March 2006 Archives

The little lady had a great time tonight listening to Hugh Hewitt speak at El Camino College. He spoke for almost exactly an hour and told a bunch of good stories all focusing on the "communication revolution" being led by blogs and the new media. From his speech I picked up three important points.

1. To paraphrase Blake, "Always Be Selling". If you don't talk about yourself and your accomplishments, no one else will. Humility is admirable, and self-deprication is endearing, but when it comes to your professional career you have to make sure that people know what you've accomplished and what you're working towards. Put your main point first. Mr. Hewitt said that when Mother Theresa was awared the Medal of Freedom by President Reagan and he invited her to say a few words in the Rose Garden she opened with "I need more money". Her cause was good, she knew what she needed, and she wasn't afraid to ask.

2. Two skills will virtually guarantee success in life: the ability to speak effectively in front of an audience, and the ability to write a one-page memo with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Mr. Hewitt told us that because of his skills as a communicator he is often invited to speak to important people, and he uses these opportunities to speak to win his listeners to his points of view. They invite him to teach them how to communicate, and he turns the situation to his own advantage by giving them what they want and pushing them in the direction he wants them to go.

3. Post facts. Everyone has an opinion, but a person who can aggregate facts and pare them down into useful, applicable nuggets will always have an audience.

I don't know what's more ridiculous: that the iZilla Media Monster exists or that it costs barely twice as much as an iPod.


Two terabytes of storage and the ability to rip vinyl records along with CDs and DVDs... plus an iPod docking station, surround sound, an LCD touch-screen, CD/DVD burner, wi-fi and Bluetooth, and so forth. Joey needs one of these.

Todd Gitlin of Columbia University is right on the nose when he says that leftists look unpatriotic because they're dissociating from the majority of Americans.

Gitlin spoke to a group of approximately 20 students about his recently released book, "The Intellectuals and the Flag," which discusses what he characterized as the political left's strategic failure in addressing contemporary national issues. He elaborated on his feeling of frustration concerning what he views as liberals' voluntary estrangement from the rest of the nation, citing their alleged rejection of patriotism as an example of this alienation.

"I think that the upshot is that patriotism is experienced by many people on the left as something of an embarrassment," Gitlin said.

Gitlin said he thinks left-leaning individuals are now rejecting patriotism because they believe it forces them to identify with a larger group of Americans with whom they disagree and contradicts the spirit of cosmopolitanism that they espouse.

Leftists don't want to identify themselves as patriotic (except insofar as they're eager to change the definition of the word to fit their own behavior) because they don't want to be linked to American actions or beliefs that they don't like. They don't want to be grouped together with their political opponents under the label "Americans" because they feel there are more differences than similarities.

Such thinking certainly undermines the strength of our country and society, but that weakening alone doesn't mean the leftists are wrong (though I do think they're wrong for all sorts of reasons). Wrong or not, such diverging views coupled with an urge to dissociate will eventually fracture our nation.

(HT: James Taranto.)

Ah, memories! "Gigantor the Space-Age Robot is at your command! / Gigantor the Space-Age Robot, his power is in your hands!"


If I were creating a robot I'm not sure I would date it by putting a technology-level label in its name. Still, the theme song is pretty cool; local SoCal band "The Dickies" did punk rock version that's pretty awesome, good luck finding it.

Most people must be wondering why the minor labor reforms proposed in France have set off such a firestorm of protest, and David Rennie points to the answer: France is in denial about capitalism.

PIPA [Program on International Policy Attitudes], together with the polling form Globalscan, asked 20,791 people in 20 large countries about their attitudes to the free market, and globalization. The key question asked respondents if they agreed or disagreed with the statement that "the free enterprise system and free market economy is the best system on which to base the future of the world."

In 19 countries, a plurality said yes - with the Chinese beating even Americans in showing the greatest enthusiasm for the new economic benefits, comforts, opportunities and freedoms that capitalism has brought them.

Fully 74 per cent of Chinese urbanites (the poll did not question rural dwellers in China) placed their faith in free enterprise. Others that were nearly as enthusiastic were the Philippines (73 per cent), the US (71 per cent), India (70 per cent), and Britain (66 per cent).

One country - France - disagreed strongly. Only 36 per cent of the French agreed that the free market economy is the best system, while 50 per cent disagreed.

French distrust of free enterprise far exceeded, by ten points or so, even such losers in the global capitalist rat-race as the Argentines and Russians.

Does anyone really doubt that President Chirac and Prime Minister de Villepin will eventually cave in and reject the proposed reforms? The Franch surrender, that's what they do.

(Here's more information about the survey of global attitudes towards capitalism.)

It's interesting to see that, in line with claims I've heard from knowledgable non-Muslims, Zacarias Moussaoui has testified that Muslims are allowed to lie to further their agenda of subjugating the world.

Zacarias Moussaoui testified in Federal District Court here today that he knew of Al Qaeda's plans to fly jetliners into the World Trade Center and that he was to have piloted an airliner into the White House on Sept. 11, 2001. ...

Mr. Moussaoui said there were times when a Muslim can lie without being immoral: to reconcile Muslims, to answer "yes" when a wife asks, "Am I beautiful?" and to carry out jihad.

Remember that the next time the Council on American-Islamic Relations or some other such group issues a press release that kinda-sorta condemns the actions of Islamofascist terrorists. Perhaps there are some Muslims who don't believe it's ok to lie for jihad, and if so I think those Muslims should speak up.

I have essentially no opinion on the matter, but are there any women who would find it strange to take birth control pills that eliminate menstruation altogether?

The new class of Pill that is being developed contains neither hormone but involves compounds called Progesterone Receptor Modulators (PRMs).

PRMs block the production of the progesterone hormone which prepares the body for conception and helps to maintain pregnancy. Because the compound does not contain oestrogen or progesterone and actually blocks the latter hormone, Dr Baird believes the risks of breast cancer and heart problems will be reduced.

The new Pill also stops periods altogether, in contrast to the current versions which mimic menstruation with bleeding each month.

Is this what women want?

Stealing the headline from Joy Jones who quotes one of her black students: "Marriage is for white people".

I was pleasantly surprised when the boys in the class stated that being a good father was a very important goal to them, more meaningful than making money or having a fancy title.

"That's wonderful!" I told my class. "I think I'll invite some couples in to talk about being married and rearing children."

"Oh, no," objected one student. "We're not interested in the part about marriage. Only about how to be good fathers."

And that's when the other boy chimed in, speaking as if the words left a nasty taste in his mouth: "Marriage is for white people."

He's right. At least statistically. The marriage rate for African Americans has been dropping since the 1960s, and today, we have the lowest marriage rate of any racial group in the United States. In 2001, according to the U.S. Census, 43.3 percent of black men and 41.9 percent of black women in America had never been married, in contrast to 27.4 percent and 20.7 percent respectively for whites. African American women are the least likely in our society to marry. In the period between 1970 and 2001, the overall marriage rate in the United States declined by 17 percent; but for blacks, it fell by 34 percent. Such statistics have caused Howard University relationship therapist Audrey Chapman to point out that African Americans are the most uncoupled people in the country.

She goes on to write that black women are the least-married group in America and explains that the others she knows have largely decided to avoid marriage because of all the baggage that men bring, with little apparent benefit.

Among African Americans, the desire for marriage seems to have a different trajectory for women and men. My observation is that black women in their twenties and early thirties want to marry and commit at a time when black men their age are more likely to enjoy playing the field. As the woman realizes that a good marriage may not be as possible or sustainable as she would like, her focus turns to having a baby, or possibly improving her job status, perhaps by returning to school or investing more energy in her career.

As men mature, and begin to recognize the benefits of having a roost and roots (and to feel the consequences of their risky bachelor behavior), they are more willing to marry and settle down. By this time, however, many of their female peers are satisfied with the lives they have constructed and are less likely to settle for marriage to a man who doesn't bring much to the table. Indeed, he may bring too much to the table: children and their mothers from previous relationships, limited earning power, and the fallout from years of drug use, poor health care, sexual promiscuity. In other words, for the circumspect black woman, marriage may not be a business deal that offers sufficient return on investment.

I agree that the decline of marriage in our country, among all races, is primarily a failure of men and only secondarily a failure of women. Men need to want marriage and need to make themselves worth marrying, and I suspect that then most women would be be eager to meet men's needs in return.

(HT: Paul Hsieh.)

The death penalty case in Afghanistan against Muslim-turned-Christian Abdul Rahman has been dismissed, but for "lack of evidence" rather than because the "crime" shouldn't be a crime at all.

An Afghan court on Sunday dismissed a case against a man who converted from Islam to Christianity because of a lack of evidence and he will be released soon, officials said.

The announcement came as U.S.-backed President Hamid Karzai faced mounting foreign pressure to free Abdul Rahman, a move that risked angering Muslim clerics here who have called for him to be killed.

An official closely involved with the case told The Associated Press that it had been returned to the prosecutors for more investigation, but that in the meantime, Rahman would be released.

"The court dismissed today the case against Abdul Rahman for a lack of information and a lot of legal gaps in the case," the official said Sunday, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

So there's no problem with executing people who convert away from Islam, as long as you've got enough evidence. This could be a step in the right direction if the "lack of evidence" thing is just a cover for a lack of desire to prosecute.

Dean Esmay points out that at least some of the Afghan government is emerging from the dark ages.

Think on it: President Karzai of Afghanistan actually felt the need to take phone calls on this matter from the Canadian Prime Minister. And the American Secretary of State. And the German Prime Minster. And the leaders of many other democratic nations. And he felt the need to take their concerns seriously. And he felt the need to assure them all that this man would not be executed. All of which actually happened within the last 72 hours.

Read that all as an indictment of the eville moooslims if you like. I read it as a country that is emerging at astonishing speed from the 12th century into the 21st.

The RHex is possibly the most capable robot I've ever seen. The legs are brilliantly effective on just about every sort of terrain.

(HT: Reader BM.)

Superman's got nothing on the new DARPA Radar Scope that can detect movements through up to 12 inches of concrete.

The new "Radar Scope" will give warfighters searching a building the ability to tell within seconds if someone is in the next room, Edward Baranoski from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's Special Projects Office, told the American Forces Press Service.

By simply holding the portable, handheld device up to a wall, users will be able to detect movements as small as breathing, he said.

No word on whether or not the device will be able to see through clothing, but there are certainly law enforcement applications.

Proposals are expected this week for the new "Visi Building" technology that's more than a motion detector. It will actually "see" through multiple walls, penetrating entire buildings to show floor plans, locations of occupants and placement of materials such as weapons caches, Baranoski said.

"It will give (troops) a lot of opportunity to stake out buildings and really see inside," he said. "It will go a long way in extending their surveillance capabilities."

The device is expected to take several years to develop. Ultimately, servicemembers will be able to use it simply by driving or flying by the structure under surveillance, Baranoski said.

The technology will probably run into the same legal hurdles as thermal imaging technology. Only lower courts have considered whether or not monitoring radiation emitted from a house constitutes an unreasonable search, and decisions have gone both ways. The Supreme Court has yet to consider it, but the conventional wisdom is that viewing such emissions isn't even a "search" per se, any more than is observing visible spectrum light from a house (i.e., using your eyes to look at it). In essence, allowing incriminating radiation to escape from your house may be legally the same as committing a crime in front of an open window.

The opposite view is that our law derives from common expectations, and that even though thermal radiation may be the same physical phenomena as visible light, people have different expectations regarding it. Someone expecting privacy will close their blinds, but should they be expected to wage an arms race against ever-improving law enforcement technology? That's a race that private citizens can never win, so if privacy is to be preserved at all then our laws need to track our expectations.

Reknowned political scientist and billionaire George Lucas has delivered an inspired plea that lesser Americans help keep the rest of the world in its place.

"As long as there has been a talking Hollywood, Hollywood has had a huge impact on the rest of the world," Lucas said as he discussed his films and enhancing education with computer technology.

"It shows all the morality we espouse in this country, good and bad. The French were the first to start yelling cultural imperialism." ...

People see shows such as "Dallas," about a wealthy Texas oil family, and decide they want the grand lifestyles portrayed, according to Lucas.

"They say that is what I want to be," Lucas said. "That destabilizes a lot of the world."

"There has been a conflict going on for thousands of years between the haves and the have-nots, and now we are in a position for the first time to show the have-nots what they do not have."

And it's clear that America should be focused on keeping the have-nots in ignorance rather than helping lift them up out of tyranny and poverty, which always go hand-in-hand.

Lucas endorsed US students studying abroad to help imbue them with more global perspectives.

"Study abroad is extremely important; just for kids to get outside this country and experience the fact there is a big world out there," Lucas said.

"We are a provincial country. Our president has barely been out of the country."

It's too bad we aren't all billionaires who can jet around the world on a whim. Alas, some of us peasants have to work for a living. Even though Lucas apparently considers he and I to both be "haves", I suspect there's a lot more space between us than between myself an one of his "have-nots".

The real difference between cultures in the world isn't between those who do and don't have material wealth, but between those who have freedom and those who live in tyranny. Free poor people can always become more wealthy and gain all the benefits thereof, but oppressed poor people often need outside encouragement and aid to throw off their shackles. Perhaps that would be a worthy goal for Hollywood.

Galatians 6:7

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.

And children tend to reap whatever their parents sow, which can be either a curse or a blessing depending on the circumstances. It shouldn't be any surprise that children exposed to sex in the media are more sexually active. With parents increasingly disengaged from their kids -- and parents who allow their kids to "find their own way" without imposing restrictions -- it's only natural that kids pick up values from the sources that are available: television and their friends.

More than 1,000 American children aged between 12 and 15 were asked to identify from a huge list the kinds of media they were exposed to regularly.

They also answered questions about their health and levels of sexual activity, including whether they went on dates, kissed, had oral sex or full sex.

Researchers then examined the sexual content of 264 items on the list, which included teen magazines, teen movies and TV programmes.

They looked for examples of romantic relationships, nudity, sexual innuendo, touching, kissing, puberty and sexual intercourse.

The study, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health and in Elsevier, found that films, TV programmes, music and magazines usually portrayed sex as "risk-free".

Sex was usually between unmarried couples and examples of using condoms or other contraception were "extremely rare".

Like it or not, television is the common carrier of our culture, the way oral history, church teachings, books, and other forms each were in their respective times. Parents have a right and responsibility to control what their children learn, and society itself has a vested interest.

Here's a great poster you can print up with all the fundamental particles and interactions in the Standard Model of physics. Perfect for decorating any geek's office!

For non-geeks, learn about the Standard Model or read about the basics of quantum mechanics.

I heard from John Handel that the name-change becomes official today: Mount Vernon Middle School has been renamed after Johnnie Cochran. From the January 24t, 2006, press release:

The Los Angeles Board of Education today voted unanimously to approve a motion to change the name of Mount Vernon Middle School in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) to Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. Middle School in honor of the late Los Angeles civil rights attorney and community activist.

Cochran, who attended Mount Vernon Junior High School in the 1950s, died last year following a lengthy illness. He was known worldwide for his celebrity status and celebrity clients including singer Michael Jackson and former football legend O.J. Simpson, and for his pursuit of justice for behalf of every day men and women who often gave up hope of receiving justice from the legal system.

More like Johnnie Cochran forced society to give up hope of convicting guilty black celebrities of their heinous crimes.

I just passed a person in the hallway that smelled just like an airport -- not in a bad way, but in a way that made me want to fly somewhere. I'm not sure what the smell is, but now I've really got an itch to travel.

Despite my opposition to "gay marriage", it's pretty clear that dysfunctional heterosexual marriages damage the institution a great deal. And the more public the marriage, the more damage done.

WASHINGTON - After being surprised by her husband's role in the Dubai ports deal, Sen. Hillary Clinton has insisted that Bill Clinton give her "final say" over what he says and does, well-placed sources said.

The former President agreed to give his wife a veto to avoid his habit of making controversial headlines that could hurt her chances of returning to the White House, multiple sources told the Daily News. ...

Hillary Clinton's handlers are keeping a close rein on the former President's schedule to try to prevent another embarrassing screwup like their competing roles in the Dubai ports deal.

While she was blasting the Bush administration for allowing Dubai to run six of the country's ports, he was advising Dubai on how to sell the deal.

They sure must not talk much if they don't even know where the other stands on what was the major issue of the week. Didn't Hillary notice Bill flying to Dubai all those times? It's pretty absurd, and their disconnection from each other says a lot to me about their capability to lead others.

Ben Bateman writes on conflict in general and points out that peace isn't the natural state of humanity. There are always people willing to commit violence to get what they want, just like we see in Iraq, and the only reason they aren't seen more commonly in America is that they realize they can't win. The fighting in Iraq, likewise, will end when the terrorists realize they can't win. Media outlets and politicians that advocate American surrender and claim we're losing give the terrorists the impression they they can win and are winning, and thereby do in fact aid and abet the terrorist cause.

Talking about “resolving conflicts” implies that conflicts just sort of happen, like the weather. On this view, the world is normally at peace, and then these tensions arise inexplicably, so we should try to soothe the tension and return the world to its usual peaceful state.

I see it very differently. In a world of infinite desires and finite resources, people are always in conflict. Everyone wants more: more power, more wealth, more affection, more fame, more whatever. Each of us would like to receive as much as possible while giving as little as possible, so conflict is eternal and ubiquitous. ...

I want to pay less money, the shopkeeper wants to receive more, and so we haggle. Each congressman wants more money for his state or district and less for everyone else’s, and so we have the many complex deals at the heart of American politics. Each country wants to be more powerful, rich, and influential than the others, so they struggle against each other in various ways. And within each country there are out-of-power parties that yearn to rule; they scheme constantly against the dominant party or coalition.

There won't be peace until the terrorists realize they can't win. The media and the opposition politicians could be playing a constructive role and helping America, if they chose to.

Just remember that even though life is pretty easy here in the United States, Christians are still being persecuted all over the world. The case of Abdul Rahman in Afghanistan is particularly troublesome, considering the lengths the West went to to eliminate Islamofascism in that country.

An Afghan man is being tried in a court in the capital, Kabul, for converting from Islam to Christianity.

Abdul Rahman is charged with rejecting Islam and could face the death sentence under Sharia law unless he recants.

He converted 16 years ago as an aid worker helping refugees in Pakistan. His estranged family denounced him in a custody dispute over his two children.

It is thought to be Afghanistan's first such trial, reflecting tensions between conservative clerics and reformists.

I expect America to prevent such a travesty from continuing forward.

(HT: Reader DD.)

It's sad to see France crumble, but it's hardly news. As yet more riots erupt across the country the ruling class struggles to loosen the noose of socialism that's been strangling their economy for decades.

The law would allow businesses to fire young workers in the first two years on a job without giving a reason, removing them from protections that restrict layoffs of regular employees.

Companies are often reluctant to add employees because it is hard to let them go if business conditions worsen. Students see a subtext in the new law: make it easier to hire and fire to help France compete in a globalizing world economy.

Youth joblessness stands at 23 percent nationwide, and 50 percent among impoverished young people. The lack of work was blamed in part for the riots that shook France's depressed suburbs during the fall.

I don't blame the French youths for rioting, because the proposed law is patently unfair to them. Older workers will continue to enjoy untouchable job security, so why should the youth be treated differently? But you've got to start somewhere, and if the law applied to everyone the resulting riots would be unquenchable. That's the danger of a government that tries to be everything to everyone: when it falls, it falls hard. France is already on her fifth republic, and I doubt it will be too long before this one passes away.

All the talk on the shows this morning was about whether or not Iraq is in the midst of a civil war. It doesn't look like it to me, but am I the only one who thinks that a civil war might be the only way to really establish peace? The fighting will never stop as long as both sides can and choose to make war, and I can't think of many (any?) violent conflicts that resolved themselves through choice. The way most conflicts get resolved is when someone wins and the losing side can't continue fighting even though they want to.

In the case of Iraq there are a few problems with just letting the violence play out. First, even if we take our troops out there are plenty of other outside players like Iran and Turkey that will be vying for control of the country. Second, there's no guarantee that the right side will win the hypothetical civil war. Statistics are thrown around claiming that the vast majority of Iraqis support the new government, but will they fight for it?

Wars are effective at bringing about peace because they remind people oh how much violence can really cost. The the current level of harrassment th eterrorists and insurgents receive from our forces isn't enough to deter them from fighting, so they keep it up. In a real war our violence would be much less focused, and not only the terrorists would be in danger but their families and towns as well. People respond to incentives, and we clearly haven't given our opponents enough reason to stop fighting. The only alternative for us, other than surrendering, is to thoroughly eliminate our enemies' ability to continue fighting and to utterly break their will.

Every time it rains in Los Angeles a dozen or more cliff houses tumble into the ocean... and yet people keep building them. Duh. But here's a cliff habitat with a sturdier foundation I think I'd really enjoy!

My wife says she'd be afraid getting eaten by a shark.

(HT: Reader JV.)


In response to a reader query, no, my nickname is not "Shark".

Lionel Shriver has written a fascinating piece of projection that attribues to pro-lifers the same power-mad motivations that drive abortion proponents on the left.

"In the history of the world, the true test of a civilisation is how well people treat the most vulnerable and most helpless in their society," the governor of South Dakota opined on Monday. "The sponsors and supporters of this bill believe that abortion is wrong because unborn children are the most vulnerable and most helpless persons in our society."

Lofty rhetoric. But I have studied the eyes of the fanatics who regularly picket abortion clinics in the US and I do not see love of tiny unborn babies. I see hatred.

If there's hatred, is hatred for baby-killers entirely unjustified?

What is really going on here is the same culture war that has been raging in America since I was a kid - the same stand-off between the strait-laced, self-righteous toe-the-line types who wear hats to church, and the grubby, licentious long-hairs brandishing peace signs with whom I grew up. Both factions are still shouting at each other across the cultural divide, and these poor foetuses are just weapons flung like ripe tomatoes. The abortion issue in the US is not about babies. It's about control, about power, about who can tell whom what to do, about who despises whom and their disgusting lifestyle. In short, it's about grown-ups.

Only the pro-abortion crowd sees the issue as being about power and control, and that's always how they phrase their arguments. "Keep your laws off my body" and so forth is about who controls what. However, those on the pro-life side don't want to prevent abortion out of some desire to control women. It's true that many cultures do want to subjugate women, as is seen in the Arab and Muslim worlds, but the American right has no such intention. Many or most of the strongest pro-life proponents are women! If Mr. Shriver sees abortion as a battle over control, then he's merely projecting his own motivations onto his opponents. As hard as it may be for him to believe, we actually do want to save innocent lives.

The term "pro-life" could not be less apt. (Enjoy the irony that many a "pro-lifer" also supports capital punishment.)

Yes yes, and many a "pro-choicer" supports restricting the choice to own guns, etc. It should be pretty obvious to anyone involved in the abortion debate that the meaning of the labels should be kept in context.

Only the abortion rights movement has a genuinely positive agenda, the protection of a woman's right to make her own decision about an admittedly thorny moral issue whose implications are intimate. The emotional force driving pro-lifers is profoundly negative; alas, it is our negative emotions that usually pack the most punch. The anti-abortion movement is fired up with loathing - for permissive, Godless lefties who don't even get nervous when threatened with eternal damnation since they don't believe in it (which must be terribly frustrating).

How are pro-lifers' profoundly negative for wanting to protect what we believe to be innocent babies? That just doesn't make any sense. The implications of abortion are certainly intimate for the mother, but even more intimate for the baby who will be murdered. The crux of the issue is the question of whether or not the unborn child is a baby or "just a fetus". If we can reach agreement about that, even many who don't believe in eternal damnation will agree that murdering babies is wrong. It's clear that at least one side is full of loathing, but it's rarely the pro-lifers who spew the hateful vitriol.

There's something profoundly unfair about red-light cameras, and I don't like them. In Minneapolis a county judge has ruled that the red-light cameras are unconstitutional, and from what I know about their operation in California the same principles may apply under our state constitution.

More than 26,000 people have received tickets under the city's Stop on Red ordinance, which presumes the owner was the driver during the offense. The owner must prove that someone else was driving to avoid a conviction.

But District Judge Mark Wernick said the ordinance is invalid because it provides vehicle owners with less due process rights in court than the state statute. State law for a similar violation requires the state to prove "beyond a reasonable doubt" who was driving. But Minneapolis' ordinance shifted the burden to the owners to prove their innocence.

And communities cannot have ordinances in conflict with state law, the ruling noted.

Studies show that red-light cameras produce only a modest reduction in accidents at intersections where they are employed, and that their primary effect is to reduce right-angle crashes in exchange for more rear-end crashes. The main reason they're employed is because they're an easy revenue stream for municipalities. As with many traffic laws and enforcement patterns, red-light cameras are more like a randomly applied tax than an actual safety program.

The ACLU has my thanks for bringing this lawsuit.

(HT: Glenn Reynolds.)

So the Senate has voted to raise some cash by borrowing more money. The national debt ceiling will be increased to $9 trillion, which is about $30,000 per man, woman, and child in America. (But we can dilute that amount if we count fetuses!) Alas, even the Associated Press reporter Andrew Taylor doesn't comprehend that there are any alternatives to more borrowing.

The Senate voted Thursday to allow the national debt to swell to nearly $9 trillion, preventing a first-ever default on U.S. Treasury notes. ...

The present limit on the debt is $8.2 trillion. With the budget deficit expected to approach $400 billion for both this year and next, another increase in the debt limit will almost certainly be required next year.

Here's an idea: quit spending so much money you ()*!@&%)#@&*#&%!!!!!! I just got a raise at work and most of it gets taken straight out of my check to pay for this crap, and even that isn't enough? You have to borrow even more?!?!?! Holy crap I hate you all, all you politicians. Die.


After Pi Day is the much more ominous Ides of March, the date on which Julius Caesar was assassinated. Literally just the middle of the month, the phrase is commonly associated with doom because of Shakespeare's use of it in his play, Julius Caesar. So far, however, today has been pretty good.

The unifying bad idea that undermines all the good aspects of the Democrats' election year platform is their assumption that just because something would be nice to have, government should be who provides it.

In a speech to the Communications Workers of America on Tuesday, Pelosi mentioned Democrats' opposition to outsourcing. She said Democrats will end tax subsidies for companies that send jobs overseas.

Tax subsidies are bad in general, regardless of their effect on outsourcing. Our government should be neutral to such business practices.

To protect workers who want to join unions, Pelosi said Democrats are "fighting" to pass the Employee Free Choice Act, sponsored by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) in the House and Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) in the Senate. "The bill will guarantee that when a majority of workers in a company want a union, they will get a union," Pelosi said.

But that's not how liberty works. A "free choice" work environment would be one in which any employees who want to form a union are free to do so, and any employees who don't want to join are free not to. No employee should be forced into a union just because a majority of his peers want one. Furthermore, employers should have the "free choice" to hire union workers or not, depending on market conditions. This is an area the government needs to meddle in less, not more.

Democrats also support an increase in the minimum wage. Pelosi, describing the income of corporate American CEOs as "immoral," used Wal-Mart to make her point:

"I was told that an entry level person at Wal-Mart, who works his or her entire career at Wal-Mart, would make as much as the CEO makes in two weeks. A lifetime of work versus two weeks in the executive suite -- this is not America, this is not fairness, this is not the basis of a strong middle class that is essential for our democracy. We must change that in our country," she said.

It's true that corporate executives are probably paid far more than they're worth, but the people being hurt are the shareholders, not the lower-level employees. Shareholders need to be organized enough to hold their management accountable, and the role for government in this is to ensure that companies are run transparently enough that shareholders can understand and influence what is going on.

America lags behind other countries that have universal broadband deployment, Pelosi said; but the Democrats' agenda "guarantees" that every American will have affordable access to broadband within five years.

"We also believe that the nationwide deployment of high speed, always-on broadband and Internet and mobile communications will fuel the development of millions of new jobs in the United States," Pelosi said.

There's no doubt that widespread access to broadband connectivity would be beneficial to our economy, but why should the federal government provide it? Corporations and local municipalities are already moving in this direction, and with far more efficiency than the federal government could ever dream of. The surest way to stifle this innovation is to put Congress in charge!

Democrats support "energy independence" within ten years; health care for all American within five years; and "dignified retirement" (no privatization of Social Security) through an "AmeriSave" plan.

"Energy independence" without drilling for more oil, building more refineries, or building new nuclear plants? Impossible. Universal health care? Look at Canada or the UK, where the waiting lists for treatments are longer than the life expectancies of the waiters. Most (not all, such as children) uninsured people can afford health insurance but simply choose to spend their money elsewhere, like name-brand clothes and other luxuries. "Dignified retirement" would be a system in which each person provides for their own retirement by saving their own money; there's nothing "dignified" about having the government take care of you.

There isn't much likelihood of the Democrats taking over either branch of Congress this year. This is somewhat unfortunate because the Republicans haven't been any more restrained. I wouldn't mind a Democratic takeover of the House.

While musing about pumpkin-creamcheese pie I realized that I'd completely forgotten that today is Pi Day! Alas, it was already past the traditional 1:59pm celebration time.

The "ultimate" pi moment occurred on March 14, 1592, at 6:53 AM and 58 seconds. When written in American-style date format, this is 3/14/1592 6:53.58, which corresponds to the value of pi to twelve digits: 3.14159265358. However, considering this was well before any kind of standardized world time had been established, and the general public had no concept of π, the occurrence likely went unnoticed.

In yet another contribution by technology to the world of dating we have Don't Date Him Girl, a site where women can share horror stories about the men they've dated and check out their potential suitors. I don't even what to speculate on the types of things men would write about women on a site based on the reverse premise.

It's interesting that the relationship between letters that are vowels and letters that are pronounced with a vowel sound is apparently random.

Is a vowel:
AEIOU and sometimes Y

Pronounced with a vowel sound:

I'm no expert in government finance, but this headline seems incredibly misleading: "Snow warns Congress: US government's cash running out". What Treasury Secretary Snow is really warning Congress about is that the country is about to overtop the debt limit of $8.184 trillion that Congress set by law. How is running out of credit the same as running out of cash? Cash is an asset, but running up debt is just increasing a liability. That's like me complaining about running out of money because my credit cards are maxed -- our country ran out of money a long time ago!

"I am urging members of Congress in the strongest possible terms to resist coupling an increase in the debt ceiling with other issues," Snow said.

"Rather, they should vote to raise the ceiling this week. It would be unthinkable for them not to take action," he said, warning that the "full faith and credit" of the US government was too precious to be compromised.

Snow has issued increasingly urgent warnings to Congress that the statutory debt limit of 8.184 trillion dollars will be hit this week, and that the government will then lose its borrowing power.

Once the US government reaches the ceiling, it comes under threat of defaulting on its debts and can lose the ability to raise future credit on the capital markets.

So Secretary Snow apparently understands the difference between cash and debt; maybe the AFP should teach a little economics to its headline writers. Maybe someone should teach Congress a little economics, too.

It's interesting to note that despite McCain's recent "embarrassment" in the Tennessee straw poll his odds of winning the Republican nomination haven't wavered according to the bettors on Tradesports.

And Hillary is still the favorite for the Democrats, despite her low likeability ratings across the country.

Interesting that despite how much news such events cause, the bettors don't think they make any difference. I wonder who's right?

Is there a straight-forward way to locate law offices in Los Angeles that deal with a lot of technology cases?

What with all the "100% chance of thunderstorms" predictions for the weekend that ended up being bone-dry, I'm trying to learn more about clouds.

Next up, I need to learn about trees. I hate not being able to identify all the trees in my area, but I've never really tried to learn to tell the differences between them.

Hello all! I know I have a lot of readers involved in a huge number of different fields, and I have a personal favor to ask. Seeing as how I've now finished my Ph.D. and I'll have a little more free time on my hands, I'm very interested in starting a side business. In thinking, what am I good at?, well, I know a lot about technology and I know how to write. I'm a fast reader and an excellent editor, and with my technical background I think I have the ability to provide a valuable service. Many engineers are terrible writers, so I want to take advantage of my combination of talents.

I'm going to be spending the weekend researching the opportunities available in this area, and I'm keen to hear from all of you about whether or not there is a need for such a service. Please pass on any pointers you might have about finding freelance editing jobs as well. Do big publishing houses need technical editors? What about small businesses? Academic publishers? Any ideas will be well appreciated!

I get a lot of spam on my site, and most of it makes a sick sort of sense, but tonight I saw something that really made me laugh: "sex-dog-gay".

The point of trackback spam is to create a link with valuable keywords from a highly-ranked site back to whatever site the spam is trying to promote. But... but... sex-dog-gay?!

Whoever sent that spam to my site apparently thinks the phrase captures a valuable niche in the search market, but I have a hard time imagining someone sitting down, surfing to Google, and thinking...

"sex" -- Ok, common enough, maybe too common... I need to narrow it down!

"dog" -- Better, but we're not quite there yet...

"gay" -- Perfect! Now we're in for some good porn!


This drawing by David Klein captures the nuclear negotiations between Britain, France, and Germany on one side and Iran on the other. (I hate the term "cartoon" for drawings that aren't intended for humor.)


Leon de Winter is right in his analysis of the failure of soft power when it comes to disarming Iran, and his final paragraph is especially chilling.

And yet Britain's Jack Straw, France's Philippe Douste-Blazy (and his predecessor, Dominique de Villepin) and Germany's Joschka Fischer (and his successor, Frank-Walter Steinmeier) talked on, clinging to a postmodern European belief in a world where any conflict can be resolved with enough reason and mutual understanding. The Troika offered the mullahs economic carrots and alternative sources of nuclear power--as if energy had anything to do with it--while Iran did what any football team does when it's ahead: It played for time. This it used very well to push ahead with its clandestine nuclear program.

Did the Troika know that Iran knew that Europe was weak? Of course. Europe's posturing was empty from the start. The only weapon that the EU was willing to consider, as a last result, was an economic boycott that would harm Europe's commercial interests more than Iran's. ...

Thanks to European illusions about soft power, the free world has two options left on Iran: disaster or catastrophe. America and Israel will bleed for Europe's lack of conviction.

Which illustrates why countries don't have "allies", they have interests. Allies are other countries with the same interests as yours in a given context. Unfortunately, America often ends up standing alone.

Congress, our elite, can't manage a feat that the rest of us do every day: live within our means. Well, I suppose some of us don't, but those people end in ruin, not in comfy wood-paneled offices with cushy jobs. So now because our country has hit the "debt ceiling" we're going to start spending out of the civil service's pension fund.

The Treasury Department has started drawing from the civil service pension fund to avoid hitting the $8.2 trillion national debt limit. The move to tap the pension fund follows last month's decision to suspend investments in a retirement savings plan held by government employees.

In a letter to Congress this week, Treasury Secretary John W. Snow said he would rely on the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund to avoid bumping up against the statutory debt limit. He said the Treasury is suspending investments and will redeem a portion of the money credited to the fund.

Once Congress raises the debt limit, the Treasury will "restore all due interest and principal" to the pension fund as soon as possible, Snow said. He made a similar promise when the Treasury announced that reinvestment of some assets in the Thrift Savings Plan's government securities fund, or G Fund, had been suspended.

How about "once Congress stops spending more than it takes in"? Congress never pays its bills, and no consumer credit company would keep raising its credit limit! But rather than insisting that Congress live within our means, Treasury Secretary John Snow just enables their overspending by moving money around.

Colleen M. Kelley , president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said last month that federal employees should not have their pension accounts "used as a rainy day fund. . . . No private-sector employer would ever be allowed to do this."

Actually that's not at all true, and the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund is the exception, not the rule! A vast number of private pension funds are underfunded and will never be able to pay retirees what they promised.

There has been a rash of pension defaults in recent years, with nearly 600 funds passing off their responsibility for $14.3 billion from fiscal year 2000-2004 to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation. (The PBGC is a government chartered corporation that insures pension plans.) The latest default to make news was in March, 2005, when United Airlines defaulted on pensions for 121,500 employees, the largest default in U.S. pension history. Other airlines are rumored to be looking to follow suit.

The PBGC estimates that 75% of all the corporate pensions it covers are underfunded, and that all together those funds are short by an estimated $95.7 billion. If the problem becomes severe enough, hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer money will be needed to bail out the pension system, and even that won’t be enough to fulfill all the retired workers’ expectations. The risk is very high, since already the PBGC is itself underfunded by over $20 billion, making it difficult for the organization to do its job of protecting workers when corporations mismanage their pensions.

As all young professionals know, we're going to be on our own when we retire, and we'd better be prepared for it. Our elders are raiding our futures because of their poor planning, and I only hope that our generation can do better for our kids.

Discussion about the earlier question, "Do we become what we despise?" has led me to a profound possibility. In all the examples people have discussed, it seems like people only become what they despise when the thing they despise is "bad". That is, if you hate snobs then you become a snob; if you hate unfairness, then you become unfair.

However, people who hate "good" things don't become them. If you hate kindness you aren't likely to be kind. If you hate books you aren't likely to become an author.

Here's the profound part! Maybe we can define "bad" as the property such that when a person despises something "bad" they become like what they despise. "Good" is therefore the opposite: the property such that when a person despises something "good" they become the opposite of what they despise.

Please provide any ready counter-examples.

It's a cliche, but do we become what we despise?

Given 2000 square feet for a home design, how would you allocate it between rooms? More small rooms, or fewer big rooms? Let's say that the 2000 square feet is after any hallways are accounted for. How many bedrooms and bathrooms would you put in, and how big? What about the kitchen and family rooms?


Whilst responding to Jaron Lanier's fascinating discussion about the problem of Gordian software, Charles Simonyi turned a rather amusing phrase about DNA.

Because DNA is intentional, its length is short relative to its result—indeed the length of human genome belies its cosmic importance by being shorter than the source codes of many human software artifacts of more modest accomplishments.

It was even more amusing before I understood that the "human software artifacts" were programs and not the programmers themselves.

My brother sent me this article about business in space (which contains the catchy phrasing I stole to title this post) that touches on just how much wealth is waiting to be discovered.

Meanwhile, new technologies are opening up new possibilities. Consider the space elevator, which is enabled by the advent of lightweight carbon nanotubes; a 62,000-mile elevator to the heavens would reduce orbital freight costs by 98 percent and open up space just as the railroads opened up the Wild West.

The long-term possibilities are even more celestial. Ever heard of 3554 Amun? It's a space rock about 2 kilometers in diameter that looks as if it might have fallen straight out of The Little Prince. There are three key things to know about 3554 Amun: First, its orbit crosses that of Earth; second, it's the smallest M-class (metal-bearing) asteroid yet discovered; and finally, it contains (at today's prices) roughly $8 trillion worth of iron and nickel, $6 trillion of cobalt, and $6 trillion of platinumlike metals. In other words, whoever owns Amun could become 450 times as wealthy as Bill Gates. And if you time your journey right -- 2020 looks promising -- it's easier to reach than the Moon.

That kind of supply would certainly drive down the costs for all sorts of raw materials, which would further spur the world economy and give a huge boost to the present-day third-world countries that will be struggling to industrialize all though this century. Space exploration will fundamentally change the political landscape of just about every issue, from environmentalism to "globalization" (we'll need a new term once we've got more than one globe).

(HT: Slashdot.)


Baldrson makes and interesting point: all that metal is worth far more in orbit than it would be on the ground, considering the cost of lifting material into space. A pound of anything in orbit is worth thousands of dollars.

It's a shame, but I'm actually pretty careful and modest with what I post about Muslims because I'd like to avoid the kind of attention generated by the recent discussion about religious cartoons at UC Irvine.

IRVINE, California (CNN) -- A controversy that has sparked violent demonstrations across the Middle East and Asia came to a U.S. college campus as a display of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed drew about 200 protesters. ...

Last week, members of the Muslim Student Union called upon College Republicans -- the student group co-sponsoring the event -- not to display the images, but the latter refused.

Another sponsor, the United American Committee, likened the demonstrations to "censorship by terrorism" in a statement on its Web site.

"Censorship by terrorism" is exactly right, because there's a barely-unspoken threat behind such protests that if you don't surrender there might be some "martyrs" headed your way. There wasn't any violence at this protest, but I don't remember any Muslim groups protesting over other events that could conceivably tarnish Allah's reputation, such as, oh, 9/11, the Madrid train bombings, the London train bombings, the Bali nightclub bombings, the genocide in Darfur, the various beheadings all over the world, the riots in Paris, the reigns of Saddam Hussein, the Taliban, and the Iranian mullahs, school bus bombings in Israel, the Beslan massacre, the USS Cole bombing, the first World Trade Center bombing, the destruction of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the yearly Hajj stampedes, attempted shoe bombings, the attempted bombing of LAX on New Year's Day, the planned destruction-by-plane of the Library Tower in Los Angeles, the drug lords in Afghanistan, and the mistreatment of women all over the world. Those things don't offend Allah?

The UC Irvine Islamic Student Union shares pretty much the same philosophy as the rest of the leftist academic establishment:

With Islamic Free Speech tolerance of others, it's only free speech until you say something the Muslims don't like. Then they burn down buildings, crash airplanes into crap all over the place, stampede and kill each other, chant "Death to USA," and dance in the streets when our countrymen are killed, protest, protest, and protest some more.

I was talking to a guy at school. He asked me what Diety I follow. I told him I believe in God. He said he was an atheist. You know what? I didn't crunch his car with a tire hammer, he didn't try to hang me in the school commons. Hmmm...

Muslims need to realize that cartoons are probably way down on the list of things Allah would be pissed off about.

Gary Aminoff points out that the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) was invited to participate in the scheduled discussion panel, but decided to protest instead.

Little Green Footballs easily refutes the protesters' claims (strangely unreported by CNN) that the Allah cartoons are "similar to what happened to the Jews in Nazi Germany"... except for the death trains, concentration camps, and gas chambers I suppose.

Jon Fleischman attended the event and says that I'm not wrong to say that the threat of violence was barely unspoken.

Let me tell you, there was a ton of energy at this event, and I certainly realized that there is a significant group of folks in America who's primary allegiance isn't to America, but to their religion, and it was a solemn reminder of the importance of our rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion. I will say, spending a lot of time outside watching the protestors, that the leader's of UCI's student Muslim group were very proactive in making sure everything stayed peaceful. This was something given the looks of pure hatred and disgust on the face of some of the more militant protesters who were holding up signs depicting the AK-47 assault rifles they would be waving had this been Damascus and not Irvine.

I can't wait for all the leftist pundits and peace activists to denounce this hateful violence-mongering.

(HT: Reapo Girl.)

Apparently Maureen Dowd is looking for an Australian man.

"If only they knew," she says. "When I was 20, I fell in love with an Australian hotel manager in Dublin called Rowan. After that, I wanted to emigrate to Australia but my parents made me go home instead.

"Now I'm here at last. And if they can take a strong, sassy, saucy woman, Australian men should please apply."

It sounds like the applicants are right up her alley!

From: SSS

Comment: If she can answer this question I'll let her have me. How many blokes does it take to open a beer can? None. Maureen should of had it opened when she brought it to me. She better be able to cook and clean also.

(HT: James Taranto.)

Reader Bernardo sent me a link to SongTapper, a cool site that lets you tap out a song on your spacebar and then tries to guess the name of the song. Pretty helpful when you can't get a tune out of your head... at least now you'll know what song it is.

Mississippi's move to ban most abortions follows in South Dakota's footsteps, potentially affecting the state's single abortion clinic.

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