Now they threaten to withhold sex? How small of them!

What is worse? Heightism or Obamacareism?

More properly, I should say sexual Heightism or sexual Obamacareism for that's what we're talking about.

First, take heightism:

...A while back, I conducted a poll: "Would you go out with a guy who's shorter than you?" Around 40 percent of the women who responded said: "Hell-to-the-no." Another 32 percent or so indicated they'd date a guy the same height or a "teeny bit" shorter. How many women would go out with a significantly shorter man? Around 25 percent. In other words, most women are heightists.

I'm sure there are all sorts of goes-back-to-the-Stone-Age psychological and physiological reasons. A taller man may subconsciously suggest to a woman that he's more likely to provide for her than, say, a shorter dude. True or not, animals conditioned to believe one thing over untold millennia are hard to reprogram.

Via Glenn Reynolds, who says little, but that's probably because he's over six feet tall and has thus never suffered from this form of discrimination.

At 5'6," I have certainly been the victim of "heightism," and I think that the instinctive rejection of shorter partners may well be grounded in our evolutionary past.

But let me examine my individual pathology by starting with a pathological admission: I would not want to have sex with anyone who did not want to have sex with me because of my height.

You don't think that sounds pathological? Well, it is, and I will try to be my own shrink and explain why. Suppose I had bone-lengthening surgery to make me, say, five inches taller. How would I ever know that the people willing to have sex with me after that weren't heightist bigots who would never have had sex with me before the surgery? I wouldn't. So I might even be worse off than I am now. At least this way I know whether people really like me for who I am, and not what I "look like."

But does that really end my fearless and searching moral inventory for today? Hardly. Because, in all honesty, how can I know for certain that those people who are attracted to me now might not actually have a "thing" -- a fetish, if you will -- for short men. What that means is that they really wouldn't necessarily be liking the real me, but they just want to sexually objectivize my shortness. To use and exploit me -- something I should find intolerable!

So while I initially found it refreshing to read that a full 25% apparently do not conform to this kneejerk "cave man" approach to dating, the more I thought about these hidden and subtle forms of heightism, the more I wondered what that might really mean. Are those 25% truly openminded and just don't care? Are they truly "size blind"? Or are they heightist perverts who get turned on by other people's shortness?

Once we posit "heightism" as a form of bigotry, there's no winning. Far be it from me to solve a tall problem like this in a short blog post!

Keeping "heightism" in mind, let's have a look at Obamacareism. To my utter dismay, I learned that some young people with "RockTheVote" (who obviously think they are very cool) are organizing around the idea of rejecting sex with partners who don't believe in Obamacare.

I kid you not. Just look at these geniuses.

At least there's a possible evolutionary explanation for heightism. I don't know what excuse the above twits have.

The YouTube caption reads:

Question: What would you withhold from someone who opposes health care reform? Cookies, a Christmas gift, sex?

I'd like to turn the question around if I might, and ask,

What would you withhold from someone who supports health care reform? Cookies, a Christmas gift, sex?
Hey, how about maybe their allowance?

Seriously, though, I think these girls (and guys too, at least I think they're being included) might be looking at this the wrong way by speaking about sexual favors in the negative, as something to be withheld. Instead of seeing the glass as half empty, they ought to be offering sexual favors to people who support Obamacare.

Not "I won't have sex with you unless you support Obamacare," but "If you support Obamacare, I'll have sex with you!" They'd get a lot more takers.

I also think they're making an erroneous assumption if they think that no one would lie in order to get laid.

It's easier to lie about your political opinions in order to get laid than it is to lie about your height in order to get laid.

Speaking of young twits, I think Nick Gillespie did a great job of handling this one in the video that Glenn linked earlier:

Ever the gentleman, Gillespie at no point cheapened the debate by threatening to withhold sex from her. I think such restraint is commendable.

(And they say libertarians are against moral lessons!)

posted by Eric at 06:39 PM | Comments (7)

Tea Party Coordination

Thanks to Instapundit hints I was able to locate a coordination site for the Tea Party movement. They are currently featuring The Contract From America.

Welcome to the Contract From America initiative, where you can join your fellow Americans in a collaborative grassroots effort to create a document that offers real change in Washington, D.C. and the state capitals. This website provides you with the opportunity to offer your innovative free market, limited government solutions to our nation's pressing problems and to vote and comment on the ideas of others. We believe that the result of this grassroots-generated marketplace of ideas will be a document that not only represents the will of the American people, but promotes unique ideas that will breathe new life into the economic conservative movement. We will have a Contract From America for which we are all responsible and in which we feel a sense of ownership. And politicians will have a stark choice: accept and therefore be held accountable to the terms of the Contract From America, or face loss of their seat in 2010.
I signed up.

Naturally I'm plugging small fusion as my first suggestion. And just in case you didn't know (what are the odds?) I'm a Polywell Fusion supporter. Scroll down on this page and vote up Support Small Fusion.

You can learn the basics of fusion energy by reading Principles of Fusion Energy: An Introduction to Fusion Energy for Students of Science and Engineering

Polywell is a little more complicated. You can learn more about Polywell and its potential at: Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

The American Thinker has a good article up with the basics.

And the best part? We Will Know In Two Years or less.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:39 PM | Comments (0)

China Is Bubbling

It looks like real estate in China is going through a massive bubble. It is still on the upswing side.

We don't really have a view on when it will end; [but] we do have a view that this is a bubble. Real estate is very much driven by government policy. This year we have RMB 4 trillion through the stimulus package, another RMB 6 trillion from municipal bonds, another RMB 10 trillion from bank loans. We have RMB 20 trillion in the system and it all finds its way to real estate. If the government next year decides to continue the relaxed monetary policy the market will continue like this, regardless of whether this is wasteful investment or not -- people will still buy and we will still be building and selling.

These buildings are not fully occupied and people should be worried about it. I am sure the government is worried about it, but what do you do, they want the stimulus and if you want to create jobs then this is a by-product.

And how much is that worth In $US?
Not to detract from her point, but I should note that I tally the total influx of funds somewhat differently. I think she is double-counting the RMB 4 trillion government stimulus, which was funded half by bank lending and half by municipal bonds. The combined figure, as I calculate it, is more like RMB 16 trillion, or US$2.4 trillion.
So how much is that in US dollars?
BEIJING -- China's economy expanded by 6.1 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of 2009, official data showed Thursday.

The quarterly growth was the slowest in the past 10 years as the global financial crisis continued to affect the world's fastest-growing economy. It was 4.5 percentage points lower than the first quarter of 2008 and down 0.7 percentage points from the previous quarter.

Gross domestic product (GDP) reached 6.5745 trillion yuan ($939 billion) in the first quarter, Ma Jiantang, director of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), told a press conference.

Since the numbers are never as precise as the figures show, let us say that it is $3.8 trillion. And a $2.4 trillion stimulus represents 63% of the GDP. That is a lot. The Chinese can pay for most of it in cash. But that leaves them vulnerable to the next shock in the market place.

So how about an anecdote? Here is one from March 2009.

Today I visited Beijing's most stunningly dysfunctional, catastrophic mall, called The Place, and all I could think about was what I wrote back in 2006. Made to look kind of like Versailles on the outside, The Place is an irrational maze of stores and eateries that seems to have been designed to turn off and turn away customers. It has stairways that lead nowhere, unmarked elevators that take you to surprising places, not to mention a generally chintzy feeling created by all the faux marble and Grecian columns; it always looked pompous, but now it's looking seedy and run-down as well.

The Place is around the corner from my office, and this was my first trip back in about two months, I was shocked at what I saw. Fifty percent of the eateries in the basement were boarded up. The cheap food court, too, was gone, covered up with ugly blue boarding, making the basement especially grim and dreary. The two good restaurants there, Ganges and Master Kong Chef's, were still thriving. The few others that remained seemed to be just hanging on.

That same night I went by The Village, which seemed so cool when it first arrived and now seems so unnecessary aside from the Apple store and a couple of restaurants. Same thing as The Place: lonely clerks looking plaintively out the store windows, eyes begging you to come in and buy something. But no one does. There is simply too much stuff, too many stores, and no buyers. Do you have to be a rocket scientist to conclude this is unsustainable? And to top it off, they are now finishing the second Village mall down the street, across from the Poppa Bear of all disaster malls, 3.3. All I can say is, WTF??

I'm predicting The Place and many of its sister ghost malls, shunned by customers overwhelmed by so many malls to choose from, each selling the same crap that no one can afford nowadays, are going to experience a catastrophe, if they haven't already, and will ultimately become burnt-out, boarded-up shells. In turn, this is going to throw a lot of fuel on China's current financial crisis. Real estate will be further cheapened, and the general misery unique to times of deflation will set in. Brother, can you spare a dime?

The author has some ideas on why it got so bad.
I told them this was coming 2.5 years ago and no one listened. The day of reckoning, the moment of truth is here. Even if things pick up, these malls are hopeless. Like the Mandarin Oriental, they will need to be razed and replaced with something useful, like affordable middle class housing (wishful thinking on my part). If not, Beijing could become a city pockmarked with looming dinosaurs, huge husks of once breathtaking buildings, now vacant and decaying, like so many of the Olympic structures.

I kind of understand why this overbuilding happened, as the economy became a vicious inflationary circle. Now we are experiencing the down wave, and it's just starting. As we crash, The Place and many other useless mega-malls like it will serve only as reminders of the excesses of good times that we fooled ourselves into believing would last forever. Their time has now come. In fact, their demise is long overdue.

The government in China is doing the same thing the government of the US is doing. Trying to reflate the bubble instead of marking down assets to their real value. It will end badly. In the US and China.

Given that the real volatility of the Chinese political system is far in excess of the volatility in the US and we in the US have the safety valve of local, State, and National elections with a range of policies to choose from (Texas or California?), I think there will be a LOT of political upheaval in China in the years to come. They will be so caught up with domestic problems that their opportunities for international mischief such as the current uproar over arms sales by the US to Taiwan will be limited. OTOH they could do what governments the world over do when domestic trouble is serious. Start foreign adventures. Will China go down (for a while) quietly? Or will they make a fuss? Stay tuned.

And another thing. When China crashes it will put a LOT of downward pressure on the price of oil. Unless they go in for oil adventurism.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 05:48 PM | Comments (0)

Exploring a minor issue in "religious" detail

A story on the front page of the real estate section in today's Detroit Free Press ("Rules hinder low-income buyers' loans") featured a young couple's tale of woe over their failure to qualify for a federal loan:

Lucas Harrison-Zdenek has tried twice since last summer to get a federal loan to buy a foreclosed home.

His credit score hasn't been good enough. It was 575 last fall when it needed to be 580 and is now 606 when it needs to be 620. He was denied again earlier this month.

The Ferndale massage therapist is hopeful that an update to his credit report to reflect some recently paid debts will push his score up to 620. He's aiming for a mortgage on a four-bedroom, 1 1/2 -bath house in Ferndale that's priced at $70,000.

A Jan. 1 change in federal lending guidelines has made it harder for people to benefit from Neighborhood Stabilization Programs, which help lower-income buyers purchase foreclosed homes. The rules pushed the minimum credit score to 620 for an FHA loan.

So apparently the Feds (under Barack Obama) have toughened their standards. That's not surprising, as a lot of people have been complaining that they were too low. The guy is hoping that his chances of obtaining a loan will improve over time.
"Every time we get denied, I feel like we are closer to getting approved," said Harrison-Zdenek, 25.

He's now renting a house in Berkley for his wife, Genevieve, and 3-month-old son, Lincoln.

Harrison-Zdenek's experience is pretty common for people who are at or below 50% of the local median income, or $31,450, for a family of three.

While I recognize the need for standards, it's kind of a sad story and I wish the man the best of luck. I wouldn't have considered this worth a blog post, except for one piddling little detail. This man (who for whatever reason the Detroit Free Press decided ought to be the poster boy for a piece clearly intended to generate sympathy for similarly situated home buyers) has multiple piercings in his face, and it just occurred to me that maybe it would have been good idea for him to have taken them out. At least for the picture. You know, it's like, being a poster boy is a bit like going to a job interview. I'm not an anti-piercing bigot by any means. On the right people and in the right places, they turn me on. But certainly if I had multiple piercings and I wanted to sell my image to a boss or to regular middle-class people, I'd take them out -- at least for the interview or the photo session.

In the picture in the paper, the man has large plugs through his earlobes, a prominent visible nose ring hanging in front of his mustache, and another ring going through the middle of his lower lip. As I say, I'm not uptight about these things, but a lot of people think it's gross, and it might be a hard sell in the employment market.

This led my thoughts to wonder about piercings and the law, and I soon learned that there has been a considerable amount of legal wrangling over allegations of "discrimination" by employees who claimed their rights were violated by employers who had rules against employees wearing piercings:

When one of the plaintiff's supervisors reminded her of the no facial piercings policy, the plaintiff for the first time stated she was a member of the Church of Body Modification (CBM) and that her eyebrow piercing was part of her religion. There was some question as to when the plaintiff actually became a member of that church; however, the court did not consider that important for the purposes of resolving the lawsuit. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees from religious discrimination. Under the EEOC's guidelines and regulations, a religion does not just include mainstream churches and beliefs. In fact, an individual does not need to be a member of an organized church at all in order to invoke the protections of Title VII. An employer is required to reasonably accommodate an employee's religious beliefs in the event of a conflict between an employee's sincerely held religious beliefs and a condition of employment unless an accommodation would cause the employer undue hardship. Undue hardship does not refer only to economic considerations, such as the costs involved in hiring another individual to perform an employee's work while the employee is engaged in a religious practice. It also includes such things as the hardship it would cause an employer to violate a seniority system in place.
The employee lost, and one of the reasons was that she had joined the "church" years after her initial hire.

What fascinated me was that I hadn't even known there was such a church. But there is, and apparently if you have piercings and join in, you've basically boosted yourself into protected minority status. You can claim that your "religion" prohibits the employer from making you remove -- or even cover -- your piercings.

The CBM was begun in 1999, apparently communicates primarily through its website, and includes approximately 1000 members. Its practices include piercing, tattooing, branding, cutting and body manipulation. The mission statement of the CBM states among its goals a desire for members to "grow an individuals through body modification and its teachings," to "promote growth in mind, body and spirit," and to be "confident role models in learning, teaching and displaying body modification." The CBM's website materials were viewed by a higher supervisor in the company who then told the plaintiff and the other employee involved to remove their facial jewelry. They refused, and the plaintiff filed a religious discrimination charge with the EEOC. The plaintiff proposed that she be allowed to cover the eyebrow piercing with a flesh-colored band-aid while at work. The store manager refused and gave the plaintiff the alternative of removing the eyebrow piercing or going home. She went home. She asked if she could use vacation time to cover her absences and was told that she had been suspended. On July 14, the plaintiff was notified that she had been terminated for absenteeism related to her refusal to comply with the dress code. Despite her termination, the plaintiff and the company were in contact due to the EEOC's mediation process. During this process, the defendant offered to let the plaintiff wear the plastic retainers to work or in the alternative to place a band-aid over the eyebrow piercing. The latter was the accommodation the plaintiff had originally requested. However, this time the plaintiff contended that the only acceptable accommodation was to excuse her entirely from the dress code and allow her to wear her facial jewelry to work. Anything other than that, she maintained, would violate her religious convictions that required her to display all of her facial piercings all of the time. Costco refused to completely exempt the plaintiff from the requirements of the dress code. Its argument was that her desired accommodation would interfere with the company's ability to maintain a professional appearance and would thus constitute an undue hardship for the company. The EEOC concluded that the company had engaged in religious discrimination against the plaintiff. The plaintiff thereupon sued Costco for violating Title VII and state law. In reviewing the defendant's motion for summary judgment, the trial court noted the requirements for a plaintiff to prevail in a religious discrimination suit under Title VII. The plaintiff had to make the case that a bona fide religious practice conflicted with a requirement of employment, that this situation was brought to the attention of the employer and that the conflict was the basis of an adverse employment action, such as termination. If the plaintiff established such a case, the burden was shifted to the employer to show that it had offered a reasonable accommodation, or, if it did not offer such an accommodation, that doing so would have resulted in an undue hardship for the company. With respect to the first requirement, the district court expressed doubt that the plaintiff's claim was based on a bona fide religious practice because, even if the church represented a genuine religion, it did not require that facial piercings be displayed at all times. The plaintiff's interpretation of the church's beliefs appeared to the court to be a personal one and not a church dictate. Furthermore, the court doubted whether or not the plaintiff's belief was sincerely held. Specifically, the court noted that the plaintiff originally had offered to cover the piercing with a band-aid but was now maintaining that doing so would violate her religion. The court ultimately did not base its ruling on whether or not the CBM was a bona fide religion or the plaintiff's beliefs were sincerely held. Rather, it concluded that even if the church was genuine and the plaintiff sincere, the employer had met its burden of showing that it had offered the plaintiff a reasonable accommodation by giving her the option of covering the piercing with a band-aid or wearing a clear plastic retainer. The court emphasized that accommodation went both ways. Although an employer had a duty to reasonably accommodate an employee's religious beliefs, an employee had a duty to cooperate with an employer's good faith efforts to accommodate. Furthermore, an employer did not have the duty to grant an employee's preferred accommodation. The employer here offered an accommodation, the employee did not. Thus, the district court granted Costco summary judgment on the Title VII claim and also granted it summary judgment on the state law claim that remained in the litigation. The plaintiff appealed. At the outset, the appellate court noted that determining whether a belief is religious in nature is a difficult and delicate assignment and that courts are not really suited to make such a decision. The First Circuit chose not to make such a determination in this case. Rather, the appellate court decided that even if the plaintiff's position was based on sincerely held religious beliefs, the only accommodation she would accept would constitute an undue hardship for the employer. The appellate court's reasoning differed somewhat from that of the trial court.
Anyway, the whole thing fascinated me, especially because I don't like the growing tendency of people to claim "religious discrimination" for a whole host of things.

So I wanted to know more about the Church. Here's its "Statement of Faith":

As followers of this faith, it is our purpose to educate and inspire, to share ideas, and to help each other achieve our dreams. We strive to unify and strengthen our mind, body, and soul so we can overcome any challenges we may encounter. We assert and protect our rights to modify our bodies and to practice our rituals.

We believe our bodies belong only to ourselves and are a whole and integrated entity: mind, body, and soul. We maintain we have the right to alter them for spiritual and other reasons.

Affirmation of our living, breathing, physical beings is paramount to our self-identities and helps us define who we are. The Church of Body Modification promotes affirmation and growth of a more expansive perspective of our physical and spiritual being.

I don't mean to question the sincerity of anyone's religious beliefs, but it occurred to me that I could make a similar claim about almost anything, provided I called it a religion.

For example, I love pit bulls, and I hate the breed specific legislation that's been springing up all over the place. And while it never occurred to me that God (or the gods) intended me to be allowed a special bond with a particular breed, now I'm thinking that maybe he or they did.

So therefore, maybe it's time to introduce a a brand-new Statement of Faith:

As followers of this faith, it is our purpose to educate and inspire, to share ideas, and to help each other achieve our dreams. We strive to unify and strengthen our mind, body, and soul so we can overcome any challenges we may encounter. We assert and protect our rights to own, live with, and share companionship with a wonderful animal we believe to be divinely blessed and inspired, the American Pit Bull Terrier.

We believe all pit bulls have a right to live and share in the joyous human experience as God intended them, free of interference by other, less compassionate human beings. We maintain we have the right to own and live with them for spiritual and other reasons.

Affirmation of our living, breathing, pit bull companions is paramount to our self-identities and helps us define who we are. The Church of the American Pit Bull Terrier promotes affirmation and growth of a more expansive perspective of our physical and spiritual relationship with this divinely inspired breed.

Don't laugh, damn it! The CBM is giving me ideas, and we all know, the Lord works in mysterious ways.

I don't mean to get carried away, but one idea leads to another (especially after a couple of cups of coffee), and pretty soon, this was taking shape as a possible idea for a blog post. But to write a blog post, you need links, and no sooner did I open the link to the story that got me started than I found a brand new mystery staring me in the face.

The piercings on the guy whose piercings got me all stirred up were disappearing in front of my very eyes!

Wow! I thought. Might he have thought it over and decided he should clean up his look a bit and asked for a reshoot? Thinking it might be a different picture, I looked again, closely. Nope, it's the same picture. Minus the nose and lower lip rings, and the ear plugs are now barely visible. (It looks like he has a hoop ring in his ear on the right of the picture.)

The problem now is that if my suspicions are right, this has escalated from being a cutesy little post about a minor issue into something else. And it makes this post a lot more difficult, because now I have to go upstairs to where my stupid scanner that I hardly ever use is, fetch it down from the top shelf of the crowded closet, find the damn adaptor and USB cords and plug it in to the other computer, probably reboot -- all in order to demonstrate what I'm complaining about. Another half hour down the drain. What a pain in the ass.

Still, if there is one standard for the people reading at home and another for the larger online world, I'd love to know why. If anything, the people reading online are less likely to be judgmental about these things, so it doesn't make sense.

Unless something changes when a poster boy becomes a bigger story with a national audience..... If so, why?

Anyway, it didn't take me a half an hour to set up the scanner and get in in; it only took 15 minutes. With my scanner set on 300dpi, I got a pretty good shot of the whole picture, but the trouble is, it came out of my scanner as a gigantic image -- 2451 by 3496 -- which is far too big for the blog.

So I cropped just the man's face, otherwise unaltered from the scanned image:


The piercings are quite obvious.

In comparison, here's the image from the online version of the story:


The size of the above is unchanged, but as the original is 600 is 400, I cropped the edges to make it fit the blog.

So where did the metal go? Shrinking the pixel size seems to make it less visible, but even when I tried shrinking my scanned image to the same pixellage as the online version, I could still see the piercings. But not on the Free Press version.

I realize I am being nitpicky and that probably none of this matters.

But OTOH, when a detail in the paper is missing online, it bothers me, and with a possible religious issue involved, I though I should try to be thorough.

posted by Eric at 01:24 PM | Comments (1)

Smoke and Mirrors (A Rube Awakening)

Mark Steyn sizes up Barack Obama:

In the last 60 years, the size of America's state and local workforce has increased five times faster than the general population. But the president says it's still not enough: We have to incentivize even further the diversion of our human capital into the government machine. Like most lifelong politicians, Barack Obama has never created, manufactured, or marketed any product other than himself. So quite reasonably he sees government dependency as the natural order of things. And in his college-loan plan he's explicitly telling you: If you start a business, invent something, provide a service, you're a schmuck and a loser. In the America he's building, you'll be working 24/7 till you drop dead to fund an ever-swollen bureaucracy that takes six weeks off a year and retires at 53 on a pension you could never dream of. Obama's proposals are bold only insofar as few men would offer such a transparent guarantee of disaster: It's the audacity of hopelessness.

Why does our President often seem to reason like an antagonist straight out of Atlas Shrugged? Maybe it has something to do with the fact his advisers have less private sector experience than any President... well, ever, apparently. The chart only goes back to Teddy Roosevelt, but given that the growth in government is fairly recent I think we can safely assume past Presidents and their staff had some familiarity with not living off the taxpayer (Honest Abe famously did some honest work as a railsplitter and Jefferson was a farmer; the American Brahmin class itself is a recent result of the state's increasingly voracious appetite for taxpayer dollars). And Obama's staff have a lot less than any other President: the next least appears to have three times as many staffers with exposure to the private sector.

Maybe that explains why the Obama coterie also engages in the kind of fantasy bookkeeping that would get you thrown out of any boardroom in America (and probably in jail as well):

Only a fifth of respondents believed that Obama cut taxes for 95% of Americans, and even Democrats couldn't believe the "two million jobs saved or created" fantasy
It's a trend, and one that's increasingly problematic for that man behind the curtain.

posted by Dave at 10:49 PM | Comments (2)

Let's Talk About Political Correctness!

*Note that though this post was prompted by a bad review on one of my books, it's not about the bad review. I've had many and mostly they don't bother me. Besides which, it's the job of readers to like or dislike books. It's about the "reasoning" or lack thereof behind it, including the mental binds of political correctness or its reverse.*

I confess of all my various sins - extremist positions, hot-headed eruptions, inability to understand other people's qualms... I'm sure there are more, beyond my loving-kindness and giving disposition, of course ;-) - the only thing I've never been accused of, or never credibly, was political correctness.

The reviews seem to be mostly based on race. This obsession is something I don't understand. Yeah, I realize there are all kinds of issues and abilities that are hereditary (though I'm getting a little tired of psychologists coming out with 'it's all hereditary' books. This will probably be the subject of another rant, later.) Some of them might or might not correlate to skin color. (I rather doubt they do.) They might - and often do - correlate to specific populations that have interbred for a long time. Thus nationalities and subgroups within nationalities might have a character. They might have some characteristics, as a whole. I'm fond of saying "Stereotypes exist for a reason" when I fly off in a rage or when I'm extremely late for anything.

However, human beings are not the average of their group. They are individuals and fall along a continuum. Race means very little to any given individual. Culture does. (And no, don't confuse the two, or I will be angry and you don't want that.) Racial characteristics are inherited genetically. Culture is passed on by learning. Dysfunctional cultures are perpetuated by being taught to each and every new generation. They are extremely hard to break because to do so requires that adults change their minds and let go of national/tribal pride.

Continue reading "Let's Talk About Political Correctness!"

posted by Sarah at 02:33 PM | Comments (43)

A Solar Powered Government

A wind and solar powered government? I kid you not.

WASHINGTON -- The federal government, the nation's largest energy consumer, will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 28% over the next decade, the White House will announce today.

"It's a real opportunity to lead by example," says Nancy Sutley, chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). "And not just for the environment but to spur innovation and create jobs and savings."

The council says the reduction in energy use in the government's 500,000 buildings and 600,000 vehicles will be equal to taking 17 million cars off the road for a year or not consuming 205 million barrels of oil.

Some states, cities and companies have set similar goals, but environmentalists say the federal government's plan is ambitious. "It's a bold target," says Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council. "It's a great deal for the American taxpayers ... and a great example for the rest of the country."

I'd like to see them get that up to 100%. Then the government could shut down in the winter when the sun doesn't shine and the wind doesn't blow. Not to mention freezing in the winter without natural gas for building heat. Or burning in summer when there are electrical shortages from a lack of electricity for air conditioning. I could see a real exodus from government service with conditions like that. Why didn't the Republicans think of that?

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:00 PM | Comments (4)

left wing fat cat corporatist fesses up
(and tugs at conservative heart strings)

What is a blogger to do when a hypothetical example turns out to be a real-life truth?

And what is a right-of-center blogger to do when he finds himself feeling sorry for (and downright supportive of) the hated Michael Moore?

As I will explain, both of these things have just happened to me.

In order to illustrate points, I often form analogies based on logical but hypothetical examples, as I did in this post yesterday:

If the government can censor a Citizens United film, then why not a Larry Flynt film? An Oliver Stone film? A Michael Moore film? (These guys are all incorporated, along with other big names in the film business.) Suppose they had made a film that a court decided was "susceptible of no other interpretation than to inform the electorate that President Bush is unfit for office, that the United States would be a dangerous place in a President Bush world, and that viewers should vote against him."

I think that might very well include a Hollywood film or two.

So what's the deal? Are liberals so caught up with the conservative aspect of this film (and the fact that the corporation had conservative views) that they don't realize the First Amendment cuts both ways?

Funny that I would hypothetically mention Michael Moore, because little did I know that my "hypothetical" example was much more real than I imagined. It turns out that Michael Moore was specifically cited as an example in the oral argument in support of the Citizens United position.

And as this transcript of Amy Goodman's radio interview with him demonstrates, Michael Moore (now catching flak from the left) is more than a little freaked out. He says he is "in a state of total despair" and is disgusted that he "got dragged into it." The man is reduced to hemming, hawing, and stammering, and it's obvious that there is nothing he would rather avoid than being on the winning (right-wing) side.

Get a load of this. (As the saying that so often accompanies those endless emails goes, this stuff is too "precious for words.")

MICHAEL MOORE: Man, that's so depressing. It's like the way you--I mean, you just--this last week has been a rough week for democracy. I mean, I would be lying if I said that I wasn't in a total state of despair at this moment. And I'm not usually one that goes there. I mean, I'm usually like, "Let's go!" I have--that Supreme Court ruling--and the disgusting part of it is how I got dragged into it, that there's the whole argument before the Supreme Court and the justices and the attorneys for the other side discussing Fahrenheit 9/11. I don't know if you followed this.

AMY GOODMAN: Wait, explain the whole thing.

MICHAEL MOORE: Well, the Supreme Court case that was decided was based on the fact that the Federal Elections Commission declared this anti-Hillary ad an ad. And the other side was--they were calling it a documentary.

Horror of horrors! It's like, you mean those mean-spirited conservatives get to call their biased films documentaries too?

And on top of that, those meanies actually had the gall to compare an anti-Hillary movie to the profoundly anti-Bush Fahrenheit 9/11 (which was of course produced and distributed by a... corporation!!!!):

MICHAEL MOORE: And the FEC said, no, this is an ad, and you have to follow the election laws. In terms of where the money comes from, you have to report this. They said, no, it's just like Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11. That was produced and distributed by a corporation, the Weinstein Company, etc., etc. And so the justices--they all had this discussion about how--why did Michael Moore get to distribute his film and not have to deal with the FEC, and they did? And that was the case that was decided. The justices decided, yeah, that's not right. And so, we're just going to let--now open up the floodgates and let all this money pour in. So I--

AMY GOODMAN: So you're the cause of this?

Michael Moore the cause of this evil?

At this point a showing of remorse is clearly required. So our fat-cat corporatist filmmaker has to admit that he feels so bad that his "Catholic guilt" is even implicated! And he has to explain why his bias (unlike conservative bias) is actually not bias, but "journalism." (If I may compound the irony, let me agree that it is the latter....)

MICHAEL MOORE: Well, I've got to tell you, my own Catholic guilt and my own--I have thought about this for the last few days. Not that I'm the cause of it, but, you know--see, the thing is, and this is where--this is how they got away with it, is basically, you really never want the government, any arm of the government, whether it's the FEC or the Supreme Court, deciding who can say what, period.
Let me interrupt just to say that for once I agree with Michael Moore. (My own true confession, OK?) Back to Moore:
You know, I think what I do is a form of journalism. You know, it's essentially a filmed version of the op-ed page, my op-ed page, and it's full of lots of facts and information, and it also is full of my opinion. And, you know, the right would say, "No, that's not true. You were just out there trying to get Bush out of the White House and get Kerry elected with Fahrenheit 9/11." And I could say and prove, of course, that I started working on that film long before there was a John Kerry for president. And I never spoke to anybody in the Kerry campaign, and I'm sure they didn't want to speak to me. So, that had nothing to do with that, whereas the Hillary thing was specifically set up to be out there during the campaign in '08 to stop Hillary Clinton. But you can see how it could get confusing and how they can create the ball of confusion in all of this.
Um, yeah, I can see how it could get confusing. A lot of people might think that Michael Moore really didn't want Bush to get elected, and they might even imagine that maybe Fahrenheit 9/11 was not a documentary at all, but misleading anti-Bush propaganda. Or even that Sicko constituted advocacy in favor of government health care.

Finally, Moore is forced to admit that his money came from one of those evil corporations to which all good people think should the First Amendment shouldn't apply. Very, very confusing indeed. Which forces Moore into a very startling admission -- he hates to admit it but he admires the evil of the right!

And, of course, where did my money come from? Well, my money came from a Hollywood studio. Hollywood studio is a corporation, not only just a corporation, but in this case, Fahrenheit 9/11 was made by Miramax, which is part of the Walt Disney Company. So you can see where they go with this.

And I think that I just--it just--I hate it when the other side, they're so--I mean, I hate it because I also, in some weird way, also admire them. They're so good at what they do, the evil that they perpetrate, their ability to rally people, and of course the amount of funding that they receive. Just to make this clear, the Walt Disney Company, once they saw Fahrenheit 9/11, Mr. Michael Eisner said, "We no way are ever releasing this movie." And as everyone knows the story, you know, we made this public, and he had to admit that they were trying to censor the film, and then I was able to get the film out because of a public outcry about it. So, we will never have the resources.And I think that I just--it just--I hate it when the other side, they're so--I mean, I hate it because I also, in some weird way, also admire them. They're so good at what they do, the evil that they perpetrate, their ability to rally people, and of course the amount of funding that they receive....

All I can say is that I try to be good at the evil I perpetrate. Especially when that evil consists of helping to support that evil First Amendment that protects leftie corporatists like Michael Moore just as much as conservative corporatists like Citizens United.

My evil side especially loves it when good people like Michael Moore find themselves trapped into supporting evil.


MORE: From Veeshir, a link to a piece with the charmingly alliterative title of "Michael Moore mooches Michiganders' money" -- which details Moore's latest fat cat behavior.

In his 2009 film "Capitalism: A Love Story," Michigan native Michael Moore went to Wall Street with a request to corporate officials whose companies received bailout money from the federal government.

"We're here to get the money back for the American people," Moore said in the film. "I've got more bags -- $10 billion probably won't fit in here."

Moore was criticizing an economic system he calls "legalized greed," but the Mackinac Center has discovered that Moore's movie qualified for a windfall -- at the expense of Michigan taxpayers.

That windfall would come from Michigan's refundable tax credit program for the film industry, a program that allows movie producers to apply for a tax refund of up to 42 percent of their spending in Michigan. This lavish provision means a studio can easily receive more from Michigan taxpayers than it pays in Michigan taxes.

What has capitalism ever done for Michael Moore? Less and less with every film.

Moore refused Mackinac's request for an interview.

Naturally he refuses interviews.

He might be asked whether he means it when he says "Stop the bailouts for the rich."

posted by Eric at 01:46 PM | Comments (2)

An Economics Rap

I'd say this is about the best that can be expected from combining the rap music video style and economic texts. Pretty fly for some white guys.

Books mentioned in this video:

F. A. Hayek - The Fatal Conceit

J.M. Keynes - The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money

H/T commenter simentt via e-mail

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 05:18 AM | Comments (1)

Postmodern Robotics

I came across a most interesting discourse on reality. Technical reality to be exact.

Our precise aim is to show that there is no such thing as a robot; that a robot is no more a machine than a statue is a living being; that is merely a product of the imagination, of man's fictive powers, a product of the art of illusion. Nevertheless, the notion of the machine in present-day culture incorporates, to a considerable extent, this mythic representation of the robot.
Well I have some news for the writer:
Yes. It is true. Robots only exist in the imagination. And yet from time to time factory robots kill people. I guess they were killed by imagination.

In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is a difference.

The moral is: You need to be more careful around real robots than theoretical ones.

It is a wonder that people who think like that can even flush a toilet. Or understand the need to.

Which reminds me.

"The society which scorns excellence in plumbing because plumbing is a humble activity, and tolerates shoddiness in philosophy because philosophy is an exalted activity, will have neither good plumbing nor good philosophy. Neither its pipes nor its theories will hold water." -- John W. Gardner, Saturday Evening Post, December 1, 1962

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 02:36 AM | Comments (1)

Full Disclosure

Company CEOs that lobby for CO2 taxes or other measures for CO2 abatement are going to be required to tell shareholders about the possible effects of such legislation on their companies.

Washington, DC - Corporate CEOs who have been actively lobbying for cap-and-trade climate legislation may soon find themselves in an embarrassing position thanks to a new Securities and Exchange Commission regulation, says Tom Borelli, Ph.D., director of the National Center for Public Policy Research's Free Enterprise Project.

The SEC voted January 27 to provide public companies with interpretive guidance that encourages corporations to disclose the possible business and legal impact of climate change to shareholders. Full disclosure will require companies to assess and describe how cap-and-trade legislation can harm company earnings.

"Fully disclosing the business risk of cap-and-trade will embarrass many CEOs who are lobbying for emissions regulations. Shareholders will discover that these CEOs are pursuing legislation that will negatively impact their company," said Borelli.

By issuing interpretive guidance on climate change, the SEC is encouraging companies to fully describe a wide range of business and legal risks posed by climate change on business operations. In these communications with shareholders about business risk, the SEC wants companies to address the following areas: Impact of Legislation and Regulation, Impact of International Accords, Indirect Consequences of Regulation or Business Trends, and Physical Impacts of Climate Change.

I think the added paper work will dim their ardor even if nothing else does.

Bill Gates who is no longer head of Microsoft seems to be ahead of the game.

NEW DELHI -- Rich nations' cash pledges to combat climate change must not come at the cost of healthcare spending, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates warned in an interview published Tuesday.

The entrepreneur-turned-philanthropist told the Times of India that money promised at last month's Copenhagen summit to enable developing countries to tackle climate change could cut into healthcare aid budgets.

"I am concerned that some of this money will come from reducing other categories of foreign aid, especially health," Gates told the newspaper.

"With an additional pledge for global warming, the budget of rich countries will be out of balance and they will look to cut down on expenditure."

A total of 30 billion dollars was pledged at Copenhagen for 2010-2012 to help poor countries in the frontline of climate change, and wealthy nations sketched a target of providing 100 billion dollars annually by 2020.

Which is more or less what Bjorn Lomborg said in his 2001 book The Skeptical Environmentalist.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 06:20 PM | Comments (0)

Some thoughts on Obama, Alito, and the new war on the First Amendment

While publicly excoriating the Supreme Court at a State of the Union Address constitutes a new low by itself, in this case, the low is made lower by the fact that the president -- a former constitutional law professor -- didn't even get his legal analysis right. Even leftie Times analyst Linda Greenhouse noted that Obama was wrong, and as Glenn Reynolds quipped, "When you've lost Linda Greenhouse . . . "

Amazingly, the loudest cries of liberal outrage are being directed not at Barack Obama, but at Justice Alito, who in a purely defensive and reflexive manner (immersed in a sea of sycophantic Obama flunkies applauding loudly), indicated disapproval.

Check it out:

Via Orin Kerr, who notes,

Justice Alito has the very human reaction of mouthing disagreement....
I have to say, I admire anyone who would dare to mouth disagreement when surrounded by loud and angry hordes.

I couldn't help notice that Attorney General Eric Holder looms large in the foreground. Holder has said that he favors restrictions on Internet speech, and he tried to use his position to block an ad for school vouchers.

Glenn Greenwald -- supposedly a champion of the First Amendment -- ought to be especially ashamed of himself. (See Ann Althouse's analysis, which Glenn linked earlier.) But of course he won't.

What I find most horrifying about the whole matter is that it provides the starkest evidence yet that this president's attitude towards the First Amendment may be the most hostile in U.S. history.

Instead of defending free speech, liberals now want to stifle it. Liberal activists are demanding a constitutional amendment abridging free speech for corporations.

What is being forgotten -- and what I think these activists want all of us to forget -- is that this whole thing started by a government censorship of a movie.

"Hillary: The Movie" came and went without much of a splash last year. Reviews were not flattering, Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign waned and one devastating critique made sure that the scalding documentary would never become a blockbuster hit.

It came from a panel of judges in Washington that said "H:TM" was not really a movie at all.

Really? You can watch it like any other movie.

Here's the trailer -- for a film that the United States government banned:

But the government objected based on its content and the lower court agreed:

The court sided with the Federal Election Commission and said the film was a 90-minute campaign ad "susceptible of no other interpretation than to inform the electorate that Senator Clinton is unfit for office, that the United States would be a dangerous place in a President Hillary Clinton world, and that viewers should vote against her."

As such, the film produced by conservative activists at Citizens United fell under the tangle of broadcast and advertising restrictions in the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law that dictate how and when the movie can be shown and advertised.

If the government can censor a Citizens United film, then why not a Larry Flynt film? An Oliver Stone film? A Michael Moore film? (These guys are all incorporated, along with other big names in the film business.) Suppose they had made a film that a court decided was "susceptible of no other interpretation than to inform the electorate that President Bush is unfit for office, that the United States would be a dangerous place in a President Bush world, and that viewers should vote against him."

I think that might very well include a Hollywood film or two.

So what's the deal? Are liberals so caught up with the conservative aspect of this film (and the fact that the corporation had conservative views) that they don't realize the First Amendment cuts both ways?

Or is this just the latest twist on the old "Free speech for me, but not for thee"?

posted by Eric at 02:12 PM | Comments (3)

Illinois Governor's Race 2010

It looks like Adam is endorsed by a Cold War Hero.

Breaking news: Lech Walesa, Nobel Laureate and former President of Poland, has endorsed Republican candidate Adam Andrzejewski (and G F ski) for Illinois Governor.

From The American Spectator:

It's not every day that a Nobel Prize winner becomes involved in a U.S. election, but Lech Walesa -- famed for his Cold War leadership of the Solidarity movement in Poland -- will be campaigning this week for a GOP gubernatorial candidate in Illinois.

The former Polish president will be the keynote speaker Friday at a Chicago luncheon fundraiser for Adam Andrzejewski, one of four Republican candidates for governor in Illinois.

Here is Walesa's endorsement letter:
To the People of the Great State of Illinois

It is with great pleasure that I wholeheartedly endorse Adam Andrzejewski for the office of Governor of the State of Illinois. In writing these words I feel particularly touched because, sadly, it is so seldom in the United States that a Polish son becomes involved in politics. But I do not endorse Adam only because of his Polish roots.

I applaud Mr. Andrzejewski's commendable effort to bring real reform to politics. His insistence on transparency in public life are badly needed not only in the great state of Illinois, but in any democracy. I have heard that Adam's opponents criticize his lack of political experience. I still remember when some 30 years ago, my opponents were similarly critical of my lack of political background. History has shown, however, that in order to create real change, new factors are sometimes necessary.

Adam Andrzejewski can be that factor for the State of Illinois.

I do hope, that what Adam Andrzejewski can bring change when elected for the office of Governor of the State of Illinois.

Lech Walesa

Former President of the Republic of Poland

My mate was asking me who I liked in the Republican Primary. So I did some research and it looks like Adam is it.

Now do I think he is God's gift. Hell no. But I have grown tired of the current brand of crooks. Time to try a new brand.

The fact that he is supported by the Quincy Tea Party doesn't hurt.

On Friday, January 22, 2010 the Quincy Tea Party packed the house at our Meet and Greet held at the Quincy Holiday Inn featuring a candidate forum that resulted in four candidates signing the Tea Party's Conditional Endorsement.

To view the contents of the QTP Conditional Endorsement click here.

The event featured Adam Andrzejewski candidate for Governor, Don Tracy and Jason Plummer both running for Illinois Lt. Governor, and Kathleen Thomas who is running for United States Senate. These candidates made the commitment to the Quincy Tea Party to support the conservative principles outlined in the groups document.

The QTP also unveiled it's yard sign campaign called the "Tea Party Difference."

I hope Adam lives up to his billing. The Quincy Tea Party site has links to the various candidate www sites. And the sign?

Tea Party Difference IMG_1188.jpg

Email Them if you are interested in a sign. Tell them Simon sent you.

H/T Instapundit

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 12:03 PM | Comments (1)

Well after all, "pork" is a verb....

Argentine president Christina Fernandez said something that I doubt our PETA-plagued president could have gotten away with saying:

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) -- Argentina's president thinks eating pig meat is really sexy.

Many people in this beef-loving nation reacted with surprise Thursday after Cristina Fernandez promoted pork in a speech during which she not only said pork is better than Viagra, but suggested she's personally proven it.

"I didn't know that eating pork improved sexual activity," Fernandez said in a meeting with representatives of the swine industry late Wednesday. "It is much more gratifying to eat some grilled pork than to take Viagra."

She even joked that "it was all good" after she enjoyed some pork with her husband, former President Nestor Kirchner.

"I think they might be right," Fernandez said to a laughing audience.

The country's top pork lobbyist (if that isn't a redundancy) offered some additional claims in support of the theory:
The head of the association of pork producers, Juan Luis Uccelli, supported Fernandez's speech by saying that Denmark and Japan have a much more "harmonious" sexual life then the Argentines because they eat a lot of pig meat.

"In Osaka, Japan, there is a village in which the people who reached 105 years old and ate a lot of pork had a lot of sexual activity," he told radio Mitre.

Hmmm..... I'm of Scandinavian descent, and I love Japanese food (especially pork tonkatsu...yum!), and I'm always looking for new co-factors. (Might rice be a factor in Japanese longevity?)

I love pork, but I have yet to conduct a double-blind, placebo-controlled, scientific experiment on myself to test out the president's interesting theory.

But if I ran an ad soliciting bind date participants in a "pork" study, could I get arrested?

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

Warmists Gain New Ally

Osama has a new trick in his bag. Global Warming. No. Really.

A new message said to be from al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden has blamed global warming on the US and other big industrial nations.
I wonder why he had nothing to say about China? Their CO2 production exceeds that of the US and is doubling every 20 years as they build a better life.
"All industrial nations, mainly the big ones, are responsible for the crisis of global warming," the latest tape says.

"This is a message to the whole world about those who are causing climate change, whether deliberately or not, and what we should do about that."

The tape criticises the administration of former US President George W Bush for not ratifying the Kyoto Protocol on combating climate change.

"Bush the son, and the [US] Congress before him, rejected this agreement only to satisfy the big companies."

And yet of all the nations of the world the US is the only one that has reduced its CO2 emissions.

What Is Osama really afraid of? That the cave he hides in will be inundated by glacier melt? That the ice that covers his hideout will melt and he will be prey to soldiers from the West?

I think if Osama can withstand the regular spring and summer melt he will be fine. Unfortunately.

The Siachen Glacier is home to the world's highest crisis region. Here, at 6,000 meters (19,680 feet) above sea level, Indian and Pakistani soldiers face off, ensconced in heavily armed positions.

The ongoing border dispute between the two nuclear powers has already claimed the lives of 4,000 men -- most of them having died of exposure to the cold.

Now the Himalayan glacier is also at the center of a scientific dispute. In its current report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts that the glacier, which is 71 kilometers (44 miles) long, could disappear by 2035. It also predicts that the other 45,000 glaciers in the world's highest mountain range will be virtually gone by then, with drastic consequences for billions of people in Asia, whose life depends on water that originates in the Himalayas. The IPCC report led environmental activists to sound the alarm about a drama that could be unfolding at the "world's third pole."

"This prognosis is, of course, complete nonsense," says John Shroder, a geologist and expert on glaciers at the University of Nebraska in Omaha. The results of his research tell a completely different story.

For the past three decades, the US glaciologist has been traversing the majestic mountains of the Himalayan region, particularly the Karakorum Range, with his measuring instruments. The discoveries he has made along the way are not consistent with the assessment long held by the IPCC. "While many glaciers are shrinking, others are stable and some are even growing," says Shroder.

It has occurred to me that people who buy into the catastrophist's fantasy are behaving like children. and in discussing it with a catastrophist I found a prime example.
Just like that fire in my untended fire barrel wouldn't burn down the neighbors shed (this didn't happen, just a metaphor, but I could have come up with other childhood examples where irresponsibility led to bad things).
To which I responded:
Some people made up a story. You are credulous. It scares you to death. And so you act like a frightened child.

When I was on the left I used to be scared of all kinds of things. Because the left is a nihilistic cult. Lebensraum, kulaks, the intelligencia, the bourgeoisie. There was always some enemy. Some one ruining the plan. Sabotagers.

What you are a part of is a variant of the old Lebensraum cult.

Why you want to go there?

When I figured out the game I resigned my commission in the vanguard of the proletariat.


My job is to help people give up their fears. To have courage. Because people living in fear can do some really evil shit with a clean conscience.

"I had to condemn billions to poverty and death because we will be running out of lebensraum due to global warming."

Them lefties are real humanitarians. They have only your best interests at heart.

This book is rather popular among those who no longer wish to be scared:

Red Hot Lies: How Global Warming Alarmists Use Threats, Fraud, and Deception to Keep You Misinformed

And here is another one:

Scared to Death: From BSE to Global Warming- Why Scares Are Costing Us the Earth

"The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." - H.L. Mencken

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:40 AM | Comments (0)

Moral relativism is bad enough without the moral lectures

Funny that I'd been talking about deeper subtexts and bullshit narratives earlier today, because I want to discuss a "moral" issue that's been annoying me lately. "Moral" is in quotes because it has to be; I can't figure out morality at all anymore. No really. Not just my morality, but anyone's. (Everyone's? Or is that too much?)

I've been thinking about morality in the context of the James O'Keefe morality pageant that's been preoccupying the blogosphere lately in the wake of his recent arrest.

A "new Watergate"? Spare me.

Let me begin by saying that I have mixed feelings about the kid. I didn't like the way some Catholic priest sting videos he did had apparently been hidden, and because his cohort in the ACORN sting has a father whose style turns me off, I was worried that he might be running some sort of radical social conservative agenda. And while my hat's off to him for nailing the ACORN people, it just bugs me that no one cared about the organization's genuine corruption until some kid came along and "exposed" child prostitution that wasn't real.

But that's me, OK? I have my weird standards and hangups like we all do. Even if O'Keefe happens to be running an agenda with which I disagree, is that any worse than if I were running an agenda with which he disagreed?

What's going on right now is that this kid seems to be in real trouble for stuff that looks like a bullshit trespassing case.

So maybe he was planning to sting Landrieu or expose her staff's inability to deal with messed-up phones or something. The way people on the left are freaking out, you'd think he'd been caught doing something actually evil, like drugging and raping a 13 year old. How many of the people who are piling on O'Keefe and want him to go to prison are also willing to pile on Polanski and want him to go to prison?

Geez, now I'm sounding like a moral relativist, as if there's any comparison between raping little girls and trying to set up a corrupt politician. And don't get me wrong. Moral judgments are inevitably affected by whether or not we like the person involved. People who like Chuck Berry forgive and excuse. People who like Polanski forgive and excuse. And people who like O'Keefe forgive and excuse. It's human nature.

There's a moral lesson in here somewhere despite my relativism.

Without getting into whose lives should be ruined for what, can we at least agree that messing with a senator's phone is not as bad as drugging and raping a child?

Perhaps I shouldn't have asked.

See what I mean?

posted by Eric at 12:19 AM | Comments (3)

The deeper subtext of "deeply entrenched divisions"

I don't want to dwell on the SOTU address (which I avoided live-blogging for that very reason), but what surprises me is that anyone would be puzzled by the president's stubborn refusal to move himself (or urge his party to move) towards the center. I think he's concerned with one thing only -- winning reelection in 2012. Any move towards the center right now will be seen by everyone as weakness. Moreover, it might help the Democrats win in November, and if that happens, Obama's hopes for victory in 2012 will be greatly diminished. His only hope of hanging on to the White House will be to blame all failures on the Republicans -- something he is already trying to do, but unless the Republicans regain the House, that claim will sound ever more ridiculous. If voters are tired of him now, imagine how tired they'll be in two more years. And if the Democrats survive in the Fall, that voter tiredness will be compounded by the desire for political balance, which could easily translate into voting him out of office.

Obviously, the man can't admit that it is in his interest for the GOP to win, but he can -- and did -- arrogantly refuse to pivot to the center, as Jonah Goldberg observes:

...Obama, in his supreme arrogance, didn't really seem to care.

There was no "pivot to the center," no serious accounting for the Massachusetts miracle or his misfortunes. Instead, there was an innumerate, inaccurate and distinctly unpresidential whine -- blaming George W. Bush for nearly all of his problems (leaving out, among other things, that the Democrats have been controlling Congress and crafting budgets since 2006).

Of course he wants to leave that out.

To be perfectly blunt, the Democratic Congress does not suit his presidential narrative!

And the narrative just begs for more Republican power. Otherwise, things become so surreal that Obama is left having to be elected by a backlash against himself!

The White House insists that the new wave of populism created by Democratic governance is, in fact, the same populist wave that carried Obama to victory in 2008. In other words, Obama was elected president by the backlash against his own presidency.

This novel theory allows Obama to stick to his view that there's nothing wrong with his health-care plan, and anyone who feels differently hasn't heard or understood the president's explanations.

So, he not only implored Democrats not to "run for the hills" on the health-reform bill, but insisted that as "temperatures cool," hot-tempered opponents will, of course, realize they were wrong about the bill.

Obama began his presidency insisting that government is the answer to our problems. A year later, he still believes that the era of big government is upon us.

While I don't mean to sound like a psychiatrist, I'm seeing a desperate (and obviously unacknowledged) need for a Republican victory. By President Obama. He can't continue to play the role of stubbornly brave victim without their help.

Noting the President's "uncompromising and often combative" tone, Clive Crook expressed wonderment over a particular passage in the speech:

The weirdest paragraph was this:

Our administration has had some political setbacks this year, and some of them were deserved. But I wake up every day knowing that they are nothing compared to the setbacks that families all across this country have faced this year. And what keeps me going - what keeps me fighting - is that despite all these setbacks, that spirit of determination and optimism - that fundamental decency that has always been at the core of the American people - lives on.

One could spend a while untangling that. Are we supposed to empathize with Obama for the setbacks he has suffered at the hands of voters-and admire his resilience in the face of these misfortunes? It is as though losing political support and an election or three is not a judgment on the administration's performance: it is an accident, an injustice even, akin to somebody losing his job. But Obama will carry on, just as America's people will carry on, because he is righteously determined to ignore the voters' opinion.

When you put it that way, it doesn't sound so good.

But when you look at 2012, it makes a lot of sense. Especially after two years of a Congress recaptured by those equally stubborn and recalcitrant Republicans!

From the text of the speech:

Now let's be clear - I did not choose to tackle this issue to get some legislative victory under my belt. And by now it should be fairly obvious that I didn't take on health care because it was good politics.
Ever the martyr, he wants to be seen as a guy who will face defeat for what he believes in. Even though his own party has had a super-majority, somehow there's a conspiracy against him.

He knew that this would happen. But if only they really were Republicans, it would be more believable. The latter, with their "disagreements, about the role of government in our lives, about our national priorities and our national security" offer a very convenient, very intractable enemy, and deeply entrenched divisions -- which are "the essence of democracy."

Now, I am not naïve. I never thought the mere fact of my election would usher in peace, harmony, and some post-partisan era. I knew that both parties have fed divisions that are deeply entrenched. And on some issues, there are simply philosophical differences that will always cause us to part ways. These disagreements, about the role of government in our lives, about our national priorities and our national security, have been taking place for over two hundred years. They are the very essence of our democracy.
I pity the centrist Democrats. They only want to get reelected, and here it is, the president's biggest speech of the year, coming right on the heels of a series of high-profile Republican victories, and the president is stoking and praising the divisions. Little wonder the centrist Democrats are annoyed.

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

Comments invited, agree or disagree.

posted by Eric at 10:45 AM | Comments (9)

Drone Control

And that brings up an interesting bit of information. Gaming improves thinking.

Ongoing research conducted by the Office of Naval Research suggests "that video games can help adults process information much faster and improve their fundamental abilities to reason and solve problems in novel contexts." This as posted at the United States Department of of Defense by Bob Freeman. Freeman quotes Ray Perez, program officer at the ONR's warfighter performance department who gave the following statements during a January 20 interview on Pentagon Web Radio's webcast, "Armed with Science: Research and Applications for the Modern Military." For those who have always been convinced that gaming isn't a 100% negative influence - as the mainstream media continually wants everyone to believe - these findings are for you. Perez says they have discovered that frequent game players "perform 10 to 20 percent higher in terms of perceptual and cognitive ability than normal people that are non-game players." Perez, who holds a doctorate in educational psychology, is seeking new training techniques that will allow our soldiers "to improve performance on the battlefield." This new war on terror has forced the military to adapt to "deadly adversaries who constantly change their tactics," and this being the case, games could be of great assistance. Said Perez:
"We have to train people to be quick on their feet - agile problem solvers, agile thinkers - to be able to counteract and develop counter tactics to terrorists on the battlefield. It's really about human inventiveness and creativeness and being able to match wits with the enemy."
Perhaps most interesting is the mention of something Perez calls "fluid intelligence," which is the "ability to change, to meet new problems and to develop new tactics and counter-tactics." ...that sounds a heck of a lot like what we always do in many games, doesn't it? Up until now, Perez says fluid intelligence was thought to be "immutable," in that it couldn't be changed or improved. The general belief was that after the age of 20, "most humans had achieved their brain cell capacity, and that new brain cells were acquired at the expense of existing ones." But playing video games have produced "surprising results" during testing and now, the aforementioned belief may be deemed incorrect.
Rigidity in thinking is a common occurrence. You see it all the time in the sciences. Some one finds an anomaly in an experiment and the first thought is "experimental error". And it usually is an experimental error. But the times when it isn't cause revolutions in science. From what I understand Einstein revolutionized physics based on a few anomalies.

Now if some one could come up with an accepted explanation of the Pioneer anomaly and/or the Flyby anomaly there could be a revolution in physics.

There are people thinking of explanations. But you need a fluid mind, because if you are rigidly locked in accepted theories it is difficult to come up with new ones. Or worse yet the ability to accept the overthrow of the old understanding.

Something called the Tajmar effect may have something to do with the Pioneer and flyby anomalies according to this paper:

Can the Tajmar effect be explained using a modification of inertia? [pdf]

M. E. McCulloch

School of Physics, University of Exeter - Stoker Road, Exeter, EX4 4QL, UK, EU and Marine Science & Engineering, University of Plymouth - Drake Circus, Plymouth, PL4 8AA, UK, EU

received 4 September 2009; accepted
in final form 3 December 2009 published online 5 January 2010
EPL (Europhysics Letters)

Abstract - The Tajmar effect is an unexplained acceleration observed by accelerometers and laser gyroscopes close to rotating supercooled rings. The observed ratio between the gyroscope and ring accelerations was 3±1.2×10−8. Here, a new model for inertia which has been tested quite successfully on the Pioneer and flyby anomalies is applied to this problem. The model assumes that the inertia of the gyroscope is caused by Unruh radiation that appears as the ring and the fixed stars accelerate relative to it, and that this radiation is subject to a Hubble-scale Casimir effect. The model predicts that the sudden acceleration of the nearby ring causes a slight increase in the inertial mass of the gyroscope, and, to conserve momentum in the reference frame of the spinning Earth, the gyroscope rotates clockwise with an acceleration ratio of 1.78±0.25×10−8 in agreement with the observed ratio. However, this model does not explain the parity violation seen in some of the gyroscope data. To test these ideas the Tajmar experiment (setup B) could be exactly reproduced in the Southern Hemisphere, since the model predicts that the anomalous acceleration should then be anticlockwise.

It is important to have a fluid but sceptical mind. Investigate. Everything is not settled.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 08:57 AM | Comments (1)

Two New Reports Say....

Geoffrey Lean is Britain's longest-serving environmental correspondent, having pioneered reporting on the subject almost 40 years ago. (according to the mast head at Telegraph.UK) Well he has got a hold of two new super scientific reports that say that for sure glaciers are melting and it is all man's fault.

But I don't want to discuss that directly. What I want to look at are some of the comments.

coltek on Jan 27th, 2010 at 2:37 pm

Apparently there are also a lot of glaciers that have not heard of this report.

I detect a note of scepticism. But in fact there is a list of expanding glaciers. And that is not the only list. I have a list of twelve more glaciers that haven't heard of global warming. And the first on that list of 12? Himalayan glaciers are growing, not shrinking. Oh. The humanity! How embarrassing for the IPCC. And wouldn't you know it, some folks who do not claim to be scientists have predicted that if the Himalayan glaciers keep growing at their present rate they will cover the Earth in 47,359 years(plus or minus 3.29 months) or less . It is way worse than we thought.
Rocky on Jan 27th, 2010 at 3:38 pm

Has anyone noticed that whenever a climate doom claim gets blown out of the water, at least one other "piece of important research" miraculously pops up to take its place within about 48 hours - usually "worse than we thought"?

Coincidence? And of course having seen all the other "peer reviewed" "science" fall by the wayside, we are going to believe this one.

Climate Scientists can work really fast. Peer review (was it reviewed?) that normally takes months can be done in a matter of days if the science is right.
JohnRS on Jan 27th, 2010 at 4:16 pm

Just a quick thought Geoff, while you've got your investigative journo hat on, who funded the studies at The University of Calgary and World Glacier Monitoring Service?

Not that nice IPCC lot was it?
Or Dr P? Or the WWF?

Perish the thought that there might be a bit of rent seeking going on here!! In the spirit of fairness you will check and let us know though, wont you?

As the Who put it so "We won't get fooled again"

A Classical Music Fan. Me Too!
cheshirered on Jan 27th, 2010 at 5:13 pm

Geoffrey, I'm afraid nobody is taking these claims of man made climate change seriously any more.

Well, apart from extremists, eco-nut jobs and those whose job - or reputation, depends on perpetuating the myth.

Glaciers melting, sea ice melting, rain, hurricanes, fluffy bunny wunnies drowning blah blah...heard it all before and back then it depended on what we were told was legitimate, peer-reviewed fully verifiable data that put the science of global warming 'beyond debate'.

How hollow that claim sounds now.

The credibility of all that previously 'settled' data has now completely and totally collapsed under the collective weight of Climategate, IPCC data corruption, Pachauri's inane utterances, deliberate lies and a host of failed computer models that failed miserably to predict the recent halt in rising temperatures and current cooling since around 2002.

There is nothing of this theory left that deserves to be taken seriously, and that includes journalists who refuse to address the obvious deficiencies in their own argument.

In short, it's over for AGW.

Public support for Catastrophic Man Made Global Warming (CMMGW) even in the USA is dropping precipitously. And speaking of precipitation, time for another song.
Hamish Redux on Jan 27th, 2010 at 5:40 pm

I've heard that by 2035, or possibly 2350, there will be no polar bears in the Himalayas.

Hamish, it is worse than we thought. They are already gone.
iain on Jan 27th, 2010 at 9:45 pm

Mr Lean,

as you can see from the above comments (ALL the above comments!)

A. No one believes this drivel any more.

B. No one cares.

You now have the worst accolade any journalist can have.
You are boring.

Ah a sceptic. (Well it is a Brit paper. And I do like the Brit spelling.)
MSimon on Jan 27th, 2010 at 11:53 pm

Crisis in the Rockies? What about the crisis on the Great Plains? Just 18,000 years ago Chicago was covered by a mile of ice. I blame global warming.

Hmmmmmm. That name looks familiar. I think the reference to Chicago in a Brit paper gives the show away. I confess. Guilty as charged.
JohnT on Jan 28th, 2010 at 1:14 am

Gimme all your money - or the glacier gets it!

John has been watching far too many American gangster movies. He must be an Edward G. Robinson fan.
andrewb on Jan 28th, 2010 at 6:54 am

The only way the "World Glacier Monitoring Service" (I can't believe there is such a specific organisation) is going to get attention and funding is if it cries wolf. 2035 sounds good, but unbelievable... 2350 and no-one will be interested..

SOONER THAN YOU THINK FOLKS! Cheques payable to....

So many cynics. So little time. That is all the fun we have time for now folks. But tune in tomorrow for the next episode of It's Worse Than We Thought.

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 07:01 AM | Comments (2)

"not now"

Yes. The president just said that.


In the SOTU address.

For once I agree with the president's words.

(See my previous post.)

MORE: At 09:49 p.m., he just said "Not now" again.

It's a mantra. Not now more than ever!

MY OVERALL REACTION: While I get tired of his repetitive style of rhetoric, all in all, it wasn't a bad speech (and I agreed with some of it). The man's oratorical skills continue to shine.

The president did appeal to the center and displayed some good-natured humor, and I am glad he promised to work on repealing DADT. But I found myself especially irritated by the repeated and gratuitous bashing of bankers and Wall Street, and even more by the attack on the Supreme Court. (To my mind, that borders on attacking free speech.)

And you'd think by now he'd see the wisdom of backing off on health care.

It's worth pointing out that during the campaign, he was to the right of Hillary (who viciously attacked him for it). I see no reason he couldn't fall back on that strategically. (Might even save his ass in '12.)

Not now, apparently!

AND WHY NOT: I think the most important thing to remember about tonight's performance is that Barack Obama did not tack to the center, as many would have expected. Instead, he held his ground. A smart move, and I would have advised him to do exactly what he did. First of all, he would have looked weak in light of the recent election of Scott Brown had he seemed to capitulate. Second, there's still plenty of time to tack to the center in order to to preserve his administration in 2012, and from a purely Machiavellian standpoint, it is not in his interest to have the Democrats win the upcoming Fall elections.

In fact, it is in Obama's own political interest to have the Republicans win.

That way he can not only blame everything on them, but his reelection will be an appeal to the sense of protective gridlock that American voters like.

LAST WORD: This is what we're up against:


And the president only wants to make it worse by adding new entitlements.

(Via Glenn Reynolds, who hopes it's hyperbole.)

MORE: As to all the people, all the various reactions, most of it will pass, and be soon forgotten. Except by the Democrats who will lose in the Fall:

The Democrat-vs.-Democrat anger roiling the ranks of Congress is being wrapped in smiles and standing ovations Wednesday as President Barack Obama outlines the nation's top priorities in his first State of the Union speech.

But for most of the Democrats cramming the House chamber, there is no issue more pressing than getting re-elected in November. And it's not clear that pursuing Obama's priorities will help them achieve theirs.

For what it's worth (which is not much), it's clear to me their priorities are not his.

The man wants to get reelected in 2012, and the Democratic majority will not and cannot help him do that.

MORE: Thanks for the link, Sean Kinsell. Sean does a great job of doing what I refused to do...

posted by Eric at 09:17 PM | Comments (4)

New IEC Fusion Research Group Opens

Space Ports reports the opening of an IEC Fusion Research facility to develop fusion for spacecraft propulsion.

AVRC has been awarded a contract by Wise County's Industrial Development Authority to manage a $7 million energy research center now under construction in the Lonesome Pine Business and Technology Park [PDF] in Wise, VA focused on the development of inertial electrostatic confinement aneutronic fusion energy at the Appalachia America Energy Research Center along with other projects in a significant energy technology portfilio.

Plans are in the works to conduct a multimillion-dollar research project in Wise to develop fusion technology into a cheap source for everything from electricity to spacecraft propulsion. Invented by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's Dr. George Miley, the process involves pumping aerosol boron plasma into a spherical container where it is made very, very hot. The atoms begin to fuse, creating energy.

The project will start small, with about 6-8 researchers, and could employ 20-28 researchers within 18 months.

That is interesting.

Whose work is this based on? George Miley who I mentioned in A New Theory Of Electrodynamics. A look at the AVR page on fusion has some more hints.

The Intertial Electrostatice Confinement (IEC) Fusion Propulsion technology being promoted by AVRC was developed by Dr. George Miley.

Fusion reactions release an enormous amount of energy which is why there is such a large push for research in harnessing the energy for propulsion systems. A fusion propulsion system could have a specific impulse about 300 times greater than a conventional chemical rocket engine. Fusion-powered rockets would use hydrogen as a propellant, which means it would be able to replenish itself as it travels through space.

I wonder how they plan to fuse hydrogen which is very difficult to fuse because it requires converting a proton into a neutron to make the reaction work. Or maybe they just plan to use hydrogen gathered in space as reaction mass and plan to fuse something else. Sort of like a modified Bussard Ramjet.

AVR has a slide show in pdf of their design. It is a variant of a Farnsworth Fusor operating with 600 to 800 volt drive which will burn Hydrogen and Boron 11. I wonder how they plan to make it work with such low drive voltages? Perhaps their plan to begin with a Deuterium-Helium 3 fuel has something to do with it.

This paper [pdf} indicates that they are planning to use the IEC design as just a thruster to start with.

A novel plasma jet thruster, based on Inertial Electrostatic Confinement (IEC) technology, is proposed for ultra maneuverable - space thruster for satellite and small probe thrust operations. The IEC Jet design potential offers an unique capability to cover a wide range of powers (few Watts to Kilowatts) with good efficiency while providing a plasma jet that can start with a large diameter but be narrowed directionally to focus on targets The IEC thruster uses a spherical configuration, wherein ions are generated and accelerated towards the center of a spherical vacuum chamber A virtual cathode forms in the high-density central core region, combined with a locally distorted cathode grid potential field, extracts accelerated ions into an intense quasi-neutral ion jet. Thus, the IEC thruster is roughly analogous to a planar electrostatic ion thruster "folded" into spherical form. Estimates suggest that its electrical efficiency would match conventional plasma thrusters, while offering advantages in design simplicity, reduced erosion giving long life time, reduced propellant leakage losses, and high power-to-weight ratio. Heat rejection is eased due to large heated surface areas making the unit especially well suited to high power operation.
That might work. And if it does fusion could come later.

Kind of like the progression in piston pump technology. First you build pumps. Very handy. Then you apply steam and pumps become a power source. Then you figure out how to burn the fuel inside the cylinder and you get an internal combustion engine. Let's hope we can compress the development cycle from hundreds of years to a couple of decades.

For near term fusion power on Earth I like Polywell Fusion. You can learn the basics of fusion energy by reading Principles of Fusion Energy: An Introduction to Fusion Energy for Students of Science and Engineering

Polywell is a little more complicated. You can learn more about Polywell and its potential at: Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

The American Thinker has a good article up with the basics.

And the best part? We Will Know In Two Years

Cross Posted at Power and Control

posted by Simon at 03:36 PM | Comments (0)

Is that a bomb in your underwear or are you just happy to see me?

When I visited Amsterdam a few years ago, I took an obligatory self-tour through the notorious "red light district" that has had so many people have been up in arms for so many years.


It didn't alarm me at all to see women wearing lingerie dancing in windows, although I soon learned that these were not Dutch girls; they were almost all immigrants from Eastern European countries. Whether they were being exploited I don't know, but I guess they must have found selling themselves in Amsterdam preferable to struggling in the Slovakian job market or they wouldn't have been there.

There was one thing I found disturbing, though. An angry Mideastern man was standing in front of one of the businesses, and to say he was in a state of serious emotional distress would be understatement; he looked like he was freaking out on LSD. He would look at a window where a girl dressed in a provocative outfit was dancing (I think she was wearing naughty S&M garb and waving a riding crop), and then he would look away and bend his head down while straining as if in excruciating pain. Really, really weird. So it was no surprise to read that the group which assassinated Dutch filmmaker Theo Van Gogh had also been implicated in a plot to attack Amsterdam's red light district.

Which brings me to more recent news. Via Michael van der Galien, I learned about two essays discussing how terrorists harness the dynamics of Islamic sexual repression. While this didn't really surprise me, the fact that it was a primary motivator in the case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is not only cause for concern for those charged with watching these people, but I found myself wondering about the possible implications vis-a-vis the war against sex.

From a piece by Mirande Divine which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, titled "Sexual Starvation and Jihad Fantasies":

The 23-year-old Nigerian charged with trying to detonate a bomb on a Northwest Airlines flight over Detroit on Christmas Day was lonely and sexually repressed, according to messages left on an Islamic website.

As a US Senate Homeland Security committee continued to argue this week about how to handle Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the emotional anguish in his web posts provides an insight into fanatical Islam and what drives often hapless young men to become suicide bombers. Much as we would like them to be, they are not monsters.

Being the son of a wealthy banker, and living in London, Abdulmutallab had no real beef with Western life, did not complain about racism or express concern for downtrodden Muslim brothers.

But, like the September 11 bombers, who visited strip clubs before their date with destiny, when his devout religious beliefs conflicted with his corporeal desires, he found that blowing himself up along with a whole lot of infidels was preferable to being sexually frustrated.

As the New York Post put it: "The bomb wasn't the only thing burning in his pants."

This might make no sense to most of us, who would rightly find ourselves puzzled over why a rich kid who's sexually frustrated would rather kill himself than go out and get laid. Normally, we would think of someone like that as a psychiatric case, deserving of pity. Except there's an organized effort to find people like that, and convince them that the best way to "cure" these feelings is to take out as many Westerners as possible. After all, his feelings are our fault! We allow the decadent sexual temptations that so torment him!

From "Why the Rich Muslim Boy Became a Terrorist," by Jamie Glazov:

...the most obvious torment that arises in the life of a young devout Muslim like Abdulmutallab is what he himself honestly describes: the tension between sexual desires and the Islamic mandate of, as he writes, "lowering the gaze" in the presence of women. "The Prophet (S) advised young men to fast if they can't get married," he agonizes, "but it has not been helping me much and I seriously don't want to wait for years before I get married."
That "lowering of the gaze" business describes to a T the mortified look I saw on the face of that disturbed Mideastern guy in Amsterdam. He was incapable of simply going into the place and paying for what he so obviously wanted (or simply leaving the area if it distressed him), and most likely, he externalized his desires as "evil" being directed at him by others. I think he might have been a fertile recruit, and were I running a terror cell, I would have my people stake out red light districts and look for Mideastern types showing signs of such sexual repression distress. (Perhaps the Western intelligence services would be wise to do the same, if they don't already.)

As Glazov explains, because of religious strictures, this shameful sense of sexual longing can trigger a seemingly insatiable need to "purify" themselves, which can become redirected as terrorism directed at the West:

It is precisely in this context that we see the origins of the Muslim suicide bomber's journey into the heart of jihadi darkness.

For a pious Muslim who is attempting to obey the pleasure-denying mandates of his religion, the totalitarian and often sole choice available to him becomes purifying himself by extinguishing his own earthly sinful existence.

Thus, despite liberal fantasies, it is not Muslims' lack of access to Western prosperity that spawns their terror, but exactly the opposite: it is Muslims' contact with and ability to reap the benefits of Western values that end up serving as key inspirations for jihad.

Indeed, there is a morbid dilemma for the devout Muslim who has experienced and come into contact with the temptations of Western freedom. These Muslims end up feeling infected and fault America and the West for the excruciating guilt they feel over the desires that freedom plants within their hearts. To disinfect themselves, they end up lashing out violently at the tempter -- and then ultimately at themselves for the impurity and desires that the tempter instilled....

Of course, it would be a serious mistake to blame the temptations offered in the West instead of the savages who cannot handle them in a civilized adult manner. As well as a classic case of blaming the victim.

At the risk of sounding paranoid, let me repeat my concern that the terrorists "are smart enough to exploit the tendency of people to commit logical errors like this":

  • A. The Netherlands has legal drugs and prostitution;

  • B. Amsterdam's red light district was attacked, and therefore;

  • C. Drugs and prostitution were the cause of the attacks.
  • By attacking red light districts and other sinful places, Islamists are deliberately encouraging moral conservatives (who naturally do not want to be in a position of defending red light districts or legal drugs) to acknowledge their moral authority, in classic divide-and-conquer fashion.

    I am not arguing that moral conservatives should suddenly favor red light districts or drugs; only that it be kept in mind that they are part of the strategy and not the reason for the attacks. To grant the attackers moral high ground when these things happen is almost like saying a woman deserved rape for wearing a miniskirt. (In fact, the attackers do not distinguish between promiscuous sex and the wearing of miniskirts. Similarly, licensing women to sell their bodies is as acceptable to Islamists as allowing them to enter male professions.)

    I'm with M. Simon on this one. Flood them with p0rn and other temptations. Hopefully, the shock will eventually wear off, and they'll stop being so tormented by what ought to provide pleasure. If that doesn't work, then I suppose we'll just have to kill them if and when they try to act out on their sexual purification pogroms.

    But meanwhile, we need a backup plan. So I have an idea. An immodest proposal, if you will.

    Why not hire experienced prostitutes, pole dancers, and lap dancers to work as TSA screeners? I mean, if these psychosexually tormented misfits are going to be electronically strip-searched, why not have it done by people whose appearance is likely to elicit uncontrollable telltale reactions from those who would purify themselves by extinguishing their earthly sinful existences?

    The idea is not to prevent them from extinguishing their own earthly sinful existences, but to protect our earthly sinful existences.

    MORE: Considering that the airlines are now suffering from crippling, record losses, something clearly needs to be done to attract more passengers and promote air travel.

    So how about the scantily-clad screeners? I think they might they have a positive economic impact on an industry which in the doldrums. Because of the cumbersome restrictions, traveling has long ceased to be fun, and hiring sexy girls could provide the perfect remedy -- at a very low cost.

    Considering that that's in addition to providing a built-in honeypot to ensnare sexually-frustrated suicide bombers, I think my proposal is a win-win by any standard.

    MORE: It's probably worth pointing out that right now is probably not a good time to travel with lizards in your underwear:

    WELLINGTON, New Zealand - A German man who stuffed 44 small lizards into his underwear before trying to board a flight has been sentenced to prison in New Zealand for plundering the country's protected species.

    Hans Kurt Kubus, 58, will spend 14 weeks behind bars and must pay a 5,000 New Zealand dollar ($3,540) fine before being deported to Germany as soon as he is released, District Court Judge Colin Doherty ruled onTuesday.

    No word on whether the lizards were spotted by the new electronic technology, but it is to be hoped the security people will do at least as good a job of finding bombs as they do lizards.

    Not to make light of a serious issue, but really...

    When was the last time anyone was killed by guys with lizards in their underwear?

    posted by Eric at 11:04 AM | Comments (3)


    I was reading a review of a recent US Grant biography, U. S. Grant: American Hero, American Myth, that had this interesting description of Grant

    During his presidency, to be sure, the Democratic press condemned Grant as at once feeble, conniving, and imperious--attacks similar to those that the Democrats had made on Lincoln.
    Or George Bush for that matter.

    Grant also got undeserved bad press in BHL Hart's classic Strategy while Sherman got praise. Forgetting that Grant gave Sherman orders and that Grant's job was to pin Lee so Sherman would be free to maneuver. i.e. the classic "hold them by the nose while you kick them in the pants" as recounted in General George Patton's autobiography War As I Knew It.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 10:08 AM | Comments (3)

    One Laptop Per Child In Haiti

    Here is part of a press release on OLPC's work in Haiti

    We are doing what we can for the 60 schools that we have been working with in Haiti - primarily planning for the spring after the first phase of rebuilding is underway. We will be sending a group of OLPCorps volunteers to Haiti later this year, and are organizing a used XO drive to recover XOs in the US that can be refurbished and sent to Haiti. Luckily, our Haitian team (technical and in the government) was not hurt in the earthquake, and they are planning to help displaced students get back to school as quickly as possible.

    Meanwhile, around the US, people (including our own Adam Holt and Tim Falconer) have been gathering in CrisisCamps to brainstorm ways to better use collaborative technology to help groups on the ground. If you are technically-minded, there is a real demand for programmers and interface designers to help some of these projects thrive.

    If you are interested in helping use the above link which has the links you will need.

    You can also visit their main site at OLPC or their YouTube video channel. Here is their donation page.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 07:05 AM | Comments (0)

    Too tired, but never tired enough!

    Am I a political blogger? Honestly, I don't mean to be, as I have hated politics for years. The more tired I get of it, the more I hate it.

    It doesn't help much to read about stuff like this:

    WASHINGTON--President Barack Obama intends to use Wednesday's State of the Union address to put a new focus on his jobs agenda as he tries to regain the confidence of a disheartened electorate. He will make small-business hiring the centerpiece of that message, pressing Congress to act on a slate of tax cuts that have languished for months, administration officials said Tuesday.
    Etc. but puhleeze!

    Must we? Does there really have to be a State of the Union Address? And if there does, do I have to notice it? Worse yet, am I obligated to "live-blog" it? Why? Because others do? (Sorry, but that doesn't cut it after nearly seven years.)

    When does it all end? The sense of political urgency is seriously neurotic, and it's tough not to be taken in by it. It's as if I am by my position given daily marching orders -- not by any person, but by the simple passage of current events, which I cannot stop, to which I have not consented, and and over which I have no control.

    Not that it matters to anyone but me, but seriously, it's as if we're politically stuck in a permanent state of election. A political priapism. The United States of Viagra or something. The more "they" run for office, the more "we" run. Against them! And the more I want to run. Away.

    As the saying goes, "Lead, follow, or get out of the way!" (Which is decidedly more polite than Obama's "Shut up and get out of the way!") Except I don't lead, nor do I follow, nor do I obey orders. (Besides, whose "way" could I possibly be in? I see no way even in theory that the opinions expressed on this blog could "obstruct" anyone. From doing anything.)

    Anway, I keep telling myself I don't need or have to blog about politics, because I don't. There are no rules.

    What I can't figure out is why I feel so strongly about stuff I'm so sick of. Why do I fucking care about things I fucking hate? Caring is hating, and I am tired of both. To hate is to care, and to care is to hate.

    See, a paradox like that is worth exploring for its own sake.

    Fortunately (or unfortunately) my blog is my psychiatrist.

    MORE: I'm not as alone as I thought in finding the State of the Union address tedious. Ann Althouse is polling her readers, and 97% of them find the Apple Tablet announcement more exciting than the SOTU address. I find the Apple Tablet more exciting too, and I'm not even interested in getting one. (Via Glenn Reynolds, who also links this preview of the coming unattraction, which I thought I should link in case there are political junkies who might be in need of serious analysis. (Pun unintended, but maybe I should have said in need of a fix. I love political junkies, although I try to keep my habit at a modest "chippie" level.)

    MORE: Thanks Sean Kinsell for the link.

    Perhaps because people looked so unenthused, it now appears that the SOTU is going to include a pitch to Congress to get rid of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."

    Washington (CNN) -- President Obama will ask Congress Wednesday night to repeal the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that bars gays and lesbians from openly serving in, White House Senior Adviser David Axelrod told CNN.

    The request will be included in the president's State of the Union address, Axelrod said.

    Now, while I support getting rid of DADT, it's something the President (as Commander in Chief) has the power to accomplish largely by executive orders (something he has not done. Many have observed that he has been in no hurry.

    So what's with the sudden drama? Why the "DADT SOTU"? Via a last-minute Axelrod announcement to CNN?

    I certainly hope the goal is not to use the gay issue as a political football.

    And what about this statement from last year?

    Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said recently that if the ban were lifted, it would be difficult for the military to restructure its units to accommodate homosexuals.
    How and why would units need to be restructured?

    MORE (1/28/10): From the president's speech:

    ...what frustrates the American people is a Washington where every day is Election Day. We can't wage a perpetual campaign where the only goal is to see who can get the most embarrassing headlines about the other side -- a belief that if you lose, I win.
    He's right, of course. In fact, he's saying what I said earlier.

    Except he's waging a perpetual campaign!

    There was a time when such a statement would have been called hypocrisy.

    posted by Eric at 12:07 AM | Comments (4)

    A New Theory Of Electrodynamics

    I have just sent this out to a group of physicists and scientists to see if it has any merit.

    Here is the cover letter I sent:

    George Miley of U Illinois, Champaign is involved.

    I am passing this on after a cursory review. It was published yesterday. Please give it 5 minutes before you give up. The speed of light bit in the beginning was off putting for me. But it gets explained better later. The equations at first glance are compelling. They are better covered in the second 5 minutes. I'm going to review it more carefully with multiple stops to get a better feel. This is rapid fire and not typical lecture speed.

    I'm more at home with engineering but I am at least conversant with all the material presented. I have also introduced the video to Lubos Motl to see what he thinks.

    It will be interesting if anything comes of it.

    Here are some of the documents in the video:

    Evidence of Cold Fusion?

    Impulse Gravity Generator?

    Gravitomagnetic Field of a Rotating Superconductor
    and of a Rotating Superfluid [pdf]

    Researchers now able to stop, restart light

    The Control of the Natural Forces by Frank Znidarsic [pdf]

    BBC News - Boeing tries to defy gravity

    Quantum Chemistry - McQuarrie

    Tapping the Zero Point Energy

    H/T jlumartinez at Talk Polywell

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 07:13 PM | Comments (3)

    Making Christianity work -- in the angry arab street

    Frank J. Fleming has an interesting (if somewhat controversial) idea for solving the problems in the Mideast: simply convert the Muslims to Christianity. After all, Christianity is a more peaceful religion, and as Frank points out, when was the last time anyone saw a Christian suicide bomber?

    ...I think if we could convert many in the Middle East to Christianity, we would have a lot fewer problems with the region. First off, I don't know of any Middle East Christians who have tried to blow us up. So if we can convert people over there, we could be removing enemies from the battlefield without violence.

    Plus, it would help America and that region to better understand each other. If I may speak an uncomfortable truth, the fact that everyone is so Muslim in the Middle East kind of unnerves most Americans. We don't really know what's up with that. We're told "Islam means peace" and we want to believe that, but most Americans don't really know if that's true, even though many Muslims live by that tenet.

    But there are also a lot of Muslims who think blowing people up is the best way to express their religious devotion, and not many of us have really read the Koran and the supporting hadiths to come down on one side or the other in that debate. There are still debates in Christianity I'm trying to figure out. Who has time to learn an entirely different religion? But if the people in the Middle East were saying, "We're blowing you up for Jesus," we actually know pretty well where to point to in the Bible to show them that's wrong. If they're instead like, "We're shooting you because you're meddlesome," that still doesn't change much, but one thing at a time.

    So I think it's pretty inarguable that if there were at least more Christians in the Middle East, things would be easier for us here in America. The problem, then, remains whether merely mentioning Jesus is going to cause nothing but bloodshed over there....

    Frank has a good point about the double standard where it comes to religious proselytizing. Muslims are free to send their missionaries over here to convert us, but we are not allowed to do the same thing.

    As Frank admits, there are some problems with his idea. The biggest one I see right now is that not only is Barack Obama the president, but the U.S. government is not supposed to favor one form of religion over another. However, that's a mere constitutional question, and since when has the Obama administration (or Congress) respected the Constitution?

    Anyway, I'm a practical person, so in the interest of building a better world, I'd like to offer a few suggestions to help grease the skids.

    If it becomes official policy to encourage the conversion of Muslims to Christianity under the presidency of Barack Obama, a question will inevitably arise....

    "Who will do the converting?"

    There are many different Christian denominations, as well as pastors, so which one or ones should get the official government contracts to actually wade in with Bibles, tracts, and sermons? I'm thinking that maybe the most likely candidate to head Obama's Christian outreach initiative ought be the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Which is a no-brainer, really. Not only does Wright hate the Joooos, but "GOD DAMN AMERICA!" would be an easy sell in the angry Arab street, which means we would be sponsoring a Christian-based death-to-America and death-to-the-West cult. Not only could angry Muslims relate to that, but so would the angry left! Naturally, this would lead to peace, brotherhood and a better world.

    Of course, other faiths might demand the right to send their missionaries too. So, we could easily sponsor Buddhist outreach, Hindu outreach, Wiccan outreach, etc. Even Voodoo priests. The details can be worked out.

    Except, at the risk of sounding like an anti-religious bigot, I'd like to keep the Scientologists out, OK? It may sound condescending, but I just don't think the Muslims are ready to process the idea of Xenu and the Galactic Confederacy, and we don't want them thinking that the rest of us are a bunch of Thetans out to conquer them. Like that Great Thetan George W. Bush! Or Hillary, with her ties to THE TAN family! I'm all for hope and change, but I don't think we should get too carried away.

    Gee, I almost forgot the Satanists.

    Why does the devil always have to be in the details?

    posted by Eric at 11:22 AM | Comments (4)

    The conservative blogosphere's Pauline Kael moment?

    When Glenn Reynolds linked Allahpundit's post about Mike Huckabee doing better against Barack Obama than any Republican candidate, I was shocked. But here's what the quoted poll said:

    Mike Huckabee has a 45-44 advantage over Obama, aided largely by a 44-38 lead with independents. There continues to be no evidence of any negative fallout for Huckabee after murders of police officers committed by an ex-Arkansas inmate whose sentence he had commuted. His 35/29 favorability breakdown is actually slightly better than it was in November before that incident.

    Mitt Romney does the next best, trailing Obama 44-42. His favorability is 36/32, and he's the most popular Republican among independents (41/32). Romney actually matches Huckabee with GOP voters this month and gets over 50%, ending a trend in his numbers that had seemed to spell difficulty for snagging a Republican nomination.

    Sarah Palin trails Obama 49-41 largely because she loses 14% of the Republican vote to him, making her the only one of the GOP candidates we tested who Obama could get double digit crossover support against. At the same time Palin continues to be the most well liked potential GOP candidate within her party- at 71% favorability. Her problem appears to be that the Republicans who don't care for her will go so far as to vote for Obama instead of her.

    That's downright wacky.

    Who, and where are all these people who apparently prefer Mike Huckabee to Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney?

    I don't know, but I found myself reassured by the latest poll at Right Wing News. Huckabee comes in last:

    12) Mike Huckabee: 0% (0 votes)
    11) Ron Paul: 1% (1 votes)
    10) Newt Gingrich: 3% (2 votes)
    9) Haley Barbour: 3% (2 votes)
    8) Rick Perry: 4% (3 votes)
    7) John Thune: 7% (5 votes)
    6) Jeb Bush: 7% (5 votes)
    5) Tim Pawlenty: 9% (6 votes)
    4) Mitch Daniels: 10% (7 votes)
    3) Mitt Romney: 12% (8 votes)
    2) Mike Pence: 14% (10 votes)
    1) Sarah Palin: 29% (20 votes)
    With zero votes, you could say that Huckabee doesn't come in at all, but anyway, there he is. No lower bottom is possible.

    OTOH, this may reflect smug Kaelian thinking on my part. ("I don't know anyone who is for Huckabee!" being analogous to Kael's apocryphal "I don't know anyone who voted for Nixon!") Except I am hardly alone. Zero means zero. Is the entire right-of-center blogosphere that out of touch with public opinion as a whole?

    I don't know what might be going on, but the contrast is just too huge for comfort.

    Is it possible that something is wrong with the polling?

    Putting my inner Pauline Kael aside, all I know is that were I Barack Obama, Mike Huckabee would be the guy I'd most want to run against.

    posted by Eric at 06:59 PM | Comments (3)

    "How do you do that?"

    It strikes me that unless a patron were intoxicated, clowning around, or pushed (or maybe having a seizure), it would be very unlikely to fall through a priceless painting hanging on a wall at an art museum as is being widely reported.

    "How do you do that?" asked one news commentator incredulously.

    Beats me. Normal people who go to art museums do so with an attitude of respect.

    I tried to learn more about the details of this story, but the woman is not identified. We are told that she was an who was taking an "adult education" class. In the NY Daily News version they went so far as to call her a "clutzy art lover," and noted it happened on a Friday afternoon.

    A clutzy art lover tripped onto a rare Picasso painting at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, tearing a hole in the century-old masterpiece, the museum said Sunday.

    The unidentified woman was attending an adult education class Friday afternoon when she lost her balance and stumbled into "The Actor," causing a 6-inch tear in the bottom of the canvas.

    Sorry, but I cannot help wonder whether this unidentified woman really had a serious interest in art. I suspect Friday afternoon restlessness -- by someone who didn't especially appreciate the art, and who quite possibly didn't want to be there at all.

    This Althouse commenter asks:

    Please tell me what good has ever come from so-called adult education?
    What's especially annoying about the reporting is not that the woman was never identified, but that there is no information about the nature of these particular adult education classes, who gave them, or what they were for.

    Unless someone else was at fault, I think falling into an $80 million painting constitutes negligence. I think the Met should send the adult student a bill for the damage.

    posted by Eric at 02:48 PM | Comments (1)

    Pleistocene nostalgia for evolution's end times?

    One of the memes frequently tossed about -- especially by promoters of the various "caveman" diets -- is how "we" (meaning all human beings) have not evolved since Upper Paleolithic times, and that illness results from our failure to limit our diet to what our Cro Magnon ancestors ate. The premise is that thousands of years of daily consumption of dairy products by ethnicities in some regions, or lots of rice in others, or lots of fish in others -- had no effect whatsoever on the evolution of these populations. Not to knock the possible health benefits of the Caveman Diet, but I've always been a bit skeptical of that particular premise, because if you think about it, modern medicine has only been around for a century or so, and as there was no one to diagnose or treat health problems caused by food, the people who couldn't hack their prevailing regional diets were unlikely to live long enough to contribute to the gene pool. But what the hell do I know? I have not studied human genetics in sufficient detail to know for sure. Not that a little thing like that would stop people who are not geneticists from saying they know we have not evolved, and that we should return to eating raw meat (preferably from wild animals killed with our bare hands....)

    Anyway, this piece about dog genetics is a reminder that evolution might occur a lot more rapidly than most of us realize:

    Like humans, dogs are more than 99 percent genetically identical to one another - despite a lot more diversity in shapes and sizes.

    When scientists examined the head shapes of different breeds, they found as much diversity in dogs as existed across the much wider group of animals called carnivora - which includes walruses, cats, skunks, and weasels as well as dogs.

    That was surprising, considering how fast this diversity came about in dogs, said biologist Abby Drake, lead author of the study. Most of the 400 known breeds emerged in just the last several centuries.

    And yet they haven't branched off into different species: Technically, most breeds can produce fertile offspring with any other breed (though size differences might make it tough for some).

    Humans have allowed some of this variety to come about by interfering with the normal workings of natural selection - thus allowing all kinds of things that might not last long in the wild. Imagine Chihuahuas or miniature poodles competing against wolves. "It's a massive evolutionary experiment we've conducted," Drake said.

    I've noticed that some dogs handle different foods differently, and that dog A might do well on a diet which would give diarrhea to dog B. These tendencies can be expected to be passed on to their pups, and can become breed characteristics. I noticed that Coco (a notoriously picky eater) loves and has no problems eating "NUTRISH" -- a dog food which Rachel Ray designed for her pit bull Isaboo, but which some dog owners have condemned as not agreeing with their dogs. Over the years I have seen that many dogs differ over what they like, and what they can and cannot tolerate. I'm no expert, but I have been around dogs long enough to learn that there is no "one size fits all" rule where it comes to diet in dogs.

    Asians tend to be allergic to milk and milk products. This is because of lactose intolerance:

    Lactose intolerance is the inability to metabolize lactose, because of a lack of the required enzyme lactase in the digestive system. It is estimated that 75% of adults worldwide show some decrease in lactase activity during adulthood.[1] The frequency of decreased lactase activity ranges from as little as 5% in northern Europe, up to 71% for Sicily, to more than 90% in some African and Asian countries.[2]
    Not only is this genetic, but there is evidence that the genetic differences are attributable to recent evolution:
    ....certain human populations have a mutation on chromosome 2 which eliminates the shutdown in lactase production, making it possible for members of these populations to continue consumption of fresh milk and other dairy products throughout their lives without difficulty. This appears to be an evolutionarily recent adaptation to dairy consumption, and has occurred independently in both northern Europe and east Africa in populations with a historically pastoral lifestyle.[10] Lactase persistence, allowing lactose digestion to continue into adulthood, is a dominant allele, making lactose intolerance a recessive genetic trait. A noncoding variation in the MCM6 gene has been strongly associated with adult type hypolactasia (lactose intolerance)[4].
    Sounds like massive unintentional experimentation has been going on for some time. Whether such evolution is "good" is a moral question. (And in my view a silly question.)

    But I try to keep an open mind about these things. Perhaps I should sample some fresh road kill and see whether I feel better.

    ADDITIONAL NOTE: I realize that what we call "processed foods" (especially milled flour, sugar, and the various preservative-laden fast foods) are of recent origin, and that "we" have not had time to adapt to them genetically. But this does not mean that they would affect all people the same way. Nor does it necessarily follow that because they are new and we have not sorted out the evolutionary implications, that they are bad.

    UPDATE: Oregon Guy links a fascinating post about the European bison, which makes me wish I'd titled this post "Traditional Pleistocene Values."

    MORE: Alan Kellogg links Razib Khan "for a good introduction to the subject of human evolution"; I found this post about rice, alcohol and genes especially fascinating: many pre-modern societies alcohol consumption was very widespread. In societies where nutritional stress was common it was a major source of calories, and as I note above its advantage in terms of low pathogen load vis-a-vis water was probably a major factor in its healthful effects (many ancient societies mixed water and wine freely). Not only does alcohol provide energy, but its psychological boost is obvious when it comes to the grinding life of a farmer. Rum rations was one of the major factors which allowed Caribbean slavery to be as economically profitable as it was, its existence made the short and brutal lives of human chattel more tolerable. The attraction of people who had little experience with alcohol, in particular its more potent varieties, to the substance seems a clear signal that once discovered it would inevitably exhibit a magnetic appeal. In this case the bias in favor of those who were more metabolically suited toward processing the new source of calories with the least deleterious consequences would have a great fitness consequence.
    I think these genetic issues make hard to come up with hard and fast rules about what we should and should not eat or drink.

    "We" are not all the same.

    If you are one of those mean-spirited people who hates "good" veggies like Brussel Sprouts or broccoli, did you ever wonder why?

    That, too, might be evolutionary -- natural selection favoring the survival of humans who avoided bitter tastes:

    MADRID - Spanish researchers say they're a step closer to resolving a "mystery of evolution" -- why some people like Brussels sprouts but others hate them.

    They have found that a gene in modern humans that makes some people dislike a bitter chemical called phenylthiocarbamide, or PTC, was also present in Neanderthals hundreds of thousands of years ago.

    The scientists made the discovery after recovering and sequencing a fragment of the TAS2R38 gene taken from 48,000-year-old Neanderthal bones found at a site in El Sidron, in northern Spain, they said in a report released Wednesday by the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC).

    "This indicates that variation in bitter taste perception predates the divergence of the lineages leading to Neanderthals and modern humans," they said.

    Substances similar to PTC give a bitter taste to green vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cabbage as well as some fruits.

    But they are also present in some poisonous plants, so having a distaste for it makes evolutionary sense.

    "The sense of bitter taste protects us from ingesting toxic substances," the report said.

    Whether there's an evolutionary advantage to loving sweet-tasting things is certainly open to debate. In the case of dogs (and children), it can prove fatal:
    Antifreeze has a sweet taste, which appeals to animals and children. A dog can walk through antifreeze spilled on the driveway and ingest a fatal amount just from licking its paws clean.
    Maybe the solution is to put Brussels sprouts in the antifreeze!

    AND MORE: "Human evolution speeding up."

    Why it would have stopped 20,000 years ago, no one has explained.

    posted by Eric at 12:20 PM | Comments (9)

    A Disaster Of Biblical Proportions

    The UN's IPCC has just taken a few more torpedoes below the water line.

    Well it turns out that the WWF is cited all over the IPCC AR4 report, and as you know, WWF does not produce peer reviewed science, they produce opinion papers in line with their vision. Yet IPCC's rules are such that they are supposed to rely on peer reviewed science only. It appears they've violated that rule dozens of times, all under Pachauri's watch.

    A new posting authored by Donna Laframboise, the creator of (Toronto, Canada) shows what one can find in just one day of looking.

    Here's an extensive list of documents created or co-authored by the WWF and cited by this Nobel-winning IPCC AR4 report:

    I'm not going to reprise the long list. You can find it at the links provided.

    I would like to touch on a few things. First off WWF stands for the World Wildlife Fund. Second I'd like to look at the connection between the WWF and the UK Meteorological Office.

    What is not generally realised is that the UK Met Office has been, since 1990, at the very centre of the campaign to convince the world that it faces catastrophe through global warming. (Its website now proclaims it to be "the Met Office for Weather and Climate Change".) Its then-director, Dr John Houghton, was the single most influential figure in setting up the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as the chief driver of climate alarmism. Its Hadley Centre for Climate Change, along with the East Anglia Climatic Research Unit (CRU), was put in charge of the most prestigious of the four official global temperature records. In line with IPCC theory, its computers were programmed to predict that, as CO2 levels rose, temperatures would inevitably follow. From 1990 to 2007, the Department of the Environment gave the Met Office no less than £146 million for its "climate predictions programme".

    But in the past three years, with the Met Office chaired by Robert Napier, a former global warming activist and previously head of WWF UK, its pretensions have been exposed as never before. The "Climategate" leak of documents from the CRU, along with further revelations from Russian scientists, have shown the CRU/Met Office alliance systematically manipulating temperature data, past and present, to show the world growing warmer than the evidence justified. And those same computers used to predict temperatures 100 years ahead for the IPCC have also been used to produce those weather forecasts that prove so consistently wrong.

    Scientific method has gone out of the window, to support a theory that looks more questionable than ever.

    And what is the WWF telling its Internet readers?
    The U.K. Met Office says "it is more likely than not that 2010 will be the warmest year in the instrumental record, beating the previous record year which was 1998."

    The Met Office said the record temperatures likely will be driven by "a combination of man-made global warming and a moderate warming of the tropical Pacific Ocean, a phenomenon known as El Niño." It noted that this year is the fifth warmest year, based on records extending back to 1850.

    "Looking further ahead, our experimental decadal forecast confirms previous indications that about half the years 2010-2019 will be warmer than the warmest year observed so far -- 1998," the Met Office said.

    Ah yes the experimental models. What he means is computer programs. Unverified computer programs with dodgy codes and corrupted data.

    And about the floods and hurricanes that are supposed to descend on mankind if he doesn't mend his ways? Made up.

    THE UN climate science panel faces new controversy for wrongly linking global warming to a rise in natural disasters such as hurricanes and floods.

    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change based the claims on an unpublished report that had not been subjected to routine scientific scrutiny - and ignored warnings from scientific advisers. The report's author later withdrew the claim because the evidence was too weak.

    The link was central to demands at last month's Copenhagen climate summit by African nations for compensation of $US100 billion from the rich nations.

    However, the IPCC knew in 2008 that the link could not be proved but did not alert world leaders, who have used weather extremes to bolster the case for action on climate change.

    And they knew it was bad and did nothing. You know, that is not the only fraud uncovered. We may now be in possession of tens of them. So far. In fact it is looking like the whole IPCC enterprise is a fraud. And that doesn't even get to the bottom of the CO2 emissions trading fraud.

    I'd like to go back to Watts Up With That and look at a few comments on the subject.

    Evidently the WWF is removing articles they had formerly posted. That is pretty good evidence on its face that they were fraudulent.

    Jer (18:34:30) :

    I find that most of the links are now inactive. Wondering if this is happening because of the attention. It seems like IPCC referenced material ought to be available.


    This one is amusing:
    PaulH (18:34:53) :

    @Patrick Davis: It might be easier to list what the IPCC got right.

    Frankly, if the IPCC were to declare that water is wet I would insist on independent verification from a non-UN/non-WWF affiliated organization before believing it.

    Another joker.
    Halfwise (18:49:58) :

    It is easy to get confused between the World Wildlife Fund and World Wrestling Entertainment. Here is how to tell them apart: One gets crowds wildly excited with staged antics, bizarre plot lines and unbelievable hype. The other stages wrestling exhibitions.

    Here is one about the fraud connections. It refers to a rather long comment with links up thread.
    Andrew30 (19:04:30) :

    pat (18:37:29) : ;

    Yes, pat I put that there.

    This list of documents goes beyond just one carbon trader.

    So was the money and influence from more then one carbon trader being channeled through the WWF to both the CRU and the IPCC?

    Has the WWF become no more than and money and influence launderer for Big Carbon?

    Here is an excerpt from a comment from A Jones.
    a jones (19:30:42) :


    As I observed elsewhere this is a great scientific, financial and political fraud. And as with all frauds once the dominoes start to topple the collapse accelerates with terrifying speed.

    So fast that I at least can hardly keep up.

    And although there is immense inertia in those who have invested so heavily in the fraud, from the political activists to the Meeja to the politicians themselves once there is sufficient impetus in the avalanche they have to give way. The politicians will say they were deceived but acted in good faith, the Meeja never apologises for anything, and the activists will say they were only trying to get a point across, see WWF announcement over glaciers.

    Yet possibly for the first time we are seeing what t'internet and the WWW can really do.

    The Indian press is hot on the story, something we would have never known even a few years ago.

    Isn't modern technology a wonderful thing?

    Yes it is.

    Here is a rather long one about conjecture in science.

    yonason (19:34:37) :

    Shrinking Glaciers, Shrinking Arctic; Science so simple that even Mark Twain could do it.

    "Therefore, the Mississippi between Cairo and New Orleans was twelve hundred and fifteen miles long one hundred and seventy-six years ago. It was eleven hundred and eighty after the cut-off of 1722. It was one thousand and forty after the American Bend cut-off. It has lost sixty-seven miles since. Consequently its length is only nine hundred and seventy-three miles at present.
    In the space of one hundred and seventy-six years the Lower Mississippi has shortened itself two hundred and forty-two miles. That is an average of a trifle over one mile and a third per year. Therefore, any calm person, who is not blind or idiotic, can see that in the Old Oolitic Silurian Period,' just a million years ago next November, the Lower Mississippi River was upwards of one million three hundred thousand miles long, and stuck out over the Gulf of Mexico like a fishing-rod. And by the same token any person can see that seven hundred and forty-two years from now the Lower Mississippi will be only a mile and three-quarters long, and Cairo and New Orleans will have joined their streets together, and be plodding comfortably along under a single mayor and a mutual board of aldermen. There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact."

    I think Mark Twain ia as good a place as any to put a halt to this amusement. It is hard to get more amusing than that. The good news is that the whole fraud is unraveling. It will be interesting to see what the Watermelons try next.

    Green is the new Red!

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 05:40 AM | Comments (2)

    Take the bass line for a walk

    I dunno... have you considered flavonoids? I also hear good things about resveratrol. But don't believe it my blennies.

    Incidentally, i [sic] DO demand that you bend, but i [sic] do NOT expect you to obey. But buy [non-sic] god [sic] i [enough] DO expect you to try.

    The rest Is up to
    You not that you would know what
    To do with it... yotch.

    On American Haiku

    It was well argued (by no less a luminary than uber faux-slacker Kerouac) that English haiku should ignore syllables and instead conform to 2-4-2 word count. His point was largely valid in two senses: first, syllables are much more structurally consistent vis-a-vis word count in the Japanese language; second, the Japanese language, both through the fact that its written form uses characters which have multiple meanings, and through the fact that its spoken form is notoriously given to homophones (spare me), is easily lent to double (and even(/especially) triple meanings); therefore, English haiku can never hope to contain the poetic density of a Japanese language haiku; thus, English haiku should strive to an entirely different objective: namely, the pithy, concise conveyance of simple double/triple/quadruple/[as many uples as you can muster in 6 words] meanings very very briefly, in three lines, without pointlessly being a slave to a syllabic structure which is an artifact of a highly syllabic language which, though owners of the form--thus justifiably a seeming ultimate arbiter of said form--are no more a despot of the art than any art is capable of having a despot.

    Which is to say, none at all.

    Cos out.

    P.S. I made up the stuff about Kerouac.

    posted by Cosmic Drunk at 12:48 AM | Comments (1)

    Free Speech

    It seems a lot of folks are upset by the recent Supreme Court decision on corporate free speech. Let me reprise a discussion at Talk Polywell on some aspects of health care that have a bearing on why corporate free speech is important. The discussion was about life extension and how cooling the body in trauma situations helps prevent damage until treatment can be obtained. Currently such methods only gain you an hour or an hour and a half. It is often enough.


    The most common long-duration medical procedure performed in the U.S. is bypass surgery. Traditionally, the patient is put on a heart-lung machine while the surgery is performed. It is believed that the brain damage that results from bypass surgery (bypass surgery almost always reduces patient IQ by around 15 points - this is real brain damage) is due to the heart-lung machine. I do not believe this. However, most of the medical community does and as such, they are very eager to utilize a technology to cool the patient to near zero C such as to eliminate the need for the heart-lung machine.

    I expect all hospitals and clinics that do bypass surgery to utilize this technology within 5 years. Of course, it is much better to chelate with EDTA than to under go bypass surgery. However, the FDA and AMA do not recognize EDTA chelation as effective. The reason is economics. Bypass surgery cost $100k, which is paid by insurance. EDTA chelation typically runs around $3k, which is usually not paid by insurance. Since EDTA chelation actually works in 75% of the cases, the medical industry would loose a considerable income stream if EDTA chelation become popular. Since bypass surgery is one of the most common surgeries performed in the U.S., this presents a significant percentage of the income revenue for the MD's, clinics, and hospitals. They are loath to loose this income stream. Don't be surprised. The medical field and its players are just as greedy, corrupt, and evil as any other private industry or government-funded milieu (e.g. NASA, Tokamak fusion, climate research, etc.).

    So I asked:
    A lot of this sort of thing was sorted in the electrical industry with UL which was designed to lower insurance losses.

    If only we had a medical UL instead of the FDA.

    So my question is: why aren't insurance companies pumping for lower cost therapies?

    And I got this reply:

    I think the recent supreme court ruling on free speech will help to end FDA tyranny.

    One would think that the insurance companies would be interested in lower cost therapies. One would also think that an effective anti-aging therapy would be considered a form of preventive medicine. Why the industry is slow to respond to this kind of thinking is not clear to me.

    Aubrey de Grey thinks its due to cultural inertia, which we calls the "pro-aging" trance. I think its due to medical bureaucracy and that the industry itself does not favor such an approach because it will lead to radical downsizing. Nothing will down size the medical industry more than an effective cure for aging. Curing aging will do to the medical industry what the mp3 downloads are doing to the music industry.

    I think the founders had it right. The answer to bad speech is more speech. With the internet multiplying the venues available for people to speak their minds (you are reading me - an unknown with no access to big media aren't you?) the risks from corporate speech are much less than they were when big media was a one way street.

    Update: 1319z 25 Jan 2010

    Before you run off to your nearest chelation therapy provider see what Jeff has to say in the comments.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 10:40 PM | Comments (5)

    Sleep deprived Northeastern federalist? Or "Communist in Republican Clothing"?

    Like a lot of readers here, I was not happy when I saw the excerpt that M. Simon posted from Scott Brown's post-election press conference in which Brown (after pausing to observe that it was "post election") apparently endorsed national health care.


    I am vehemently opposed to nationalized health care in any way shape or form, and that is why I donated to Scott Brown's campaign. Three times.

    Still, I wondered whether a single excerpt from a news conference the morning after the man had been elected is an accurate depiction of Scott Brown's position on health care. Yes, I knew he was for Massachusetts health care. Everyone knew that (or should have, because he made it quite plain at his campaign web site, as M. Simon illustrates here.)

    What troubled me the most is that barely a day earlier, he was on record as saying this:

    WASHINGTON (The Borowitz Report) - Republican Scott Brown, Massachusetts' newly minted Senator, toured the Capitol today and revisited a theme from his victory speech, telling reporters, "My daughters are available, but if I have my way, health care won't be."

    Chuckling at his remark, Mr. Brown added, "I was just kidding. Not about the health care part, though. I was dead serious about that."

    Well, at least the guy has a sense of humor, and I liked the fact that like Lot in the Biblical city of Sodom, he was willing to offer his daughters to placate the angry mob that is hell-bent on destruction. In Lot's case, they wanted to break down his door and rape an angel; in this case they want to break down the best health care system known to man and subject patients to bureaucratic rape. (I'd call it "bureaucratic Sodomy" except the word has been so misused that its modern meaning has nothing to do with the actions of the Biblical mob. Thus, when Glenn Reynolds says he is "proudly pro-sodomy," few would interpret that as a statement in support of angel-rape. Which is a good thing, because what kind of blogosphere would it be if the blogfather himself supported raping angels?)

    Then there's the "dead serious" remark. In a comment, I speculated that interpreting the remark might require death panels, but I'm trying to be serious here, and no matter how you look at it, what he said is quite inconsistent with what he says in the C-SPAN excerpt.

    The whole thing has made me wonder whether Brown is a dishonest flip-flopper, or whether he's one of those people who just says whatever he feels like saying at the time.

    Unfortunately, the originating YouTube link itself does not supply any context. And then there's the caption:

    Another Socialist aka Communist in Republican's clothing.....
    I realize that people are calling Brown a "RINO" and a "Massachusetts Republican," but "Socialist aka Communist in Republican Clothing"? What's that about? And what is Republican clothing? Does he mean that the real Scott Brown should be wearing one of those Chairman Mao suits with the button-up jacket? Don't expect me to get carried away enough to PhotoShop such a thing. I would need to overdose on coffee to do that and I am not in the mood, because last night I ended up being the guy who finally busted open a stubborn piñata at a party, and I'm still recovering from this shocking act of gratuitous faux animal cruelty on my part. However, I kid you not.

    Here's my gruesome "trophy" from last night.


    (I am sorry to report that there is no actual beheading video, but I assure everyone that those are the last cocktail umbrellas that parrot will ever eat!)

    So while there will be no Scott Brown in Chairman Mao suit PhotoShop, it did occur to me that some additional context might be in order, and much as I dislike doing these things, I finally made my way to CSPAN and watched the entire press conference. It's over 17 minutes long, and the excerpt that M. Simon linked begins at 5:45, but I do think it is fair to analyze that excerpt in the context of what he said immediately before that (beginning at 5:02):

    We already have 98 percent of our people insured here, we know what we need to fix it. But to have the one size fits all plan that's being pushed nationally, it doesn't work.

    So what I have suggested and what I'm hoping to suggest because we've done it here, I have some experience, I voted for health care here so obviously I, I care very deep about it, of it, is to let the states tell the federal government, here this is what we'd like to do can we work with you on a team effort? maybe you can incentivize us to do something better? Model it like we have it, or maybe come up with something better so we can learn.

    "Let the states tell the federal government" might not be a ringing endorsement of federalism, but it's hardly the model of Karl Marx.

    What the video excerpt also leaves out is what he says immediately after this apparently damning comment:

    ...there were some very got things as you just pointed out in the uh, in the national plan that's being, uh proposed...
    Here the YouTube video ends abruptly, implying that he wants a national plan, period.

    But here's what he said (on the CSPAN video beginning at 6:06):

    ...there were some very got things as you just pointed out in the uh, in the national plan that's being uh proposed, but if you look at, and really in a parochial manner we need to look out for Massachusetts first. Because no one, I've felt and I've, as a legislator and a citizen that we haven't done that very well we've always kind of you know, thought about Washington first and the party first.

    But the thing I'm hearing all throughout the state is "what about us?"

    Hardly a ringing endorsement of National Health Care. In fact, there's a strong undercurrent of federalism in his remarks

    I think it might be better to at least point that out than edit his remarks in the hope of convincing people he's a Marxist. Northeastern Republican centrists who believe in federalism may be many things, but calling them Communists is just silly.

    I've watched the press conference in its entirety, and not only don't I see anything especially surprising, I don't think the excerpt is quite as damning as it initially seemed. Still, I'm glad M. Simon highlighted it, because Brown ought to be more careful about making comments which make it appear that he supports nationalized health care. (The larger issue, IMO, is not what to do about healthcare, but what to do about government -- something touched on in M. Simon's discussion.)

    Of course, a lot more was said at the press conference, and I think it's worth noting that at one point (when asked about his presidential aspirations) Brown said, "I don't want to be disrespectful, but I've had no sleep right now." (Sleep deprivation can excuse a certain amount of sloppiness, but OTOH it didn't cut it for Hillary's Bosnia claims.)

    Asked whether he was a "conservative purist," Brown said that he was "not beholden to the special interests of the party" and later he said "I'm not beholden to anybody." And that he believed in the "big tent philosophy regardless of the fires and commercials."

    You can watch it all here.

    I'll also try the embed, but I don't know whether or how well it will work.

    posted by Eric at 02:37 PM | Comments (4)

    Naked Dancing Girls

    Trilogy: a nude awakening is a sort of play/happening that has a stage full of naked dancing girls. Hundreds of different ones all together. In the all together.

    Trilogy is about many things: body dissatisfaction, dominant masculine hegemony, Germaine Greer.
    Well, well, well. If male hegemony can get hundreds of women to dance nude on the stage, I'd say we need more of it.

    And in case you need a how to, this book seems appropriate:

    The Complete Idiot's Guide to Exotic and Pole Dancing Illustrated

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 06:14 AM | Comments (3)

    Not Error - Fraud

    In my post The Glaciers Are Melting I looked at an an error in the IPCC report that was taken straight out of a popular science magazine, New Scientist. New Scientist did a retraction and the head of the IPCC, railroad engineer Dr. Rajenda Pachauri, defended the "data" despite the retraction. He finally gave in after about a week (weak?) of defense.

    The ever lovable Anthony Watts seems to have found out why Pachauri was defending a retracted report.

    We've covered some of the travails of IPCC Chairman Dr. Rajenda Pachauri here at WUWT in the past couple of weeks. Besides the facts mentioned above, the National Hurricane Center chief scientist Christopher Landsea resigned in 2007 from the IPCC over what he cited as lack of confidence in the science.
    I personally cannot in good faith continue to contribute to a process that I view as both being motivated by pre-conceived agendas and being scientifically unsound.
    Most notable recently was the bogus claim In the IPCC AR4 that Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035 that appeared to be based on nothing more than a journalist's opinion piece, contrary to IPCC rules that reports be based on peer reviewed science.
    It gets better. Or worse. Depending on your point of view.
    The "IPCC 2035 glacier error" has been used to solicit funds for new projects, and guess where the money goes?

    This PDF File is from the EU's HighNoon website, and shows how the EU set up a project to research the 'rapid retreat' of glaciers in the Himalayas based on the bogus IPCC report. Some of the EU taxpayers' money put into this project has gone to TERI, which is run by Dr. Rajendra Pachauri.

    That sure looks bad.

    But I have something that looks even worse. From the comes this little gem.

    I can report a further dramatic twist to what has inevitably been dubbed "Glaciergate" - the international row surrounding the revelation that the latest report on global warming by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) contained a wildly alarmist, unfounded claim about the melting of Himalayan glaciers. Last week, the IPCC, led by its increasingly controversial chairman, Dr Rajendra Pachauri, was forced to issue an unprecedented admission: the statement in its 2007 report that Himalayan glaciers could disappear by 2035 had no scientific basis, and its inclusion in the report reflected a "poor application" of IPCC procedures.

    What has now come to light, however, is that the scientist from whom this claim originated, Dr Syed Hasnain, has for the past two years been working as a senior employee of The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), the Delhi-based company of which Dr Pachauri is director-general. Furthermore, the claim - now disowned by Dr Pachauri as chairman of the IPCC - has helped TERI to win a substantial share of a $500,000 grant from one of America's leading charities, along with a share in a three million euro research study funded by the EU.

    How do those people sleep at night? Probably on a pillow stuffed with twenties.

    I do think that this kind of corruption will greatly assist the suit filed by the National Cattlemen's Beef Association against the EPA's attempted regulation of CO2 emissions.

    I'm sure it will put a hole in the arguments of the Communists at Copenhagen. In fact I have a video of the Communists at Copenhagen. There is a really cute Communist about 1:15 into the video.

    Green is the new Red!

    Yes it is.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 03:19 AM | Comments (3)

    What Is Wrong With Massachusetts?

    I put up a video of Scott Brown in a short discussion with a voter about health care reform.

    My first personal complaint about what he said was at the beginning of the video when he says:

    "We're past campaign mode"
    i.e. I no longer have to lie to win. I guess now that he is elected he can afford to be honest. A real confidence builder in his basic integrity.

    Then some folks at Classical Values were saying that I'm asking too much of Brown.

    So let me reprise what Brown said in the video. The quotes may not be exactly exact. They are close.

    1. Every one is going to get some kind of care

    Do I have to?

    2. Offer a basic plan for everyone

    Isn't that what insurance companies already do?

    3. Should we raise taxes?

    Hell yes. The economy is doing way too well.

    4. Or cut half a trillion from Medicare?

    Sure. The plan already has too many doctors. No doctors no patients. I can see vast savings from that. It might also help keep Social Security solvent. A Twofer.

    5. Affect veterans care.

    VA hospitals are already too good.

    Here is his position on health care from his recent US Senate campaign.

    I believe that all Americans deserve health care coverage, but I am opposed to the health care legislation that is under consideration in Congress and will vote against it. It will raise taxes, increase government spending and lower the quality of care, especially for elders on Medicare. I support strengthening the existing private market system with policies that will drive down costs and make it easier for people to purchase affordable insurance. In Massachusetts, I support the 2006 healthcare law that was successful in expanding coverage, but I also recognize that the state must now turn its attention to controlling costs.
    i.e. in a rich state like Mass. the plan they have is not affordable.

    So has he Got Plan? Oh. Yeah. Raise taxes, or cut Medicare, or lower standards at Veterans Hospitals. Or some combination. Sounds like a plan to me.

    So how is the Massachusetts Plan doing?

    When enacted, MassHealth was touted as the answer to correcting the problem of the uninsured in Massachusetts. Healthcare providers (i.e., hospitals) and insurers were compelled to take cuts in reimbursement upon implementation of the program several years ago.

    Today we find that earlier assumptions about cost and utilization were wrong and that enrollee benefits have to be reduced and providers have to take further cuts. Payments to hospitals and physicians for 2009 are deferred until 2010, and 2010 payments until 2011.

    According to recent news reports, MassHealth explained that the shortfall is due to increased enrollment, higher utilization of services, and changes in savings estimates that were assumed in the original budget for the program.

    The experience in Massachusetts with healthcare reform is frighteningly similar to the battle being waged today in Washington when it comes to healthcare reform.

    A recent article points out that states can be useful as laboratories when it comes to new policy. The author points out that "Massachusetts has provided us with an example of a failed experiment in healthcare policy that should be a warning to all Americans as Democrats push to impose something similar on the rest of the nation."

    Scott had to know the State plan was in trouble and instead of suggesting a better National Plan we got vague promises during the election. Fine. He is elected. Can't he think of Something better than to raise taxes? Or cut backs in Veterans Care?

    There is more on how the Mass. plan is failing.

    * Although the state has reduced the number of residents without health insurance, 200,000 people remain uninsured. Moreover, the increase in the number of insured is primarily due to the state's generous subsidies, not the celebrated individual mandate.

    * Health care costs continue to rise much faster than the national average. Since 2006, total state health care spending has increased by 28 percent. Insurance premiums have increased by 8-10 percent per year, nearly double the national average.

    * New regulations and bureaucracy are limiting consumer choice and adding to health care costs.

    * Program costs have skyrocketed. Despite tax increases, the program faces huge deficits. The state is considering caps on insurance premiums, cuts in reimbursements to providers, and even the possibility of a "global budget" on health care spending--with its attendant rationing.

    * A shortage of providers, combined with increased demand, is increasing waiting times to see a physician.

    Skyrocketing costs and a shortage of doctors. Something to look forward to I suppose.

    Say. I have an idea. How about we look at the National Republican Plan.

    What Americans want are common-sense, responsible solutions that address the rising cost of health care and other major problems. In the national Republican address on Saturday, October 31, 2009, House Republican Leader John Boehner (R-OH) discussed Republicans' plan for common-sense health care reform our nation can afford. Boehner's address emphasized four common-sense reforms that will lower health care costs and expand access to quality care without a government takeover of our nation's health care system that kills jobs, raises taxes on small businesses, or cuts Medicare for seniors:
    * Number one: let families and businesses buy health insurance across state lines.

    * Number two: allow individuals, small businesses, and trade associations to pool together and acquire health insurance at lower prices, the same way large corporations and labor unions do.

    * Number three: give states the tools to create their own innovative reforms that lower health care costs.

    * Number four: end junk lawsuits that contribute to higher health care costs by increasing the number of tests and procedures that physicians sometimes order not because they think it's good medicine, but because they are afraid of being sued.

    I don't get number three, but all the rest make good sense. I can think of one or two more that might help. Make Medical Savings accounts cumulative so that anything not spent in one year can be rolled over to build a cushion over time. In addition catastrophic coverage plans that cover anything above the out of pocket expenses that the Medical Savings Account would cover.

    We can try that for a few years and see if changes or additions need to be made. It might also be a good idea to tighten the borders to reduce hospital's unfunded costs.

    But Mr. Brown mentioned none of those. Even after his election.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 02:04 AM | Comments (2)

    Going Light?

    Who is Ellie Light?


    She appears everywhere, and writes, anywhere! In plenty of papers! Penning powerful paeans in praise of the President!

    "42 papers in eighteen states with dozens of different hometowns listed at last count"!

    Naturally, a lot of people want to know, and some have spent a great deal of time looking into the matter.

    It took some doing, but I finally found her.

    Ellie Light.jpg

    Glad she's a real female. (As opposed to femalesque.) I never liked the expression "light in the loafers."

    MORE: Via Glenn Reynolds, I see that the Ellie Light count has gone up, and is still rising:

    With the help of my commenters, I have been keeping a running total at my blog of the places where Light's letter has appeared. At last count, her letter has appeared in at least 47 newspapers in at least 23 different states.

    So far, that is. That number is growing all the time. It even appeared in a newspaper in Bangkok, Thailand!

    As you can see at my blog, the states where her letters appear correspond quite well with the states that Obama won.

    Patterico also asks whether this might be related to Cass Sunstein's cognitive infiltration plan, and quotes this:
    In 2008, while at Harvard Law School, Sunstein co-wrote a truly pernicious paper proposing that the U.S. Government employ teams of covert agents and pseudo-"independent" advocates to "cognitively infiltrate" online groups and websites -- as well as other activist groups -- which advocate views that Sunstein deems "false conspiracy theories" about the Government. This would be designed to increase citizens' faith in government officials and undermine the credibility of conspiracists. The paper's abstract can be read, and the full paper downloaded, here.
    Here's what "Ellie Light" said:
    Today, the president is being attacked as if he'd promised that our problems would wash off in the morning. He never did. It's time for Americans to realize that governing is hard work, and that a president can't just wave a magic wand and fix everything.
    I'd hate to think that saying the president didn't live up to his campaign promises is considered a "conspiracy theory" which needs to be countered by government astroturfers in the name of "cognitive infiltration."

    Almost sounds like Nixon's COINTELPRO program. ("The FBI and police used a myriad of other "dirty tricks" to undermine progressive movements. They planted false media stories and published bogus leaflets and other publications in the name of targeted groups. They forged correspondence, sent anonymous letters, and made anonymous telephone calls. They spread misinformation about meetings and events, set up pseudo movement groups run by government agents, and manipulated or strong-armed parents, employers, landlords, school officials and others to cause trouble for activists.")

    In this case, maybe COINTELPRO LIGHT....

    MORE: Membership in Who Is Ellie Light? Facebook group has more than doubled since I saw it earlier.

    Hey, inquiring minds want to know!

    MORE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the link! Also, my thanks to Charlie Foxtrot, who has another "Light breaking" picture.

    A warm welcome to all. As usual, all commments welcome, agree or disagree.

    Including comments from the hard-working bloggers now employed as propagandists and sock puppets at the Justice Department!

    (Via a comment to the Hillbuzz post which Glenn linked earlier.)

    The First Amendment applies to everyone -- whether bloggers, government sock puppets, or big corporations.

    MORE: Veeshir comments below that via hot air they found Ellie Light's husband.

    And there's even a "Who is Mark Spivey?" Facebook page!

    UPDATE: Anonymous commenter "Hidden Meadow" claims to know Ellie Light, but cannot reveal who he is:

    This excitement is really overblown. These letters were written by a fifty-something man who got carried away and started writing to every newspaper in America under several names.
    The truth is so ordinary that it's dull.
    I know "Ellie Light", but don't have permission to reveal who he is.
    Hey, I can handle the truth, even if it's dull.

    Moreover, as a fity-something man who frequently gets carried away himself, I might find it more interesting than you think!

    Tell you what "Hidden Meadow." You tell me who he is, and I absolutely promise that I won't be bored.

    MORE (11/26/10): If the latest post from Patterico is any indication, Ellie Light is "Winston Steward, 51, of Frazier Park, Calif."

    I have no idea whether Segal knows Winston Steward. I don't know everyone who follows me on Twitter. This could all be a total dead end. In fact, at this very moment, I'm inclined to say it is, and that Winston Steward is just a kook.

    At this point we know only one thing: Winston Steward is a huge liar. Why is he lying? Because he fears threats from the right wing? (Which, as should be obvious, nobody should level.) Because he is hiding a connection to a P.R. firm? Because he has a screw loose? (Or several?) I have no idea.

    But there's no harm in throwing this all out there for you to peruse. That's the idea of the open source method.

    If that pans out, it means that commenter Hidden Meadow may have been correct in yesterday's comment.

    Why not?

    posted by Eric at 03:09 PM | Comments (37)

    Calling all "libertarianesque geeks"!

    No, I didn't invent that God-awful phrase, but thanks to Sean Kinsell, I found it -- used in a deprecating manner by a commenter to Sarah Hoyt's discussion of her writing and Robert Heinlein.

    Heinlein isn't helped by the fact that he seems to be a favorite of libertarianesque geeks who spout sexist nonsense. It's not always fair to judge a book by it's readers, but it happens.
    I enjoyed Sarah's response:
    if you're going to use libertarianesque as an insult, (What in bloody hades does that mean, btw? "Somewhat inclined to be fond of liberty and individuality"? Um... yeah. Sounds dire to me) perhaps we can use "totalitarianesque" to refer to idiotish people who judge books without reading them, no?

    As for sexist -- I'm sorry, you're not helping your cause when you accuse those who oppose you of being sexist and THEN provide them with ample justification.

    I'm thinking of calling myself a "libertarianesque geek."

    But how far does the resemblance go? I mean, if the suffix "esque" means "having a resemblance with or having the characteristics of," I may have more of a geek resemblance than I do a libertarian resemblance, which would mean I'd be a "geekesque libertarian." Or if I resemble both, then I'd be "geekesque" and "libertarianesque."

    The problem is that "Geekesque" just sounds wrong. "Romanesque" and "Arabesque" are common examples of "esque" words, but is there Greekesque? No more than there is "Grecoesque." Greco would seem to imply the esque, though. Although I think "Hellenistic" would be the closest Greek equivalent to "Romanesque." But there is no such thing as "Romanistic," any more than there is "Arabistic," is there?

    Don't blame me. I didn't start this.

    (Don't esque, don't tell.)

    posted by Eric at 02:00 PM | Comments (4)

    Always avoid mixing apples with oranges!

    Via Glenn Reynolds, I just learned that the best diet might be to cut out carbohydrates and eat like a cougar.

    But not long ago, I also read about about a book postulating that eating lots of carbs is the way to be thin.

    Might that work for cougars? Has anyone tried caging them and feeding them an all carb diet?

    Sometimes I think there are too many studies and too much information -- and most of them are infected by the bias that accompanies Wanting To Be Right. Moreover, each of us has a different metabolism. But telling people to find what works for them is not helpful, as people want answers, and we all want to share what worked for each of us. Carried to extremes, this leads to the anti-salt evangelism we have been witnessing in New York.

    I'm having trouble sorting it all out. BTW, I just learned that starvation dramatically raises cholesterol!

    But starvation also is said to prolong life, right?

    Interestingly, for years they have been making people fast before cholesterol testing. Now the latest research says that's bunk.

    I predict more studies contradicting the previous studies. Etc.

    posted by Eric at 10:28 AM | Comments (5)

    They Should Be Paying Us
    Carbon Sink.jpg

    You see that chart above? It was taken from an article on the missing carbon sink. The graphs in the chart show results for net CO2 emission or absorption from before and after the missing sink was found.

    Note the down arrows for North America? That means North America is absorbing more CO2 than it is emitting (at least if I understand the chart correctly). The rest of the world should be paying us for the service we are providing. Or at the very least they should stop hectoring us about our energy generation methods.

    But the scientists are still not happy.

    Other scientists have also recently come to the conclusion that northern forests, although critically important in maintaining biodiversity, might be less important in slowing climate change than tropical forests. Govindasamy Bala and Ken Caldeira found that tropical forests help cool the Earth in two ways: by storing carbon and also by reflecting the suns warming rays back to space. "Unlike tropical forests, high latitude forests darken the Earth's surface, causing the earth to absorb more sunlight, an effect that is most pronounced in snowy regions. This darkening of the surface has a warming influence that can be stronger than the cooling influence of carbon storage in these forests," says Caldeira. This suggests that removing high-latitude forests would have a net cooling effect on the planet, whereas removal of tropical forests would result in warming.
    So if we cut down all the trees in North America it would be better for the planet? Right!

    Get the chain saws out boys we have some work to do.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

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

    The Scott Brown Plan To Screw The Voters

    This is so depressing.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 09:26 PM | Comments (11)

    My beautiful "new" rice cooker

    This will seem like a self-indulgent and frivolous post, as I'm not one of those "here's what I ate for breakfast" type bloggers, but I decided to write it anyway, because the technology involved has helped me, and I thought it might be of assistance to some of the readers.

    I like rice, and I eat a lot of it. I normally would eat more, except the cooking and saving of it has been somewhat of a nuisance. For years I used this garden variety rice cooker:


    It cost less than $20.00 new, and it's now been consigned to gather dust in the basement. When I would use it, inevitably rice would stick to the inside, requiring a lot of washing. Not washing, but scouring. Then there's the question of what to do with the uneaten rice. Left in the old rice cooker on "warm," it gets too warm, drying out and sticking ever more fanatically to the pot. Stick it in the fridge and it gets so dried out as to become virtually inedible. Maybe not totally inedible, but microwaving dried out rice hardly makes for an appetizing meal.

    Anyway, perhaps I hadn't been paying as much attention as I should have (I don't watch cooking shows on television, for God's sake), but I had pretty much assumed that all rice cookers were alike in their basic functionality. ("When you've seen one ricer cooker, you've seen them all.")

    I now realize that if you like rice, having a good rice cooker is very important, and that I had the wrong kind of rice cooker. Ironically, it took another shopping error to made me realize the error of my ways. While looking for a large bag of rice at a local Asian food store, I inadvertently bought a bag of Thai Sanpotang sweet rice instead of regular rice. Was I in for a rude awakening. Sweet rice (aka glutinous rice) is a delicacy, as anyone who likes Thai or Vietnamese food can appreciate, but it is also very, very difficult to cook (as I discovered with my first batch). Unless you have a special Thai steamer or a "smart" rice cooker, you will find the results disappointing.

    However, if you merely go to Amazon and enter "rice cooker," you'll be overwhelmed. To even begin to zero in on what you need, the word "fuzzy" should be included in the search. That's because only a rice cooker with fuzzy logic can distinguish between regular rice and sweet (or other forms of) rice.

    I didn't know where to begin, but I quickly learned rice cookers like my old one are old, outmoded technology. Or, as this site quipped, a "historical artifact":

    Why do stores like Walmart and Target, even online shops like Amazon or always have this kind of rice cooker for sale? Well, we don't know. But they're obviously clueless about rice preparation. The glass-lid style of rice cooker you see at left, which we estimate as 95% of what you'll find in American stores, is practically an ancient relic throughout Asia. These cookers are a bit cheaper, but they don't have a proper ventilation system to capture and maintain moisture, so unless you serve the rice immediately after it's cooked it dries out. There is no "keep warm" feature either. You can still find this style in some Asian households that haven't yet upgraded, but not in Asian stores because modern versions such as ours have been available for over 15 years. So if you're looking for a rice cooker, buy what's best not a historical artifact.
    Except that "what's best" can cost hundreds of dollars, and it is very confusing comparing the innumerable brands.

    Chinese master chef Martin Yan promotes the Sanyo line as the best for the money, and they look pretty damned good.

    The one he's demonstrating is the Sanyo ECJ F50S, and they can be had on ebay for under $100.00.

    But I'm not just cheap, I'm very cheap, and I'm also afraid to spend a lot of money for something and then learn that I could have gotten something better for less money, or a lot better for only slightly more.

    Still, I'm always a sucker for a super good deal. And did I ever find one on Craigslist! Listed among a whole bunch of items offered in a moving sale last weekend was a "National rice cooker," offered free! National is a leading Japanese brand (for years the name on items branded as Panasonic in other countries), and in the picture it looked like it might be one of the "smart" rice cookers, so I went right over. The "sellers" were a nice Japanese couple getting ready to move back to Japan, and the thing was plugged in and working.

    Here it is:


    I couldn't have been happier to take it off their hands, and as the buttons were in Japanese, they were kind enough to write out translations on a piece of paper. It has a timer, a porridge and risotto setting, a cleaning setting, a quick cook setting, and if you just use the rice setting they said it was smart enough to figure out what kind of rice you're using.

    Searching online, I learned that Panasonic made an identical model for sale in English-speaking countries, and I downloaded a picture showing the buttons for easy reference:


    My only complaint isn't really a complaint, but I would very much like to know the meaning of the extra measuring lines to the right on the inside of the pan:


    Anyway, I was initially skeptical over how well it would work, but still, I hadn't risked a cent. I didn't want to have a showdown right away over complicated items, so I started by cooking plain rice, which I wanted to be ready for lunch the next day. I heard it making little rumblings and hissing sounds during the half hour or so before I had set it to be ready, and then at exactly 12:30, a little beeping sound went off, and it switched to warmer status. Absolutely perfect rice. Not one grain sticking anywhere.

    The next day I thought I would try out the porridge setting with grits, so I put in grits and water and set it to be ready when I woke up. I awoke to perfectly cooked grits.

    For the next test, I decided to put it through the much harder ordeal of cooking steel-cut oatmeal. Anyone who has made this knows what a pain in the ass it can be. You have to stir it repeatedly, it's easy to burn, and you can end up with a sticky, lumpy mess. Not something most people want to do first thing in the morning. Well, once again, with this thing I just threw in the oatmeal and water, set the timer, and I'll be damned if I didn't wake up to steel cut oatmeal, cooked to perfection. A gourmet chef couldn't have done any better.

    The hardest test I left for last. Would it know how to cook that Thai sticky rice? So last night I rinsed two cups worth, put them in with the right amount of water, and set it to be ready at noon. The moment of truth came when I opened it and saw this perfectly cooked sweet sticky rice, not sticking to the pot, willing to be rolled over into cakes just the way it's supposed to be, and deliciously chewy. I scooped some onto a plate which bounced on itself into a perfectly rounded pile, and it beautifully soaked up some hot bean paste sauce I put on top.

    I looked at that thing, and I asked "How can it be so smart?" It knows what to do with whatever I put in there!

    Are humans finally becoming outmoded? Far from it; it took a lot of humans and human ingenuity to make such a thing. And it takes a human to decide what to put in it. It also takes a human to know what they are and go out and get one. Still, I'm human and it took me a long to even learn about this technology.

    There's a lot of great stuff out there -- if only you know what it is and where it is.

    Makes me wonder what else I'm missing.

    MORE: Via Glenn Reynolds, I learned about something else I'm missing -- one of those smart new slow cookers -- like this baby! (As usual, I'm behind the times with an outdated "on/off" model.)

    posted by Eric at 03:30 PM | Comments (5)


    Obama's poll numbers are cratering.

    Gallup buries the lede in its latest polling on health care, the Browning of Massachusetts, and Barack Obama's performance in the first year. They headline the fact that 55% of Americans want Congress to suspend work on ObamaCare while only 39% want Congress to continue. That's not exactly news; it's about the same split in support Rasmussen has seen among likely voters for weeks now, and Gallup just confirms that ObamaCare has the same level of support in the general adult population.

    In fact, the biggest news is that 57% of adults -- adults, not registered or likely voters -- give Obama poor marks for his first year in office...

    Well OK. Things could be worse. And by golly they are. Obama's proposed new rules for banks have cratered banking stocks.
    NEW YORK (AP) - Stocks are set to extend their slide Friday, following the worst two-day stretch the market has seen since June.

    Stock futures fell as better than expected earnings from General Electric and Google failed to inspire traders.

    President Barack Obama spooked the market Thursday, after asking Congress for limits on how large big banks can be and to end some of the risky trading large financial companies have used in recent quarters to boost profits.

    The market could be re-entering a period of uncertainty that defined the financial crisis and sent it cratering nearly a year ago before its 10-month rally.

    Overseas, Asian markets overnight followed the U.S. sharply lower. European markets are also falling.

    There is that word cratering. And not only has he cratered the American markets. He has cratered the Asian and European markets as well. The man is a genius. The Smartest President Ever™

    Well on to more of the same. Employment is cratering according to a Progressive site.

    The latest US nonfarm payroll report provides more confirmation. Although the headline number was a modestly anemic -85,000, Rosenberg called it "horrible" because its details showed consistent weakness. As a result, he estimates a more accurate "465,000" December decline, based on what's occurring at the small company level "where the trend in orders, output, sales and employment" has been dismal.

    Importantly, economic sectors sensitive to the business cycle actually "cratered" in December, "which flies in the face of the overwhelming view that this recession has fully run its course." Also disturbing was that while "temp help" gained 47,000 jobs, its fifth straight increase, full-time employment "plunged" 647,000 last month, a clear sign that no one is hiring, especially small businesses that do most of it.

    The reason headline U-3 unemployment held steady at 10% was because the labor force plunged by 661,000, the sharpest (discouraged worker) decline in nearly 15 years. The broader U-6 unemployment is 17.3%, and economist John Williams ( calculates it more accurately at 21.9% by excluding manipulated changes for more valid figures. He estimates about 500,000 December job losses, not the sanitized U-3 number. He also says that a "major double-dip downturn should be obvious by mid-year."

    Oh. Yeah. Let me give you the title of that progressive piece.

    The Recession is Over, the Depression Just Beginning

    Cheery news that. Well it is only January, 2010. Two Years 11 months 4 weeks and 0 days to go. I can hardly wait.

    But back to happier days and the words of FDR's Treasury Secretary Henry Morgenthau:

    "We have tried spending money. We are spending more than we have ever spent before and it does not work. And I have just one interest, and now if I am wrong somebody else can have my job. I want to see this country prosper. I want to see people get a job. I want to see people get enough to eat. We have never made good on our promises. I say after eight years of this administration, we have just as much unemployment as when we started. And enormous debt to boot."
    Well there is one good thing. I don't believe Obama has eight years. And with the way he is going he will be lucky to get his almost three more.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 02:49 PM | Comments (2)

    Sex, murder, it's all the same, right?

    Ryan Mauro has a very thoughtful discussion of a TV show I'd never heard of in an essay titled "A Sermon Inspired by The Real World: Washington, D.C. -- A bisexual Christian on MTV's reality show illustrates the true meaning of the faith."

    I don't normally associate MTV with bisexual Christians (whom I assume could expect to get untold grief from so many single issue activists on both sides that it boggles the mind), but hey, maybe the times are changing. Or maybe MTV thinks something like that would generate audience interest. I don't know, as I am out of touch with the times and MTV.

    While Ryan Mauro found the character (Mike) refreshing, he also touched on something that has long puzzled me -- the interplay between sexuality and what a number of Christians to be the difference betwen right and wrong:

    Mike makes a greater point, one that all Christians should embrace. Mike explains how the idea that his bisexuality means "you can't be religious, you can't follow the Bible, you can't follow God ... is stupid." This may sound like a hippie version of Christianity that means there is no objective right and wrong, but he further explains.

    "My church is come-as-you-are and we'll teach you Christ and we'll make you better and if you're flawed, everybody's flawed, just do what you can," he says, and then he goes onto explain the concept of Christ's sacrifice and God's love. Again, this sounds like an acceptance of sin, but if you listen closely, he's acknowledging that we're all sinners and in need of salvation. And as all sinners require God's mercy, this means we are all on the same plane -- whether you're a bisexual, or lie, or act selfishly, or ever step into any of the pitfalls that all of us have -- unless you think you're perfect, which is a pitfall in and of itself.

    In other words, Mike, despite how some Christians would unfortunately look down upon him, articulates the most important premises of the faith that go beyond any debate about its specific tenets, such as the one regarding sexual orientation. At least for me, it was simply inspiring.

    Whether they are religious or not, people differ on whether or not homosexuality (or bisexuality) is sinful per se, but what I have never been able to understand is from where it follows that those who don't think same-sex sexual relations are necessarily wrong have no objective sense of right and wrong.

    Having no objective sense of right or wrong would mean total nihilism. Which would mean that murder, robbery, rape are not wrong. Why would a belief that that there is nothing intrinsically wrong or evil about someone's choice of sexual partners mean such a thing? Unless "objective sense of right and wrong" means all-or-nothing acceptance of every law said to come from God, and that not believing in one means not believing in all, I'm just not getting it. It's about as logical as saying that because someone doesn't think violating the Sabbath is wrong, that he has no objective sense of right and wrong.

    This is not to say that right and wrong are not implicated in the area of sexuality. The sordid case of Senator John Edwards will serve as an illustration:

    In an earlier interview with ABC News that will air Friday, Jan. 29, Young also claims that it was Edwards who proposed an elaborate cover-up in a failed attempt to hide the fact that he fathered a baby girl with Hunter.

    Edwards finally confessed today that he is the father of Hunter's daughter, Frances Quinn. But his statement did not stop fresh revelations from emerging about his attempts to keep his paternity secret.

    Young initially tried to protect his boss' reputation and political career by publicly stating that he was the father of Hunter's infant, a story that Hunter did not dispute.

    "The senator made the full pitch," Young told ABC News' "20/20." "Not just for me. I mean he didn't just have to convince me that I was going to take paternity. He also had to convince Rielle that she would publicly claim that I had been the father."

    Young said Edwards, a former North Carolina senator and Democratic presidential contender in 2008, asked him to steal one of his daughter's soiled diapers as part of a DNA strategy.

    By religious standards, Edwards' adulterous conduct involved a violation of God's law. But it doesn't require a belief in God or any religious commandments to recognize that what he did (assuming Young's allegations are true) was inexcusably sleazy and inexcusably dishonest, and ought to disqualify the man from holding office.

    Even if you don't believe that consensual adultery is inherently wrong (I think cheating on a spouse is always wrong, but if the spouse consents, that changes things), that still would in no way justify the man's loathsome behavior. He was quite willing to ruin lives, careers and ethical reputations of other people, simply to preserve his own career. It frightens me that such a man came within a few electoral votes of being next in line for the presidency. And I think focusing on his conduct as "adultery" misses the point in a rather major way.

    Edwards strikes me as a man who does not care at all about right or wrong. But what he did does not follow from adultery, or the belief that consensual adultery is OK -- any more than his adultery would give him the right to commit murder.

    While I recognize that there are people who would argue that if adultery is OK, that means murder is OK, I think that view is horribly mistaken, and encourages nihilism on both sides.

    The ability to know right from wrong no more revolves around sexual views than it does on views of breaking the Sabbath, or for that matter, coveting.

    posted by Eric at 11:57 AM | Comments (1)

    I know! Let's Talk About Sex!

    I've been meaning to post for about a week, but unable to figure out quite how to make my first appearance at Classical Values. This is the equivalent of what I did when I was very young and spent several hours agonizing between two virtually identical outfits before a party.

    And then, yesterday, on this post I did about Robert A. Heinlein and what he meant to me, some woman (I'm being complimentary here. She's probably an academic!) came out to prove my point - which was that some people would like to prevent everyone from reading that which they disapprove of, and if their only weapon is social shunning, then they'll use that.

    In the meantime, as a sort of side benefit, she proved that she had problems with the idea of women enjoying sex. Oh, I'm sure she didn't mean it that way. Or she didn't think she meant it that way. Or something. But that's how it came across, as "All you women who are out there enjoying sex, stop it. You're letting the side down."

    I've had this argument so many times, at so many different conferences, when I was put on the obligatory Heinlein panel - see the four armed dwarf! The dragon of the Indies! The woman who will admit she likes Heinlein! Yep - that it was the REASON I posted.

    Since writing that post, I've been defriended by one tenth my list on Face Book, my followers on twitter stalled, my group blog comments went dead and my conference has had almost no traffic. AND that was before I was the rudest I've ever been on line to a commenter. Being myself, I can't resist the chance to double down. Proving, I suppose that while our current president and I might look at life in completely different ways there are some similarities between people of our age group.

    This is not a new experience for me. Thirst, my first short story ever sold (which is online, for free, in this collection) was published in an Australian magazine called Blood Songs, which managed to send a copy out to get it nominated as an honorable mention in 1994's Year's Best Fantasy and Horror before its entire print run was confiscated and destroyed. The report on what caused it - my story, or the illustration on it - varies, but the illustration was on theme, so... And the last story I wrote that was published in a major magazine - What She Left Behind in Asimov's - got letters asking the publication be banned from school libraries. So, you see, I have a tendency to dance where angels fear to tread.

    Since sex is squarely at the center of both the culture war and of my variously socially unacceptable forays, let's go into the - pardon my French - thick of it, with hip waders.

    Continue reading "I know! Let's Talk About Sex!"

    posted by Sarah at 11:59 PM | Comments (50)

    Not by PC alone!

    This is an ominous development, and I don't think it's being widely reported:

    WASHINGTON - Ex-cons who converted to Islam in New York and other state prison systems have turned up in Yemen as Al Qaeda terror recruits, a new Senate report says.

    The focus on ex-cons was part of an intensified effort by Al Qaeda to involve Americans who could more easily slip through security and pose a "significant threat" to carry out attacks in the U.S., said Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

    "These Americans are not necessarily of Arab or South Asian descent" but "include individuals who converted to Islam in prison," Kerry said in a foreword to the report by his committee.

    As many as 36 of the ex-cons, nearly half from New York, were believed to be in Yemen, and U.S. counterterror officials were on "heightened alert because of the potential threat from extremists carrying American passports," the report said.

    The FBI and CIA were also concerned about a separate group of fewer than 10 Americans without criminal records who went to Yemen, converted to Islam and married Yemeni women to be allowed to remain in the country.

    The report quoted a U.S. official who described the smaller group as "blond-haired, blue eyed-types" who fit the profile of Americans wanted by Al Qaeda for terror missions.

    Via China Confidential, who says the report raises an additional taboo topic:
    The report highlights another taboo topic for Islamist-appeasing liberals: decades of infiltration of U.S. prisons by agents of Saudi Wahhabism--Muslim chaplains trained in and certified by Saudi-supported Wahhabi institutes operating in the U.S.
    Why is all of this considered "taboo"? It's easy to blame political correctness, but I don't think that fully explains the reluctance on the part of so many -- in journalism, government, and law enforcement -- to discuss the problem. It is unreasonable to assume that the entire machinery of official information has been paralyzed solely by political correctness. I think that there are different mindsets at work which operate in collusion. Above all, there's the national security, "we know what's best" mindset, which I've touched on before, and which for various reasons wants to keep citizens out of the loop. (A major reason for this is that they don't want to reveal sources and techniques, etc.)

    Then there's what I would call the "responsible" class -- people in various positions which have convinced them that either they are in charge or else they should be -- and these people sincerely believe that putting out information such as the above would "cause a panic" and is therefore "irresponsible."

    An interesting proposition, to be sure. I tend to look for answers, for facts, in order to get some idea of what is going on. You know, that old-fashioned concept called "the truth"? I would hate to think that truth-seeking behavior is irresponsible, but in fairness, greater minds than mine (such as Churchill) did allow that truth is the first casualty in war. To which I would counter "Fine, but are we at war?" If so, should I just shut up?

    This raises, of course, the additional problem of Saudi Arabia. If we are at war, they really ought to be our enemy, for they are the chief supplier not only of the lethal Wahhabist ideology that sees us as deserving death, but the money that fuels it. Which means we all are fueling it, because we buy their damnable oil. It's tough fighting an enemy that's an ally, especially an enemy we fund every time we fill up at the pump.

    Finally, there are those in power who simply don't want to look bad. They hate to look incompetent, they hate having people read about their shortcomings, and they hate being laughed at. If too many Americans read about converted Americans seeking to be suicide bombers in Yemen, they might think our government officials are incompetent, or worse. So the people who might look bad would naturally be expected to have a strong interest in suppressing such reports to the extent they can.

    None of this is to diminish the powerful role of political correctness in this process, but it would be a mistake to assume that it's the only factor.

    posted by Eric at 11:56 AM | Comments (7)

    It Is Official

    NASA agrees with me on the nature of drug abuse.

    Initial low-level involvement with drugs may result from peer pressure, drug availability or other risk factors in an individual's social or family environment. Subsequent escalation to and maintenance of higher levels of drug use is likely to result from biological, psychological or psychiatric characteristics of the individual user. In some cases, vulnerability may be inherited in the form of heightened susceptibility to a certain type of drug. In most cases, however, escalation will be caused by psychological traits or psychiatric conditions, some of which may also be inherited.

    Recent scientific research shows that characteristics of the individual, rather than of the drug, play a dominant role in vulnerability to drug abuse. The social and psychological maladjustment that characterizes most frequent drug abusers precedes the first drug use.4 One study that tracked children from an early age to adulthood identified predictors of future serious drug use that could be identified in children's behavior as early as age seven.5

    Although psychoactive drugs do have potent addictive properties, addiction does not follow automatically from their use. Most people who experiment with drugs or even use them regularly for a while do not become abusers or develop dependence. For psychologically healthy youths, some experimentation with drugs does not normally have adverse future consequences. For others who already have some emotional or psychological problem, drug use easily becomes part of a broad pattern of self-destructive behavior.6

    Poorly adjusted individuals who do not become involved with illegal drugs will often become involved with some other non-drug addictive behavior that fills the same psychological void.

    A study based on a sample of 20,291 individuals drawn from the community at large found that more than half of those who met the medical criteria for diagnosis as drug abusers also suffered from one or more mental disorders at some point during their lifetime. This included 28% with anxiety disorders, 26% with mood disorders (depression), 18% with antisocial personality disorder, and 7% with schizophrenia. Some had multiple disorders. The prevalence of mental disorders varied with the drug being abused, ranging from 50% of marijuana abusers to 76% of those who abused cocaine. Almost half of the drug abusers also suffered from alcohol abuse at some point during their lifetime.7

    Note the bolded parts. I have blogged every one of those points well before they became common knowledge. Every single one.

    Just to give one example: food, sex, and exercise junkies:

    Big Mac Heroin Attack

    You can go through some of my other articles on the nature of addiction at Drug War Articles. Or look at my sidebar under "Drug War" or "Addiction" in the list of topics at Power and Control.

    Here is a book on the subject:

    The Science of Addiction: From Neurobiology to Treatment

    Here is what one reviewer said about the book:

    First, let me say that I am a doctor specializing in alcohol and drug studies and the author of over a hundred publications so I have a good perspective of science books, etc. In a sentence, Carl Erickson's book, The Science of Addiction is one of the best books ever published on the subject. Anyone in the field of addiction medicine (e.g., physicians, psychologists, drug/alcohol counselors) or with a personal or other professional interest in addiction will learn from this book. While a bit more advanced than Drugs The Brain and Behavior: The Pharmacology of Abuse and Dependence, by the same author, it is still very readable, fully referenced and current. Two thumbs up to Dr. Erickson.
    The question in my mind is: what is so special about illegal drug use/abuse? We don't go after alcoholics unless they are harming others. We certainly don't legally persecute food addicts. Exercise addicts? Not even on the radar.

    The one thing I can think of is that there is a LOT of money in the persecution of illegal drug users. Which reminds me of another book I can personally highly recommend.

    Drug Warriors and Their Prey: From Police Power to Police State

    I wrote a review of that book a while back: How To Put An End To Drug Users. Just in case you are interested in a preview of the contents.

    H/T Drug Policy Forum of Texas

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 11:02 AM | Comments (3)

    auf wiedersehen to hope?

    I don't know what qualifies Germany or Germans as the world's experts on American politics, but that seems to be one of the dominant memes these days.

    In a piece titled "Obama Mia" in the Wall Street Journal, I read about a loopy German musical glorifying President Obama, and promoting the personality cult surrounding him:


    'HOPE--The Obama Musical Story" premiered here Sunday evening. One is tempted to end the review right there. Seriously, aren't the oeuvre's title and premature timing commentary enough? Sure, the U.S. president has been (favorably) compared to God but even Jesus Christ had to wait nearly 2,000 years before he became a Superstar.

    With polls showing that most Americans now realize that they are being (mis)led by a mere mortal, it is no coincidence that this production had its debut in Germany. Here the president's messiah status (remember the 200,000 worshipers at his 2008 Berlin speech?) is still accepted dogma and helped fill the Jahrhunderthalle, a 2,000-seat venue.

    "In no way does Hope show Obama as a saint," the musical's organizers say on their Web site. And truly, as the mostly American cast tells, through song and dance, the story of Mr. Obama's rise from a Chicago community organizer to the White House, we learn of the president's human imperfections--or at least one: "He's an idealist," Mrs. Obama's character says with a hint of disapproval. Despite this serious character flaw, the ensemble sings upon his election: "Celebrate! Celebrate! Around the world every nation celebrate."

    Sen. Harry Reid will probably be pleased to learn that the actor playing Mr. Obama is sufficiently "light-skinned" to portray the president and did not sing with any discernable "Negro accent." And, always a plus for an actor as well as a president, he was able to perform without a teleprompter. He got to sing numbers like "Yes We Can," and "Look Without Hands," which I first thought was a commentary on the president's foreign and economic policies but turned out to be a eulogy to his grandmother.

    Etc. The mean-spirited reviewer was not impressed with the show, as he sees the personality cult as "an irredeemable flaw in both the arts and journalism."

    Except those Germans can be so damned, er, fickle! In less than a week's time, it seems that the Ubermessiah of Hope's reign has come to a dramatic end.

    In a piece titled "The World Bids Farewell to Obama" Der Speigel summarizes German reaction to Tuesday's Massachusetts rout:

    US President Barack Obama suffered a painful defeat in Massachusetts on Tuesday. With mid-term elections looming, it means that Obama will have to fundamentally re-think his political course. German commentators say it is the end of hope.
    Hey, wait a second. The question is not so much whether hope has ended, or even whether people are for or against hope, but whose hope is it that's supposed to be under consideration?

    The hope of the Germans?


    I realize that they have lots of experience with having their hopes raised and shattered, but honestly. Surely no rational person would argue that our hope belongs to the Germans to "own."

    Or would they?

    I'm sure everyone has seen this video that Glenn Reynolds and Ann Althouse both linked, but it seemed to belong here:

    It's very touching, but if hope is not ours to own, I think it ain't over till the Norwegians sing...

    (Yeah, it would have been nice to embed Ronald Reagan's favorite version of the song, but I'm afraid of the DMCA.)

    posted by Eric at 10:33 AM | Comments (4)

    "the strident, purist base"

    From Bill Clinton's former White House special counsel Lanny J. Davis comes a good question:

    The question is, will we stop listening to the strident, purist base of our party who seem to prefer defeat to winning elections and no change at all if they don't get all the change they want.
    As someone who hopes the Democrats lose, naturally I hope they don't wise up -- and that the strident, purist base of their party gets its way.

    But if I were a Democrat I would also hope that the strident, purist base of the Republican party gets its way.

    What I hope does not happen is to see America having to choose between a strident, purist base and a strident, purist base.

    But hey, I admit that I'm not strident enough or pure enough to stand it. If that is a selfish thought on my part, then what would be more selfish? To stand the heat or get the hell out of the kitchen?

    MORE: An important point that should not be forgotten is that last night's victory was not a triumph of the "strident, purist base." Far from it. It was a defeat for the Democrats' strident, purist base. Interestingly, though (and most encouraging from my viewpoint) is that the "strident, purist base" of the GOP was quite willing to swallow their pride a little and help a guy who was decidedly not part of their strident purist base!

    Which is pretty amazing, if you think about it.

    AND MORE: While I would hesitate to call the Tea Party Movement the Republican "base," Glenn Reynolds notes, the Tea Partiers have shown wisdom and pragmatism:

    on the third-party front, the Tea Party enthusiasm for Scott Brown bespeaks considerable pragmatism. Republicans who are seen as sellouts may face third-party challenges -- or primary challenges, or both -- but support for Brown indicates that people aren't in a "take your marbles and go home" mode yet. Throwing a monkey-wrench into the ObamaCare works was seen as more important than getting the perfect candidate in, and that was a very wise move. I suspect that we'll see similar pragmatism between now and November, but the GOP should also remember -- as was shown in NY-23 -- that making an example to encourage the others can be pragmatic, too.
    The Tea Party people I saw struck me more as small-l libertarians who are fed up with big government than as ideological purists. They don't seem especially enamored with the litmus test ideologues who insist on being the base.

    But what do I know? I can't even offer a good definition of the base, much less one we can all agree on.

    MORE: Not to promote impurity, but would it be out of line to propose this as a lowest common denominator definition of "base"?

    Republicans who share core values on fiscal policy that can actually win elections.
    The Tea Party Movement seems cool with it. So are a lot of people, and so am I.

    People have every right to strive for stridency and purity in ideology, but does that give them the right to order everyone else around?

    LINGERING QUESTION: Just what is the base? Is it the lowest common ideological denominator? Or the hardest ideological core? (The bottom line, or the hardest core?)

    posted by Eric at 01:45 PM | Comments (3)

    Monkeying around with compromise

    Barnes and Noble keeps getting in trouble with people who want to boycott the store -- not so much for selling the wrong books, but for improper placement of them. So I thought that in the interest of helping all parties laugh at themselves, I would try to come up with new and improved suggestions for improper product placement. I apologize in advance to the many sensitivities and sensibilities that I might offend.

    Anyway, last year Barnes and Noble found itself in hot water (perhaps that would be deep doodoo) over the fact that a window display had inexplicably included a book on monkeys in the middle of a display of books about our new president.


    Barnes and Noble claimed they couldn't figure out what happened, and blamed a mischievous customer.

    "We believe that a customer played a cruel joke and placed an inappropriate title in the front window of our store," said Barnes & Noble spokesperson Mary Ellen Keating in a public statement. "We are looking into it and are taking the steps necessary so that it does not happen again.
    I'm wondering, though. Would they have been as apologetic had the same monkey book been featured amidst a display of books on President Bush? We will never know, because I'm sure no Barnes and Noble has ever had a window display of books on Bush, and if they did, I doubt the books would all be glowing tributes like the Obama collection.

    Moreover, if you google Bush chimpanzee in images, you get over 100,000 hits -- mostly to stuff like this:

    Bush Chimp.jpg

    That stuff was just standard fare for years, and I think that had someone stuck a monkey book among Bush books at a Barnes and Noble, nary an eyebrow would have been raised -- much less a boycott threat.

    More recently, someone (Barnes and Noble says it was a patron) left a copy of the book "Ultimate Gay Sex" on a table at a Barnes and Noble, where it was found by an eleven year old son of an anti-porn activist.


    The man said that the above caused his son to be robbed of his innocence.

    The same man also has written a book which claims that a sinister group of 21 people -- including Aldous Huxley, Charles Darwin, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud, Alfred Kinsey, Benjamin Bloom, B.F. Skinner, and Soren Kierkegaard -- are all ruling America from beyond the grave. Isn't a conspiracy of sinister people ruling America from the grave worse than gay sex? So wouldn't their books be even more dangerous if left on tables? What is worse? The loss of innocence or the loss of America?

    Without getting into whether a book can cause innocence to be lost (which would seem to mean that unintentional viewing of dirty pictures instills guilt), I'm wondering whether the same gay sex book would have caused a similar loss of innocence to the president and his supporters (who follow many of the 21 dead rulers of America) had it been improperly placed.

    So what about this?


    Hmmm... perhaps I should be more inclusive with my PhotoShopping.


    Is that, um, better?

    In the spirit of compromise, I'm willing to monkey around with principles.

    posted by Eric at 12:45 PM | Comments (2)

    Tower Of Power

    Here is an interesting development that may be good for continuous output solar power.

    The company's approach uses calcium hydride, a simple, non-toxic salt.

    Under Solar Fusion's plan, solar heat is collected by an array of heliostats directed to a central down mirror, eliminating the requirement for a power tower.

    The heat, focused on a power head immersed in liquid calcium, chemically separates the calcium and hydrogen during the day. At night, the hydrogen, having been collected in a separate tank, is pumped back and reacts with the calcium to reform as calcium hydride.

    The reaction runs at approximately 1,000 degrees, and powers a dual shell Stirling engine of Bliesner's design to create power after dark.

    "We can generate electricity continuously unlike other solar technologies," said Bleisner, inventor of the technology and a former Boeing engineer.

    They claim the system compares to the cost of fossil fuels. The question is: coal (very cheap) or natural gas (rather expensive).

    It is still interesting. Now if they could develop a fuel cell along the lines of this patent [pdf] or something similar I think they would have a real winner. Getting rid of the thermal energy to mechanical motion step (Stirling engine) could greatly improve efficiency and reliability. It would mean pumping reactants around. But you would have to do that in any case, I think. More details on how the system operates would be nice.

    Bleisner was originally involved in Stirling Engine development at ADI Thermal. So he may have a vested interest in the Stirling engine route. No matter. Others can now start in on the Hydrogen/Calcium fuel cell route. One breakthrough can show the path to others.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 08:15 AM | Comments (0)

    The Meaning Of Brown

    I left this comment (more or less) at Nate Silver's 538 blog. He was a hoping for Coakley despite the shift that his stats clearly showed.


    Reminds me of what I said here about the Obama/Palin race.

    Bias is such a hard thing to give up.

    You lose some. You win some.

    The real problem for the Admin is that the voters got sold a centerist (American style) and found they had elected a leftist (Euro style).

    So I was right about Obama. Wrong about the election (I'll take my wins where I can get them).

    The balance is now being redressed. BTW good of you to see 2010 for what it is shaping up to be. Efforts to do the right thing despite bias are admirable.

    I applaud you sir.

    Honesty is always the best policy.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 11:56 PM | Comments (0)

    Brown Vs Coakley
    The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
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    This is the funniest Jon Stewart I have evahh watched. Give it a view. Hillarious.

    H/T Larry Johnson at No Quarter

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 09:33 PM | Comments (1)

    Newsflash! Ted Kennedy still dead

    In what I consider an early sign of optimism over the Coakley-Brown election results, CNN's commentators don't look happy right now. They are talking about early signs showing a Republican victory, while a stressed-out looking Paul Begala carries on about how Ted Kennedy would have won big. (So does that mean that if Brown wins, it's only because he cheated a dead man out of his throne?)

    On Fox they're saying early returns show 51-48 for Brown.

    Still too early to tell.

    MORE: At 8:29, Drudge shows the following vote count:

    D: 0,067,506.

    I'm not live blogging anything, btw. Just being my usual passive-aggressive self by doing whatever I want.

    (How could I live-blog a dead man's seat anyway?)
    R: 0,071,914

    MORE: Continuing the death theme, Stephen Green is talking about Judgment Day in "Massachusetttes." And martinis with caffeinated vodka, which ought to wake the dead. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    And on Fox News, I heard about a leaked memo from a Coakley staffer saying that she was blaming President Obama for her troubles.

    AND MORE (08:37): Brown's numbers are inching up according to Drudge:

    SCOTT BROWN (R) 53%

    R: 0,169,808
    D: 0,145,733

    Fox says 52-47, and forgive me but I can't wait to enjoy the misery at CNN.

    (At 8:40 they're looking sour and have changed the subject to Haiti. Not that I blame them.)

    MORE (8:48): With 29% in, Brown is ahead 53-47. (Fox.)

    Unless Boston comes up with a huge Coakley landslide, at this point I'd say Brown has it.

    AND MORE (8:51): A Fox commentator is calling it for Brown. They are saying the Boston votes did not turn out for Coakley.

    CNN (and Yahoo) are saying it's too early.

    Drudge has these numbers:

    R: 0,441,124
    D: 0,392,078

    MORE: At 8:54, things look glum at CNN (headline is "REPUBLICANS HOLDING STEADY LEAD"), and they're asking worried questions about what will happen to health care.

    Well, I'd say my chances for survival might have just improved.

    At 8:58, Wolf Blitzer says it's too early to call, but John King is all but talking about why Scott Brown won.

    MORE (09:02): Via Glenn Reynolds, Professor William Jacobson (who has been all over this race from day one) is live-blogging, with live feeds here.

    MORE: Latest from Drudge:

    SCOTT BROWN (R) 53%

    R: 0,638,823
    D: 0,563,214

    I'd say the lead is looking insurmountable now.

    By the way, I'm now hearing a lot of talk about "all the Democrats who voted for Brown."

    The Republican Party might want to find out why.

    Geez, what if it turned out the American people actually like Republicans who are fiscally conservative but not socially conservative?

    MORE: The steady lead holds at 53-46% with 66% of the vote in.

    Hannity says it's about time to call it for Brown, while CNN's Wolf Blitzer (saying it's now 70% in) says it's more and more difficult to see how Coakley can narrow it, and the Dems should be gearing for "a huge upset."

    Yeah, I think they saw this coming.

    Brown's lead is clearly insurmountable.

    MORE (9:23): It is over. Drudge reports that,


    CNN and Fox have both now called it for Brown.

    MORE: It's a little eerie that Brown defeated Coakley by the same margin that Obama defeated McCain nationally, but what a difference a year makes.

    And in Massachusetts, last year's presidential vote was 62% Obama, 36% McCain. Which means that Brown won the support of many Obama voters.

    MORE: Willie Brown (on Sean Hannity's Fox show) says that he doesn't think that this will mean Obama losing the White House. I think that Obama's best hope of continuing in office is for the GOP to take back the house in November. That way he can feign to the center, claim they are obstructing him, and appeal to America's natural inclination to favor gridlock.

    MORE: I watched Martha Coakley's concession speech, and now I am watching Scott Brown's acceptance victory speech. She seemed like vintage Mondale-Ferarro, while Brown has that -- dare I say it? -- Kennedyesque charm. Charisma, even. Tired as people are of Obama, I think the GOP is nonetheless lucky he didn't run as a Democrat.

    MORE: According to a report Wolf Blitzer just read, Democratic Senator Jim Webb is saying that the Democrats should suspend voting on health care until Brown is seated.

    AND MORE: It hasn't taken certain conservatives long to demand that Scott Brown's feet be held to the fire on social issues. (Don't expect me to link conservative bloggers in a critical manner; I am not trying to start arguments so much as spot issues.)

    Would they have rather had a candidate to their liking and have him lose?

    LINGERING QUESTION: What might it take to persuade ideologues that ordinary voters are not obsessed with whether a candidate passes ideological litmus tests? I don't agree with Scott Brown on everything, and I suspect that many of his voters don't either. So what is it that makes some people who disagree with him feel that they have more of a right to hold his feet to the fire on their issues?

    It's obvious, for example, that people on both sides of the abortion issue voted for him, as did people on both sides of the (complicated) gay marriage issue. Regardless of Brown's opinions on these issues, do those who disagree with him have more say-so than those who agree with him? Or those who might disagree with him but don't think it's a big deal?

    If some voters "count" more than others, how might this be explained to the voters who don't count as much? If self-appointed activist types think that they should count more than regular voters, then I would expect regular voters to be at least as annoyed with activists as the activists are with regular voters.

    Not that the activists would care.....

    ADDITIONAL NOTE: I say the above as someone with decided libertarian views, but who is not so arrogant as to presume that the politicians I vote for will necessarily share my principles. What I cannot understand is what gives others -- especially social conservatives -- the right to demand that their principles should be heard above and beyond mine.

    I don't think ordinary voters like it any more than I do.

    MORE: Finally, Tim Cavanaugh (after calling Libertarian Joe Kennedy "the Ralph Nader of the right, the guy you're supposed to blame while paying too much for mandatory weekly rectal probes") speculated that any votes Kennedy got would be mainly because of his name:

    The Brown campaign, meanwhile, seems to understand the mathematical certainty that more people will vote for Kennedy because they think he's one of the Kennedys than because he's a Libertarian.
    Hey, at least the Libertarians got the name right!

    But wait! Here it says, "Independent Joseph L. Kennedy received 1 percent."


    You'd think that if the Libertarians could go to the trouble of getting the right name for their candidate, the media could get their party name right.

    Oh, well.

    posted by Eric at 08:27 PM | Comments (8)

    Massachusetts Radio Live Online

    Pick a station:

    Massachusetts Radio Live Online

    And listen to tonight's election results live online.

    Drudge Has A Counter Up

    H/T on the Drudge counter to the gorgeous Pamela of Atlas Shrugs

    posted by Simon at 07:53 PM | Comments (0)

    A tale of two cities (and two sewers)

    I was a bit surprised to read that the City of Detroit is dumping raw sewage into nearby rivers and streams, because, well, that's the sort of thing that's not supposed to happen in advanced Western countries:

    Metro Detroit's outdated sewage systems regularly violate the law by dumping raw and partially treated human waste into rivers, streams and lakes that provide recreation and drinking water to more than 3 million people, a Free Press analysis of state records found.

    In the last two years, sewer systems in more than three dozen communities dumped a combined 80 billion gallons of raw and partially treated human waste into waterways.

    The waste is causing record levels of bacteria in the water, forcing bans on fishing, swimming and kayaking in popular spots such as Lake St. Clair and the Clinton and Rouge rivers.

    "We still treat the Great Lakes and their tributaries as open sewers," said Hugh McDiarmid Jr., spokesman for the Michigan Environmental Council. "It's a judgment we make as a society and government. What is the cost we are willing to pay to address this problem?"

    I don't know, but we should all be comforted to read that at least it's illegal! The piece points out that Detroit is in violation of the Clean Water Act. I suspect there's some sort of double standard at work here. While I can't prove it, I just have a feeling that if a wealthy subdivision were caught dumping its sewage into nearby rivers, the EPA would get a court order, and maybe even condemn the entire subdivision out of existence.

    Interestingly, the city of Scranton, PA was sued by the EPA (under the same Clean Water Act that Detroit is violating) for dumping only one billion gallons of sewage-tainted water. In contrast, Detroit dumped 80 billion gallons. Detroit has approximately twelve times the population of Scranton, but generates 80 times more sewage.

    Yet Scranton gets cited. What's up with that?

    Might this come down to income? I don't know. Both cities are economically depressed and both seem strapped for cash.

    Scranton (population 72,485) gets by on a $77 million budget, although it's tight:

    The mayor of Scranton released his new budget Friday. There are no new taxes, but the new spending plan may still bother some people.

    The city is spending about $850,000 less in this budget than in last year's. Taxes are not going up, but some city officials say some workers will lose their jobs if the $77 million budget is passed.

    The 2010 budget for the city of Scranton means 27 city positions will be eliminated. Officials said it also means taxes will not be increased. Still the job cuts didn't sit well with some taxpayers.

    "If it's a position that was filled, then fill it. Don't eliminate it. Evidently the clause must have called for it somewhere along the line," said Virgil Argenta of Scranton.

    Ed Zelinski, who lives in Scranton, wasn't sure. "Well I hate to see people laid off, but on the other hand I hate to see taxes raised, so you have two things going against each other," he said.

    City Business Administrator Stuart Renda explained why the cuts are being made saying, "While you're not increasing revenue, we're trying maintain revenue. You have to look to your expenditure costs to balance that budget."

    To do that, city officials said they have eliminated an entire division of the department of public works, the traffic maintenance division. Five workers will be laid off and the work will be done by private contractors starting next year. Eight empty firefighter positions were not filled this year, and if the budget passes, they will not be filled. Some administrative workers in city hall will also find themselves without a job.

    Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty said the cuts are necessary. "You have to deal with what you have," he said. "The job of being a leader is. Here's the revenues that have come in, we always have a philosophy of moving forward. By the same token, you have to work harder."

    They sound like the kind of bureaucrats who strive for something resembling efficiency -- you know, the sort who would most likely comply with a court order to stop dumping sewage, even if that meant raising fees and cutting costs elsewhere to do it.

    As to Detroit (population 912,062), the population might be 12 times higher, but its budget deficit alone is $300 million -- almost four times the entire budget of Scranton.

    Moreover, its assets exceed its liabilities by 1.3 billion:

    As the city closed its 2008 fiscal year, its assets exceeded its liabilities by $1.3 billion, but its unrestricted funds -- the money that is not tied up in laws or regulations dedicating it to a particular purpose -- were more than $500 million in deficit. It currently has a total estimated operating deficit in the $300 million range.
    The city's financial mismanagement is legendary, of course:
    As The News reported, the audit also revealed astonishingly sloppy money handling, including not refunding overpayments of taxes, not aggressively collecting outstanding debts and delegating operation of a computer program tracking unpaid property taxes to an outside contractor, leaving the city with no ability to maintain oversight over the program. In addition, the city until recently didn't keep an updated list of its bank accounts.
    If a private company operated this way, the executives would be looking at prison time. I guess Detroit's last mayor did get some prison time, but that still doesn't offer a clue to the budget

    It took some doing to find out what Detroit's alleged "budget" might be. In 2007, it was reported to be $1.7 billion, but last year, Mayor Cockrel announced that it would be $3.6 billion. (More than double. And despite this, Detroit has demanded a $10 billion bailout.)

    So, why would a city with twelve times the population of another city need to spend 46 times the money on its budget?

    Could it be the income of the population?

    Here's Scranton:

    The median income for a household in the city was $28,805, and the median income for a family was $41,642. Males had a median income of $30,829 versus $21,858 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,174. Found below the poverty line are 15.0% of the population, 10.7% of families, 18.9% of those under age 18 and 12.0% of those at least age 65.
    And here's Detroit:
    ....median household income in the city was $29,526, and the median income for a family was $33,853. Males had a median income of $33,381 versus $26,749 for females. The per capita income for the city was $14,717. 26.1% of the population and 21.7% of families were below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 34.5% of those under the age of 18 and 18.6% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.
    Frankly, I'm not seeing all that huge a difference in income levels of the population. Detroit is clearly poorer, but not 46 times poorer. And why would a city with 12 times the population discharge 80 times more raw sewage? Why the disparity in enforcement of the environmental laws?

    Might it be that the EPA only targets municipalities that are likely to comply? If so, that's a hell of a way to enforce the law. If I as a homeowner got caught discharging my sewage into a creek, I could expect to be fined, maybe imprisoned. (Apparently, the rules also apply to cities like Scranton.)

    But when a lawless city like Detroit does it, there's no enforcement, and it becomes everyone else's problem.

    I think this illustrates a growing trend. Laws are written for -- and enforced against -- the law abiding.

    posted by Eric at 02:28 PM | Comments (5)

    Inside the mind of a key Coakley supporter

    Before the race between Scott Brown and Martha Coakley, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino had not been on my radar screen. Recently, though, his breathtakingly demagogic statements about the election forced me to pay attention. According to Menino, Massachusetts voters who support Scott Brown are doing so not because they want him to win (or because they don't like the eminently dislikable Martha Coakley), but because they want President Obama to fail:

    Ahead of Obama's visit, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino told a largely black congregation that a Coakley loss will be a victory for people who want Obama to fail.

    "A lot of people don't want Barack Obama to succeed, and that's who we're fighting against. They don't want him to be a president that leads this country. They want him to be a president who fails," said Menino as he appeared with Coakley at a morning prayer service in Boston's Dorchester neighborhood for victims of the Haiti earthquake.

    Coakley denied that Obama's visit indicated her candidacy was in trouble.

    Geez. You don't think that might be code language for the proposition that even though Coakley is white, it is racist to oppose her, do you?

    How subtle and thoughtful Boston's Mayor is. Anyway, this made me want to know more about him, because, if he's a key Coakley supporter who goes out of his way to issue demagogic statements like that at a prayer service for Haitian earthquake victims, this doesn't speak well of Coakley.

    As I said in a previous post, I'm hardly a "RAH-RAH" type Brown supporter (although I do strongly support him), but some things have too much of a stench to be ignored.

    In that regard, I had read about SEIU goons being bused in to help Coakley, and while I didn't really have anything to add at the time, this morning I visited Mayor Menino's Wiki page, where I saw this gem of a picture staring me in the face:



    Whether I'm too sensitive to stand the heat and should get the hell out of the kitchen is debatable, but I think images like that are enough to make many a fair-minded person of good will want to get the hell out of the kitchen. But isn't that precisely what Menino and his union goons want?

    Menino is also one of the country's leading gun grabbers. Along with New York's Mayor Bloomberg, he co-founded and co-chairs the notorious Mayors Against Illegal Guns Coalition. To give you an idea of the way he thinks, in an incident in which a mom and grandmom failed to supervise children who played with a loaded gun left lying around, then lied to the police and falsely claimed the child was shot by an intruder, Mayor Menino blamed the NRA.

    This guy epitomizes what is wrong with the Democrats, and he is one of Martha Coakley's key supporters. (Coakley seems to know how to return a favor, too.)

    If anyone reading this blog is still looking for a good reason to support Scott Brown, look no further than Mayor Thomas Menino.

    posted by Eric at 11:29 AM | Comments (0)

    "conservatives hate gay people"

    While I have briefly touched on the CPAC kerfluffle (Liberty University's Matt Barber and the boycott of CPAC over a gay conservative group being a co-sponsor), I really didn't get into the specifics -- especially about the gay conservative group, GOProud.

    However, for those who are interested, John Hawkins' interview with GOProud's founder Christopher Barron is well worth reading. I had not known, for example, that GOProud was started as a breakaway group from the Log Cabin Republicans who believed Log Cabin did not represent gay conservatives. But what's particularly worth noting (especially for paranoid types like me who worry about "gay conservative" becoming an oxymoron via collusion) is that contrary to what the left would have people believe, conservatives have been overwhelmingly supportive of GOProud:

    HAWKINS: Now from what I've seen in the blogosphere, conservative bloggers have been almost universally supportive of GOProud, not Liberty University. What do you think the general reaction has been to the whole controversy?

    BARRON: Well, that's one of the most under reported stories. The liberal media wants you to believe that conservatives hate gay people. So, the only thing you ever hear about this in the mainstream media or on a left wing blog is about the controversy itself and about Liberty University pulling out. What hasn't been covered has been the tremendous outpouring of support that we've gotten from conservative organizations and from conservatives in the blogosphere.

    I wouldn't expect to see that in the leftie blogs or in the mainstream media. That's because they want nothing more than to see Matt Barber be considered a spokesman for "conservatism." And probably for "Christianity" too. Cherry-picking from the most unreasonable opposition voices and characterizing them as "opposition mainstream" is an old tactic. Such a tactic is great for preaching to the choir and rallying the troops because it's what the hard core activists want to believe, but unfortunately, it often works on non-ideological people who are not knowledgeable enough to evaluate such things. (Or on stupid people, who simply can't.)

    If there's one thing I've learned in nearly seven years of blogging, it's that noting the dishonesty of such tactics has not made them stop. Of course, I guess if William F. Buckley could stand the task of standing athwart history yelling Stop! for so many decades, then I should be able to stand athwart activists yelling Stop!

    Their dishonest tactics might not stop, but because collusion involves stealth, the more people know about it, the harder the game becomes.

    posted by Eric at 09:41 AM | Comments (3)


    N987SA? What a cryptic title for a post. So let me start with September of 2007 and an airplane crash.

    According to several mexican newspapers, G-II reg. N987SA went down this morning in Yucatan, Mexico, about 20 nm from MID.

    It has been reported the plane was carrying 3.2 tons of cocaine. Mexican Air Force EMB-145MP detected the G-II coming from the south (reportedly from Colombia).

    Did some one get greedy and carry more cocaine than he could fly with? Or was it just pilot error?

    That is just the opening part of the story. Let us look at a second clue. Here is a bit on torture taxis.

    When U.S. civilian airplanes were spotted in late 2002 taking trips to and from Andrews Air Force Base, and making stops in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, journalists and plane-spotters wondered what was going on. It soon became clear that these planes were part of the largest covert operation since the Cold War era. Called extraordinary rendition, the practice involves CIA officials or contractors kidnapping people and sending them to secret prisons around the world where they are held and often tortured, either at the hands of the host-country's government or by CIA personnel themselves.
    OK. Individuals were subjected to stress tests to get information out of them. And it was going on in the Clinton Administration.

    Al Gore had a few brilliant words on the subject.

    Once when Richard Clarke, President Clinton's chief counter-terrorism adviser on the National Security Council, "proposed a snatch," Vice-President Al Gore said, "That's a no-brainer. Of course it's a violation of international law, that's why it's a covert action. The guy is a terrorist. Go grab his ass."
    OK. Back to the airplane story.
    Roychoudhuri: In the book, you make clear that the rendition program has been around for years. What has changed?

    Paglen: The program was established over multiple administrations, Democrat and Republican. For example, Aero Contractors was set up under the Carter administration. The counter-terrorist unit in the CIA was set up under the Reagan administration, but the rendition program was set up under Clinton. It's an accumulation of the capacity of this infrastructure. After 9/11, the CIA went about setting up this entire infrastructure. Materially, they started getting airplanes and secret prisons together. They also started putting together a corporate structure, meaning shell companies. All of this was already in place, but not solidified. All the controls seemed to be taken off of it. They're not planning each operation so meticulously, they're not getting presidential authorization for each operation.

    You are probably wondering about the book. Here is a link:

    Torture Taxi: On the Trail of the CIA's Rendition Flights

    Well time to tie this into one big happy package. And you will never guess. It is connected to the drug war.

    For their part, the Latin Americans, under a new generation of more self-confident leaders, are tired of being hectored about their failings by the US, the world's principal source of cannabis whose agents continue the drug dealing they indulged in during the Iran-Contra affair of the Reagan years.

    Evidence points to aircraft - familiarly known as "torture taxis" - used by the CIA to move captives seized in its kidnapping or "extraordinary rendition" operations through Gatwick and other airports in the EU being simultaneously used for drug distribution in the Western hemisphere. A Gulfstream II jet aircraft N9875A identified by the British Government and the European Parliament as being involved in this traffic crashed in Mexico in September 2008 while en route from Colombia to the US with a load of more than three tons of cocaine.

    In 2004, another torture taxi crashed in a field in Nicaragua with a ton of cocaine aboard. It had been identified by Britain and the European Parliament's temporary committee on the alleged use of European countries by the CIA for the transport and illegal detention of prisoners as a frequent visitor in 2004 and 2005 to British, Cypriot, Czech, German, Greek, Hungarian, Spanish and other European cities with its cargo of captives for secret imprisonment and torture in Iraq, Jordan and Azerbaijan.

    Given the circumstances, it is unremarkable that US strictures are being politely ignored. President Evo Morales of Bolivia - criticised by the US for defending Bolivians' practice of chewing coca leaves to assuage hunger and altitude sickness - wants to allow every Bolivian family around the city of Cochabamba to cultivate coca bushes for their own use. He also wants to export coca leaves to his country's neighbours. Mr Morales's authority, recently reinforced by winning a second presidential term in fair elections and by a strengthening of Bolivia's economy, has no need to worry about US criticism.

    Venezuela and Bolivia have expelled US narcotics officers from their territory. At the end of last month, President Rafael Correa of Ecuador ended Washington's lease of a large air base on the Pacific from where US aircraft were engaged in the struggle against the region's increasingly powerful left.

    Well the aircraft is N987SA not N9875A. And their crash story is a year off. Which I put down to sloppy reporting. But the cocaine was there. And the back hualling of drugs to cover the costs of CIA covert missions has been going on (with unknown frequency) since the Viet Nam War. As detailed in Alfred McCoy's book:

    The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade

    And just for your amusement Mel Gibson was in a movie loosely based on the information in McCoy's book. The movie:

    Air America (Special Edition)

    So am I upset about the CIA bringing drugs into America? Not exactly. What I object to is the War On Drugs that makes them worth bringing in to America by our clandestine service. If we are going to have a clandestine service it should be controlled by the public purse and not be able to freelance operations from drug profits. And the only way to do that is to end the Drug War charade where the government fights drugs on the one hand and traffics in them on the other.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 05:50 AM | Comments (1)

    Climategate The Book

    Steve Mosher (an online friend of mine) has written a book about the unfolding of the ClimateGate Story. From the first discovery of the files to the world wide reactions to the e-mail and data release.

    Climategate: The Crutape Letters (Volume 1)

    Here is what Anthony Watts has to say about the book:

    I've read the book, and it appears to be an accurate and detailed portrayal of the history not only of the Climategate events and the players, but also of the events leading up to it. I'm flattered that this book mentions me and my surfacestations project several times. I was interviewed for the book, and this website is featured prominently-and they borrowed liberally from both the posts and the comments.

    For those of you that want to follow a detective story, this one has as the twists and turns of Mickey Spillane with a Hardy Boys approach to a matter of fact story line. I highly recommend it.

    This book is being published in electronic downloadable form, and is available for purchase online. You'll recognize the authors as regulars here and at Climate Audit. Please consider purchasing this book, as it will provide funds to get Mosh out of the flat in San Francisco he shares with Charles The Moderator, who are becoming the climatic odd couple of our time.

    Moshpit (as his friends know him) has a wicked sense of humor besides being a real brainiac. His on line writing can be deep (for very technical subjects) or breezy and easy to understand when covering human foibles. Since this book is of the later variety (for the most part) I expect a good read.

    I can't wait to get my copy. And Volume 1? Does that mean a sequel? Here is hoping.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 09:56 PM | Comments (0)

    Can we make Hugo and Danny happy?

    Hugo Chavez has just reminded me why I shouldn't be buying his gas (even though it's cheaper and therefore tempting).

    CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez on Sunday accused the United States of using the earthquake in Haiti as a pretext to occupy the devastated Caribbean country and offered to send fuel from his OPEC nation.

    "I read that 3,000 soldiers are arriving, Marines armed as if they were going to war. There is not a shortage of guns there, my God. Doctors, medicine, fuel, field hospitals, that's what the United States should send," Chavez said on his weekly television show. "They are occupying Haiti undercover."

    Right. And I'm sure if the U.S. did as he wanted and pulled out, he'd blame us for not caring.

    Besides, as Danny Glover says, the earthquake was caused by global warming. Glover is a high profile supporter of Chavez, who bankrolls his films, (including one about Haiti).

    So I think the least we can do is send in the Marines -- as many as it takes to put a stop to that nasty earthquake-starting climate change thingie once and for all.

    Then we can all kiss and make up.


    posted by Eric at 07:09 PM | Comments (1)


    H/T Commenter simentt via e-mail who saw it at Karl Denninger's blog.

    Karl Says:

    My only comment: Youtube appears to have taken this down several times, but it keeps reappearing. I found several incantations along with people hosting the raw FLV file.

    This appears to be created by some rather angry Democrats, and is one of the things I expected to start to see this year.

    You better start listening to the people Washington. Youtube is today's version of handbills nailed to trees in the dark of night - in 1775. Ripping down the handbills does not make them go away when the people are pissed - it makes them multiply and the people begin to consider that the first box of freedom - speech - may no longer be effective.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 06:01 PM | Comments (0)

    Mamas don't let your babies grow up to be conservative hairdressers!

    Via Memeorandum, I learned about a new study by sociologists which sheds new light on a vexing question -- why do many college professors lean so predominantly to the left?

    The answer seems disappointingly simple -- liberal want to be professors, while conservatives don't:

    The overwhelmingly liberal tilt of university professors has been explained by everything from outright bias to higher I.Q. scores. Now new research suggests that critics may have been asking the wrong question. Instead of looking at why most professors are liberal, they should ask why so many liberals -- and so few conservatives -- want to be professors.

    A pair of sociologists think they may have an answer: typecasting. Conjure up the classic image of a humanities or social sciences professor, the fields where the imbalance is greatest: tweed jacket, pipe, nerdy, longwinded, secular -- and liberal. Even though that may be an outdated stereotype, it influences younger people's ideas about what they want to be when they grow up.

    Longwinded, secular, tweed jacket-owner though I may be, I have to say that I never fantasized about growing up to be a nerdy pipe-smoker pontificating to a captive audience. But now that I'm supposedly grown, it doesn't seem like such a bad idea. Too late for that! Funny how life turns out.

    What also caught my attention was the wonderful accompanying graph showing the proportions of liberalism, moderatism and conservatism in the different occupations:


    Now that's a nice chart! As a former nightclub owner (who necessarily had to learn to be a bartender), it didn't escape me that the largest "moderate" group consisted of bartenders. Interestingly, they are overwhelmingly moderate to conservative, but only a small percentage will go so far as to actually call themselves "conservative." If you're a bartender, your goal is to keep the customers as relaxed and happy as possible, and expressing ideological rigidity of any sort is just not wise. Not if you want to keep 'em happy, and get nice tips. Best thing to do is agree a lot, and take as broad a view of things as possible. And while liberal bartenders outnumber conservative bartenders by a wide margin, I suspect this would tend more to reflect a custom and practice of "fitting in" with the clientele than heart-felt ideological convictions, and I would be willing to bet that your average liberal bartender would be more tolerant of a conservative customer than would a college professor be tolerant of a conservative student. A successful bartender is unlikely to see his job as indoctrination.

    I don't know why they left the stereotypically "gay" jobs off the list, though. Funny, because the authors touch on the nursing profession -- males nurses of course being a source of laughter:

    ....For instance, less than 6 percent of nurses today are men. Discrimination against male candidates may be a factor, but the primary reason for the disparity is that most people consider nursing to be a woman's career, Mr. Gross said. That means not many men aspire to become nurses in the first place -- a point made in the recent Lee Daniels film "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire." When John (Lenny Kravitz) asks the 16-year-old Precious (Gabourey Sidibe) and her friends whether they've ever seen a male nurse before, all answer no amid giddy laughter.
    As to why there are no categories for "gay" jobs such as hairdressers, interior decorators, dancers, choreographers, etc., I don't know. Nor are stereotypically "straight" jobs such as construction worker or auto mechanic listed.

    Nor are lawyers. Out of all the things I have done in my life (I have worked construction, as an auto mechanic, a plumber, an electrician, and attorney), only bartending is listed. What's up with that? And where's the military?

    Lots of boys want to grow up to be auto mechanics and soliders, right? As to those who want to grow up to be hairdressers, well... Many parents would raise an eyebrow or two over that one, although John Waters's classic Female Trouble created a tortured exception in the form of Edith Massey, who played a woman whose nephew was straight and wanted to be an auto mechanic, but was forced into hairdressing by Aunt Ida who kept trying to turn him gay.

    Her efforts failed miserably, and her son eventually ran away to Detroit to join the auto industry.

    The study left out cowboys. So did I. Probably because I think Female Trouble does a better job with stereotypes than Brokeback Mountain.

    MORE: I mistakenly called Aunt Ida the "mother." Error corrected.

    posted by Eric at 11:41 AM | Comments (3)

    I resent my guilt

    For reasons that are not entirely clear, I feel like writing about guilt today. Perhaps I should feel guilty for daring to write about guilt when we are supposed to be, um, celebrating. It's a holiday, right? Holidays are for celebrating, right? So what sort of weirdo would feel guilty on the occasion of a holiday? And what sort of double triple weirdo would feel guilty for writing about guilt? Perhaps it's not guilt I feel. Perhaps it's resentment. Guilt and resentment are closely linked, and one fuels the other in an endless cycle of bitter self-recrimination. Especially when the guilt is not for anything the individual actually did.

    Not that guilt isn't a great way to manipulate people. Unless we are sociopaths, all of us have a natural reservoir of irrational guilt which can be tapped into by those who gratuitously offer something to fill the void. It's like, if you're feeling guilt about something and someone who seems to have expertise or authority comes along and supplies a reason for the guilt, that can make you feel better in the same way that the explained is always more emotionally satisfying than the unexplained. Still, there are those rationally stubborn people who don't accept guilt for things that they didn't do (much less things that their ancestors didn't do).

    If this all seems silly, consider that there was a time when Christians officially considered Jews to be collectively responsible for the killing of Christ. Glad I wasn't a Jew or a Christian in those days. It must have really sucked to be a rational person.

    At least now we're all enlightened and stuff.

    (Earlier I was toying with the idea of a guilt-free, resentment holiday, but screw it. We should all feel resentful over guilt, and guilty over resentment! Builds character!)

    posted by Eric at 09:55 AM | Comments (1)

    Grass roots convention, minus the grass roots?

    I very much hope that this indictment of the Tea Party Movement is either exaggerated or untrue:

    The Nashville linup also would appear to rebut another commonly held argument that the Tea Party Movement's independence is guaranteed by its fundamentally libertarian character, so incompatible with the GOP's heavy reliance on cultural conservatives and foreign-policy neocons. Palin is, of course, the maximum heroine of cultural conservatives. Bachmann is famous for questioning the patriotism of any and all Democrats. Beyond that, Tea Party Convention panelists include the Christian Right warhorse Rick Scarborough of Vision America (notable, among other things, for his advocacy of global conflict with Muslims) and Judge Roy Moore, the famous "Ten Commandments Judge" who's a favorite of theocrats everywhere. No genuine libertarian would embrace this crew.
    (Via Ann Althouse, who asks whether the Tea Party Movement is in fact an independent "third force" in American politics.)

    Much as I like Sarah Palin, I think Roy Moore is a loon, and I don't think he represents the Tea Party Movement of the sort I have seen around here. Nor does WorldNetDaily's Joseph Farah, who was also a speaker. (And as Ed Morrissey notes, the American Liberty Association pulled out.)

    My impression of the Tea Party people I've met is that they are genuinely grass roots, small-l libertarian types, on the right side of the spectrum but beholden to no one. Of course, there's a smattering of social and conservatives, but that doesn't seem to be their main shtick. As to what this so called "Tea Party Convention" is all about, it beats me.I wasn't invited, and I probably wouldn't have been welcome.

    From what I've read, the grass roots don't seem to be showing.

    posted by Eric at 02:29 PM | Comments (6)

    Why I'm glad Pat Robertson isn't a Commie

    A piece in the Wall Street Journal has made me feel the need to elaborate on an earlier post I wrote about Haiti. The irony is that according to the Journal, where it came to the recent quake, it paid to be poor:

    CITE SOLEIL, Haiti -- For once, it paid off to be the poorest among Haiti's poor.

    While countless bigger, multi-story homes, churches and offices on the hillsides of Port-au-Prince fell in the earthquake, crushing tens of thousands of people beneath their heavy concrete, the flimsy tin-roofed shanties of the slums fared much better.

    In Cite Soleil, the biggest, poorest seafront slum, there was significant destruction to two large churches, but not to people's homes. Most shacks stood upright. There was no smell of rotting corpses.

    Here, life went on Saturday with some semblance of normality. ...

    In my post, (which contemplated what we affluent Americans might call "normal" housing), I opined that crummy building materials and poor construction standards were most likely responsible for much of the quake damage:
    I do not doubt that ramshackle buildings in Haiti (along with the mud brick structures responsible for so many deaths in Iran's 2003 quake) would be considered more "green" by those who deliver homilies about "sustainability." (Oh, yes....) Well-meaning people advocate construction of "sustainable brick homes" in Haiti. And here's a "sustainable" Haitian earth bag building. No idea how well they "sustained" the quake, but sustainable is often code-language for cheap. Not that concrete is necessarily better than brick, especially because it appears many of the cheaply made Haitian concrete buildings simply "pancaked":
    I probably should not have used the word "ramshackle" so lightly because in retrospect, it appears that if you know a major quake is coming, ramshackle buildings are the way to go -- provided they are not made of mud, inferior bricks or crummy concrete. (And provided, of course, that they're not perched on a hillside....)

    This picture illustrates -- in stark contrast -- two types of residential buildings found in Haiti.


    While I am sure that most Americans would be more likely to pity the people having to live in them, you would be more likely to survive a quake living in the tin shacks in the foreground than in the multi-level concrete apartment buildings in the background. Relatively speaking, affluence is more deadly in a Haitian earthquake.

    It might be ironic, but who said life was fair?

    In terms of seismic safety, the ideal living structure would be a small, sturdy, modular unit. Something like this:


    How is that going to collapse? It might roll around a bit, but unless it were crushed by falling debris, all you'd have to do would be to find a relatively level surface for it.

    Not that I'm advocating that human beings live in doghouses, but OTOH, there is an overlooked form of cheap housing which would hold up quite well in any earthquake God might care to throw -- and that is the common shipping container.


    They're easily available all over the world, and while I don't know what they go for now, I can remember when they could be purchased for a couple of thousand dollars. There is of course a major container housing movement, and they can be welded together, enlarged, and made to look surprisingly elegant:


    I'd be willing to live in a container myself, except Codes and Inspections would never allow it in this country. But think about it; if there's a quake, a container might roll around if you haven't chained or bolted it into the ground, but it will still be a container, and you'd be unlikely to be crushed to death.

    What matters the most in terms of survival, though, is where you are at the time of the quake. If you're at work in a multilevel building made of cheap concrete, you'll just end up flattened between huge concrete pancakes.

    Which means that affluent people with jobs were the ones most likely to be killed.

    Were I one of those people who likes to see the hand of God in everything, I might be tempted to ask whether God has Communist leanings, but I don't think that way and I wouldn't want to give left-wing crackpots ideas.

    posted by Eric at 09:28 AM | Comments (5)

    Nerd Night Report

    Here is the first sketchy report on Friday night's nerd night in New York.
    If you've never been to a Nerd Nite before, here's how it goes down. Take a college PowerPoint seminar on bird migration or muscular dystrophy or nuclear fusion or what have you, and hold it late at night in a hip bar in DUMBO. Allow anyone to present on any scientific subject, regardless of obscurity, social appropriateness, or sobriety. Yes. It is exactly as crazy and surreal as you imagine. And it is great.

    Tonight's lectures were on open source Bussard reactors, the neuroscience of visual perception in the context of art, the anti-ergonomic effects of running shoes, and teledildonics. I think you can probably imagine how each of those went.

    Perhaps most notably, this is the first large social event I've been to in NYC in which I've actually succeeded in getting to meet and hang out with random strangers in my general age cohort. Maybe I don't completely suck at making new friends after all.

    I missed nerds so much.

    Here is my original announcement of Nerd Night with fusion.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 08:58 AM | Comments (0)


    I am delighted to announce that with any luck, we will have another co-blogger here at Classical Values, Sarah Hoyt. I'll let Sarah speak for herself, but for now I'll just point out that she is an accomplished, published writer, whose current book is Darkship Thieves. She has graced this blog as a reader and commenter for many years, and I am just tickled pink that she might actually write posts. As to what might be in them, let the mystery unfold, because I have no idea, and I never direct anyone, so I am not about to tell her what to write, when to write, or how often. I just hope she does, and I hope she enjoys it.

    I am sure the readers will too!

    posted by Eric at 12:05 AM | Comments (9)

    It isn't every day that I don't have to hold my nose...

    While I don't shy away from writing about politics, crass political advocacy is just not my style. Which is why -- despite the fact that I have donated to his campaign twice -- I have refrained until now from writing posts about Scott Brown's candidacy. I find the guy genuinely refreshing, and obviously the Massachusetts voters do too, because while things are still close, it looks as if he has a good chance of actually winning. That's saying something, considering that he's a Republican, and the state is Massachusetts.

    Not only is this a crucial race at a crucial time (as it would deny the Democrats their supermajority which they have used to ram through unconstitutional legislation), but Scott Brown's opponent just plain stinks. Martha Coakley is the epitome of an anointed candidate who thinks she should not have to run, and her disgraceful record as District Attorney ought to horrify any libertarian. The sickening litany -- of innocent people sent to prison based on nonsensical "recovered-memory" testimony, including the notorious Amirault/Fells Acres day care case -- is detailed in a piece by Radley Balko which Glenn Reynolds linked. Balko also cites a personal exchange he had with her over the drug issue: she is one of those people who advocates depriving patients of pain-killers lest they become addicted:

    I had my own exchange with Coakley in the letters section of The Boston Globe a few years ago over the issue of prescription pain medication. Coakley had told the paper that "accidental addiction" to opiate pain medications such as OxyContin was a common problem among chronic pain patients, despite considerable medical evidence to the contrary. Such wrongheaded statements by law enforcement officials and the policies that go with them are a big reason why doctors have become increasingly reluctant to treat pain patients. Coakley conceded that she's "no medical expert" but then went on to question the body of medical literature showing accidental addiction to be a myth. Coakley cited only her own experience as a DA to contradict the litany of peer-reviewed medical research.
    I don't have time to check her record, but I shudder to think what "experience" that might be. Sending doctors to prison, perhaps?

    For those who aren't familiar with the Amirault case,
    Dorothy Rabinowitz
    -- who has written a book on the general subjectWhat does this say about her candidacy? (Ms. Coakley declined to be interviewed.) If the current attorney general of Massachusetts actually believes, as no serious citizen does, the preposterous charges that caused the Amiraults to be thrown into prison--the butcher knife rape with no blood, the public tree-tying episode, the mutilated squirrel and the rest--that is powerful testimony to the mind and capacities of this aspirant to a Senate seat. It is little short of wonderful to hear now of Ms. Coakley's concern for the rights of terror suspects at Guantanamo--her urgent call for the protection of the right to the presumption of innocence.

    If the sound of ghostly laughter is heard in Massachusetts these days as this campaign rolls on, with Martha Coakley self-portrayed as the guardian of justice and civil liberties, there is good reason. Coakley is so bad that I would support almost anyone who ran against her -- even someone I didn't like.

    But far from being the latter, Scott Brown is a genuinely refreshing candidate. I say this as someone who has become very, very accustomed to holding my nose. The last time was that guy in upstate New York whose name I couldn't remember, who said he was another Reagan but who had all the charm of an embalmed cadaver. Unfortunately, appearances do matter. In order to win, candidates need to demonstrate at minumum that they are living, breathing, human beings. Yet as I say, if an embalmed cadaver were running against Coakley, I would unhesitatingly vote for the embalmed cadaver. But I would of course need to hold my nose.

    Well, not this time. Scott Brown both looks good, and sounds good. His background shows him to be a real person and not a professional candidate, and I like his politics:

    Brown's opinions on the issues are a mixture of liberal and conservative ideas, which he has called "fiscally conservative and socially conscious."[1]
    As to how he looks, I've checked him out. Not only is he no cadaver, he has a genuinely sincere and winning style.

    Watch for yourself.

    Here he is, with Rudy Giuiliani, speaking about how the "Bank Tax Will Be Paid By The Middle Class":

    (Not to complain, but I do think that if he'd gotten Giuliani to wear a dress, the video would get more hits.)

    And in this one, "Scott Brown Discusses The Support He Has Received From Everyday Voters"

    Well, I am glad to say that in this instance, I am one of those everyday voters. But because I have this blog, I'd like to think I can do a little more than contribute money to help him win.

    So at the risk of sounding crassly political, I strongly urge you to help too.

    As I say, I try to keep political endorsements to a minimum, and I don't carry on about candidates. But this is an unusual situation. It isn't every day I endorse a candidate (much less ask readers to help), but in all honesty, I can't think of the last time I didn't have to hold my nose.

    Please contribute if you can.

    UPDATE: For more on Scott Brown, Rick Moran has a fascinating in-depth analysis.

    The people of Massachusetts began to realize that sending Scott Brown to the United States Senate is a golden opportunity to let the politicians in D.C. know that they are fed up with a stinking economy, the jobless recovery, the maniacal spending, and the obsessive concentration on a health care reform bill even liberal Massachusettians oppose.

    And Coakley played her role as heir apparent to this elitist, liberal legacy perfectly. She rarely campaigned among ordinary voters. She refused to debate. And in the last week, she has all but imploded with a series of gaffes that revealed the candidate to be insensitive, clueless, and not ready for prime time.

    Couple that with voters taking a good look at the dynamic Brown, and the 9-point gap in the polls on January 5 has morphed into a 4-point lead by Brown in a Suffolk University poll out Friday. Meanwhile, a Pajamas Media-CrossTarget poll has Brown by a whopping 15 points.

    But beyond voters wanting to send a message, there is something else happening in Massachusetts. A new kind of Republican is bidding to redefine the GOP in the Northeast with a message of fiscal discipline and low taxes, but with a "socially conscious" agenda as well.

    It's about time for someone to breath new life into the GOP in the moribund Northeast.

    Read it all.

    MORE: I realize that this is hardly a RAH-RAH post, but "RAH-RAH!" just isn't my style. However, if you want RAH-RAH, check out this video of what was supposed to be a Coakley rally! The RAH-RAHs don't seem to be going her way.

    Damn, there are even SEIU supporters for Brown!

    (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    posted by Eric at 10:32 AM | Comments (1)

    US government gives bin Laden a Commie hairdo

    Yeah, I know. Today seems to be Conspiracy Theory Day at Classical Values...

    Anyway, I don't know what to make of this, but our State Department has been playing some sort of head games -- literally -- with PhotoShopping. As José Guardia demonstrates, they have stolen the hairdo from the head of Spanish Communist Party boss Gaspar Llamazares, and placed it on a hypothetical version of how Osama bin Laden might look today.

    Take a look.

    obl llamazares.jpg

    As you can plainly see, the hair is identical (as is the line in the middle of the forehead). José's amusing post has the details for those who are curious.

    So why the makeover with the Spanish Commie hairdo?

    They could just as easily have given him a haircut like the ones shown here:


    And for that matter, what makes them so sure that he has a full head of hair, anyway? When was the last time anyone saw him without his turban?

    But I guess we'll never know the answers to any of these questions.

    Another day, another hairy conspiracy theory!

    MORE: Not to toot my own horn, but since a commenter below noted that "these fuckers took over 60k from me last year for this shit," I think it's probably fair to remind readers that Commie/Osama PhotoShops are not new to this blog!


    The caption was "72 virgins my ass!"

    And the State Department never paid me so much as one lousy dime!

    MORE: The Detroit Free Press has picked up on the PhotoShop in a story today headlined today "Bin Laden photos outrage Spanish politician."

    MADRID, Spain -- A Spanish lawmaker said he was horrified to learn that the FBI used an online photograph of him to create an image showing what Osama bin Laden might look like today.


    Gaspar Llamazares said at a news conference Saturday that he would no longer feel safe traveling to the U.S. after his hair and facial wrinkles appeared on the bin Laden image.

    "I was surprised and angered because it's the most shameless use of a real person to make up the image of a terrorist," Llamazares said.


    Llamazares said he has "no similarity, physically or ideologically" to bin Laden. They do share one trait -- both are 52.

    posted by Eric at 05:11 PM | Comments (1)

    The conspiracy theory conspiracy theory
    (a call for censorship that wasn't there)

    I am no fan of Cass Sunstein, but when I read (via a link from M. Simon) that he advocates a government ban on conspiracy theories, I nearly blew a gasket. After all, the man is often said to be a serious contender for nomination to the Supreme Court.

    Here is what Sunstein is reported as having said:

    In a lengthy academic paper, President Obama's regulatory czar, Cass Sunstein, argued the U.S. government should ban "conspiracy theorizing."

    Among the beliefs Sunstein would ban is advocating that the theory of global warming is a deliberate fraud.

    Sunstein also recommended the government send agents to infiltrate "extremists who supply conspiracy theories" to disrupt the efforts of the "extremists" to propagate their theories.

    OK, I know it gets tired, but that's what WorldNetDaily reported. Tired as I am of debunking conspiracy theories (or, in this case, a conspiracy theory conspiracy theory), I downloaded and read Cass Sunstein's paper. He does not argue that the U.S. government should ban conspiracy theories. He considers it for the sake of argument and specifically rejects it as inconsistent with freedom of expression as well as self-defeating. Here's a screen shot from page 20:


    The relevant text reads as follows:

    The most direct response to a dangerous conspiracy theories is censorship. That response is unavailable in an open society, because it is inconsistent with principles of freedom of expression. We could imagine circumstances in which a conspiracy theory became so pervasive, and so dangerous, that censorship would be thinkable. But in an open society, the need for censorship would be correspondingly reduced. In any case censorship may well turn out to be self-defeating. The effort to censor the theory might well be taken as evidence that the theory is true, and censorship of speech is notoriously difficult.
    At most, he hypothesizes that censorship might be "thinkable" in less than an open society, but even then he thinks it would be self defeating.

    Sorry, but I'm just not seeing a call for censorship there.

    While I have never liked Sunstein's condescending attitude (his proposal for "cognitive infiltration of extremist groups" strikes me as problematic at best), once again WND has tortured the facts, and has come up with a brand new truth, which will no doubt be what its readers want to hear.

    I realize it's not exciting to say that Sunstein didn't really call for censorship, and now I'm worried that some WND readers might see me as his apologist -- which I don't mean to be.

    To all who are offended by any appearance I might have conveyed of being a Sunstein apologist, I offer my deepest apologies.

    MORE: Reason's Jesse Walker critiques what Cass Sunstein actually advocated. Glenn Reynolds characterizes the plan as "CONSPIRE AGAINST THE CONSPIRACY THEORISTS!"

    As I'm already knee-deep in conspiring against the conspiracy theory conspiracy theory, I guess it would behoove me to conspire against those who conspire against the conspiracy theorists, but hey, I didn't start this and I don't see why I have to engage in counter-counter-conspiracy-theory theorizing.

    I think Cass Sunstein would have done well to leave this whole thing alone. People who want to believe things are going to go looking for what they want to believe, and the people who give them what they want to believe are going to keep right on giving.


    I realize it will sound like another conspiracy theory, but in my darker moments, I often suspect that many so-called "conspiracy theories" are deliberately manufactured by relatively intelligent troll types to entertain or mislead dumber or more gullible audiences.

    posted by Eric at 12:00 PM | Comments (7)

    Are we living on an angry red planet that wants to be green?

    Speaking of believers in nutty deities, in a comment to my post about Pat Robertson's latest idiotarian remarks, Veeshir pointed out a gem from Danny Glover (which Glenn Reynolds linked last night). Says Glover:

    "When we see what we did at the climate summit in Copenhagen, this is the response, this is what happens, you know what I'm sayin'?"
    To which Blair quips that it would have been more newsworthy had Glover implicated a "less-fashionable deity." Yes, it certainly would. At the very least, Glover would have lost his right to say "KOOBA."

    This "debate" (if it is that) between competing deities raises an interesting question; whether it makes more sense to attribute a vengeful mindset to God or to a planet. The former is said to be pissed off about a deal with Satan, while the latter is said to be pissed off about a bad deal in Copenhagen.

    We don't have to "choose" between these two deities, do we?

    If so, what are the implications for Intelligent Design?

    posted by Eric at 09:01 AM | Comments (5)

    A Scientific Hypothesis Gone Bad

    Here is the first segment of the KUSI video with weatherman John Coleman who cofounded The Weather Channel that I mentioned in my post NASA Caught Cooking The Books.

    Second Segment

    Third Segment

    Fourth Segment

    Fifth Segment

    You can also see a video by a coauthor of several of Willie Soon's climate papers, Sallie Baliunas, at Death To Skeptics. And for those of you who haven't watched the video yet, Willie Soon is one of the scientist discussing the relationship of CO2 to global warming.

    H/T Watts Up With That

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 05:20 AM | Comments (0)

    Diddlin With The Data

    In a post at Watts Up With That a commenter looked at the e-mails found at this link [pdf] and had some interesting things to say.

    Ira (17:00:53) :

    The UK CRU version of Climategate centered around whether the 1990's were warmer than any time in the past 1000 years. The US GISS version could be about whether 1998 was warmer than 1934!

    It seems the temperature readings were adjusted six times after analysis in July 1999 indicated that the temperature anomaly for 1934 was nearly 60% higher than for 1998. I've graphed the seven versions to show how GISS systematically adjusted 1934 down and 1998 up until 1998 was warmer than 1934 (the January 2007 analysis) or at least virtually indistinguishable (the March and August 2007 analyses).

    And this is just from one email in a treasure trove of 216 pages of them!

    In the UK CRU case, the Medieval Warm Period vanished to present a "nice tidy story". In the US GISS case, a nearly 60% temperature anomaly difference vanished to show that 1998 was as warm as 1934! Are these guys serious scientists or just skilled magicians?

    In another comment further up thread:
    Walter Cronanty (16:50:08) :

    Am I correct when I look at the first, complete e-mail and see that in July 1999, they have 1934 at a plus anomaly of 1.459, and 1998 at a plus anomaly of 0.918? And then, by August 2007, they state that the plus anomaly for 1934 is down to 1.249, while the plus anomaly of 1998 has risen to plus 1.226? Is that what it says?

    I'm somewhat familiar with the issues of diddlin' with the data, and don't understand the whys and wherefores of most of it, but some of it I understand. But if I am interpreting this e-mail correctly, that's some heavy- duty diddlin' of data. Why are historical figures changed this often, and changed to this degree?

    I guess they were too embarrassed to make the change all at once.

    It seems to me that if you are going to commit a fraud you should be really bold about it. This edging up to the desired results just invites more scrutiny.

    It appears that the folks involved are bad at science and worse at fraud. Isn't it about time we had some competent criminals working this scam? It is an outrage that government funds are paying for this level of incompetence.

    I like this suggestion:

    Michael In Sydney (15:53:58) :

    If I was a US citizen and I wanted a cultural change at NASA I'd write to my congressman demanding that NASA's budget be cut then write to NASA and explain that the manipulation with US/Global temp data evident at GISS is why I've taken the action I have. Nothing talks like money.

    So here are some useful links towards that end:

    House of Representatives
    The Senate

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 08:46 PM | Comments (0)

    December Retail Sales Not So Hot

    Here is some chilling news about the American economy.

    Retail sales unexpectedly fell in December, leaving 2009 with the biggest yearly drop on record and highlighting the formidable hurdles facing the economy as it struggles to recover from the deepest recession in seven decades.

    In another disappointing economic report, the number of newly laid-off workers requesting unemployment benefits rose more than expected last week as jobs remain scarce.

    Does this mean that all of Obama's attacks on small business are finally bearing fruit? Very likely.

    Here is one man's opinion. He has a loud voice though.

    And basically what Obama said today was that he doesn't know how to stimulate growth in the private sector. He doesn't know how to do it. He has to bring in a bunch of people to now segregate in groups, and he's gonna check back with them later this afternoon to get their ideas. He doesn't know how to do it. I mean, if you know how to watch these things as I do, that's what just happened here. Now, what Obama wants people to think is he's got his sleeves rolled up and he's working hard on it and he knows that growth can only come in the private sector. That's what he says. He's saying all the right things.

    But what he's really saying is he needs to convene all these people and he doesn't know how to do it himself. The reason he's convening all these people is it's a circus. This is a show...

    That was from 3 December 2009.

    And here is a good one from July of 2009.

    On Wednesday, President Obama endorsed a House committee's plan to ensure American taxpayers will face a higher top marginal tax rate than either communist China or Cuba.

    This plan, which would have the American taxpayer facing an average top marginal tax rate of over 50%, in some cases a almost world-record high 57.5%, goes against the complete economic consensus that you should never, ever raise taxes in the middle of an economic downturn. Doing so will only destroy jobs, slash economic growth, and drive down living standards across the country.
    Did it pass? I haven't looked. But it doesn't matter. It is the attitude behind it that businesses factor in to their calculations. Is the government going to be helpful or punitive?

    And why do taxes need to go up? Pretty simple. If the government doesn't remove from the economy a LOT of the greenbacks it injected there is going to be horrendous inflation down the pike. Which is going to happen any way. Because when you tax something you get less of it. And more greenbacks chasing fewer goods and services? Sounds like inflation to me no matter which way you cut it.

    I look forward to prices on Whip Inflation Now buttons rising. Real soon now.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 02:51 PM | Comments (1)

    NASA Caught Cooking The Books

    Is nothing sacred any more? I guess not. NASA has been caught cooking climate data.

    Climate researchers have discovered that NASA researchers improperly manipulated data in order to claim 2005 as "THE WARMEST YEAR ON RECORD." KUSI-TV meteorologist, Weather Channel founder, and iconic weatherman John Coleman will present these findings in a one-hour special airing on KUSI-TV on Jan.14 at 9 p.m. A related report will be made available on the Internet at 6 p.m. EST on January 14th at

    In a new report, computer expert E. Michael Smith and Certified Consulting Meteorologist Joseph D'Aleo discovered extensive manipulation of the temperature data by the U.S. Government's two primary climate centers: the National Climate Data Center (NCDC) in Ashville, North Carolina and the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) at Columbia University in New York City. Smith and D'Aleo accuse these centers of manipulating temperature data to give the appearance of warmer temperatures than actually occurred by trimming the number and location of weather observation stations. The report is available online at Icecap US [pdf]

    The report reveals that there were no actual temperatures left in the computer database when NASA/NCDC proclaimed 2005 as "THE WARMEST YEAR ON RECORD." The NCDC deleted actual temperatures at thousands of locations throughout the world as it changed to a system of global grid points, each of which is determined by averaging the temperatures of two or more adjacent weather observation stations. So the NCDC grid map contains only averaged, not real temperatures, giving rise to significant doubt that the result is a valid representation of Earth temperatures.

    Say it isn't so. NASA? One of our most respected scientific and engineering establishments. A sad day for America.

    The special tonight at 9 PM Pacific time (7PM Central and 05:00 Friday January 15, 2010 GMT) can be found at KUSI * Global Warming - The Other Side

    H/T Betruger Talk Polywell

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 02:01 PM | Comments (3)

    "Sustainability." A rich lecture directed at the poor.

    There is nothing fair about natural disasters, nor is it fair the way some people and some countries are afflicted more severely than others when faced by similar disasters.

    I agree with what Johnathan Pearce said here:

    richer countries, with superior building standards and better means of rescuing those in danger, tend to fare better when nature strikes.
    Pearce links Rand Simberg, who sees an additional culprit
    The devastation in that benighted country (our own little bit of Africa in the western hemisphere) demonstrates how deadly it can be to be poor, and why attempts to hold back economic growth in the third world with things like Kyoto and cap'n'tax are almost genocidal.
    I do not doubt that ramshackle buildings in Haiti (along with the mud brick structures responsible for so many deaths in Iran's 2003 quake) would be considered more "green" by those who deliver homilies about "sustainability." (Oh, yes....) Well-meaning people advocate construction of "sustainable brick homes" in Haiti. And here's a "sustainable" Haitian earth bag building. No idea how well they "sustained" the quake, but sustainable is often code-language for cheap. Not that concrete is necessarily better than brick, especially because it appears many of the cheaply made Haitian concrete buildings simply "pancaked":
    Entire hillsides of homes appeared to have tumbled, while in other areas structures stood unaffected next to piles of dusty debris. Some buildings lay in pancake-like concrete heaps.


    U.S. officials said most of the damage appeared to be concentrated around Port-au-Prince, a teeming city of 2 million that sits like a hive of gray concrete that creeps up a mountainside rising out of the Caribbean. The homes are mostly made of cheap, porous concrete made with sand from nearby quarries.

    Cheap, porous, sandy concrete sounds "sustainable," doesn't it?
    In the aftermath of the quake, entire big-box apartment blocks had collapsed along roads carved into the hills. Rubble had blown out onto the roads. Next to the debris lay bodies, their faces dutifully covered by sheets.
    I have no idea whether dead people are considered environmentally sustainable, and I probably shouldn't ask.

    I agree with Reason Foundation's Samuel Staley,

    Now is not the time to be adopting policies, domestically or globally, that make it more difficult to nation's such as Haiti to grow.
    Environmentalist concerns over "sustainability" strike me as a cruel joke right now -- about as compassionate as Pat Robertson's remarks about how the Haitians are responsible because of an 1803 deal with the devil.

    Haitians need help, not lectures.

    The Anchoress has a list of good places where you can donate.

    posted by Eric at 12:33 PM | Comments (3)

    Giving the devil his due

    As every respected blog with which I'm familiar in the libertarian and conservative blogosphere is criticizing Pat Robertson's attempt to blame an alleged Haitian pact with the devil (and thus today's Haitians) for the earthquake, it would hardly seem worthy of another post. Except that I'm feeling devilish enough to play Devil's Advocate, and in the interests of fairness apply some simple rules of logic to Pat Robertson's argument under the assumption that everything he says is right.

    In that regard, I think Gay Patriot asks a good question:

    How Did Pat Robertson Learn Details of Pact with the Devil?
    The details of the pact seem to be known only to Robertson, who said this:
    Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it. . . . They were under the heel of the French ... and they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, 'We will serve you if you'll get us free from the French.'
    To which Gay Patriot responds:
    Pat wasn't around two hundred years ago when the Haitians threw off French tyranny. So, I don't think the Haitians around back then would be able to inform him. And when I studied Haitian history (for a paper on the Vodou mythology) and didn't find any details of such a pact. And, well, since it's not in history books, the only way Pat could know is if . . .
    Well, he may theoretically have an inside line to Satan's dealings with Haiti's revolutionaries. This inside line might be to Satan. But then again it might be to God. Unless Robertson explains, we may never know.

    As Jake Tapper explained, Robertson's contention seems to derive from a legend about Haitian leader Jean Jacques Dessalines:

    Robertson's tale stems from a legend that Jean Jacques Dessalines, who led the Haitian revolution against the French Army, entered into a pact with Satan disguised as a voodoo deity in exchange for a military victory, which finally happened in 1803.
    OK, I have to start somewhere, so let's assume that legend is true. A general made a deal with Satan in 1803. And because of that, God was so pissed off that in 2010 he decided to kill thousands of innocent Haitians who were not born when the deal with Satan was made.

    While I am not so arrogant as to claim that such a thing is impossible (because there is such a thing as infinity, and infinite possibilities might include anything), I have to say that if it is true, the implications about the nature of the god that would do such a thing are hardly reassuring. To call such behavior arbitrary and tyrannical would be understatement. Yet if Pat Robertson is right, the god in which he believes did just that. And apparently, Robertson thinks monstrous retaliation against innocent people for an act done by someone long ago is OK, and that a God who does that is worthy of worship.

    IMHO, it's a hell of a way to sell religion, but there must be people who want God to be like that (a sort of great terrorist in the sky, if you will) or else they wouldn't be buying.

    At the risk of sounding like a moral relativist, I'm inclined to say to each his own, but again, I wish they'd join the Democratic Party so they could be with the believers in other nutty deities.

    MORE: In his roundup of Pat Robertson links, Glenn Reynolds notes that he is "proudly pro-sodomy" and agrees with the following contention by Ilya Somin:

    As a fellow Yale Law School graduate, I'd have to say that the Reverend Robertson isn't one of our alma mater's more impressive products.
    I'm glad I'm not a conspiracy theorist, because it's talk like that that invites speculation about the notorious secret voodoo rites that have been going on for years at Yale -- and were even said to have triggered Hurricane Ike!

    Fortunately, it's not my problem. Nor is the recent announcement that they've put the actual skull and bones up for sale. That's an old issue here, and I dare not question the timing of the sale.

    posted by Eric at 10:31 AM | Comments (4)

    Mohammed Does Not Go To The Met...

    ...and the Met is worried they might end up going to Mohammed. Apparently the "image of Mohammed" controversy is a little too... explosive for some museums. Can't imagine why.

    "We do not negotiate with terrorists. We just accede to their anticipated demands."

    That's the safe play. It's a temporal version of Pascal's Wager: terrorism isn't certain, but the risk of offending people who might introduce some PETN-powered brushstrokes to "Starry Night" from the pallette of human innards is clearly higher than disappointing people interested in the history of art. Of course, it goes without saying that these concerns do not run equally towards all faiths.

    Sigh. I suppose if Christians want parity in respect, we should be recruiting our own brigades of ax-swingers and splodeydopes, but I did a little reading and apparently our founder's view on disrespecting our creed was some p***y-a** nonsense about "turning the other cheek" (like that's going to strike fear into the hearts of infidels). And as far as I can tell, none of our sects have any proviso for a bevy of pliant virgins on higher planes in the event of pious detonation. So Jihad For Jesus is going to be an uphill climb, to say the least. Meanwhile, I guess we'll have to settle for the smug moral superiority of suffering figurative slings and arrows in both cheeks.

    posted by Dave at 04:37 PM | Comments (1)

    When catastrophe strikes, the crackpots follow

    Pat Robertson never seems to miss an opportunity to make a horse's ass of himself, and the latest is his attempt to blame the disastrous Haitian earthquake on a "pact" he says a Haitian made with Satan in 1803, for which God has retaliated:

    On the Christian Broadcasting Network's "700 Club" today, after a lengthy interview with a missionary who talked about helping the victims earthquake in Haiti, Rev. Pat Robertson had some interesting thoughts as to why the earthquake struck the impoverished nation:

    "And you know, Kristi, something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it.

    "They were under the heel of the French, uh, you know Napoleon the 3rd and whatever, and they got together and swore a pact to the Devil.

    "They said, 'We will serve you if you'll get us free from the French.'

    "True story.

    "And so the Devil said, 'Okay, it's a deal.'

    "And, uh, they kicked the French out, you know, with Haitians revolted and got themselves free.

    "But ever since they have been cursed by, by one thing after another, desperately poor.

    Actually, this particular crackpot meme is not unique to Robertson. A loopy WorldNetDaily writer named Janet Folger has also maintained that Haiti is "dedicated to Satan."
    America was dedicated to God, and Haiti was dedicated to Satan. Then, rag-tag America conquered the most powerful nation in the world and went on to become the richest nation in the world. Haiti went from the very richest to the very poorest nation in the world.
    The racist nonsense at the site Folger linked is appalling, and IMO unworthy of more discussion. (As is the notion that God would punish people today for something allegedly done by a general in 1803 -- which makes about as much sense as calling all Jews "Christ killers.")

    The problem I have with Robertson and his ilk is that every time a disaster strikes, they appear out of the woodwork and opportunistically plug in their favorite villains for blame. When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, it was of course God's punishment directed at the homos. (Never mind that the French Quarter escaped with minimal damage...)

    Inevitably, San Francisco will have another large earthquake. I don't think it takes much imagination to guess who will be to blamed for "God's wrath."

    If only these people could become Democrats! Global Warming would be a perfect outlet for their nutty theories.

    posted by Eric at 04:05 PM | Comments (5)

    "walk in Stalin's shoes and Hitler's shoes"

    While I was disturbed to read about Oliver Stone's attempt to rehabilitate Stalin and Hitler in the eyes of young people (who need to "walk in Stalin's shoes and Hitler's shoes to understand their point of view"), considering Oliver Stone's history it's not surprising.

    Still, I can't help find myself wondering whether Stone and the leftist professor who's writing for him are planning to factor in how far ahead of their times these leaders were in terms of helping reduce the human footprint on the earth.

    We tend to think of Mao, Stalin and Hitler as the greatest mass murderers of all time, but has anyone bothered to calculate out how many tons of emissions they prevented? Sure, mistakes were made, but might these farsighted men have actually been pioneers acting in the long term interests of the planet?

    I'm no post-Modernist historian, but I'm thinking the topic -- whether Mao, Stalin, and Hitler weren't ahead of their time -- might be worthy of a doctoral thesis. Moreover, I think that they might be a source of inspiration for youth, especially future leaders in need of role models.

    Anyway, I came up with an image to inspire them.


    What better way to put mass murderers in context?

    posted by Eric at 01:11 PM | Comments (3)

    ClimateGate Timeline

    Watts Up With That has the timeline (as best as it can be reconstructed) of the ClimateGate story. Climate Audit is also covering the story.

    My first inkling of it was between 3:34 am and 4:40am GMT Fri Nov 20, 2009 at Talk Polywell. I started a post on it at 04:29 am GMT (posted within a few minutes of the start of the post).

    I contacted a friend who works for the Senate Republican Conference on Thursday, November 19, 2009 11:41 PM Central Time. Which would have been 20 Nov at 05:41 GMT.

    By around 06:17 AM GMT I had enough confirmation to do a confirming post. In that post I linked to the Blackboard where I left this comment.

    M. Simon (Comment#23855) November 20th, 2009 at 1:16 am

    I have already done a couple of posts on this and sent some of the details to my Senate Contact.

    True or false (I'm inclined to true) this is going to put a lot of ink in the water and destroy a forest or two.

    Also I link back to here.

    The time in the comment is Central Time.

    Based on that comment Steve Mosher contacted me on 24 November to learn more about my Senate contact. Revised: I contacted Steve on Friday, November 20, 2009 1:19 AM Central Time about my Senate Contact and he got back to me on the 24th.

    I stayed up all night that night (I keep programmers hours so it was no hardship) and had one of the most fun nights of my life. Because I knew this was the jenga stick that would bring the whole corrupt Climate "Science" edifice down.

    Some more resources:

    Telegraph UK on Steve Mosher and breaking the story of ClimateGate.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 05:16 AM | Comments (1)

    The Limits of Science

    From Tim Blair, the amusingly flawed history of "consensus" as reported in the NYT:

    -- 1955: "Sun power still is a losing proposition in dollars and cents. But experts agree that its prospects never have looked so good."

    And haven't things changed since then! Apart from the dollars and cents, of course.


    Back in those days, scientists cared.

    -- 1963: "Three General Electric scientists have suggested that there may be diamonds on the surface of the moon."

    Coincidentally, 1963 was a big year for LSD research.

    -- 1968: "A panel of experts in environmental science warned today that the 'unanticipated' hazards of spreading technology threatened man's existence."

    Twelve years earlier scientists were telling us to wear hats when it was cold. Now they're telling us we'll all be killed because of science.

    posted by Dave at 09:10 PM | Comments (1)

    Another victory for the alpha males?

    Earlier today, four male Saudi Arabian passengers disrupted a flight from Seattle to Detroit, terrifying the passengers and causing the plane to be stopped short of the gate after it landed, upon which they were taken off without any charges filed: - Sources tell Fox 2 that a flight from Amsterdam into Detroit Metropolitan Airport was held on the tarmac after landing because of unruly behavior by some of the passengers.

    ((Watch the video to get passenger reaction from Fox 2's Simon Shaykhet.))

    The source says four men from Saudi Arabai were saying something in Arabic that alarmed four on-board Federal Air Marshals. The Marshals speak Arabic. A decision was made to stop the plane on the tarmac away from the passenger terminal and remove the men from the plane.

    Once the men were removed, the rest of passengers were then taken to the terminal for deboarding.

    The Transportation Security Administration says the unruly passengers were interviewed by Customs and Border Protection officials.

    But the TSA says the passengers were released and no arrests were made.

    Delta Air Lines spokeswoman Susan Elliott says the crew of Northwest Flight 243 requested that authorities meet the plane Tuesday after it landed because four passengers didn't follow their instructions. She says nobody was injured but wouldn't describe what the passengers were doing.

    From the video it seems they were saying deliberately provocative things in Arabic. Either they're terrorists engaged in probing the system, or they're just thumbing their noses.

    My question is simple. Why in the hell are these malevolent Saudis allowed to fly on planes? Not only have most of the hijackers been Saudis, but the Wahabbist religion to which most of them adhere is diametrically opposed to everything about the West, especially the United States. I have no problem with "good Saudis" being allowed to come here and travel (and I am sure there are good Saudis) but I don't think anyone in our government is doing the necessary ideological screening. Why not?

    Not to be unduly paranoid, but as I said earlier,

    I'm wondering whether the terrorists who want to kill Americans are regarded as the Alphas, by the social experimenters who regard the rest of us as Betas.
    Look, I'm not into being a macho male or any of that stuff, but it just bothers me to think that these guys are seeing us as total wimps. And laughing.

    Um, would anyone care to lay odds on whether these Saudi probers will be allowed to fly again?

    posted by Eric at 07:11 PM | Comments (5)

    Where's the brave art world that stood up to John Ashcroft?

    Art in the West has a long tradition of never shying away from controversy, and as New York is supposed to be on the cutting edge, the last place you'd expect to see censorship would be in New York's art museums, right?

    Wrong. Controversial art may be one thing, but if the controversy involves Islam, the trendy elitists behave in a manner that rivals uptight Victorians who feared they might offend the "vicar's daughter."

    In the Victorians' defense, it should be pointed out that they didn't literally live in fear of the vicar's daughter (any more than John Ashcroft "feared" those who might have been offended by breasts on Justice Department statues); they were in their own way being "gentlemen." (Ashcroft's goal may also have been to avoid providing political adversaries with photo opportunities.) Today's censors are not behaving as "gentlemen," but as simple cowards.

    Which is a roundabout way of expressing my disgust on reading about censorship at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.

    According to the New York Post, they have a bad case of "jihad jitters." "The Metropolitan Museum of Art," the Post reported yesterday, "quietly pulled images of the Prophet Mohammed from its Islamic collection and may not include them in a renovated exhibition area slated to open in 2011." Why? "The museum said the controversial images -- objected to by conservative Muslims who say their religion forbids images of their holy founder -- were 'under review.'"
    Roger Kimball notes the different standard that is applied to things that might offend prudes, or atheists:
    "Controversial images"? You know what, I'll bet there are some prudish types who object to the exhibition of naked women. What is the met going to do about that? Maybe atheists object to all those depictions of Jesus Christ and his mother. How is the Met going to deal with those "controversial images"?

    There's more. "Just recently," the Post reported, the Met "decided its highly anticipated 'Islamic Galleries' will be given an awkward new name ahead of the 2011 opening. Visitors will stroll around rooms dedicated to art from "Arab Lands, Turkey, Iran, Central Asia and Later South Asia."

    Someone please call the office of Circumlocution! The Post quoted Kishwar Rizvi, an historian of Islamic Art at Yale, who interjected a bit of common sense into the discussion. "Museums shouldn't shy away from showing [images of Muhammed] in a historical context," she said, noting that it was "a shame" the Met dropped "Islamic Art" for a "cumbersome and problematic" rubric.

    What is being forgotten is that these images were produced by Muslims themselves. There has never been universal agreement in Islam that all representations of Muhammad are blasphemous. So why are American museums censoring themselves in accordance with the most restrictive interpretation? It's obvious why. They are afraid. The "fearless" art world that stands up to John Ashcroft wets their collective panties over the mutterings of Ayman al-Zawahiri.

    Kimball predicts that we will be "seeing more and more of these disgusting rituals of surrender." In May of 2008, I noticed that the Philadelphia Art Museum singled out one of Frida Kahlo's for special mounting under a protective locked case because it included an image of Muhammad. Here it is:


    (Top row, left to right: Akhenaten, Jehovah, Jesus Christ, Zoroaster; Bottom row, left to right: Alexander the Great, Caesar, Mohammed, Luther, Napoleon, and Hitler).

    At the time I praised the Philadelphia Art Museum for their courage in displaying the painting at all:

    Of all the subjects in the painting, which one would so worry the curator that he felt the need to put it behind a protective encasement?

    I don't think that takes much imagination. All of these subjects have been painted in many times and places by many artists, but the only one I can think of who would generate such paranoia on the part of a museum curator is Muhammad. Frankly, I don't blame the curator. Nuts do vandalize paintings from time to time, but the kind of people who would want to erase the image of Muhammad are not your garden variety schizophrenics. They're more likely to be serious and determined people who believe they are on the side of God.

    Perhaps it isn't accurate to be lumping them in with nuts. Perhaps it is. Some might consider it a form of denial to dismiss violently determined religious people as "crazy." (Certainly the violent and determined people themselves wouldn't want to be called crazy.)

    But whatever they are, the problem is not one that's going away. No avant-garde artist today would dare include an image of Muhammad in any painting. No museum would show it, and few galleries would display it. I realize that many, many artists, in both the Western as well as Eastern traditions (including my favorite, Salvador Dali) have portrayed Muhammad, and I know that a bas relief sculpture of him is still on the Supreme Court building (although Muslim activists want it sandblasted off). But would any museum dare to do an exhibition of Muhammad images in the history of art? Would any gallery display a Muhammad collection? I think not, and I don't think calling them "cowards" ends the inquiry.

    For starters, they wouldn't be able to get insurance for the event. Police departments would warn them of violence, and would suggest the events not be held. Various bureaucracies would chime in, and demands would be issued by activist organizations.

    In this context, exhibiting the Kahlo painting behind plexiglas has to be seen as an act of courage.

    So shame on the Met. But in light of their cowardice, I feel like asking a sarcastic question.

    Can sandblasting the image of Muhammad from the Supreme Court building be far behind?

    UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking this post, and adding his thoughts. A warm welcome to all.

    Comments invited -- agree or disagree.

    posted by Eric at 12:29 PM | Comments (28)

    Some Americans Need Help

    From Random Traverse.

    WASHINGTON, DC - Congress is considering sweeping legislation which will provide new benefits for many Americans. The Americans With No Abilities Act (AWNAA) is being hailed as a major legislative goal by advocates of the millions of Americans who lack any real skills or ambition.

    "Roughly 50 percent of Americans do not possess the competence and drive necessary to carve out a meaningful role for themselves in society," said California Senator Barbara Boxer. "We can no longer stand by and allow People of Inability to be ridiculed and passed over. With this legislation, employers will no longer be able to grant special favors to a small group of workers, simply because they have some idea of what they are doing."

    There is more. Go read it.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 01:57 AM | Comments (5)

    Nerd Night

    Famulus of Prometheus Fusion will be featured at Nerd Night, Friday, January 15th, in NYC.

    *Presentation 1

    Fusing the Atom and Living to Tell
    by Famulus

    Description: We have built an open source nuclear fusion reactor and fused the atom. This is the story of a remarkable fusion device called the Farnsworth Fusor and its successor, the Bussard Reactor (aka. Polywell). The Bussard Reactor holds the promise of clean cheap abundant energy from fusion. This is a story of research on the edge.

    Bio: Famulus is an entrepreneur, hacker, and rails developer. In 2008 he learned of the Bussard fusion reactor and left the software world to try and build a working Bussard Reactor.

    If you have the time and the inclination a night out with the nerds could be fun. And if you want learn the basics of fusion energy so you can ask intelligent questions you can start by reading Principles of Fusion Energy: An Introduction to Fusion Energy for Students of Science and Engineering

    Polywell is a little more complicated. You can learn more about Polywell and its potential at: Bussard's IEC Fusion Technology (Polywell Fusion) Explained

    The American Thinker has a good article up with the basics.

    And the best part? We Will Know In Two Years

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 12:17 AM | Comments (0)

    The Money Bomb

    Massachusetts may be in the process of electing a Republican to take Ted Kennedy's old seat. His name? Scott Brown.

    Our good friend Abbey in Cleveland called us last night and said, "You're not going to believe this. So sit down".

    She then went on to explain that she's making her FIRST EVER political donation today - sending $200 to Scott Brown's campaign. Abbey has never given a cent to anyone running for office, because she says "they have enough money already and I hate most of them". She didn't even donate to Hillary Clinton's campaign, though she phone banked, canvassed and helped in other ways. She didn't even donate to Sarah Palin's VP campaign last year, but once again she did help.

    Well, Abbey's taking part in the Scott Brown Money Bomb today.


    "This man is the only thing that can stop the socialists from taking over this country. He is our last and only hope. So, I'm putting my money where my mouth is this time. $200 is all I've got to spare, but it's Scott Brown's if he wants it. I'm sending it to him so he can kick some a** in the Senate and put those damn fools on notice that Americans are not going to take their socialist crap anymore. I'm fired up, I'm donating, I want that man to beat back those socialists and get them all Hell".

    The goal of today's money bomb was $500,000. They passed that. A new goal was set $750,000. They passed that. There is a little over 5 hours until midnight (Mass. time). I want to help him to get over $1,000,000 before midnight. Thus this post.

    For a hunky picture of Scott, Hill Buzz has the goods.

    Hill Buzz also has some of Scott's centerfold pictures.

    Any way. Those of you in this cash starved economy who can should send Scott some cash. A popular donation is $41, which stands for the 41st Senator against the socialist machine now ruling the country. And note I said ruling - not governing. Time to put the brakes on the aristocrats who don't want us to eat cake. They want it ALL for themselves.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 06:48 PM | Comments (4)

    Dying to go straight -- with henna dye!

    Yemeni's top cleric Sheik Abdul-Majid al-Zindani -- a man also said to be Osama bin Laden's spiritual advisor -- is not happy with the United States, which he thinks is planning a "foreign occupation" of Yemen:

    SAN'A, Yemen - Yemen's most influential Islamic cleric, considered an al-Qaida-linked terrorist by the United States, warned Monday that the U.S.-backed fight against the terror group could lead to "foreign occupation" of the country.

    Sheik Abdul-Majid al-Zindani's comments illustrate the pressure Yemen's government is under to limit the U.S. role here even as Washington ramps up counterterrorism aid and training to help combat al-Qaida's offshoot in the country.

    Al-Zindani is emblematic of how -- unlike in Iraq and Afghanistan, whose governments are bitter enemies of al-Qaida -- Yemen's beleaguered regime has built alliances with Islamic extremists to hold onto power. Some have al-Qaida connections, complicating the fight.

    Branded a spiritual mentor of Osama bin Laden by the U.S., al-Zindani is highly influential among Yemenis. The United States has labeled him a "global terrorist," alleging in a 2004 U.S. Treasury report that he helped fund and recruit for al-Qaida and that students from his Iman University were involved in past attacks.

    Yemen's government has openly allied with al-Zindani in the past and still courts his support. The deputy prime minister last week defended the cleric, saying he is not a member of al-Qaida.

    I had a bit of trouble reading the text because I became so distracted by the goofy-looking picture of al-Zindani.


    What in the world is up with that? I wondered whether some prankster at Yahoo had playing PhotoShop games with his beard, because he's clearly too old to be naturally red-bearded at that age. But as I read on, I learned that the beard was dyed, and dying of beards is in the style of Islamic hardliners.

    Al-Zindani laughed Monday as he dismissed the U.S. terror accusations against him at a news conference at his home in San'a.

    "It's become well known among the people that a lot of lies" come out of Washington, said the cleric, his white beard dyed reddish-orange with henna in the style of Islamic hard-liners and wearing a traditional Yemeni knife stuck in the belt of his robes.

    He denied knowing anything about al-Qaida's activities in Yemen or having any influence on an American-Yemeni radical preacher, Anwar al-Awlaki, who is being hunted by Yemeni forces for alleged al-Qaida links. Yemeni officials say al-Awlaki may have met here with the man accused of the failed attempt to bomb a flight to Detroit on Christmas Day.


    This may explain why Osama bin Laden dyed his beard back in 2007.

    Incidentallly, there does appear to be some religious justification for the dying. According to at least one interpretation of Islamic law, the idea is for Muslims to distinguish themselves from Jews and Christians (who apparently aren't supposed to use dye):

    Al-Bukhari, on the authority of Abu Hurayrah, quoted the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him) as saying, 'The Jews and Christians do not dye their hair, so be different from them.'

    This, however, is not a command but only a recommendation, as is evident from the actions of the Companions of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) such as Abu Bakr and `Umar, who used to dye their hair. Others, such as `Ali, Ubay ibn Ka`b, and Anas, did not.

    I won't quote the whole thing, but I did find the red henna dye specifically mentioned -- for those who want to be on the straight path:
    Some scholars do not consider the use of black dye as permissible except during time of war, with possibility of making the enemy thrown off balance by seeing all Muslim soldiers in their blossoming youth.

    Abu Dharr (may Allah be pleased with him) narrated, 'The best thing with which to dye gray hair is Henna and Katm.' (Mentioned in Fath Al-Bari) Henna makes the hair red, while Katm, a plant from Yemen, colors it black, tinged with red. Anas (may Allah be pleased with him) says, 'Abu Bakr dyed his hair with Henna and Katm, and `Umar dyed it with Henna only.'"

    If you are still in need of more information, don't hesitate to contact us. Do keep in touch. May Allah guide us all to the straight path!

    Well, you learn something every day.

    I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.

    posted by Eric at 06:24 PM | Comments (0)

    Sarah Palin Gets Her Old Job Back

    Not as Governor Of Alaska. She is going to be a TV commentator on FOX News.

    Sarah Palin, former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate, will return to her broadcast roots and take her conservative message to Fox News as a regular commentator, the cable channel announced Monday.

    "I am thrilled to be joining the great talent and management team at Fox News," Palin said in a statement posted on the network's Web site. "It's wonderful to be part of a place that so values fair and balanced news."

    Fox said that according to the multiyear deal, Palin will offer political commentary and analysis on the cable channel, as well as Fox's Web site, radio network and business cable channel.

    She also will host occasional episodes of Fox News' "Real American Stories," a series debuting this year that the network said will feature true inspirational stories about Americans who have overcome adversity.

    I'm sure this is going to get the people who call it Faux News into a froth.

    This opportunity gives her a chance to change her reputation.

    Here is what she looked like back in the day:

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 05:58 PM | Comments (0)

    IPCC Scientist - Thirty Years Of Cooling

    I guess the Catastrophic Global Warming scare is officially over. At least according to one IPCC scientist.

    The research has been carried out by eminent climate scientists, including Professor Mojib Latif. He is a leading member of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

    He and his colleagues predicted the cooling trend in a 2008 paper, and warned of it again at an IPCC conference in Geneva in September.

    Working at the prestigious Leibniz Institute in Kiel University in Germany, he has developed methods for measuring ocean temperatures 3,000ft under the surface, where the cooling and warming cycles start.

    For Europe, the crucial factor is the temperature in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean. He said such ocean cycles - known as multi-decadal oscillations or MDOs - could account for up to half of the rise in global warming in recent years.

    Professor Latif said: 'A significant share of the warming we saw from 1980 to 2000 and at earlier periods in the 20th century was due to these cycles - as much as 50 per cent.

    'They have now gone into reverse, so winters like this one will become much more likely. All this may well last two decades or longer.

    'The extreme retreats that we have seen in glaciers and sea ice will come to a halt. For the time being, global warming has paused, and there may well be some cooling.'

    I guess the decline got too big to hide.

    And if half the heating was due to ocean cycles then the estimated effects of CO2 (and that is all they ever were - estimates) are much smaller than estimated. And if the Svensmark cloud experiments at CERN give us better numbers on cloud/cosmic ray interactions the contribution of CO2 to the planet's energy balance may be smaller yet.

    May I suggest you get your copy of Climate Cover-Up: The Crusade to Deny Global Warming as soon as possible. It will become a collectors item

    And books like Climate Confusion: How Global Warming Hysteria Leads to Bad Science, Pandering Politicians and Misguided Policies That Hurt the Poor are likely to become texts books on how venal politicians (you know any who aren't?) and the madness of crowds (and a credulous main stream media) drove the whole movement.

    My question for now: is Al Gore going to give back his Nobel Prize? Will his Academy Award be moved out of the documentary category and be reclassified as entertainment? Don't hold your CO2.

    H/T Watts Up With That who has much more.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 04:42 PM | Comments (3)

    Cooling is warming!

    It didn't take long for the people who want to rule us to say just that.

    I like Don Surber's take:

    Global cooling proves global warming.

    Professor Mojib Latif, a leading member of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, told the newspaper: "A significant share of the warming we saw from 1980 to 2000 and at earlier periods in the 20th Century was due to these cycles - perhaps as much as 50 per cent. They have now gone into reverse, so winters like this one will become much more likely. Summers will also probably be cooler, and all this may well last two decades or longer. The extreme retreats that we have seen in glaciers and sea ice will come to a halt. For the time being, global warming has paused, and there may well be some cooling."

    But global warming lives on. It has more lives than a litter of kittens.

    We have always been at war with global warming cooling!

    And if you're skeptical about the party's latest position, you deserve to die!

    posted by Eric at 12:01 PM | Comments (2)

    Unregulated Drugs! In the kitchen!

    While I'm a skeptic about alternative (or naturopathic) medicine, if I hear about a treatment for the more annoying symptoms of the common cold, I'm quite willing to check it out, especially if it's harmless. And if it works, I spread the word.

    For example, I have long believed in the value of sage tea in drying up even the most stubborn cases of sniffles. What I do is fashion a teabag from a coffee filter and dump in at least a tablespoon of sage, throw that into a large (12 ounce) glass and add boiling water. When the color turns yellow, it's ready to drink. It's a lot cheaper than Sudafed (which is now a real hassle to buy), and I use both in combination. The sage tea will make you a little drowsy, and if you fall asleep you'll almost always wake up feeling better. I don't know what active ingredient might be responsible (a number of them are listed at Wiki), but I doubt there's enough money to be made for such a common substance that would justify expending the huge sums it would cost to bring a drug to the market. Sage has been used for many years in treating sinus infections, but I've never read about a serious double-blind study.

    So sage is classified as food; just a kitchen spice. I have no idea how it works against rhinitis, but it does.

    The worst part of having a cold is the cough. I don't get colds very often, but when I do the accompanying coughs are awful and seem to drag on endlessly. As they are aggravated by rhinitis, both sage and sudafed tend to help, but what I really need (especially to sleep) is to suppress the cough at night. I have tried just about every cough remedy available at the drugstore; I find guaifenesin useless, and that dreadful dextromethorphan has side effects more hideous than the cough. While it is possible to go to the doctor for prescription cough medicine, that is not always feasible for a cold.

    But once again, there are remedies easily available in the kitchen. First there's chocolate. One official study found chocolate to be more medically effective against coughs than codeine.

    In a cough suppressant study performed by London's National Heart and Lung Institute, chocolate's theobromine significantly outperformed codeine, the primary active ingredient in prescription cough medicine. Participants in the study were treated at different times with a placebo, codeine, and theobromine before being exposed to capsaicin via an inhaled gas. Capsaicin, a chili pepper derivative, has long been used to induce coughing in clinical research.

    As a cough medicine, codeine (mostly known as a painkiller) had nominal success compared to the placebo, but theobromine was 33 percent more effective than codeine to stop coughing. Theobromine was found to work directly on the vagus nerve, which is responsible for triggering coughing. Researchers found nearly identical results in guinea pigs as in humans.

    Beyond theobromine's increased efficacy, it's safer than over-the-counter and prescription cough medicines. Cough medicine is rarely harmful, but can have minor side effects; most common are drowsiness, constipation, and dry mouth. We've been conditioned not to operate heavy machinery after taking cough medicine. It is, however, perfectly safe to eat dark chocolate in your crane, forklift, or other industrial vehicles, provided you're still paying attention. Theobromine has not been connected to any side effects (though it should be noted that the substance has just begun to be studied in the past few years).

    The required dose of theobromine can be obtained from eating dark chocolate or making cocoa:
    The quantity of dark chocolate that should be eaten to stop coughing--about two ounces for an adult and about half as much for a child--is not enough to get children wound up, or for the minimal caffeine to cause sleep disturbances.

    Theobromine levels are directly related to the cocoa content in chocolate. Milk chocolate contains little theobromine, while dark chocolate usually has about 400 to 450 mg of theobromine per ounce. Thus, to stop a chronic cough, or even a coughing fit, eating dark chocolate with as high a percentage of cocoa as possible is preferable when using chocolate as a cough suppressant. Or, to put it another way, the higher the cocoa content, the less chocolate needed to stop coughing.

    You can also buy cocoa in pill form. I tried drinking cocoa today and it seemed to work once it kicked in, but it's not as immediate as cough syrup.

    However, I did find something that works quickly, and remarkably well.

    A concoction of four simple kitchen ingredients as described here:

    It soothes an irritated throat and relieves chest congestion and phlegm. The bad news: it tastes terrible -- it really does -- but if you have a persistant cough, it's worth a try.

  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

  • 1 Tablespoon honey

  • 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar

  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • Mix and take by the teaspoon.

    The recipe doesn't indicate how much to take. I took 3 teaspoons the first time because I had a bad dry cough for over three weeks, and I was desparate for some relief. It worked and I got a good night's sleep. I have been recommending it to others ever since, and many have confirmed my positive results.

    Consider the beneficial effects of the individual ingredients...

    (Go to the site if you want to read about what the ingredients might do and why.)

    Frankly, I was very skeptical about this, but I made it up and tried it. I didn't have the cider vinegar, so I used balsamic vinegar instead. I disagree that it tastes terrible, as I rather like it. It has a medicinal taste, somehow like spicy Asian food, and there is a distinct peppery sting as it tickles the throat. It made me cough immediately, then things quickly calmed down noticeably. I can highly recommend it (or cocoa) over any of the over the counter remedies I have tried, hence this public service post.

    While the FDA would probably arrest anyone who tried to sell the above as treatments for the common cold, I'm not selling anything; just relating my personal experience (which I think the First Amendment still allows).

    Besides, what with impending collapse of the health care system, nothing beats being prepared.

    posted by Eric at 08:21 PM | Comments (7)

    Lowering our expectations

    I finally found a picture of my favorite Communist, Comrade Kaprugina from Doctor Zhivago.


    When Zhivago returned from the war to discover that the Bolsheviks had taken over his family home and stuffed it with people (50 square meters for a family of five), he was promptly put in his place by Comrade Kaprugina, who, in her capacity as Chairman of the Residents Committee scolded, "There was living space for thirteen families! In this one house!"

    If we factor in Global Warming, the case for redistribution of living space is even more compelling today than it was under Bolshevism.

    posted by Eric at 10:59 AM | Comments (4)

    Unfit for duty!

    I'm pretty zonked out from an awful cold (and from the even awfuller cold meds) right now, so not only am I not up to blogging, I'm afraid that I wouldn't be making much sense.

    Of course, I guess if I started spouting inanities, it would be hard to beat Harry Reid, who seems hell bent on losing his seat.

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada described in private then-Sen. Barack Obama as "light skinned" and "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one." Obama is the nation's first African-American president.

    "I deeply regret using such a poor choice of words. I sincerely apologize for offending any and all Americans, especially African-Americans for my improper comments," Reid said in a statement released after the excerpts were first reported on the Web site of The Atlantic.

    No Republican would get a break for saying that. Will Reid?

    And here's something else I won't say:

    The debate over full body security scans just got a lot more graphic, thanks to Democratic political strategist and frequent flyer James Carville.

    Speaking on The Tony Kornheiser Show Friday, Carville laid out, or unzipped, his vision for airport security.

    But the consummate talker couldn't help sharing too much information.

    "Let me buy a [security] card, then go and measure my penis, and let me get on the airplane," he said.

    Meanwhile, the TSA was too busy playing God to get to work on James Carville's penis.
    A TSA agent was arrested on January 3rd in Terminal One at LAX, a source told NBCLA. He had just gotten off duty and was behaving erratically, saying, "I am god, I'm in charge."
    And he couldn't even think to capitalize God?

    I'm whacked out on Sudafed (which I think induces an artificial form of "sluggish schizophrenia") but if I decided I was God, I don't think I'd make a mistake like that.

    Were I God, I'd make it warmer, though. It's too damned cold here.

    MORE: Speaking of amazing remarks, Bill Clinton reportedly the following to Ted Kennedy) about Barack Obama:

    A few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee.
    Talk about double standards. Imagine the outcry had a Republican said that.

    As things stand now, a Republican could very well be accused of racism just for repeating it.

    posted by Eric at 05:35 PM | Comments (8)

    Ready for the cooling!

    Remember global warming? Back in the day, because she was gullible enough to believe in it, Coco tried to do something to cool the planet

    But now that she's moved to Ann Arbor, I'm afraid Coco has given up on global warming. Instead, she plays in the snow.

    Here we are on a frozen lake.


    (Which proves not only that man can walk on water, but so can dog.)

    And here we found some temporary housing, which didn't seem very well insulated, as it was just as cold as everywhere else.


    In the back yard, Coco has a favorite tire, and if it gets buried with snow, she digs it out and goes through her obligatory routine of grabbing it with her front paws, and pushing it backwards, using it as a snow scoop to carve patterns into the ground.


    It takes quite a bit of coordination for her to get her back legs out of the way as she projects the tire backwards through the snow.

    Here's a side view of the process:


    She has to jump over the tire and lift her back legs while shoving the tire, and it looks as if she is jumping over the tire, but the tire is moving.


    It's a bit like leapfrog except Coco takes it very seriously and works herself into a frenzy.

    posted by Eric at 04:53 PM | Comments (4)

    Global Warming Shutting Down China and Britain

    You think I'm joking? I'm not. First let's look at the shutdown.

    The heaviest snowfall to hit northern China in nearly six decades continued to snarl traffic yesterday, stranding thousands of passengers on railways and at airports.

    The unusually harsh winter weather also caused coal shortages, forcing some provinces to cut power supplies.

    And what are the people of China doing? The obvious. Trying to keep warm. With disastrous results.
    With people turning up the heat indoors to fight the extreme cold across the country, many provinces are reducing electricity supply due to the shortage of coal.

    Since December, power has been cut or reduced to more than 2,000 factories in Wuhan, Hubei province, to ensure supply for household use, while most parts of the south face electricity shortages, Han Xiaoping, an energy analyst, said yesterday.

    With power demand surging this winter, coal stocks in 349 power plants across the nation have decreased to around 27 million tons, or barely enough for 12 days of generation, while stocks in the north have declined to less than a week, the Shanghai Securities News reported last month.

    Generally, coal stocks should be enough for at least 20 days, Han said.

    But in Hubei province, things are much worse. The local electricity supplier faces a shortage of 760,000 tons of coal before March this year, Yang Yong, assistant chief engineer at Hubei Electric Power Company, told China Business News yesterday.

    Nearly 2.4 gigawatts, or some 17 percent of the coal-fueled power generation capacity in Hubei, has been shut down due to coal shortage and there is a risk of even more output cuts, the newspaper reported yesterday.

    Britain is getting similar treatment.
    For the second time ever, the National Grid yesterday issued a warning to energy providers that demand for gas is threatening to outstrip supply.

    The ultimatum comes after a 30 per cent rise on normal seasonal demand as snow and freezing conditions continued their stranglehold on Britain.

    The concerns caused natural gas prices to jump to their highest level in 10 months yesterday, touching 45p a therm.

    While it is unlikely that households will find their supplies restricted, a shortage could lead to higher bills.

    Ah. Higher bills. What are the Brits doing about it? Burning books.
    Volunteers have reported that 'a large number' of elderly customers are snapping up hardbacks as cheap fuel for their fires and stoves.

    Temperatures this week are forecast to plummet as low as -13°C in the Scottish Highlands, with the mercury falling to -6°C in London, -5°C in Birmingham and -7°C in Manchester as one of the coldest winters in years continues to bite.

    Workers at one charity shop in Swansea, in south Wales, described how the most vulnerable shoppers were seeking out thick books such as encyclopaedias for a few pence because they were cheaper than coal.

    One assistant said: 'Book burning seems terribly wrong but we have to get rid of unsold stock for pennies and some of the pensioners say the books make ideal slow-burning fuel for fires and stoves.

    A lot of them buy up large hardback volumes so they can stick them in the fire to last all night.'

    If they are burning copies of the Communist Manifesto it may actually be a service. No way to tell.

    Now we come to the very best part. To what do some Chinese attribute the cooling to?

    BEIJING: Freak snowstorms and record low temperatures sweeping northern China are linked to global warming, say Chinese officials.

    But, unlike the unseasonal snow falls that hit Beijing at the start of winter, the dump this week appears to have no link to the Government's relentless efforts to change the micro climate.

    There are about 2000 weather modification offices in China, according to the media, which are responsible for bombing the skies with silver iodide to induce precipitation.

    More than 2 million Beijing and Tianjin students were given the day off school yesterday because traffic was in chaos. On Sunday the capital received its biggest snow dump since 1951, immediately followed by the harshest Siberian winds in decades.

    Tomorrow morning the mercury is forecast to plunge to minus 16, a 40-year low, after a day-time maximum of minus 8.

    The head of the Beijing Meteorological Bureau, Guo Hu, linked the blizzard-like conditions this week to unusual atmospheric patterns caused by global warming.

    So if it gets warmer - it is global warming. If it gets colder - global warming. How convenient. Evidently there is nothing Global Warming Can't do.

    H/T Icecap

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 10:20 AM | Comments (14)

    Death To Skeptics

    And this death to skeptics is not just an artifact of history. We hear those calls even today.

    A public appeal has been issued by an influential U.S. website asking: "At what point do we jail or execute global warming deniers." The appeal appeared on Talking Points Memo, an often cited website that helps set the agenda for the political Left in the U.S. The anonymous posting, dated June 2, 2009, referred to dissenters of man-made global warming fears as "greedy bastards" who use "bogus science or the lowest scientists in the gene pool" to "distort data."

    The Talking Points Memo article continues: "So when the right wing fucktards have caused it to be too late to fix the problem, and we start seeing the devastating consequences and we start seeing end of the World type events - how will we punish those responsible. It will be too late. So shouldn't we start punishing them now?"

    James Hansen proposes shutting down death factories. What he means is coal fired power plants. I wonder if the warmists plan to open real death factories in their stead? Not exactly. The warmists like Hansen are humane. Just like witches, skeptics should not be put to death without a trial.
    The heads of major fossil-fuel companies who spread disinformation about global warming should be "tried for high crimes against humanity and nature," according to a leading climate scientist.
    And what about the industrial strength skeptics? Trials, then death.
    Grist Magazine's staff writer David Roberts called for the Nuremberg-style trials for the "bastards" who were members of what he termed the global warming "denial industry."

    Roberts wrote in the online publication on September 19, 2006, "When we've finally gotten serious about global warming, when the impacts are really hitting us and we're in a full worldwide scramble to minimize the damage, we should have war crimes trials for these bastards -- some sort of climate Nuremberg."

    Well sign me up for a trial. I'm a skeptic and Jewish. A twofer.

    And of course once we have cleaned out America we will need to have a war with China. Those guys are building a coal fired power plant every week. Damn planet wreckers.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    Welcome Instapundit readers. Amazon has pages of books about Climate Faith and Climate Theology. Most of them credulous.

    posted by Simon at 01:51 PM | Comments (46)

    Paranoid flights of fanciful lab rat thinking

    I hate it when I voice paranoid suspicions which turn out to be accurate descriptions of official policy, but I guess I better get used to it.

    In a post titled "Egalitarianism For Asses" on December 27, I worried that there might be "growing tacit acceptance of an absurd proposition" --

    that it is better to let people who want to blow themselves up fly and look up everyone's butthole than look up the buttholes only of people who want to blow themselves up.
    And I asked,
    Is the goal to move toward a world where people who believe in religious suicide have a right to fly, and to better facilitate this we will all bend over to accommodate them?

    In the name of "safety"?

    I thought I was being snarky and sarcastic in a reproachful manner -- making what I thought was a reduction to absurdity. (As in, "surely no sane government would want this, right?")

    The next day, I speculated that government officials trusted with protecting the public from terrorists are deliberately allowing terrorists to fly, and that they know it:

    Little wonder they want to imprison air passengers in their seats and make air travel nearly impossible. They have created a monster where they know that there will be terrorists among us, for the simple reason that they know they are bringing them here.
    Spoken like a paranoid conspiracy theorist, right? But I was engaged in speculation -- making a worst case scenario argument that I really didn't want to be true.

    But today I read that Detroit bomber Abdulmutallab was in a large database of terrorist supporters who are deliberately being allowed to fly (and who naturally are treated no differently than normal American citizens). All in the name of "national security" doncha know:

    Abdulmutallab was in a database containing half a million names of people with suspected extremist links but who are not considered threats. Therefore, border security officials would have sought only to question him upon arrival in the U.S., the administration official said.

    Nonetheless, the disclosure shows the complexity of the intelligence and passenger screening systems that are the subject of comprehensive reviews that the administration will release today.

    The threshold for requiring a foreign visitor to undergo special scrutiny upon arrival in the U.S. is considerably lower than criteria for stopping a passenger's departure overseas, according to current and former law enforcement officials. That is why border security agencies rely heavily on terrorism watch lists of suspects seen as urgent threats, officials said.

    "The public isn't aware how many people are allowed to travel through the U.S., who are linked, who intersect with bad guys or alleged bad guys," a national security official said. "It makes sense from an intelligence perspective. If they are not considered dangerous, it provides intelligence on where they go, who they meet with."

    Well isn't that nice? Our rulers think that letting terrorists and people who support suicide bombing get on the planes is just fine, because, you know, they enjoy watching them. And if something happens, well, we the public are all part of their social experiment, and it makes sense to treat everyone equally.

    What's sarcastic paranoia to me is official policy.

    As if I needed another reminder, a Palestinian (who apparently lives in Toledo) got on a plane in Miami and couldn't resist making death threats against Jews:

    MIAMI (AP) -- An airline passenger in Miami proclaimed "I want to kill all the Jews" before police forced him off a Detroit-bound plane, authorities said Thursday.

    Mansor Mohammad Asad, 43, of Toledo, Ohio, was arrested Wednesday night, according to a Miami-Dade Police Department statement. Asad was charged with threats against a public servant, disorderly conduct and resisting an officer without violence.

    FBI spokeswoman Judy Orihuela said there were no indications the disturbance was related to terrorism. The bureau was initially brought in to look into the incident but is no longer involved in the investigation. She said the FBI is treating the disruption as a matter for local authorities.

    See what I mean? This asshole -- a man who clearly should not be allowed to fly -- is being treated just like someone's angry grandmother who lost her temper.
    The disturbance forced a taxiing Northwest Airlines flight to turn around at Miami International Airport, according to a news release. Witnesses told investigators who boarded the plane that Asad was loud, disruptive and claimed to be Palestinian.

    Officers didn't find any weapons or explosives on Asad, who was reportedly agitated and aggressive at times, according to an arrest affidavit. Authorities used a stun gun to subdue Asad on the jet bridge after he charged at an officer with fists clenched. He also chanted in a foreign language and threatened officers during a search.

    Excuse me, but what is this Palestinian who wants to kill all the Jews doing here in the United States chanting in a foreign language and threatening officers? And why is he allowed to fly on our planes? I'd be willing to bet he'd never get on an El-Al flight. At least the Israelis aren't running a social experiment where they let terrorists and their sympathizers fly.

    I should stop it with my paranoid speculations, because I right now find myself thinking about lab rats. I'm wondering whether the terrorists who want to kill Americans are regarded as the Alphas, by the social experimenters who regard the rest of us as Betas. Is there any way out of the maze?

    (Or should I be looking for the right lever to push to get my reward? Nah, they probably think that being part of this glorious experiment in egalitarianism is its own reward.)

    posted by Eric at 11:33 AM | Comments (3)

    Explosive photo?

    Here's an oldie but a goodie:


    It's a PhotoShop from 2006, but I can't remember who did it. Whatever the context, it seems appropriate now.

    posted by Eric at 11:55 PM | Comments (1)

    As the narrative changes, so does the "conversation"

    Last week, M. Simon emailed me a link to a piece in the East Bay Express about Berkeley High School's decision to cut science labs. The article confirmed what Simon told me in the email: the reason was that too many white kids were interested in science:

    The proposal to put the science-lab cuts on the table was approved recently by Berkeley High's School Governance Council, a body of teachers, parents, and students who oversee a plan to change the structure of the high school to address Berkeley's dismal racial achievement gap, where white students are doing far better than the state average while black and Latino students are doing worse.

    Paul Gibson, an alternate parent representative on the School Governance Council, said that information presented at council meetings suggests that the science labs were largely classes for white students. He said the decision to consider cutting the labs in order to redirect resources to underperforming students was virtually unanimous.

    Science teachers were understandably horrified by the proposal. "The majority of the science department believes that this major policy decision affecting the entire student body, the faculty, and the community has been made without any notification, without a hearing," said Mardi Sicular-Mertens, the senior member of Berkeley High School's science department, at last week's school board meeting.

    Sincular-Mertens, who has taught science at BHS for 24 years, said the possible cuts will impact her black students as well. She says there are twelve African-American males in her AP classes and that her four environmental science classes are 17.5 percent African American and 13.9 percent Latino. "As teachers, we are greatly saddened at the thought of losing the opportunity to help all of our students master the skills they need to find satisfaction and success in their education," she told the board.

    While it's typical of Berkeley, I think similar attitudes can be found in many school districts.

    M. Simon sent me a link to another piece ("Science in Berkeley, it's a white thing") pointing that white under-representation at Berkeley High most likely reflects their leaving for private schools -- something that cutting the science labs will aggravate: is striking that Non-Hispanic whites are so underrepresented and blacks so overrepresented.There is only one public high school in Berkeley. It is likely correct that blacks in Berkeley are more fertile than the whites, but I don't think the disparity is striking enough to account for the demographics of Berkeley High School. Rather, many whites must be sending their children to private schools.

    This action will reinforce this tendency; the type of engaged parents which a public school benefits from won't consider sending their child to one which has to slash science laboratories to focus on remedial education. So Berkeley High School is simply accelerating its long death spiral.

    More generally, the bizarre racialist logic used to justify the slashing of the science curriculum, that science implicitly benefits whites, is objectionable (at least to me, and likely to readers of this weblog). Our civilization is grounded fundamentally in science.

    Yes, but doing well in science is apparently seen as "acting white." By the people running Berkeley High!

    This led me to look further, because I think there's another problem which is being covered up. Blacks in Berkeley are not all that large a percentage (9.3%) of the population, but their vast overrepresentation at Berkeley High (29.1%) is not explainable simply by white students going to private schools.

    Instead, there may be another cause. A Berkeley friend who knows the inside dirt emailed me to say this:

    The gap between black and white students at Berkeley High is shocking. 75% of white students go to college, and 75% of black students never graduate Berkeley High. This is a huge gap, higher than nearly anywhere else. The problem is, I believe, that a high percentage of Berkeley High students are here illegally. I have heard estimates that perhaps 40% have no right to go to school in Berkeley, but nobody wants to address this issue out of fear of being called racist.
    If it is "racist" to suggest that students should actually live in the city where they go to school (as required by law), then I guess anything is racist.

    Anyway, this correspondence took place a week ago, and in the interim, Glenn Reynolds linked La Shawn Barber's treatment of the issue. La Shawn included a link to the East Bay Express article, and summarized blogger reactions:

    Berkeley High's plan apparently was surprising and shocking to tech blogger and Wired magazine editor-in-chief Chris Anderson. Author of The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More and Free: The Future of a Radical Price, Anderson mentioned the story on Twitter, and other bloggers picked it up.

    "I'm not necessarily opposed to race-based proposals," Anderson told me via e-mail. "I just think the premise of this one--'science is for white people'--is absurd and deeply counterproductive."

    TechDirt blogger Mike Masnick saw Anderson's tweet. "It seems like there must be more to this story than what's being reported," Masnick wrote. "The concept of cutting science labs because more white students take them just seems too preposterous to make sense."

    Unfortunately, there isn't more to the story, and yes, cutting programs because they benefit white students is preposterous and doesn't make sense. But that's what misguided social engineers do.

    I couldn't agree more with La Shawn's conclusion that we should "stop defining achievement down."

    But as this was during the New Year's fare, and as the blogosphere seemed well-informed, the matter didn't seem pressing enough for me to feel a compelling need to chime in.

    Until this morning, when the San Francisco Chronicle intervened with a truly remarkable attempt to change the narrative. No longer are science labs a perk for white students at the expense of blacks. Now, the science labs are downright oppressive! To Mideast-surnamed named female students! No, I kid you not:

    (01-05) 19:52 PST BERKELEY -- Berkeley High School sophomore Razan Qatami glanced at the wall clock in her advanced biology lab class and frowned. At 4:15 p.m., she still had about 10 more minutes before she was done for the day.

    While most high school science classes incorporate labs into regular class time, Berkeley High requires most of its students to attend labs before or after school in the so-called zero or seventh periods.

    That means showing up at 7:30 a.m. to, say, dissect frogs, or staying until 4:30 p.m. - additional class time that not surprisingly costs additional money.

    School administrators would like to see that money spread around, specifically to help struggling students, and have proposed cutting out the supplementary lab classes.

    Qatami would love to see those early and late labs discontinued.

    Remember, these AP labs are voluntary. You know, for high-achieving type science aces who want to get ahead? No one is making Ms. Qatami take them, but the Chronicle makes her sound like a victim of some sort of oppression (exactly what I am not sure).

    And of course, those mean, tyrannical, white (or "white-acting") parents who enjoy seeing their children turned into slaves of science have protested:

    The idea of ending the labs has raised the ire of hundreds of parents and community members who want to keep the extra science instruction - especially beneficial for college-bound students in advanced placement courses.

    "If you take away those labs, you're saying the same amount of material has to be covered in (less) time," said Peggy Scott, a parent representative to the school's governance council. "I don't want my kid testing combustion at my house. I want her to do that in a lab."

    It also appears that (perhaps because they've been subjected to criticism in the blogosphere) Berkeley High officials are trying to cover their tracks, for they are now denying that they want to get rid of science labs.

    Instead, they're speaking about a need for a "conversation":

    To be clear, under the administrative proposal Berkeley High's science labs wouldn't be cut from the curriculum.

    "The one rumor we need to totally dispel is the district or principal want to get rid of the science labs," said Berkeley Unified Superintendent William Huyett. "Nothing could be further from the truth."

    But the community needs to have a conversation about how to keep quality science labs at Berkeley High, no matter when they're offered, Huyett said.

    That word! Usually, when people on the left say they want to have a "conversation," they mean that they're all primed and ready to jam their agenda down your throat, but first they want to subject you to a tedious monologue. And if you try to say something in disagreement, that means you're obviously not interested in being part of the "conversation." I hate it when perfectly good words are ruined that way. There's something about a conversation not being a conversation that makes it hard to have a conversation.

    Perhaps we should count our blessings, though. At least this "conversation" is no longer about race.

    What I can't figure out is whether the conversation is being dictated by the narrative, or whether the narrative is dictated by the conversation.

    posted by Eric at 12:00 PM | Comments (8)

    Different jokes for different butts

    Leave it to Sean Kinsell to point out gems I might otherwise have missed. In this case, some gay jokes by straight men. Sean has noticed a direct relationship between the quality of the gay jokes and the attractiveness of the straight men who tell them. I found Sean's observation too important to let pass: jokes told by unattractive straight men are lame, offensive, retrograde manifestations of deep-seated sexual insecurity, gay jokes told by exceptionally handsome straight men are witty, bravely edgy, and charming.
    I'm older than Sean, but I had never in all my life really stopped to think about that.

    The "exceptionally handsome straight man" involved in this case (I put that in quotes because I don't want to take sides one way or the other) happens to be Reason's Tim Cavanaugh. In one piece, he couldn't resist comparing Glenn Beck's crying to, well, taking it up the ass:

    I don't want to traffic in crude stereotypes, but crying is exactly the same as being the passive partner in anal sex.
    I don't like trafficking in crude stereotypes either but really! Shouldn't there be a warning posted at all funerals? And at all theaters showing tear-jerker films?

    And there's this reflection on a college dress code which forbids cross-dressing:

    Men want to dress up like women. You can pass all the rules you want, but men will find a way.
    That is absolutely true, except that most cross-dressing is done by straight men, who tend to do it in private. Gay cross-dressers, OTOH, usually engage in campy theatrical cross-dressing in public. There are exceptions to this general rule, like Rudy Giuliani, and as to transgendered people, I would put them in a class apart from straight men or gay men, with their cross-dressing arguably not being cross-dressing at all. Obama's recent appointment is a good example. (I hesitate to call her attractive lest I be seen as lacking in conservative principles.)

    I agree with Sean that Tim Cavanaugh's comments are witty and charming (and I took the first one literally only for fun), but the whole thing reminded me of a remark I saw earlier which wasn't all that witty or charming, by prominent anti-gay activists who do not like the fact that a gay conservative group is on CPAC's list of co-sponsors. Predictably, "anti-gay Matt Barber and Liberty Counsel is threatening to boycott CPAC if GOProud isn't kicked off the co-sponsors list," and both he and Peter LaBarbera are hopping mad about "violent cramming":

    Covering this story for anti-gay "Americans for Truth About Homosexuality", Peter LaBarbera writes: "there is nothing 'conservative' about -- as Barber inimitably puts it -- 'one man violently cramming his penis into another man's lower intestine and calling it 'love.''"
    Well, I would agree that the act described is not conservative. But neither are any of the various possible sex acts which human beings are known to engage. Or are they? Can anyone tell me the definition of "conservative sex"? Better yet, can anyone tell me whether this is a serious question? Is oral sex conservative? Or is it only conservative when practiced by heterosexuals? And do the latter have to be married? What about missionary position sex? Or must that also be done between married people? How about masturbation? Can that be a conservative act, or is it irredeemably liberal? As to "violent cramming" of any sort, that would seem to be rape unless the violence was consented to. But if it was consented to, then it might not be violent. So, is a distinction being made between violent and non-violent anal intercourse? Is the rule that all penetration is violent? Don't laugh. Some feminist scholars have opined that all sexual penetration is violent. But if they are right about all penetration being violent, then I would think that because they're on the left, violent cramming would have to be on the right.

    To be fair, though, Mssrs. Barber and LaBarbera did not say that all violent cramming was an anti-conservative act; only that it ceases to be conservative when performed between two men. And even then, it isn't the sexual act that fails their conservative litmus test so much as it is the calling of it "love." Which is fascinating, because it means that apparently they think there should be a loophole allowed at CPAC for homosexual rapists who engage in such behaviors as long as they don't call it love.

    Why should prison rapists be allowed to get away with calling themselves conservatives?

    Don't ask me. I don't make these rules.

    I guess it's possible that Barber and LaBarbera were joking, though. If so, they prove Sean's point about gay jokes told by unattractive straight men being "lame, offensive, retrograde manifestations of deep-seated sexual insecurity." But even that would depend on whether the jokers are "unattractive straight men." I'm not feeling sufficiently judgmental for a detailed analysis of the attractiveness or straightness of anyone, and while both of them are pictured here for readers who might be interested, I need to be more selective about the number of images I upload to my server.

    Too much violent cramming might put a strain on the already exhausted hard drive.

    posted by Eric at 12:48 PM | Comments (8)

    The American Dream

    Bill Whittle has made another excellent video about the American Dream. He talks about the efforts of the Alinsky Left to break our hopes and our dreams. The funny thing is even the left acknowledges the power of hope in America. They ran their election campaign on it.

    Bill's diatribe is an exhortation to, as Krishna says to Arjuna to "get up and fight." We have our own Krishna, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain who is reputed to have said, "Stand firm, ye boys of Maine, for not once in a century are men permitted to bear such responsibilities." And so it is again our turn as keepers of the American Dream to stand firm and uphold that dream.

    We have books:

    Stand Firm Ye Boys from Maine: The 20th Maine and the Gettysburg Campaign

    And we have videos.

    Gettysburg (Widescreen Edition)

    And we have excerpts from the videos.

    Get inspired. Stand firm. We have not yet begun to fight!

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 11:32 AM | Comments (2)

    Sobering thoughts on the globalization of sexual freedom

    As a longtime advocate of sexual freedom who grew up in the West, I have a natural tendency to see the world in Western terms, which means that I see sexual freedom in Western terms. I pretty much agree with the IASHS framework of "Basic Sexual Rights" (which Glenn Reynolds aptly described as a "Sexual Bill of Rights"), although as a libertarian I have serious problems with government involvement in including human sexuality. The right to do something should not translate into a right to do it at taxpayers' expense. So to that extent, I would take exception to interpreting the IASHS's point 8 to include taxpayer funding:

    8. The recognition by society that every person, partnered or unpartnered, has the right to the pursuit of a satisfying consensual sociosexual life free from political, legal or religious interference and that there need to be mechanisms in society where the opportunities of sociosexual activities are available to the following: disabled persons; chronically ill persons; those incarcerated in prisons, hospitals or institutions; those disadvantaged because of age, lack of physical attractiveness, or lack of social skills; and the poor and the lonely.
    My worry is that "mechanisms in society" for "available opportunities" might be taken to mean providing sex workers for the incapacitated poor at taxpayers' expense. So, while I support the right to pursue a satisfying consensual sociosexual life, I see it as part of the pursuit of happiness. We all have a right to pursue happiness absent harm to others, but the right to pursue something does not mean the right to get it. Otherwise, we would all have the "right" to be wealthy, which is economically absurd. (And to say that the right to pursue getting laid means the right to actually get laid is sexually absurd.) But if you're so ugly, lonely, hopelessly nerdy, physically deformed that no one would want you in bed, sure, there can easily be a "mechanism in society" to remedy that. It's called the free market, but the trouble is that it's been criminalized. As a libertarian I wholeheartedly support decriminalizing it, but not subsidizing it.

    I realize that many in the West do not agree with me, including a number of readers of this blog. Yet regardless of these disagreements, the fact that in the West we can discuss these things in a more or less civilized manner is something I tend to take for granted as a United States citizen.

    It is easy for me to forget that in other parts of the world, merely advocating sexual freedom can get you killed. Just ask Seyran Ates, author of a new book titled "Islam Needs a Sexual Revolution." The mere title of the book has earned her death threats and forced her to go into hiding.

    Not a new experience for the author.

    To backtrack a bit, Ms. Ates was forced to abandon her legal career in Germany out of fear for her life. What bothers me more than that was to read that when she was attacked in public, the "good Germans" neaby did nothing to help her:

    While defending Muslim women for the last two decades, she's been insulted and threatened by her clients' husbands and relatives. She was always able to brush it off, until last year.

    As she was about to enter a Berlin courtroom with a client filing for divorce, the husband assaulted the two women. The man called the lawyer a whore, shouting, "What ideas have you put in my wife's head?" Ates says.

    None of the many onlookers offered to help the women.

    Ates says that brazen incident in public, at a time when she sees increasing Islamization in Europe, convinced her she had to shut down her practice. As a single mother, she says, her life and that of her young daughter have priority.

    The 'Multicultural Mistake'

    Ates blames the rise of political Islam in Europe in great part on what she calls excessive tolerance, both by the left and the right, of repressive traditions of minority cultures -- and a widespread unwillingness to integrate immigrants into mainstream society. She calls it the "Multicultural Mistake," also the title of her recently published book.

    Forced marriages, she says, are locking up German-born Muslims in separate Islamic enclaves.

    There are tens of thousands of women so isolated from German society that they're unable even to call an ambulance.

    It's refreshing to see that NPR reported this, as it's become a serious problem in Europe, and one which needs to be nipped in the bud before it becomes that way here.

    I admire this woman's feistiness, and I hardly need to point out that it takes a lot more bravery to write a book titled "Islam Needs a Sexual Revolution" than it would to write one titled "Christianity Needs a Sexual Revolution." What galls me is that in the West, publishers and bookstores would eat up the latter (while heaping praises on the author for "courage"), but the former would be shunned -- by cowardly publishers, and most likely be condemned for hurting the religious sensibilities of Muslims.

    When a tyrannical, murderously-sexist ideology is allowed to dictate terms in this way, it's time to ask what has happened to the West?

    And where is America the Brave?

    This woman has more balls than any of the craven cowards who would shun her, and as to why her book isn't listed for sale at Amazon, I am hoping that it's because the publishing details are still being worked out. But considering what happened at Yale, I fear the worst.

    Never mind that she has already pulled some punches. I was fascinated to read in her Der Spiegel interview, that the original title of "Islam Needs a Sexual Revolution" had been "I'll Fuck Whoever I Want." These were the last words of a Muslim girl murdered by her brother:

    "I'll fuck whoever I want" was the sentence Hatun Sürücü, a Turkish girl from Berlin, said to her brother before he murdered her, and that's how I came up with the idea to use it as my title.
    If there is such a thing as martyrdom, I'm wondering why there can't be martyrs for the cause of sexual freedom.

    Regarding sexuality, I found myself a bit startled by a remark Ms. Ates made in the interview contrasting the sexuality of Muhammad to the "asexuality" of Jesus:

    SPIEGEL: Muhammad had a dozen wives. Is he a role model?

    Ates: When an Arab man needs a justification for having several wives, he says: It was the same with Muhammad.

    SPIEGEL: Christian men don't have that excuse.

    Ates: No, but it's a shame that Christians worship such an asexual man. Muslims are in a better position, in that respect, but this need of the man to have several women, legitimized by Muhammad, has led to a hidden and extreme sexualizing of Islam.

    Whether Jesus was in fact "asexual" (and can anyone really be 100% sure?) might seem to be needlessly contentious, and possibly a minor point, but...

    I have long suspected that there is a certain tension over this Jesus-as-a-role-model business, and I suspect that many a red-blooded type man sees Jesus as, well... Seriously, I'd like to discuss this without being offensive, but I don't know how.

    While this post is not about iconography, it isn't my fault that for ages, innumerable pictures of Jesus show him looking like this:


    To be fair, there have been innumerable modern attempts to rework Jesus, such as this:


    And I suppose someone could portray Jesus with a bomb in his head, like this:


    No, it wouldn't draw death threats from angry Christians. But OTOH a Jesus with a bomb on his head would be considered so historically inaccurate that it would not be taken seriously.

    As to sexual freedom, one of my worries is that a number of angry and disgruntled men might make the mistake of seeing Islam as ultimately offering them more sexual freedom -- if we assume that Muhammad is the role model -- than they would Christianity, or contemporary Western mores that pay lip service to sexual freedom on the left while penalizing it heavily from both sides. (That last link was found in a long and thoughtful essay about misandry which Glenn linked the other day, but which paradoxically triggered troubling, unwanted, and downright paranoid thoughts on my part about Islamic sexuality.) I don't think I need to belabor the point that such male sexual "freedom" is not freedom at all, but conditioned upon submission to Islam, and is totally at the expense of women, who have zero sexual freedom, and who can actually be treated as criminals under Sharia law for being raped.

    If the world is in fact "global," I think that Western advocates of sexual freedom have a lot of work cut out for them.

    posted by Eric at 12:15 PM | Comments (8)

    Are You Now Or Have You Ever Fudged The Data?

    Climate researchers at Penn State are in for a nasty shock this morning.

    As I said yesterday, one of our jobs this year is to wipe the complacent smiles off the smug faces of the lobbyists, "experts", "scientists", politicians and activists pushing AGW.

    This is why I am so glad to report that Michael Mann - creator of the incredible Hockey Stick curve and one of the scientists most heavily implicated in the Climategate scandal - is about to get a very nasty shock. When he turns up to work on Monday, he'll find that all 27 of his colleagues at the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University have received a rather tempting email inviting them to blow the whistle on anyone they know who may have been fraudulently misusing federal grant funds for climate research.

    You can read the e-mail at the link.

    Michael Mann has only been at Penn State for three years so most of his fiddles were done before he arrived. It may be that Penn State has no jurisdiction over the worst of Mann's "adjustments".

    It may also be a stretch to prove fraud when most of what the "Team" did was to prevent publication of adverse papers.

    Take this example of the "Team" attempting to keep criticism of Siberian data out of the record:

    ...Russia is back in the spotlight. Research released through Moscow's Institute of Economic Analysis suggests the Hadley Climate Research Unit Temperature UK was selective and forgetful with data from Russian weather stations, and exaggerated the scale of global warming in Russia.

    The allegation is supported by one of the leaked UAE emails, dated March 2004, from its former boss Phil Jones to Michael Mann, to wit:

    "Recently rejected two papers (one for JGR and for GRL) from people saying CRU has it wrong over Siberia. Went to town in both (peer) reviews, hopefully successfully. If either appears I will be very surprised, but you never know with GRL. Cheers, Phil."
    The only way to get to the bottom of all this is to do a full Audit of the data starting with the raw station data. Then a verification of the models. What is amazing is that no official verification of the models was ever done. That would never be allowed for a medical device or equipment that goes on aircraft (even the entertainment systems that are part of an aircraft have to be verified). So why hasn't the software and data that may determine the spending of trillions of dollars a year world wide been verified? From algorithms to results.

    I suspect it is a case of Lysenko Science. Politicians are paying for results they want to hear. It wouldn't be the first time. In illegal drug science Dr. Heath at Tulane used to half asphyxiate monkeys with marijuana smoke and then claim the marijuana killed brain cells. And the truth? Marijuana like most anti-depressants probably grows brain cells.

    Fortunately we are no longer torturing monkeys in the name of anti-drug "science". Now if we could just get the politicians to stop paying for the torturing of climate data with adjustments, deletions, suppression of criticism, and ginned up models we might actually learn something useful about what is actually going on planet wise.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 08:23 AM | Comments (2)

    anonymous, unverifiable, but authoritative?

    In a comment to my post about the practical problems of constitutional issues, Veeshir stressed the importance of anonymity,

    We've come full circle back to when it was best for your gov't to not know your name.

    Our only defense is anonymity.

    The right to anonymity is an important right, and fortunately, it is constitutionally protected. Anonymity (and I include pseudonymity) can be a two edged sword, though. In voting, it is of paramount importance. Where it comes to the sharing of ideas and experiences, though, one of the problems with anonymity is that credibility tends to suffer. This might not matter in the context of pure idea sharing, because arguments stand or fall based on their factual accuracy and soundness of the thinking involved. The actual identity of an anonymous critic (or supporter) of government policies or global warming theory would make no difference if his argument is, say, based on the contention that the numbers don't add up, and he explains why, because these things can be independently verified. But once a claim is based on his particular experience, or special knowledge or inside position (whether in the government, the military, academia, etc.), the argument is weakened, because there is no way to verify any of it.

    This is just as true of anonymous bloggers as it is of anonymous commenters. I don't care how long someone has been blogging, how articulate or how many readers he or she has, none of that invests an anonymous blogger with the kind of personal credibility that comes from independent verifiability. The only checks and balances on anonymous bloggers is when they are unmasked, as a man calling himself "Libertarian Girl" discovered:

    One thing I learned from this blog is how easy attractive woman have it. When I had a blog as my real self, no one linked to me, no one left any comments, it was as if the blog existed in a vacuum. But things were different for Libertarian Girl. Every day I'd check Technorati and discover new unsolicited links. It was like I had warped into an alternate universe where all the rules had changed. At the rate things were happening, this would have been an A-list blog in a few more months.

    It's funny how there have been some posts in the blogosphere saying that the political blogosphere was a boys club that discriminated against women, as evidenced by how few politics bloggers were women. Boy were they completely off the mark. It's ten times easier for a woman's blog to become popular.

    Human nature being what it is, bloggers suffer from a natural temptation to do whatever is necessary get hits and links, and in that sense, anonymous bloggers like "Libertarian Girl" have a huge advantage. I can't claim to be a woman, because I am writing under my name and people know me. The best I could do was a frivolous satirical claim that I was a pre-post operative sex change.
    what I'm wondering right now is why I can't be a pre-post-operative female-to-male transsexual trapped in the body of a man, but who, because of pure luck, has no need to go through with the surgery, because I already have male anatomical features (i.e., a woman who wants to become a man but who is by accident of birth already trapped in the body of a man). It would be a terrible hardship (a cruel travesty, even) to make me surgically become a man trapped in the body of a woman who wants to become a man because the man is trapped in her body, if I can shortcircuit the entire process and merely accept the fact that I am already where I would be after surgery back and forth.
    Now, that was in 2005, and even though I realized how ridiculous I was being, that did not stop the ACLU from filing suit on behalf of another lesbian trapped in a man's body. (I'd sue the ACLU for infringement, except that the lesbian-trapped-in-man's-body idea seems to be in the public domain.)

    Anyway, the fact that there's no way to verify whether an anonymous woman is actually a man highlights a serious problem which arises when anonymous bloggers make factual claims based on unverifiable life experiences, or offer opinions based on their personal claims of expertise or superiority.

    There's that old rule that when something looks too good to be true, it usually is. I think that applies in spades to anonymous bloggers who say what people want to hear.

    posted by Eric at 12:46 PM | Comments (3)

    there's no way to opt out of the in-your-face cycle

    I know I am sounding like a crank, but I hate it when I am asked by strangers to donate money. Not that I am uncharitable, but I prefer to select causes myself, and donate to them whenever I feel like it.

    I don't mind being told about worthy causes, nor do I mind it when someone I know or respect says that he or she donated to a worthy cause, and generally urges other people to do the same. In fact, I have done that in this blog on a number of occasions. What I would not do is ask someone personally to donate money -- either by getting in his face or by directly sending him an email. It's putting people on the spot, and I find that distasteful.

    But what is happening more and more is that I will go to the store to buy something, and the damned clerk will ask me whether I would like to donate to starving children or abused animals or something. This then forces me to choose to be one of the following:

  • an intimidated milquetoast who says "yes" because he cannot stand up to people and who will have to hold in the resentment over having been steamrollered by a manipulative form of public shaming;
  • a mean-spirited Scrooge who supports world hunger, wants children to starve, enjoys animal suffering, and is probably a conservative racist bigot.
  • I think it's rude for stores to ask people to give money simply because they've got them in a position they are unable to avoid. One solution to the problem in many grocery stores is to use the self-checkout lanes. Except then you can end up getting scolded for bagging your items too quickly and the machine freezes up and you have to yell for the clerk. Or there is no regular asparagus in their list of pictures, but only the higher-priced organic, so you have to yell about that too. Or when the machine refuses to scan that bottle of wine until you show your ID to the clerk who is not there even though you have gray hair and look over 50.

    In the latter regard, quite amazingly, I have in recent months been actually asked to show my ID to buy wine. By clerks who could plainly see me! Excuse me, but take a look at a recent picture -- showing me and M. Simon:


    What sort of cretin would think that I might be under 21? Or according to recent guidelines, under 27?

    Are we reaching a state of zero tolerance for common sense?

    Where was I? Oh, the self-checkout. So after all of that, you can still end up being asked for more money, and they force you to click "NO" on the keypad.

    And what do you do when you're tired of being asked in person, tired of having to click "NO"? Earlier I bought an item on Ebay, and learned that some of these damned charities have even managed to insinuate themselves into the automatic checkout there.

    Yes, call me a mean-spirited crank, but I just don't like it. To my mind, I've gone out of my way to spend my money with you. So how dare you ask me for more?

    Another thing I hate about charities is the way that donating to them tends to generate huge quantities of junk mail solicitations, not only from that charity, but from others. They have so many guilt-inducement techniques in the junk mail that I think they were designed by professional psychologists. Many times I have seen an uncanceled stamp staring at me in the window. Others will put in a quarter (making it impossible to shred), and then when you tear it open there'll be a heart-rending plea that you at least send the quarter back! They also will do this with a dollar bill, knowing full well that it is next to impossible for sane people to throw away or shred currency.

    And if you think that sending in a donation will make them go away, think again. Any contribution you do send in will place you in a new category, meriting special attention.

    All of this notwithstanding, I still believe in donating to charity.

    My worry is that the techniques of getting in people's faces might backfire and actually have the unintended consequence of desensitizing people (especially in this economy). Which could predictably lead to ever more fiendish cycles of in-your-face tactics.

    posted by Eric at 11:37 AM | Comments (8)

    The University of Sydney Is Building Small Polywell

    Prometheus Fusion reports that the University of Sydney is building a small Polywell with copper coils.

    He has picture and a link to a series of Power Point slides explaining the work.

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 08:21 AM | Comments (5)

    Constitutional principles, practical obstacles
    I'd like to get some sleep before I travel,

    But if you got a warrant, I guess you're gonna come in.

    -- (From the Grateful Dead's Truckin')

    The recent government harassment of bloggers who published a TSA directive (which I discussed here) is worrisome for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the unprecedented nature of the federal government threatening and intimidating U.S. citizens because of the content of what they wrote. Not only is this is a direct violation of the First Amendment, but I think it's evidence of an emerging and very dangerous pattern of unconstitutional discrimination. It's bad enough for the government to direct its power against unapproved forms of speech, but by singling out bloggers for something that would be tolerated by the MSM, the government sends a clear message that some citizens have greater free speech rights than others. Thus, the New York Times and ABC News are free to publish allegedly "secret" government regulations, but ordinary citizens such as bloggers are not. How this is being allowed to happen I don't know. The First Amendment applies equally to everyone and makes no such distinctions. I am hoping that someone takes this all the way up to the Supreme Court, because right now that seems to be the only branch of government with a modicum of respect for the Constitution.

    A more practical and pressing concern is what to do when the feds come knocking and want to get into your computer. While there's an emerging consensus along the lines of "COME BACK WITH A WARRANT!" my worry is that there might be more to the government's intimidation process than simply putting citizens to the trouble of having to insist on their rights. My concern is that in these situtations, the government agents may not be content to simply return with the proper piece of paper and limit themselves to only what they originally sought. These people have vast power, including the right to break down doors, shoot dogs, and ultimately use fatal power, and when people stand up to them, they have a tendency to retaliate. Just as the citizen who demands his right to a jury trial will end up paying dearly for asserting that right if he is convicted, I fear that a citizen who says "COME BACK WITH A WARRANT!" might very well discover that when they do come back, they'll stay longer, search harder, tear the house apart, and maybe even "discover" things that were "in plain sight." (Illegal wood, perhaps?)

    So, it's easy to blithely tell people to stand up for their rights. But since we are all criminals now, are there practical consequences?

    MORE: If we see what is happening in conjunction with President Obama's quiet grant of unprecedented (and unconstitutional) power to a foreign police agency along with other developments limiting freedom -- such as our right choose the health care we want or even to enjoy life free from "carbon footprint" regulations -- too many things are flying at us fast and furious. The question becomes, how much is too much?

    I share Roger L. Simon's worries about the new year:

    for the first time, maybe it was reading Hayek, that I worried we could conceivably be losing our democracy. Apocalyptic? Yes, sure. But still an ominous thought that will not go away. 2010 could indeed be a Year of Living Dangerously.

    AND MORE: Via Glenn Reynolds, news of more government intimidation, of mil bloggers from This Ain't Hell:

    The Army CID showed more interest in tracking down the electronic route of an unclassified document than tracking down Hasan's connections with terrorism. One of us had all of his computers confiscated and the hard drive was copied by Army CID, just like the two bloggers in the TSA incident. He noticed that the screen names of the other two bloggers of TAH were on the search warrant - but neither was visited by CID.

    So, apparently, this government is more interested in bullying bloggers to keep our traps shut than they are in keeping us safe from terrorists.

    Hopefully they can't shut down the Internet.

    posted by Eric at 10:39 AM | Comments (9)

    The Two Wings Of The Party

    The two wings of the Democrat Party are the Crooks and the Communists. (about 7 minutes into the video)

    Part 2 - A Patronage System for Communists

    H/T Jccarlton at Talk Polywell

    Cross Posted at Power and Control

    posted by Simon at 06:25 PM | Comments (0)

    Death to "mouth peace"!

    So many people on the left are wishing Rush Limbaugh dead that the death-wish "movement" has caught the attention of legacy media. Rochelle Riley (no Limbaugh fan) has a column titled "Stop wishing Rush Limbaugh Dead," and quite predictably, the Limbaugh death-wishers are showing up in the comments.

    One champions his First Amendment right to wish the man dead:

    I'm gonna pretty much keep wishing him a slow, painful death. Stop telling me how to feel about this a-hole. Free speech, right?
    Yes, and it's free speech to scream "DEATH TO THE JEWS!" I suppose.

    Another commenter compares the hatred liberals have for Limbaugh to the hatred conservatives have for Olbermann:

    As much as liberals hate Rush, conservatives hate Olbermann wayyy more.
    Not only do I disagree with Olbermann, I think he's a thoroughly dishonest demagogue. But if he had a heart attack I would not wish for his death. Wishing for such a thing would mean putting him on a pedestal with evildoers like Osama bin Laden, Ayatollah Khamenei, Fidel Castro, Alois Brunner, etc. People who publicly voice opinions I don't like -- no matter how dishonest or despicable I might consider them to be, simply do not rise to anywhere near the same level as people who actually commit evil deeds. And even if Olbermann called for shooting conservatives (which he has not), even that would not rank him with an actual shooter. Moreover, wishing people dead because of their opinions is an admission that their opinions have vast power beyond your ability to cope. Such an inability to tolerate free speech is inconsistent with the spirit of the First Amendment, as it comes close (IMO) to being a tacit admission that certain opinions should be prohibited.

    I may be old-fashioned, but I still believe in that Voltaire-credited saying, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." And wishing someone dead because of what he says is hardly consistent with defending his right to say it.

    The only thing more idiotic than wishing someone dead, is to do so publicly. But there's an echo chamber of Limbaugh death wishers, reveling in their idiocy and egging each other on. Naturally, Rochelle Riley's article drew them as honey draws flies.

    I culled a few examples:

    I wish Rush Limpballz dead. And every other republican also. This Country was never meant to be fascist which is what the neo-cons are trying to bring to America. Rush Limpballs sure doesn't speak for me or any middle-class for that matter.
    Where it comes to "me's," I guess any "middle-class" will do.

    Here's someone who is against feeble-minded authority:

    I wish a horrible, painful death on the worthless excuse of a man because he is a horrible human being who has the ability to fuel the hatred of other feeble minded people. And as the saying goes(sort of)...fear those feeble minded people in positions of authority!
    I didn't know that talking on the radio meant being in a position of authority, and that worries me, because the same thing could be said about writing a blog. I do not want to be placed in a position of authority against my will on the say-so of total strangers.

    Another commenter is angry at Limbaugh (and now Riley) because a co-worker joined a Nazi group:

    Riley says the freedom of speech must be upheld. Rush must be allowed to ferment hate and seeing this first hand I say death to a monster is fair also. I just hope someday to hear of this justice by the higher powers. My co-worker listens to this fervor causing former drug adddict daily and last week he joined a Nazi group. Whats Ms riley got to say about this?
    Hey, I didn't know that hate could be fermented, but maybe I can brew all these comments and try to get myself pickled with the lefty spirits.

    And why not? After all, it is New Years Day.

    What better way to party with the death wishers?

    The party is planned, bringing chips and dip. Just let me know when he dies. We will consider that passing as civic improvement. He is nothing but a rude, nasty person and a drug addict on top of it.
    So there!

    This one sarcastically urges Limbaugh's fans to stifle their gay tears, and threatens to take drugs:

    SNIFFLE, SNIFFLE!! Leave poor Rush alone! It doesn't matter that we conservatives jumped for joy at the word of Ted Kennedy's death and berated him mercilessly in the days and weeks after. And it doesn't matter that most of us don't respect anyone who has a view that differs even slightly from ours. Rush is different. He's one of us -- a REAL American... unlike anyone who's ever voted for a Democrat or belonged to a labor union. So, picking on him is way out of bounds you un-American commie terrorist lovers. If crying weren't something so gay, us real Americans would be sobbing in the street. Instead, I urge my fellow tea baggers to pray for Rush tonight while you're cleaning your assault rifles. For me, I'll take an extra dose of Oxycontin in his honor!
    Whoa, isn't that a borderline suicide threat?

    This one doesn't exactly wish him dead, but the spelling is precious:

    Stop it, he mocks and displays hate at every turn, what about his comments about a dead Ted Kennedy, Michal J. Fox, and people with parkinstan desease. He constantly race baits, and encourages hate. This is not liberal view, this is a rush is a butt hole view. He's the mouth peace for hate and what's wrong with this country. He's a drug user and should be put out of our miseries. I am niether liberal or conservative, I'm a white guy who can't stand butt holes like rush. He wishes the country to fail, what kind of American is he.
    My own butt hole view is that there's nothing like being a "mouth peace" for love.

    Especially when you don't think your crap stinks:

    If he lives, then he'll continue to makes conservatives look insane and stupid.

    If he dies, I won't shed a tear. I'll probably open the bottle of the good scotch in celebration.

    But for the conservatives wagging their finger at dems, you need to look at what the conservative were saying when Teddy Kennedy died. SO stop pretending you are poor innocent victims who's crap doesn't stink!

    Well, my crap stinks as much as anyone else's, and I don't pretend otherwise, but there is a difference between the failure to mourn a titan of the left and wishing someone dead because you don't like his opinions.

    Anyway, there are a lot more, but there's only so much hate I feel like regurgitating today. (After all, it is New Years Day, and I really should be trying to be more of a love peace than a hate peace.)

    To end on a more pleasant note, the bright side is that the wish-you-were-dead brigades seem to have driven at least one commenter to libertarianism:

    As much as I'm bored by Rush Limbaugh, I have to say that I'm equally disgusted with wish-you-were-dead comments. There are a lot of talking heads out there who annoy us. Hey, when are liberals going to tell Perez Hilton to put a cork in it? Liberals and conservatives ruin my day everyday. That's why I'm a Libertarian now.
    I've had plenty of days ruined by liberals, and occasionally (although not nearly as often) by conservatives.

    I'm almost tempted to resolve not to let anyone ruin my day, except they don't. Other people can ruin my day only when I let it happen.

    So maybe I should resolve to stop ruining my day. Might be too much of a mouthful, though.

    There are too many mouth peaces in the war.

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

    The news that Limbaugh's tests revealed that nothing was wrong must come as quite a disappointment to the death wishers. Hmmm...

    Might their teleological thinking have backfired?

    posted by Eric at 12:11 PM | Comments (27)

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