January 2005 Archives

The second part of my appearance on the Full Disclosure program is now available online. Both parts one and two will air throughout Los Angeles on channel 36 on Monday, January 31st (today!), and Friday, February 4th, from 7pm to 8pm (refer to the channel guide). For the streaming video, follow these links: part one, part two.

In a bizarre example of what can happen when a government gets too deep into the private realm (ha), Germany is now threatening to cut benefits to women who refuse to work as prostitutes.

A 25-year-old waitress who turned down a job providing "sexual services'' at a brothel in Berlin faces possible cuts to her unemployment benefit under laws introduced this year. ...

She received a letter from the job centre telling her that an employer was interested in her "profile'' and that she should ring them. Only on doing so did the woman, who has not been identified for legal reasons, realise that she was calling a brothel.

Under Germany's welfare reforms, any woman under 55 who has been out of work for more than a year can be forced to take an available job – including in the sex industry – or lose her unemployment benefit. Last month German unemployment rose for the 11th consecutive month to 4.5 million, taking the number out of work to its highest since reunification in 1990.

The government had considered making brothels an exception on moral grounds, but decided that it would be too difficult to distinguish them from bars. As a result, job centres must treat employers looking for a prostitute in the same way as those looking for a dental nurse. ...

Tatiana Ulyanova, who owns a brothel in central Berlin, has been searching the online database of her local job centre for recruits.

"Why shouldn't I look for employees through the job centre when I pay my taxes just like anybody else?" said Miss Ulyanova.

Indeed! Will some Leftist please explain to me why this isn't a desirable result?

Update:
Aw, too bad... Xrlq says this story is a hoax -- though CBS and Dan Rather aren't sure yet.

Apparently self-esteem isn't all it's cracked up to be. Duh. Here's a link to the article Randy writes about below.

Finally!! A major study by an expert in self esteem commissioned by the American Psychological Society to study the benefits of self-esteem, and the finding is “disappointing.” Professor Roy F. Baumeister of Florida State writes in the Tuesday Opinion Section of the Los Angeles Times:

1. Does not produce better grades
2. Does not produce better work habits or quality
3. Does not result in more friends or better relationships
4. Does not produce better leaders
5. Does not keep people from becoming bullies
6. Does not keep people from cheating, stealing or experimenting with sex or drugs

Anyone who's ever been a kid can tell you that the biggest liars, cheats, and bullies also had the highest self-esteem. So why do people praise self-esteem? Probably because people with it, in heaping quantities, rate themselves as doing better than perhaps they actually are. From Dr. Baumeister's article:

Self-esteem doesn't make adults perform better at their jobs either. Sure, people with high self-esteem rate their own performance better — even declaring themselves smarter and more attractive than their low self-esteem peers — but neither objective tests nor impartial raters can detect any difference in the quality of work.

Likewise, people with high self-esteem think they make better impressions, have stronger friendships and have better romantic lives than other people, but the data don't support their self-flattering views. If anything, people who love themselves too much sometimes annoy other people by their defensive or know-it-all attitudes. Self-esteem doesn't predict who will make a good leader, and some work (including that of psychologist Robert Hogan writing in the Harvard Business Review) has found humility rather than self-esteem to be a key trait of successful leaders.

Gosh, who would've guessed it?

Proverbs 11:2
When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.

Proverbs 15:33
The fear of the LORD teaches a man wisdom, and humility comes before honor.

Proverbs 18:12
Before his downfall a man's heart is proud, but humility comes before honor.

Proverbs 22:4
Humility and the fear of the LORD bring wealth and honor and life.

Philippians 2:3
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.

And those are just "humility"; do a search on "humble" for further insight and wisdom.

I've written about Stephen Meyer and his peer-reviewed article on the theory of intelligent design, and those posts attracted a large number of comments on his ideas, as well as on evolution and science in general. I'm very curious to read what you all think of the recent witch hunt targeting Richard Sternberg, the journal editor who okayed Dr. Meyer's paper for publication in the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington.

Whatever the article's ultimate merits--beyond the judgment of a layman--it was indeed subject to peer review, the gold standard of academic science. Not that such review saved Mr. Sternberg from infamy. Soon after the article appeared, Hans Sues--the museum's No. 2 senior scientist--denounced it to colleagues and then sent a widely forwarded e-mail calling it "unscientific garbage."

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Zoology Department, Jonathan Coddington, called Mr. Sternberg's supervisor. According to Mr. Sternberg's OSC complaint: "First, he asked whether Sternberg was a religious fundamentalist. She told him no. Coddington then asked if Sternberg was affiliated with or belonged to any religious organization. . . . He then asked where Sternberg stood politically; . . . he asked, 'Is he a right-winger? What is his political affiliation?' " The supervisor (who did not return my phone messages) recounted the conversation to Mr. Sternberg, who also quotes her observing: "There are Christians here, but they keep their heads down."

Worries about being perceived as "religious" spread at the museum. One curator, who generally confirmed the conversation when I spoke to him, told Mr. Sternberg about a gathering where he offered a Jewish prayer for a colleague about to retire. The curator fretted: "So now they're going to think that I'm a religious person, and that's not a good thing at the museum."

In October, as the OSC complaint recounts, Mr. Coddington told Mr. Sternberg to give up his office and turn in his keys to the departmental floor, thus denying him access to the specimen collections he needs. Mr. Sternberg was also assigned to the close oversight of a curator with whom he had professional disagreements unrelated to evolution. "I'm going to be straightforward with you," said Mr. Coddington, according to the complaint. "Yes, you are being singled out." Neither Mr. Coddington nor Mr. Sues returned repeated phone messages asking for their version of events.

Are Mr. Coddington and Mr. Sues acting like scientists, or religious zealots persecuting a heretic?

It's hard to read about the jubilation of Iraqi voters without my eyes tearing up.

BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Some came on crutches, others walked for miles then struggled to read the ballot, but across Iraq, millions turned out to vote Sunday, defying insurgents who threatened a bloodbath. ...

Even in Falluja, the Sunni city west of Baghdad that was a militant stronghold until a U.S. assault in November, a steady stream of people turned out, confounding expectations. Lines of veiled women clutching their papers waited to vote.

"We want to be like other Iraqis, we don't want to always be in opposition," said Ahmed Jassim, smiling after he voted.

Good for you, Mr. Jassim. That's the kind of spirit that's going to be required for you to rebuild your country.

In Baquba, a rebellious city northeast of Baghdad, spirited crowds clapped and cheered at one voting station. In Mosul, scene of some of the worst insurgent attacks in recent months, U.S. and local officials said turnout was surprisingly high. ...

Even in the so-called "triangle of death," a hotbed of Sunni insurgency south of Baghdad, turnout was solid, officials said. ...

Samir Hassan, 32, who lost his leg in a car bomb blast in October, was determined to vote. "I would have crawled here if I had to. I don't want terrorists to kill other Iraqis like they tried to kill me. Today I am voting for peace," he said, leaning on his metal crutches, determination in his reddened eyes.

Americans, Brits, Poles, Aussies, and other foreigners aren't the only ones who have suffered and died for Iraq, despite the way many news reports portray it. Most of the blood has been shed by Iraqis themselves, and this is a great day for their country. A great success.

In Sadr City, a poor Shi'ite neighborhood of northeast Baghdad, thick lines of voters turned out, women in black abaya robes in one line, men in another.

If Sadr City sounds familiar, it's because it was the headquarters of that radical Shi'ite cleric who led a rebellion last year, funded by Iran. And now the people are voting.

One of the biggest surprises was Mosul, a mixed Sunni Arab and Kurd city in the far north. "So far it's gone very well, much better than expected," said a U.S. army officer.

Baghdad's mayor was overcome with emotion by the turnout of voters at City Hall, where he said thousands were celebrating.

"I cannot describe what I am seeing. It is incredible. This is a vote for the future, for the children, for the rule of law, for humanity, for love," Alaa al-Tamimi told Reuters.

Indeed. Americans can learn a thing or two from the Iraqis -- maybe we could get a few thousand gallons of that indelible ink that prevents people from voting more than once, for starters.

There's a particularly encouraging report from Iraq the Model:

The first thing we saw this morning on our way to the voting center was a convoy of the Iraqi army vehicles patrolling the street, the soldiers were cheering the people marching towards their voting centers then one of the soldiers chanted "vote for Allawi" less than a hundred meters, the convoy stopped and the captain in charge yelled at the soldier who did that and said: "You're a member of the military institution and you have absolutely no right to support any political entity or interfere with the people's choice. This is Iraq's army, not Allawi's". This was a good sign indeed and the young officer's statement was met by applause from the people on the street.

Hammorabi has pictures from polling stations.

Jeffrey at Iraqi Bloggers Central has a summary of blog coverage, largely by Iraqi bloggers I hadn't heard about until now.

Steven Vincent issues a stern rebuke to lefties like Marko Zuniga:

And what of our friends on the Left? I'm sorry they can't share in our joy--because there is no reason they should not. Alas, like the Muslim Scholars Association, they, too, decided to "boycott" the elections. For example, here is what the great lefty website Daily Kos had to say yesterday:
The war is long past lost. Time to pack it in, and save the lives of our men and women in uniform that will otherwise face a barrage of bullets and RPG rounds during their extended stay in the desert.

Clearly, Dean-shill Marko Zuniga has an odd perception of liberalism. On a day when millions of Iraqi citizens stood up against the specter of fascism to exercise their rights as free and dignified human beings, Zuniga claims the election is "simply an exercise in pretty pictures." Tell that to the Iraqis who danced and cried for joy at the chance to vote, Mr. Zuniga. Tell that to people who have suffered for decades under a tyrant whose crimes were brutal to the point of madness. Tell that to the men and women who died to make this day a reality.

Doesn't it bother the Left that they've positioned themselves such that today -- such a great day for Democracy -- they're inescapably grouped with losers like Saddam Hussein and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, doomed to the wrong side of history?

Hindrocket at Power Line Blog has more pictures of Iraqi's voting. Friends of Democracy has election day photos also.

I love Los Angeles, but I hate downtown. It totally and completely sucks. The streets were laid out by retarded dyslexics who liked to drive in endless circles. The freeway junctions are ridiculously useless -- you can't get back to anything you pass, and there are lots of places you can see that you can't get to at all. There are innumerable exits with no corresponding entrances, so if you get off the freeway in the wrong place you're basically doomed. Traffic everywhere for no reason; people crossing the street at 0.00001 miles per hour; intersections you aren't allowed to turn at, in any direction; signs that purport to you lead to the freeway, but don't; streets that are one-way in some places but not in others. I hate it.

Xrlq vindicates my April, 2003, prediction that John Kerry's election defeat would be hailed as a victory due to "beating the spead".

I believe that 9/11 was the central deciding issue in this race. And the tape – we were rising in the polls up until the last day when the tape appeared. We flat-lined the day the tape appeared and went down on Monday. I think it had an impact. But 9/11, you know, it’s a very difficult hurdle when a country is at war. I applauded the president’s leadership in the days immediately afterwards. I thought he did a good job in that, and he obviously connected to the American people in those immediate days. When a country is at war and in the wake of 9/11, it’s very difficult to shift horses in midstream. I think it’s remarkable we came as close as we did as a campaign. Many Republicans say we beat their models by four or five points as to what they thought we could achieve.

Actually though, he didn't beat the spread I got on Tradesports -- I ended up quadrupling my money by betting against him on election day.

Wretchard has an excellent post on how the Democratic party, even while desperately struggling to regain its footing after a decade of devestating defeats, refuses to consider the unthinkable.

In a memorandum distributed by the New Democractic Network, Rosenberg summarized what he thought to be the salient components of the conservative revolution. The Democratic Party had in its way, suffered a private and political 9/11 -- an asymmetrical assault from the right -- due Rosenberg believed, to four reasons.

1. The Republican/conservative alliance has built a superior information-age political machine.
2. As an intellectually-based movement born when the Republicans were a true minority Party, their infrastructure is built on a foundation on the need to persuade.
3. 9/11 gave the Republicans an opening that they have adroitly exploited.
4. Bush’s brand of conservatism has had a particularly big impact in the South.
5. The new Republican momentum with Hispanics is a grave threat.

From a superficial point of view, Rosenberg's analysis fits all the facts he cares to acknowledge. But it begs the question of whether conservative ideas have succeeded, at least in part, because they were more consonant with reality than the 'progressive' ideas of the Left. It is not my intention to prove the superiority of one ideology over the other; simply to point out that the very possibility is excluded from Rosenberg's analysis; and by excluding the possibility that Conservative ascendance might be due to a careful selection of 'correct' positions into their portfolio, the NDN is really assuming what must be proved.

The Democrats refuse to acknowledge that they may be faltering simply because their positions do not resonate with reality. The 20th century was dominated by leftist experiments, all of which were miserable failures. If Democrats are crass power-seekers, they'd do well to recognize this sea-change -- and if they genuinely want to help humanity, doubly so.

Does anyone know much about animal mating in the wild? Do wild animals commonly mate with their near relatives? For instance, male fish can't possibly know which eggs in the water are from their mothers or daughters; they must fertilize indiscriminately. What about mammals? Do bull lions mate with their daughters after driving other males away? Lots of mammals operate in groups with a single dominant male that mates with all the females, which must include his own relatives.

My friend Randy Kirk has just started a blog titled The Truth About Everything. So far he's tackled evolution, chocolate diets, and the dearth of punny women. No word yet on the Master of None signature water bottle, but how can I be refused now?

DeoDuce has a perspective on the upcoming election in Iraq from her vantage point as an Iraqi American.

Not many of us know what it was like to live under Saddam Hussein. Even with all of the horror stories from friends and family members of the Hussein regime, I too am in the dark as to fully comprehend the enormity of the terror the Iraqi people suffered as I was privileged to have been born here in the United States. Thank God.

We equate Auschwitz with death (and necessarily so) and Rwanda with genocide. However, what happened to 1-6 million Iraqis who disappeared under Saddam's reign? It was an Iraqi Holocaust. It was a Kurdish Holocaust. It was a human Holocaust. Some people simply cannot seem to understand this. No amount of debate or words can lessen lack of comprehension of moral matters or matters so inherently serious as mass evil. Whatever the case, I wonder if the Iraqis can muster the strength, energy, and hope to go to the polls and reassert their pride and Right to Exist upon the Map of Human Races. We, as Americans, have helped the Iraqi people say "no more." Now it is time for the Iraqis to say "never again." Will they vote?

They'll vote, and some will die for it. As Thomas Jefferson said, "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." Iraqi patriots will shed their blood on Sunday, and we can only hope that the blood of their former tyrant will not be far behind.

How much is the little TM next to "Coca-Cola" worth? How about more than US$15 billion per year? According to this ACNeilsen report, there are 43 worldwide billion-dollar brands, and Coke tops them all, followed by Marlboro. The complete list, by value:

Coca-Cola
Marlboro
Pepsi
Budweiser
Campbell’s
Kellogg’s
Pampers
Benson & Hedges
Camel
Danone
Fanta
Friskies
Gillette
Huggies
Nescafe
Sprite
Tide
Tropicana
Wrigley’s
Colgate
Duracell
Heineken
Kodak
L&M
Lay’s
Pedigree
Always North
Doritos
Energizer
Gatorade
Guinness
Kinder
Kleenex
L’Oreal
Maxwell House
Minute Maid
Nivea
Pantene
Philadelphia
Pringles
Seven-Up/7-Up
Tylenol
Whiskas

It's interesting that the top brands are sodas, cigarettes, and beers. Make sure to note that the study only includes brands that have a presence all around the world.

Oligopoly Watch has a table with more information, so rather than recreate it I'll just point you there.

Ken at Chicago Boyz makes an excellent observation with regard to flying cars: they aren't meant to operate over cities, they're mean to replace cities.

For all of these purposes, the flying car serves not as a means of traveling within a city, but as a substitute for the city itself! Instead of shortening the distance between people and enterprises by crowding them into a city, the skycar shortens the travel time while allowing the people themselves to live hundreds of miles away from their jobs, their friends, and their favorite shops. A few dozen houses may be clumped together in a single clearing, or a single house may stand on its own, but in either case small neighborhoods and single office buildings/strip malls/large stores will be surrounded by miles of wilderness, and people will spend most of their time endangering nothing but trees or grass if they happen to suffer mechanical failure, and enjoying plenty of space between themselves and the nearest fellow traveler.

He also observes that decentralizing our population will make our country more resistant to terrorist attacks (even nuclear weapons). Not to mention the potential environmental benefits to be had, and the psychological benefits of lower population density. I suspect most people would live in town-sized clusters of 2,000 to 5,000 people, rather than the tiny villages Ken describes, but I agree that the megalopolis may eventually be a thing of the past.

University of Colorado professor Ward L. Churchill is arguing that the 9/11 victims were legitimate targets for our enemies to strike at, and he calls the hijackers "combat teams" rather than terrorists. Sure, Churchill is a repulsive fool, but even aside from that I think his comments are pointless. It doesn't really matter to me what you call our enemies; why quibble over vocabulary?

The real crux of the issue is that by changing the vocabulary, Churchill and others of his ilk are attempting to advance a more subtle arguement: if the people killed on 9/11 were "legitimate targets" rather than innocent victims, then we're not justified in avenging their deaths. But is that true? If our military forces are attacked by honorable enemies, it's still a declaration of war and we're still entitled to fight back.

So what's the point Churchill is trying to make? Even if his position is accurate, we're still justified in crushing our enemies; if their attack on 9/11 was justified as retaliation for our earlier attacks, then our subsequent attacks must likewise be justified. His essay is pointless as an argument for unilaterally stopping the conflict; all it can hope to achieve is to make Americans and terrorists into moral equivalents, thereby scoring some sort of abstract philisophical point.

I, however, am not particularly interested in the philosophy behind the War on Terror. I don't really care "why they hate us" -- or even that they hate us -- I just want them to stop killing my countrymen. The root causes are irrelevant to me, because I'm not after "justice"; we'll never reach agreement on that, so let's leave it to God. I just want to win.

Update:

Clayton Cramer agrees that the essay was pointless and trite. Sometimes I think the American left has no purpose other than to make the rest of us feel as bad about ourselves as they do about theirselves.

Ryan at The Dead Parrot Society links to a report on a survey of journalists and readers he worked on that asked its respondents to decide whether they would publish certain graphic news photos. He writes that journalists and readers all focused on similar concerns when making the decision, but that journalists were 10% to 15% more likely to publish than were readers. This makes sense to me, and as he quotes:

"It's probably safe to say that journalists as a group are more likely to ground their moral decisions in duty," [said Kelly McBride of the Poynter Institute.] "They believe it is their duty to inform. In the wider public arena, a greater portion of people are going to ground their moral decisions in care. That means they would be concerned about harming the people in the photos, as well as the audience who might view the photo."

According to the survey, journalists are wary of becoming mouthpieces for "terrorist propaganda" -- yet as Wretchard at Belmont Club has noted, they often appear to do just that.

So what's the right answer? Frankly, I wouldn't care what images the media chose to show as long as they made it clear that they're on our side and want America to achieve complete and total victory. The only reason there's worry about helping the terrorists is because the media refuses to take the side of the good guys. That doesn't mean they should be issuing American propaganda or lies, but they also shouldn't let any of their viewers doubt where their loyalties lie: to their country, or merely to their profession?

The problem is similar to that faced by many international "human rights" groups. They don't get anywhere publishing articles about the evil of terrorists and tyrannical regimes, because everyone knows. Kim Jong Il starves his people and keeps hundreds of thousands in concentration camps? Big deal. Uday Hussein snatches girls off the street to rape and murder them? Who cares. China controls its population using forced abortions? Whatever. American soldiers strip their prisoners naked and take pictures? Stop the presses!

It's hard to know whether or not to write about such things, but since the damage to New York's C line is making major headlines it can serve as an example. No one wants to give terrorists unfamiliar with our society any ideas of how to damage us, but the ease with which the subway was crippled should prompt us all to think of the weak points we see in our daily lives and what we can do to keep an eye on them.

A fire in a subway control room has put the C line out of service for up to five years and caused serious problems on the A line that will make the commute miserable for hundreds of thousands of subway riders, officials said yesterday.

The unstaffed room containing 600 electrical devices called "relays" that are used to power signals and switches along a segment of the vital Eighth Avenue line were destroyed Sunday in the blaze.

Cops blamed a vagrant who set a shopping cart full of wood blocks ablaze six feet into the tracks at the Chambers Street station. Cops are searching for the derelict.

Why wasn't the relay station closed off? Even a cheap metal door could have stopped a shopping cart full of wood. Simple security enhancements can do a lot to deter criminals and to make crime more difficult. We should all be attentive to our surroundings and do what we can to protect our country and our infrastructure.

The first installment of my appearance on the Emmy-winning Full Disclosure program is now available online. I'm informed that parts one and two will air throughout Los Angeles on channel 36 on Monday, January 31st, and Friday, February 4th, from 7pm to 8pm (refer to the channel guide). If you don't have cable service (as I don't) then you can watch the streaming video here: part one.

Eduwonk describes how the teachers' union in San Diego is doing its utmost to prevent reform and harm children for its own profit.

Superintendent Alan Bersin is poised to reorganize several of the city's chronically underperforming schools. At two of the three schools a majority of teachers have voted to make the schools charter schools to help facilitate this and at all three 60-80 percent of parents voted to do the same. Remember, these are not schools that didn't do well "on a single test" but schools that have not done right by students for years.

Yet the school board member who represents these schools has apparently decided to oppose this and in the process force a vote on buying out the remainder of Bersin's contract because he won't play ball. Possible reasons for her move? (A) It's a great way for her to make a lifelong friend of the Bersin-loathing teachers' union there. Or (B) concerns that if several schools in her district become semi-autonomous it will hurt her political clout and power on the board. There is no (C) because it's generally agreed that changes are in the interest of the kids....600 parents showed up at a recent school board meeting to push for these changes.

Note that it's not even the teachers; in two of the three schools the teachers affirmed the proposed changed. It's the unions that are attempting to thwart the will of the parents, teachers, and administrators. It's unfortunate, but teachers' unions (and most unions, these days) are societal parasites that don't benefit anyone but their rulers -- not even their members.

Paul Sperry has a great article in Reason Online about resume and diploma fraud, particularly among our public servants.

Laura L. Callahan was very proud of her Ph.D. When she received it a few years ago, she promptly rewrote her official biography to highlight the academic accomplishment, referring to it not once or twice but nine times in a single-page summary of her career. And she never let her employees at the Labor Department, where she served as deputy chief information officer, forget it, even demanding that they call her "Doctor." ...

"When she was running around telling people to call her 'Dr. Callahan,' I asked where she got her degree," says Richard Wainwright a computer specialist who worked for Callahan at Labor for two years. "When I found out, I laughed."

It turns out Callahan got her precious sheepskin from Hamilton University. Not Hamilton College, the highly competitive school in Clinton, New York, but Hamilton University, the unaccredited fee-for-degree "distance learning" center in Evanston, Wyoming, right on the Utah border. Such diploma mills frequently use names similar to those of accredited schools.

Unbeknown to Callahan, Wainwright had once lived near the small town of Evanston (population: 10,903) and knew it well. As a student at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, where he received his bachelor's degree years ago, he had made beer runs to Evanston, less than 60 miles away. He knew there were no universities there, or at least none worth attending. "Evanston doesn't have much but a few motels and liquor stores," he tells me. "I looked up Hamilton University on the Web and saw it was an old Motel 6, and I knew it was bogus."

A few minutes with Google would probably save our government billions of dollars and increase productivity at the same time. This type of fraud isn't new, and it's one of the reasons why I have very little respect for most public sector workers. No evil private corporation would fall for this kind of nonsense -- not without going out of business, anyway.

JJ McCullough at Filibuster Cartoons has greated a handy pictoral chart of inaugurations from around the world. The pictures show various heads of government taking their oaths of office, and the differences are as interesting as the similarities. It's a shame they frequently don't take their promises very seriously.

Playing Trivial Pursuit last night with my friends reminded me of how annoying the game can be at times. There were several questions that didn't make sense, and whose answers were matters of opinion and/or weren't correct.

And example of the first was from the "Innovations" category -- billed as "inventions, medical breakthroughs, and electronics": "What do you do when you fail to stifle a sternutation?" They could have just asked for the definition of the word directly rather than being coy, but the obvious answer is still sneeze. But how does that have anything to do with "innovation"? It doesn't. So my team wasted several minutes trying to think of another answer that made sense; failing to do so, we answered with the obvious response and got it correct. That's stupid.

As for my second complaint, questions that are just plain wrong: "What country discovered in 2000 that it had underestimated its coastline by 16,000 miles?" Oh please, that's absurd. 16,000 miles is enough to take you two-thirds of the way around the earth's equator. The answer was Norway, presumably because they hadn't bothered to measure all those tiny indentations in their fractal coastline, but the back of the card gave no explanation and I was skeptical. Rightly so. According to the CIA World Factbook, the coastline of Norway is only 13,623 miles in total, and I doubt their earlier estimation was -2,377 miles. Plus, there are only 10,000 miles of indentations -- which coincidentally is about 16,000 kilometers, so maybe that's what the game meant. Anyway, there are lots of questionable cards like that, and the fact that the answers have no explanation is doubly irritating.


The trees in Los Angeles think it's already Spring.

Does anyone else find it ironic that the only two places in the world where Arabs have a meaningful opportunity to vote are Israel and -- soon -- Iraq?

I wrote an earlier post about how President Bush is a uniter, and many commenters scoffed at the notion. Nonetheless, what lessons do you think politicians can learn from the inauguration ratings of the various cable news stations? (Link perishable.)

CNN LOSES 63% OF AUDIENCE OVER INAUGURATION 2001 Fri Jan 21 2005 23:52:24 2005

CNN hemorrhaged more than half their audience from the 2001 Inauguration, overnights show. The troubled news network only averaged 779,000 viewers during yesterday's Inauguration coverage from 10am-4pm with just 168,000 of those viewers landing in the coveted 25-54 demo.

Like CNN, MSNBC also suffered major losses, only averaging 438,000 viewers throughout yesterday's coverage (141,000 in 25-54), down a whopping 68% over 2001 and faring even worse in primetime with just 385,000 viewers.

In contrast, Fox News averaged 2,581,000 viewers from 10a-4p (up 30% over 2001) and their 25-54 demo average of 705,000 came close to CNN's total coverage ratings yesterday.

PRIMETIME:

FNC -- 2,439,000 (up 57% OVER '01)
CNN -- 1,353,000 (down 14% over '01)
MSNBC -- 385,000 (down 47% over '01)

Developing...

Remember, President Bush had just narrowly defeated Al Gore in 2000, and that election was just as hotly contested as this one. There's no reason to believe that a higher percentage of Republicans than Democrats were watching this inauguration than the one in 2001, so how should the numbers be explained? (Considering that Fox News is seen as a Republican network and CNN is seen as a Democrat network.)

Perhaps politicians should take note of how their constituents spend their valuable time. Fox News is building viewership because people like the conservative slant. Why? Clearly because people are either becoming more conservative, or because the definition of "liberal" is shifting so far from the center that the term itself is abandoning the people it used to define. If the 20th century defeat of Communism demonstrated anything, it's that leaders ignore the wisdom of markets at their own peril.

Most mainstream media sources make a big deal about being "unbiased", but none of them succeed, and it's to the point where I think it's time we all admitted that objectivity is an unreasonable goal. Instead of feigning objectivity, journalists should just be honest about their personal biases and allow their audience to take them into account.

It's possible to be biased and still be honest, but it's impossible to be honest while pretending to be unbiased. I don't doubt that many/most in the media try to be objective, but it's clear from public opinion polls that despite their efforts they're failing miserably. One thing I like about bloggers is that we generally admit our biases for the sake of honesty; we do our best to get our facts right, plus we disclose our prejudices so that our readers can factor them in. Everyone who reads this blog knows that I'm a Christian and a Republican, and I'm sure you can see the influence of those two facts (as well as others) on everything I write.

The problem with the mainstream media is that they've built their reputations on the idea that they're objective. Sure, polls show that most Americans know that most journalists are incredibly biased (just like everyone else), but journalists have to maintain the delusion of objectivity because they use that facade to inject their opinions into the public debate. Without the illusion of objectivity, most of the opinions of the leftist media would hardly be worthy of discussion by rational human beings. (See, I'm biased.)

I think Mel Gibson is doing the right thing by not pandering for Awards from the Academy for The Passion of the Christ. There are several organizations, such as Passion for Fairness, that seem outraged that the movie is unlikely to win many award, but I have to wonder why they care. I agree that The Passion is worthy of acclaim and recognition for being an excellent movie, but winning awards wasn't really the point, was it? Mr. Gibson seems to realize that lobbying for an Oscar for his film would be like Jesus Christ mounting a campaign for the American presidency.

President Bush ran in 2000 as "a uniter, not a divider" and I think the 2004 election proves that he was successful. If you watch the news you'll see a huge number of people who seem to hate his guts and think he's evil and malignant, but I don't think they refute George W. Bush's ability to unite us as a country.

Sure, we're more polarized than ever, and many Democrats think President Bush is the worst thing since Hitler, but the thing to realize is that President Bush is reducing the number of Democrats. He received nine million more votes in 2004 than he did in 2000, and many of those people were Gore voters who decided to switch sides. Our parties may be more polarized than ever, but because of President Bush more Americans are uniting under the Republican banner than ever before.

Congressional Democrats are clamoring for Bush to pay attention to them and negotiate, but why should he? He doesn't have to be "bipartisan" and unite the parties in order to unite the country. He's uniting the country by enticing people away from the opposition and onto his side. Rather than making peace with his opponents, he's turning opponents into friends. That's what real unity is, and he's being more successful than any president I can think of.

His job is made easier every time a Democrat opens his mouth to say something stupid and mean-spirited. If the Democrats care about their party and want to play it smart they should concentrate on reducing attrition rather than stirring up the faithful. However, any Democrat who really wants to play it smart and influence the next 20 years of American policy should be switching to the Republican party ASAP.

Northern California has two false conceits:
1. They're a peer to New York, and
2. SoCal cares what they think.

That is, developments in using your mind to control things. There are two great articles about advances in cybernetics that allow paralyzed people to control computers and electronics via brain implants.

I love President Bush, and his speechwriters.

In a speech delivered before a vast throng of fellow Americans spilling away from the steps of the Capitol, Bush said he would place the nation on the side of the world's oppressed people. "All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore your oppress, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you." ...

In the first words of his new term, Bush said that advancing freedom and liberty were the oldest ideals of America. "Now it is the urgent requirement of our nation's security, and the calling of our time," he said in a reference to the war against terrorism.

Bush offered an implied rebuttal to critics of his foreign policy and the war in Iraq. "Some, I know, have questioned the global appeal of liberty," he said, "though this time in history, four decades defined by the swiftest advance of freedom ever seen, is an odd time for doubt."

Here's the full transcript of President Bush's inaugural address. The parts that made the cry:

We have seen our vulnerability - and we have seen its deepest source. For as long as whole regions of the world simmer in resentment and tyranny - prone to ideologies that feed hatred and excuse murder - violence will gather, and multiply in destructive power, and cross the most defended borders, and raise a mortal threat. There is only one force of history that can break the reign of hatred and resentment, and expose the pretensions of tyrants, and reward the hopes of the decent and tolerant, and that is the force of human freedom.

We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.

America's vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one. From the day of our Founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear the image of the Maker of Heaven and earth. Across the generations we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave. Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our Nation. It is the honorable achievement of our fathers. Now it is the urgent requirement of our nation's security, and the calling of our time. ...

We go forward with complete confidence in the eventual triumph of freedom. Not because history runs on the wheels of inevitability; it is human choices that move events. Not because we consider ourselves a chosen nation; God moves and chooses as He wills. We have confidence because freedom is the permanent hope of mankind, the hunger in dark places, the longing of the soul. When our Founders declared a new order of the ages; when soldiers died in wave upon wave for a union based on liberty; when citizens marched in peaceful outrage under the banner "Freedom Now" - they were acting on an ancient hope that is meant to be fulfilled. History has an ebb and flow of justice, but history also has a visible direction, set by liberty and the Author of Liberty.

When the Declaration of Independence was first read in public and the Liberty Bell was sounded in celebration, a witness said, "It rang as if it meant something." In our time it means something still. America, in this young century, proclaims liberty throughout all the world, and to all the inhabitants thereof. Renewed in our strength - tested, but not weary - we are ready for the greatest achievements in the history of freedom.

May God bless you, and may He watch over the United States of America.

If that doesn't give you hope for the future and bring tears to your eyes then you have a hardened, tiny soul.

I want a Wicked Laser, preferably the 50mW version. Someone buy an ad.

I went to the Laker game tonight and it was pretty good. I'm not a huge basketball fan, but I follow the Lakers (during playoffs anyway) and it was fun to watch them beat the Timberwolves live. While I was there I had three thoughts.

First, I always forget to leave my knives in the car when I go to sporting events or concerts, but it's always trivially easy to sneak stuff past the guards. They just aren't very motivated. I hope they're enough of a psychological deterrent to minimize the number of other people on the premises with weapons.

Second, exclamation points should not be used in pairs, even on jumbotrons. Exclamation points should be used singly, or -- in exceptional circumstances -- in triples. Two is right out.

Third, one of my friends remarked that he wanted to buy a Laker girl, and it made me wonder how much one would cost if slavery were legal. I'd assume that most humans would be priced similarly to real estate and other income property. Most human slaves would have a price determined by the amount of revenue they could earn for you in a year, multiplied by some market-determined P/E ratio. For example, an engineer who can earn $50,000 a year might be worth $500,000 as a slave. Age and health would be factors as well.

It gets tricky when you consider non-monetary uses for slaves. Slavery is essentially a form of specific performance contract, and except in rare cases courts are very reluctant to enforce specific performance. For instance, if Jane signs a contract with John and agrees to clean his house for a year but then refuses to do so, a judge is unlikely to order Jane to perform the task she agreed to do; instead the judge will simply order Jane to pay monetary damages. With slavery, specific performance would either be enforced by law, or by physical punishment or incarceration meted out by the slave owner. The point is, you could get your slave to do things by force that could not be adequately represented by a monetary payment. For instance, a slave artist could be forced to create a work of art that may have value to one person but none to another.

So how much would it cost to buy a Laker girl? Even though I doubt they earn much money, I expect they'd be rather expensive simply because people with the qualities of Laker girls are rare, and presumably in high demand. My guess is that a pre-prime Laker girl would be worth around $1,000,000 as a slave, but since she would be valued primarily for her physical attributes I expect that value would drop rapidly as she aged. In contrast, an excellent handyman could become more valuable as he aged and gained skill and experience.

Update:
The knowledgable Clayton Cramer give some historical information about the price of slaves and indicates that my estimation of value was quite high.

To convert antebellum prices to the current state of affairs, use gold prices then and now as a rough approximation. Gold cost about $16/ounce in 1850, so a prime field hand was about 50 ounces of gold. At today's spot price, that would be about $21,400.

Still, just like the stock market of the early 20th century, I expect P/E ratios were unrealistically low for slaves in the 19th century.

As Steven Den Beste wrote many times, we don't gain allies by making concessions and signing treaties. Real alliances only arise due to common interests. In a comment to my previous post on international hubris, Mark started with a quote from me and wrote:

MW: "My own advice is that the irrelevant part should step lightly to ensure that they don't fall into the half that's trying to hurt us."

Oh yes... that's just what we need.... more enemies and less allies.

But neither allies nor enemies are created by methods, they are only created by our goals. We want to spread freedom, wealth, and democracy, but a significant portion of the world -- including parts of the West -- want to keep the status quo because it's more profitable and easier. That's why France, Germany, and the UN opposed the liberation of Iraq. They had and have different goals than we do, which is why they aren't our allies.

As Mr. Den Beste wrote of those two nations in February of 2003, while they were obstructing us in the UN:

For all practical purposes, both nations are now enemies. Or rather, their governments are. The people of those nations are not, and we need to keep that in mind. I have friends in Germany and they are still my friends. But their governments are not acting like "allies". They're acting like enemies.

There is no alliance, and there is no friendship. This is no longer a deep difference of opinion between friends; it is fullblown opposition. They are actively opposing us and actively supporting our enemies, and there's no other way we can consider them now except as active cobelligerents against us. Their reputations and their influence are now direct threats to us, and we will need to damage them. This is, effectively, war now between the US/UK and France/Germany.

It isn't going to be a shooting war, however; it's a war of diplomacy and propaganda and influence. So if we come upon records in Iraq, or find people there who can prove that France and Germany have been actively trafficking in forbidden goods, or that they have been collaborating in other even more damaging ways, then public revelation of it will make their positions far less strong and reduce their threat to us. It doesn't matter how French or German voters react; what will be important is how everyone else, in Europe and in America and around the world view it.

Some will smile quietly about how they'd been shafting the Americans for years. But no one would trust them, and as a practical matter their international influence would be shattered. This would also have the effect of completing the destruction of the UN if it was shown that a veto power had been actively violating trade sanctions it had voted for.

Now that the oil-for-food scandal is being thoroughly investigated, it's clear that many nations who claimed to be our allies were, in fact, trying to screw us over. Why? Because it was in their interests to do so. We do what's in our interests, and they do what's in their interests. But when those interests don't line up, there's no "alliance", no matter what any piece of paper may say.

So to Mark's point, the only way for us to gain allies is for either our goals to change or for their goals to change. I don't want ours to change; no matter how much France and Germany and the UN love tyranny and oppression, I think we should fight against it at every reasonable opportunity. I'd love to have them in agreement over that, but I don't think it's likely to happen any time soon. It certainly won't happen just because President Bush "consults" more closely with them, unless he works against our interests and does what they tell him to.

The hubris of "many world leaders" is occasionally astounding.

PARIS (Reuters) - The rest of the world will be watching with anxiety when President Bush is inaugurated Thursday for a second time, fearing the most powerful man on the planet may do more harm than good.

Many world leaders, alienated by Bush's go-it-alone foreign policy and the U.S.-led war in Iraq, would have preferred him to lose the U.S. election last November. Since his victory, they have been urging him to listen and consult more.

We wanted you to lose, but since you won we'd like it if you would listen to us more and do what we say. Here's a clue: if you want people to listen to you, you should show them that your advice helps them in some way, instead of only yourself. And no, merely getting back into your good graces does not count as "help" for us.

Mistrust also runs deep among ordinary people. Some 58 percent of people surveyed in a British Broadcasting Corporation poll in 21 countries said they believed Bush's re-election made the world a more dangerous place.

"Negative feelings about Bush are high," Steven Kull, director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes which carried out the study, told the BBC. "This is quite a grim picture for the United States."

Grim because...? Are they going to stop buying our stuff and wearing our clothes? Not likely. The only thing slowing down their assimilation of American culture is that their economies are faltering. Are they going to refuse us help in future conflicts? Help with what militaries? France can't even deliver a single helicopter to Sumatra, what kind of help can the world offer us militarily?

Most of the world is irrelevant to us, and the rest is actively trying to hurt us. My own advice is that the irrelevant part should step lightly to ensure that they don't fall into the half that's trying to hurt us.

There is deep resentment to Bush in the Arab world, where he is accused of bias toward Israel, is criticized for his actions against Arab and Muslim states in the war on terror and faces dire warnings against any new military action in the region.

"The more Bush expands the horizon of American violence in the region, the greater the prospect of extremism and fanaticism," said Egyptian political analyst Mohamed al-Sayed.

I watched Voices of Iraq (buy it here) last week, and there appear to be a great many Arab people who are glad for what we did, as imperfect as our effort has been.

As for bias towards Israel, duh. They don't bomb buses and pizza parlors, which puts them a few notches above the Palestinians automatically. Plus, they didn't dance in the streets after 9/11. Plus, they're a democracy.

As for "the greater the prospect of extremism and fanaticism", the 1990s were full of terrorist attacks against America, and so far the 2000s have been pretty quiet. May God's grace continue to protect us.

Glenn Reynolds links to posts by Michele Catalano, Cathy Young, and Ann Althouse asking "what do men want?" in a woman -- mainly on the physical side, it appears. Ms. Catalano writes:

Now, I have a great appreciation for the naked (or even semi-naked) female body. It's no secret - if you're a regular reader - that I will ogle sexy women as much as I do sexy men (I've been called a bisexual man trapped in a woman's body and I don't argue much with that analysis). However, I'm just not that into Teri Polo. After seeing this photo [not nude -- MW] of her when the movie first came out, I couldn't help thinking that watching her eat would be like watching a snake do the same - we'd actually be able to see her food sliding down into her belly. That's how thin she is.

If you're not at work or near small children or horny men, take a look at the Playboy photos. Now, be honest with me, guys; do you really, truly find this sexy? Do rib cages and bony knees turn you on?

Not particularly, no. What I want is someone who is healthy and can enjoy physical activities with me, like hiking, running, swimming, and whatnot. I'm no great athlete, but I've got endurance and can do just about anything all day long, and it's nice to have someone who can keep up. "Attractive appearance" tends to correlate very highly with healthiness, waifs notwithstanding. Don't forget that cameras really do add an appearance of weight, so people who look average on television, or in movies or magazines will probably look too thin in real life.

Anyway, I have an eclectic taste in women, so your mileage may vary. I've never been particularly attracted to "supermodels" -- I prefer cutesy girly-girls. But hey, I'm flexible.

(This fits with the first post on the topic because it's also about what men want in women, but physically.)

... and it's ugly. Any of my much-appreciated French-speaking readers can watch the video and see exactly how France 2 humiliates the French Government. It must be sobering for a once-great world power to be confronted so directly with their present impotence.

The tsunami disaster is having a wholly different effect on the world than the invasion of Iraq, because unlike the people of Iraq no one can plausibly claim to be against helping the tsunami victims. Impotent "world powers" positioned themselves on Saddam's side because they didn't want to reveal that they didn't have the ability to take him out. But now their weakness becomes evident to everyone as they scramble madly to match the aid America and our armed forces are projecting halfway around the planet.

For days now, the US military has been getting favorable coverage on the French nightly news due to its response to the Indian Ocean Tsunami. But tonight's broadcast was simply astounding. At 8 minutes into the broadcast, anchor David Pujadas begins a discussion of the disaster response and introduced a report on the American deployment:
First off, here is the powerful American machinery in action. For 24 hours now, there has been a landing ["débarquement"] taking place — there is no other word — while helicopters continue the distribution [of humanitarian aid].
...

On screen, we then see a French doctor say... "As soon as our supplies gets here. No problem." Then we are treated to the image of the French begging for assistance from an Indonesian colonel! "We're expecting helicopters tomorrow," he says, asking for two trucks so they can move supplies. The colonel laughs and claps him on the shoulder. Then the French meet with some Americans. "It's been tough for us," says a French firefighter. "The Americans prove goodnatured toward the 'Frenchies,'" says the narrator. "But not much else." Then a big, impressive American Chinook helicopter arrives, empty, to pick up American journalists. French men looking dejected.

The report ends with the following summation:

... that the French army should even now be unable to provide them with a few helicopters 15 days after the fact is surprising, especially given the public outcry that the tsunami provoked. It is as though France no longer has the means even to express its emotions.

Read the whole thing, it's pretty absurd, and particularly embarrasing when French Defense minister Michèle Alliot-Marie tries to explain why France is so pathetic.

Alliot-Marie, until recently a senior lecturer at the Sorbonne with degrees in law and ethnography, answers, "of course," but then engages in a wince-making attempt at damage control. "France is far from Indonesia," she says. "If there were many American helicopters on the scene, this is because the Americans were already there," she says.

You think Chirac was watching this at home? Was he in the next room with the sound on, pouring himself a drink? Did he throw a Baccarat crystal glass at the TV?

"They had an aircraft carrier with numerous helicopters that had docked at Hong Kong," she continues. "They've got a base in Guam, which is really quite close. So they arrived very quickly."

Yeah, it's called power. Maybe you've heard of it.

(HT: Glenn Reynolds.)

Here's an excellent museum of history's worst weapons. I won't tell you which ones I've worked on.... My favorites are the planes with chainsaws and jousting lances, although the oar-driven submarine was a close contender.

Larry Kudlow points out that the essential question behind President Bush's social security reform plan is: do you trust governments or do you trust markets?

For me, the issues are simple and clear. First, Bush’s reform would create true retirement asset ownership. Beneficiaries could bequeath their money to their children. Spouses would be well taken care of if the breadwinner prematurely passes away. Young people would think differently and take more responsibility. Second, a prudent combination of stock and bond investing over 30 or more years will generate a much higher rate of return. Third, the reform plan will generate savings for private sector capital formation rather than funding government spending.

For these simple reasons, I believe it is essential that a sensible form of Bush’s idea becomes law. If that means cutting mythical benefits for longer retirement or price indexing, so be it. Those benefits aren’t real because we’d have to double the payroll tax to achieve them. And that will never happen. But ownership and market-based investment returns would be a revolutionary development.

Politicians must be willing to take some risks in order to achieve this revolutionary reform. Our economic welfare over the long-run will be greatly enhanced in the event. Either you believe in markets, or you believe in government. FDR and Maynard Keynes believed in government. But 70 years later sensible people around the world have come to believe in markets. Is it just this simple? I believe it is.

He's right, it's very simple. Everything the government does gets screwed up. Sometimes government is the best answer, but it should be our last resort, not our first. It's time to move Social Security into the 21st century.

I don't get why it's controversial to acknowledge that men and women are different. "Different" implies that some people are better at some things than others, and some types of people are better at some things as well. What's wrong with that? Welcome to reality. Lots of people are better at lots of things than I am, and I don't sweat it.

The president of Harvard University prompted criticism for suggesting that innate differences between the sexes could help explain why fewer women succeed in science and math careers.

Lawrence H. Summers, speaking Friday at an economic conference, also questioned how great a role discrimination plays in keeping female scientists and engineers from advancing at elite universities. ...

"It's possible I made some reference to innate differences," he said. He said people "would prefer to believe" that the differences in performance between the sexes are due to social factors, "but these are things that need to be studied."

He also cited as an example one of his daughters, who as a child was given two trucks in an effort at gender-neutral upbringing. Yet he said she named them "daddy truck" and "baby truck," as if they were dolls.

Gender and race don't define individuals. There are women who are better at math and engineering than I am, I'm certain of it, but on average men tend to be better at such things. Now, you may disagree and think that's simply not true, but there's no reason to get offended over it... unless, I suppose, you base your sense of self-worth on how good your group is at math. But isn't that a stupid thing to be concerned about? At most be concerned with your own personal ability.

Update:
The comments below are really excellent! Meep makes a good point that I'd forgotten:

But back to the stats: what's interesting is that it's not exactly true on average, either, if you consider the samples. When you look at distributions of math test scores (for tests everyone is forced to take), for example, you'll find lots more guys than gals sitting at the high end of the distribution... but that's also true at the low end. There are fatter tails in the male distribution on most things, which I do find interesting. Look at any special education class, and you'll find far more boys than girls there (and it's not totally due to behavior, aka 'boys being boys'.. more boys are autistic, more are dyslexic, etc.) When SAT time comes, you're not going to find the kids in the lower tail taking the test, generally, so that skews averages upward. Likewise, at math competitions, most of the top-scorers are male.

Still, is it right to say that males are more likely to score better than females in math, when it's also true that they're more likely to score worse? Summers, being at Harvard, is going to see only the upper tail, which probably skews his thinking. What makes males both better and worse than females at math?

I made this handy graphic to illustrate the bell curve she's talking about.

(HT: Marie Gryphon for the basic graph.)

I've been keeping pretty busy while I've been looking for a job. Over the past few days I've:
- built a fence,
- fumigated two houses,
- exterminated a bunch of ants,
- installed smoke alarms,
- installed Venetian blinds,
- started installing a shower door,
- scraped a bathtub,
- swept and scrubbed,
- weeded and gardened,
- returned calls to potential renters,
- shown property to potential renters.

All that, and I've still found time to play Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines, which is a super game that's mighty addictive. Still, I can't wait to find a new job and get back to work!

So Airbus has debuted the A380 and everyone is all excited about a giant plane. The images and pictures look pretty cool, but personally I think Boeing is on a better path with its smaller 7E7, but I suppose that's up to the market to ultimately decide... except for the fact that the Europeans have never been too fond of the free market.

The ceremony also provides a great deal of political currency for Europe's four most powerful leaders.

Prime Minister Tony Blair will be there, as will President Jacques Chirac, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso will also attend.

The first prototype of the Airbus A380 observed by plane spotters
Will the A380 provide luxury for the few, or be a coach for families on holiday?

In fact, the presence of the politicians is far from spurious. Without government assistance, the A380 would probably never have been built.

Billions of euros have been handed over in "launch aid loans" in recent years - under generous repayment terms - to assist Airbus's development of the A380.

This has angered the US, which is home to rival aerospace giant Boeing.

It's a fact that America's reluctance to assist Boeing makes it much more difficult for the company to compete on the world stage, and the same goes for America's aircraft operators. I still doubt that the post-9/11 aline bailout was a good idea, but if American companies had gone out of business they may have been replaced by subsidized foreign companies. Subsidies can only go so far and so long, however, because they naturally weaken the country doing the subsidizing. In a sense, if American air travel had been taken over by foreigners we could have free-riden on the European desire for nationalized airlines -- thus transferring money from the Eurpoean taxpayers to ourselves.

Anyway, the main reason I like the Boeing 7E7 better than the Airbus A380 is that I think hubs are a thing of the past. People don't want to fly from where they live to a hub and then on to their destination. Humans aren't packages, and human airlines shouldn't operate like FedEx. People want to fly directly to their destination, which means longer flights with smaller, more efficient planes, and that's what the 7E7 is all about. There will always be a place for giant planes, and for intercontinental travel they certainly make sense, but I expect most people will prefer direct flights when they can get them.

The other factor is safety. Although the measurement methods are somewhat controversial, Airbus tends to have a worse safety record than Boeing. Airplane accidents are measured by flights rather than by distance or hours flown because most accidents happen during take-off and landing. Although there are more accidents with Boeing planes than with Airbus planes, Boeing planes also fly far more than Airbus planes, so the Boeing accident rate is lower. However, this isn't true for all comparable plane models; the Airbus A320 has a lower accident rate than the Boeing 737, for example. In most other classes the Boeing planes are superior. Why? Perhaps they're built better, but it's also likely that the countries who buy Airbus planes don't maintain their fleets as well as countries that buy Boeing planes. It's complicated, as you can see.

Update:
Brian Micklethwait explains how the EU is screwing Thailand by forcing them to buy six A380s, and Dustin Choe elaborates on why the A380 is impractical.

so anyways, i guess i will start off with simple logistics. very few airports in the US can even support the weight of the a380. this will force many airports to upgrade and remodel to accomodate the plane. i am unsure about the condition of foreign airports, some may be able to handle this plane already. there will also be some minor changes made to terminals because it will take 2 to 4 jetways to load and unload the passengers. i have a feeling that if any US airline can even afford the $240 million plane, they will likely be the economized 800+ seats version to decrease the cost per passenger. and as per FAA rules, the plane must be able to be evacuated within 90 seconds and this is something i would like to see.

There's more.

If you're like me then you're always frustrated that car turn signals blink at different rates, but today was my lucky day! I found my Honda's turn signal twin in a Nissan truck! What are the odds? I was just driving to church when I pulled up behind the truck at a red light and put on my signal... and can you believe it?! Our signals blinked in perfect synchronization for over a minute!

So what's the deal with turn signals? Will cars of the same make and model blink at the same rate? Does age have anything to do with it? Does the timing change over the life of the car? What factors affect turn signal speed? The world may never know.

I'll post a link to the video once it's online, but for now here's a picture of (left to right) Leslie Dutton, myself, and Ken Reich from my recent appearance on Full Disclosure.

Yes I'm excited, why else would I keep mentioning it?

I hope everyone is having a wonderful day. It's 80 degrees and sunny here in Southern California... the kind of day that makes me pity the rest of the world. More later.

Ok, it doesn't sound like much, but it's still pretty cool to listen to alien wind, recorded by Cassini-Huygens probe that that recently landed on Saturn's moon of Titan. They've got images of Titan as well, which show what may be a methane ocean. Surf's up! Just bring a wetsuit, because it's minus 292 degrees Fahrenheit.

Liberals are fond of catch-phrases and bumper sticker widsom, so DeoDuce proposes a few new liberal bracelet slogans for our leftist compatriots.

For anyone interested in oil, here's an OSHA document describing petroleum refining processes. It includes a nice overview of the industry, the basics about crude oil, a little bit of chemistry, and lots about the various products we get from petroleum. Not a difficult read.

One of the points I made during my appearance on Full Disclosure yesterday is that all journalists, especially those who try to be "unbiased", should be up front with their connections and biases. Every article and news report should contain a short blurb informing the audience of the journalist's political leanings, at the very least. And the same goes for bloggers.

I don't have any problem with bloggers taking money to write about certain topics, as long as they disclose that they're doing so. I'd be happy to take money myself!

Zephyr Teachout, the former head of Internet outreach for Mr. Dean's campaign, made the disclosure earlier this week in her own Web log, Zonkette. She said "to be very clear, they never committed to supporting Dean for the payment -- but it was very clearly, internally, our goal." The hiring of the consultants was noted in several publications at the time. ...

The two men, who jointly operated a small political consulting firm, said they didn't believe the Dean campaign had been trying to buy their influence. Both men noted that they had promoted Mr. Dean's campaign long before they were hired and continued to do so after their contract with the campaign ended.

Mr. Zuniga said they were paid $3,000 a month for four months and he noted that he had posted a disclosure near the top of his daily blog that he worked for the Dean campaign doing "technical consulting." Mr. Armstrong said he shut down his site when he went to work for the campaign, then resumed posting after his contract ended.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Dean said the two bloggers hired by the campaign did nothing unethical because both disclosed their connection to the Dean operation.

I think the spokewoman is right. The bloggers' readers knew about the connection and the money, so there's no problem. Unfortunately, mainstream journalists and wined and dined -- even if they don't take direct cash payments -- and they never come clean about their biases. Instead they maintain the ridiculous notion that they're unbiased, and despite their best intentions they fail miserably. As would I, as would anyone.

Here's a sweet site called the Los Angeles Almanac, and it contains pretty much what you'd expect: eveything you'd want to know about LA. They've even got a nifty map of all the cities and freeways in LA country.

The New York Times' Maureen Dowd has a bitter op-ed today claiming that Men Just Want Mommy (registration required).

A few years ago at a White House Correspondents' dinner, I met a very beautiful actress. Within moments, she blurted out: "I can't believe I'm 46 and not married. Men only want to marry their personal assistants or P.R. women."

I'd been noticing a trend along these lines, as famous and powerful men took up with the young women whose job it was to tend to them and care for them in some way: their secretaries, assistants, nannies, caterers, flight attendants, researchers and fact-checkers.

This isn't a new trend -- it's as old as sex itself. Men want women who will support and affirm them. Despite Ms. Dowd's interpretation, men don't want stupid or uneducated women (except for the stupid or uneducated men); furthermore, it's pretty disgusting for Ms. Dowd to propagate the stereotype that women in service jobs are stupider or less educated than she is -- how elitist!

A new study by psychology researchers at the University of Michigan, using college undergraduates, suggests that men going for long-term relationships would rather marry women in subordinate jobs than women who are supervisors.

As Dr. Stephanie Brown, the lead author of the study, summed it up for reporters: "Powerful women are at a disadvantage in the marriage market because men may prefer to marry less-accomplished women." Men think that women with important jobs are more likely to cheat on them.

Not only the risk of cheating, but it's pretty difficult for two busy people to coordinate schedules and run a family. Men and women both want relationships with people that will have time and energy for them, and it's no surprise that a successful man will prefer to be with a woman who has time to be around.

The reality is that the feminist illusion advocated by Ms. Dowd and her peers is crashing down. Feminism told women that they don't need men to be happy; they can be fulfilled and successful without relationships. So women believed it and built their lives around that principle, and now it turns out that they aren't happy and they blame it on men who don't want to be with the type of person they've become. They say men don't want to be challenged, or men just want their mommy, but it's all just smokescreen. Men want women, that's all -- they don't want women who do everything in their power to be just like men.

Maureen Dowd has everything a feminist could want. She's at the pinnacle of her profession, an opinion-leader, wealthy, famous, and yet she appears to be very unhappy and bitter. Why? Is she lonely? If your relationships are out of whack, there isn't much else in life that can compensate.

It's interesting to note that there's never been a "masculinist" movement. Men know that we need women, and the idea of living apart or without them is absurd.

Update:
Commenter Eric makes an excellent observation:

Here's another news flash for Ms. Dowd: high school women are 100% more likely to date a guy on the football team than a guy in the computer club. Sexual egalitarianism now!!

Indeed.

I just returned from taping Full Disclosure and I had a great time. I'll put up a link when I know the broadcast time.

Sorry if I've been quiet today, but tomorrow I'm appearing on the Emmy award-winning Full Disclosure program with Ken Reich, a 39-year veteran of the Los Angeles Times turned blogger. I just hope I can hold my own as we discuss blogging, the media, Dan Rather, and so forth. I'm studying up.

I got a very frustrating email from my PhD advisor last night. I spent three months working on my dissertation between the last version and the one he just saw, but based on his comments it looks like it got worse. I really need to finish this thing so I can move on to other areas of life, but at this rate it seems like I never will.

After my initial thoughts on the recent Business Week article on the future of the New York Times I began to think about the future of media in general.

Over the past century, media has enjoyed a period of relative profitability. Newspapers, radio stations, television stations, and so forth were all able to do their jobs and generally make money. I think that era is ending. Blogs aren't themselves the downfall of the existing business model, but they're a harbinger of things to come.

GM Vice Chairman Bob Jutz now runs a blog called Fastlane on behalf of his company and he doesn't expect the blog itself to make money; he just hopes to create synergy (argh!) between his customers, critics, and company. And judging from his energetic comments section, it looks like he's succeeding. He talks honestly about his products, and in one location even praises Honda interiors and holds them up as a target that GM is aiming towards, but at a lower price point. That's what people want to know about, and that's what you'll never hear on TV.

I doubt newspapers, television, and radio will remain profitable for very long. I doubt they'll disappear, but I wouldn't be surprised if they move towards a more blog-like business model of losing money in exchange for increased mass communication -- a sort of loss leader. Maybe I'm wrong, and maybe advertising dollars will continue to fund the sytem we've got, but it's hard for me to imagine it. Another alternative is the subscription model that the emerging satellite radio industry is using -- but as newspapers have long known, subscriptions alone can't support mass media.

In my never-ending quest to envasten the Williams' fortune, I must ocassionally do ridiculous and absurd things to scare up a little scratch. Unlike those things, I presently have the opportunity to get paid for modeling stylish ponchos for women that are hip and cool and very in -- the product of Curious Workmanship, a company owned by frequent commenter Wacky Hermit.

Note that a small part of my halo is visible in the upper left of the image.

I don't know if other cities are this bad, but when it rains for a week in LA our roads disintigrate into a continuous perforation of potholes. We must use low-grade asphalt.

A fascinating article in Business Week about the future of the New York Times contains the following blind egotism by publisher (that's newspaper parlance for "owner") Arthur Sulzberger Jr.:

The Times also is under attack from another branch of the federal government -- the judiciary. The paper figures centrally in most of a half-dozen pending court cases that collectively pose a dire threat to the traditional journalistic practice of assuring confidentiality to whistle-blowers and other informants. In October, a federal judge ordered Judith Miller of the Times imprisoned for up to 18 months for refusing to testify before a grand jury investigating the leaking of the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame to conservative columnist Robert Novak. Miller, who researched the Plame affair but never wrote about it, remains free pending a review by the federal Court of Appeals in Washington.

Sulzberger, who spent six years as a reporter, is outraged that journalists are being slapped with contempt charges for refusing to yield confidential sources to prosecutors. "Reporters are going to jail for doing their jobs, and that's just wrong," he says.

Also going to jail for "doing their jobs": terrorists, thieves, spies, and so forth. Oh but reporters are magical and special and shouldn't have to obey the same laws as the rest of us, like answering questions by a grand jury. After all, their pay checks are signed by Arthur Sulzberger Jr.!

(Plus, it's disingenuous of Business Week to characterize these charges as an attack by the judiciary. It's the executive branch that's prosecuting the cases in federal court; the judges are just following the laws laid out by Congress (one hopes), which contain no special rights for self-designated "journalists".)

(HT: Glenn Reynolds.)


Following generous food donations, Sumatra braces for incoming tsufatti.

Dromedaries of Unusual Size? I don't believe they exist. And, in fact, they don't.

Adults grow to a length of 10 feet and height of six to seven feet. Weight is usually in the range of 1000-1500 pounds.

Camels don't grow to be 20 feet tall, despite popular misconceptions.

Sean Penn fails to take my earlier suggestion, continues to not shut up, and proceeds to compare himself to Ronald Reagan.

"But the bigger issue is that it's an absolutely stupid notion that you should take the title of someone's profession and attach it to what they should not do. It has nothing to do with citizenry. I think they should shove it with their hypocritical Ronald Reagan standard right up their ass."

I may be growing forgetful in my old age, but will someone please remind me whether or not Sean Penn has ever been elected to any public office in his life, even something as trivial as the Presidency of the United States? If Sean Penn has served as President then I certainly think we should pay attention to his pronouncements on foreign affairs -- after all, even ruinous terrorist-enablers like Jimmy Carter catch our attention when they pontificate, solely because of their previous tenure in the Oval Office. On the other hand, if Sean Penn has not been elected President (or governor, or even Senion Class Treasurer) then pretty much all we have to go on is his profession as an actor. How about if we agree that Sean Penn is a better actor than Ronald Reagan was, and that Ronald Reagan was a better everything else than Sean Penn is or ever will be? There -- no more double standard.

Anyway, if you're too lazy to go read my first post on the topic, maybe this will whet your appetite. Violent womanizer Sean Penn is the only person I know of who has referred thusly to Uday Hussein.

I've quietly arranged (the less my whereabouts are known, the better) to switch cars at the Hunting Club, a private social club that traditionally hosted a who's-who of Iraqi society. Saddam Hussein's son Oday was known to pick up girls there.

By "pick up girls" he of course means that Oday (who? Uday?) kidnapped them, raped them, and often murdered them. Pshaw, minor details -- to Sean Penn anyway.

This guy is an idiot. He's a rich actor who can afford to travel to Iraq, wander around with a hefty security detail and write in a stupid journal, and because he's famous it gets published. That doesn't mean his opinions have any merit or value or substance, it just means that people will pay money to read them. Wooptie doo.

Actually, I feel bad for Penn and his ilk. I can see how it would be easy for someone to grow confused over time and to begin to think that they're actually important just because people pay attention to them. In reality, the only reason they're listened to is because they make money for the surrounding head-nodders.

(HT: The Daily Spork.)

Newsweek has an article about fighting acne but doesn't mention my own pimple prescription: antibiotic cream.

I'd just like to point out that this site -- and my opionions -- are most definitely for sale. Please send some payola my way, ASAP. In that vein, I have a nifty online bingo sponsor on the right side bar. Check it out, it's pretty cool. And of course there's space for you to buy blogads as well, for quite a reasonable price considering the 1,500 hits and 1,000 unique visitors this site gets each day.

(And to you faithful visitors, thanks! Now if each of you gets 100 friends to visit each day, maybe I can start making the Glenn Reynolds blogad money....)

Did I call this trend or what? How 'bout some credit where it's due?


Val Kilmer goes undercover in North Korea.

Here's an excellent guide to defense and intelligence careers by IntelligenceCareers.com. It has solid information on building a resume that won't get redacted by security folks and on finding and negotiating for various kinds of cleared positions.

Further, here is the Defense Security Service's explanation of security clearances.

Well, I did my first call-in to talk radio, hitting the Al Rantel show around 6:37pm on the topic of Amber Frey. I said that while it's obvious that she's an idiot, her greatest offense isn't that she's stupid, but that's she's boring. Her interviews are shallow and insipid and entirely unenlightening. I also mentioned that it's implausible to suppose that she never heard about Laci Peterson's disappearance until contacted by police. I suggested that Andrea Yates' next date would be smart to look her up on Google before getting too serious.

I really think I could do a radio talk show. Does anyone know how to break into that business? I can't afford to go be an intern somewhere... but I can afford to host a late-night or weekend show basically for free. Anyone have any connections?

The idea that one is "innocent until proven guilty" beyond a "reasonable doubt" is a great standard for a legal system. I think it should be hard to justify using government power to take away a person's liberty. That said, there's no reason why we each need to use that same standard when making personal judgements.

For example, many people argued that it was wrong to declare Scott Peterson's guilt before his trial had even started. And sure, from a legal perspective we had to treat him as if he were innocent. However, anyone who paid attention to the news (unlike that idiot Amber Frey) had known for quite a while that Peterson murdered his wife. It was obvious. So obvious that he should have been executed without a trial? Of course not. But individuals can use whatever standards they want to judge each other, restricted only by their consciences.

Secondly, consider Michael Jackson. Sure, nothing has been proven in court, but it doesn't take a genius to interpret the evidence. He admits to sleeping in bed with strange children and says that he thinks it's normal. He surrounds himself with children all the time and separates them from their parents. When he gets accused of molestation (repeatedly) he pays out huge sums of money to make the charges go away. Should we throw him in jail without a trial? No. But it seems to me that there's more than enough evidence for someone to make a personal evaluation of the situation and rationally believe that he's a child molester.

Finally, consider OJ Simpson. He was actually acquitted of murder -- does that mean we all have a moral responsibility to act as if he's innocent? Duh, of course not. Everyone knows the guy did it, that's why he tries to maintain a low profile and doesn't get any more movie roles. A jury acquitted him, so he doesn't go to jail, but that doesn't prohibit us each from reaching our own conclusion on the matter and acting accordingly.

Sorry to break it to you newsreaders and weather persons, but you aren't much more than a pretty face.

A storm of controversy has engulfed The Weather Channel, after a 40-something former anchor accused network brass of washing her out of a high-ranking job to make way for a hot front of sexy young weatherwomen.

Marny Stanier Midkiff, 42, this week filed a lawsuit claiming she was booted in the fall of 2003 as part of a reputed "reorganization" of the storm channel, which she believes was really an excuse to get more young female weathercasters on the air.

Gosh, do you think so?

Midkiff says that, in the months before she was let go, her boss allegedly spoke of female staffers as "matronly," "dowdy" and "nun-like" and asked that female on-air talent turn up the temperature on their look with more revealing "V-neck" shirts.

Midkiff and her attorney claim The Weather Channel also began hiring new young weathercasters starting in 2003 as part of this effort, and the then-41-year-old, who spent 16 years reporting on sun and rain for the network, was left out in the cold.

"She got tossed aside because The Weather Channel wanted a younger look," said Midkiff's attorney, Daniel Klein. "She was one of the top [meteorologists]. She was one of the best they had, but she didn't fit the image they had in mind."

It's television, an industry that's built entirely on image. Everyone knows this. You don't see strippers or models sue over lost jobs when they get old, do you? No, because that's how life works. If you make a living off your looks, then some day you're going to have to find a new job. Similarly, if you base your self worth on your looks, some day you're going to become very depressed.

Looks are looks, people. Yes, looking good is nice, but it should be seen as a bonus to everything else. I try to look good, and I like being around people who look good, but it's far from the most important consideration. Unfortunately for beautiful people, they tend to get used to getting by on their looks alone (because it's easy, at first), and when their looks disappear they don't have the social or mental skills to keep up with the crowd. (That goes even for beautiful people who aren't in 100% image-dominated industries like television.)

Good looks are a double-edged sword, not only because other people can view you as nothing more than a pretty face, but because eventually you may begin to see yourself that way, too.

I'm so sick of people excusing their own ridiculous behavior with a shrug and "that's just the way I am!"

Molest children? Don't blame Michael Jackson, that's just the way he is!

Drown your children? Don't blame Andrea Yates, that's the just way she is!

Bash your kids' heads in with a rock? Don't blame Deanna Laney, that's just the way she is!

Those are particularly heinous examples of course, but just about everyone is quick to forgive their own evil. The "I was born that way" defense of genetic predisposition gets us nowhere, because it shouldn't matter why a crime was committed (motive), only that it was committed. Motive shouldn't be confused with intent: intent means that the crime was committed purposefully, and motive can be used to show intent. Intent is a necessary component of some crimes (such as first degree murder), but motive should be irrelevant.

I was listening to Amber Frey this afternoon on Sean Hannity's radio show, and she's dreadfully boring. Even if I cared about Scott Peterson's life -- which I don't, now that he's doomed -- she had nothing insightful or interesting to say about it. Mr. Hannity asked reasonable questions, probing into Mr. Peterson's lies and deceptions, and Ms. Frey would give vague one-word responses that indicated she didn't comprehend the topic. She didn't offer any information and couldn't carry on a conversation worth a nickel. Total airhead. Not that I'm surprised; any woman who fell for Mr. Peterson's globe-trotting fantasies would have to be a moron. What is surprising is that Mr. Hannity is promoting her and her book so heavily.

Lileks taps into my deepest fears. There's something particularly menacing about evil that hides behind an innocent facade. What types of unreal things scare you?

Thanks a lot, Barbara Boxer, for wasting my money holding pointless, symbolic debates about non-existent election fraud.

In a drama that was historic if not suspenseful, Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (news, bio, voting record), D-Ohio, and Sen. Barbara Boxer (news, bio, voting record), D-Calif., formally protested that the Ohio votes "were not, under all known circumstances, regularly given." That, by law, required the House and Senate to convene separately and debate the Ohio irregularities.

Boxer, Tubbs Jones and several other Democrats, including many black lawmakers, hoped the showdown would underscore the problems such as missing voting machines and unusually long lines that plagued some Ohio districts, many in minority neighborhoods, on Nov. 2.

Blah blah blah. Is it any wonder that most people think politics is a joke? Vote or die! They're big on nonsense symbolism, and small on useful action.

Democratic leaders distanced themselves from the effort, which many in the party worried would make them look like sore losers. Bush won Ohio by 118,000 votes and carried the national contest by 3.3 million votes, and Kerry himself — meeting with troops in the Middle East — did not support the challenge.

So it was pointless because the results weren't going to be overturned by a majority Republican Congress, and it was even more pointless because the symbolism was anorexic.

Supporters of the challenge repeatedly said they had no desire to overturn the election. Many who spoke in favor of the protest even voted against it in hopes of clarifying what they said was the real issue — the need to make the country's voting systems fairer and to prevent fraud.

Meanwhile, how's the national debt doing? How's Social Security reform going? How's the debate on the President's judicial nominees? How's the investigation of the UN? Isn't there anything substantial that our legislators can spend their time doing, rather than forcing debates on issues that even proponents won't vote for?

Newsflash: sports jerseys are not formal wear. Even though they're ridiculously expensive, jerseys are not suitable attire for:
- job interviews,
- weddings,
- first dates,
- meetings with the bank,
- prom,
- any event you wouldn't wear a t-shirt to.

Am I the only one who has noticed that antibiotic cream (like Neosporin, containing Neomycin sulfate, Polymyxin-B sulfate, and Pramoxine hydrochloride) does wonders for clearing up acne? There must be some sort of side effect to treating pimples with a topical antibiotic, but if so I don't see it. I had a pimple yesterday and I put some neosporin on it in the morning and it was gone by the time I went to bed last night. It worked much more quickly than any of the benzoyl peroxide or erythromycin products I've used (even though they're bactericidal).

Those of you inclined towards prayer, say one or two for me and my job situation. It appears that I might have to start looking for a new place of employment soon. If anyone in the LAX area is looking to hire a brilliant writer with (almost) a PhD in artificial intelligence and lots of experience with embedded software, spacecraft, and bureaucracy, shoot me an email. I'm good with all things technical, I know just about every programming language, and I've led software development teams for everything from embedded systems on defense satellites to web-based distributed applications. I play well with others, and I enjoy long walks on the beach.

The recent drama over aiming lasers at airplanes is an excellent example of how idiots self-select. Do you really need to know much about the law or terrorism to figure out that aiming lasers at other people is dangerous, not to mention annoying? Everyone has had a class or been to a movie with one of those morons who thinks laser pointers are the height of humor, and every one of us has wanted to drop-kick the comedian right in the nuts.

Lianne Hart writes about the proposed Trans-Texas Corridor, and it sounds pretty awesome.

HOUSTON — Do not mistake the Trans-Texas Corridor for a mere superhighway.

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As imagined by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the $175-billion project will be a transportation behemoth of mind-boggling proportions: 4,000 miles of mostly toll lanes perhaps a quarter-mile wide, capable of carrying cars, trucks, and high-speed freight and commuter trains.

There would be room underground for oil, water, electric and gas pipelines, and the whole works would be built largely with private money.

I've got concerns about the state using eminent domain to buy private land on the cheap to then lease to commercial interests along the corridor. Since everything is being built with private money -- in theory -- why not let the private corporations buy land at the going rate? Still though, as long as the prices paid are better than fair, I don't have a real problem with the proposal as it's described.

One of the key ideas appears to be that the corridors will bypass major urban areas, and allow city-bound traffic to use existing intersecting highways to reach their destinations. I can envision a whole network of corridors spanning the country, even the hemisphere, and it's great to see Texas advancing this type of super project.

Of course the environmentalists won't like it because they want us all to ride trains and bicycles, but whatever. Building all that new infrastructure could provide a good excuse for introducing hydrogen refueling stations and vast expanses of solar cells.

John Fund has a fascinating profile of outgoing Illinois Senator Peter Fitzgerald, who he hails as a "brave crusade[r] against political cronyism".

The U.S. Senate would not function with 100 members such as Peter Fitzgerald, who is both self-righteous and a political loner. But it needs some members like him and Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold, another senator who sometimes bucks conventional political wisdom.

Mr. Fitzgerald came to Washington determined to do what he could to clean up what the Chicago Tribune calls "the chronic corruption that stains [Illinois] with the image of a Louisiana, a New Jersey." His chief nemesis was fellow Republican George Ryan, a 64-year-old career pol who was elected governor in 1998, the same year Mr. Fitzgerald defeated Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, an ethically challenged Democrat. Mr. Fitzgerald said during his campaign that the "great divide" in our government is not partisan but "between those political insiders who use high taxes to support their lifestyles and the rest of us."

Asked who the insiders were, he bluntly replied: "They're the Republicrats--the power brokers in both parties who through clout, connections and consulting contracts manipulate our system for personal gain. They have no ideology, yet they are the ruling elites of our time. They are fleecing you, the taxpayer."

He sounds like a good guy, and this should serve as an encouragement to those of us who often fear that our government consists entirely of social vampires.

Do fortune cookies determine your future, or merely report it? The answer has all sorts of practical implications.

I hate any device that takes batteries and requires me to change them more than once a year. (Remote controls are ok, flashlights are not, and remote control cars are straight out.)

Like me, many of you have probably wondered what the deal is with all the different types of batteries -- AA, AAA, C, D, 9V, and so forth. So here's a handy table I stole from Wikipedia's entry on batteries.

US IEC ANSI Other Shape Voltage
N LR1 910A   cylinder L 30.2 mm, D 12 mm 1.5 V
AAAA   25A MN2500 cylinder L 42 mm, D 8 mm 1.5 V
AAA LR03 24A R03,MN2400, AM4,UM4,HP16,micro cylinder L 44.5 mm, D 10.5 mm 1.5 V
AA LR6 15A R6,MN1500, AM3,UM3,HP7,mignon cylinder L 50 mm, D 14.2 mm 1.5 V
A     filament supply in old radio receivers cylinder L 50 mm, D 17 mm 1.5 V
B     plate supply in old radio receivers   90 V
C LR14 14A R14,UM2,MN1400,HP11,baby cylinder L 43 mm, D 23 mm 1.5 V
D LR20 13A R20,MN1300,UM1,HP2,mono cylinder L 58 mm, D 33 mm 1.5 V
F       cylinder L 87 mm, D 32 mm 1.5 V
G       cylinder L 105 mm, D 32 mm 1.5 V
J       cylinder L 150 mm, D 32 mm 1.5 V
      lantern,996 rectangular prism 68 mm square × 115 mm 6 V (note)
PP3 6L6R1 1604A 6F22,6R61,MN1604 rectangular prism 48 mm × 25 mm × 15mm 9 V (note)
PP9 6F100 1603   rectangular prism 51.6mm × 65.1 mm × 80.2 mm high 9 V (note)
  4R25X 908 MN908 square prism 110 mm high × 67.7 mm square, spring terminals 6 V (note)
  4R25 915   square prism 110 mm high × 67.7 mm square, screw terminals 6 V (note)
  4LR25-2 918A MN918 rectangular prism 127 mm × 136.5 mm × 73 mm high, screw terminals 6 V (note)
      PC926 rectangular prism 127 mm × 136.5 mm × 73 mm high, screw terminals 12 V (note)

Battery capacity is measured in Amp-hours, or more commonly, mAh (milliamp-hours). AAA batteries typically output between 900 and 1,155 mAh at 1.5 volts, and the larger cells in the same series have the same voltage (as shown in the table above) and larger capacities (proportional to their larger volume). (A battery with 1,000 mAh can sustain a current of 10 mA for 100 hours, or 100 mA for 10 hours.)

From what I can find, the capacity of various brands of batteries -- like Duracell, Energizer, Rayovac, Sanyo, or whatever -- is pretty much the same; battery capacity is almost entirely determined by the type of chemical technology used. Here's an excellent chart of capacity and weight comparisons for various types of Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) and Nickel Cadmium (Nicad) rechargables. Here's an article on how batteries work. Here's a history of nonrechargable batteries from the Electrochemistry Encyclopedia. Here's a page that explains why nonrechargable batteries have a much higher capacity than rechargables. Here are datasheets for Duracell and Energizer batteries.

This Stanley Crouch article is good to see: more women are beginning to stand up to rap music.

The most successful black women's magazine, Essence, is in the middle of a campaign that could have monumental cultural significance.

Essence is taking on the slut images and verbal abuse projected onto black women by hip hop lyrics and videos.

The magazine is the first powerful presence in the black media with the courage to examine the cultural pollution that is too often excused because of the wealth it brings to knuckleheads and amoral executives.

This anything-goes-if-sells attitude comes at a cost. The elevation of pimps and pimp attitudes creates a sadomasochistic relationship with female fans. They support a popular idiom that consistently showers them with contempt. We are in a crisis, and Essence knows it.

I've long wondered how women I know and respect can listen to and enjoy music that so completely trashes them for profit. Good, Christian women just shrug it off and say they don't take the lyrics seriously. The songs are singing about other women, not them, so who cares?

Well, I certainly wouldn't patronize an industry that held men in contempt. I think many women underestimate and misunderstand the way men view them as sexual objects to be dominated and penetrated; when women give their tacit approval to things like rap music they also demonstrate to the men around them that they accept their designated sexual role as well. Which, of course, maybe they do.

I hate urinals; I never use them. I'll always use a stall (standing up) unless it's some sort of emergency, and in that case I'll just cut out the middle man and piss right on a tree or rock or wall or something. Urinals are gross and primitive; uncivilized. That said, there's quite a bit of etiquette involved in using a urinal, particularly if there are other men already in the midst of doing their business. Here's a handy urinal tutorial to teach you the basics; it may be of particular interest to women, who probably don't have a great deal of experience pissing into a trough.

I was just driving home down the 405 in torrential rain and I came up behind an SUV with no lights, swerving across lanes. Figuring this to be a pretty dangerous situation, I decided to call 911... and I got a busy signal. So I tried again. Busy. Tried again. "You have reached 911. All our operators are busy. Please be prepared to explain the nature of your emergency..." and I hung up.

This is why I own a gun.

You won't believe the type of nonsense that idiots who take pride in saying "I don't know much about computers!" will type into a search engine. Hello people, Google is not a freaking concierge or a philosopher; it can't understand complex sentences and it doesn't want to hear your life story. Half the hits to my site come from morons who submit queries like "tell me about John Kerry's first marriage" and "what is the funniest joke ever?". Get a clue.

I get tension headaches from time to time, and you probably do, too! Here's some information about tension headaches and what causes them, as well as how to relieve them. One of the most distinctive things is that they routinely occur in the late afternoon -- and that's when I get them! I also scrunch my shoulders sometimes, which is bad posture, looks funny, and also leads to headaches. So relax, people, and get a pretty girl with warm hands to give you a massage. In the immortal words of Governor Arnold: "it's not a tumor!"

What's the difference between spirits and souls? I don't even know the Christian answer, though the Bible sorta implies they aren't the same thing.

Hebrews 4:12

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

Unless that's hyperbole, used to illustrate just how freaking sharp the word of God is.

Anyway, the dictionary.com definitions for "soul" and "spirit" are pretty similar: "The animating and vital principle in humans, credited with the faculties of thought, action, and emotion and often conceived as an immaterial entity." The main difference appears to be that spirits can be noncorporeal beings (like ghosts), whereas souls always exist with a body; but that difference doesn't really help distinguish between what is meant by a human's soul and spirit.

Maybe both soul and spirit inhabit the body, but then when the body dies the soul stays attached to to the spirit; that way ghosts fit right into the paradigm. A body without a spirit to animate it becomes a corpse; a spirit without a soul becomes... what? What's a soul without a spirit?

Or maybe souls and spirits are really the same thing? "Soul" is from Old English, and "spirit" is from Old French, which makes me think they're just different words for the same idea.

This isn't new, but my youth pastor's sermon this morning brought to mind the fact that a great many people -- who claim to be Christians -- have serious misconceptions about God and spiritual matters.

One of the more intriguing findings is that not all people who call themselves Christians believe all the conventional Christian beliefs. For example, one percent of Christians do not believe in God, 8% do not believe in the survival of the soul after death, 7% do not believe in miracles, 5% do not believe in heaven, 7% do not believe in the Virgin birth and 18% do not believe in hell.

Another poll reveals even more differing opinions on the nature of God.

Most Americans agree that there is a God, but their perceptions of who God is and how much God controls events on Earth vary greatly. There is no consensus on God’s gender, form or role on Earth:

* A plurality (42%) of all adults (but only 37% of men) thinks God is male, but only 1% thinks God is female. Almost half of all adults believe that God is neither male nor female (38%) or that God is both (11%).
* Only 9% think of God as being like a human being with a face, body, arms, legs and eyes. Almost half (48%) think of God as a spirit or power that can take on human form, while 27% think of God as a spirit or power who does not take a human form.
* Less than a third (29%) of the public believes that God controls what happens on Earth. Half (50%) believes God observes but does not control events on Earth, while 6% believe God neither observes nor controls earthly events.
* A slender (53%) majority believes that Jews, Christians, and Muslims all worship the same God, but 32% think they worship different gods.

It's impossible to attain a right understanding of God through observation and experience, because God is supernatural. The only way to learn about God is through revelation, because revelation is God telling us what he's like. It's like how a father tells his kids what he does at work all day; there's no way for the kids to find out much on their own, and they only know as much as the father reveals. If you can't get God to send an angelic messanger to you directly, I recommend checking out the Bible.

In addition to being busy not providing a way to listen to the radio on my cell phone, every radio station in Los Angeles is forcing upon me the "top XYZ songs of Whenever!!!", where XYZ is equal to their radio frequency. Thus, we have the "top one-oh-six-point-seven songs of 2004!!!" from KROQ, the "top ninty-eight-point-seven songs from the 80s!!!" from STAR, the "top one-oh-one-point-one songs of all time!!!" from K-Earth, and so forth, ad nauseum.

Hey geniuses, get a new schtick. Plus, it's not even possible to have "point-seven" of a song. Holy crap.

My site admins have installed MT-Blacklist, and so far it has managed to defeat all incoming spam comments and trackbacks on my Movable Type blog. Thus, I've re-disabled comment moderation, allowing everyone to comment freely once again. Many thanks to Jay Allen! Also, here's a great post of his on getting the most out of MT-Blacklist. Huzzah!

Righties take note: the liberal left is preparing to redouble their efforts yet again, after previously redoubling their efforts at least 37 times! That's 274877906944 times the effort! Writes Kos crony Armando:

We have just completed a year where most of us, I imagine, have given more of ourselves to effect political change than we ever have before. I know that was true for me, financially and intellectually. And we did not meet our goals. But as the editorial aptly states -- our World, our Nation, our Citizens, our Families, simply require that we redouble our efforts.

And to start the New Year in particularly cliched, but for me sincere, fashion - remember the refrain from the spiritual - "A change is gonna come."

Thankfully the left didn't meet it's goals, and that is the change that was long in coming. My hope for the new year is that the tsunami windshield-wiper of liberty continues to sweep away the crusty remnants of 20th-century tyranny, and that the so-called "liberals" don't muster up enough fear and fantasy to prevent it.

I've got the first blog post of 2005! Booyah! All the rest of you bloggers can go cry like tiny infant baby girls. (And spare me the nonsense about time zones, we all know they're just communist propaganda; you're not a communist, are you? 2005 is bad news for commies, I can tell that already.)

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This page is an archive of entries from January 2005 listed from newest to oldest.

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