P. Feynman * "The Value of Science," address to the National Academy of Sciences (Autumn 1955)

    Let me add that of all the scientific disciplines engineers are the most doubtful. Murphy is a constant companion.

    posted by Simon at 08:04 PM | Comments (1)

    the nag-o-sphere?

    I should probably apologize in advance for this post, as it's hard to write something like this without being misunderstood.

    But I see blogging as a sometime art form, sometime labor of love, often opinionated and political, and nearly always a spontaneous effort in which I write about whatever I feel strongly about at a given moment. Whenever I write something, I always expect that some people will disagree and it might be criticized. That goes with the turf, and I try not to let things like negative comments or critical links interfere with my flow. Whenever you say something publicly, you have to anticipate public disagreement, because that's the nature of the beast.

    However, blogging being an unpaid, volunteer effort, there is no way that I (or any other blogger) can write about everything. This is ameliorated by the nature of the blogosphere -- i.e. when a lot of people are writing about whatever strikes them at the time as important, a lot of topics will be covered. I tend to write about things that I either know about or feel especially strongly about, and which aren't likely (at least I hope) to be found everywhere else. But I do miss a lot. Some of this is to avoid boring regular readers who know damned well about, say, anti-gun bias in the Philadelphia Inquirer, or anti-homo bias in WorldNetDaily. If I filled my blog with posts every time I saw stuff like that, it would become very tedious. (For me to write and for readers to read.)

    But then there are a lot of things I haven't written about; the CIA video erasure "scandal" is a random recent example. Lots of other people are more up on the facts, and I'm suspicious and skeptical as always but the spirit just hasn't moved me to write a post yet. It just doesn't have a "post feel" to it, and I think the world will survive whether I write a post or not. (Besides, I have been incredibly busy, and weekends do not allow me much time to write.)

    Anyway, there is something that really fries me, and that is when I am criticized not for what I have written, but for what I have not written. It's the cheapest of cheap shots, because there are countless topics that I miss, and it has absolutely nothing to do with what I think or how I feel about them, nor does it mean I am unaware or not thinking about them. In some cases, I have actually written a post, and not had time to finish it. It takes me a lot of time to get the links right, proofread something, and give it the punch I think it deserves, and I cannot begin to estimate how many unfinished posts there are sitting in this blog.

    What set me off yesterday was to read Stanley Kurtz's post about "Steynophobia", the central thesis of which I agreed with wholeheartedly (via Roger Kimball and Glenn Reynolds):

    This is a big deal. The blogosphere has so far largely missed it, but this attack on Mark Steyn is very much our business. There may be an impulse to dismiss this assault on Steyn, on the assumption that it will fail, that Steyn is a big boy and can take care of himself, and that in any case this is crazy Canada, where political correctness rules, rather than the land of the free. That would be a mistake. The Canadian Islamic Congress's war on Mark Steyn and Maclean's is an attack on all of us. ...
    That this is an attack on all of us is absolutely right, and I agree with Kurtz 150% (if it is possible to agree with someone more than he agrees with himself).

    But his criticism that "the blogosphere has so far largely missed it" -- that I took quite personally. Remarks like that aggravate the constant nagging feeling I have (which might be a form of latent blogger burnout) that blogging is an obligation. A blogligation, if you will.

    "Who does this paid professional writer think he is, scolding an army of unpaid volunteers like me?" I thought.

    However, the more I thought I should not take remarks like that personally. But the reason I did was because it just so happens that I have an unfinished post just sitting there.

    Here it is, in raw unfinished form, now exposed for the world to see, and argumentatively titled What part of "free speech" do they not understand? (part II). (Please forgive the unfinished thoughts and unlinked links):

    Whenever someone I respect as a writer is sued for writing something, that something is worth reading closely.

    I was shocked to see that in nearby Canada, Macleans was sued because some group of Islamic crackpot activists didn't like Mark Steyn's "The future belongs to Islam."

    Naturally, this caused me to read it closely. Among other things which got him sued, Steyn noted something I've noted repeatedly -- that the 9/11 attacks had the paradoxical effect of making people less likely to criticize radical Islam than ever before:

    Sept. 11, 2001, was not "the day everything changed," but the day that revealed how much had already changed. On Sept. 10, how many journalists had the Council of American-Islamic Relations or the Canadian Islamic Congress or the Muslim Council of Britain in their Rolodexes? If you'd said that whether something does or does not cause offence to Muslims would be the early 21st century's principal political dynamic in Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium, France and the United Kingdom, most folks would have thought you were crazy. Yet on that Tuesday morning the top of the iceberg bobbed up and toppled the Twin Towers.
    And this:
    To Americans, it doesn't always seem obvious that there's any connection between the "war on terror" and the so-called "pocketbook issues" of domestic politics. But there is a correlation between the structural weaknesses of the social democratic state and the rise of a globalized Islam. The state has gradually annexed all the responsibilities of adulthood -- health care, child care, care of the elderly -- to the point where it's effectively severed its citizens from humanity's primal instincts, not least the survival instinct. In the American context, the federal "deficit" isn't the problem; it's the government programs that cause the deficit. These programs would still be wrong even if Bill Gates wrote a cheque to cover them each month. They corrode the citizen's sense of self-reliance to a potentially fatal degree. Big government is a national security threat: it increases your vulnerability to threats like Islamism, and makes it less likely you'll be able to summon the will to rebuff it. We should have learned that lesson on Sept. 11, 2001, when big government flopped big-time and the only good news of the day came from the ad hoc citizen militia of Flight 93.
    And pointing out
    Actually, I don't think everything's about jihad. But I do think, as I said, that a good 90 per cent of everything's about demography. Take that media characterization of those French rioters: "youths." What's the salient point about youths? They're youthful. Very few octogenarians want to go torching Renaults every night. It's not easy lobbing a Molotov cocktail into a police station and then hobbling back with your walker across the street before the searing heat of the explosion melts your hip replacement. Civil disobedience is a young man's game.

    In June 2006, a 54-year-old Flemish train conductor called Guido Demoor got on the Number 23 bus in Antwerp to go to work. Six -- what's that word again? -- "youths" boarded the bus and commenced intimidating the other riders. There were some 40 passengers aboard. But the "youths" were youthful and the other passengers less so. Nonetheless, Mr. Demoor asked the lads to cut it out and so they turned on him, thumping and kicking him. Of those 40 other passengers, none intervened to help the man under attack. Instead, at the next stop, 30 of the 40 scrammed, leaving Mr. Demoor to be beaten to death. Three "youths" were arrested, and proved to be -- quelle surprise! -- of Moroccan origin. The ringleader escaped and, despite police assurances of complete confidentiality, of those 40 passengers only four came forward to speak to investigators. "You see what happens if you intervene," a fellow rail worker told the Belgian newspaper De Morgen. "If Guido had not opened his mouth he would still be alive."

    No, he wouldn't. He would be as dead as those 40 passengers are, as the Belgian state is, keeping his head down, trying not to make eye contact, cowering behind his newspaper in the corner seat and hoping just to be left alone.

    Imagine getting sued for saying that!

    Were I Steyn, in honor of the lawsuit I'd rename the piece "How the West was lost."

    Via a LGF link I found at Jim Rose's blog, MacLeans explains what happened:

    Complaints were submitted to Human Rights Commissions in B.C. and Ontario on the grounds that "the article subjects Canadian Muslims to hatred and contempt," according to a CIC press release. In the release, the CIC labels Steyn's article as "flagrantly Islamophobic."

    Faisal Joseph is the CIC's legal counsel on the matter. "In Canada, we have 750,000 law-abiding Muslims," he says. "When you read that article, it sounds to some people [like] there's an attack from the 'Muslim' world against the 'non-Muslim' world. We take real issue with that type of characterization and the implications of it."

    In response, a Maclean's spokesperson provided the following statement: "Mark Steyn is a thoughtful and experienced journalist, and the piece was a commentary on important global political issues. It was not in any sense Islamophobic, and Maclean's is confident that the Human Rights Commissions will find no merit in the complaints."

    While I don't think it's "Islamophobic" either, the problem I have with MacLeans' defensive posture is that it should not matter whether it was. Such thinking is the whole problem, and it's precisely the way freedom is lost.

    In Europe and in Canada they do not have free speech, and in this country a number of people are working to destroy it.

    How would you define "Islamophobic" anyway? "it sounds to some people [like] there's an attack from the 'Muslim' world against the 'non-Muslim' world"?

    Huh? How is that supposed to sound? If I complain because a school teacher's life was threatened for naming a teddy bear Muhammad, how do I know someone might not say I'm being "Islamophobic"?

    Look at the way "racist" can be defined. Racism can be considered opposition to affirmative action, as can "having a future time orientation, emphasizing individualism as opposed to a more collective ideology, [and] defining one form of English as standard."

    Fortunately, we can't get sued for such things. Yet. But they're working on it.

    If this is what "human rights" commissions are about, the whole thing presents a good case for abolishing human rights commissions.

    In answer to the question "What part of "free speech" do they not understand, why, neither.

    Geez, looking back, maybe it was the link to Glenn Greenwald that took the wind out of my sails. Greenwald is against hate speech laws, amazingly, and I agreed with him, but it just made the whole thing look like a Herculean supereffort to unite the whole blogosphere behind this, and an idea like that is a much bigger deal that another post in support of Mark Steyn. Because it goes beyond the merits of Steyn's argument, and to the greater issue of free speech generally.

    Anyway, thanks to my angry reaction to what I perceived as a scolding from Stanley Kurtz, I'll never finish it. But that's a silly reaction on my part, and again touches on why the Kurtz criticism is not directed personally against me:

    The blogosphere has so far largely missed it...
    I wrote the post on December 3, which was last Monday, after I had seen two bloggers discuss the lawsuit against Steyn. The first was Jim Rose, who on December 1 linked Little Green Footballs' post of the same day.

    So obviously, it was not the fact that the blogosphere "missed it," but that they "largely" missed it. If a smaller blogger and a large blogger don't "count" according to Kurtz, then what possible difference would it have made to him whether my post had been published? Zero. So obviously, I'm not being scolded.

    Or am I?

    There are such things as obligations, but I don't take my marching orders from paid writers like Stanley Kurtz, and I don't like what seems like an attempt to shame me for missing something. The idea that I should write about something because someone says I missed it, that completely takes the wind out of my sails, and makes me feel like never writing about it at all. Nothing could be less spontaneous than being forced to write about something in response to a scolding, and nothing is more likely to generate a sense of blog burnout, or at best a tired, repetitive collection of similar posts no one will read.

    I'm tempted to say "You want me to write about something you think I should write about? Pay me!"

    But that would also be argumentative, and I don't think their argument is with me, as what I write would not matter to the people who are probably trying to create an army of "reliable" followers. I'm not politically "reliable." (Just ask some of the Commies I used to work with!) I don't trust people who do as they are told, or write what they are told to write. (Such people remind me of.... activists. Ugh.)

    My apologies to all I have offended, for I really agree that the attack on Steyn is an attack on all. I'd have probably done a better job of defending him had I not felt scolded, though.

    I don't mean to single out Stanley Kurtz, as I've seen this across the spectrum. Andrew Sullivan, for example, has often criticized Glenn Reynolds for what he has not written, and he's just one example. (I've seen too many to keep count.)

    A more recent example was the scolding of "Instapundit, Volokh [and] the usual suspects" for not writing about Evan Coyne Maloney (which was quoted in the Wall Street Journal):

    Apparently some major state university has threatened a lawsuit against the movie "Indoctrinate U," and the websites about the movie have been temporarily (one hopes) frozen. What is going on here? Which university has threatened them? And what with? This should be exactly the sort of thing one should be able to find out about in the blogosphere, but I see nothing on Instapundit, Volokh or the usual suspects (I may have missed it though; if so, sorry. Maybe I am the only one who doesn't know. It wouldn't be the first time.)

    This is news, oh fellow bloggers.

    And I'd be willing to bet that Instapundit and Volokh know about it! So do I, as I wrote a post about it the other day despite the creepy feeling that I was obligated.

    (I'm not sure I'd want to be Glenn Reynolds, though, for I'm sure there's a lot more of this than I've seen.)

    But what do you do when a spontaneous, unpaid artistic endeavor gets weighted down with what amount to petulant production demands?

    Ignore them? Take a break from blogging? Comply with the demands and eventually become completely burned out so you quit blogging entirely?

    I don't know. While there's certainly no rule against anyone criticizing anyone for anything, it strikes me as poor politics for paid writers to be scolding bloggers who share their general ideological bent for not writing enough of the kind of blog posts they'd like to see. They should remember that there are plenty of unpaid bloggers and paid writers on the other side who will scold them for whatever they do write, so they're creating a classic "damned if you do, damned if you don't" scenario.

    But maybe I'm wrong in my assessment. Maybe there is no "nag-o-sphere." Either way, I'm glad to get this off my chest so I can go back to what I'm really neglecting....

    MORE: Sorry I haven't had time to proofread this, but I will later. I have visitors and my neglect is suffering from the spillover effect.

    (To be a blogger means to be in a state of chronic and perpetual negligence.)

    MORE: Via Glenn Reynolds, a constructive way to stick it to the Canadian Censorship Human Rights Commission directly!

    Simply buy a copy of Mark Steyn's book and mail it to the censors here:

    Canadian Human Rights Commission
    344 Slater Street, 8th Floor, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 1E1, Canada
    Telephone: (613) 995-1151
    Toll Free: 1-888-214-1090
    TTY: 1-888-643-3304
    Fax: (613) 996-9661
    I just did it! And let me tell you, it's a lot easier than writing an uninspired, forced, and unoriginal blog post. And probably more effective too, because some humorless government bureaucrat who loves controls and censorship will be forced to open it and just thinking about that bureaucratic nose that will be wrinkled in irritation and disgust (as if "s/he" smells a turd somewhere), that makes it well worth the $18.45-plus-postage cost of the protest.

    Just think, for slightly more than twenty bucks, you get to help Mark Steyn, fight censorship, and piss off the people you most want to piss off -- and all without writing a blog post!

    Plus, it's a wonderful form of therapy for overworked bloggers, or just people who are upset about creeping totalitarianism but feel they have no outlet. I just did it, and I want to bear witness to the calming effect that sending the Steyn book to the censors has had on my nerves. I doubt I could have felt this good had I spent an hour with a shrink (and they can easily run $150.00 an hour).

    So send the Steyn book to the Canadian censors! I heartily recommend the experience.

    MORE: Andrew Sullivan, it should be noted, opposes criminalizing hate speech, and said this:

    If someone bashes me over the head because I'm gay, I want them prosecuted for assault, not bigotry. They have an absolute right to their bigotry, as I have an absolute right to call them on it. But the law should criminalize nothing but specific acts that anyone, regardless of their race, religion, orientation or whatever. Here's hoping Britain will escape the worst of the hate-crime nonsense peddled by the p.c. left in America. But I'm hardly optimistic.

    posted by Eric at 03:02 PM | Comments (0)


    Just found a favorite song performed by Faudel (with Cheb Khaled and Rachid Taha).


    Faudel is one of Sarkozy's favorites too. So much so that he got in trouble for it.

    There are some tastes in music and politics that are not supposed to be shared.

    posted by Eric at 11:36 PM | Comments (0)

    Expanding a failed red light program
    (But this time it's "for the children")

    Like a lot of bloggers, I've written about how red light cameras are a disaster from a legal perspective and a safety perspective. But (surprise!), the cameras are still there!

    The Philadelphia red light camera problem is compounded by the worst sort of bureaucratic ineptitude, with the scandal-plagued Philadelphia Parking Authority treating revenues as money to fund an ever-expanding number of useless administrative jobs.

    According to a report in today's Inquirer, the red-light cameras are part of a soon-to-expire "pilot program." Naturally, the bureaucracy wants it renewed, despite the fact that the ticket money revenue went down the usual rat holes:

    A three-year pilot program to catch reckless motorists through red-light cameras in Philadelphia is set to end this month, and reauthorization for another three years appears likely, officials said yesterday.

    However, as the state's legislative session winds down, lawmakers want to redirect some of the ticket revenue from the state Department of Transportation to the Philadelphia School District.

    The enforcement program is run by the Philadelphia Parking Authority, which has been buffeted by recent criticism of its spending practices and its unfulfilled pledge to funnel millions to city schools.

    An "unfulfilled pledge" to fund the schools?

    Let me get this thing straight. Apparently, the red light camera revenue never got past the bureaucrats who run the program, despite the fact that they "pledged" that it would.

    So now, the program needs to be renewed?

    Yes, because the money "could" go to the children:

    Red-light money for schools could amount to as much as $1.5 million annually, and pending legislation would target those dollars for programs aiding advanced students and youths with behavioral problems.

    If a bill is not passed, the cameras would go dark. That, a legislative staffer said, probably would be due to other political disputes' causing gridlock in Harrisburg. Nonetheless, lawmakers likely would take it up again after the holidays.

    What a tragedy it would be to let the cameras go dark!

    And a tragedy for the children! Who never got the money they were pledged, but who "could."

    Doesn't that sound like the people who say "This time, we'll get it right, folks"?

    Yes, and they're working "rigorously to get passage of the bill."

    For reasons that aren't entirely clear to me, the cameras cost a small fortune to operate:

    The program was authorized in 2004, and the first cameras were activated at Roosevelt Boulevard and Grant Avenue on Feb. 23, 2005. Seven more locations received cameras along the Boulevard, as well as two in South Philadelphia.

    There are 52 cameras, and they cost $4,995 a month each to operate, said Chris Vogler, manager of red-light photo enforcement for the Parking Authority. Revenues first go to cover operational costs.

    I'd be willing to bet that almost any teenage kid with computer savvy could probably rig up a red light camera system that would cost a lot less to operate a month, but then, I'm not a bureaucrat (and maybe I shouldn't be giving them advice).

    And of course they're haggling over who gets the money. All talk of "safety" and "helping the children" aside, this is all about money:

    PennDot did not get its first check for $753,000 until September because of initial grace periods for ticket enforcement and the small number of initial cameras.

    PennDot spokesman Gene Blaum said the agency believes it should continue to get the full funding, which it wants to direct toward road-safety projects in Philadelphia.

    Catherine L. Rossi, spokeswoman for AAA Mid-Atlantic, agreed. She said red-light revenue should not be used as a "cash cow" for politicians.

    If that happens, she said, "law enforcement will lose credibility."

    God forbid that red light cameras might become a "cash cow."

    As to law enforcement "credibility" it strikes me that even characterizing these obnoxious cameras as "law enforcement" demeans police work, and diminishes whatever credibility honest law enforcement personnel still retain. I liked the way Glenn Reynolds put it:

    When the power to enforce the law is delegated to software employed by people who don't -- or can't be bothered to -- understand it, no one is safe. When you hear that people are using machines to enforce the law, remember the old computer-geek saying: "Garbage In, Garbage Out."
    I guess if police are forced to become revenue collectors, it's a short step to forcing them to become garbage collectors.

    Seriously, these cameras are undignified, unconstitutional, a hazard to motorists, invasive of privacy, and I think they're probably likely to cause an increase in certain types of "gun violence."

    Hey, maybe to prevent ugly incidents like that they should hire red light camera police backups. You know, to, like, sit there and guard the cameras? And while they're sitting there they make sure they are working properly by, like, ticketing the drivers they actually see running red lights. Who knows? Maybe over time the use of police to actually do their job could become a "pilot program."

    posted by Eric at 11:26 AM | Comments (3)

    Do Not Exhale

    Over at Volokh Conspiracy there is a discussion about Chanukah's influence on the global warming problem. Of course the warmists and deniers are having at it.

    Brian K says in response to another comment:

    i'm not going to hold my breath
    Another warming denier. If you believed in warming you would be holding your breath.

    The best I can do is to hold my breath for about 30 seconds. I guess I'm not much of a believer either. The real believers can hold their breath for days at least. Of course I could be wrong about that. It could be a much worse situation compounded by gross hypocrisy. It may be that the warmists are exceeding their CO2 quota. It appears that they can't stop talking.

    So I propose this test when ever you come in contact with a person who says that man is the cause of global warming, ask them to hold their breath. If they can't do it for two hours straight they are hypocrites and should be shunned for the two faced moral relativists they are.

    I wouldn't want to be put in that place so I'm going to announce here and now that

    1. I do not believe warming is a bad thing.
    2. That man is a major cause.

    Whew. Now I won't have to Hold My Breath at some one else's request.

    I expect in time we will see new religious ceremonies come out of this. Warmists will circle graveyards to celebrate all the folks who no longer contribute to warming. Or if there are not enough warmists to circle a grave yard they could hold simple ceremonies on the grounds. Perhaps even non-breathing ceremonies. That could shorten their final trip and increase the environmental advantages.

    HT Radical Communitarianism In The Name Of The Unknown at Classical Values.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 03:25 PM | Comments (2)

    Interesting Stuff

    Moma Bear left a comment at IEC Fusion Technology blog with a link to Gizmag - Emerging Technology which features gadgets and science/technology news.

    I found articles on a miniature photonics modulator and super computer performance from a single low power chip most interesting. This one on a real flying carpet would make Ali Baba jealous. It could be Ali is already jealous and this will just add to it.

    I just found another interesting bit about a commercial cellulosic ethanol plant exciting in terms of taking pressure off farm lands for the production of ethanol. The plant is sponsored by the DOE and the State of Georgia.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 01:32 PM | Comments (0)

    Remembering Pearl Harbor

    I was delighted to see that remembering Pearl Harbor made the front page of today's Philadelphia Inquirer.

    PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii - "Battle stations!!!"

    The Klaxon's blare blew Jack McElroy out of his bunk on the Helm, a Navy destroyer in this ill-fated Pacific Ocean port.

    The West Catholic High School graduate, newly minted as a petty officer, was dog tired after the midnight-to-4 a.m. watch at his post in the boiler room. He was barely asleep when the alarm sounded about 8 a.m. - and annoyed by what he thought was a drill.

    "In peacetime, 'general quarters' on a Sunday morning was unheard of. And as far as I knew, we were still at peace," recalled McElroy, 87, born in Philadelphia and now living in Folsom, Delaware County.

    As Japanese warplanes rained hundreds of bombs onto the U.S. fleet here - sinking battleships still tied to piers, destroying aircraft on the ground, killing and wounding more than 3,000 U.S. personnel - McElroy learned in a heartbeat what President Franklin D. Roosevelt would tell the world: This was no drill, it was the lightning-in-a-blue-sky attack that pulled the United States into World War II exactly 66 years ago Friday.

    It's a crying shame that so many of the veterans are dead or dying, because it is an important and solemn occasion.
    A recent past president of the Philadelphia-area chapter of the Pearl Harbor Survivors' Association, Horanzy said the rate of attrition among survivors has been escalating.

    "We used to have 150 members. We're down to about 28 or 29 because they're passing away. When we have meetings, we're lucky if we can get four or five to come who aren't too sick," he said.

    At 87, Mario Chiarolanza, an Army air corpsman at Pearl Harbor, is remarkably spry. A resident of Lafayette Hill, he still works part-time as a Montgomery County Courthouse tipstaff.

    Born at 25th and Cambria Streets in North Philadelphia, Chiarolanza enlisted at 20 and trained as an airplane mechanic. In May 1941, he shipped out for Hawaii. As a corporal second class, he was the crew chief in charge of maintenance for the 72d Fighter Squadron.

    Hawaii was "pretty nice duty" before the war, he said, and hell on that Dec. 7. He was walking to church when the Japanese attacked and took cover in a coconut grove.

    "I saw the bombs dropping. I saw the airplanes exploding. I saw the guys dying. Yes, I've seen a lot," he said.

    He went to Pearl Harbor last year for the 65th anniversary. He plans to be in Willow Grove on Friday.

    If he had the Ramsdell siblings in front of him, he said, he would tell them simply: "Be proud of your father forever. And thank you for his service."

    We should all thank all of them for their service.

    It's because of them that there was not another unprovoked attack on the United States for so many years.

    One of the reasons it's so important to remember Pearl Harbor is that by remembering, we remind enemies and potential enemies that we remember.

    For some great pictures, check out Michelle Malkin's post.

    And remember.

    UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds links a USAToday interview with five Pearl Harbor survivors:

    Ten years ago, about 15 Pearl Harbor survivors were part of the pool of veterans who mingled with visitors, according to Skip Wheeler, a National Park Service ranger at the Arizona memorial who coordinates the volunteer effort. Now there are just these five.

    One of the regulars, Air Force veteran Bill Cope, died on Nov. 25 at age 94.

    "The attrition level is here, and we know that every day that they show up, it's sort of like a gift," Arizona Memorial historian Daniel Martinez said.

    And this:

    Rodrigues said there are only 19 members of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association still on Oahu. "The Arizona had 233 survivors, and I just got word ... that there are only 25 living," he said.

    "I hate to say it, but we know that our time is coming," he said. "I don't go to church, but I say my prayers."

    Read it all.

    posted by Eric at 10:54 AM | Comments (4)

    What part of free speech don't U copyright theorists understand?

    In a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed yesterday, Evan Coyne Maloney said that it's time for Indiana University to call off the copyright dogs:

    Early in November, On The Fence Films received a letter from an attorney representing Indiana University. The letter stated that university was claiming that a portion of the logo used for "Indoctrinate U" looked similar to the university's logo.

    From a design and typographical standpoint, there were readily apparent differences between our graphics and the university's logo. There is also no likelihood of consumer confusion because our product is a film whereas theirs is four years in Bloomington. We're in totally different markets.

    But in an act of good faith, we voluntarily took the site offline while we reviewed our options and decided how to proceed.

    Taking down the Web site of a film that we've been working on for four years was painful. We got lots of e-mails from people wondering what was happening, wondering whether some school was trying to shut us down because of the content of our film.

    While there's no way to know what the actual motives of IU might be, one of my pet peeves is the use of the copyright and trademark laws to do an end-run around the First Amendment, and thereby accomplish through a perversion of property rights what would never otherwise be tolerated.

    Well, I guess it's not the first time in our nation's history that property rights have been abused. There was a time when property rights theory was misused to subordinate human rights (in the form of slavery), so I guess the idea that property rights theory might subvert free speech shouldn't be too surprising.

    Uh oh.

    Did I just say the word "THEORY"?


    I guess I'd better be careful using such words. Because, you know, there's a big store for fashion victims bearing that name, and if I really got carried away with the use of the word and, say, put it on a T-shirt, they might sue me.

    No seriously, and I mean "no" seriously.

    They really could.

    That's the whole problem with this stuff.

    It's like Dead Che Theory.....

    I can be sued for this:


    Or this:


    Or this:


    The above are all forms of parody, and they're supposed to be protected under the First Amendment. But the First Amendment has been rent asunder by the copyright dogs. They know how pull, stretch, and contort their perversions of property rights theory until virtually any hint of an image, any word, even any part of a word, can be seen to state a case for "infringement." If this trend is not stopped, I don't think it's paranoid to envision a wholesale shredding of the First Amendent. In the name of "property." When the New York Times and Michael Savage agree that ridiculing them violates their property rights, all should take notice.

    Why, in the case of Evan Coyne Maloney, there are probably a thousand or so second rate schools that could state a legal claim that they used the letter "U" in a logo before he did.

    Lest U think I'm making this up, consider the claim of Mothers Against Drunk Driving that they "own" the words "Mothers Against."

    Beware, U Mothers Against Theory, lest U theory be used against U!

    Until something is done about this, there will be many examples of such abominable legal overreachings. People (especially large organizations with legal departments) who don't like what someone says need only talk with the lawyers, and it's increasingly likely that they'll be able to find some way to stifle free speech under claim under "property rights theory."

    As to the logo which is allegedly infringing in Maloney's case, it simply consists of the letter "I" superimposed over the letter "U" -- in green on a yellow background:


    (Maloney has now changed it to avoid litigation, but the misuse of property rights theory as a threat to free speech remains, as noxious as ever.)

    Anyway, here is the Indiana University logo, in the form of a fashionable blob thingie U can put on ur chair:


    And here's their soccer club, which looks like a paganistic candelabra from outer space:

    newest logo design 3D website jpg.jpg

    (I do hope the soccer ball is not copyrighted, but alas. Like most things, U know it probably is.)

    Notice the different color scheme, and the fact that the letters are shaped differently. Maloney's are rounded, while Indiana's are squared off and highlighted by black.

    Personally, I think both of them infringe on Neptune's Trident....


    But the gods have no standing to sue. Otherwise, many companies would be bankrupt. Neptune might have standing to sue Barbados:


    Anyway, unless Maloney spends years and hundreds of thousands of dollars on legal "discovery," it will probably never be known why Indiana University decided to pick on an independent blogger and film maker and not Irvine University, which uses the same letters in the same arrangement:


    One of the standard boilerplate allegations which are used in these cases is lifted from the legalese "likely to cause confusion" doctrine.

    I have to ask:

    Isn't it more likely that someone would confuse one real university with another real university than with a film critical of universities?

    And what about colors? Yellow and green are the official colors of the University of Oregon's Ducks. Does Oregon "own" these colors? (Probably not, because when the Beatles sang about "cellophane flowers of yellow and green" the Ducks never sued.)

    I also found a nifty "IU Home" logo, which I couldn't help redesigning for them, strictly on an unpaid voluntary basis:


    You never know. They might have plans to go into the dairy business, and it always helps to be prepared. (I hope they're grateful for my modest contribution.)

    On the serious side, lest anyone think that IU has backed off now that Maloney changed his logo, think again. The IU legal team additionally seeks to bankrupt him:

    Unfortunately, the university now seems to want more than just changes to some graphics. The university is now demanding we hand over a sum of money that would essentially bankrupt On The Fence Films.

    I have to say, I'm a bit stunned. I understand that some academics might have a problem with our film; it covers academia's dirty little secrets. Nobody likes to be criticized. But Indiana University is not mentioned in the film at all! So their heavy-handedness seems a bit extreme.

    Rather than ascribe negative motives to Indiana University, I'd rather assume it's just a matter of ignorance about our film: "Indoctrinate U" hasn't been screened within a six-hour drive of Indiana University, so perhaps their legal team is just unaware of its content. Maybe they're worried that we snuck our cameras onto campus once or twice. If that's the case, then I hope everything can be resolved by my personal assurance to the Trustees of Indiana University: You can breathe easy. Your school isn't in the film. So please--call off the dogs.

    To that I'll say "indeed" -- unoriginal though it might be.

    But in the broader context of the ever more vicious copyright dogs, I think leash laws are called for. (I don't mean to sound like an unwholesome Folsom guy, but out of control lawyers like these really are in need of discipline, and should be brought to heel.)

    Seriously, at the rate things are going, soon we won't be able to say anything.

    UPDATE: Tim Maguire makes a good point about the distinction between copyright and trademark law, but I don't see any evidence that Evan Coyne Maloney copied the Indiana University design. He merely superimposed an "I" on a "U."

    Some discussion here of trademark law here, including the PETA case, in which a court held that the "People Eating Tasty Animals" website (then named violated PETA's trademark rights.

    Well, if it did, does violate the rights of

    Who will protect the common right to use ordinary words, and to criticize each other's use of them?

    posted by Eric at 10:04 AM | Comments (3)

    Request for help

    More proof that either I'm not a conservative, or else someone has done a very poor job of giving me my marching orders:

    "Conservatives do love to be told what to say. Saves them the hassle of having to think for themselves," Markos Moulitsas Zuniga crowed....
    Will someone please tell me what to say, already?

    I'm getting confused.

    (As it is, I waste far too much time arguing over what certain "conservatives" try to make me say....)

    AFTERTHOUGHT: In the interest of full disclosure, I should point out that it's been well over two years now that I've been waiting for my check from Karl Rove.


    Maybe Glenn is right about White House ineptitude.

    posted by Eric at 03:17 PM | Comments (6)

    Does your right to puke make me sick?

    Speaking of climates, my regular emailer Matt Barber is upset about San Francisco's (S&M oriented) Folsom Street fair, and he absolutely insists that I know about it.

    Too late.

    I already know about it. I lived in the Bay Area for nearly 30 years, and in San Francisco for 3 years. Not that the Folsom stuff is my thing, but it's there for people who are into it. Most people who aren't into things like S&M stay away from the Folsom Street Fair, but if you go there, you know what to expect. I had a little fun (always a bad thing, I guess...) photoshopping Che and Osama together at the event:


    CHE: "72 virgins my ass!"

    Shocking? I don't know. I'm not shocked. But by the way the Matt Barber CWFA people talk, I am immoral in not being shocked. All moral people should be shocked. Outraged, even.

    But most importantly, they must do as Matt Barber advises, and go here to look at dirty pictures!

    There's nothing new in the complaints about gay sex, but I'm fascinated by the argument that things like nudity and heterosexual S&M are somehow biblically condemned. I'm also intrigued by the claim that evoking da Vinci's Last Supper constitutes "blasphemy":

    . In addition to the nudity and public sex acts, there were public whippings and spankings. Some were held at booths: the AIDS Emergency Fund was hawking charity spankings for $5 each -- and others apparently occurring spontaneously, if you can say that about an act of consensual, "erotic" violence. We witnessed one man whipping his "partner" on a sidewalk, the "whippee's" back becoming a brighter red with each round of punishment -- done out of love, we are told by the sadists.

    The annual Folsom Street Fair takes place in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA) San Francisco district. Speaking to a local "gay" newspaper through her spokesman, Pelosi refused to condemn the blasphemous Folsom 2007 promotional logo -- which mocked Da Vinci's "Last Supper" painting by substituting "leather" men and women for Christ and His disciples. Click HERE to view the blasphemous ad, which was reproduced on Folsom's stickers for paid attendees.

    Let's start with the allegedly blasphemous image:


    Clearly, it's evocative of the Last Supper, which is one of the most famous paintings of all time. To a Muslim, the Last Supper would be blasphemous in itself, and it might be to certain Christians who might believe it constitutes a graven image.

    But is a take-off on a Renaissance painting blasphemy? Should Nancy Pelosi condemn it? I don't know. Did she condemn the Mohammad cartoons?

    Perhaps that's not a fair comparison, because the Folsom supper does not represent anyone to be Jesus or his disciples. The black man in the center does not look at all like Jesus, there's no food on the table, the vaulted interior is completely different architecturally from the da Vinci interior, and there also appear to be three women. It's an S&M-oriented scene, with potential players sitting around in poses suggestive of a Renaissance painting.

    I checked into the blasphemy statutes, and I don't think any prosecutor would have much of a case. Take Massachusetts, with the toughest blasphemy law in the country:

    Section 36. Whoever willfully blasphemes the holy name of God by denying, cursing or contumeliously reproaching God, His creation, government or final judging of the world, or by cursing or contumeliously reproaching Jesus Christ or the Holy Ghost, or by cursing or contumeliously reproaching or exposing to contempt and ridicule, the holy word of God contained in the holy scriptures shall be punished by imprisonment in jail for not more than one
    You have to expose to ridicule the holy word in the holy scriptures. If we assume that the Folsom image exposes the painting to ridicule (and does it do that?), is the ridicule of the painting the ridicule of the holy word? I don't see how, and my appreciation of da Vinci's Last Supper is not diminished in the least by that ad. I don't see how it would be. If the above constitutes blasphemy, then so does Monty Python's Life of Brian, and so do a lot of other things. (What's especially interesting about the blasphemy statute is that it would apparently criminalize creation denial.... Not that it's constitutional, but things don't have to be constitutional to be fascinating.)

    Blasphemy subject touches on something else which has long fascinated and puzzles me. Crucifixion involved stripping the prisoner naked, which was part of the punishment. Yet depicting a naked Jesus on the cross would most likely be considered an act of blasphemy. Why? Because it's blasphemy? Or because people wouldn't like it?

    I don't honestly know why. I do try to write about things that are not clear in the hope of making sense out of them, but it does not always work, and sometimes I stare at these posts and I'm more puzzled than I was before I started writing them.

    But what fascinates and puzzles me me even more than the blasphemy charge is the recurrent complaint -- by the anti-homosexual web site -- about the presence of heterosexuals at the Folsom Street Fair:

    And we witnessed many "master-slave" "couples," one leading the other around with a dog collar, of both the homosexual and heterosexual variety. The Folsom Street Fair began as an event mainly for homosexual sadomasochists, but it now attracts many straights, as evidenced by the thousands of women visible at this year's event.
    There's also this:
    Man leads bare-breasted female slave "partner" around by a dog collar. It appears that in recent years, heterosexual perverts have joined their "gay" brethren at the "fair" in increasing numbers. Talk about a setback for women's rights ... On the flip side, women were also seen leading around their male "slaves" at the twisted "fair" (see photo below).
    Actually, I've heard complaints from gays that the thing has been so taken over by straights that it really shouldn't be called a gay event. But this is hardly the sort of complaint I ever expected to see coming from anti-gay activists.

    So, while I'm puzzled by their concerns, I have to ask, why shouldn't "straight" people attend? (Hey, I put the word in quotes because like "gay" it's not clinical.) Seriously, there's nothing about S&M which is particularly homosexual in nature; if you're the kind of person who's turned on by spanking or whipping, that would seem to complement -- not dictate -- your partner preference.

    I'm no theologian, but it seems to me that from a biblical perspective, it does not follow that a condemnation of "lying with a man as a woman" is a condemnation of spanking or whipping. There may be passages elsewhere in the Bible that could be interpreted as condemning spanking or whipping, but then again, there may not. If there were, then why would so many religious conservatives be in favor of spanking? Because it's not for pleasure? What's the rule, then? Is it "good" when it hurts, but "bad" when it feels good?

    Anyone who can point to an explanation in the Bible, I'm all ears. I think what's going on is that the web site that links the pictures and the video is using them to boost traffic, while condemning what they're using. Have your spanking and condemn it too. Can I say "spare the rod and spoil it too" or would that be disrespectful?

    Well, suppose we assume the whole thing is disrespectful in the extreme. Nauseating, even. I'm not turned on by it at all, and if someone wanted to whip me and put those dreadful nipple clamps on me, my feelings would be the antithesis of sexual. Not quite as bad as asking me to eat a turd, but headed in that general direction.

    I suppose that some people have the extreme "yuck" reaction to S&M, whether gay or straight. But so what? Such reactions are a little like my reaction to the Zombietime photos taken at another San Francisco event.

    I titled the post "I will defend to the death your right to make me vomit!"


    And while I'll defend that right -- a right held by vomitees and vomitors alike -- till my last puke, not everything that makes other people want to vomit makes me want to vomit, and the Folsom Street Fair is one of those things. I guess if people want to go there and get sick, then they have every right to get sick, although I think it's silly to be annoyed at people who don't.

    So to those like Matt Barber and company, I'd say, go ahead and puke! Why, there's even a First Amendment right to demand that I share the reflex.

    But it's unreasonable to expect reciprocal feelings of reverse peristalsis from me.

    Don't spank me for not puking, OK?

    (I'm saving my barf bag for the election.)

    UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link, and a warm welcome to all!

    Nothing further on Pelosi and the Last Supper, but I think it might make an interesting PhotoShop. (No disrespect to God or Leonardo intended.)

    Comments always appreciated.

    MORE: Regarding the comments, below, how might the Biblical passage appearing to forbid all violence in the home be applied to the spanking issue? And, while spanking typically isn't consensual in nature, why wouldn't consensual spanking be less of an offense?

    What about consensual religious chastisement (i.e. the flagellants, which included many saints)?

    Is there a Biblical reason why this behavior is saintly, while the same activities are unwholesome on Folsom?


    posted by Eric at 11:45 AM | Comments (25)

    Weather is a "safe" topic....

    I've often wondered how it would be if you had chosen weather reporting as a career (in the "old days" of course) because you wanted to do something safe, non-controversial and apolitical. You know, in the old days, weather reporting was for nerdy types. Nothing political about weather, right?

    Not so today. Weather reporting just drips (sorry!) with politics. In almost any discussion of weather now, the subject quickly turns from weather to climate, and from a literal climate to a political climate.

    Such a political subtext is clearly present in Monday's installment of a regular Inquirer series by atmospheric writer Anthony R. Wood, titled This year's outlook: Little snow:

    The Northern Hemisphere's total snow cover (defined as geographic extent as opposed to, say, depth or frequency) has dropped off precipitously in the last three years, according to the Rutgers University Global Snow Lab, one of the nation's prime sources of snow data.

    David Robinson, the geography professor who runs the lab, has a comprehensive satellite-era dataset dating to 1966, and he also has looked at surface records going back a century.

    One set of numbers jumps out: the recent, rapid and "unprecedented" retreat of spring snow cover, Robinson says. "The melt season has come earlier."

    The most likely suspect? The global warming trend that has accelerated in the last 30 years.

    Well, I realize that no one can predict the weather with precision, but today, things look a bit different in my yard:


    Things also look a bit different in today's Inquirer:

    No one was calling it the "Blizzard of '07," but Philadelphia recorded its first measurable snow of the season yesterday.

    Flakes that filtered into the area in late morning built to a slow but steady fall by afternoon and into the evening. By 8:30, reported totals ranged from 3.5 inches in Glassboro, Gloucester County, and 3 inches in Wilmington, to at least an inch in most of the Philadelphia area, including 1.3 inches at Philadelphia International Airport.

    There were no deaths, few injuries, and little reported trauma. Icy roads, however, were causing the fender-benders to pile up, area police reported.

    "Kinda crazy out there," said a state police dispatcher in Media.

    Yeah, it was crazy enough that when I went out for an errand last night, and made the "mistake" of slowing down for a red light, I watched helplessly as the car behind me got closer and closer in the rearview mirror (this was going downhill, unfortunately), and I saw it fishtail menacingly back and forth as it tried to stop. Finally, the light changed and I accelerated just in time to prevent being rearended. The car came within an inch of my rear bumper, but it would have hit me had the light not changed.

    I was lucky, but in general, how are you supposed to avoid being rearended? That and having a stone crack the windshield are the kind of things that have nothing to do with how well or how safely you drive. Had I been hit, it would have been the second snow-related rear-ender for me. And that makes me look like a bad driver, doesn't it? (Interestingly, I knew how dangerous it was, for I had driven to a shopping center and experimented in the nearly-empty parking lot earlier. I simply had no control unless I drove slowly. Why can't other people realize that?)

    The last time I was rearended, it was my "fault" for stopping at a light which had turned red. I speculated that sometimes, it is better to do the wrong thing:

    Had I been a bad boy and ran the red light, I'm sure I would have made it through, and I wouldn't be facing the bureaucratic hassle I do now. (I don't want to be driving around getting estimates, and then arguing over how much my nine year old car is worth. Plus my damned back is sore, and the last thing I want is to go to a doctor or chiropractor!)

    So what's the unpleasant utilitarian moral lesson?

    I'm wondering if sometimes it's better to just do the wrong thing. . .

    Of course, last night, but for the fact that the light changed, there wouldn't have been a damned thing I could do.

    If there's one thing worse than having shit happen, it's when you see it coming and have to watch it happen anyway.

    Sheesh, now I find myself skidding off into another discussion of politics....

    I should stick with weather.

    That's not political, right? My mom always told me that in polite society, talking about the weather is always "safe."

    Of course, had she lived to see the rise of AGW alarmism, she might have changed her views.

    I mean, check out the Inquirer's Election Day weather report:

    For the eighth time in nine years, Election Day will arrive in Philadelphia before the first frost.

    Indeed, not only has that first-freeze date slid in recent years from late October to early November, the warming trend has intruded into the heart of the cold season.

    We're experiencing more and more days - and nights - where the temperature stays above freezing, even in the dead of winter.

    [...] Inquirer analysis shows that in the 20-year period ended in 1980, temperatures fell to 32 degrees or lower an average of 98 days a year. Since 1990, the annual average is 82 days.

    The trend measured at Philadelphia International Airport parallels what is going on elsewhere in the nation. Forecasts for the coming winter suggest it will continue at least one more year.

    And last month turned out to be the warmest October on record in Philadelphia. Temperatures averaged 64.5 degrees Fahrenheit - 7.3 degrees above normal and a full degree more than the previous record.

    Taken together, these trends almost certainly represent local fallout of some sort from worldwide warming.

    If you factor in political climate, I'm almost certain he's right about local fallout.

    posted by Eric at 08:49 AM | Comments (1)

    I can hear the crunching sound from here

    No, this can't possibly be right.

    Nothing has changed, suggesting that nothing ever changes, which is probably right. I mean, once you have an axiomatically consistent set of laws, what can possibly change? Too deterministic. I know. Re-starting.

    Wisdom leaks out through the crevices no matter what. It turns out the challenging bit remains listening. That, and active tense sentences. Must'n't neglect they. No really.

    You want proof about absolutelessness? I've got it for you. A 76 year old man who sawed off his own fingers (only to have them re-attached--thank you flaps of skin!--) taught me that formerly hot coffee hours now cold still contains a range, a host, a melange!, of flavors eminently savorable. And now, in unnecessary moments, I savor the dark rich flavor which preferred hot or cold no one seems to appreciate temperately.

    I decline to answer that question.

    posted by Cosmic Drunk at 02:23 AM | Comments (1)

    Quote of the day

    As quotes of the day go, it's tough to beat this one from Bob Krumm:

    if you think that President Bush took constitutional liberties that amount to an invasion of privacy, you haven't seen anything compared to what President Hillary would do.
    (Via Glenn Reynolds)

    That's among my biggest concerns about a return to Clintonism. Say what you will about Bush, but there haven't been any Waco style incidents. (Nor has there been anything like Ruby Ridge, which happened in the days of the senior Bush.)

    This is not to minimize the waterboarding of three al Qaeda terrorists, or the electronic eavesdropping, but I just haven't seen too many children getting burned up during government sieges, nor have I seen too many children snatched from American homes and "repatriated" to totalitarian countries.


    posted by Eric at 06:29 PM | Comments (6)

    Radical communitarianism in the name of the unknown

    I don't like other people telling me what to do.

    One of the reasons I abhor communitarianism (and tend to see my political philosophy as the opposite of that) is because it vests communitarian thinkers with the self appointed power to tell me (and others) what to do. Provided, of course, that they come up with a claim to do so in the name of what they call "the common good." "For the good of all." It's utilitarianism on stilts.

    (Yeah, I'm making fun of Bentham who said that the idea of "natural rights" is "nonsense on stilts." Perhaps out of respect I should call communitarianism "nonsense on steroids.")

    Anyway, my fear and loathing of communitarianism is not merely grounded in the fact that communitarians would tell me what to do. They would also disregard the Constitution, which they see as something there to be interpreted for the good of all (anything that "promotes the general welfare" is fine) -- something in many ways analogous to the idea that "Natural Law" supersedes the Constitution whether we can define it or not.

    Far from being a fringe philosophy, communitarianism is fast becoming the law of the land which will not only supersede the Constitution, but which is poised to reach out and touch every single one of us and restrict our lives in countless myriad of ways -- simply because a group of people have decided they know what is in the common good.

    The source of today's soon-to-be-ascendant total communitarianism (would that be "communitarian totalitarianism"?) can be summed up in two words:


    It is the best thing to hit communitarian thinking since theocracy.

    Depending on how you look at it, Global Warming Theory might even be a form of theocracy, and I don't mean because it's a form of earth worship, but because it shares something in common with all religious dogma.

    I'm including atheism as a religion even though some would disagree, because as I've touched on before, atheism, though it denies the existence of deities, does so in an assertive manner similar to believers in deities. What atheism and theism have in common is that they are ways of explaining the unknown. Both posit that the unknown is knowable, and that they know it.

    I realize that I am oversimplifying here, and I should be more careful to delineate the distinction between knowledge and belief. I do not consider my belief in God to be a form of "knowledge" because I cannot assert that I know to a certainty that which is not truly knowable. Technically, belief cannot be said to be knowledge. Because I admit that belief in something unknowable is one of life's greatest challenges, it is tough for me to sit in judgment on those who have differences with each other based on disagreements over the unknown. I might wish they didn't go at it as they do, but they have every right to argue over the unknown into all eternity.

    What I do not like (and what to me is theocracy) is when any individual or group posits that a particular theory or explanation of the unknown gives it an exclusive right to rule. Thus, I find the idea of Christian theocracy repellent, as I do Sharia, or state-enforced atheism. (If forced to live under one of these theocracies, as I've said before I'd take my chances under even the worst Christian theocracy over the others. I'd rather live under Torquemada than Stalin. And yes, choosing Dobson over Khomeini would be a no-brainer.)

    I've lived more than half a century, and I have yet to see any system of control based on a theory of the unknown which promises to be as all-encompassing as the theory of Global Warming. That's because we are creatures of carbon, both producers and consumers of it.

    Any theory declaring carbon to be a poison declares all of us to be poison, and all of our activities to be poisonous. By doing this, Global Warming Theory is the ultimate trump card. It will reach out and touch every one of us, in every and any way imaginable and in ways none of us ever imagined.

    (Interestingly, most Global Warming communitarians would probably see their view of thinking as grounded in "natural law," which they'd probably define differently, although I bet Locke could be cited in support of man limiting his fellow man's ability to poison him and other men. Once you posit carbon as a poison, it all flows "naturally." What a utopian communitarian's delight!)

    Most of us clucked and chuckled over the widely circulated news item about divorce being bad for the environment. I'm sorry to say that it struck me as so tired as to not even merit one of my usual comical or sarcastic blog posts.

    The thing is, I already threw over a half a dozen hissy fits over the fact that the Global Warming Theorists were largely ignoring the importance of giving up meat despite the fact that their own theory claims this is a bigger cause of "warming" than cars.

    What irritated me was their opportunism. They don't want to cause a mass rejection of the damned theory that is poised to take over before it has. It's similar to the way Communists will deny the ultimate goals of Communism (or even that they are Communists) until they're solidly in power, at which point the nationalizing and the construction of reeducation gulags begin in earnest.

    But the meat stuff is absolutely serious. So, for that matter is the divorce stuff, which should not have been laughed off as it was. The fact is, the theory is all encompassing, and if carried to its logical conclusions, would entitle government to restrict meat eating, divorce, and just about any activity imaginable. (Has anyone thought about the carbon footprint of football games? Rock concerts? Yes, they have, but I don't expect to see headlines the sports and entertainment pages.... Not just yet!)

    Ultimately, Global Warming Theory means the triumph of radical communitarian totalitarianism. It is a form of theocracy based on a system of beliefs involving the unknown.

    Fortunately, we still have the Constitition to protect us against such systems from becoming ascendant.

    This is not to say that Global Warming Theory might not, like any form of religion or atheism, turn out to be true. But even if it were proven beyond any doubt that we are all mutually poisoning each other by our very lives and existences, that does not vest the government with any new power beyond what it has.

    If mass regulation of human activity is required to save man from himself, the proper way to do that in this country is by constitutional amendment giving the government the vast and sweeping new powers it would need.

    Good luck getting it through.

    I hope I never live to see it.

    UPDATE: Via Glenn Reynolds, Orin Kerr links an interesting piece about "Green Hannuka":

    In a campaign that has spread like wildfire across the Internet, a group of Israeli environmentalists is encouraging Jews around the world to light at least one less candle this Hanukka to help the environment.

    The founders of the Green Hanukkia campaign found that every candle that burns completely produces 15 grams of carbon dioxide. If an estimated one million Israeli households light for eight days, they said, it would do significant damage to the atmosphere.

    Hmmmm.... If Hannuka candles are bad, imagine the impact of sawing down small trees and lighting them up with incandescent bulbs.

    I'd say banning Christmas trees to stop Global Warming is the conspicuously communitarian thing to do.

    Or is it? Read this first!

    If you're still dreaming of a white Christmas, wake up. Green, environmental types insist, is the new white.

    Fake trees unleash a never-ending assault on the environment, the eco-friendlies say. They're made of plastic, whose destructive manufacturing process contributes to global warming. They linger in landfills year after year, contributing to the buildup of those noxious mountains. Anyone who has been on the Bishop Ford lately knows all about that.

    A fresh-cut, live tree is better for the environment -- or is it? Doesn't that amount to tree murder or at least seem counterintuitive? Thanks to some tree-planting quid pro quo, live trees are, indeed, preferred. The Christmas tree industry plants two trees for every one cut down to pretty up the house around the holidays.

    UPDATE: Michael Wade at A Second Hand Conjecture has some very kind words about this post and some additional insight. Don't miss his post!

    posted by Eric at 09:57 AM | Comments (7)

    Toxic Hsu toys 4 unbreakable nuts

    We've all heard about teflon presidents. Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton are both frequently cited as examples.

    Is Hillary Clinton also made of teflon?

    To tell the truth, I never really thought of her as the teflon type.

    But how about a Hillary made of "long-lasting PVC"? Yeah, I know it's just a dog toy which Dr. Helen linked earlier (a "political pet dog chew modeled after Hillary Clinton" to be exact), but I think Coco might be more comfortable to chew on a Hsu shoe. A "DOGGY CHRISTMAS" is one thing, but must canine Christmases be politicized with plastic phthalate toxicity?

    I mean, consider the facts about PVC:

    Dec. 4 (Bloomberg) -- Just as consumers have crossed off their holiday shopping lists toys tainted with lead paint, another child-safety issue may become a season spoiler.

    Consumer and environmental groups say the alarm raised over lead is helping them in their campaign to turn public attention to vinyl, a source of chemical additives that's used in consumer goods and toys, most of them imported.

    For more than a decade, groups such as Greenpeace, the Center for Environmental Health in Oakland, California, and the Center for Health, Environment and Justice in Falls Church, Virginia, have been hounding regulators, manufacturers and retailers about taking polyvinyl chloride, a ubiquitous plastic commonly known as PVC, out of products.


    To give the plastic flexibility, phthalates, a chemical additive, also goes into the mix.

    Phthalates? That sounds really scary. It's almost as if Bush and Cheney are sneaking WMDs into our toys. But if Hillary is a part of this conspiracy, where do we turn?

    The poison plastic is a huge deal, too. Activists have even gone so far as to blow up a giant rubber duckie:

    Target was the latest subject of a grassroots anti-PVC lobbying campaign, led by the Center for Health, Environment and Justice.

    Michael Schade, PVC campaign coordinator for the group, said thousands of letters and petitions went to company officials; some 230 press conferences were held; and activists attended the company's 2007 shareholders' meeting.

    The group also staged an event across from an Albany, California, store where a two-story, plastic rubber duck was blown up, advertising that Target needed to eliminate ``poison plastic.'' Groups marched through the store, handing out flyers.

    Early last month, Target committed to taking PVC out of 88 percent of its own brands by next spring and reducing PVC packaging. ``We would have been exploring these alternatives regardless of recent events,'' said Susan Giesen, a Target spokeswoman.

    The Wall Street Journal has more, and highlights the presence of an unpronounceable problem. Phthalates:
    Phthalates, chemicals often added to PVC to increase flexibility, have been linked to reproductive development problems in males. The European Union and California have banned the sale of toys containing phthalates. The California ban will go into effect in 2009.
    Reproductive failure in males? You'd think the environmentalists would be all for that. Don't they love reproductive failure, in humans and in animals?

    But there's a larger issue here than plastic poison, toxic phthalates, and reproductive failure. A larger issue even, than the implications of a long-lasting PVC Hillary.

    That's this: How I am supposed to choose between the toxic Hillary Clinton long-lasting PVC chew toy and the less offensive Hillary Clinton nut cracker?

    I mean really. Check it out:


    I think the "stainless steel thighs" make the nutcracker sweet!

    Decisions, decisions.

    posted by Eric at 12:27 PM | Comments (3)

    Distinguishing between N and Q

    I must not be paying enough attention to the news.

    From the tone and huge New York Times headline in today's Inquirer (and, no doubt, in many other newspapers), you'd almost think that Bush went to war against Iran based on faulty intelligence. (Or might as well have.) And once again, our warmongering president has been proven wrong. (Or might as well have.)

    A new assessment by American intelligence agencies concludes that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and that the program remains on hold, contradicting an assessment two years ago that Tehran was working inexorably toward building a bomb.
    (Via James Joyner, who thinks the problem may stem from "an intelligence system that so incentivizes bureaucratic backside covering that it overemphasizes threats and disregards contrary information.")

    What I want to know is simply, who is in charge of the contradictions?

    Is there a contradictor in chief?


    I had barely adjusted to the "now-you-see-it, now-you-don't" faulty intel about Iraq, and then they have to change the channel to "now-you-see-it, now-you-don't" faulty intel about Iran?

    Intel is a tricky business. For starters, I need to watch my Ns and Qs.

    Or am I missing something? Did Bush and Cheney go to war in Iran based on faulty intel? I didn't think so, but maybe my memory is as screwed up as the "National Intelligence Estimates." And besides, I hardly watch any television.

    Regardless of what side you take, these NIEs really do have a way of disappearing or getting whited out though:

    The CIA's censorship of the estimate mirrors its apparent treatment of the Senate's own report. The Senate Intelligence Committee had previously noted, in a 17 June 2004 press release, that "The Committee is extremely disappointed by the CIA's excessive redactions to the report." News accounts quoting Senate sources estimate that this excessive redaction amounted to 50% of the entire text. After a month of back-and-forth, not only did a number of Senators gain an education in the subjectivity of classification, but also the CIA retreated, to a final censorship level (by word-count) of 16%. Perhaps the most egregious example of the CIA's knee-jerk secrecy occurs on pages 49-50, when only one sentence survives censorship in the Committee's discussion of the British White Paper - and that sentence reports that the British had actually published the Paper. Large sections of blacked-out discussion following the Committee's Conclusions - such as the CIA's misleading of Secretary of State Colin Powell for his February 2003 United Nations speech (pages 253-257) and the CIA's misleading the public in its October 2002 white paper that left out the caveats, hedged language, and dissents in the underlying intelligence (pages 295-297) - are currently under declassification review by CIA. The Committee itself withheld these sections from the CIA's review until release of the report so as not to be scooped or spun.

    The estimate has been the subject of multiple public speeches, statements and testimony by CIA and other intelligence community officials - even more of which is published in today's Senate report. These include public statements by CIA director George Tenet on 11 July 2003 and 11 August 2003, Tenet's Georgetown speech of 5 February 2004, and NIC vice-chairman Stuart Cohen's statement of 28 November 2003.


    That would have been the famous "slam dunk" remark, which Tenet would simply love to have whited out. Tenet said that the presence of WMDs was a "slam dunk" (and of course the Democratic leadership endorsed this view), but it's getting harder and harder to tell what anybody said about anything.

    Here are (were) what are (were, at least I think) said to be the key, um, "judgments":

    We judge that Iraq has continued its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs in defiance of UN resolutions and restrictions. Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons as well as missiles with ranges in excess of UN restrictions; if left unchecked, it probably will have a nuclear weapon during this decade. (See INR alternative view at the end of these Key Judgments.)

    We judge that we are seeing only a portion of Iraq's WMD efforts, owing to Baghdad's vigorous denial and deception efforts. Revelations after the Gulf war starkly demonstrate the extensive efforts undertaken by Iraq to deny information. We lack specific information on many key aspects of Iraq's WMD programs.

    And the "high confidence" stuff:
    High Confidence:
  • Iraq is continuing, and in some areas expanding, its chemical, biological, nuclear and missile programs contrary to UN resolutions.
  • We are not detecting portions of these weapons programs.
  • Iraq possesses proscribed chemical and biological weapons and missiles.
  • Iraq could make a nuclear weapon in months to a year once it acquires sufficient weapons-grad fissile material
  • I'm supposed to take this National Intelligence Estimate business seriously this time?

    Apparently. Provided, however, it can be made to make Bush look bad.

    Isn't that the real subtext here? That we have a president who regularly starts wars based on faulty intelligence, and that he might as well have here? The difference here seems to be that in Iraq, he started a war based on NIE judgments that turned out to be faulty, while in Iran, he's being prevented based on intelligence that will never turn out to be faulty because it can endlessly contradict itself.

    But the larger point is that he might as well have started the war we might as well be in anyway.

    MORE: Via Glenn Reynolds, a good question from Soccer Dad:

    "If the 2005 estimate concluded that Iran had stopped its pursuit of nuclear weapons and the new one concluded that it was now close to fielding a weapon, would the administration's critics be counseling caution or action?"
    I think they'd be accusing Bush of warmongering hysteria and relying on faulty intelligence.

    UPDATE: Israel disagrees with the latest NIE assessment:

    Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that Iran was continuing in its efforts to produce a nuclear bomb despite the report. According to the minister, Iran had indeed stopped its program four years ago but has since renewed it.
    The Israelis also recognize something that shouldn't be forgotten:
    Regardless of the fact that the report said that Iran had halted its nuclear weapons plan, the fact was that such a plan did indeed exist until 2003.
    Halting its program is not the same thing as never having had one.

    Whatever might have made Iran halt their nuclear weapons program? (Assuming they did, of course...)


    Call me skeptical.

    UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking this post, and especially for clearing up the matter of who is in charge.

    All comments welcome!

    posted by Eric at 08:45 AM | Comments (22)

    Our Most Important Weapon

    The Volokh Conspiracy is having a discussion of women in combat. Here is my 2¢.

    I remember reading where being a woman in combat had a number of positive effects (in the current environment).

    They connect with the females in the population better. Very helpful when fighting an insurgency.

    They also shame Iraqis who are nor performing up to snuff. I mean seriously. What guy wants to be outshone in a masculine pursuit by a woman?

    Or suppose the shoe is on the other foot? What does it do to the morale of our super masculine foes when they get beaten by a woman?

    I understand the costs - what are the benefits? To the military. In our current war fighting situation.

    It the current environment I think it has a lot of advantages that outweigh the disadvantages. The main one being that it gives women ideas. Our most important weapon.

    H/T Instapundit

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 07:25 AM | Comments (4)

    Satan versus Satan?

    There are some serious analyses of the religious issues facing Romney in the Republican race, and this one by Mark Tapscott is a good example.

    On the other hand, there are some not so serious analyses (at least some that shouldn't be taken seriously), such as the view that a 'Vote for Romney is vote for Satan.' Lest anyone think I am making this up, the host of the Florida-based explains:

    "Romney is an unashamed and proud member of the Mormon cult founded by a murdering polygamist pedophile named Joseph Smith nearly 200 years ago. The teachings of the Mormon cult are doctrinally and theologically in complete opposition to the Absolute Truth of God's Word. There is no common ground. If Mormonism is true, then the Christian faith is a complete lie. There has never been any question from the moment Smith's cult began that it was a work of Satan and those who follow their false teachings will die and spend eternity in hell."
    I never thought I'd be defending Romney, but seriously now.

    What if he really isn't Satan?

    There can only be one Satan, right? Certainly we can't have more than one Satan per election, can we? Call me crazy, but it just seems to me that if the experts say that there's more than one Satan running, someone has to be wrong. Anyway, I'm not a Romney supporter, but for the life of me I have trouble seeing Satan wearing sacred underwear.

    But I could be wrong. Satan is a master of trickery. And the trickery is compounded by the fact that the Satanic playing field is getting crowded.

    No really. It just so happens that expert demonologist Don Imus just returned to the radio, and one of the first things he did was to declare that Hillary Clinton is Satan!

    Don Imus returned to the radio with both barrels blasting on Monday, calling Vice President Dick Cheney a "war criminal" and reiterating his charge that Hillary Clinton is "Satan."

    Referring to his disparaging remarks about the Rutgers University women's basketball team that got him pulled from the air nine months ago, a somewhat contrite Imus did say that he "will never say anything in my lifetime that will make any of these young women at Rutgers regret or feel foolish that they accepted my apology and forgave me."

    But he told listeners: "Dick Cheney is still a war criminal. Hillary Clinton is still Satan. And I'm going on the radio."

    The implications are scary. This country is poised to elect a president. As it appears right now, it could very well happen that Mitt Romney will be the Republican candidate, and Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic candidate.

    In other words, your "choice" might very well be between the Satanic Mitt Romney, or the Satanic Hillary Clinton.

    No matter how you look at it, it's shaping up to be a hell of a choice.

    And hellish choices call for hellish theories!


    I'd say "Get thee behind me," but it doesn't have the right feel....

    posted by Eric at 12:03 AM | Comments (2)

    Controlling What Is Sold

    The New York Times has an article on the new Congressional mandate to raise average vehicle mileage standards from 27.5 mpg to 35 mpg. We have been here before.

    The standards have usually turned into perverse incentives. SUVs were the result of discontinuing the station wagon, because the station wagon was a passenger vehicle. Perversely SUVs get worse mileage than station wagons.

    I think this will cause a full fledged move into trucks. Which perversely get worse mileage than SUVs. It is one thing to mandate the vehicles sold. It is quite another to mandate which vehicles will be bought.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:17 PM | Comments (5)

    The imperial incumbent strikes back

    In response to Obama's show of strength in Iowa, Hillary Clinton has gone on the offensive, starting with a barrage about the "superiority" of her "comprehensive" health care plan, and moving on to a literal attack on Obama's character:

    ....asked whether she was saying this was an issue of character when it comes to Senator Obama, Senator Clinton at first demurred -- but then said "it's beginning to look a lot like that. You know, it really is, where you can't get a straight answer on health care; where somebody who runs on ethics and not taking money from certain people is found out to have at least skirted if not violated the FEC rules, and to use lobbyist and PAC money to do so."

    Senator Clinton seemed to express something like regret about the frontal assault, saying she'd rather be attacking Republicans and America's problems. But, she said, "I have been, for months, on the receiving end of rather consistent attacks. Well, now the fun part starts. We're into the last month, and we're going to start drawing the contrasts."

    The New York Daily News has more:
    "I think that folks from some of the other campaigns are reading the polls and starting to get stressed and issuing a whole range of outlandish accusations," Obama said in Des Moines.

    "Washington insiders might think throwing mud is 'fun,' but the American people are looking for leadership that can unite this country."

    Clinton whacked Obama on several fronts, bashing his lobbyist-funded political action committee and challenging his guts over health care - "Sen. Obama got to the brink and blinked."

    Her campaign even dredged up a kindergarten essay Obama wrote titled: "I want to be President" to argue that Obama is lying when he says he hasn't been planning a White House run for decades, like his rivals.

    Obama spokesman Bill Burton laughed that off.

    "I'm sure tomorrow they'll attack him for being a flip-flopper because he told his second-grade teacher he wanted to be an astronaut," he said.

    Significantly, when asked if Clinton had anything to say about John Edwards, who is running neck and neck with Clinton in the poll, she was all sweetness.
    Clinton touts herself as a tough political fighter, though she is quick to decry the "politics of personal destruction" and accuse her rivals of "piling on."
    While showing evident relish for the fight ahead, she added, "I would much rather be attacking Republicans and attacking the problems of our country, because ultimately that's what I want to do as President."

    Gee. Character attacks plus attacks on kindergarten papers?

    This is getting nastier than I thought.

    Meanwhile, Hillary has an army of sorts, and there's every sign that her Iowa troops are being readied for battle:

    The event here today was also a new one. It was called "Take Your Buddy to Caucus," and it basically involved Mrs. Clinton - in spirited pitchman mode - exhorting and instructing her audience about how to participate in the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses, and asking them to recruit "buddies" who will come along and support Mrs. Clinton on caucus night as well. She also invited two women to the stage who extolled their buddy-buddy relationship.

    Cards were left on the seats here. People were asked to sign a card saying they would be a "Buddy for Hillary Clinton for President," and in doing so commit to the following:
    * Call my buddy twice before caucus night.
    * Write and mail a reminder postcard to my buddy reminding him or her about caucus night.
    * Make a plan to ride with my buddy to the caucus or meet at the caucus site.

    Winning the Iowa caucuses has always been, in large part, about which candidate has the best ground organization, and Mrs. Clinton - whose supporters include a number of caucus newcomers - is trying to insure that these people turn out on caucus night to support her.

    Also new today were the empty seats. Usually Mrs. Clinton's events are standing room only, but there were about 40 empty seats out of a couple hundred. Many people in the audience, when asked by Mrs. Clinton, identified themselves as county leaders or precinct captains for her campaign. The weather was nasty here on Saturday and roads and pavement remain somewhat icy, but - given that I haven't seen it before - it seemed worth noting that it was not a full house.

    Frankly, the whole thing seemed shrouded in secrecy. It was held on a network few can watch, and there were reports that organizers had stacked things in favor of Hillary. So I don't know why there'd be 40 empty seats.

    All I know is that despite diligent attempts, I couldn't watch it.

    One of the constants about Hillary is that when the going gets tough, Bill appears on the scene, almost as if on cue, to remind voters of What's At Stake.

    "Thinking about tomorrow"? Then think about yesterday!

    An integral part of Mr Obama's appeal is that he represents a generational shift away from what his supporters call the "Bush-Clinton years" - the nearly two decades that a member of one or other family has been president.

    If Mr Clinton is worried about this, he was not showing it on Tuesday evening. For him, it was just like the old days.

    He even referred to Americans "thinking about tomorrow", a line from the Fleetwood Mac number that became his 1992 campaign theme song.
    "I don't believe in dynasties," he insisted. "But I don't believe she should be eliminated because she has spent the last 32 years married to me."
    He dutifully described the former First Lady as "the strongest, most well prepared, most reliable, steadiest, best problem solver" in the 2008 race, though it was notable that these were more prosaic qualities than those often - rightly - attributed to him.

    But he could not help returning again and again to the subject of William Jefferson Clinton.

    Frankly, were I in Obama's position, I'd be more than a little intimidated by this. It's as if he's running against the incumbent. (No wonder he sometimes appears to not want to win.)

    Not that he had to, but Karl Rove was kind enough (if sarcastically so) to offer Obama some words of advice:

    Hillary may come over as calculating and shifty but she looks in control. You, on the other hand, often come over as weak and ineffectual. In some debates, you do not even look at her when disagreeing with her, making it look as if you are afraid of her. She offers you openings time and again but you do not take advantage of them. Sharpen your attacks and make them more precise.

    Take the exchange in the Philadelphia debate about Bill and Hillary keeping documents hidden about her role as first lady in his White House. She was evasive. You spoke next. You would have won a big victory if you had turned to her and said: "Senator, with all due respect, you and your husband could release those documents right now if you wanted to. Your failure to do so raises questions among a lot of Americans about what you're hiding and those questions would hurt our party if you were our nominee." But your response was weak as dirty dishwater. Do not let other great opportunities pass by.

    It should not be forgotten that Hillary has all the advantages, and Obama has few.

    posted by Eric at 10:25 AM | Comments (1)

    "how Whitaker came to be armed"

    A front page story in today's Inquirer (featuring a picture of convicted murderer Jerome Whitaker, who shot a police officer after his release) promised to tell me
    how this thug "came to be armed"

    In an apparent hit attempt, a gunman fired into a parked car at 15th and Sansom Streets, wounding two men and a woman, then shot three times at a pursuing police officer. Trying to get away, Jerome Whitaker jumped into the Schuylkill and drowned.

    Today, Officer Mariano Santiago, 44, is recovering at home, a bullet still in his fractured shoulder. The other victims are also out of the hospital.

    But before the incident completely fades away, the story of how Whitaker came to be armed, dangerous and on the streets that day is worth unraveling as a case study of how Philadelphia's justice system works.


    At long last, I thought, the Inquirer would tell me something I had not been able to determine previously. What about his gun? How did he get it? Was it stolen? We already know that convicts like him are forbidden under numerous state and federal gun laws from possessing firearms. And the fact is that the Inquirer and local gun control people are constantly complaining that the problem is we don't have enough gun laws.

    So I must know. How he came to be armed is an excellent, excellent question. A fact which no one denies that most of these shooters are career criminals who are not allowed to be armed in the first place. If they do arm themselves with firearms, they commit a serious felony whenever they do it. Under the circumstances, the public is entitled to know how they got the guns (especially those interested in the gun control debate), in order to better evaluate the claim that more gun laws are needed. An Op Ed in the Bulletin included Whitaker in a list contrasting the focus on gun control with the obvious fact that these shootings almost always involve criminals whose possession of guns is illegal:

    After every incident, Mayor Street blamed gun laws as the reason for the slaughter. Yet the one thing besides using a gun the shooters all had in common - the one thing that Mayor Street, his myrmidon Commissioner Johnson and the media claques all repeatedly ignore - is that all the shooters had prior criminal records.

    Mustafa Ali was the killer of the two retired officers. He was convicted in 1993 of robbing a bank at gunpoint. He was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III to only seven years in federal prison followed by five years' supervised release, despite the fact he was eligible for at least 111?2 years according to sentencing guidelines.

    However, Mustafa's attorney, Patricia McInerney, now a Common Pleas Court judge, plea bargained the case with the government so that he did not get the sentence for which he was eligible. Indeed, ultimately Mustafa did not even serve the entire seven years of the more lenient plea-bargained sentence.

    Antonio Coulter, the shooter of Officer Richard DeCoatesworth, had a prior arrest record for illegal drugs and assault. He was arraigned Nov. 1 and scheduled for another arraignment for additional charges Nov. 26. Perhaps this time the judge might keep him in jail - presuming he is convicted.

    Jerome Whitaker, the shooter of Officer Mariano Santiago, had a prior arrest for murder. He pleaded guilty to the 1994 shooting of a 6-year-old. Mr. Whitaker's defense was that he fired at an unoccupied vehicle as payback for an earlier clash. The little girl was killed by a stray round.

    Mr. Whitaker served all of 11 years in state prison before being paroled in July 2006. He was arrested about a year later for violating parole yet was subsequently released a few months later - only a few weeks before shooting Officer Santiago.

    John Lewis, who shot and killed Officer Charles Cassidy, had a prior arrest record for illegal drugs. He had no past arrests for violent felonies, yet he was filmed by a security camera robbing a store at gunpoint weeks before - the same store he was robbing when he killed Officer Cassidy. (The moral of this story is that just because shooting suspects have never been arrested for a violent crime does not mean they never committed one.) Incidentally, the person who helped Mr. Lewis flee police also has a prior criminal record.

    Yet, somehow Mayor Street is oblivious to this very pertinent fact: Criminals, sometimes even those with a prior murder conviction, are routinely let out of jail and walk the streets of Philadelphia with impunity.

    One reason may be that it is easier for Mayor Street to blame the chimera of guns and evil greedy gun manufacturers rather than confront the real problems of a defective criminal justice system that consists of feckless judges, capricious parole boards and unanswerable probation departments. These people are part of the mayor's political cronies. He cannot point the finger at them.

    It is more convenient that he assign blame for violent criminality to a business. This is more appealing to the mayor's left-wing base.

    (Emphasis added.)

    But no one seems to know anything about his gun. I posted about the Whitaker case before, but little was reported about the gun at the time.

    So I've been waiting patiently, for over a month, for the news about how Whitaker "came to be armed."

    That's an important question, right? Why else would it be the first item the writers promised to discuss today?

    Imagine my surprise to discover, after scrutinizing the article at least three times, that there is no mention of the details of any gun or how he "came" to arm himself with it. Not that there aren't plenty of other details about the murder of the six year old girl, his release from prison, his subsequent crime spree, another arrest, the dropping of charges, a discussion of the limits of the criminal justice system, quotes from the attorneys on both sides, but at no point are we told anything about how he came to be armed. Not a word about the gun. In vain I searched for clues, even hints:

    He was released last year, after serving 11 years. Parole officials said Whitaker had "accepted responsibility" for his crimes, was regretful and had cleaned up his behavior in prison.

    His time spent in jail was typical. According to state-prison data, the average time spent behind bars on a third-degree murder conviction is 12 years.

    "It looks to me like the system did precisely what it's supposed to do," said Bradley S. Bridge of the Defender Association of Philadelphia.

    Whitaker was "fully deserving" of parole, Bridge said. The parole board had no way of knowing what would come next.

    "There's always risks of people going awry. But you can't exist in a world where there are no risks, where bad things do not happen."

    Back in the life

    Once out of prison, Whitaker got a job working for a masonry company. His mother thought he was doing well.

    "He was happier," said Cynthia Edwards. "He was doing a lot more than a lot of boys who come out of prison."

    Edwards said she was stunned by the shootings.

    "I'm sorry about a cop being shot," she said through tears. "I'm sorry about everybody being shot. . . . I would have never thought that he'd bring harm to nobody."

    But a year after his release, it appears, Whitaker was back in a life of crime.

    On July 8, he was arrested on charges of drug dealing. According to court records, bike police spotted him at 20th and Wharton Streets just after 10 p.m., standing next to a man who was licking a blunt - a marijuana-laced cigar.

    As they confronted the two men, police ordered Whitaker to take his hands out of his pockets. He refused.

    At that point, veteran Narcotics Officer Jean M. Spicer threw the 285-pound Whitaker up against a wall and patted him down.

    She found $519 in cash and two prescription bottles, one containing 96 pills of the antianxiety drug Xanax - in the name of a David Gillins.

    The other had 27 Percocet tablets; its label was torn away. Police said the drugs, both popular in illegal sales, had a street value of $1,200.

    After his arrest, Whitaker stayed behind bars. His parole officer had him put back in state prison for violating his parole.

    But in Philadelphia courts, the drug case quickly foundered.

    Whitaker's first hearing was scheduled eight days after the arrest; it was canceled by the DA's office because prosecutors were waiting for a chemical analysis of the pills.

    At the second date for that hearing, on Sept. 17, prosecutors withdrew the charges.

    Court records list no reason for that decision. Nor are there any details about the case in the official transcript from that day. The court stenographer apparently didn't take notes of the so-called "house cleaning" discussion, when prosecutors quickly run through the cases they are dropping or delaying.

    Soon after, with Whitaker's arrest withdrawn, a hearing examiner for the Parole Board ordered him released.

    Whitaker was back on the street.

    So, there's plenty of detailed information about his drugs, and it's all very interesting, but not a word about his gun, much less how, where, or when he got it.

    However, as we get closer to the final shooting spree, we do learn about the mask he wore and gloves that were obviously used to hold whatever gun it was he must have had:

    Had the case remained active, he would have remained a parole violator and stayed behind bars.

    Whitaker would have been in jail on Oct. 30, the night he put on a mask and gloves and shot four people, including Officer Santiago.

    And that's as close as they come to even mentioning the gun. Mask, gloves, and shooting.

    Is the gun considered as relevant as the gloves?

    Why not? If guns are supposed to be the central issue, it doesn't seem fair to treat them as irrelevant, especially after promising to provide details. Why the details about the drugs and nothing about the gun?

    Last month, the Daily News pointed out that the gun was "a 9mm" and "a pistol." There's also this tantalizing clue:

    Investigators found the gunman's weapon on Sansom Street near 24th.
    Unless the story is wrong, doesn't that mean that someone, somewhere, knows something about it?

    While I admit my bias, I like to attempt to be fair about the facts, and if guns in the hands of criminals are a problem (which people on both sides would agree they are), then I'd like to know the details in these shooting cases, especially when, as here, they are promised.

    All we know is that a convicted murderer was loose on the streets, and that he "came to be armed."

    If we're supposed to assume it's the fault of the gun that came to arm him, then I'd like to know more.

    I mean, even if we're supposed to believe that the diabolical gun found its way into the hands of this convicted child murderer all by its little lonesome self, and then managed to make him shoot the three passengers in the car plus Officer Santiago, aren't we entitled to know how the gun accomplished such feats?

    I'm completely stumped.

    It's a hell of a way to promote gun control.

    posted by Eric at 09:54 AM | Comments (0)

    fallen life

    Here's the latest picture (taken yesterday) of the roses that still cling (barely) to life on my porch.


    And a picture of them a month ago:


    Nothing is forever, but considering that they're December roses, they're lucky to be alive.

    Then there's this.


    I think it's kind of pretty.

    But trust me, it's a lot prettier not knowing what it is.

    posted by Eric at 09:32 PM | Comments (2)

    First things first

    The election results in Venezuela don't look good. Apparently, people down there are willing to vote away their freedom.

    In what was probably a harbinger of things to come, the eve of the election appears to have been punctuated by government-backed anti-Semitism:

    Police raided Venezuela's main Jewish social club on the eve of a national referendum.

    The raid on La Hebraica late Saturday night occurred just hours before Venezuelans went to the polls to decide on constitutional changes proposed by President Hugo Chavez. The raid was seen as a provocation against the Jewish community, which is almost unanimously opposed to Chavez, a major ally of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and his leftist reforms.

    The police raid took place as 900 Jews enjoyed an all-night wedding party at the nearby Union Israelita synagogue in Altamira, an upscale suburb of Caracas.

    According to sources, members of the police unit that investigates drug-trafficking and terrorism broke the main gate of La Hebraica in the middle of the night, allegedly looking for weapons and explosives.
    Officers searched the premises but found nothing, the sources said.

    Great. So Venezuelans are voting away their freedom to give near-dictatorial powers to an anti-Semite whose pal Ahmadinejad has promised to wipe Israel off the map.

    Do people ever learn?

    MORE (12/03/07): Wow, am I ever glad to have been wrong!

    CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) - Humbled by his first electoral defeat ever, President Hugo Chavez said Monday he may have been too ambitious in asking voters to let him stand indefinitely for re-election and endorse a huge leap to a socialist state.

    "I understand and accept that the proposal I made was quite profound and intense," he said after voters narrowly rejected the sweeping constitutional reforms by 51 percent to 49 percent.

    Opposition activists were ecstatic as the results were announced shortly after midnight - with 88 percent of the vote counted, the trend was declared irreversible by elections council chief Tibisay Lucena.

    Some shed tears. Others began chanting: "And now he's going away!"

    This is wonderful news.

    posted by Eric at 08:13 PM | Comments (13)

    The Inevitable American Evita?


    She's inevitable.


    The very politically astute Ann Althouse links Frank Rich, who thinks she might not be:

    [T]he Republicans have fallen into a trap by continuing to cling to the Hillary-is-inevitable trope. They have not allowed themselves to think the unthinkable -- that they might need a Plan B to go up against a candidate who is not she. It's far from clear that they would remotely know how to construct a Plan B to counter Mr. Obama...

    Part of the Republicans' difficulty in countering Mr. Obama, should they have to, is their own cynical racial politics. For the most part, race has been the dog that hasn't barked in this campaign despite the (largely) white press's endless fretting about whether the Illinois senator is too white for black voters and too black for white voters....

    An Obama candidacy would force them to engage....

    I don't know what to think about that. Perhaps it's one of Frank Rich's usual indigestibles, meant only to cause stomach upset.

    Althouse offers few clues about how to season the Rich dish, and I don't blame her. But I so loved her response to the question of whether Hillary's support among women "represents 'a hunger to make history':

    I don't believe it... unless the "history" in question is: first President to make an end run around the 22nd Amendment.
    I can't second that enough! That's exactly what this race is. A tawdry and tacky solution to a constitutional inconvenience:
    I'm sorry, but the idea of a wife of a president who could never become president on her own becoming president as an end-run around the Constitution is cheap, tawdry, and above all tacky.

    From a feminist perspective, it is insulting and degrading for women. But the feminists don't especially care how they smash the Last Glass Ceiling.

    In terms of pure tackiness, it's amost on the level of Jim McGreevey, heterosexual until a corruption scandal caught up with him, and then "the nation's first gay governor." Although I'll say this for McGreevey: at least he ran on his own. I doubt he could ever have been elected had he run as a gay man, but OTOH I doubt very many people voted for him because he had a wife and kids. The usual non-controversial "straight" assumptions were made, and he never had to say, "I'm running because I want to become your heterosexual governor!" (Correct me if I'm wrong, but I just don't remember that.)

    My point is that it was tacky for gay activists to claim McGreevey, and it is almost as tacky for feminists to claim Hillary. I stress "almost" because she did run for and serve as a United States senator. But even that involved a huge effort by her husband and the Clinton machine, and considering what's happening right now, it's laughably unreasonable to deny that the goal all along has been for the Clintons to retake the White House.


    Sorry to quote myself, but I'm just not feeling terribly original today.

    And besides, I think it matters enough that it bears repeating, and I'll probably repeat it again.

    If people feel so strongly about putting the Clintons back in the White House, isn't the proper way to get rid of the 22nd Amendment first? Is it really necessary to put on a charade we'd laugh at if it happened in an ignorant Third World country?

    There's no GOP equivalent that I can think of. The closest thing would be to have Maria Shriver run for Arnold.


    It might just work.

    (After all, she is a Kennedy....)

    NOTE: The title of this post is a takeoff on the title of this book, and it should be noted that while Evita never became the president of Argentina, the Peronist penchant for having wives take over is well known.

    In the interest of full disclosure, I'm not a fan of Peronism. Or Clintonism.

    MORE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking this post, and a warm welcome to all!

    Your inevitable comments are welcome!

    I'm especially honored to be linked in the same post as Tim Blair, who notes an interesting Paul Krugman inconsistency over legitimacy (to say nothing of plagiarism....)

    MORE: I'm glad to see that Venezuelan voters rejected Chavez for life.

    What remains to be seen is whether Americans will do the same for Hillarita Clintón.

    Where's the King of Spain when you need him?

    posted by Eric at 03:10 PM | Comments (15)

    I might as well have been virtually there....

    One of the greatest challenges in blogging is to write about something without knowing anything about it. While I was delighted and honored to be asked by Pajamas Media to cover last night's Iowa Democratic debate, despite my best attempts, there was no way for me to possibly watch it, because it was broadcast on an elite new channel that very few people can receive. This forced me to resort to what is known as the Lapham method of reporting. As Glenn puts it, "I like to write the front story in advance, from the press release."

    Bearing in mind that this was not my usual style, I did my best to cover the Debate That Was Not There. As I see it, it did not matter that it hadn't yet started when I covered it, because I couldn't have covered it even when it had. Since I would not have not been able to cover it later, I was just as unable to cover it earlier, and I think I virtually "scooped" the rest of the pack who were unable to cover it later.

    So check out my Pajamas Media post about the debate I couldn't watch, broadcast on an elite channel that was not there!

    UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking the Pajamas Media post!

    And I am delighted to see that my predictions may have been misplaced. Hillary got booed in Des Moines, while Obama is ahead!

    posted by Eric at 09:31 AM | Comments (0)

    Genuine fraud? Or the real thing?

    I'm glad Duncan Hunter had the good sense to call this seeming yahoo on the "gun toss."

    My initial suspicion was that he's about as much of a gun toting redneck as the school teacher who was arrested for the Columbine remarks.

    "Jay Fox lifetime member of the NRA." Really?

    I'm a "life member" of the NRA. That's the term, and when you pay the money it costs to become a life member, it's somewhat of a big deal. They send you a card and you get a lot of mailings, and if in fact you are a life member it's not a designation you're likely to forget. Anyway, I wouldn't call myself a "lifetime member" any more than I'd call myself a lifetime blogger, as I haven't been a member all my life.

    If "Jay Fox" is in fact a member of the NRA, I wonder whether he's a Michael Moore-style member, who does not believe in the goals of the NRA, but who says he does in order to be a provocateur.

    Otherwise, what's with the gun toss? And why does he and his "award winning team" spend their time making videos showing rednecks as moronic, bigoted, gun-toting scum?

    I'm sorry, but I seriously doubt that any Second Amendment supporter would make a film like this:


    Satire is one thing, but it just seems a bit much.

    Fox News, however, seems to see it differently:

    ...not all the questioners at the debate were Democratic supporters. Jay Fox, who asked a question about the candidates' positions on gun control, confirmed to that he is a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association. He said that he had seen speculation online that he may have been a phony, but confirmed, "I actually am a Republican."

    Fox, a senior film production major at Chapman University in Orange, Calif., said he is undecided but likes both Ron Paul and Tom Tancredo. He also said despite the safety lecture from Duncan Hunter after he tossed his gun in his video, he thought Hunter answered his question adequately.

    While there is a film department at Chapman University, the claim that Boulevard, California is a "small town" seems exaggerated.

    Something about the proximity to the border, and the claim that "as in any small town, we like our big guns" just sounds tongue in cheek to me.

    Not that there's anything wrong with tongue-in-cheek satire, but I'm skeptical.

    I just can't figure out whether I'm skeptical of the satire or the reality.

    posted by Eric at 12:20 AM | Comments (3)

    Hillary a no-show in a stacked showdown?

    Although I wrote a post about it earlier, I have no idea what is happening at tonight's Iowa debate, because it is being broadcast on an elite network called HDNet that only five people in the United States can receive.

    But there's some severe weather, and it is unclear whether Hillary will make it:

    Des Moines, Iowa---Sleet, snow, and ½ an inch of ice blanket the streets of Des Moines, but tonight's Brown and Black Presidential Forum, featuring all eight Democratic presidential hopefuls, will go on as scheduled - and so will the candidates' ice spit ball throwing contest, including charges that the organizers of the event are stacking it with Clinton supporters.

    Senator Hillary Clinton canceled one campaign event this afternoon in Norwalk, Iowa, and participated in the Heartland Presidential Forum via telephone at 1:30 P.M. at the Hy-Vee Hall in downtown Des Moines. She hasn't yet arrived in Des Moines.

    "We're monitoring the weather situation closely," said Mark Daley, Clinton's Iowa press spokesman.

    Clinton was in New Hampshire late last night and planned on flying into Iowa early today, but after two planes skidded off the runway, the Des Moines Airport shut down and is not expected to open until mid-afternoon. With a backload of planes waiting in Chicago to reach Des Moines, any presidential candidate not in Des Moines now is at risk of missing the important event scheduled for 7 P.M.

    As the Clinton Iowa campaign staff sit nervously in their Des Moines office, no doubt, putting together a back-up plan just in case HRC can't make the forum, several press releases hit my email; one calling on Senator Obama to "take down his incorrect statement on Clinton's health care plan from his website."

    In cyberspace, skies are clear and all lanes open for the tour de force mud slinging that is ratcheting up in these final days before the January 3 caucuses in this tight race between Senators Clinton, Obama, and former Senator John Edwards.

    Obama and Clinton have been mixing it up for weeks now, including charges and countercharges of how experienced or inexperienced the other candidate is on foreign policy:

    "If she wants to tout her experience of having visited countries, that's fine," the Illinois Senator said. "I don't think that Madeleine Albright would think Hillary Clinton was the face of foreign policy during the Clinton administration. But maybe she'll disagree with that."

    In fact, Albright, a Clinton supporter, did disagree with Obama.

    But that's just the tip of the iceberg which now seems to be roiling over the Hawkeye State in the form of a snow and ice storm that has shut down streets and caused numerous accidents on the freeway. and most residents fear a power outage with all that ice hanging heavy on utility lines.

    All voters here are hoping for a thaw between the dueling the Dems though no one expects it anytime soon. The stakes are just too high.

    Senator Obama will be attending the forum. He arrived here last night after first rejecting the Ex One Airport in the suburban of Ankeny because "the runway was too short for his private jet."

    "Senator Edwards is just wrapping up an event at Drake University," said Iowa press spokesman Mark McCullough on a cell phone call this morning. "He'll be at the Brown Black Forum tonight."

    Hillary got booed earlier in Iowa, and that's interesting in light of the talk that the organizers of tonight's debate "are stacking it with Clinton supporters."

    Stacked or not, will she make it?

    UPDATE: Hillary appears to have made it, in time to tell Bill Richardson that governors make good vice presidents:

    New Mexico's Bill Richardson, the only governor in the race, asked Hillary Clinton, in view of her husband's career, "Don't you think governors make good presidents?" Clinton shot back, "I also think they make good vice presidents," drawing guffaws from the audience and leaving Richardson momentarily speechless.

    MORE: Hillary is also being accused of "tacking right":

    Clinton is also on the right among the Democratic candidates in opposing state plans to issue drivers licenses to illegal immigrants, a measure Obama favors.
    That's not the way it appeared in Philadelphia.

    UPDATE: Check out my Pajamas Media analysis of the debate I could not watch -- written before it happened!

    posted by Eric at 10:07 PM

    Insurance haters, let's get the job done!

    I hate insurance companies. Seriously, I really do, and I always have. There's just something about the idea of paying for something you might never need (and don't want to use at all) which makes me instinctively recoil. Then on top of that, what really rankles me is that when you do need to make a claim, they make you feel like you've either been a bad little boy or some kind of whining neurotic, and then, only if you continue to cry and whine, they'll finally deign to "let" you submit a claim! At that point the real fun begins. A simple fenderbender or a visit to the doctor for a procedure ends up turning into a time-consuming ordeal that makes you gnash your teeth at the Sheer Effrontery Of It All. (And the labyrinthine medical "bills" with constantly changing numbers which are spit out automatically and then sent out in haphazard order so that you never know who to pay or how much -- and if you call in confusion they tell you to "just ignore it" -- would truly challenge the analytical skills of even the best CPAs.)

    So, trust me when I say I hate the insurance companies. I know I'm not alone. Insurance companies are probably as hated as Big Oil. Or even Congress.

    It's probably fair to point out that I was once in the business of hassling insurance companies. I did personal injury law for the first few years out of law school and I worked for the King of Torts, Melvin Belli. I remember one time when he unfavorably compared insurance company executives to Adolf Hitler, and I got quite a kick out of it. No question about it, they were "the enemy." Yet they were also the enemy that paid the bills. One of the ironies of life is that were it not for the insurance companies against which they do battle, the trial lawyers would not be as rich as they are, and they might have to start working for a living and getting dirt under their fingernails.

    The last point raises the question of whether the trial lawyers might deserve to live under the socialism they advocate -- a topic beyond this post. (Yes, I think they deserve it. But do the rest of us?)

    Now, I have nothing against people being compensated for their injuries, and it used to irritate me to no end the way insurance companies (especially their lawyers) would drag out legitimate cases, apparently to save money. However, it was more complicated than merely "saving money," for many of the insurance company lawyers were driven by career advancement as well as the inevitable ego gratification that comes from, um, "winning." (Here language fails me, because stalling and underpaying a legitimate claim isn't winning; it can result in later, drawn-out litigation for "insurance bad faith" -- something the young go-getter career-advancers often failed to anticipate.)

    So, in addition to hating the insurance companies, I came to hate the young insurance defense lawyers. Because, well, they sucked!

    But my hate didn't stop there. Eventually, it became clear to me that "my" side in fact sucked too. Many a former Marxist (myself included in my more irrational moments) came to see the tort law system as a way to rationalize their now-corrupted socialist principles.

    "I'm actually working to redistribute wealth!"

    That statement (and many like it) I heard so many times that it was really a sort of mantra. It was as if they (and I) were now "working within the system" to achieve a practical sort of socialism.

    And what a corrupt, dishonest form of socialism it was! What kind of "socialist" takes 33-40% of all the money he "redistributes"? And what kind of "deserving poor" were these clients -- many of whom were not poor at all -- who became obsessed with what amounted to winning the lottery?

    And whose money was being redistributed? Who were the rich fat cats? Robber barons or railroad tycoons? Hardly. Love them or hate them, insurance companies take money in and pay money out, and they're always worried about the bottom line, because all it takes is another good jolt on the San Andreas fault -- or another Hurricane Katrina -- and but for the "reinsurance" industry, they can be wiped out just as surely as any other industry.

    It took me several years to realize that on an emotional level, the trial lawyer class saw the insurance industry in much the same way that college kids see parents. As a source of money that does not really have to be earned, because it's there for the asking. This is not rational, and I began to worry that the trial lawyer class consisted of people who really weren't thinking in an adult manner. Well, when you're getting a steady stream of unearned money (and a one-third contingency fee, when tens of thousands in settlement money can be generated by a single phone call, is unearned in my view), that has a way of arresting the development of your emotional and rational maturity.

    What does not go away, though (and what is exacerbated by this unjust self-enrichment), is a feeling guilt -- and that sort of guilt is what funds the Democratic Party. I don't think it's an accident that the Democratic Party is heavily funded by the trial lawyer class, and often opposed by the insurance class.

    OK, sorry for the lengthy diatribe about what I hate and why I hate it. It's intended as background for what I want to say about Hillary Clinton's attitude. She's acting like the countless trial lawyers I knew who weaned themselves from their parents' money in college only to attach themselves to a steady stream of milk from the insurance company tit and imagined their failure to grow up constituted "socialism." Moreover, she's blatantly pandering to them -- and to all who love to hate Big Insurance:

    Earlier this week, campaigning in New Hampshire, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton asserted that health insurance companies spend $50 billion to avoid paying claims. "This is all part of their business model," she was quoted as saying. "This is how they make money, but it's so bad for the rest of us. I say to them, use the $50 billion to actually take care of people."

    Statements like these raise real questions about Sen. Clinton's grasp of the facts.

    That depends on what facts you're talking about, doesn't it? Hillary is a political animal, and to her, the most important fact is that she's heavily funded by trial lawyers, and she's pandering to people who hate the insurance companies.

    Well, much as I hate the insurance companies, (a fact I fully admit), there are much worse things. Socialized medicine would be far, far worse. Worse for the country, worse for the individual, but better for Hillary and her faux socialist supporters who imagine themselves to be Robin Hoods while robbing the insurance industry and enriching themselves out of their clients' lottery winnings.

    This is all very ugly, and very dishonest. In my view, the author of the WSJ Op Ed (Merrill Matthews) is expressing a simple truth when he calls Hillary's plan "part of a broader effort by the left to disparage the private-sector health insurance industry as wasteful and inefficient, meanwhile claiming that there would be great savings if the government covered more people." As Matthews explains, this mindless redistributionist clamor simply ignores the facts:

    The health insurance industry does indeed monitor claims as they come in -- and pays the vast majority without hesitation. There is a cost to that monitoring. But there is also a cost to not monitoring those claims, and it is significantly higher.

    Currently, the private sector health insurance industry spends about $600 billion a year paying traditional health care claims for those under age 65. According to a major actuarial firm, the industry spends roughly $30 billion a year adjudicating those claims -- not "denying" them, but evaluating and processing them. There doesn't seem to be a solid number for the amount of claims actually denied, but several health actuaries estimate that amount to be around $3 billion.

    Regardless of Mrs. Clinton's insinuations, however, the money spent evaluating claims is not wasted, and would not be better spent "taking care of people."

    Duplicate claims, for example, are often filed. Then, too, people may file a claim for a gym membership in order to lose weight, or for over-the-counter vitamins and other drugs. While these services and products may be helpful, they aren't necessarily covered by one's health-care policy. Should insurers just pay them anyway?

    Insurance is a pass-through business; insurers have to collect enough in premiums to pay claims. If they pay additional and unnecessary claims, premiums will go up -- and Mrs. Clinton would be complaining, even more than she already is, about the high cost of health insurance.

    Then there's fraud....

    Read the whole thing. It's very easy to hate the insurance industry. It's also childish. And so is the mob appeal driving Hillary's message of soak it to them -- as if the insurance industry is like the government is like mommy and daddy.

    Hillary is old enough to know better, and so are most of her supporters. Her 1993 Health Care Plan from Hell would have socialized the entire industry and made it a crime to select and pay for your own doctor. She's trying to repackage it for now, but what she's trying to fix is not as broken as it will be if she gets her way. The socialists would like health care to be rationed the way it is in England and Canada.

    I think the proof of Hillary's ultimate intentions is found in the fact that when she's on comfortable turf, she still brags about her 1993 plan.

    In the YouTube video which follows, Hillary is addressing the Kos Convention on 08.04.07. If you can get past her praise of the left wing bloggers for "helping us create a modern and progressive movement" to stand up against the "right wing noise machine" and "present an alternative with facts" in support of the "progessive agenda of the Democratic Party," and if you can stand watching her brag about how she "helped start Media Matters and the Center for American Progress," how she wishes we'd had the blogosphere ten years ago (I do too, but for very different reasons!), you'll get to her claim (around 6:00) that with her 93-94 health care plan she was "trying to do something which was worth doing which we will get done when I am President."

    This utterance drew the loudest applause during the speech, and while I don't think Hillary always means what she says, I think in the case of socializing health care, she's a true believer. For no other reason than that, she deserves to be defeated.

    I still hate the insurance companies, mind you.

    But I don't hate them enough to replace them with something I hate more.

    posted by Eric at 11:03 AM | Comments (12)

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