July 2005 Archives

Go ahead and read this article by David R. Francis about the decline of union influence and every place he writes about how much "corporations" are benefitting, just replace that word with "shareholders". And remember that half of American households own stock.

I support the right of any group of workers to unionize, but I also support the right of employers to fire those workers and replace them with other workers, if they can do so. The power of organization should come from the value of the workers themselves, and the value of the workers depends on the price their labor can demand in a free market. If someone else can do the work better or cheaper, why should we have laws that require the employer to employ less than the best?

I thought I liked Google Maps, but Google Earth is my new favorite toy. I could spend hours with this thing; I don't even know where to begin describing its features. It's like the global exploration of the past 600 years is at your fingertips.

Drudge points to an article about Nevada water policy by the BBC (pretty local and esoteric for a news agency half a world away). Aside from the issue at hand, I'm struck by the rather balanced tone of the article, which is contrary to my expectations given the BBC's reputation as a leftist organ. Sure, the article is about an environmental concern that won't take shape for 20 years, but the advocates for changing current policy are identified as "environmental activists" and their motivations are actually attributed to their own person gain rather than being the last best hope of humanity. No one was interviewed who had a contrary opinion, but I really did learn a lot about how water is used in Las Vegas, and the casinos weren't vilified.

But this is one of "Sin City's" greatest myths. Local hotels account for just 7% of the area's total water usage, according to the Southern Nevada Water Authority.

"The hotel casinos use only 30% of their water allocation on outdoor use, while 70% is used indoors in rooms and kitchens and that water is reclaimed and used again," says Cruz.

"Even though the Bellagio has the largest water feature on the Strip, it benefits from ground water. We are consuming less water than when it was functioning as a golf course when it was the old Dunes (hotel)."

A reader passed along another nifty Google Maps application: this one overlays a Google Map on a satellite photo. Post links to any other Google Map systems that you come across.

As a nearly immediate follow-up to my earlier post today on jury nullification, let me post a link to a discussion about the topic at Patterico's Pontifications, where many smart people I otherwise agree with on many issues are decrying jury nullification as "jury misconduct". Frankly, I'm amazed that many of the same people who support the right of citizens to carry weapons feel threatened by the power of juries to judge laws as well as facts. Reading the comments, jury nullification opponents pose arguments against the power of nullification that are nearly identical to the arguments of those who want to ban guns. They don't trust the public to act as a check on the government.

Like carrying guns, jury nullification is a power that can be used for evil as well as good. That should go without saying, and yet many anti-nullification arguments seem to focus on the instances in which nullification was used to, for instance, acquit whites who lynched blacks. That's obviously a wrong use of the power. But just as guns are important to freedom despite ocassional misuse, jury nullification is also important despite the cost of occasional misuses.

The main difference between gun use and jury nullification is that someone who misuses a gun can be prosecuted and punished if guilty, whereas a juror who nullifies unjustly cannot be touched by the judicial system. Perhaps social punishment is enough to deter unjust jurors, but if that's not the case then maybe we should just pass a law that allows jurors to be prosecuted for nullification. Then, when those jurors are tried, a new jury will be empowered to judge their actions and render a verdict. The trial in which nullification was initially used would be untouchable, but jurors could be punished individually if their peers later believed that their nullification was unjust. Such a system would impose a cost on jurors for nullification and give them an incentive to use the power rarely and only when they believe that their peers will back them up.

It's pretty clear that the Democrats are rolling out Phase 2 of their strategy to oppose the nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court.

"The question is: Who is John Roberts? What does he really believe?" said Theodore M. Shaw, director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, during an appearance at the National Urban League convention here yesterday. "What we're finding out is troubling. I've moved from a position of neutrality to being deeply disturbed."

Phase 1 was to appear neutral and open-minded. Phase 2 is to act as if "surprising" "revelations" have forced the Democrats' initial neutrality to change into opposition. That way, Democrats can appear to have been open-minded initially and only reluctantly convinced that the nominee is a "deeply committed ideologue" by weight of the "evidence" they've "discovered". I use all the scare-quotes to illustrate that all this information has been known about Judge Roberts for years and years, but since it's new to the public the lawmakers have to act as if its new to them, too, so they can attempt to bring the public along for the ride.

Phase 3 will be the typical, expected rabid opposition to a nominee they hope to have wounded with their own fake reluctant transition from neutral to hostile.

Radley Balko has an article that illustrates both the importance of the power of jury nullification and the injustice that ocassionally plays out when our justice system refuses to allow jurors to decide what information is relevant.

In February of 2003, a California jury convicted marijuana activist Ed Rosenthal of growing marijuana, in violation of federal law.

What the jury didn't know — and wasn't allowed to hear — was that Rosenthal was not only growing the marijuana for medical patients, he was growing the stuff for the city of Oakland. After the trial, the jury was outraged. "'I'm sorry' doesn't begin to cover it," one told the New York Times. Said the foreman, "It's the most horrible mistake I've ever made in my entire life."

Ignore for the moment whether or not you believe marijuana should be legal, or whether it should be regulated by the state or federal governments, and consider the reaction of that jury foreman once he learned all the information about the case he had just decided. The jury was manipulated by the judicial system into returning a verdict that was technically correct under the law, but was actually horribly unjust in the minds of the jurors. They never would have convicted if they had known all the facts of the case. Imagine yourself in that position, sentencing someone to a potential life in prison, and then later discovering that you had been misled. That's why jury nullification is so important.

The doctrine of jury nullification (search) rests on two truths about the American criminal justice system: (1) Jurors can never be punished for the verdict they return, and (2) Defendants cannot be retried once a jury has found them not guilty, regardless of the jury's reasoning. So the juries in both the Rosenthal and Paey cases could have returned a "not guilty" verdict, even though Paey and Rosenthal were undoubtedly guilty of the charges against them.

This may sound radical, perhaps even subversive, but jury nullification serves as an important safeguard against unjust laws, as well as against the unfair application of well-intended laws. It's also steeped in American and British legal tradition.

The first case of jury nullification in British law came in the trial of William Mead (search) and William Penn (search), the latter of whom would go on to found the province of Pennsylvania. In 1670, the two men were charged in England with unlawful assembly, a law aimed at preventing religions not recognized by the Crown from worshipping. Both almost certainly broke the law, and the judge demanded a guilty verdict. But the jury refused, on the grounds that the law itself was unjust. After repeated refusals, the judge ordered the jury imprisoned. England's highest court eventually ordered the jurors released, establishing into common law the independence and integrity of juries in criminal cases.

Jury nullification isn't about anarchy or subverting the law, it's about ensuring that the laws reflect the will of the people. Remember, America is a Democracy and our government operates only with our consent. If a prosecutor can't convince a fully-informed jury to make a conviction, then the problem is with the law, not the jury.

(HT: Randy Barnett.)

Ok, as I've said before, I love integrating of Google Maps with everything. Most recently I came across HotOrNot + Google Maps, a site that connects the hilarious HotOrNot picture database with maps that allow you look for hot or, mostly, not people in your area. I guess it's just more amusing to know that you could pass these people on the street and think to yourself, "Not!" I mean, it's ok to make fun of people who post their pictures online to be rated, right?

Anyway, on a larger scale, this sort of thing is the reason why Google Maps is so much cooler than any of the other mapping sites out there. Google provides a nifty API that allows users to easily integrate their own data with the maps and display them, which makes Google Maps far more entertaining and useful than its competitors.

(HT: GeekPress.)

I don't post a lot of tests, but why not? It's Friday. Here's a Geek Test that my mom sent me that mostly only caught my interest because it contains a question about a +2 sword. There are lots of different kinds of "geeks", and this test is aimed at what it calls "true" geeks -- that is, computer geeks.

On a broader note, I think it's a good thing for the youth these days to have conformity de-emphasized. When I was in high school -- ten years ago? geesh -- the defining characteristic of geekiness (indifference to the approval of others) wasn't very well respected. Sure, it was cool to say you didn't care, but if you actually failed to conform there were social repercussions. I can remember the futility of trying to explain ICQ and instant messaging to friends who didn't even have computers; they didn't get it, and thought typing messages to people through a computer was pretty dumb. I get the impression that's not so much the case anymore, which is good.

Ultimately, we all want to be geeks of some sort, of whatever we're into, and it's great that the social pendulum has swung in the other way for now. I'm sure the trend will reverse towards conformity again at some point, but the internet is just so darn useful and new that it's impossible to look down on the mentality that made it possible. Once the net is fully assimilated into our culture, it will no longer be associated with geekiness.

Foreign Policy has a neat report with statistics about failed states that should prove interesting to anyone interested in international politics. Most of their reasoning appears rational, except for their chart showing the effects of foreign aid and stability.

We compared the amount of foreign aid countries receive per capita with the index rankings and found that the countries at greatest risk of collapse often get paltry amounts of aid. The exceptions appear to be countries that have been the recipients of large-scale international military intervention. Afghanistan, Bosnia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, and Sierra Leone are high-risk states that get above-average foreign aid (Bosnia gets the most by far).

But "paltry" is only defined on the chart relative to Bosnia, Iraq, and the Congo, all three of which are statistical outliers that are occupied (or nearly so) by multinational forces. The other failed nations on their chart are spread out evenly across the spectrum of foreign aid, and the chart itself appears to indicate that there's no correlation between stability and receiving foreign aid.

I've written many times that most foreign aid goes straight into the pockets of tyrants and doesn't help oppressed people at all. In fact, it's easy to argue that foreign aid to failed states actually aids oppression by preventing the removal of the dictators who ruined the state in the first place.

(HT: The Belmont Club.)

... and maybe it is. The recent launch of Discovery was performed safely and smoothly, but now it appears that despite years of work and hundreds of millions of dollars of engineering Space Shuttle foam keeps falling off.

HOUSTON, July 27 - NASA suspended further flights of the space shuttle fleet on Wednesday after determining that a large piece of insulating foam had broken off the external fuel tank of the Discovery shortly after liftoff Tuesday morning, the same problem that doomed the Columbia and its seven astronauts in the last mission, two and a half years ago.

The foam does not appear to have struck the Discovery, so the decision will not curtail its 12½-day mission to the International Space Station, the officials said. But further flights will be postponed indefinitely, starting with that of the Atlantis, which was to have lifted off as early as September. ...

The effort to fix the foam problem had consumed more than two years and hundreds of millions of dollars. NASA identified the area on the tank that shed the latest piece of foam as a risk, but put off redesigning it.

"We decided it was safe to fly as is," Mr. Parsons said. "Obviously, we were wrong."

The incident occurred two minutes into the launching, at a point where the atmosphere is so thin that the piece drifted away. The Columbia accident occurred in part because the foam fell off the tank about 82 seconds after liftoff, when the air was much thicker and slowed the foam so the climbing orbiter struck it with great force.

N. Wayne Hale, the deputy manager of the shuttle program, said that if the Discovery foam had been shed earlier, "we think that it would have been really bad." ...

Others were more dismayed. A NASA engineer who has been involved in the return-to-flight effort said: "It's an ugly story. It's a mess." The engineer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the issues involved, added, "Everyone's really, really disappointed," but continued: "It is what it is. Physics doesn't lie."

Alex Roland, a former NASA historian who now teaches at Duke and is a frequent critic of the space program, said that in some ways the problem was "worse than an unexpected anomaly arising."

"This was the major problem that they were looking to solve," Mr. Roland said. "It must be enormously demoralizing to them."

It doesn't take an engineer to tell you that when you spend all that time and money on a single problem, you expect it to be fixed. The lost foam -- a repeat of an earlier, shallow problem -- is much more distressing than a tempermental redundant sensor. Rand Simberg has an excellent post (from before the launch) in which he explains that a system as complex as the Shuttle will always have some failures, and that the system is designed to tolerate them. (The complexity of the system is the source of many problems with the Shuttle, and the primary reason to scrap the program.)

Any system as complex, with as many components as the Shuttle, must have adequate redundancy to allow safe operations with a failure of some components, because there are so many of them that some are bound to fail statistically, and if we mindlessly demand perfection on every flight, we'd never fly. This is the airline philosophy, and it used to be NASA's, but they've gotten gun shy, at least on this particular issue. But in making an a priori decision now to go with a failed sensor at launch, they're returning to a common-sense approach, for which the system was designed. ...

Now as to these demands that NASA not launch until the sensor is fixed, how much are those making the demand willing to spend (noting that the money belongs to all of the taxpayers, not them individually)? And to what end?

Someone once said that when failure is not an option, success gets very expensive.

Right now, NASA's hypersafety philosophy has made spaceflight hyper expensive (though not particularly safe). Rather than unrealistically making failure not an option, we need to embrace the fact that failures will occur occasionally. What we have to do is make sure that failures aren't as expensive as they were in the case of Challenger and Columbia (and numerous other lesser NASA program failures). What that means is making it cheap to fail, which in turn means making it cost much less to make attempts. That won't happen until we develop much more robust systems, with much more activity. But investing further millions into Shuttle (not only in terms of money spent fixing things, but the costs of continued delay, which are substantial) in a futile effort to make it any safer than it currently is, is a fool's errand. We should have flown a couple years ago.

Most public reaction that I've heard -- other than in the media -- is similar to that of Mike from Mike's Random Rantings who says that space flight is supposed to be dangerous.

Has the public gotten so used to the idea of flying into space that they have forgotten how hard and dangerous it is to put that much mass into orbit? Does the public think that flying to space should be as safe as driving to work?

These are ridiculous notions.

I beg to differ! Space flight should be much safer than driving to work, just as flying from Los Angeles to New York is much safer. The reason its still so dangerous is that we're launching a system designed in the 1970s that's run by government bureaucrats.

Casey from Right On! thinks NASA should start taking bids on future projects by private contractors, but I think a prize system modeled on the Ansari X Prize would be more efficient. Most of the engineers and managers at NASA are top-notch, and it's not their fault that the organization is so unwieldy, it's just the nature of giant bureaucracies. NASA should be converted from a production and engineering organization into a funding organization similar to the National Institutes of Health. The engineers who want to keep working on space exploration should be hired by private companies and get huge raises (as should all engineers everywhere, naturally).

Update:
Here's a private space venture I'd love to work for: The Spaceship Company.

Puzzleblogger Kevan Choset has a couple of trivia posts about presidential life spans (and here), and I thought of another trivia question: when were the most ex-presidents, presidents, and presidents-to-be all alive at the same time? A database of presidential births and deaths would make the question easy enough to solve with a computer.

DeoDuce comments on a recent example of modern "tolerance" in which offending a leftist is the greatest crime imaginable but offending a rightist is mandatory for the preservation of liberty.

Reader and server admin Cypren passes along these answers to the first few sections of the .NET Interview Questions I linked to a couple of days ago.


Everyone who writes code

Describe the difference between a Thread and a Process?
--- Both are individual execution paths, but process timeslicing (and memory space) is enforced by the OS, while thread differentiation is enforced by applications.

What is a Windows Service and how does its lifecycle differ from a "standard" EXE?
--- Services are loaded by the operating system and run in contained process spaces detatched from user interaction; users logging on and off the system have no impact on them.

What is the maximum amount of memory any single process on Windows can address? Is this different than the maximum virtual memory for the system? How would this affect a system design?
--- Windows processes are allowed 4GB of virtual address space, regardless of the actual amount of memory on the machine. Windows x64 allows 16TB of address space.

What is the difference between an EXE and a DLL?
--- EXEs can be launched as processes by the operating system. DLL executable code must be invoked by an existing process.

What is strong-typing versus weak-typing? Which is preferred? Why?
--- Strong-typing refers to defining the specific type of a reference at compile time rather than at run time. This results in more efficient execution and memory optimizations at compile time, as well as reduces the chance of a programmer accidentally providing a value of a type another component wasn't expecting.

Corillian's product is a "Component Container." Name at least 3 component containers that ship now with the Windows Server Family.
--- Component containers implement the IContainer interface to wrap components, providing a meta-architecture for organizing, interacting and communicating with the components.

What is a PID? How is it useful when troubleshooting a system?
--- (Ambiguous) This could refer to either a Microsoft Product ID -- the unique key that brands each activatable component installed on a system -- or to a Process ID, which is a means of referring to a specific process in calls to the Windows API.

How many processes can listen on a single TCP/IP port?
--- One.

What is the GAC? What problem does it solve?
--- The Global Assembly Cache. It stores strongly-named assemblies in a single location, allowing for verification of code library uniqueness when executing.

Mid-Level .NET Developer

Describe the difference between Interface-oriented, Object-oriented and Aspect-oriented programming.
--- Object-oriented programming consists of defining programming structures around logical units of data and the functionality required to operate on them. Interface-oriented programming extends upon the concept by mandating that cross-dependencies between objects be expressed in the form of abstracted, defined guidelines (without specific implementation) so that objects have set expectations for touchpoints. Aspect-oriented programming proceeds one step further, defining certain "first tier" processes which apply to almost all objects (such as logging), and providing high level means of attaching functionality to a wide swath of objects without specific implementation required in each one.

Describe what an Interface is and how it’s different from a Class.
--- Interfaces are "guidelines without implementation" for functionality in an object. They define methods and properties which must be exposed, but leave it to the individual object to determine implementation.

What is Reflection?
--- Reflection is the ability to dynamically execute code without pre-linking at compile time. This may take the form of dynamic module loading and late binding, or it may take the form of real-time code construction and compilation.

What is the difference between XML Web Services using ASMX and .NET Remoting using SOAP?
--- Web services are generally stateless, using a standard HTTP interface, while remoting is highly customizable and extensible, varying by the specific application that uses it.

Are the type system represented by XmlSchema and the CLS isomorphic?
--- No.

Conceptually, what is the difference between early-binding and late-binding?
--- Early binding determines execution path at compilation, late binding allows for dynamic execution at runtime.

Is using Assembly.Load a static reference or dynamic reference?
--- Dynamic

When would using Assembly.LoadFrom or Assembly.LoadFile be appropriate?
--- When your assembly is not in the GAC.

What is an Asssembly Qualified Name? Is it a filename? How is it different?
--- A type reference qualified by the name of the assembly it is referenced from.

Is this valid? Assembly.Load("foo.dll");
--- No. Assembly.Load(string) takes the full name of the assembly (as contained in the GAC), not the name of the file.

How is a strongly-named assembly different from one that isn’t strongly-named?
--- Strongly-named assemblies can be loaded into the GAC and use key pairs to insure non-collision and authorship verification.

Can DateTimes be null?
--- No. They are structs, not objects.

What is the JIT? What is NGEN? What are limitations and benefits of each?
--- JIT is Just-in-Time compiling, which natively compiles .NET code as it needs to be executed, allowing more flexibility in platform optimization. NGEN is the Native Image Generator, a tool which precompiles native code for assemblies and caches it for execution, pre-empting JIT. NGEN saves time at execution in exchange for potentially slowing execution on platforms other than the one it was originally executed for.

How does the generational garbage collector in the .NET CLR manage object lifetime? What is non-deterministic finalization?
--- The garbage collector defines objects into multiple generations based upon their expected lifecycle, and collects each generation with different frequency. Non-deterministic finalization means that the Finalize() method of objects is not guaranteed to be called as soon as the object falls out of scope; it is executed when the garbage collector has time to prioritize it.

What is the difference between Finalize() and Dispose()?
--- Finalize() is called by the garbage collector before destroying an object, allowing it to clean up resources it may have allocated. Dispose() is a method the programmer can call on an object to force resource deallocation (and pre-empt costly finalization).

How is the using() pattern useful? What is IDisposable? How does it support deterministic finalization?
--- The using() construct allows you to mark a resource which is guaranteed to be disposed when the block exits. IDisposable provides an interface for the Dispose() method, which allows a programmer to forcibly finalize an object while still placing a Finalize() method in it as a means of security in case another programmer neglects to use Dispose().

What does this useful command line do? tasklist /m "mscor*"
--- Allows you to see which processes currently running have loaded a specific library -- in this case, anything beginning with "MSCOR".

What is the difference between in-proc and out-of-proc?
--- In-process communication is that between threads in a particular application space, as defined by the operating system. Out-of-process communication is that between non-shared memory and process spaces.

What technology enables out-of-proc communication in .NET?
--- Serialization

When you’re running a component within ASP.NET, what process is it running within on Windows XP? Windows 2000? Windows 2003?
--- XP & 2003: aspnet_wp.exe, 2000: inetinfo.exe

Senior Developers/Architects

What’s wrong with a line like this? DateTime.Parse(myString);
--- Doesn't specify a locale or format.

What are PDBs? Where must they be located for debugging to work?
--- Program Database files. They contain references that connect the uncompiled code to the compiled code for debugging. They must be located either in the same place as the EXE/DLL, or in your VS.NET specified symbols path.
---
What is cyclomatic complexity and why is it important?
--- It's a measure of the number of independent linearly executed paths through a program. It's important for judging the complexity of software and assisting in determinations of which modules should be refactored into smaller components.

Write a standard lock() plus “double check” to create a critical section around a variable access.

--- bool notLocked = true;

--- if (notLocked)
--- {
--- --- lock (typeof(lockingObject))
--- --- {
--- --- --- if (notLocked)
--- --- --- {
--- --- --- --- notLocked = false;
--- --- --- --- foo = lockingObject;
--- --- --- --- notLocked = true;
--- --- --- }
--- --- }
--- }

What is FullTrust? Do GAC’ed assemblies have FullTrust?
--- FullTrust means all .NET security permissions are granted to the assembly. GAC assemblies have FullTrust by default, but that can be changed by the user's security policy.

What benefit does your code receive if you decorate it with attributes demanding specific Security permissions?
--- Allows administrators to see exactly which permissions your application needs to run; prevents your code from being exploited beyond what permissions it absolutely needs; allows your application to forcibly fail instead of having to manually handle situations where it might be denied permissions it requires.

What does this do? gacutil /l | find /i "Corillian"
--- Lists all assemblies in the GAC, searching for those whose names contain "Corillian".

What does this do? sn -t foo.dll
--- Shows the token for foo.dll.

What ports must be open for DCOM over a firewall? What is the purpose of Port 135?
--- 135 for the service control manager, 1024-65535 (or whatever range the administrator has restricted DCOM to) for applications.

Contrast OOP and SOA. What are tenets of each?
--- OOP tries to encapsulate functionality required to operate on data with the data structure itself, making objects "self-reliant". SOA aims to decouple functionality from data entirely, using interfaces to allow functional components to operate blindly with as little understanding of the precise nature of the data they're fed as possible, allowing many types of data sets to be fed into them for the same operation.

How does the XmlSerializer work? What ACL permissions does a process using it require?
--- Reflects the object and reads its interfaces to serialize them. Requires the .NET ReflectionPermission, obviously.

Why is catch(Exception) almost always a bad idea?
--- Because it swallows an exception without doing anything with it. The only time this should really be used is when trying risky casts that you expect to have a reasonable likelihood of failure, but always of a very specific type.

What is the difference between Debug.Write and Trace.Write? When should each be used?
--- Debug.Write isn't compiled in if the project isn't built with the DEBUG symbol. Trace.Write calls are compiled regardless.

What is the difference between a Debug and Release build? Is there a significant speed difference? Why or why not?
--- Release builds don't contain debug symbols and are more compact and optimized.

Does JITting occur per-assembly or per-method? How does this affect the working set?
--- Per-method. This affects the working set because methods that aren't lined up for calls aren't loaded, reducing its footprint.

Contrast the use of an abstract base class against an interface?
--- Abstract classes can provide implementations for methods and properties. Interfaces only provide required declarations.

What is the difference between a.Equals(b) and a == b?
--- The first uses the object's equivalency constructor to see if it considers itself value-equal to the the second object. The second construct compares their memory references to determine if they are the SAME object.

In the context of a comparison, what is object identity versus object equivalence?
--- Identity means that two references point to the same memory address. Equivalence means that two objects share the same value.

How would one do a deep copy in .NET?
--- Implement the IClonable interface, and define your implementation to execute deep copies on your subobjects (possibly through IClonable interfaces). Alternatively, serialize the object and then deserialize it into another object, but this is very slow compared to a dedicated cloning interface.

Explain current thinking around IClonable.
--- IClonable is preferable to using copy constructors because it is standardized and utilized by other portions of the .NET framework to generate object copies.

What is boxing?
--- Taking a value type and converting it to an object reference. Unboxing is the reverse process.

Is string a value type or a reference type?
--- It's an "illusionary value type" that masks an interface to the System.String reference type.

What is the significance of the "PropertySpecified" pattern used by the XmlSerializer? What problem does it attempt to solve?
--- Defines the specific parameters that .NET class members serialize into. Solves the issue of an XML spec needing to have slightly different names for class members than the class itself does.

Why are out parameters a bad idea in .NET? Are they?
--- Out parameters create uncertainty about the data which may be returned from the function, and permit the caller to potentially pass bad references which your function must validate before using. From a design standpoint, it's more elegant to define a custom class with multiple properties in the event that you need to return multiple values from a single function.

Can attributes be placed on specific parameters to a method? Why is this useful?
--- Yes. This might be needed to specify remoting implementations or types for method parameters, or to provide metadata for method parameters when exporting a code library.

C# Component Developers

Juxtapose the use of override with new. What is shadowing?
--- Override redefines an inherited method which was marked as virtual or abstract, and its access level must be the same as the method it overrides. New allows you to completely hide an inherited member and create a different implementation of it with whatever attributes you choose. Shadowing is another name for disabling an inherited method and redefining it.

Explain the use of virtual, sealed, override, and abstract.
--- Virtual marks a method as overridable. Sealed marks a class as uninheritable. Override redefines a method declared as virtual. Abstract defines a class which cannot be instantiated, or a method which must be overriden in any derived classes.

Explain the importance and use of each component of this string: Foo.Bar, Version=2.0.205.0, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=593777ae2d274679d
--- Assembly name -- used for loading. Assembly version -- also used for loading. Culture -- defines culture settings used for string translation and other locale-specific settings. PublicKeyToken -- used to uniquely identify this assembly and prevent collisions.

Explain the differences between public, protected, private and internal.
--- Public: accessible from any class. Private: accessible only from within the same class. Protected: like private, but derived classes may also access. Internal: like public, but accessible only by code within the same assembly.

What benefit do you get from using a Primary Interop Assembly (PIA)?
--- A PIA is a strongly-named assembly which defines COM interfaces for a component. Because it is strongly-named, it can be loaded into the GAC and verified against the COM component's own signature to give the component collision-protection and authorship-verification benefits when interacing with .NET code.

By what mechanism does NUnit know what methods to test?
--- Reading attributes defined for classes and methods via reflection.

What is the difference between: catch(Exception e){throw e;} and catch(Exception e){throw;}
--- Both statements will catch and throw exception, but the latter will preserve the original exception stack.
---
What is the difference between typeof(foo) and myFoo.GetType()?
--- The first returns the object's type at compile time; the second returns it at runtime.
---
Explain what’s happening in the first constructor: public class c{ public c(string a) : this() {;}; public c() {;} } How is this construct useful?
--- The first constructor invokes the base constructor in addition to its own functionality; this would be useful if your base initialized basic field values or had other code that all other constructors would utilize.

What is this? Can this be used within a static method?
--- The "this" reference refers to the current object context. Static methods have no context, so it is not valid.

TV producer David E. Kelley is thinking of switching to cable to escape all the ads on broadcast television.

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - The creator of Emmy-winning legal drama "Boston Legal" said Tuesday he's concerned about the amount of commercial time on primetime TV shows and raised the possibility of working in cable in the future.

"If the commercial encroachment becomes worse, it's probably something that we'll all consider," David E. Kelley told reporters during ABC's portion of the Television Critics Assn.'s summer press tour at the Beverly Hilton. He said he has no plans in cable right now.

Kelley said that when he worked on "L.A. Law," there were 48 minutes of show. That has been reduced over the years to a little more than 41 minutes. Kelley said that makes it tougher to create character-driven stories and tell emotional stories, particularly within the five-act structure that sometimes gives only eight minutes between commercial breaks.

Advertisers should really wonder whether or not the sheer quantity of ads is eliminating their effectiveness. Running more ads and charging the same price for each may work well for the broadcasters, but everyone I know with $5 a month to spare has a TiVo and doesn't watch any of them. If there were, say, 5 or 10 minutes of commercials per hour rather than 20 I might not even bother to skip them or flip the channel.

I'm sure advertisers will get smart eventually and realize that they aren't getting the eyeballs they've been promised. Just like newspapers and magazines have been facing scrutiny recently for inflated circulation numbers, it's only a matter of time before television stations are forced to deal with their own deception. Right now the stations are benefitted by poor measuring tools that don't really reveal what people watch and what they skip, but the same technology that currently helps viewers avoid commercials will eventually also pass that information on to the advertisers.

I don't care much about ghetto-style talent shows, but I think this Reverend needs to study some more.

Other critics said that the watermelon eating contest is a painful reminder of racially insensitive stereotypes.

"Watermelon, back in the days, was a good food for African Americans, according to the Bible, but at the same time, it had an attachment with slavery and bondage ties," the Rev. Carl Johnson said.

Eh, what? I don't recall any references to either watermelons or African Americans in the Bible.

My brother pointed me to two articles about the six-party talks aimed at containing North Korea and wonders which translation of (apparently) the same Chinese sentence is correct. First, from Forbes is this version (in bold):

China's spokesman Qin said 'joint efforts' are still needed in order to achieve 'positive results' in the talks, which also include China, South Korea, Japan and Russia.

'I hope that all sides can demonstrate sincerity, flexibility and pragmatism to move forward step by step,' Qin said.

Then there's this second version from Bloomberg:

``Our impression is all parties are sincere, earnest and realistic,'' Chinese delegation spokesman Qin Gang told reporters in Beijing. ``All the parties are exchanging frank and serious views on how to promote a nuclear-free Korean peninsula.''

It may be the case that these are translations of two different quotes, but the constructions are so similar (except for the "step-by-step" phrase) that my brother's guess that they're from the same Chinese sentence is reasonable. So which is the correct translation? The meanings are quite different, and I hope all the parties involved in the talks know what is actually being said. Of course, it goes without saying that most diplospeak is utterly devoid of meaning no matter how it's translated.

Update:
My brother sends more translations. Houston Chronicle:

Qin Gang, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, also expressed optimism.

"This is a solid foundation for us to usher our talks into a stage of more in-depth discussion and make important progress," he said. "We need to show faith, confidence, resolve and patience. We have to make unremitting efforts."

CRI Online (which also has audio):

Chinese delegation spokesperson, Qin Gang says frequent bilateral consultations have been held between different parties such as between China and the U.S. and North Korea and the U.S. on the first day of the six party talks.

"One characteristic of this round of six party talks is the frequent and intense bilateral consultations between different parties. I believe this demonstrates that all the six parties have taken an active, serious and practical attitude."

China View:

All the delegations participating in the ongoing fourth round of six-party talks on Korean Peninsulanuclear issue have adopted a positive, sincere and pragmatic attitude, Qin Gang said.

"The general impression we have got is that all parties involved are positive, sincere and pragmatic in the discussions," said Qin.

I've only been developing with .NET for a few months, but I know the answers to most of these .NET interview questions -- or at least I think I do. I'm sure many of my readers will be eager to test their own knowledge, and if anyone wants to write up a list of short answers to the questions I'd love to post it.

This article about redundant fuel gauges on the Space Shuttle highlights many of the reasons why the aging behemoth should be cancelled and its budget reallocated towards newer technologies and contracts for private space developers.

Deputy shuttle program manager Wayne Hale said the fuel gauge problem has been a vexing one - engineers still don't know exactly what caused it - and he's asked himself, "Are we taking care enough to do it right."

"Based on the last 10 days' worth of effort, the huge number of people and the tremendous number of hours that have been spent in testing and analysis, I think that we're coming to the right place," he said. ...

"These are rather arcane matters, I would admit. They're rather difficult and sometimes they don't always present well," Griffin said. "But in the long run, I think if it's the right thing, we can explain it to you and you want us doing what's right, not what necessarily is obvious or popular." ...

"My observation is that when the weather is good, you have vehicle problems. If the vehicle works, you have weather problems," he said, smiling. "Since we have some weather concerns, I'm confident the vehicle is going to be OK."

The Shuttle is 1970s technology and it had always been precariously balanced between nail-biting success and horrendous disaster. For $5 billon per year our country could fund 500 prizes similar to the Ansari X Prize -- or hundreds of larger prizes for more difficult accomplishments -- and allow the private market to select the best, most promising technologies. Everything the government runs is wasteful and inefficient, and the Shuttle Program is no exception. By redirecting our tax dollars towards private research, the public would be assured of funding only the best and most successful technology, and humanity would be assured of actually returning to space.

This article about geological Martian temperature is a great example of how chaotic knowledge can be -- chaotic in the sense that very slight changes of interpretation and awareness can have drastic effects on the final conclusion.

A chemical study of Martian meteorites implies that the planet has always been cold and was rarely above freezing.

Writing in Science, researchers have been able to determine the maximum temperature the rock experienced.

There is no evidence that it was ever warm, they say, as it records near surface conditions for four billion years. ...

This new line of research is a puzzle given the contrary evidence of running water on Mars. ...

The study is bound to be controversial showing a disparity between those scientists who look at pictures of Mars to discern its history and those who study the only pieces of the planet we can examine in detail in the laboratory.

The truth is that we may never know, and we may never even know if we're anywhere near correct. Just as this "argon dating" procedure led one group of scientists in a new direction, there are certainly a limitless number of other approaches that may never be thought of but that would yield different hypotheses. As much or more than God, history itself can be seen as the elephant explored by blind men, each of whom perceives a different aspect of the beast and none of whom can reach agreement as to its actual nature.

Some people are making a big deal about the order for London police to shoot to kill suspected bombers, particularly in the wake of last week's horrendous wrongful shooting.

LONDON (AFX) - British police remain under orders to shoot suspected suicide bombers in the head if necessary, London's police chief Ian Blair said, despite having mistakenly killed an innocent man.

When asked by Sky Television if the police had shoot-to-kill instructions in such cases, Blair replied: 'They have to be that. Because there's no point in shooting at somebody's chest because that's where the bomb is likely to be.'

He added: 'There's no point in shooting anywhere else because if they fall down they detonate it. It is drawn on the experience from other countries including Sri Lanka.'

To the best of my knowledge, all American police forces shoot to kill when they have to shoot, so this policy shouldn't be particularly startling to us Yanks. The only problem I have with shooting bombers in the head is that heads are hard targets to hit and most London cops don't have much weapons training. Shooting explosives could set them off, depending on the type, so the policy does make sense.

Not that many people will be interested, but here are some pictures of me and Jessica from our recent trip to San Diego for our friends' wedding.

I don't have anything to add to the previous post except this picture from Drudge that illustrates our post-apocalytic future:


Join the Karl Rove Fan Club!

I'm sure we'll all be much safer now that the terrorists are wearing uniforms.

Reacting to the NYPD's announcement Thursday afternoon that police would randomly—but routinely—search the bags of commuters, one concerned New Yorker quickly created a way for civil libertarians to make their views black-and-white.

In a few outraged moments, local immigrant rights activist Tony Lu designed t-shirts bearing the text, "i do not consent to being searched." The minimalist protest-wear can be purchased here, in various styles and sizes. (Lu will not get a cut. The shirts' manufacture, sale, and shipment, will be handled by the online retailer. Lu encourages budget-conscious New Yorkers to make their own and wear them everywhere.)

Seriously, no one likes being searched, but people also don't like being blown up. Is there a potential slipperly slope problem? Sure, but that doesn't mean it's inevitable. We need to guard our liberties, but part of liberty is having the responsibility to know when to voluntarily curtail your own freedom.

Update:
... except they should print the slogan on large coats rather than t-shirts.

In an interesting turn of events, American diplomats protected reporters from Sudanese security forces even though reporters rarely lift a finger to assist American diplomats.

Security forces in the Sudanese capital manhandled U.S. officials and reporters traveling with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, marring her round of meetings with leaders of the new unified government. Rice demanded an apology, and got it. ...

Reporters, whom guards reluctantly allowed into the meeting for a planned photo session, were harassed and elbowed, and guards repeatedly tried to rip a microphone away from a U.S. reporter.

Ambassador Khidir Haroun Ahmed, head of the Sudanese mission in Washington, attempted to smooth over the situation on the spot. "Please accept our apologies," he told reporters. "This is not our policy."

But there was another scuffle moments later.

The reporters were told not to ask questions, over State Department objections. When NBC diplomatic reporter Andrea Mitchell tried to ask el-Bashir about his involvement with alleged atrocities, guards grabbed her and muscled her toward the rear of the room. State Department officials shouted at the guards. "Get your hands off her!" Wilkinson demanded. But all the reporters and a camera crew were physically forced out as Rice and el-Bashir watched.

All that despite Mike Wallace and Peter Jennings' famous insistance that reporters should never sacrifice a story to help their country. Those who can, do; those who can't, report.

My brother made a comment at lunch that reminded me of earlier thoughts about preparing for the collapse of civilization. I don't think it's imminent, but you can never be too careful. So on that note, what kind of planning can you do to prepare your body? Among the procedures that would be important to receive before civilization collapses are the removal of wisdom teeth, lasik eye surgery, appendectomy, and possibly sterilization (particularly for women who don't want to give birth with stone-age medicine).

Assuming you can't take any physical objects post-apocalypse, what other preparations could you make? I'd learn more chemistry, botany, and mechanics.

I love eBay, but I've never sold anything, only bought. I'd love to supplement my income with a side business of some sort, but I haven't figured out yet what I can sell. The key appears to be to leverage some limited-access source of wholesale merchandise and then resell it at auction -- pretty similar to any other kind of business. That being the case, I imagine the profit margins are pretty similar to offline businesses as well, despite the hype. Nevertheless, here's an article my mom forwarded me with five steps towards starting an eBay business.

Real people are making big bucks on eBay — and thousands have even reached PowerSeller status by maintaining at least $1,000 per month in sales for three consecutive months. Case in point: Angie Cash, 37, a stay-at-home mom who started selling on eBay nearly six years ago because it was "something I could do and watch the kids at the same time." Today, her Kennesaw, Ga., company, Cashco1000 Inc., sells thousands of home-decoration and other items each month on eBay and expects to break $500,000 in sales on eBay this year.

$500,000 in sales means nothing on its own; how much profit did she make? I'm sure that eBay effectively transfers wealth from commercial real estate developers into the pockets of eBay and shipping companies, but how much profit are the sellers making in such a competitive marketplace?

The five steps towards eBay success sound like what you'd want to do for any offline business.

Step 1: Register your business ...

Step 2: Find stuff to sell ...

Step 3: Manage the auction process ...

Step 4: Provide great customer service ...

Step 5: Build a brand on eBay ...

Business is business.

Max Boot has an insightful article that points out some of the indirect ways that China is already waging war against America.

"Unrestricted Warfare" recognizes that it is practically impossible to challenge the U.S. on its own terms. No one else can afford to build mega-expensive weapons systems like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which will cost more than $200 billion to develop. "The way to extricate oneself from this predicament," the authors write, "is to develop a different approach."

Their different approaches include financial warfare (subverting banking systems and stock markets), drug warfare (attacking the fabric of society by flooding it with illicit drugs), psychological and media warfare (manipulating perceptions to break down enemy will), international law warfare (blocking enemy actions using multinational organizations), resource warfare (seizing control of vital natural resources), even ecological warfare (creating man-made earthquakes or other natural disasters).

Cols. Qiao and Wang write approvingly of Al Qaeda, Colombian drug lords and computer hackers who operate outside the "bandwidths understood by the American military." They envision a scenario in which a "network attack against the enemy" — clearly a red, white and blue enemy — would be carried out "so that the civilian electricity network, traffic dispatching network, financial transaction network, telephone communications network and mass media network are completely paralyzed," leading to "social panic, street riots and a political crisis." Only then would conventional military force be deployed "until the enemy is forced to sign a dishonorable peace treaty."

Significantly, these kinds of attacks play to the strengths of totalitarian nations that can eliminate personal freedom and force their subjects into staged events. It's difficult for America to protect itself against these threats without curtailing the liberty that enables our strong economy and direct military might.

(HT: Instapundit.)

Long-time readers will remember that I was advocating the Tradesports betting market for predicting political outcomes almost two years ago. Well, now that the President has nominated John Roberts to the Supreme Court it appears that Tradesports picked the winner approximately two hours before he was publically announced. That's earlier than any major news outlet. As Jim Linggren points out, markets do better than experts even when they don't do very well.

My claim is a comparative one. Markets should do a better job than experts who lack actual inside information of the choice for a number of reasons that are raised in the comments to one of Orin's earlier posts. I would think this would be true both for predicting individual decisions and for predicting voting or future big market decisions, though I don't know what the state of the empirical evidence is on this narrower point. ...

I am claiming that markets (however "good" or bad they are in absolute terms) should be better than experts on balance, or at least better than experts who lack actual first-hand knowledge of the forthcoming decision. So Orin and I may be talking past each other. I am asserting that I would expect a comparative advantage for markets over experts; Orin is questioning whether markets would "do a good job" predicting individual decisions compared to group ones.

Some predictions are very hard to make, and markets are often wrong, but in the long run they're going to do better than any individual or group of individuals at predicting the future. Although Orin Kerr dismisses a market's ability to aggregate data, aggregating data and determining its value is the best that any instrument for predicting the future could possibly do.

On a related note, I've put my money where my mouth is and divested myself of most of my niche mutual fund holdings in favor of broad index funds. Mutual fund managers can't beat the market over time.

In the software industry it's very common for employees to sign non-compete contracts as a hiring condition. The contracts generally state that the employee agrees not to accept a job for a year or two with a second company that's similar to the job he's taking with the first company. The point is that the hiring company wants to make sure their new employee doesn't get a bunch of information and knowledge and then immediately take it to a competitor. I'm not a lawyer, but my understanding (based on many conversations with fellow engineers) is that such contracts are not really enforcable in California due to "right to work" laws that prevent contracts from forcing a person to keep a job or to not accept a new one.

Still, regardless of what the law says, I think that a person has an obligation to fulfill an agreement they enter into willingly as long as the other party holds up their end of the bargain. For example, even though Microsoft's suit against Google over "executive poaching" will probably fail, I'm entirely sympathetic to their claim.

SEATTLE (AP) - Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) sued Google Inc. (GOOG) on Tuesday, accusing it of poaching a top executive the search engine company had wooed away to head a new research lab in China.

The Redmond-based software power also sued the executive, Kai-Fu Lee, whose appointment Google trumpeted in a news release announcing the lab's establishment.

In a complaint filed in King County Superior Court in Seattle, Microsoft accused Lee of breaking his 2000 employment contract, in part by taking a job with a direct competitor within a year of leaving the company.

Microsoft also accused Google of "intentionally assisting Lee."

"Accepting such a position with a direct Microsoft competitor like Google violates the narrow noncompetition promise Lee made when he was hired as an executive," Microsoft said in its lawsuit. "Google is fully aware of Lee's promises to Microsoft, but has chosen to ignore them, and has encouraged Lee to violate them."

Even though it's unlikely that the government will enforce the contract, it seems clear based on the article that Lee is violating his promise to Microsoft -- a promise he gave freely when he signed the contract. It's dishonorable to break your word, even if the law won't force you to keep it.

So some girls wore flip-flops to the White House and older folks are offended, but that's the fashion these days. Flip-flops aren't considered automatically informal by the younger generation, particularly for women. I don't know if you've ever looked at fancy womens shoes, but they're basically flip-flops with heels already, so what's the difference? I've seen people at my work wearing sandals, but they always wear them with socks which is pretty tacky. Still, in a few years I bet sandals will become mainstream enough that "engineer attrire" will include flip-flops. Biggest downside: the air conditioners that keep the computers cold might also lead to uncomfortable feet.

Anyway, if they're good enough for Jesus, they're good enough for me.

By popular demand, here's a follow-up on my post from four months ago about home security gadgets. In that post I mentioned two devices that I subsequently purchased and used.

First was the Keep-I volumetric air pressure alarm.

Keep-I monitors air pressure. If any change occurs, such as a criminal opening a door or window, the alarm sounds. When the device is set to fine recognition mode, a simple touch on your door handle will trigger the 95 decibal alarm. Within the space protected by the Keep-I, you can move about freely, your kids can play and your pets can run around. This alarm allows you to live your life while still protecting yourself and those you love, giving this high tech system great practical advantages over infra-red and motion detecting alternatives.

It sounds like a neat idea, and the science actually works very well. The problem is that opening and closing interior doors can set the alarm off by changing the air pressure gradients in the house, so you either have to leave them all open or disable the alarm before opening one. This limitation, though completely understandable and unfixable, makes the Keep-I awkward to use at night, particularly if you ever have to go to the bathroom. I expect it would work very conveniently in a hotel room or other smaller enclosed area with fewer swinging interior doors.

The second system I bought was a big box of magnetic door and window alarms. Each unit has two parts, one that attaches to the door or window and the other that attaches to the frame. When activated, the unit makes a loud noise if the door or window is opened. They're very simple and cheap -- about $2 each if you shop around.

One disadvantage is that the door frames in my house are poorly angled and not well-suited for these devices. The two parts of each unit need to be mounted within a centimeter of each other, and the way my frames are shaped makes this difficult to do without having the device obstruct the path of the door. Still, I managed to rig up all the doors on my house and I set the alarms every night. The devices mount perfectly on my window frames.

A second disadvantage is that the double-sided tape that comes with the devices can come undone in high temperatures. Units placed in sunlight may ocassionally fall off and start screeching until their batteries die if no one is home to shut them off.

All in all, both devices have their uses and can increase home safety for a very modest price.

In an utterly bizarre and misguided move, San Bernardino City Unified School District has decided to incorporate "ebonics" into its curriculum... ostensibly to help more blacks get into college.

Incorporating Ebonics into a new school policy that targets black students, the lowest-achieving group in the San Bernardino City Unified School District, may provide students a more well-rounded curriculum, said a local sociologist.

The goal of the district's policy is to improve black students' academic performance by keeping them interested in school. Compared with other racial groups in the district, black students go to college the least and have the most dropouts and suspensions.

Hmmm... maybe the difficulties of black students who have a hard time learning and getting into college are caused by their lack of English proficiency. Does it seem utterly off-the-wall to suggest that the solution is to help them speak English rather than to encourage their continued dependence on a pidgin dialect that isolates them from mainstream society?

Beginning in the 2005-06 school year, teachers will receive training on black culture and customs. District curriculum will now include information on the historical, cultural and social impact of blacks in society. Although the program is aimed at black students, other students can choose to participate.

While immigrants from other countries strive to assimilate into American culture, blacks are encouraged to actually diverge from the mainstream. Isn't it obvious that this path is destructive, and will ultimately hinder the progress of blacks as individuals and as a group? Not to mention perpetuating negative stereotypes.

Jacocks said he didn't believe the new policy would create animosity. He said he welcomed the idea of other ethnic groups pushing for their own programs.

"When you are doing what's right, others will follow,' Jacocks said. "We have led the way before the civil-rights movement opened the door for women's rights and other movements.'

Insanity. The civil-rights movement was based on making everyone equal in the eyes of the law and removing barriers within our society. This ridiculous "education" program is designed to erect barriers, and will have terrible effects on the lives of every student it touches.

Update:
Independent Sources has many links to other bloggers who are following the story.

It's awful to read about it, but I'm sure the escalating violence in Iraq is far scarier for those who actually have to live through it.

IRAQ is slipping into all-out civil war, a Shia leader declared yesterday, as a devastating onslaught of suicide bombers slaughtered more than 150 people, most of them Shias, around the capital at the weekend.

One bomber killed almost 100 people when he blew up a fuel tanker south of Baghdad, an attack aimed at snapping Shia patience and triggering the full-blown sectarian war that al-Qaeda has been trying to foment for almost two years.

Iraq’s security forces have been overwhelmed by the scale of the suicide bombings — 11 on Friday alone and many more over the weekend — ordered by the Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Pray for peace in Iraq, and for wise leaders who will make the decisions necessary to resolve the violence and bring the terrorists to justice.

I've never used the company, but CataList Homes has addressed an issue that I've long wondered about: why do real estate agents continue to charge the same percentage fee even though house prices have skyrocketed over the past few years? Well, CataList doesn't -- they charge a total fee of 3% instead of the typical 6%. I've bought a few properties, and if I'd known about CataList I would have saved tens of thousands of dollars; I hope they put pressure on the rest of the industry to follow suit.

2. How can CataList Homes sell my home and only charge 3%?

The truth is, it does not cost any real estate agent more than 3% to sell a home. Fees in excess of 3% represent an excessive charge to the home seller for the use of a real estate agent involved in an old, inefficient and costly system. Instead, you should be asking: "How can Realtors continue to charge five and six percent commissions (typically eliminating 20-25% of homeowner equity) when the average home is sold in less than 30 days?" When you consider the fact that home prices have virtually doubled in the last five years, how can Realtors keep the commission percentage the same and essentially double their fee? Your conventional agent is asking you for a 100% pay raise in 5 years, and he wants you to pay for it.

A 3% commission in 2005 is the same dollar cost as 6% just five years ago when you factor in home appreciation. This is how we offer all the essential service for 3%.

Ask yourself this question: Why have fees for stock brokers, travel agents and mortgage brokers been reduced, while real estate agents are still charging inflated commissions?

It's about time the cost-savings of the internet intrude into the real estate market.

I'm surprised that some conservatives are defending Senator John McCain's decision to appear in what Drudge is calling a "raunchy boob-fest". Susan Estrich is right to point out McCain's earlier advocacy for cleaner movies and question the Senator's judgement. I watch R-rated movies, so I'm not necessarily angered by his participation in this one (though I have little desire to see Wedding Crashers). What irks me is the obvious hypocrisy. One of the primary things rightists like to nail leftists for is saying one thing and doing another -- form over substance -- so I resent such a prominent rightist politician giving ammunition to the opposition.

Steve from Disaster, Love, Vengeance and Dust says that a stint at the Hanoi Hilton entitles one to "hang out with your wang out as you see fit", but again, that's not the point. The point is that words and deeds should be consistent.

Art Green at Conservative Eyes dismisses the cameo and hypocrisy as not "something people will look towards when choosing someone for President". In my experience, people who lie and are insincere about little things will lie and be insincere about big things. We'd be smart to learn about a candidate before he has opportunities to make bigger mistakes as President.

I think Stu at Red State Rant best captures my own opinion. He points out that many conservatives already question McCain.

Ms Estrich ends with the statement ,"In the end, what may be at issue is not whether conservatives share McCain's sense of humor but whether they come to question his judgment." Don't get me wrong. There are plenty of things I like and respect about Senator McCain and find his life story fascinating and inspriring. In fact I think we probably share the same sense of humor. But even with that, what I think Ms Estrich fails to realize is that I, and many other conservatives, already began questioning his judgement and conservative credentials many years ago. Pity.

True enough, and I doubt the Senator from Arizona will ever get the Republican nomination for the Presidency. McCain is a "maverick" in the same way as Howard Dean (though to a lesser degree). He speaks to a certain niche of supporters, but can't appeal to the party as a whole. He could possibly win an election against Hillary, but he won't get the chance to try.

Just got home from a wedding in San Diego and had a great time. We didn't actually go into the city proper but wandered mostly between La Jolla and Solana Beach. Jessica and I stayed at the Winners Circle Resort and the facilities were good. The rooms were reasonably large, aided by fold up beds that help maximize floor space when not asleep. The pool was comfortable as well, and there was plenty of sun. Downsides: we couldn't check in early, there was only one jacuzzi that was always full, and the walls to the rooms were rather thin. It was a little pricey, but it was the cheapest place in the city that wasn't booked up solid for Comic Con, which happened to be the same weekend as the wedding. Traffic to San Diego wasn't too great driving south on Friday morning, but we blasted home Sunday afternoon in 90 minutes, including a stop at Friar Tux to return my wedding uniform.

The wedding was great, and the ceremony was short -- possibly the shortest I've ever been to. From when the parents were ushered to their seats to the retreat of the bridal party the whole event may have lasted 20 minutes. The reception afterwards went a lot longer and was a load of fun, and your humble host even allowed himself to be dragged onto the dance floor by the most beautiful girl at the party. He also consumed approximately 20 Roy Rogers and a quart of grenadine.

If I didn't live in Los Angeles I'd want to live in San Diego. Fortunately I was reminded on the drive home of why I love LA.

Next time someone tries to tell you that Saddam Hussein had no connection to Osama Bin Laden and al Qaeda, tell them to listen to that audio clip of ABC News coverage from 1999.

(HT: Instapundit.)

Following up on my earlier post about ignorant judges, I think it would be useful to have specialized judges who know more than just the law. I believe there are special judges for things like contract law, but we probably need something similar for technology. I can't find many resources on the web about specialized judges, probably because they vary from state to state, but I'd be interested if anyone can provide some information.

Unfortunately, I don't think the problem can be as easily solved by blogging as was the ignorant journalist situation. Amateur journalism by experts is great and contributes enormously to our civilization, but I doubt amateur judges would be as effective.

One idea I've got is that there could be a panel of amateur judges. Rather than voting to resolve an issue, as one might expect from a panel, each judge would write a decision and then the litigants could then pick from those decisions and decide together which one to adopt.

What's the best place you've ever stashed anything? I had to go to Monterey earlier this week for a business trip, and just as I was about to pass through security at LAX I remembered that I hadn't left my knives at home! They go with me everywhere, but I obviously couldn't take them onto a plane, and I didn't relish the prospect of surrendering them to the TSA.

So I had my fellow-traveler hold my place in line while I ran to the bathroom and hid my knives in one of the metal soap dispensers. You know, the old kind of wall-mounted dispenser that every public restroom has, that sits unused but is never removed despite being displaced by newer models. The unit opened easily enough and I stashed my hardware inside, wrapped in some paper towels.

I was worried about my knives for the whole trip, but when I got back to LA after three days away they were still waiting for me in the restroom! Huzzah! I was so relieved. I'm constantly using my knives, and I hate going without them.

Janitors that are contracted out to various LAX-area aerospace companies are striking against their employers' clients, which seems like a very strange tactic.

Last week 200 of Southern California's aerospace-industry janitors dropped mops to begin a "snowball" strike that may soon involve more of the 700 unionized custodians working at plants in Redondo Beach, El Segundo, Torrance and Long Beach. The janitors are represented by Local 1877 -- the Janitors for Justice unit of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), whose somewhat unorthodox strike strategy involves negotiating for higher wages and health-care benefits with the three custodial services with which SEIU holds contracts (Servicon Systems, Aramark and Somers Building Maintenance Inc.), even as the union pickets the corporate headquarters of third parties Boeing, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman. The three defense giants are only clients of the custodial services and have no direct link with the janitors or SEIU, but the union believes it can shame the corporations into paying these services more in order to give its low-wage janitors a better contract.

So really the strike is pointless, because the defense companies can easily switch to another contractor. The janitors can press their employers for higher wages, but the employers can't pay more unless they pass the costs on to their clients.

SEIU's beef with the companies is repeated with metronomic regularity: It claims its members net about $1,000 per month, have no medical benefits and are routinely harassed and sometimes fired for their union activity. Because the custodial companies claim they will lose their service contracts if they substantially raise wages and benefits, SEIU must appeal to the employers' clients. ...

Nevertheless, the companies' last, best and final offer, according to Dick Davis, a spokesman for negotiators for the three custodial services, is an increase of $2.76 per hour in wages and benefits over three years. Davis noted in a phone interview that this package includes a Kaiser single-coverage health-care plan.

Netting $1000 per month means the full-time employees are probably earning California's minimum wage of $8.25 per hour, and a raise of $2.76 per hour is 33%; over 3 years that's still 11% per year. Furthermore, since the purpose of a minimum wage is to artificially increase the cost of labor, there are probably workers willing to do the job even more cheaply. Somehow though, the defense contractors are supposed to feel bad for paying the lowest legal rate, a rate which is higher than the rate some people would be willing to do the work for.

"You've got to look at the big picture," acting L.A. County Federation of Labor chief Martin Ludlow told the Weekly before addressing a Thursday rally in front of Raytheon's El Segundo headquarters. "It is shameful that the wealthiest corporations can't offer dignity and respect to the workers who clean its buildings."

Corporations can't be wealthy. Shareholders can be wealthy, but most shareholders are just average middle-class workers who've invested some of their hard-earned money into stocks. Why should they pay a higher price for labor than the workers are willing to work for? The minimum wage already forces them to do so, and they're still supposed to feel guilty? And anyway, since when are "dignity and respect" based on how much you earn?

"This is a very savvy union," said Ruth Milkman, a UCLA sociology professor and labor expert. "Any company would have to be out of its mind not to take this campaign seriously. [SEIU's] strategy is to make it easier for the real employers -- Boeing and Raytheon -- to say yes. Even defense contractors have a public image that they don't want marred."

Even? Defense contractors should already have a good public image. Soldiers aren't the only ones who work to keep this country safe. Defense contractors don't risk their lives as often as our soldiers do, but they do play a critical role in supporting our troops. Without our advanced weapons systems, many more soldiers would be killed and our international stature would be vastly diminished. What's more, the defense contractors mentioned in this article donate significant amounts of money to the local communities, to schools, scholarships, libraries, and so forth. Far form being ashamed, Raytheon, Boeing, and Northrop Grumman have a lot to be proud of.

If my job pays too little, I ask for a raise look around for a new job. If my boss thinks he can get someone else to do the job cheaper than I will, then I'm out of luck and I'm probably overestimating the value of my skill. So it goes. I'd like to make a million dollars an hour, but my time isn't worth that. I don't whine and complain and run a public guilt trip to coerce my employer to make concessions.

Just because the Global War on Terror isn't a "religious war" for us doesn't mean it isn't for them.

The man accused of killing Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh confessed to a Dutch court that he acted out of his religious beliefs, saying he would do "exactly the same" if he were ever set free.

"I take complete responsibility for my actions. I acted purely in the name of my religion," 27-year-old Dutch-Moroccan national Mohammed Bouyeri told the court in Amsterdam on the final day of his trial.

It would be nice to see our Muslim "ally" nations rebuke these kinds of statements.

What should be done about mobile phones in cars? Almost every stud I've seen, including this one, says that using a phone -- hands-free or not -- while driving increases the risk of an accident by 400% to 500%. That makes talking on the phone while driving as dangerous as driving drunk. As the article indicates, small fines don't do much to reduce the problem.

So what's the solution, or is there one? I have libertarian sympathies, but I'm all in favor of laws that prohibit drunk driving. People should be able to do whatever they want on their own property, but in public space the majority has the right to set the rules. Is the problem that the fines are simply too small, or is the risk of a crash still so small that people can't properly judge it and act appropriately?

For myself, I try very hard to use the phone only rarely while driving. The temptation is great, but I don't want to be one of the people who looks back and regrets making a dumb decision. Plus, I see all the people talking while they drive and it's obvious how divided their attention is.

I categorized this post as science because there must be a technological solution to the problem of making phones safer or reducing their use.

It looks like I was wrong in my earlier post when I complained that the House of Representatives should have moved to ban "economic development" land seizures rather than just condemning them. Apparently the House also passed a bill to "bar federal funds from being used to make improvements on any lands seized for private development". According to John Fund, opposition to the elimination of property rights has brought many racial minority constituencies into alignment with the Republicans again.

Within a week of the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision in Kelo v. New London, Rep. John Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee and the longest-serving member of the Congressional Black Caucus, pronounced himself "shocked" to be joining with conservatives in backing a bill to bar federal funds from being used to make improvements on any lands seized for private development. He noted that the NAACP, Operation PUSH and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights all believe "this court opinion makes it too easy for private property to be taken and [this is a practice] that has been used historically to target the poor, people of color and the elderly." The measure blocking federal funds passed the House by 231-189. A companion resolution condemning the Kelo decision was approved 365-33. Only 10 of the 43 members of the Congressional Black Caucus and only two members of the Congrssional Hispanic Caucus voted against the latter measure.

Many Democrats who used to scoff at conservative fears about activist judges are now joining their barricades when it comes to eminent domain. "In a way this ruling is about civil rights because it interferes with your right to own and keep your property," says Wilhelmina Leigh, a research analyst with the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Washington. "It means you have to hope and trust in the goodness of other human beings that if you buy real estate that you will be allowed to keep it." Few appear to be willing to trust government on this issue, which is why the Kelo decision has touched off such a populist reaction against it.

Good. Now we just need to muster the public will to hold the Supreme Court accountable for this kind of nonsense. Mass impeachments might be good, but I'll settle for a little support from the minority caucuses for President Bush's Supreme Court nominee(s) -- assuming he makes good picks.

You know, I've never received a donation solicitation from a Republican that has called Democrats -- or any individual Democrat -- "un-American" like John Kerry does in an email forwarded by tallglassofmilk. (Note: I'm assuming the email is genuine; it follows the Democrats' talking points pretty closely.)

While they conduct a no-holds-barred effort to brush aside any and all questions about the nominee's record and his or her commitment to protecting individual freedom, you and I are supposed to be silenced for fear of being called "obstructionists" and cowered by their threat to revive the "nuclear option."

That's worse than unacceptable. It's un-American, and it's not how we carry on public debate in the greatest democracy on earth. Show them that, with the future of the Supreme Court on the line, we won't stand on the sidelines:

http://contribute.johnkerry.com/

I know I can count on your support in making the following commitment: I will insist on a complete and full examination of the record of President Bush's nominee. And, if that nominee is intent on reversing Roe v. Wade and essential Supreme Court protections for civil rights, I will use every option I have as a United States Senator to keep that nominee off the Court.

John Kerry

So who's politicizing the Supreme Court? Who's calling whom "un-American"? The Democrats are always condemning their opponents for "questioning" their patriotism, but it's the Democrats who tend to throw around the most vitriol.

Plus, it is literally obstructionist for the minorty to use procedural tactics to thwart the majority. That's what John Kerry is promising to do, so he can't object to the label with any sort of intellectual honesty. And if I remember correctly, it's the Democrats who call eliminating the filibuster "the nuclear option", so why does he put it in scare quotes?

Good grief. Can you imagine if we had elected this doofus to the Presidency? I suppose there's some small comfort in the knowledge that Senator Kerry probably didn't write this letter himself, and may not have ever even seen it.

In 1978 Californians passed Proposition 13 which prevents the government from borrowing money without two-thirds voter approval. Unhappy at being restrained by voters, California's politicians created the LAUSD Finance Corporation to borrow money as "Certificates of Participation" which are bonds issued by private entities and then bought by the state and repaid from general funds, as best as I understand it. Most of the money is used to purchase property which is then leased back to the Los Angeles Unified School District. In essence, COPs allow our rulers to bypass voters and borrow money whenever they want. Sound outrageous?

Leslie Dutton at the Full Disclosure Network has more about these secret bonds. Mayor Sam has more, along with further comments by Leslie Dutton.

Maybe officials shouldn't need voter permission to borrow money; maybe Proposition 13 is bad policy. I don't think so, but it's possible. Regardless, it's the law, and our elected servants shouldn't weasel out of the restrictions we've put on them. The people are the final authority, and the government leads us only with our consent. It seems they'll never remember that unless we remind them repeatedly.

Words have power, which is why so many arguments eventually come down to epistemology. Words are the terrain of the intellectual battlefield, and in order to win you have to control the connotations that underlie your verbal weaponry. A perfect example is the purposeful propaganda (see?) behind the recent set of MOVEON.ORG Supreme Court parties.

In a desperate bid to sanitize his house party and control how its attendees would be perceived by the POST, the MOVEON host emailed talking points to his guests. A copy of those talking points was obtained by the DRUDGE REPORT.

Fazio warned his guests: “Its very important that if you talk to the reporter, you stay on message. Remember, it is quite possible that our event will be the one the POST uses to represent the entire MoveOnPac effort this weekend.”

The key message for the event: “The momentum is finally shifting away from extremism. We will not accept a extremist nominee. This is not about conservatism vs liberalism or Republicans vs Democrats, this is all about extremism vs moderation and we're on the side of moderation.”

The MOVEON host reminded his guests: “We don't want to come across as leftist, liberal activists. We want to come across as we are- regular folks who are finally saying enough is enough to the extremists; that we're not falling for their extremist rhetoric anymore and we're finally going to expend the effort necessary to get our country back.”

By accusing your opponents of being what you actually are you can mitigate the effectiveness of their attacks. You think I'm extreme? But I already called you extreme! Of course there's nothing objectively wrong with being "extreme" -- the mainstream could be wrong! -- but the word carries negative connotations so it's clearly best to avoid the label. Everyone wants to believe that they're in the majority, that everyone agrees with them; the number of people who agree with you often has nothing to do with the correctness of your position, but it's sure a strong and primitive psychological motivator.

One of the biggest difficulties the left in America is facing is that they aren't in the mainstream, no matter how often and loudly they claim to be. Rather than change their positions to suit voters, they blow smoke and mangle words to redefine themselves, hoping to trick everyone. I think they'd do better if they simply articulated their non-mainstream positions and explained why people should change their minds.

Here's a great example of a blogger being quoted as an expert, and pseudonymously at that. Wretchard, now self-revealed as Richard Fernandez, has been quoted in a Times Online article about missing US SEALS in Afghanistan.

“Its insertion represented an extraordinary risk,” said the author of an influential military blog known as Wretchard. “They would be operating in an area known to be a stronghold of the Taliban, where any contact with the enemy automatically meant they would be grossly overmatched.”

Another source noted that Murphy’s unit bore all the hallmarks of a long-range sniper team sent to hunt down a particular target. US Navy Seals are trained to spend long periods operating clandestinely.

“The fact that the US did not send in several hundred troops for a sweep instead of the four-man recon team strongly suggests the team’s mission was to fix a very high target before it could flee from an airmobile assault,” Wretchard said.

The post being quoted is here, and there are a few later follow-ups. As I've written in the past, the strength of the blogging medium is that the experts themselves are doing the writing without being filtered through ignorant reporters and editors. (Ignorant in the sense that they don't know anything about the topic they're reporting on.)

Wretchard also has a post about the London bombings being both a blessing and a curse.

The Al Qaeda have characterized the attack on London as 'punishment' for Britain's temerity to resist the inevitability of Islam. It is the kind of punishment these self-ordained masters of the universe are accustomed to meting out against harem women and insolent slaves. A few administered licks, and no doubt the cowardly kuffar will crawl back to his place. The tragedy is that Al Qaeda's perception is perfectly correct when applied to the Left, for whom no position is too supine, no degradation too shameful to endure; but incorrect for the vast majority of humans, in whom the instinct for self-preservation has not yet been extinguished. It will result in history's greatest case of mistaken identity; the mismatch that should never have happened. The enemy is even now dying at our feet, where we should kick him and kick him again.

I think his characterization of the left is pretty accurate, and in their constant striving for false peace they bring us ever closer to the brink of total war.

Update:
You'll also want to refresh your memory by reading Wretchard's Three Conjectures that explain why Muslims had better hope the West wins this war as quickly as possible.

I'm sure Republicans have pulled this kind of scam before, but most of the time it's Democrats like Representative Charles Rangel (D-Harlem) soliciting bribes.

Rep. Charles Rangel has written to lobbyists who represent corporate interests before the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, where he is the ranking Democrat, asking for contributions from $1,000 to $10,000 "to underwrite" his 75th birthday party.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton and retired Gen. Wesley Clark will address the event starting at 6 p.m. Aug. 3 at the Tavern on the Green in Manhattan. "I would like to be able to list your name on the invitation," Rangel said in his solicitation. He admonished the lobbyists to "fax the attached response sheet back to my office as soon as possible."

Rangel: "The guy I'm really looking for, wink, is Mr. Bribe, wink, wink."

Right, and I'm sure the lobbyists expect nothing in return, which is why they'll probably be sending me thousands of dollars for my next birthday party.

(HT: Brewcrew for the sound.)

I may not get online much today because I'll be playing with my Yamaha RMAX helicopter. After the bombings in London I have a renewed vigor for my work.

My brother sent me a link with a nice summary of California gun laws. It has entries for other states, too.

The recent bombings in London are terrible in the extreme, and all my sympathy goes out to the Brits as they deal with this atrocity. I don't have any particular commentary to offer, but I'll be following the news as I know all of you will be. I wonder if the attacks could be intended as a security disctraction from the G8 in Scotland?

My brother and I stayed at King's Cross, the site of one explosion, when we were in London in 2001. Who thinks this couldn't have happened in Los Angeles, or San Francisco, or Chicago, or New York, or DC? Thomas Jefferson said that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, and not just against internal, legal threats. Islamofacsists want to annihilate our way of life, but they're too weak to fight us on the battlefield so they bring their bombs to our civilians... which means our civilians must be willing to fight back.

The UK has been our stauchest ally in the War on Terror, and today we will -- and must -- stand by our brothers and sisters across the pond and do whatever we can to avenge these attacks and deter future threats.

Check out The Jawa Report for developments. I encourage anyone who's so inclined to use the picture above to show their solidarity with the Brits. (The pin can be bought here.)

The Full Disclosure Network has a great video blog entry comparing the views of two Southern California sheriffs on concealed weapon permits. Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca admits that he only gives permits to celebrities and government officials, which is an explicitly illegal policy. On the other side, Orange County Sheriff Michael Carona explains why "right to carry" laws are important and can help reduce crime. I've had my own CCW adventures, and I strongly believe that Californians would be safer if more law-abiding citizens were armed.

Mr. Fu Chengyu, chairman and CEO of China's CNOOC Ltd. oil company, wrote an op-ed asking "Why Is America Worried?" about CNOOC's bid to buy Unocal. In the article he explains in great detail how the Chinese company will pay handsomly for Unocal, keep jobs and oil in America, and take prudent measures to avoid control of critical oil infrastructure.

Our company has grown shareholder value from a market cap of $6 billion when it listed four years ago, to $25 billion today. I will continue to focus on bringing value to CNOOC shareholders and am convinced that the acquisition of Unocal can help us. I will also be focused on providing our better offer for Unocal shareholders, on bringing oil and jobs to the United States, and on our assurances that we will be an open and responsible participant in the process.

An increase of more than 400% in four years is certainly attractive, but the bottom line is that CNOOC is a Chinese company that's ultimately controlled by the communist Chinese government. China is not our friend, and they don't pretend to be.

I joked the other day that former Senator and present Law and Order District Attorney Fred Thomson would be President Bush's nominee for the Supreme Court, and now it looks like I was meta-right!

GLENEAGLES, Scotland -- President Bush has named former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson to help shepherd his yet-to-be named Supreme Court nominee through the Senate, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Wednesday.

Thompson, a Republican and actor on the NBC television series "Law & Order," agreed to accept the post in a telephone conversation with the president on Monday, McClellan said.

He said Thompson would serve as an informal adviser to shepherd the nomination through the Senate.

"Senator Thompson will guide the nominee through the confirmation process," McClellan said.

Yes, I'm a genius.

It's nice to see Senator Barbara Boxer concerned about protecting unborn babies.

And they [ed - the gang of 14] said they would only, they would only use the filibuster in extraordinary circumstances. Well, if ever there was an extraordinary circumstance, here it is, right now, before us. The swing vote on an issue that if it is wrongly decided could cause the death of our youngest women.

Of course she means something else, but what? Who knows.

Update:
Kevin Murphy has written a Democrat-speak translator that should come in handy during the upcoming Supreme Court nomination battle. He also wonders why we as a nation can't "move on" past the abortion issue to topics we agree about. Well, I for one will be happy to move on once the pro-abortionists stop murdering babies.

The House just passed a resolution disapproving of Kelo v. New London, the recent Supreme Court case that annihilated private property.

Passed: 365-33 (see complete tally)

The House passed this resolution expressing disapproval of Kelo v New London, the recent Supreme Court decision concerning eminent domain. In the 5-4 decision, the Court ruled that local governments can seize people’s property for private development. Susette Kelo of New London, CT, brought the suit when the city of New London seized her home to turn it over to a private developer. Opponents contend the decision gives the government too much control over people’s private property. The "takings" clause of the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution allows local governments to take land for the public good.

Big deal. The House could have passed a bill that would have outlawed this kind of behavior by the federal and local governments (with Senate agreement) rather than merely shaking its collective finger and tut-tutting. I demand further action.

James Taranto notes that many Democrats are calling for a Supreme Court nominee who will receive unanimous support, and he goes on to explain why President Bush won't nominate such a person and why he shouldn't have to. But the whole conversation begs the observation: there are two ways for a nominee to get unanimous support. First, as implied by the Democrats, President Bush could nominate someone the Democrats like; second, and the way I haven't seen mentioned, is that the Democrats could support whoever it is the President nominates. Either way the nominee gets "unanimous support", the difference is that everyone seems to assume that it's the President and the Senate majority who should get the shaft.

Wesley Pruden of the Washington Times has a great perspective on the nonsensical Live 8 concerts that would be particularly valuable for young people to read.

Tony Blair's No. 2 man, George Brown, talks giddily of a Marshall Plan for Africa, but Nigerian despots alone have already pocketed the equivalent of six Marshall Plans. George C. Marshall's miracle scheme for rebuilding Europe worked because mature European leadership was determined to rescue the continent from the ravages of World War II. There's scant evidence that Africa's "leaders" want anything more than to drink from the fire hose.

Live 8 concerts are nice, and the photographs of starving children will break the coldest heart, but unless Europe and the West accompany aid with the kind of supervision nobody has the courage to impose, the aid will wind up in the usual Swiss banks, and 20 years from now another generation of children will die while naive hearts bleed.

Africa is poor and dying because her leaders are all crooks.

You're the governor of a state that's about to execute a murderer who also happens to be a brilliant surgeon. On the eve of the execution you receive a letter from an ill citizen who needs some expensive surgery that he can't afford, but that falls within the specialty of your condemned prisoner. The citizen says that the prisoner has agreed to perform the surgery for free before his execution, but that he'll need access to surgical facilities and a week or so to prepare. Do you postpone the execution and allow the surgery?

If you decide to postpone the execution, how do you deal with the unending stream of pleas for free surgery that follows the first? The condemned man is eager to stay alive, and is willing and able to continue performing surgeries. How do you deal with other prisoners on death row who don't have such highly-demanded skills but are willing to do any kind of work that will allow them to postpone their own executions? How do you deal with the families of the victims who become enraged by the postponement of justice?

If you decide to go ahead with the execution, do you help the letter-writing citizen or ignore him? If you help him, how do you deal with the flood of letters that follow? What do you say to dying people who might have lived if they had had access to the indentured surgeon?

Apparently you can take it with you.

So now my pastor can't say he's never seen a hearse pulling a U-Haul.

(HT: Cyberspin.)

Happy Independence Day!

Continuing his unbroken string of idiocy, Chris Martin from Coldplay once again vastly overestimates his own importance.

Maybe you couldn't blame some people for lapsing into a bit of overstatement during yesterday's marathon Live 8 pile-on.

"This is the greatest rock show in the history of the world," trumpeted an announcer at the start of the London concert, which kicked off AOLmusic's global feed of this extremely long event.

This is "the single most important concert ever," gushed a deejay on XM Satellite Radio, which carried the world's concerts on seven distinct channels.

Not to be outdone, Coldplay's Chris Martin announced from the London stage, "[This is] the greatest thing that's ever been organized in the history of the world."

The people behind the moon landing and the creation of the Sphinx might beg to differ with that.

Unbelievable. I can't recall any rightists ever trumpeting their meager accomplishments the way modern leftists do. If Chris Martin wasn't so blatantly ignorant and purposeless his moronic pronouncement would rank right up there with Kofi Annan's for sheer audacity. And lest one think that Chris Martin and his ilk are less blameworthy than Kofi and the UN, just remember that the vast majority of foreign aid is used by tyrants to hold their people in slavery.

I've never seen a bigger pile of steaming crap than the disgusting load of manure Kofi Annan dumped all over the Washington Post in an op-ed two weeks ago in which he claimed all the credit for progress in Iraq for himself and the UN. How did I miss seeing this before? The poop-pile wrote:

A year ago, in Resolution 1546, the U.N. Security Council set out the timetable that Iraq, with the assistance of the United Nations and the international community, was expected to fulfill. The Brussels conference is a chance to reassure the Iraqi people that the international community stands with them in their brave efforts to rebuild their country, and that we recognize how much progress has been made in the face of daunting challenges.

If by "the international community" he means the United States of America, the UK, Australia, and Poland, then fantastic. However, none of those countries is actually mentioned in his article... somehow the UN ends up getting credit for the blood and sweat of our soldiers. Wait... where there soldiers involved? Krapi Annan doesn't say! Maybe Saddam Hussein decided to peacefully resign in the face of perpetual UN weapons inspections. Kofi also fails to mention that one of the most "daunting" challenges has been getting the UN to do anything other than profiteer off the misery of the Iraqi people.

The United Nations has been strongly urged by a wide spectrum of Iraqis to help them maintain momentum, as we did with January's elections. They have sought our support in constitution-making, in preparing for the October referendum and the December elections, and in coordinating donor assistance for the political transition as well as reconstruction and development.

Oh yeah, Iraqis love the UN, especially the way they flee the country every time a bomb goes off.

Our response has been prompt and resolute. We have set up a donor coordination mechanism in Baghdad, deployed a Constitutional Support Unit, and established an active and collaborative relationship with the assembly's constitutional committee. Today more than 800 U.N. personnel -- both local and international, including security staff -- are serving in Iraq in the U.N. assistance mission.

800? And no mention of the 150,000 American and allied troops? No mention of the thousands of other Americans who have gone to Iraq to work and help them rebuild? How many tanks are in a "Constitutional Support Unit"?

Whether U.N. assistance proves effective will depend largely on the Iraqis. Only they can write a constitution that is inclusive and fair. The United Nations cannot and will not draft it for them. Nor do we need to, because Iraqis are more than capable of doing it themselves. They would welcome advice, but they will decide which advice is worth taking.

Could you be more condescending you enormous turd? I hate the UN; you're worse than useless. Kofi Annan is personally responsible for aiding and abetting genocide, so I'm sure glad the Iraqis have his permission to draft their own constitution -- hopefully they'll leave out the parts where "peacekeepers" rape women and children.

The Iraqi people continue to endure a painful and difficult transition, and they still have a long and tough road ahead. The United Nations is privileged and determined to walk it with them. In doing so, we serve not only the people of Iraq, but the peoples of all nations.

I'm completely astounded by Kofi's relentless lies, hubris, and self-promotion. As Nile Gardiner wrote:

After reading Annan’s piece, readers could be forgiven for believing the U.N. was largely responsible for the democratic changes sweeping Iraq, and for the country’s reconstruction. In truth, the U.N.’s role in post-war Iraq has been half-hearted. The U.N. deployed just 40 staff, including a meager 19 election experts, in support of the historic January 2005 National Assembly elections.

Read the rest of Mr. Gardiner's response to Kofi Annan's defecation all over the graves of the 1,700 allied troops who died to free Iraq, and not a blue helmet among them. The UN is one of the most corrupt, evil organizations ever conceived of by man, and Kofi Annan fits right in.

(HT: The Daily Spork.)

I heard about the Christian Exodus project on Fox this morning, and the whole idea strikes me as profoundly misguided and antithetical to the Great Commission given by Jesus Christ to the church.

ChristianExodus.org is moving thousands of Christians to South Carolina to reestablish constitutionally limited government founded upon Christian principles. This includes the return to South Carolina of all "powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States." 1 It is evident that the U.S. Constitution has been abandoned under our current federal system, and the efforts of Christian activism to restore our Godly republic have proven futile over the past three decades. The time has come for Christian Constitutionalists to protect our American principles in a State like South Carolina by interposing the State's sovereign authority retained under the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Contra the Great Commission:

Matthew 28:18-20

Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

You'll notice that Jesus didn't say anything about devoting time or energy to reforming human government, but he did instruct these early Christians to spread out across the whole world for the purpose of evangelism. The Christian Exodus people are doing the exact opposite of what Jesus commanded.

Since I started using my elliptical machine a few weeks ago I've been watching Fox News several times a week... is it just me, or has the station turned into all-missing-people all-the-time? It's like watching the back of a milk carton. Despite the sympathy I feel for the families of the handful of missing people that are highlighted, there is other news that will impact my life much more, that I'm far more interested in. Do we need yet another report on the legal status of Joren van der Sloot and the difference between the American and Dutch legal systems? How about instead doing profiles about the half-dozen jurists President Bush is considering for the Supreme Court?

Oh well, they'll broadcast whatever gets the ratings I guess.

To celebrate the birth of a nation based on freedom and liberty, California has banned smoking in prisons starting today. (The link goes to a Seattle Times version of the LA Times article since the original is behind a registration barrier.)

FOLSOM, Calif. — Doing time in a California state prison won't be quite the same beginning today. Inmates, once given tobacco and matches along with their prison blues and toothbrush, will now be forbidden to smoke.

Born of legislation passed last year, the tobacco ban was sold as a boon that would offer a big drop in prison health-care costs and clean air for inmates and officers who don't like to light up. The Republican assemblyman who pushed the ban last year predicted it would save $280 million a year.

Actually, when you point out that my taxes were being used to pay for inmate health care, the ban starts to sound like a much smarter idea. Then again, I've long been a fan of creative punishments that could save us lots of money and reduce crime at the same time.

Back when the measure first passed the Assembly last year, Josh Barkin thought it was a bad idea because cigarettes keep the prisoners "satiated".

These laws -- which are becoming commonplace -- are ridiculous, for a number of reasons. First, letting prisoners smoke gives them something to do, and it keeps them satiated. Second, any money saved on prison healthcare has got to be balanced out by the cost of [a] helping these inmates quit (nicotine patches, for example), [b] dealing with the increased agitation resulting from prisoners who've smoked for years suddenly not being allowed to.

I've got an idea! Why not cut out the nicotine but pass out heroin? Mr. Barkin does make a good point, though, about the dire need to reduce the prevalence and acceptability of prison rape.

Meanwhile, Brad Rodu says that inmates should be switched to smokeless tobacco.

There is a very simple alternative to a complete ban on tobacco and nicotine: Corrections officials should offer smokers alternatives in the form of smokeless tobacco. Smokeless tobacco satisfies smokers and serves as an effective permanent substitute, because it rapidly delivers a dose of nicotine comparable to that from smoking.

For comparison, nicotine medications provide only about one-third to one-half the peak nicotine levels of tobacco products, which is unsatisfying for many smokers. In addition, medicinal nicotine is expensive and designed to be used only temporarily. All of these reasons are why nicotine replacement has a paltry 7 percent success rate among American smokers.

Smokeless tobacco use is vastly safer than smoking, which is entirely consistent with the stated health goal of Leslie's bill. Our research documents that smokeless use imposes only about 2 percent of the health-related risk of smoking. The only consequential adverse health effect from long-term smokeless tobacco use is oral cancer, but even this risk is much lower than that associated with smoking.

In fact, the average reduction in life expectancy from life-long smokeless tobacco use is only 15 days, while the average smoker loses almost eight years. For further context, the risk of death from long-term use of smokeless tobacco (12 deaths in every 100,000 users per year) is about the same as that from driving a car (15 deaths in every 100,000 users per year).

I met my deadline for last week, woohoo! I had a guy and some equipment in from an institution on the other side of the country and the guy had to leave yesterday, so it was important to get all the equipment working before the weekend. As a result I didn't have much time for blogging, or even reading the news. Wah! But now it's a four-day weekend, and I've got a lot to catch up on.

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