April 2005 Archives

Based on the comments here and the reactions I've gotten from other readers, I've come to the conclusion that this post was out of line. I have nothing but respect for the police officers who risk their lives protecting me and mine, and I apologize for writing this post. I'm not going to take it down, because I don't like changing the record after the fact. I regret writing it, and I'm sorry.

Some friends and I just got back from lunch and several major streets around LAX are closed because of an investigation into the death of an LAX police officer who has not yet been named. Westchester Parkway was closed in both directions, and northbound traffic on Sepulveda was slowed to a crawl back up onto the 105.

When we first saw the traffic and police we thought there might have been a terrorist threat, and it was surprising to learn that so much disruption was caused by a single death. I can't even imagine how much money it costs to have a hundred police officers block off all those roads, not to mention the cost in labor hours for all the people stuck in traffic. The death of anyone, especially a police officer, should be investigated, but to what degree? What price should society bear to catch the killer and to learn the facts? It appears that the killer is already in custody, so why are the roads closed? Just to gather evidence? A murder investigation is worth spending money on, of course, but how much is too much? And if we put a limit on expenditures, does that mean that rich defendants can thwart the system by outspending it?

The officer's name was Tommy Edward Scott.

Officer Tommy Edward Scott, headed toward the airport, stopped the man walking along Lincoln just north of the airport about 11 a.m. and a struggle ensued, police said. The man, identified by police as 46-year-old William Sadowski, somehow gained control of the officer's patrol car and drove off, carrying the officer outside the driver's side. As Scott tried to regain possession of the car, it ran into a fire hydrant, sending a plume of water into the air, according to police and reports from the scene. "As the suspect basically drove away at a very high rate of speed, the officer attempted to disable that vehicle, attempted to gain control of it and it appears that he was carried for some distance," Los Angeles Deputy Police Chief Michel Moore said at an afternoon news conference. "And unfortunately, the suspect drove off the roadway and struck a fire hydrant." Moments later, Sadowski commandeered a red Ford Expedition that was passing the scene, but crashed it about a half-mile away, crashing into and over the airport's perimeter fence and landing on a second fence on airport property, police said. "Somehow or another that vehicle ended up on (airport property), flipped over. The suspect ... has been removed, is still alive as of this time," Los Angeles police Chief William Bratton said. It was not immediately clear if any shots were fired in the confrontation between Scott and Sadowski. Sadowski was treated for injuries at UCLA Medical Center and will be booked on suspicion of murder, police said.

Aside from the interesting property of having two "h"s in a row, tax withholding is evil. However, with proper exemption management you can reduce your yearly refund from or payment to the IRS -- and remember, getting refunds is bad, because the IRS doesn't pay interest. According to this article about refunds on the IRS website, the average federal tax refund is over $2000 -- $40 per week -- not even including refunds for state taxes. I recommend asking your tax advisor, if you have one, about the number of exemptions you should claim, or else use the IRS withholding calculator. The site is pretty handy, and you can also check on when your refund will be processed and how long it will take to get your money.

The proposal by Senator Frist to limit debate on judicial nominees to 100 hours is incredibly sensible and upholds the alleged purpose of the filibuster. The Senate is supposed to have the opportunity to debate every issue thoroughly, but once every point has been made and every mind is set, it's time to vote. Filibusters should be used to ensure that the majority doesn't rush through decisions without proper consideration and illumination, but it shouldn't be a tool for the minority to permanently thwart the majority under the guise of perpetual debate.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) Wednesday called on Democrats to limit their debate on President Bush's judicial nominees to 100 hours and then to guarantee confirmation votes on the nominees. In exchange, Frist said he would not change Senate rules on filibusters.

"Judicial nominees are being denied. Justice is being denied. The solution is simple, allow senators to do their jobs and vote," Frist said in a speech on the Senate floor Thursday.

The Democrats don't want further debate, they just want gridlock. Yes, they are in a position that severely limits their power to screen President Bush's nominees, but they're in that position because they haven't won the power they need through elections. That's how the system is supposed to work.

I'm thinking of something. Yes or no questions only.

Here's a environmental philosophy I can support whole-heartedly: "environmental economics.

“THE environmental movement's foundational concepts, its method for framing legislative proposals, and its very institutions are outmoded. Today environmentalism is just another special interest.” Those damning words come not from any industry lobby or right-wing think-tank. They are drawn from “The Death of Environmentalism”, an influential essay published recently by two greens with impeccable credentials. They claim that environmental groups are politically adrift and dreadfully out of touch. ...

If environmental groups continue to reject pragmatic solutions and instead drift toward Utopian (or dystopian) visions of the future, they will lose the battle of ideas. And that would be a pity, for the world would benefit from having a thoughtful green movement. It would also be ironic, because far-reaching advances are already under way in the management of the world's natural resources—changes that add up to a different kind of green revolution. This could yet save the greens (as well as doing the planet a world of good).

Read the rest of the article for a very brief synopsis of how market forces can be utilized to protect our valuable environment. It points out that stereotypical environmentalists generally roll their eyes at the application of economic principles such as cost-benefit analysis to the environment, but until they're willing to abandon emotional scare tactics for reason and logic it's unlikely that they're going to achieve any of their goals -- goals that I largely share, and would join them in if their methods weren't so hideously counter-productive.

This comment thread at Above Top Secret has a great list of security clearances and an informative discussion of what the various access levels and types mean.

Or at least it would be if anyone listened to it. DeoDuce asks "Can liberals be in the spotlight and not screw up?", but that question presupposes that Air America somehow qualifies as a "spotlight" which is rather doubtful. DeoDuce is referring to the recent Drudge item about Randi Rhodes threatening President Bush with an audio clip:

Government officials are reviewing a skit which aired on the network Monday evening -- a skit featuring an apparent gunshot warning to the president!

The announcer: "A spoiled child is telling us our Social Security isn't safe anymore, so he is going to fix it for us. Well, here's your answer, you ungrateful whelp: [audio sound of 4 gunshots being fired.] Just try it, you little bastard. [audio of gun being cocked]."

Sounds at least as bad as the so-called abortion provider "hit lists" that earned the victims $100 million in damages from the writers. I think that award may have been a bit excessive, but it's definately not ok to use threats of violence to manipulate the political process. Plus, it's rather crude and unclassy, unlike the light-hearted humor of the conservative talk-show hosts.

(Generally, anyway. And if you're willing to threaten violence then you'd better be prepared for the establishment to use violence back against you. Not to ramble, but in the larger sense I think there are times when violence can be a good solution to a problem, but the initiator should realize that his escalation will not and should not go unchallenged. Ultimately, if a government cannot successfully defend itself with physical force then it doesn't really "deserve" to exist anyway, since it certainly wouldn't be reflecting the will of the people.)

Anyway, as for Air America's downward spiral, Brian C. Anderson had a good piece in the LA Times (!) last week. (Via himself in his interview at Powerline.)

Wait a second, you say, didn't I read that Air America has expanded to more than 50 markets? That's true, but let's put things in perspective: Conservative pundit and former Reagan official William J. Bennett's morning talk show, launched at the same time as Air America, reaches nearly 124 markets, including 18 of the top 20, joining the growing ranks of successful right-of-center talk programs (Limbaugh is still the ratings leader, drawing more than 15 million listeners a week).

And look at Air America's ratings: They're pitifully weak, even in places where you would think they'd be strong. WLIB, its flagship in New York City, has sunk to 24th in the metro area Arbitron ratings — worse than the all-Caribbean format it replaced, notes the Radio Blogger. In the liberal meccas of San Francisco and Los Angeles, Air America is doing lousier still.

Anyway, I like gloating. Randi Rhodes and Air America should pay President Bush $100 million.

Randi Rhodes apologizes.

Via The Jawa Report, who recently joined the Bear Flag League, is a bit piece about Indonesian justice.

In Indonesia they give you 4.5 days in jail for every person you murder in the name of Jihad. On the other hand, if you're caught with some marijuana, you could just find yourself in jail for the rest of your life. Especially if you're a Westerner.

To summarize: the Islamic terrorist, Abu Bakar Bashir, who masterminded the Bali bombing that killed 202 people was given 30 months in jail (minus time served awaiting trial), while Australian Schapelle Corby who was arrested with 9 pounds of weed in the Bali airport was facing execution until prosecutors generously lessened their requested sentence to life imprisonment because of her "good manners". What's more, it appears there's a decent chance the drugs were planted, as Miss Corby claims.

This kind of stuff is why I'm wary of traveling abroad. Yes, you can get cheap travel deals to Mexico, but who wants to risk spending the rest of their lives in a Mexican jail for attracting the wrong attention from the Federalis? Maybe I'm just a chicken, but so be it.

One of my great hopes for the internet is that it will serve as a collective memory bank that will help mitigate the perpetual forgetfulness of the American public. Most Americans are so fat and happy and forward-focused that it's understandable that we so quickly forget the past, but amnesia comes at a price. Namely, every time some leftists start making predictions of doom and gloom we take them seriously and actually pause to consider their absurd objections. Heck, some of us are often even persuaded, and all because we completely forget the track record of leftist philosophy.

Time will not suffice for me to mention the horrible atrocities of communism and socialism around the world over the last century. Nor can I possibly elaborate further on the nonsensical ravings of environmentalists and pertroleum chicken littles. The anti-war left couldn't even get any of their dire pre-war preditions to come true, despite the best efforts of the media. And now we're supposed to worry about reforming Social Security?

Few Democrats or leftists of any stripe have come forward to applaud Bush's pragmatic, experimental social policy. Yet, they can't confess that their "principle," that government must always grow and never shrink, is something they pulled out of the air. Nor can they draw on the credibility they built up the last time a welfare state program was scaled back. In the Clinton-era debate over welfare reform, we were told (in The Nation) that Aid to Families with Dependent Children was crucial to "the fragile state of grace that suggests we are our sisters' and brothers' keepers. That is what community is fundamentally about." And we were warned that ending AFDC "will destroy that state of grace. In its place will come massive and deadly poverty, sickness, and all manner of violence. People will die, businesses will close, infant mortality will soar, everyone who can will move. Working- and middle-class communities all over America will become scary, violent wastelands."

Show us, please, all those hellish wastelands that have sprung up in the last nine years--and then tell us why we must not make any changes to Social Security.

It's my sincere hope that the internet and its related technologies will help reduce the allure of the idealistic yet infantile left. It's important to remember the hideous effects of "liberalism" and the poverty and enslavement that trail in its wake. The chief irony is that the supposedly "heartless" philosophies of the right end up benefiting everyone more than the supposedly "compassionate" philosophies of the left. That must be galling.

Randy Kirk is floating a few ideas for some Christian collaborative writing projects and asking for writers who are interested in contributing book reviews (of any genre) or short biographies of modern Christian heroes. The power of the internet is that it makes such collaboration easy and potentially profitable, and Randy intends to publish the results of these projects when they come to fruition. In any event, it sounds like a fun opportunity to get in on an interesting venture at the ground floor.

Los Angeles City Beat has an article about the "gentrification" of West Los Angeles from a perspective that's largely sympathetic to the gangsters that used to dominate the formerly crime-ridden streets of my old neighborhood. I don't live in West LA anymore, but I'd like to move back some day... though the rising cost of living that's driven out gang-bangers will also make it tough for me to justify returning.

The story is the same across the Westside: The vida loca in neighborhoods such as West L.A.’s Sawtelle district, Venice’s Oakwood area, and the Culver City-adjacent Del Rey barrio has turned into la dolce vita for high-income residents who are pushing westward. Thouhg LAPD still reports more than 50,000 gang members in the city, they have been shoved east by gentrification. For the Latino and black locals who called the Westside home for decades, dwindling gang membership is the inevitable result. Many neighbors and cops, of course, say good riddance (especially with gang crimes in West L.A. down 45 percent so far compared to last year). But some veteranos lament the end of an era, a time when taco-slangin’ lunch trucks were always around the corner and eses cast authoritative shadows on the street. ...

Eighteen-year-old Julio Ruiz sits on the steps outside an apartment building in Venice’s Oakwood area on a recent Saturday afternoon, pecking his girlfriend on the cheek. He lives with his mom and three siblings in a one-bedroom, $710-per-month apartment. He says the landlord could fetch at least $1,000 for the place and would be glad to see his family leave. But it’s a good price, based on their move-in rent of seven years ago. “They’re trying to kick us out,” says the Venice 13 member. “All my homies be moving to Inglewood.” ...

He’s not leaving anytime soon, and he has plenty of animosity for the mostly white, professional newcomers in his neighborhood. “They come out here like Venice gang is nothing,” he says, “like we ain’t shit no more.”

Well, no, it's just that people don't appreciate brutal murders and drug crimes. The article portrays gang life rather romantically and doesn't interview any West LA residents that aren't current or former gang members, but it's still honest about the murder and mayhem that the "gentrified" newcomers are struggling to eradicate. What it doesn't acknowledge is that the former gang members are some of the biggest beneficiaries of the ridiculous real estate prices in the area, often becoming millionaires.

James Taranto makes a great point about aborted abortions:

Abortive Abortions "The Bush administration said Friday that it would enforce a nearly 3-year-old federal law that requires doctors to attempt to keep alive a fetus that survives an abortion," reports the Associated Press in a dispatch bearing the weird title "White House to Enforce Abortion-Fetus Law." The New York Times has an even more bizarre statement:
In a telephone conference call announcing the new enforcement policy, [Dennis] Smith [director of the federal Center for Medicaid and State Operations] could not provide a rule of thumb to distinguish a fetus from a "born-alive infant."

This is confusing only to those who insist on denying that a fetus is what it is, namely an unborn child. Once a child is born, he ceases being a fetus and is simply a child.

It seems to me that a baby who survives an abortion and ends up outside the womb should clearly be considered a "real" human being, even by those who favor abortion. It's interesting how often this must happen. Considering that there are around 1,000,000 abortions in the United States each year, even low abortion complication rates will lead to tens of thousands of incidents -- and I immediately question the veracity of any complication statistics collected by doctors who perform abortions; they've got a financial motivation to undercount.


* In the US: Frequency depends on gestational age (GA) at time of abortion and method of abortion. Complication rates according to GA at time of abortion are as follows: (1) fewer than 6 weeks, less than 1%; (2) 12-13 weeks, 3-6%; and (3) second trimester, up to 50%, possibly higher.

Not all complications result in the baby surviving his or her execution, but that's one of the potential complications listed. One percent of one million is ten thousand, which is an awful lot.

Update 050428:
Here's an article about a Florida woman whose son was unsuccessfully aborted.

A conservative legal group has filed two complaints against a Florida abortion clinic claiming the clinic refused to help a mother whose baby was born alive, despite a law that protects babies "accidentally" born during abortion procedures from being killed or left to die.

The mother, Angele, had gone to the EPOC clinic in Orlando, Fla., to get an abortion. After the first day of the procedure, she was required to return to the clinic the following day for an induced abortion. When her baby was born alive, the woman screamed for help, but the clinic workers refused to help her, according to the Liberty Counsel.


For anyone out there who cares, I was getting an error loading Visual Studio 6 project files (.dsp) using Visual Studio .NET 2003. The error said "Cannot load the project due to a corrupt project file" but gave no indication as to how to fix the problem, and there wasn't any solution online that I could quickly find. The answer turned out to be that the .dsp files needed to be converted to DOS file format rather than Unix. I'm not sure why VS6 would create the .dsp files in Unix format, or if the FTP server converted them, but once I opened the files and converted them to DOS using emacs "C-x ENT f dos" and re-saved them, .NET 2003 opened them just fine. (DOS text files have carriage returns and line feed characters at the end of every line, whereas Unix text files only have line feeds.)

Yes, the rumors are true: I give you, MONdog!

StrategyPage has an interesting post about the cost of stationing American troops overseas (dateline April 14, 2005).

Stationing American forces overseas has not always been as large a financial burden on the United States that it appeared to be. As the economies in West Germany and Japan recovered after World War II, they reached a point where the United States demanded, and got, payments from those countries to cover part of the expense of keeping American troops there. Since then, Japan and Germany have paid over a hundred billion dollars in such payments, and since 1991, even South Korea has made similar payments. South Korea’s payments are now $661 million a year, but are being cut 8.9 percent to reflect the withdrawal of some American troops.

They also point out that the biggest costs are travel and the economic loss of having the soldiers spend their pay in another country. Additionally, if Iraq decides to keep American troops around long-term, we should expect them to pick up part of the tab.

I just ate a banana and it crossed my mind that banana peels aren't really as slippery as they're generally portrayed in cartoons and movies. I've stepped on banana peels before and haven't fallen; generally the peel just makes a squishy sound and gets goo on my shoe. What other common, everyday objects are often attributed unreal, vastly exaggerated properties in works of fiction? And I'm not asking about exaggeration based on ignorance -- such as a "hacker" who can break into "CIA mainframes" in 30 seconds -- but rather stereotypical portrayals that everyone knows are absurd. For example, onions that make their cutters bawl.

Commenter extraordinaire Ben Bateman deconstructs relativism in the comment thread of my earlier post about evil.

Mark: You seem to be using a weird liberal rhetorical device. Driving home, sometimes all I can get on the radio is Alan Colmes, and he does this all the time:

"You say X. But other people say Y. So how can we know?"

The implication is that we can't really know anything until everyone with expertise on the subject holds to a single view. This is impossible, of course, for anything but the most basic of logical truths, so it amounts to the claim that we can never really know anything. It thus amounts to a species of relativism.

As with all types of relativism, this argument is a weapon rather than a belief. For example, I have never heard a liberal say: "Sure, I think that taxes should be higher. But some conservatives disagree. So who really knows?" No, it is always the conservative belief that must dissolve into relativistic mud at the mere hint of a contrary liberal belief.

Mark puts up a good fight and the comments are better than my post, so go read them.

Dozens of leftist millionaires and billionaires convened the "Phoenix Group" in Scottsdale, Arizona, to discuss seeding some new liberal think tanks. The ironic thing is that the only way these think tanks will be able to come up with ideas that work is if they abandon the leftist ideals of these business-savvy but clueless donors.

George Soros told a carefully vetted gathering of 70 likeminded millionaires and billionaires last weekend that they must be patient if they want to realize long-term political and ideological yields from an expected massive investment in “startup” progressive think tanks.

The Scottsdale, Ariz., meeting, called to start the process of building an ideas production line for liberal politicians, began what organizers hope will be a long dialogue with the “partners,” many from the high-tech industry. Participants have begun to refer to themselves as the Phoenix Group. ...

The money details are several weeks away. “There aren’t dollar figures at this point,” Ingersoll said.

Soros, a Hungarian-born financier who donated more than $23 million to pro-Democratic 527 groups last cycle, gave the main presentation, said Ingersoll, who declined to name the other presenters.

Never let it be said again that the Republicans are the party of big money. Still, ideas win elections, and spending money to spread bad ideas isn't likely to be effective.

Many non-believers -- and indeed many Christians -- may not understand how the papacy relates to protestants, but the Baptist Press has a brief and informative explanation.

Amid expressions of appreciation for the conservative moral views of Joseph Ratzinger, the German cardinal who was elected as the 265th pope of the Roman church, various evangelical leaders reiterated their disagreement with Catholicism’s papacy from a biblical standpoint.

“Evangelicals do not find any biblical warrant for the office of the papacy or the elaborate structure of the Roman Catholic Church,” Daniel Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, N.C., told Baptist Press.

“Further, the Catholic system's emphasis on merit, works salvation and veneration of Mary and the saints are issues that those committed to ‘sola scriptura’ could never endorse or affirm,” Akin continued. “While we can appreciate the moral stand on life and marriage of the papacy, we will resolutely maintain that our High Priest is Jesus Christ in whom we have direct access to the true and living God.”

There's scripture in the article to back it all up.

CNSNews has a story about three Democratic senators who have recently changed their tunes on filibustering.

Sens. Joe Lieberman (Conn.) and Ken Salazar (Colo.) on Wednesday planned to express support for the judicial filibusters taking place right now. But in the past, each man has expressed a different view on the topic of filibusters and judicial nominees. ...

And Sen. Joseph Lieberman - speaking in January 1995, when Republicans were the majority party in the Senate - stood up for the "rights of the majority."

Lieberman called it unfair for Democrats to use the filibuster to "confuse and frustrate the will of the majority."

In January 1995, he and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) introduced a measure that would have eliminated filibusters designed to kill legislation or nominations that had majority support.

I don't have a problem with people changing their minds, but I really wish these senators would explicitly acknowledge their old positions and explain how and why they've changed. It's annoying to me that politicians in general think the public has no memory of the past, but now with the internet and blogs it'll eventually get harder to assume we've forgotten everything that's come before.

I don't know why I've been feeling so blah recently, but I'm afraid I'm starting to take it out on other people. My new job is stressful -- mainly because I'm still getting used to it -- but my life is really good. There's no reason for me to feel irritable or uneasy, but I have been and I'm trying to stop. I've been eating normally and exercising normally. My sleep schedule is shifting to be earlier than it was, thanks to my new job, but I've been getting enough rest I believe. Hrm. Maybe there's no explanation, it just is what it is.

I think the language in this AFP article claiming that the new pope "intervened in the 2004 US election campaign" is pretty disingenuous. When then Cardinal Ratzinger ordered bishops to deny communion to abortion rights supporters he wasn't attempting to affect anything as mundane as the presidential election -- he was addressing a religious issue that was highlighted by the publicity of the political climate. The cardinal didn't change the Catholic Church's position on abortion, he merely pointed out that the existing position should be applied in a certain way within that particular extremely public context. There's nothing out of place about a religious leader teaching others about how his religion applies to practical, real-life situations. As I wrote in my earlier post: politics should stay out of religion, but religion has every right to get involved in politics.

Theodore Dalrymple has an excellent article up at City Journal about "The Frivolity of Evil". He worked in hospitals and prisons in Britain for 14 years and claims to have dealt with scores of thousands of perpetrators and victims of evil and violence.

Intellectuals propounded the idea that man should be freed from the shackles of social convention and self-control, and the government, without any demand from below, enacted laws that promoted unrestrained behavior and created a welfare system that protected people from some of its economic consequences. When the barriers to evil are brought down, it flourishes; and never again will I be tempted to believe in the fundamental goodness of man, or that evil is something exceptional or alien to human nature. ...

There is something to be said here about the word "depression," which has almost entirely eliminated the word and even the concept of unhappiness from modern life. Of the thousands of patients I have seen, only two or three have ever claimed to be unhappy: all the rest have said that they were depressed. This semantic shift is deeply significant, for it implies that dissatisfaction with life is itself pathological, a medical condition, which it is the responsibility of the doctor to alleviate by medical means. Everyone has a right to health; depression is unhealthy; therefore everyone has a right to be happy (the opposite of being depressed). This idea in turn implies that one's state of mind, or one's mood, is or should be independent of the way that one lives one's life, a belief that must deprive human existence of all meaning, radically disconnecting reward from conduct. ...

There has been an unholy alliance between those on the Left, who believe that man is endowed with rights but no duties, and libertarians on the Right, who believe that consumer choice is the answer to all social questions, an idea eagerly adopted by the Left in precisely those areas where it does not apply. Thus people have a right to bring forth children any way they like, and the children, of course, have the right not to be deprived of anything, at least anything material. How men and women associate and have children is merely a matter of consumer choice, of no more moral consequence than the choice between dark and milk chocolate, and the state must not discriminate among different forms of association and child rearing, even if such non-discrimination has the same effect as British and French neutrality during the Spanish Civil War.

I suggest you read the whole essay, as it's quite compelling. I've written about total depravity before, and I think only someone incredibly naive could possibly believe that mankind, or any individual, is "basically good".

(HT: Wretchard.)

Here are a few critical chokepoints in the world's oil supply lines. Disruption of any one of these routes would immediately shock shipping costs worldwide and could lead to major economic disaster, or even spark a war. You may as well know where they are. Wretchard has a good explanation of why these chokepoints are really a choke-chain around China's neck, and the key to keeping that behemoth subdued.

WorldNetDaily has an exclusive report with pictures of ACLU "legal observers" smoking pot while supposedly keeping an eye on the Minutemen patrolling our southern border.

Volunteers with the Minuteman Project in Arizona say "legal observers" sent by the ACLU to monitor the citizen border patrol have been seen smoking marijuana in violation of the law.

Photographs were posted on the website of the South East Arizona Republican Club after Minuteman participants reported they saw, and smelled, the ACLU workers smoking pot.

Eleanor Eisenberg, executive director of the ACLU of Arizona, did not respond to a request for comment given to her assistant by WorldNetDaily.

The article doesn't say if Miss Eisenberg couldn't respond because she was incapacitated by marijuana. There's also no explanation of why the "legal observers" are aiding border crossers and trying to provoke the Minutemen into fights.

Grey Deacon told Joseph Farah's nationally syndicated "WorldNetDaily RadioActive" audience Friday that ACLU monitors sent to the border to watch Minuteman activity and report civil-liberties abuses to authorities have begun flashing lights, sounding horns and warning off illegals and their "coyote" human smugglers from entering territory patrolled by the volunteers.

"They are actively engaging in criminal activity," said Deacon. ...

[One volunteer said,] "They pushed one of the Minutemen the other night trying to get him to push back. Didn't work. Then last night they walked up and shined a spotlight right in a Minuteman's face from six inches or so away. Didn't work that time either. We immediately report these types of contacts with them to the sheriff to counter any claims they try to make against us. They should be called the UCLU (Un-American Civil Lawsuit Union)."

The left is a bunch of whiny infant cry-babies, whereas the right is made up of solid men and women who will bear any burden for their fellow countrymen. The contrast couldn't be any clearer, and it should be embarrassing to any leftist who takes himself seriously. Maybe it is, which is why you won't see this kind of stuff reported in the mainstream media.

(HT: DeoDuce.)

Does anyone know if a lot of stolen goods are traded on eBay? I bet that only a tiny fraction of thieves get caught like these teenagers did.

When a string of Cary businesses was burglarized in October, local police immediately turned to Internet auction sites for signs of the stolen merchandise. The officers hit pay dirt when they spotted some distinctive ashtrays on eBay.

The discovery was one piece of the investigation that led to the arrests this week of three Cary High School students in what police describe as a sophisticated burglary ring.

I guess the thing to do is avoid "like new" auctions that aren't actually new... though sellers could just steal stuff pre-sale from stores easily enough.

Jay Cost has an op-ed up at OpinionJournal about why Hillary Clinton is a terrible politician; it is also posted at Redstate.org. He focuses his critique on something I've also pointed out, namely that Hillary's moves are so obviously calculated that she can't possibly be fooling anyone, which means she isn't a good politician. The only factor Mr. Cost doesn't account for is that Hillary is getting a lot more coverage than most freshman Senators do -- her political positioning may be easy to interpret, but is that because she's a fool or because she's much more visible? Mr. Cost says she's more visible because she's less subtle, but c'mon, her high profile is owed almost entirly to Monica Lewinsky.

If her political accomplishments are unimpressive, why is she so feared? Why is she seen to be a political genius? The answer to this question eluded me for a long time, perhaps because it is so simple. The plain fact is that Hillary Clinton is actually one of the worst politicians in national politics today. She is feared as a brilliant politician only because she is such an obvious politician, which is actually the key mark of a bad politician. ...

This is Hillary's fundamental problem. She is a bad politician because she has a lousy style. She seems, always and everywhere, like an affected, calculating politician. This, by the way, is not simply the perspective of a conservative who has always been suspicious of her. The generally sympathetic MSM speak to the general truth of this argument; they have all been on to Hillary for a long time. People have been talking about her for 2008 or 2012 since the day she announced for the Senate. Everything she does is filtered through that prism. It is an operating assumption for everybody--liberal or conservative--that Hillary calculates in almost exclusively political terms.

That everybody assumes the political when it comes to Hillary is a sign that her style is ineffective. Style is supposed to convince people that this guy (or gal) is one of the "good ones." It is supposed to build the idea that while most politicians act according to strategic calculations and follow the maxims of pragmatism, my congressman does not. Hillary actually has the opposite effect. People think that Hillary is more political than the average politician!

I do agree that Hillary is a bad politician, a poor leader, a poor administrator -- even a poor alleged crook -- and has no chance of becoming president. I sure hope she runs.

One of my friends who has been visiting India for the past couple of weeks sent me a link to this account of a drunken monkey rampage.

BHUBANESWAR: A group of monkeys descended on an Orissa village, quaffed down pots of an intoxicating brew lying in the open and then set upon the villagers, injuring three of them.

We should send digital video cameras to remote Indian villages immediately so that we can observe these hilarious horrific monkey attacks from the comfort of our own homes.

Maybe the American Democrats wouldn't feel so bored if they formed a shadow government like the British Tories.

The Shadow Cabinet (also called the Opposition Front Bench) is a senior group of opposition spokespeople in the Westminster System of government who together under the leadership of the Leader of the Opposition (or the leader of other smaller opposition parties) form an alternative cabinet to the government's, whose members shadow or mark each individual member of the government. Members of a shadow cabinet are often but not always appointed to a Cabinet post if and when their party gets into government. It is the Shadow Cabinet's responsibility to pass criticism on the current government and its respective legislation, as well as deciding where amendments to the legislation are necessary.

Of course, who wants to go on the record for or against anything when they're not even in office? Much safer to just wait for an election and test the wind.

I just could not get to bed last night without scouring eBay for something to buy. I have no idea why I felt so compelled, but I wanted a new gadget, gizmo, or toy, and I couldn't find anything at a reasonable price. There were some flash MP3 player/voice recorders that looked pretty sweet -- not that I ever listen to MP3s or record my voice -- but they quickly got bid up past my price level. I just got a new phone for work (without a camera), but I just don't feel complete. I deposited my first paycheck from my new job yesterday... what should I buy?

Victor Davis Hanson has pretty much the best possible rebuttal to those on the left who despise America for our recent adventures in the Middle East: the policies they advocate got us where we are today. That's not news to anyone who's paying attention, but VDH does a good job of summarizing how the left has morphed into the philosophy of stability and tyranny while the right has abandoned "realism" now that it no longer appears necessary.

The real underlying current that must be understood is that the left cares more about wielding power than about doing good. In their minds -- and as laid out by Karl Marx -- the good that will ultimately be brought about by leftists when they take control is worth any and every amount of evil in the present. He wrote, "The meaning of peace is the absence of opposition to socialism." Replace "socialism" with "Islam" and perhaps it becomes clear why the formerly liberal left has been so quick to jump into bed with America's enemies.

(HT: Glenn Reynolds.)

For the past couple of weeks I've been learning to use C# using .NET in Windows and Mono in SuSe Linux, and I have to say that I find the language rather annoying. I've never been a big fan of Java, and C# is certainly nicer to use than Java because the library calls aren't all 1000 characters long, but I find all the contrivances required to obfuscate pointers to be incredibly cumbersome.

Keywords like ref and out appear to be largely redundant, for example. Properties like get and set are cool (and remind me of Visual Basic), but if I build a class with a regular member variable and then later decide to change it to a property, I have to recompile everything that interfaces with that class; it'd sure be nice if that were transparent. Furthermore, what's with switch statement case labels not automatically falling through? Stupid. Plus, main() has to belong to an object, but then its cluged to work similarly to in C/C++!

Overall, C# has a lot of unintuitive features that translate messily from C/C++ and generally don't make life easier. I can see why they may make garbage collection and array bounds checking easier, but I don't care how hard those are to implement! I'd rather have a clean, elegant programming language that didn't feel so ad hoc.

I hardly have to surf the web anymore... since I started my new job my readers have been sending me more links than ever! The link to the Opus V from Harry Winston Rare Timepieces comes from John, and the "personal time robot" -- as some commenters are calling it -- certainly looks cool. For $137,000, it had better.

So my question is this: is it morally acceptable for a Christian to own such an extravagant item? Couldn't excess money be used in ways that honor God more? That leads me to wonder if there's a moral limit to how much money Christians should spend supporting theirselves and their families. Are vows of poverty necessary, or can Christians own property and enjoy their wealth to some limited degree? Or is the degree unlimited, so long as the Christian gives 10% to the church? Is it simply a matter of "giving this much is acceptable, but giving more would be better"?

Solomon teaches in Ecclesiastes that we should enjoy the fruits of our labor, and he was fantastically wealthy, but then he was a head of state and most of his wealth belonged to the government, not to him personally (except that's how kings worked back then). Also, Ecclesiastes is largely about the futility of life, not the glory of wealth. Many influential Christians have been wealthy, but Jesus wasn't and neither was Paul, nor any of the apostles as far as I'm aware. As Charles Foster Kane famously remarked, "You know, Mr. Bernstein, if I hadn't been very rich, I might have been a really great man."

There's nothing wrong with wealth, but there are certainly some wrong ways it can be used or wasted.

Following up on my first post about obeying laws we don't like, John MacArthur has a two part teaching on "Submission to Civil Authority" (and part 2). MacArthur is possibly the foremost New Testament scholar of our time, and I think his positions on this issue are spot-on. He talks about all the whys and wherefores, but I'll quote the part that is probably most difficult for modern Americans to accept: submission to unjust governments.

A.To Unjust Authorities

Believers are to submit to "every" governing authority, even unjust ones. God's Word specifies that there are unjust rulers.

1.Isaiah 3:1-2, 8--"The Lord God of hosts is going to remove from Jerusalem and Judah both supply and support, the whole supply of bread, and the whole supply of water; the mighty man and the warrior, the judge and the prophet, the diviner and the elder.... For Jerusalem has stumbled, and Judah has fallen, because their speech and their actions are against the Lord, to rebel against His glorious presence." God judged the nation because its rulers were evil.

2.Daniel 9:11-12--"All Israel has transgressed Thy law and turned aside, not obeying Thy voice; so the curse has been poured out on us, along with the oath which is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, for we have sinned against Him. Thus He has confirmed His words which He had spoken against us and against our rulers who ruled us, to bring on us great calamity; for under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what was done to Jerusalem." The Hebrew phrase translated "rulers who ruled us" literally means "judges who judged us." Because the rulers were evil, God judged them.

3.Micah 7:2-3--"The godly person has perished from the land, and there is no upright person among men. All of them lie in wait for bloodshed; each of them hunts the other with a net. Concerning evil, both hands do it well. The prince asks, also the judge, for a bribe." Micah lived in an evil society that included corrupt judges, so he pleaded for God to execute justice (v. 9).

4.Romans 13:1--"Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities." In Paul's day corrupt judges presided over the trials of persecuted believers.

Although many rulers were unjust in those days, God's people were not to take matters into their own hands. Instead they were to trust God, who has the sovereign right to rule as He pleases. Robert Culver wrote, "Churchmen whose Christian activism has taken mainly to placarding, marching, protesting, and shouting might well observe [Paul] first at prayer, then in counsel with his friends, and after that preaching in the homes and market places. When Paul came to be heard by the mighty, it was to defend his action as a preacher ... of a way to heaven (see Ac 26:1-32; Ro 1:9-10)" (Toward a Biblical View of Civil Government [Chicago: Moody, 1974], p. 262). If believers are persecuted or imprisoned, it should be for preaching righteousness, not defying civil law.

There's a lot more, and MacArthur discusses what submission means, how we do it, and why we do it, so if you're curious I suggest you read the rest of his lesson before jumping all over me.

Which raises some interesting questions, such as, what about the American Revolution? In Why Government Can't Save You, MacArthur writes:

Over the past several centuries, people have mistakenly linked democracy and political freedom to Christianity. That's why many contemporary evangelicals believe the American Revolution was completely justified, both politically and scripturally. They follow the argumentation of the Declaration of Independence, which declares that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are divinely endowed rights. Therefore those believers say such rights are part of a Christian worldview, worth attaining and defending at all costs, including military insurrection at times. But such a position is contrary to the clear teachings and commands of Romans 13:1-7. So the United States was actually born out of a violation of New Testament principles, and any blessings that God has bestowed on America have come in spite of that disobedience by the Founding Fathers.

Possibly so. I'd have to give the matter more thought than I can devote now, but MacArthur's position is certainly worth contemplation.

How about this: I'll let women be the moral authorities on abortion when they shut up and let men decide who we go to war with. What? No takers? Then how about if we all agree that uteruses don't impart any special insight into abortion that men lack. By extension, the opinions of senators who are "mothers of daughters" are worth no more than those of their merely male colleagues. In fact, based on the women senators I know of (a very small and unrepresentative sample of the general female population, to be sure) motherhood appears to yield opinions that are simplistic and incoherent, rather than insightful. As Illuminaria points out in her brutal fisking, the most pitiful thing is that Susan Paynter thinks that allowing pharmicists the "right to refuse service" is itself a form of government intrusion.

Poking that allows disapproving pharmacists to override us and our doctors when it comes to the filling or refusing of ordinary, everyday birth control prescriptions.

My God, the humanity! Imagine the government poking into our private lives by allowing pharmacists and health care workers to act according to the dictates of their own conscience. Why they should be not poking into private lives by forcing them to do what the government deems right. Excuse me while I faint from horror.....

Anyway, I think it's sad that there are so few rational female voices in politics. There are plenty of canny female commentators, but just about every woman that runs for office is a loon. Maybe that's part of why I'm so leery at the prospect of having a female president.

Slashdot has a link up to a randomly generated computer science research paper that's been accepted into a conference. Yes, this verifies that we really have no idea what we're doing most of the time. Still, this isn't as amusing to me as my Random Conspiracy Generator, despite the fact that the RCG needs to be updated for the 21st century. (HT: Cypren.)

Here's another person I want to meet: the man The Guinness Book of World Records describes as "the world's greatest living explorer", Ranulph Fiennes.

He is a paragon of accomplishment. No really. To the degree that sitting across from him asking him questions seems an incredibly trivial way to use up his time. Surely he has other things to do? Mountains to scale. World records to break. Lost cities to find. Oh, and books to write. He has slotted books into his schedule the way most of us make time for lattes or movies: in the downtime when nothing else is pressing. And he's done it 16 times. The cousin of actors Joseph and Ralph Fiennes, Sir Ranulph Fiennes has accomplished amazing things in his 56 years. Listing them all would, alone, take more space than we have, but a teensy synopsis is in order, just to get the scale of it all:

In the 1960s he was, according to a February, 2000 BBC article, "kicked out of the SAS for deliberately blowing up a Twentieth Century Fox film-set in Castle Coombe, Wiltshire." (In fairness, the piece does not say why Fiennes might have been doing this or for whom and what's been left out here might be as interesting as what's been included.) His stint with the SAS was, as it turns out, only the beginning of what has proven to be a remarkable journey. The Guinness Book of World Records describes Fiennes as the world's greatest living explorer. He was at the helm of the expedition that found the Lost City of Ubar. Fiennes has led over 30 expeditions including the first polar circumnavigation of the Earth and the first unsupported crossing of the Antarctic continent. In 1993 Queen Elizabeth awarded Fiennes with the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for "human endeavour and charitable services," because, on the way to breaking records, Sir Ranulph has raised over £5 million for charity.

I think I'm too much of a homebody to want to be him, but I wouldn't mind hanging out with Sir Ranulph between adventures. And he appears to have a bit of character as well:

From your perspective, what has been your greatest accomplishment?

It's a sorry thing to say but, with today's marital statistics, I would say that remaining married to the same person for 32 years is possibly quite an achievement. Possibly.

I think this was a news story last year, but now I can't remember if I made it up. (Does that ever happen to you?)

This fat lady was feeling really ill and saw that she had some sort of growth under her arm, so she went in to the doctor. He began to examine her, and when he lifted up one of her rolls of fat he found a whole tuna sandwich buried inside, rotting and covered with fungus.

Real or not, that's probably one of the most disgusting stories I've ever heard. I know it's very junior high-ish, but what's the grossest story you know?

ZMP Inc. is selling a humanoid home security and entertainment robot in Tokyo for the reasonable price of US$5,450.

The 15-inch tall, 5.5 pound robot called nuvo from ZMP Inc. also comes in a fancier $8,200 version with the same functions and a design inspired by lacquer-ware painted on its body.

The robot can walk, get up and respond to voice commands such as "turn right." It links to mobile phones so that people can check on images of their homes taken on a digital camera inside the robot's head. It can be controlled by a remote and is programmed to do a dance. It also makes musical sounds.

Doesn't sound like much of a security robot, but it's got most of the difficult subsystems already in place: you can control it remotely, and see through the camera. It's only a matter of time before someone usurps an arm actuator and welds on a .22.

(HT: Reader John, and Drudge apparently.)

Because they don't report the news, they try to shape it. Robert Novak reports that the NYT was shopping around for Republicans willing to help them harass Tom DeLay out of office -- and I doubt they were going to put a disclaimer on top.

On March 24, former Congressman Bob Livingston was sent an e-mail by a New York Times editorial page staffer suggesting he write an op-ed essay. Would Livingston, who in 1998 gave up certain elevation to be House speaker because of a sexual affair, write about how Majority Leader Tom DeLay should now act under fire? In a subsequent conversation, it was made clear the Times wanted the prominent Republican to say DeLay should step aside for the good of the party.

Here's a nifty page that explains how to distinguish between murder and suicide -- at least when writing a mystery novel. Some cases aren't that clear-cut however.

I hate spammers so much... but I don't think they should be sent to prison.

LEESBURG, Va. (AP) - A man convicted in the nation's first felony case against illegal spamming was sentenced to nine years in prison Friday for bombarding Internet users with millions of junk e-mails. ...

A jury had recommended the nine-year term for the Raleigh, N.C., man.

Jaynes, 30, who was considered among the top 10 spammers in the world at the time of his arrest, used the Internet to peddle pornography and sham products and services such as a "FedEx refund processor," prosecutors said. Thousands of people fell for his e-mails, and prosecutors said Jaynes' operation grossed up to $750,000 per month.

In general I don't think people should be sentenced to prison for non-violent crimes. Our society over-relies on prison to punish crimes because we think it's more humane than the obvious alternatives (scourging, indentured servitude, and so forth), but in reality our prison system isn't very humane at all. (You may remember I said the same thing regarding Martha Stewart's prison sentence.) Jeremy Jaynes should be forced to return all the money he stole by defrauding people through spam and put into a community service program for a few years.

TDS writes about her love and fear of Wal-Mart, and in the comments thread EdWonk lays out the real problem with buying cheap Chinese imports:

I believe in freedom of choice. Wal-Mart is capitalism in its purist form.

When competition is allowed to thrive, the consumer wins.

I'm not at all concerned about Wal-Mart selling products made in Authoritarian China.

What I AM concerned about is the fact that no one in Washington seems willing to enforce the laws that are already on the books when it comes to our trade with China.

China continues to exclude our products, levies large tariffs, allows mass violations of our copyrights and permits the counterfeiting of American products.

Then they manipulate their currency in order to increase their already staggering advantages in labor costs.

The Chinese aren't our friends. Remember when the forced-down our military aircraft a few years ago?

They imprisoned the crew, stripped the plane of its electronics, took it apart, and then made the U.S. crate everything up and ship it home via ship.

And then they sent the federal government a bill.

I realize that China represents a huge economic force. (And an increasing military threat. They now have nuclear weapons pointed at our country.) So I'm not saying that we should ignore China.

But do we really have to continue kissing their collective behinds only to get gas blown in our faces?

Wealth flows downhill, and the theory is that by trading with our enemies we'll make them richer, more free, and thus less likely to endanger us. It didn't work with the Arabs, and now we're having to fight. It's sorta working with our old Cold War enemies, though the collapse of the USSR contributed a lot to our present relationship with her former satellites. We don't try it with Cuba because we're afraid it won't work. It may or may not work with China. The hope is that they become as dependent on the trade imbalance as we are on their cheap plastic crap. The downside is that if we ever have to fight them, they'll be using trillions of our own dollars to wage war against us.

My church does background checks on everyone in leadership and everyone who wants to work with kids, and a routine investigation turned up a hit for me in Arizona for a dismissed charge of "possession of drug paraphenalia" in 2003. I haven't been to Arizona in a long time, and I've never been charged anywhere for anything, so I was concerned that I was a victim of identity theft of some sort. I thought it most likely that someone made up a fake social security number and it randomly matched mine. However, when I looked at the report, I saw that it was probably legitimate: same birthday as me, same first and last names, no SSN given, different middle name. So it isn't a fraudulent record, it just isn't about me. I don't think I need to follow it up any further, and there probably isn't anything I can do anyway, if it's real.

Nevertheless, here's a link Molly passed along that may be helpful to anyone who needs to take back their identity. California appears to have some very strong laws that work in favor of the victim, but you've still got to do an awful lot of legwork yourself and call a bunch of places. It looks very tedious and frustrating, and I hope it never happens to me.

If you notice, I have several Los Angeles traffic links on the left sidebar. I take the 405 north and south more often than any other freeway, and I like to know what I'm getting into. If only there were a "traffic report" that could predict congestion a few days in advance like they do with the weather... but traffic is too chaotic in the short-term and highly dependent on accidents. Anyway, my new favorite is this page that calculates the travel times between various junctions along the 405; there are equivalent pages for other highways as well.

Since I started working full-time seven years ago I've taken every opportunity to save money pre-tax. Some people use the Roth IRAs, but I think that's foolish. Why? Because I think the world is moving away from income taxes and towards consumption taxes. If my plan works out, I can save the money pre-tax now, and then never pay income tax on it at all! I'll still have to pay whatever consumption tax exists when I retire, but so will everyone else! I'm a genius!

Here's a page with some information on choosing a Roth or traditional IRA. Did you know that the "A" in "IRA" doesn't stand for "account", but for "arrangement"?

This isn't news, but it's interesting in light of my earlier post on youth and STDs that "Churchgoing improves life expectancy".

The research looked at 4,000 old people from North Carolina, and found that of the 1,177 who died during a six-year period, 22.9% were frequent church attenders, compared with 37.4 who were infrequent attenders.

Similar results were produced by the University of California at Berkeley in a study of some 5,000 people aged 21 to 65.

Those who attended religious services at least once a week had a 23% lower risk of dying over the 28 years on which the research was based.

Not only that, but the lives of church-goers may also be of higher quality.

In addition, lower levels of depression are known to have a wider health benefit.

In addition, religion provides a coping mechanism for stressful events or physical illness.

Devout worshippers are far less likely to fall back on harmful habits such as drinking or smoking.

Dr Koenig said: "Such positive feelings may counteract stress and convey health effects, like enhanced immune function, that go far beyond the prevention of depression and other negative emotions."

Yes, it says "in addition" twice... my advisor would never let me write something that sloppy. Anyway, as I've said before, Christianity appears to be a very advantageous meme. Plus, you'll get more Social Security money.

Few biological forces are more powerful than sexual selection pressure, which is often used to explain everything from peacock feathers to human mid-life crises. What will be particularly interesting to see will be the second-generation effects of the boomers' sexual "liberation" as STDs run rampant through their kids, many of which can lead to sterility, either through biological damage or simple unattractiveness. So now we have the Roe effect putting pressure on leftist morality, and STDs effectively wiping out a generation of lascivious youth. Even if they don't die from their diseases, if they can't or won't reproduce then they're effectively dead biologically... except we're talking about memes here, so even the "dead" can spread their fatal philosophies on to others for a while.

The biggest cultural advantage of Christian morality -- aside from being spiritually right -- is that it gives its hosts tremendous reproductive strength and children that are likely to pass on the meme. Competing leftist ideals lead to death.

The Senate has taken the unlikely step of passing a bill that would allow US foreign aid to be used to perform and advocate abortion.

(CNSNews.com) - In a blow to pro-life Americans, the U.S. Senate voted 52-46 on Tuesday to repeal a Reagan-era policy that blocks U.S. aid from flowing to foreign groups that perform or advocate abortion.

The amendment that passed on Tuesday was attached to a State Department funding bill. It was sponsored by Democrat Barbara Boxer of California and Republican Olympia Snowe of Maine.

Snowe said the policy "infringes on a woman's right to personal, private medical care. This is a question of making sensible medical care available to women."

This is a perfect example of why we still need to elect more Republicans to the Senate. The handful of lefty Republican senators continue to gnaw at important planks of the Republican platform, not to mention their obstruction on judicial nominations. Nevertheless, the article overreaches a bit -- this amendment is almost certain to be knocked down by the House in the conference committee and is very unlikely to ever become law.

Even those who advocate abortion should be opposed to our foreign aid being used in this way; once we write the check it's impossible to control how the money is used. Under President Clinton, some US money went to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) which funded forced abortions in China. The UN and many recipients of our foreign aid are just plain evil.

I can't write much now, as I'm off to work. The job looks cool, but it'll take me a little while to settle in. You know how it goes. I'll still be able to post during lunch and stuff, most likely. School is ramping up again now for the final final push.

The majority of college students are women -- as are the number of bachelor's and master's degree recipients (bachelorette's and mistress'?). Why? I can only speculate, but I'd guess that it has a lot to do with the feminization of education at the primary and secondary levels. All the way through high school, kids these days are taught that having high self-esteem is more important than actually learning and performing.

Even though men still dominate universities (and earn the majority of doctorate degrees), the public education of children is run by women. Not just teachers and principals, but mothers -- who are often raising children alone, or practically so with fathers who can't be bothered. This story doesn't say so (and indeed the bewildered principal is a woman) but does anyone have any doubt that the "parents" who said grading with red ink is "stressful" were mothers?

Society would benefit if men got more involved in raising their kids. Divorce is a huge obstacle, but even in two-parent families the men are often distant from the child-rearing process.

(HT: Glenn Reynolds and Fark.)

Just to save some annoying people some time, you should all be aware that I delete "pre-fabricated" comments when I see them. Some readers/spammers have taken it upon themselves to submit comments that are just long, pre-written essays on barely-related topics, many of which are lifted directly from other blogs, such as Kos or Atrios. I certainly don't mind people posting links to just about anything they want, but please don't cut and paste essays.

Today is my first day at my new job. It's training and orientation I think, so I won't be hooking up with my new unit until tomorrow. I'm so excited!

Everything went well. The company looks like it will be a nice place to work for a while, and I'm excited about meeting my co-workers tomorrow. I have to get a new phone though, one without a camera. How inconvenient.

... or so says Blockbuster. Unfortunately, when I went to rent some videos none of the employees could actually explain what this meant. So I can keep movies as long as I want? Uh, sure. And I'll never have to pay late fees? Right!

The only thing they neglected to mention is that if you don't return the movie within a week, they convert the rental into a sale. That's right... there's no more late fees because if you don't return the videos they just sell them to you automatically and charge your credit card. What the heck? You can "return" them if you see the charges quick enough, but then you still have to pay a "restocking fee". So, that's a late fee, right? No, it's just to pay for restocking. But You have to pay it if you return the videos late, so it's just another type of late fee. No, not at all.

Whatever. Screw you, Blockbuster.

The actual "end of late fees" terms.

Update 2:
Wow, state attorneys general are investigating Blockbuster for fraud. It looks like I wasn't the only one deceived by this ad campaign. (HT: DeoDuce.)

I've written a lot about my skepticism about evolution, and here's a post on The Loom about mutations in the HIV virus that will serve as an illustration of of one of the assumptions that evolutionists make without, in my opinion, much merit: that genetic similarity implies common ancestry. Carl Zimmer -- who undoubtedly knows more about biological evolution than I do, since I'm a computer scientist who only simulates evolution -- displays and explains several charts that show how various strands of HIV are related to each other and to SIV (Simian Immunodeficiency Virus).

I have no doubt that human DNA is similar to chimp DNA, and that what Mr. Zimmer calls "microevolution" (a term originally created by skeptics of evolution?) occurs. In small time scales, changes can be traced between SIV and HIV, and their relationship can be observed and tested. However, the "wall" that Mr. Zimmer refers to is that of time, and it's a fact that any common ancestry between chimps and humans can only be inferred, not proven or even reproduced in a scientific manner (without a time machine). There's a gaping chasm between demonstrating genetic similarity and proving common ancestry that science cannot hope to bridge. The only difference between those who believe that God created life and those who believe it evolved is that the latter tend to fill in the holes with deception rather than faith.

Random mutation and natural selection are real and can be observed, but there's very little evidence to suggest that they are capable of explaining the origin of life. Predictions based on evolution are often very wrong. Just like everyone else, scientists have agendas and research tends to follow the grant money. (All that means is that you have to abandon the illusion of scientific objectivity and be prepared to consider the motivations and prejudices behind everything that's published (including this site, of course).)

Finally, I'll add a note from my own research and simulations. In my experience, similarity seems to be the rule for evolutionary systems. I've run countless simulations with non-interbreeding species with randomly generated genomes in NS+M environments (natural selection plus mutation), and their genomes almost always converge. Why? Because evolution is an optimization algorithm, and if it's implemented properly it will find an optimal solution to whatever evaluation criteria is applied to it. There are often local maximums that can trap poor implementations (perhaps analogous to "niches" in a biosphere), but over time these get shaken out and the result is uniformity, not diversity.

Phelps comments and posts and link to an fascinating story about plants that defy normal laws of heredity.

Challenging a scientific law of inheritance that has stood for 150 years, scientists say plants sometimes select better bits of DNA in order to develop normally even when their predecessors carried genetic flaws. ...

In the Purdue experiment, researchers found that a watercress plant sometimes corrects the genetic code it inherited from its flawed parents and grows normally like its grandparents and other ancestors.

There's a lot we don't understand yet, and much of what we think we understand is probably wrong.

Despite leftist revisionism, as Hillary is running for president it's important to remember that she likely concealed evidence in the 1990s Whitewater probe, and that all the Clintons' business associates in that venture were indicted by a grand jury and convicted on nearly all counts of fraud and conspiracy. The Clintons themselves would have been criminally prosecuted if the McDougals hadn't fallen on their swords to save them. Some highlights from the Washington Post's Whitewater Timeline.

July 1993 Foster is found dead in a Washington area park. Police rule the death a suicide. Federal investigators are not allowed access to Foster's office immediately after the discovery, but White House aides enter Foster's office shortly after his death, giving rise to speculation that files were removed from his office.

September 1993
First of three meetings in which Treasury Department officials tip off Clinton aides about the progress of the RTC investigation.

October 1993
RTC's criminal referral is rejected by Paula Casey, U.S. attorney in Little Rock and former law student of Bill Clinton.

Aug. 17, 1995
A grand jury charges James and Susan McDougal and Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker with bank fraud relating to questionable loans.

April 22, 1996
David Hale, the former owner of a government-funded lending company who has pleaded guilty to two felonies, testifies at Whitewater trial that in early 1985 then governor Bill Clinton pressured him to make a fraudulent $300,000 loan to Susan McDougal and asked that his name be kept out of the transaction.

May 26, 1996
Gov. Tucker and the McDougals are convicted of nearly all the fraud and conspiracy charges Starr lodged against them 10 months earlier.

May 28, 1996
The White House acknowledges that during four months in late 1993 it wrongly collected FBI background reports on hundreds, including prominent Republicans. Director of personnel security, Craig Livingstone, later takes responsibility.

Aug. 20, 1996
Susan McDougal is sentenced to two years in prison for her role in obtaining an illegal loan for the Whitewater venture.

Sept. 4, 1996
Susan McDougal, who had considered cooperating with prosecutors, says she doesn't trust them. She enters jail for contempt of court rather than testify in front of a grand jury.

Sept. 23, 1996
An FDIC inspector general's report concludes Hillary Clinton drafted a real estate document that Madison Guaranty Savings & Loan used to "deceive" federal regulators in 1986.

April 23, 1998
Susan McDougal, finally serving her two-year fraud sentence after completing her 18-month contempt of court sentence, refuses yet again to testify before Starr's Little Rock grand jury.

Nov. 19, 1998
During the first day of impeachment hearings, Starr clears Clinton in relation to the firing of White House travel office workers in 1993 and the improper collection of FBI files revealed in 1996. He also says his office drafted an impeachment referral stemming from Whitewater in 1997, but decided not to send it because the evidence was insufficient.

"Clears" is relative, and why couldn't the Clintons' be prosecuted for involvement with Whitewater? Because Susan McDougal continually refused to testify and went to jail to protect them? Gee, do you think?

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