September 2006 Archives

Representative Mark Foley (R-FL) has resigned from Congress after it was revealed that he sent sexual instant messages to teenage male pages. That's gross. Plus, he was the chairman of the House caucus on missing and exploited children, which makes his behavior doubly damning. At least he had the decency to resign immediately rather than pondering the meaning of "is". If he actually broke any laws, I hope he ends up in jail. The end.

Hurricane Katrina is still causing problems more than a year later, and not only in New Orleans.

"When the 'Katricians' themselves are quoted as saying the crime rate is gonna go up if they don't get more free rent, then it's time to get your concealed-handgun license," warns the radio ad by Jim Pruett, who co-hosts a talk-radio show and owns Jim Pruett's Guns & Ammo, a self- styled "anti-terrorist headquarters" that sells knives, shotguns, semiautomatic rifles and other weapons. As Pruett describes the dangers posed by "Katricians," glass can be heard shattering and a bell tolling ominously.

The radio spot highlights what many gun-store owners say is a trend in Houston: trade in weapons amid a surge in the homicide rate that police attribute to the more than 100,000 hurricane evacuees still in the city. Although the gun-sale reports are largely anecdotal, Texas officials said applications for concealed- weapons permits were up statewide: 60,328 from Jan. 1 to Sept. 1 this year, compared with 46,298 for the same period last year.

The Houston Police Department estimates that one in five homicides in the city now involves Katrina evacuees - as suspect, victim or both. Many Houston residents, including some evacuees, are worried that crime will only get worse once housing and other public assistance end.

So what should Houston do? I don't think they're allowed to "exile" evacuees (or anyone else), so is the city stuck supporting these refugees for a generation or more? The problem is magnified because the least successful New Orleanians were the most likely to become refugees, and the least successful refugees are the most likely to stay put wherever they initially ended up. So Houston and other cities (like Baton Rouge) are now overflowing with people who are basically the least capable remnants of the least capable citizens of one of the least capable cities in America.

Normally when we think of obscenity we think of pictures or movies that show sexualized nudity -- and often "obscenity" is considered to be pornography that is particularly degrading or disgusting, beyond the pale of normal sexuality. There are federal laws against obscenity but they aren't enforced very broadly because there isn't much agreement on what is obscene and what isn't ("I know it when I see it"). Historically, however, obscenity prosecutions weren't focused only on graphic depictions of sex:

For the past three decades, the courts have been concerned almost exclusively with obscene visual images, not graphic verbal descriptions of sexual activity, but such was not always the case. The early and celebrated legal battles in this country sometimes involved what are now recognized as great works of fiction that included sexual themes: books such as James Joyce's Ulysses or D. H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterly's Lover. But it is important to remember that obscenity issues can still involve non-visual material, as demonstrated by a Florida prosecutor's decision to (unsuccessfully) try the rap group Two Live Crew for violating Florida's obscenity statute by singing rap songs with graphic sexual lyrics.

And so now we have the modern equivalent, though almost certainly without the redeeming literary qualities of Lawrence or Joyce: Karen Fletcher is being prosecuted for obscene stories on her website.

A woman who authorities say ran a Web site that published graphic fictional tales about the torture and sexual abuse of children has been indicted on federal obscenity charges.

"Use of the Internet to distribute obscene stories like these not only violates federal law, but also emboldens sex offenders who would target children," U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan said Wednesday in announcing the charges against Karen Fletcher, 54.

A component of obscenity laws that particularly interests me is that the laws aren't intended to protect the subjects of the obscene works, but rather their potential consumers. In this, obscenity laws are different from laws prohibiting visual child pornography which are justified by a desire to protect children from being exploited during the production (though even the definition of child pornography is rather complex). The argument behind obscenity laws is not that anyone is hurt during creation, but rather that the consumers of the work will be harmed by their consumption and that society as a whole will be degraded.

I'm quite torn over these sorts of obscenity prosecutions. On the one hand, yes, I'm disgusted and disturbed by the accusations against Karen Fletcher, and if they're true then she's a horrible person who I would never want to associate with and who should have as little influence on society as possible. On the other hand, I'm not comfortable with the government deciding to prosecute a woman just for writing gross stories. Assuming the stories are complete fiction, who is hurt? The author and readers have sick minds, but there's no evidence that writing or reading such stories leads to actually carrying out abusive acts. In contrast, my intuition suggests that people with abusive inclinations might have less opportunity and motivation to actually harm children if they are distracted by fiction. If obscene stories serve as an "outlet" for these sickos, then eliminating the stories might actually lead to more abuse and do more harm than good. We could then lock the abusers up when they're caught, but only after they have claimed a victim.

I'm curious about the notion that parents have to "pick their battles" with their children in the sense that they shouldn't try to win every point but focus only on the important issues. This seems like an eminently sensible strategy for dealing with a spouse or other equal, and even more-so a boss or other superior, but is this the best way to deal with a subordinate? Using this article as an example, here's a mother who dislikes them but lets her teenage daughter wear sexy t-shirts anyway.

Most parents interviewed said that they would rather not see their kids wear the racy shirts but that they sometimes give in. Rosa Pulley tried to order her daughter Keana, 17, a Gar-Field senior, to return a T-shirt that says, "yes, but not with u!" But Keana insisted. "I have to pick my battles," the mother said. "Okay, I don't like it. She's wearing it, but it could be something worse."

As I'm learning with dogs and dominance challenges, if you expect to lead the pack then it's important to win every single time. Parents who aren't willing to fight and win every battle probably discover soon thereafter that they aren't able to lead and control their child. I suppose that this dominance role should diminish as the child gets older and takes control of her own life, but I don't think that transition should be allowed to complete until the child is self-sufficient.

It looks like someone at 7-Eleven reads my blog because the company is dropping CITGO as its gasoline supplier at more than 2100 locations.

Convenience store operator 7-Eleven Inc. is dropping Venezuela-backed Citgo as its gasoline supplier at more than 2,100 locations and switching to its own brand of fuel.

The retailer said Wednesday it will purchase fuel from several distributors, including Tower Energy Group of Torrance, Calif., Sinclair Oil of Salt Lake City, and Houston-based Frontier Oil Corp.

A spokeswoman for Dallas-based 7-Eleven said its 20-year contract with Citgo Petroleum Corp. ends next week. About 2,100 of 7-Eleven's 5,300 U.S. stores sell gasoline.

Citgo is a Houston-based subsidiary of Venezuela's state-owned oil company, and the foreign parent became a public-relations issue for 7- Eleven because of comments by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

A perfect example of why government regulation isn't required to shut idiots up -- the market can take care of itself.

Seth Roberts of the University of California, Berkeley, has published a paper with ten "new ideas" about how sleep, mood, health, and weight relate to each other. From the abstract:

Little is known about how to generate plausible new scientific ideas. So it is noteworthy that 12 years of self-experimentation led to the discovery of several surprising cause-effect relationships and suggested a new theory of weight control, an unusually high rate of new ideas. The cause-effect relationships were: (1) Seeing faces in the morning on television decreased mood in the evening (>10 hrs later) and improved mood the next day (>24 hrs later), yet had no detectable effect before that (0–10 hrs later). The effect was strongest if the faces were life-sized and at a conversational distance. Travel across time zones reduced the effect for a few weeks. (2) Standing 8 hours per day reduced early awakening and made sleep more restorative, even though more standing was associated with less sleep. (3) Morning light (1 hr/day) reduced early awakening and made sleep more restorative. (4) Breakfast increased early awakening. (5) Standing and morning light together eliminated colds (upper respiratory tract infections) for more than 5 years. (6) Drinking lots of water, eating low-glycemic-index foods, and eating sushi each caused a modest weight loss. (7) Drinking unflavored fructose water caused a large weight loss that has lasted more than 1 year. While losing weight, hunger was much less than usual. Unflavored sucrose water had a similar effect. The new theory of weight control, which helped discover this effect, assumes that flavors associated with calories raise the body-fat set point: The stronger the association, the greater the increase. Between meals the set point declines. Self-experimentation lasting months or years seems to be a good way to generate plausible new ideas.

Although Connie Bennett is freaking out about fructose and claiming it's dangerous, fructose is a natural sugar that's found in many foods, such as "honey; tree fruits; berries; melons; and some root vegetables, such as beets, sweet potatoes, parsnips and onions".

Here's more of the theory on "What makes food fattening?".

(HT: Tyler Cowen.)

In a bizarre move that's almost certain to reduce the security of British subjects, British police have agreed to get permission from "Muslim leaders" before conducting terror raids.

POLICE have agreed to consult a panel of Muslim leaders before mounting counter-terrorist raids or arrests. Members of the panel will offer their assessment of whether information police have on a suspect is too flimsy and will also consider the consequences on community relations of a raid.

"Hey Osama, can we pretty please raid the flat down the street with all the smoke billowing from the windows?"

Members will be security vetted and will have to promise not to reveal any intelligence they are shown. They will not have to sign the Official Secrets Act.

"We'll be raiding at 3am, but please don't tell them or they'll move their bomb factory before we get there. Promise? Crescent your heart and hope to die, strap a bomb-belt to your thigh?"

What's wrong with you, Britain? I was watching PBS last night and 200 years ago you Brits sentenced an 11-year-old girl to death for stealing her friend's clothes, and then considered it gracious to commute the sentence and merely ship the child off to Australia. That's pretty hard core, and that's why you ruled the world. And now this nonsense? Don't you have any pride?

The whole idea is idiotic, but I'm sure it'll move to America. Some other ideas:

- Notify the trailer park block president before raiding a meth house.

- Get permission from Marion Barry before conducting any crack whore sting operations.

- Ask Robert Byrd to oversee hate crime prosecution.

- Put Ted Kennedy in charge of the little guppies swim class.

- Oh whatever, this is too easy, use your imagination.

My continuing effort to get Sean Penn to shut up has apparently drawn some attention from Sean Penn himself, commenting pseudononymously as "Paul".

You’re an ignorant simpleton. A typical American brainwashed conservative who supports a war criminal in George W. Bush. You are pretty much exactly what is wrong with the world. Sean Penn is a talented actor with a social conscience who is trying to draw attention to the atrocities being committed by your fascist country. I'm an aussie and I hate it that our government supports your semi-retarded leader. He is honestly the laughing stock of the world, a village idiot made President. Well done America.

Don't waste your time insulting Sean Penn when you would rather be out shooting guns and attending KKK meetings you neo-conservative d%#k head.

Ok ok, "Paul"'s eloquence discredits my theory that he's actually Sean Penn, but he certainly knows the "talented actor" very intimately. However, I'm glad he commented because until now I didn't realize that I'm exactly what's wrong with the world. I thought Islamofascist terrorists blowing up Australians in Bali nightclubs might be even worse than I am, but perhaps not.

It's true that shooting guns at KKK members sounds appealing, but so many of them are now distinguished Democratic Senators that it would almost certainly be illegal. Perhaps "Paul" should learn more about American politics before he jumps into the fray; still, he's more gracious than American leftists in labeling our President only semi-retarded.

Orpah brags about how she's the boss of all these white people. You go, girl! White people clearly make better employees.

Condoleezza Rice demolishes Bill Clinton's lies and misrepresentations about the war on terror before 9/11. Orpah take note: maybe black people can make good employees after all!

It looks like the GOP's fortunes may be turning around. When I first asked "Will Republicans lose the house?" near the end of August, Tradesports gave the party a 46% chance of retaining their House majority in November, and a 79% chance of holding on to the Senate. As of today, people betting on the 2006 election give the GOP a 57% chance of retaining the House and a 83% chance of keeping the Senate. That's a remarkable change in a little less than a month.

Along the same lines, Larry Kudlow writes about "The GOP's Bush-led turnaround".

Oil and gasoline prices have plunged over the past month, taking away a big Democratic issue. The broad stock averages have had a nice run since Labor Day and are closing in on five-year highs. This rally is a measure of the future economy and business profits, and it signals continued growth as far as the eye can see. And while investors are abandoning the energy sector, consumers are spending -- making the retail stock index one of the hottest plays on Wall Street.

At the same time, inflation indicators such as gold, commodities and energy have been pummeled. Long-term interest rates have dropped quickly from 5.25 percent to 4.6 percent, another sign of diminishing inflation fears. Consequently, the Federal Reserve hasn't touched interest rates at its last two meetings, while many on Wall Street are now betting the next Fed move will be a rate cut, not a hike.

Meanwhile, the monetary base, which measures the Fed's dollar-creating activities, has been flat-lined, with literally zero growth over the past eight months. As Milton Friedman taught us, excess money is the cause of rising inflation. But the Fed is taking care of that problem, which is why forward-looking market indicators (i.e., gold, energy and long-term bond rates) have all dropped significantly. In fact, if you combine the rising stock market with the falling inflation markets, the clear forecast is for non-inflationary growth.

I sincerely hope that the Democrats don't win a single seat until they wise up and return to sensible economic and foreign policies. It's not great to have both elected branches of government controlled by a single party, but it's better than the alternative when that includes sharing power with the likes of modern leftists.

Mark Steyn reviews Lawrence Wright's The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road To 9/11 and relates some of the history behind the modern anti-West jihad. For instance, about Sayyid Qutb, the father of the jihad:

In an Islamist grievance culture, the tower doesn't have to be that tall to loom. The tragedy in Wright's book is that across little more than half a century a loser cult has metastasized, eventually to swallow almost all the moderate, syncretic forms of Islam. What was so awful about Sayyid Qutb's experience in America that led him to regard modernity as an abomination? Well, he went to a dance in Greeley, Colo.: "The room convulsed with the feverish music from the gramophone. Dancing naked legs filled the hall, arms draped around the waists, chests met chests, lips met lips . . ."

In 1949, Greeley, Colo., was dry. The dance was a church social. The feverish music was Frank Loesser's charm song Baby, It's Cold Outside. But it was enough to start a chain that led from Qutb to Zawahiri in Egypt to bin Laden in Saudi Arabia to the mullahs in Iran to the man arrested in Afghanistan on Sept. 11. And it's a useful reminder of how much we could give up and still be found decadent and disgusting by the Islamists. A world without Baby, It's Cold Outside will be very cold indeed.

We should realize that peace on the Islamists' terms will not be very pleasant.

When people first hear that time is considered to be a fourth "dimension" akin to the three dimensions of space, they often get confused and think that because it is useful to consider time and space together that they're the same. In fact, there are many differences between time and space, and perhaps the most important is that time is not symmetrical and has a very definite directionality. What I mean is this: if you look at a picture it's impossible to know if the image you see is the original or if it's been reversed.

Space is symmetric in that if you consider any of its dimensions in reverse it doesn't affect the rationality of your perceptions. Space appears to be symmetric in every way. A car that gets 30 mpg driving north will get 30 mpg driving south, east, or west. A box two feet long, three feet wide, and four feet tall has the same volume as a box three feet tall, two feet wide, and four feet long.

Time is different in that it is directional, a property commonly referred to as time's arrow. The Second Law of Thermodynamics says that some events are irreversible in that once they have occured the universe cannot be put back to the way it was before. (In fact, almost every event is irreversible.)

Consider the situation in which a large container is filled with two separated liquids, for example a dye on one side and water on the other. With no barrier between the two liquids, the random jostling of their molecules will result in them becoming more mixed as time passes. However, if the dye and water are mixed then one does not expect them to separate out again when left to themselves. A movie of the mixing would seem realistic when played forwards, but unrealistic when played backwards.

If the large container is observed early on in the mixing process, it might be found to be only partially mixed. It would be reasonable to conclude that, without outside intervention, the liquid reached this state because it was more ordered in the past, when there was greater separation, and will be more disordered, or mixed, in the future. ...

The thermodynamic arrow of time is provided by the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which says that in an isolated system entropy will only increase with time; it will not decrease with time. Entropy can be thought of as a measure of disorder; thus the Second Law implies that time is asymmetrical with respect to the amount of order in an isolated system: as time increases, a system will always become more disordered. This asymmetry can be used empirically to distinguish between future and past.

If you had two complete snapshots of the universe it would be possible to determine which was taken before the other by calculating the amount of entropy in each snapshot; the shot with less entropy was taken first. Thus, time is not symmetric, and traveling forward through time (as we all do) is very different from traveling backward.

Here's a fun and simple test that might reveal a bit about how nimble your brain is. I've seen it in a few places, and it's probably been send around through chain email at some point, but the best web presentation I can find is at Creativity at Work: How do you put a giraffe into a refrigerator?.

1. How do you put a giraffe into a refrigerator?

The correct answer is: Open the refrigerator, put in the giraffe and close the door. This question tests whether you tend to do simple things in an overly complicated way.

2. How do you put an elephant into a refrigerator ?

Wrong Answer: Open the refrigerator, put in the elephant and close the refrigerator.

Correct Answer: Open the refrigerator, take out the giraffe, put in the elephant and close the door. This tests your ability to think through the repercussions of your actions.

3. The Lion King is hosting an animal conference, all the animals attend except one. Which animal does not attend?

Correct Answer: The Elephant. The Elephant is in the refrigerator. This tests your memory. OK, even if you did not answer the first three questions, correctly you can surely answer this one.

4. There is a river you must cross. But it is inhabited by crocodiles. How do you manage it?

Correct Answer: You swim across. All the crocodiles are attending the Animal Meeting! This tests whether you learn quickly from your mistakes.

Silly, yes, but perhaps useful. I doubt the attributed source or accompanying statistics are true.

I'm not a fan of boycotts, so what follows is just a bit of trivia that might interest people who were insulted by Hugo Chavez's recent lunacy: CITGO is owned by the Venezuelan government.

The company is owned by PDV America, Inc., an indirect, wholly owned subsidiary of Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A., the national oil company of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

That means that if you buy gas from a CITGO station, you're directly supporting the Chavez government.

(HT: DeoDuce and reagan80.)

Despite claims that everyone has AIDS I'm not sure that HIV tests for everyone is the best strategy for combating the disease.

All Americans between the ages of 13 and 64 should be routinely tested for HIV to help catch infections earlier and stop the spread of the deadly virus, federal health recommendations announced Thursday say. ...

"We know that many HIV infected people seek health care and they don't get tested. And many people are not diagnosed until late in the course of their illness, when they're already sick with HIV-related conditions," said Dr. Timothy Mastro, acting director of the CDC's division of HIV/AIDS prevention.

"By identifying people earlier through a screening program, we'll allow them to access life-extending therapy, and also through prevention services, learn how to avoid transmitting HIV infection to others," he said.

But the vast majority of people are not at risk for getting HIV, so advocating widespread testing seems more like a proxy for politically incorrect but more useful strategies.

Some physicians also question whether there is enough evidence to expand testing beyond high-risk groups, said Dr. Larry Fields, the president of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

"Are doctors going to do it? Probably not," Fields said.

But the recommendations were endorsed by the American Medical Association, which urged physicians to comply.

"This is important public health strategy to stop the spread of HIV," Dr. Nancy Nielsen, a Buffalo, N.Y.-based physician who sits on the AMA's governing board, said in a statement.

Maybe the AMA and the CDC should put more effort into convincing people not to have anonymous gay sex while shooting heroin. Just a thought.

Considering my recent rants against weathermen, reader JV forwarded a link to Forecast Advisor, a site that compiles statistics on weather forecasts and will tell you which service has been the most accurate for your particular zip code. Very cool stuff.

(Indirect hat-tips also to Lifehacker and Clicked.)

The New York Times has a voyeuristic article about "Why the Rich Go Broke" that is absolutely fascinating. There are lots of details about particular people, and regarding celebrities and athletes specifically:

"You have people who are struggling for a long time and then overnight, boom, they hit it," says Shelley Finkel, Mike Tyson’s manager. "If they don’t have someone watching out for them, and some emotional stability, it will be very hard for them to be grounded financially."

MR. FINKEL, a genial, elfin 62-year-old New Yorker who began his own career promoting a A-list rock stars like Jimi Hendrix, said he had always advised musicians and athletes to protect their wealth by socking away a chunk of their earnings into annuities or pensions. Few of them have heeded that advice, he said, including Mr. Tyson, who Mr. Finkel believes earned and lost more than $400 million in his boxing career.

"It’s very hard to tell them ‘Don’t!’ because they love the instant gratification," Mr. Finkel says. "I think the human in general is vulnerable and whatever their weakness is it’s going to get exploited, particularly around money."

I enjoyed reading the whole thing... even though I'll probably never be rich, I enjoy knowing that I'm more financially savvy that most of the people who are.

I've knocked Representative Charlie Rangel (D-NY) for soliciting bribes, and I find his politics deplorable in many cases, but I've got to thank him for defending America and President Bush against the insane Hugo Chavez.

"You do not come into my country, my congressional district, and you do not condemn my president. If there is any criticism of President Bush, it should be restricted to Americans, whether they voted for him or not. I just want to make it abundantly clear to Hugo Chavez or any other president, do not come to the United States and think because we have problems with our president that any foreigner can come to our country and not think that Americans do not feel offended when you offend our Chief of State..."

Hey it's on Drudge so you've seen it, but at least I can get on the record.

Update:
Putting her finger to the wind, Nancy Pelosi has also decided to defend the President and America.

One of President George W. Bush's fiercest political opponents at home took his side on Thursday, calling Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez a "thug" for his remark that Bush is like the devil.

"Hugo Chavez fancies himself a modern day Simon Bolivar but all he is an everyday thug," House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi said at a news conference, referring to Chavez' comments in a U.N. General Assembly speech on Wednesday.

"Hugo Chavez abused the privilege that he had, speaking at the United Nations," said Pelosi, a frequent Bush critic. "He demeaned himself and he demeaned Venezuela."

All true enough, so thanks. Now if only we could get Democrats to be such fierce defenders of America when we're attacked with bombs and not just words.

I haven't seen this program promoted much yet, but Wal-Mart is planning to sell generic prescription drugs for $4. What an evil corporation!

"Each day in our pharmacies we see customers struggle with the cost of prescription drugs," said Wal-Mart CEO H. Lee Scott, Jr., in a statement. "By cutting the cost of many generics to $4, we are helping to ensure that our customers and associates get the medicines they need at a price they can afford."

The initiative would be the fourth time since last October that Wal- Mart has moved to improve health benefits.

Wal-Mart's recent moves to improve its health care plan include relaxing eligibility requirements for its part-time employees who want health insurance, and extending coverage for the first time to the children of those employees. Part-time employees, who had to work for Wal-Mart for two years to qualify, now have to work at the company for one year. This year, Wal-Mart also expanded a trial run of in-store clinics, aimed at providing lower cost non-emergency health care to the public.

Last October, Wal-Mart offered a new lower-premium insurance aimed at getting more of its work force on company plans.

Wal-Mart contributes greatly to America's standard of living, both by providing more than a million jobs and by selling all sorts of stuff at great prices. Does anyone know if Wal-Mart manufactures these generic drugs itself?

Although the topic of taqiyya, like many religious concepts, is certainly more complex than can be explained in a blog post, I think it's important to understand because it underscores how differently Muslims and Christians tend to view lying. Most broadly, Ahmad ibn Naqib al-Misri wrote:

Speaking is a means to achieve objectives. If a praiseworthy aim is attainable through both telling the truth and lying, it is unlawful to accomplish it through lying because there is no need for it. When it is possible to achieve such an aim by lying but not by telling the truth, it is permissible to lie if attaining the goal is permissible..., and obligatory to lie if the goal is obligatory. ...One should compare the bad consequences entailed by lying to those entailed by telling the truth, and if the consequences of telling the truth are more damaging, one is entitled to lie...

So it shouldn't be a suprise that Muslim nations don't tend to negotiate in good faith as Westerners understand it. As the Left constantly admonishes, it's important to get to know other cultures! (So we can defeat them.)

In a surreal display of ignorant submission, Pope Benedict sucks up to Muslims who want to behead him.

Speaking amid tighter security at his weekly general audience in St Peter's Square, the Pope repeated the thrust of remarks made on Sunday that his words had been misunderstood and expressed "profound respect" for Muslims [who want to murder him]. ...

He expressed his "profound respect for the great religions, particularly for Muslims, who worship the one God and with whom we are committed to defending and promoting together social justice, moral values, peace and freedom for all humanity."

Even though, of course, Islam doesn't worship the same God as Christianity and few Muslims are committed to any of the things in the Pope's list, instead being intently focused on waging jihad against the infidels, burning American flags and Pope dolls, and beheading everyone in sight.

Either the Pope is amazingly ignorant, a sniveling coward, or he really does "profoundly respect" Islam and should probably convert because he clearly doesn't "profoundly respect" Christianity.

Clayton Cramer has a great piece about Islamic death worship and the danger to Western Civilization (even to leftists!), and it led me to an interesting thought: all evil social structures are built on entrenched hypocrisy. E.g., it's great for young Muslims to blow themselves up, but apparently not for the imams, tyrants, mullahs, and so forth. If the heavenly reward is so great, why aren't the supposedly most spiritual Muslims also the most eager to attain it? Cf. the Communist Party and their subjects.

In contrast, good systems like democracy, capitalism, and Christianity at least attempt to apply the same rules to everyone. Sure, the end results aren't the same for everyone (some get rich, some get poor), but everyone supposedly plays by the same rules.

Then again, maybe I'm wrong and it's just a matter of degree. I guess everyone was supposedly equal under Communism, too... and anyway, the investments of US Senators tend to beat the stock market by 12%, so maybe I'm fooling myself. Still, it seems like there's some objective difference.

Argh, I'm going to be old enough to run for President in 2012! You've gotta be kidding me. Well, I guess I'd better get started.

I guess this should go in the "science" category, even though it sometimes sounds more like science fiction. Still, people are putting money where their mouths are: Peter Thiel, co-counder of PayPal, has pledged up to $3.5 million to Aubrey de Grey's Methuselah Foundation and its research into "negligible senescence" -- that is, the elimination of aging.

San Francisco -- Peter A. Thiel, co-founder and former CEO of online payments system PayPal, Founder and Managing Member of Clarium Capital Management, a San Francisco-based hedge fund, and angel investor in social networking site Facebook, has announced his pledge of $3.5 Million to support scientific research into the alleviation and eventual reversal of the debilities caused by aging, to be conducted under the auspices of the Methuselah Foundation, a charity co-founded and Chaired by Dr. Aubrey de Grey.

Mr. Thiel commented "Rapid advances in biological science foretell of a treasure trove of discoveries this century, including dramatically improved health and longevity for all. I'm backing Dr. de Grey, because I believe that his revolutionary approach to aging research will accelerate this process, allowing many people alive today to enjoy radically longer and healthier lives for themselves and their loved ones.

To me, the most interesting endeavor of the Methuselah Foundation is its M-Prize that seeks to reward research that delays or reverses aging in mice. Significantly, the focus is on treatments that work when applied not just to young mice, but to middle-aged mice, which is a much more difficult prospect.

Drudge has a flash up at the moment saying:

FLASH: Iran's UN ambassador says that President Ahmadinejad will hold 'major newsconference' in NYC Thursday AM at UN headquarters...

If we let Ahmadinejad give a press conference in New York City under the protection of the Secret Service, we're going to look like fools in a few years when we're chasing him through the mountains of Pakistan. We should grab this guy as soon as he steps off the plane and throw him in a deep hole at Gitmo.

I've written about female abortion and infanticide in Arab and Muslim countries, but this article about Indians using abortion for gender selection really highlights how much "womens' rights" can cost a society -- especially baby women.

PATTRAN, India (Reuters) - Manual laborer Gulzar Singh is haunted by the day he exhumed baby fetuses from a pit outside an abortion clinic in one of the grisliest chapters in India's fight against female feticide.

"Inside the well I found bones. Small ones. Little, little ones. There were some baby skulls too," recalled Singh with a shudder.

Singh was ordered by police in early August to dig up pits on the grounds of a private hospital in Pattran, a small town in the Punjab state, which was suspected of operating an illegal abortion clinic.

It was a job that would change his life.

Over the next few hours, he removed the remains of scores of unborn babies from two deep pits, an experience he says he will never forget and one which leaves him struggling for breath at night and unable to enjoy the company of friends.

Singh says he removed the flesh and bones of around 300 aborted babies. The authorities say it was somewhere between 20 to 100 fetuses and they assume that all were female although gender tests results will only be ready next month.

Does the fact that most aborted babies around the world are female make any impact on those "feminists" who advocate the "right to choose [to kill babies]"?

According to a study published in the British medical journal, the Lancet, about 10 million female fetuses may have been aborted in India over the last 20 years.

Traditionally, India's patriarchal society has preferred boys over girls. Across its rural landscape an often-used blessing for daughter-in-laws is "May you be the mother of 100 sons".

In Punjab and the neighboring state of Haryana, where many girls are believed to be killed in the womb or soon after birth, sex ratios have been heavily skewed.

According to the 2001 census, the latest official population data, the national sex ratio was 933 girls to 1,000 boys whereas in Punjab it was 798 girls to 1,000 boys in 2001, compared to 875 in 1991.

So let's recap the morality of American leftists. Recognizing that there may be a biological basis for the differences in male and female performance in the sciences: bad. Slaughtering millions of girls in the womb: good.

Am I the only one who thinks that some foods taste better when they're burnt?

- Wheat thins
- Popcorn (sometimes)
- Peanut butter cookies

What else? I think it has to do with a chemical reaction in the sugar in these high-carb foods.

America's foreign policy is hurting tourism and we need to find a way to make some more money.

The US share of international travel has been falling since 1992, but the decline has accelerated since September 11, 2001. Since then America has lost an estimated $286 billion (£152 billion) in revenue from foreign tourists.

While global travel has grown by a fifth, the the US travel industry’s share of the world tourism market has shrunk by a third, from 9% to 6%.

Wait wait, nevermind that the drop in tourism started during the Clinton administration, let's skip forward...

Tough security measures are only part of the problem, however. Surveys show that America is becoming unpopular with the rest of the world, partly because of the Bush administration’s foreign policy.

Since 2000 the percentage of people holding favourable opinions of the country has fallen from 83% to 56% in Britain, from 78% to 37% in Germany and from 77% to 63% in Japan.

It's obvious that doing good by freeing gazillions of people from tyranny hasn't won us any points with the world, so I say it's time to stop making friends and start making money, Roman style. Rather than freeing all these people, protecting Europe from commies and Nazis, policing the oceans, and saving Tsunami victims, all gratis, it's time to start extracting tribute from every country that has benefitted from American foreign policy. Here's the tribute menu:

- Saved you from Nazis: 10% GDP

- Saved you from Communists: 10% GDP

- Special Commie and Nazi combo: 15% GDP

- Freed you from insane Muslim dictator: 20% oil discount in perpetuity, plus free airbases

- Every time one of your citizens bombs American property: $1 billion cash or 10 times the damage cost, whichever is higher

- Each one of your ships that transports goods without being attacked by pirates, Nazis, or Commies: 10% of the value of the goods

- Rescued your country from a major natural disaster: 10% GDP for the first disaster, 5% each additional disaster

Here are some pages for anyone who has ever, like me, wondered how to interpret heraldic blazons and tincture. It's fascinating to me that the blazon, or verbal description of a coat-of-arms, is considered to be more official than the pictoral rendition. Makes sense, since everyone was illiterate and it was much easier to distribute verbal descriptions than books of illustrations. Yet another profession eliminated by technology!

Leave a comment if you don't like the Bravenet polling system and have another to suggest.

Gone!

Update:
The poll made pop-up windows... super annoying. Bye bye Bravenet polls.

Leslie Dutton at Full Disclosure has a great interview with retired L.A. County Sheriff Sgt. Richard Valdemar on why Los Angeles is losing the war against gangs. Distressing stuff.

Here's an article from 2001 about how modern science is finally beginning to solve the mystery of how Antonio Stradivari crafted such extraordinary instruments.

THE secret of why the sounds of Stradivarius violins have never been surpassed may be hidden in their maker's unwitting attempt to protect them against woodworm, a scientist has discovered.

Joseph Nagyvary, a biochemist at Texas A&M University in College Station, has devoted his life's work to finding out why instruments made by a semi-literate boy in 17th century Cremona are so dramatically better than anything built since. ...

Now Dr Nagyvary believes he has discovered the secret. The answer is borax, the preservative Stradivari used to protect his wood. Whereas wooden artefacts from other northern Italian cities were riddled with woodworm, those from Cremona and Venice had very little. ...

At a recent symposium in Texas, Zina Schiff, a noted violinist, played a Stradivarius and a violin made by Dr Nagyvary, switching between the instruments throughout the performance.

Dr Nagyvary's violin was cut by a computer-controlled carving machine and used wood soaked in brine to emulate Stradivari's wood supplies. "There is a lot of historical evidence that all the logs came down a waterway, and they were stored in the Bay of Venice, sometimes for a very long period."

Miss Schiff said after the performance that she doubted whether anyone could tell the difference between the Stradivarius and Dr Nagyvary's violin.

The phenomenon of Stradivarius instruments has always fascinated me, not because of their musical qualities (which I'm not qualified to appreciate) but because of the anthropology behind their preservation. I wonder how long the instruments will be playable and maintainable?

I was disturbed yesterday to hear about Iraq's Prime Minister Maliki signing "security agreements" with Iran. There hasn't been much in the news about it, so I'm forced to link to a China Central Television article on the topic. Has this been much blogged about? Is there less to the story than it seems? On the surface these agreements seem to be grave insults to the thousands of Americans and Coalition soldiers who have shed their blood to free Iraq from Islamofascism.

Iran and Iraq have signed some historic security and economic agreements that point to a gradual warming in their relationship. On his first visit to Iran since taking office, Iraqi Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, met with Iran's Supreme Leader - who promised to support al-Maliki's government. Nathan Mauger has more.

As al-Maliki met with Iranian leaders for a second day, there was no public mention of the issue of Iranian interference in Iraq.

Instead, the Iraqi Prime Minister and his Iranian hosts expressed their growing friendship. ...

The Iranian officials also indicated that the way to end instability in Iraq was for American forces to withdraw.

Well sure, Iran can't wait for us to leave because they figure they can dominate the Shi'a Muslims in Iraq and create another client state for themselves, one with lots of oil. It seems obvious that such an arrangement would be terrible for American interests, and it's bitterly disturbing to me that the American government is allowing it. The Iranian regime is our enemy, and the enemy of all free people, and the Iraqis shouldn't be enabled by our passivity to move in that direction.

The news story isn't entirely clear, but it appears that perhaps even babies that have been born aren't considered people anymore. Anna Nicole Smith's son Daniel died while visiting his mother in the hospital afer she gave birth to a daughter. The death was suspicious for whatever reason, and the story is concerned about who was in the room at the time.

Daniel Smith died Sunday while visiting his mother, a reality TV star and former Playboy playmate, in her hospital room three days after she gave birth to a baby girl. ...

The chief inspector of the Bahamas coroner's office on Wednesday called the death of the 20-year-old Smith "suspicious" and a formal inquiry that could lead to criminal charges was scheduled for next month.

Police also revealed that a third person was in the hospital room at the time of the death.

But Scott said that the third person was another one of Anna Nicole Smith's attorneys, Howard K. Stern.

It's not definite, but isn't it likely that Smith's baby girl was also in the room, making four people? Granted, it's unlikely that the baby was involved in the death, but I still think she should be counted as a "pesron", if in fact she was present.

I want to put polls up on the site, but I don't want to pay money and I don't want any ads. Considering all the freeware out there I can't believe that no one has written a free polling system in Flash or PHP or something... but I can't find one. Any pointers?

Everyone knows that the three most important factors in real estate are location, location, and location, but many people may not consider that the same principle currently holds true in the development of space. The recent puff piece about astronauts losing a bolt during a spacewalk reminded me that every ounce of material lifted into low earth orbit is incredibly valuable.

Spacewalking astronauts worried they have may have gummed up a successful job connecting an addition to the international space station Tuesday when a bolt, spring and washer floated free.

Astronaut Joe Tanner was working with the bolt when it sprang loose, floated over the head of Heidemarie Stefanyshyn-Piper and skittered across the 17 1/2-ton box-like truss that they were hooking up.

A bolt, spring, and washer may only be worth a few dollars on earth, but those same pieces of equipment are worth thousands of dollars once they're in orbit. Considering that cargo lift costs for the Space Shuttle are currently around $10,000 per pound, most of the material in orbit is far more valuable because of its location than because of its design or composition.

As a side note, one of the most important fields of basic research is figuring out how to get stuff into orbit more cheaply. Until lift costs drop dramatically, don't expect to see hotels in space.

Update:
Oh no, they've lost another bolt!

Scientists are discovering the source of human genius and getting close to the point that brain scans will be capable of evaluating intelligence. Mere appearance of the organ isn't enough:

"If I showed you two brains side by side, one with an IQ of 150, one with an IQ of 75, I can't tell the difference," says Jay Giedd of the National Institute of Mental Health, one of the most experienced researchers in the field.

But brain scans can do better.

But Jung and his colleague Dr. Richard Haier of the University of California, Irvine, claim they are on the verge of refining imaging techniques to a point that would make traditional intelligence tests obsolete.

"We can make quantitative assessments of how much gray matter they have in every single area, and we can use that to predict what their IQ might be," Haier says. "This is in the very early stage, and I think this is going to be very interesting."

Brain imaging remains in some ways as crude a tool as simply cutting open the brain and looking inside. Haier and Jung use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to measure various parts of the brain. Then they compare the pictures to intelligence scores on a verbal or pen and paper test.

So far, says Haier, he has found a strong correlation between intelligence and the size and shape of certain brain structures -- including parts of the superior parietal lobe (involved in sensory perception) and parts of the prefrontal cortex (associated with complex thinking, personality, planning, coordination).

Intelligence research is full of surprises. For example, the brains of smarter people, as measured by IQ, tend to be less active but more efficient, Haier says.

The final paragraph quoted above dovetails nicely with a Scientific American article from July about "The Expert Mind" which argued that Chess Grandmasters don't simply think more moves ahead than lesser players, they "chunk" more efficiently and thereby create more useful heuristics that let them solve more difficult chess problems with the same amoung ot brainpower.

In the context of chess, the same differences can be seen between novices and grandmasters. To a beginner, a position with 20 chessmen on the board may contain far more than 20 chunks of information, because the pieces can be placed in so many configurations. A grandmaster, however, may see one part of the position as "fianchettoed bishop in the castled kingside," together with a "blockaded king's-Indian-style pawn chain," and thereby cram the entire position into perhaps five or six chunks. By measuring the time it takes to commit a new chunk to memory and the number of hours a player must study chess before reaching grandmaster strength, Simon estimated that a typical grandmaster has access to roughly 50,000 to 100,000 chunks of chess information. A grandmaster can retrieve any of these chunks from memory simply by looking at a chess position, in the same way that most native English speakers can recite the poem "Mary had a little lamb" after hearing just the first few words.

So here are some questions: if the results were to be published, would you submit yourself to a brain-scan intelligence test? If there were a private organization that performed the tests and everyone believed they were reasonably accurate, would they become as standard as the SAT? Would they have more affect on society than SAT scores?

This is a brilliant idea that's directly analogous to time-share condos: car sharing. Just like time-share owners don't need a condo in Aspen 52 weeks a year, many people don't need a car every hour of every day. People who have to commute to work by car can carpool, but what about others who only need a car once or twice a week to go to the store, or one weekend a month for trips? Owning your own car can be convenient, but every second it sits idle, unused, is a waste of your money. Car sharing is intended to reduce that idle time, reduce the number of cars per capita, and thereby reduce the cost of car use for suitable travelers.

Marc Bovee is committed to not using his car -- and that's quite a commitment in wheels-crazy Los Angeles.

Bovee's Jeep Wrangler has been garaged since August 2005, in part because he uses a vehicle-sharing service called Flexcar.

Whenever the bus or subway won't get him where he needs to go, Bovee, 43, visits the Flexcar Web site to find and reserve cars, which are parked in designated lots and garages around L.A. Once he arrives at his chosen vehicle -- often a hybrid, although sometimes just a fuel-efficient Honda Civic -- Bovee opens the door by placing his membership card over a reader installed on the windshield. He gets the keys from the glove compartment and drives off, returning the car when he's done buying groceries, running errands or taking a weekend trip. ...

Flexcar, which is based in Seattle, says its average member spends $80 a month on the service, a far cry from the typical $863 monthly cost of maintaining a midsize car in Los Angeles.

Such a commercial operation is not a great option for suburbanites who don't have mass transit available and a high enough population density to make car sharing profitable, but non-profit cooperatives like Dancing Rabbit might be viable alternatives for friendly neighborhoods.

Yet another new economic model made vastly more practical by internet technology.

Liz Pulliam Weston offers some tips for children who have to deal with spendthrift elders who can't seem to manage their money. I wrote a little about the topic of financial responsibility a few years ago.

Money slides through their fingers like sand. They're constantly buying expensive toys they can't afford and signing up for whopping loan payments that drain away their modest salaries. Financial windfalls disappear in a matter of weeks, spent on fancy vacations, sports equipment and down payments on expensive new cars. ...

We're not talking here about parents who fall on hard times because of disability, ill health or unexpected job loss. Most kids who were raised in loving homes, and even many that weren't, would want to step in to prevent their parents from becoming destitute in those circumstances.

We're talking about the parents who simply live too high on the hog, leaving their children wondering who will wind up paying the bill for their elders' irresponsibility.

One of the most important survival skills in life is the ability to say "no".

Here's a handy miles per dollar calculator that you can use to determine how much you spend commuting each day. At current gas prices, my commute costs me about $2.50 round-trip. The calculator would have been even cooler if you could input your car type and have it amortize the car's value over your mileage.

(On a side note, I have a friend from Canada where they use "kilometers" and "litres" to measure things, and yet their cars are still rated by mileage. Just to make things more confusing, the units they use are "litres per kilometer".)

(HT: Sound Mind Investing (registration required).)

I discovered WVRV The River 101.1 when I moved to St. Louis a couple of months ago, and in addition to having an excellent morning show, The Steve & DC Morning Show, it was also consistently the best for music. Imagine then my surprise when I discovered yesterday morning that the station fired all their employees over the weekend and completely changed format! It's now WVRV MOViN 101.1, an unbelievably awful "rhythmic adult contemporary" station that plays nothing but crap.

Since I listened to The River almost exclusively (other than talk radio) I'm left without a station... does anyone have any suggestions? Here's a list of St. Louis radio stations... I guess I'll have to try them all.

What, me nit-picky? Paul Hsieh posts a list of self-referential logical fallacies that is quite amusing (later augmented by Steven Den Beste). My only issue with the fomulations he posts is with the Complex Question fallacy, which he states thusly:

Complex Question:

Have you stopped beating your wife and saying Complex Question isn't the best fallacy?

The problem is that the Complex Question fallacy is supposed to (improperly) group together two issues, one of which has a clearly correct position. By grouping a debatable question with an obvious question, the fallacy tries to apply the obvious answer to the debatable issue through (improper) association.

However, the "have you stopped beating your wife" question was originally designed not to have an obvious answer, and is therefore particularly unsuited for use in the Complex Question fallacy. Neither "yes" nor "no" is clearly the right answer, and so there's no false association to be made between beating one's wife and believing that Complex Question is the best fallacy.

A better formulation would be something like:

- "Do you agree that failing to recognize the supremacy of the Complex Question fallacy and beating your wife are grievous offenses?"

- "Isn't it terrible that so many people disparage the Complex Question fallacy and beat their wives?"

pass_colors.jpg

In a surprise announcement, Brangelina refuses to marry until Warren Jeffs is legitimized.

Brad Pitt, ever the social activist, says he won't be marrying Angelina Jolie until the restrictions on who can marry whom are dropped.

"Angie and I will consider tying the knot when everyone else in the country who wants to be married is legally able," the 42-year-old actor reveals in Esquire magazine's October issue, on newsstands Sept. 19.

Considering Jeffs' predilections, Brangelina's position is likely to be unpopular with most Americans.

[Warren] Jeffs had been wanted for more than a year on charges that he arranged marriages between older men and underage girls, some just 13 years old. He had at least 40 wives, scores of children, thousands of followers and control over millions of dollars from a church trust.

His polygamist sect, the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, broke away from the Mormon church more than a century ago and has been disavowed by the Mormons. Many of its followers live in the twin towns of Hildale, Utah, and Colorado City, Ariz., where Jeffs took over leadership after his father’s death in 2002.

Presumably they also support Sharon Tendler's marriage to a dolphin, Phulram Chaudhary's marriage to a dog, and Arnold's marriage to his hat tree. I don't suppose Brangelina will be tying the knot any time soon.

Doesn't everyone sometimes feel like they have imposter syndrome?

(HT; Megan McArdle.)

One of the reasons American primary and secondary public education is in such dire straits is that even poorly-conceived programs -- like No Child Left Behind -- designed to hold teachers and bueaucrats accountable are never enforced because the federal government is scared to rock the boat. NCLB isn't perfect, but it does have some teeth that can be applied to failing school districts, if the Secretary of Education had the guts.

In LAUSD, there are over 300,000 children in schools the state has declared failing under NCLB's requirements for adequate yearly progress. Under the law, such children must be provided opportunities to transfer to better-performing schools within the district. To date, fewer than two out of every 1,000 eligible children have transferred--much lower even than the paltry 1% transfer figure nationwide. In neighboring Compton, whose schools are a disaster, the number of families transferring their children to better schools is a whopping zero.

The question is whether Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings--whose administration has made NCLB the centerpiece of its education agenda--will do anything about it. She has the power to withhold federal funds from districts that fail to comply with NCLB, and has threatened to do just that. Rhetoric, so far, has exceeded action. In L.A., the district has squelched school choice for children in failing schools by evading deadlines for notifying families of their transfer options; burying information in bureaucratese; and encouraging families to accept after-school supplemental services (often provided by the same district employees who fail to get the job done during the regular school day) rather than transfers. Still, the district insists that the reason for the low transfer numbers is that parents don't want their kids to leave failing schools.

That explanation rings false because, well, it is. The Polling Company surveyed Los Angeles and Compton parents whose children are eligible to transfer their children out of failing schools. Only 11% knew their school was rated as failing, and fewer than one-fifth of those parents (just nine out of 409 surveyed) recalled receiving notice to that effect from the districts--a key NCLB requirement. Once informed of their schools' status and their transfer rights, 82% expressed a desire to move their children to better schools.

Public education in the Los Angeles area is a joke, which is why my mom, who sits on a non-unified school district board (meaning they don't have a high school) pays a fortune to send my younger brothers to a private high school. Federal money is wasted when the strings attached to it remain unpulled; better to let California schools fail on their own than to pour federal taxpayer money down that black hole.

Democrats are urging ABC to yank "The Path to 9/11" miniseries, but when Republicans responded far less harshly towards Michael Moore and his ilk the Democrats were apoplectic, crying about the "stifling" of free speech and so forth. Apparently the rules are different when leftists think they're the ones being lied about. Not much more needs to be said on the matter for now; it fits the "leftist media"-"whining Democrats" template so perfectly that the analysis writes itself.

The Social Security Administration spends our plentiful extra tax dollars on a popular baby names site that provides data on the popularity of names for girls and boys. For a lark, I decided to investigate the name "Hillary".

hillary-rank.PNG

As you can see, the popularity of the name dropped precipitously as Americans became more familiar with President Clinton's wife, and the ranking has not improved despite the mononymous Hillary's efforts to reshape her image. I don't think this bodes well for her political aspirations.

In contrast, "George" and "Albert" have declined moderately (with no sharp movements) and "William" has improved considerably: moving from 19th place in 1991 to 11th place in 2005.

Update 060908:
Thanks to Eugene Volokh's link I see that Matt Evans was on the same trail a few years ago, calling "Hillary" "the most poisoned name in history".

I'm nearing the end of the extended warranty I bought for my 2000 Honda Civic I purchased in June of 2001, and most parts are working pretty well as far as I can tell. However, I'm not a mechanic and I don't know much about cars, so I'm not sure what to look for. I have a feeling that if I take the car to the dealership they won't find much wrong with it, because they won't want to do warranty work for free if I don't have any good complaints. So... does anyone have any recommendations for what I can complain about so I get the most out of my warranty when I take it in?

I'm not sure how much better this mini nuclear survival shelter would be than just hiding in the basement, but it's still pretty cool that something like this could be built for as little as $1500. Do any of my readers have disaster shelters?

I suppose I'm mostly intruigued by the possibility of building other things out of metal than the shelter described.

Update:
Or why get the mini version when you could install an Earthcom 70-128 Earth Berm Shelter to save 200 of your closest friends?

When all you've got are diplomats, you'd better hope that every problem can be solved through diplomacy.

PARIS (Reuters) - France issued an implicit criticism of U.S. foreign policy on Thursday, rejecting talk of a "war on terror". ...

Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, speaking in parliament, expressed these views on global terrorism ...

"Against terrorism, what's needed is not a war. It is, as France has done for many years, a determined fight based on vigilance at all times and effective cooperation with our partners.

"But we will only end this curse if we also fight against injustice, violence and these crises," he said.

A man who only has a knife might be content to let wolves stalk the land around his home, but a man with a rifle will eliminate the threat.

If Democrats are this upset over ABC's upcoming 9/11 miniseries, then my earlier fears of bias may have been misfounded.

WASHINGTON, Sept. 6 (UPI) -- An upcoming TV mini-series about the origins of the Sept. 11 plot is provoking angry complaints from Democrats about the portrayal of the Clinton administration's response to terrorism.

Considering that the Clinton Administration presided over eight years of American humiliation and retreat, it wouldn't be surprising if an honest portrayal were upsetting to Democrats. I have no idea if this miniseries will be such, but I'm a little more intrigued now than before.

Lockheed won the Orion contract, and most of the reaction is pretty negative.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- NASA on Thursday gave a multibillion dollar contract to build a manned lunar spaceship to Lockheed Martin Corp., the aerospace leader that usually builds unmanned rockets.

The last time NASA awarded a manned spaceship contract to Lockheed Martin of Bethesda, Maryland, was in 1996 for a spaceplane that was supposed to replace the space shuttle. NASA spent $912 million and the ship, called X-33, never got built because of technical problems.

The article continues in that vein for quite a while, and Rand Simberg notes that the announcement may be particularly grating for people who worked on previous space programs, again due to the X-33 fiasco.

On further reflection, I should add that this is a bitter pill for Boeing (not legacy Boeing people, but the former McDonnell-Douglas and Rockwell folks), because they remember the X-33 program, when Lockmart conned NASA, and pissed away a billion dollars of taxpayer money, while devastating prospects for reusable vehicles for years (something from which the agency hasn't recovered, given its current launcher development choices). I'm sure that a lot of them are thinking that this just happened again. The difference, of course, is that this isn't a technology development program, but I can understand the bitterness, if it exists.

T.L. James at MarsBlog works for Lockmart and sees the contract win from a different perspective.

I'm not sure if this is his intention, but taken with the first paragraph, he seems to suggest that LM is the wrong choice for Orion and NG-Boeing is the right choice, because LM has no manned space experience while NG and Boeing have all the past heritage. Again, given how long it's been since those manned spacecraft programs occurred, is that heritage experience really relevant? If LM decided to re-enter the commercial passenger jetliner business, would the L-1011 experience from thirty-odd years ago be relevant today?

All-in-all, as a space enthusiast myself, I tend to sympathize with the opinion expressed by commenter Edward Wright where he writes:

Okay. So, what are the positive aspects of a program that will result in astronaut layoffs, higher-cost space transportation, fewer manned spaceflights, and higher taxes?

I can see why this anouncement is good news for Lockheed employees, but what are the rest of us supposed to cheer for?

The same could be said no matter who won the contract... hopefully the future of spaceflight will be private and commercial, rather than government-funded.

Despite the pointlessness of linking to anything by Glenn Reynolds, here's an interesting piece of his about cottage industry and societal change. Nothing revolutionary, but he captures several of the effects that are likely to emerge from the remaking of modern industry.

Crime: Crime in the suburbs increased once the population of stay-at-home moms was diminished. Neighborhoods had fewer sets of adult eyes around, teenagers got less supervision, and two-career couples were more distracted. Will that change? ...

Family: One of the standard negative depictions from the Gray Flannel Suit era featured a disconnect between the world of work -- to which fathers trudged off en masse to downtown office buildings where they performed inscrutable tasks, from which they returned exhausted and in need of martinis -- and the world of family. Kids had little idea what their fathers did; fathers knew little about what their kids did. Husbands and wives moved in different worlds. ...

Economy: If more people are free agents, working at home or out-and-about rather than in traditional offices, then businesses that provide them with useful services and amenities will flourish. ...

Traffic: Proponents of light rail and other sorts of mass transit tend to portray these systems as the wave of the future. But the "commuter rail" model assumes the presence of, well, commuters. ...

Politics: I suppose I should save this for another column, too. But here's one note: people who are self-employed are far more aware that there's no such thing as a free lunch, and far more likely to look at the bottom line.

As he frequently encourages: read the whole thing.

My mother-in-law supports herself by working from home as a freelance writer and editor, and since I'm in the software industry I know a lot of people who do computer work from home. I myself work for a large company and like it quite a bit, but then I also suffer few of the ill-effects that plague most such workers: I make my own schedule and work on things I like.

ABC has decided to air its special miniseries "The Path to 9/11" without commercials or sponsorship and to provide it freely via the web, which leads me to a simple conclusion: they intend to create the dominant perspective on 9/11 by blitzing their program as quickly and widely as possible.

After originally announcing its intention to air "The Path to 9/11" with limited commercial interruption, the network now will air both parts of the $30 million Harvey Keitel starrer without any advertising.

What's more, the Alphabet will potentially limit its backend profits by allowing consumers to download the complete miniseries -- for free -- via Apple's iTunes Music Store. Mini also will be streamed for free via ABC.com, and XM Radio has pacted with the network to make an audiocast of the film available to its subscribers.

The only question is, what's the story they're going to tell?

McPherson said by offering the show for free on iTunes and via streaming video on ABC.com, the net hoped to expose as many people as possible to the findings of the 9/11 Commission, whose report forms the basis of the mini's script.

Which is unfortunate, because the 9/11 Commission's report was a leftist hack-job that obscured more than it revealed.

I had a nice four-day weekend thanks to Labor Day, but alas, I was sick the whole time and am only now starting to feel better. How lame! Jessica thinks allergies might be contribting to my dis-ease, but I've never had a problem with allergies before, and they don't tend to cause fevers. No... I think it's more likely that my body is just missing that good old Los Angeles air.


la-air2.JPG
Courtesy of Air Show Fan.

It shouldn't be a surprise that people are getting fatter. Increased wealth and technology lead to more easily available food, and people, like dogs, will typically eat whatever is put in front of them. Only a leftist who has never had to struggle for survival would see this as a bad circumstance crying out for government intervention.

Obesity has reached pandemic proportions throughout the world and is now the greatest single contributor to chronic disease, an international conference was told here.

"This insidious, creeping pandemic of obesity is now engulfing the entire world," Australia's Monash University professor Paul Zimmet, chair of the 10th International Congress on Obesity, said on the opening day of the conference. ...

Zimmet said the problem needed urgent solutions -- not just widespread changes to diet and exercise but the rethinking of national policies on urban and social planning, agriculture policy, education, transport and other areas.

How about if governments just leave us all alone to get as fat as we care to and to die from whatever cause we want?

Monte has a new friend!

So I've spent the past few days trying to play Star Wars: Empire at War, but it just made me long for StarCraft. SW:EaW isn't a bad game by any means, but it's more complex than it needs to be, and the interface is slow and clunky. Maybe it's just my computer, but the load times are terrible and really disrupt gameplay. The good news is that I was motivated to unearth my dormant copy of StarCraft....

If you're waiting in line with an old lady to buy lottery tickets, it's probably best to graciously let her go ahead of you. If there's no God, letting her go first won't hurt your odds of winning; if there is a God, he might just decide to show you a little favor for your politeness.

laborday01-s.jpg
Happy Labor Day Weekend!

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from September 2006 listed from newest to oldest.

August 2006 is the previous archive.

October 2006 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Supporters

Email blogmasterofnoneATgmailDOTcom for text link and key word rates.

Site Info

Support