January 2008 Archives

The Clintons have worked hard to divide the Democrats along racial lines in order to defeat Barack Obama, but they may be less pleased if what they see as their white voting bloc gets sliced and diced by accounts of Hillary's tenure on the Wal-Mart board of directors.

In six years as a member of the Wal-Mart board of directors, between 1986 and 1992, Hillary Clinton remained silent as the world's largest retailer waged a major campaign against labor unions seeking to represent store workers.

Clinton has been endorsed for president by more than a dozen unions, according to her campaign Web site, which omits any reference to her role at Wal-Mart in its detailed biography of her.

Wal-Mart's anti-union efforts were headed by one of Clinton's fellow board members, John Tate, a Wal-Mart executive vice president who also served on the board with Clinton for four of her six years.

Tate was fond of repeating, as he did at a managers meeting in 2004 after his retirement, what he said was his favorite phrase, "Labor unions are nothing but blood-sucking parasites living off the productive labor of people who work for a living." ...

An ABC News analysis of the videotapes of at least four stockholder meetings where Clinton appeared shows she never once rose to defend the role of American labor unions. ...

A former board member told ABCNews.com that he had no recollection of Clinton defending unions during more than 20 board meetings held in private.

John Tate's characterization of modern unions is basically right, and Hillary Clinton is a fairly smart person so she probably recognized his correctness at the time. That past position is no longer convenient however, so the woman who wants to be the most powerful person on earth -- protecting America, leading our government, and facing down tyrants around the world -- is forced to fall back on a claim of impotence.

President Clinton defended his wife's role on the Wal-Mart board last week after the issue was raised by Sen. Barack Obama in a CNN debate.

His wife did not try to change the company's minds about unions, the former Arkansas governor said.

"We lived in a state that had a very weak labor movement, where I always had the endorsement of the labor movement because I did what I could do to make it stronger. She knew there was no way she could change that, not with it headquartered in Arkansas, and she agreed to serve," President Clinton said.

Now that's what I call bold leadership for change! Or just a lie. Take your pick. My only regret is that this sort of baggage is coming out now rather than after Hillary wins the nomination.

Despite many proposals to "fix" the "broken" primary system, I may be the only American left who likes the undemocratic status quo. Most opponents of the primary system lament that a small handful of states do most of the winnowing, leaving the majority of citizens with only a few choices and little direct say in the nomination process. All true!

But remember: voting is not a "right", it is merely a means to an end. The goal is to create and maintain an honest, fair, and open government that will protect us and preserve our liberty. Democracy is one tool we can use to build that government, but democracy should not be seen as an end unto itself. Our Founding Fathers knew this, which is why the voting franchise was limited even though the rights protected by the Constitution were reserved for all people. They believed that the rights of everyone would be best protected by reserving the power to vote to a subset of the population. History has shown that they were right in some regards and wrong in others, but no one can dispute that America has been only somewhat democratic since its inception.

Even now there are a whole host of undemocratic controls built into our government to prevent tyranny by the democratic mob. The Senate is perhaps the most obvious example, its membership being based states rather than the citizenry. The Supreme Court is also undemocratic, as is the Electoral College, as is the President's veto power, as is the requirement that both houses of Congress approve a bill before it can be signed into law, and so forth and so on. These institutions are democratic to varying degrees in that the wielders of power somehow trace their authority back to the People, but that derivation is purposefully indirect. And these institutions have served us reasonably well for more than 200 years, preserving for us the most enduring Republic and the safest and freest society on the face of the earth.

And so the fact that my primary votes have never counted as much as those cast in Iowa or New Hampshire doesn't distress me. I think Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina are fairly representative of the population as a whole, and I don't feel like the results would have turned out much differently if Missouri has been an early primary state. Additionally, I like that a little-known candidate can compete in these small states and ramp up their campaign gradually rather than having to fight in California, New York, and Florida right out of the starting gate. Without a system like we've got, Barack Obama would have had no chance against Hillary Clinton, and Mike Huckabee would have been dead in the water.

I for one hope that we stick with something similar to the current system. I'm not adverse to any change whatsoever, but I think it would be a mistake to make drastic changes to a system that has served us pretty well thus far. Remember that democracy is only a means to an end, a tool to help us maintain our liberties and security. It's ironic that people simultaneously complain about the primary system and how "one vote can't make a difference". Be content as a cog in our wonderful Republic that somehow keeps chugging along despite its flaws.

John Edwards has dropped out from the presidential race, and my speculation is that he did so in exchange for a promise to be Barack Obama's VP.

The former North Carolina senator will not immediately endorse either candidate in what is now a two-person race for the Democratic nomination, said one adviser, who spoke on a condition of anonymity in advance of the announcement.

Obama needs all the anti-Hillary voters he can get for next week's Super Tuesday, and trading the vice presidential slot for those votes might be the only path he saw to the nomination. I don't think Edwards brings much to the potential general election Obama ticket based on his positions or geography, but you can't get to the general election if you don't win the nomination.

Then again, Edwards might end up only being offered a cabinet position. The guy's basically unemployed, so he'll probably take what he can get in 2009.

If my wife and I weren't married she would get a ton of grants and subsidized loans to pay for her education. Because of my income, however, she gets nothing. I guess we should have just co-habitated until she graduated.

From various sources is a plan by Robert Zubrin to break the OPEC cartel for $100 per car.

What is needed is for the Congress to pass a law requiring that all new cars sold in the United States be flex-fueled - able to run on any combination of alcohol or gasoline fuel. Such cars are existing technology - in fact about 24 different models of flex-fuel cars were produced by the Detroit Big Three in 2007, and they only cost about $100 more than the same car in a gasoline-only version. But, since alcohol fuel pumps (such as E85, a fuel mix that is 85 percent ethanol, 15 percent gasoline) are nearly as rare as unicorns, flex-fuel cars only command about 3 percent of the new-car market.

The reason E85 pumps are so rare is that gas station owners don't want to dedicate one of their pumps to a kind of fuel that only a few percent of the cars can use. If we had a flex-fuel requirement, however, then within three years of enactment there would be 50 million cars on the road capable of running on high-alcohol fuels. Under those conditions, E85 and M50 (a 50 percent methanol, 50 percent gasoline fuel mix; flex-fuel cars can use any alcohol, including methanol) pumps would start appearing everywhere.

But most important, this would not just be happening here. By requiring that all new cars sold in the United States be flex-fueled, we would be forcing all the foreign car manufacturers to switch their lines to flex-fuel as well, effectively making flex-fuel the international standard. So there would be hundreds of millions of cars worldwide capable of running on alcohol, forcing gasoline to compete everywhere against alcohol fuels that can be produced from numerous sources. This would effectively break the vertical monopoly that the oil cartel currently holds on the world's fuel supply and keep prices in the $50-a-barrel range, because that is where alcohol fuels become competitive.

I'm not in favor of government regulation to further social agendas, but this economic manipulation would be to enhance national security. Seems like a valid use of government power that both Lefties and Righties could support.

Why you shouldn't swallow gum.

A British boy is cured after a decade of deafness when a cotton swab pops out of his ear.

Jerome Bartens was diagnosed as deaf in his right ear when he was just two-years-old.

Over the next nine years, he struggled to live a normal life as a young boy — but everything changed when he felt a sudden pop in his right ear while playing a game of pool with friends.

He put his finger in his ear and pulled out a tip of a cotton wool bud that had been wedged in his ear since he was a toddler.

"It was just incredible — his hearing returned to normal in an instant," Barten's dad said.

"I had always suspected Jerome had stuck something in his ear when he was little and that was causing the problem. But the doctors and hearing specialists said it was wax and he would probably grow out of it."

"I am amazed they didn't spot something as obvious as a cotton wool bud."

Don't be amazed! Miracle cures are just another benefit of the UK's socialized health care.

This experiment to test the accuracy of "gaydar" appears to me to use a flawed methodology. (Or perhaps the brief article doesn't accurately convey the method and results of the experiment.)

Ambady and colleague Nicholas Rule, both at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts, wondered about sexual orientation. They showed men and women photos of 90 faces belonging to homosexual men and heterosexual men for intervals ranging from 33 milliseconds to 10 seconds. When given 100 milliseconds or more to view a face, participants correctly identified sexual orientation nearly 70% of the time. ...

Psychologist David Kenny of the University of Connecticut, Storrs, says the finding demonstrates the brain's remarkable ability to make fast yet accurate appraisals. Still, he notes that with some of the images, accuracy regularly fell below 50%. It's possible that some faces are just hard to read.

Considering that far less than 50% of the population is gay, an experiment based on an equal number of gay and straight videos won't really capture the essence of the "gaydar" phenomenon. It's also important to break out the mistakes into false-positives and false-negatives.

For example, in real life a person "A" who assumes that every person they meet is straight will be right more than 90% of the time. That doesn't mean we all have highly-attuned "gaydar", it's just a reflection of the rarity of homosexuality. Person A will have a false-positive rate of 0% and a false-negative rate of 10% -- the highest possible in a real setting.

A useful measurement of "gaydar" should weight the false-negative error rate higher than the false-positive error rate, because otherwise it's very easy to "game" the measurement system by simply picking "straight" every time. For example, false-negatives could be weighted fives times as heavily as false-positives, which would give Person A a modified error rate of 50% instead of 90%.

(HT: GeekPress and SciTechDaily.)

A fascinating account of the least civilized place on earth, nearly untouched by Western Civilization through the end of the 20th century.

Epochs of history rarely come to a sudden end, seldom announce their passing with anything so dramatic as the death of a king or the dismantling of a wall. More often, they withdraw slowly and imperceptibly (or at least unperceived), like the ebbing tide on a deserted beach.

That is how the Age of Discovery ended. For more than five hundred years, the envoys of civilization sailed through storms and hacked through jungles, startling in turn one tribe after another of long-lost human cousins. For an instant, before the inevitable breaking of faith, the two groups would face each other, staring - as innocent, both of them, as children, and blameless as if the world had been born afresh. To live such a moment seems, when we think of it now, to have been one of the most profound experiences that our planet in its vanished immensity once offered. But each time the moment repeated itself on each fresh beach, there was one less island to be found, one less chance to start everything anew. It began to repeat itself less and less often, until there came a time, maybe a century ago, when there were only a few such places left, only a few doors still unopened.

Sometime quite recently, the last door opened. I believe it happened not long before the end of the millennium, on an island already all but known, a place encircled by the buzzing, thrumming web of a world still unknown to it, and by the mesh of a history that had forever been drawing closer.

Humanity needs new frontiers, but it seems like there may not be any left.

For decades mortgage lenders were damned for refusing to lend money to poor, minority, aspiring home-owners, and now they're being damned for for lending too easily.

"People of color are more than three times more likely to have subprime loans," concluded the organization United for a Fair Economy in a recent report which estimated that minorities have seen between 163 billion and 278 billion dollars of their equity go up in smoke since 2000.

With its weakened economy and a large black population more used to renting, Cleveland has become a poster child of the subprime crisis in a country where some 2.1 million borrowers are behind on their mortgage payments.

City officials estimate that foreclosures have swallowed some 70,000 homes and turned entire neighborhoods into ghost towns.

The city has responded by suing lenders, accusing them of targeting black borrowers and steering them to the loans granted with few formalities and at hefty interest rates to people with poor credit histories.

Naturally the people being thrown out of houses they can't afford want the rest of us to rescue them from the consequences of their bad decision-making.

In the hardest-hit suburb of Cleveland, "nearly 24,000 people have lost their homes to Cleveland's Katrina," he told AFP. ...

"More than two years later, 6,000 homeowners (in St. Bernard Parish) have each received an average 65,000 dollars in government funds to rebuild their American Dreams. But in Cleveland and its suburbs, there is no disaster relief, no presidential visits, no good Samaritans to helps us."

"It would have been better if it was an earthquake or a hurricane, we respond better to natural disasters than to men in suits disasters," said city councilor Zach Reid.

First off, it was ridiculous to hand out so much money to Katrina victims. But secondly, at least they were victims of a natural disaster and not just people who bought more house than they could afford.

It seems very simple to me: don't live beyond your means. There's all sorts of things I'd love to own, but I can't because I don't make enough money. If I went out a bought a $10 million home but then couldn't pay the mortgage whose fault would that be? Would these same people be lining up to bail me out?

Everyone was expecting Barack Obama to beat Hillary Clinton in South Carolina, but he got more than double her number of votes. That's amazing.

Sen. Barack Obama, vying to become the nation's first black president, has won the South Carolina primary today, boosted by a record turnout of African-American voters in a state whose electorate appears polarized along racial lines.

Obama overwhelmingly beat Sen. Hillary Clinton with 55 percent support to her 27 percent, and former Sen. John Edwards, trailing with 18 percent support, with almost all precincts reporting.

The Clintons are doing everything they can to cast this primary in racial tones, but wow, Obama trounced them tonight.

Only in California would an "environmentalist" fight to have redwoods cut down for casting shade on his solar panels.

Richard Treanor and Carolynn Bissett own a Prius and consider themselves environmentalists. But they refuse to cut down any of the trees behind their house on Benton Street, saying they've done nothing wrong.

"We're just living here in peace. We want to be left alone," said Bissett, who with her husband has spent $25,000 defending themselves against criminal charges. "We support solar power, but we thought common sense would prevail."

Their neighbor Mark Vargas considers himself an environmentalist, too. His 10-kilowatt solar system, which he installed in 2001, is so big he pays only about $60 a year in electrical bills. He drives an electric car.

It's obvious that Vargas cares more about the money his solar panels save him personally than about the environment in general. And obviously anyone who drives a Prius cares more about looking environmentally-conscious than actually being so. What a ridiculous situation, but that's what happens when your religion is ridiculous.

(HT: Environmental Republican, Instapundit.)

Bernard Moon was at a breakfast with ex-Clintonista Dick Morris and describes Morris' perception of the Clintons' brilliance.

Anyway, so Dick Morris discussed how over the past week or more, much of the media attention has been on Bill on the issue of race in South Carlina ("Bill Clinton Accuses Obama Camp of Stirring Race Issue" NYTimes). Morris stated that Obama has been a candidate not running on the race card, but the Clintons want to use the South Carlina election to make it about race to create a white backlash to the bloc-voting by African-Americans (more from Morris, "How Clinton Will Win The Nomination By Losing South Carolina"). ...

So it's not only luring Obama to hit the cape instead of the matador, but the star power of Bill draws the media to him and maintains the political status quo in the campaign. Morris described how Bill did this when John Kerry ran. During the Democratic convention in Boston that year, Bill came out with his new book two weeks before and held book signing events there right before the convention. The local press focused on Bill Clinton and not John Kerry. Morris said that this was a strategic move, so that Kerry wouldn't win and improve Hillary's chances to run in 2008. Brilliant (yes, I love Guinness beer). Evil but brilliant.

I may be out of touch, but I see Hillary as a far weaker candidate than Obama for a host of reasons. I hope she wins the nomination, because I don't think she'll be hard for any of the leading Republicans to beat. Am I deluded by my own echo-chamber?

Maybe so, because despite my analysis that beating Obama will alienate Hillary from the black voters she needs to win the general election, Dick Morris predicts the opposite.

If Hillary loses South Carolina and the defeat serves to demonstrate Obama’s ability to attract a bloc vote among black Democrats, the message will go out loud and clear to white voters that this is a racial fight. It’s one thing for polls to show, as they now do, that Obama beats Hillary among African-Americans by better than 4-to-1 and Hillary carries whites by almost 2-to-1. But most people don’t read the fine print on the polls. But if blacks deliver South Carolina to Obama, everybody will know that they are bloc-voting. That will trigger a massive white backlash against Obama and will drive white voters to Hillary Clinton. ...

Of course, this begs the question of how she will be able to attract blacks after beating Obama. Here the South Carolina strategy also serves its purpose. If she loses blacks and wins whites by attacking Obama, it will look dirty and underhanded to blacks. She’ll develop a real problem in the minority community. But if she is seen as being rejected by minority voters in favor of Obama after going hat in hand to them and trying to out-civil rights Obama, blacks will even likely feel guilty about rejecting Hillary and will be more than willing to support her in the general election.

That logic seems flawed to me. Only white leftists vote as a block based on guilt... the "oppressed" groups have been conditioned by the left to vote based on anger and resentment. I think Morris (and the Clintons, if this is their plan) are mistaken if they think black voters will react to their manipulations the way they're used to white voters reacting.

So the generous government elite have deigned to return to us plebeians some of the money they confiscate from us by force on a weekly basis. Consider me underwhelmed.

Congressional leaders announced a deal with the White House Thursday on an economic stimulus package that would give most tax filers refunds of $600 to $1,200, and more if they have children. ...

The rebates will go to 117 million families, according to a Democratic summary. That includes $28 billion in checks to 35 million working families who wouldn't have been helped by Bush's original proposal, the analysis estimated.

Republicans, for their part, were pleased that the bulk of the rebates—more than 70 percent, according to an analysis by Congress' Joint Tax Committee—would go to individuals who pay taxes.

By "working families" I assume the story means family with members who work, but not enough to pay any taxes... which means they probably don't work full-time and are already likely to be on the public dole.

As many other more knowledgeable writers have already said, this "stimulus package" is idiotic. Besides being deeply "progressive" (in that the amount is basically equal rather than being a percentage of income) there's no evidence whatsoever that this plan will do anything to encourage long-term economic growth. The only way you do that is with tax cuts, which Democrats hate because they reduce our dependency on government.

If somebody grabbed your wallet and then handed you back a $20 bill, would you be grateful? Realizing the money was yours to begin with, you would probably call the cops rather than thank the thief.

President Bush’s latest gimmick to stimulate the economy by giving back to taxpayers $800 of their own money is the Washington equivalent of the “generous” thief. The biggest fairy tale in Washington isn’t Barack Obama’s voting record on the war in Iraq, but the notion peddled by Republicans and Democrats alike that the government has a big pot of its own money that it generously gives to people by “injecting” it into the economy as a stimulus.

In fact, government has only our money or money it borrows from lenders. The problem is it costs the government a major portion of every dollar it takes from us in collecting it and paying the interest on dollars it borrows. Why not just let us keep our money in the first place?

Cut taxes, and make the cuts permanent so that people can make plans and commitments based on the lowered rates. That's how you stimulate an economy permanently.

Despite the imminent mockery, I will admit that I like Ryan Seacrest. The wife and I watch "American Idol" occasionally, and Seacrest's straight-man routine with the most bizarre and pathetic contestants is very amusing. When a screeching psycho bursts from the audition room swearing and raging and Seacrest asks him, "So what did the judges say?", it's great to watch the lunatics plunge off the edge of sanity into the abyss of madness.

He tends to give the weirdos plenty of rope to hang themselves with, and they generally oblige. "Why do you think the judges said 'no'?" "Are you going to train harder for next season?" "I can't believe the judges didn't like you!" "There must be some other reason they rejected you." Seacrest keeps a straight face the whole time and lets the clowns humiliate themselves, all for my enjoyment. Bravo!

Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock asks "Where in the World is Osama bin Laden?" in an upcoming movie that takes him all around the Muslim world:

Spurlock traveled to Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Israel, Egypt and Morocco, interviewing dozens of people from school children to bin Laden family friends. The work was extensive, much deeper and more textured than anything I’ve seen on network news shows.

Indeed, Spurlock travels to bin Laden’s former farm, now a group of abandoned huts in Pakistan. He even goes into one of those caves we keep hearing about, a likely spot where the maniacal architect of Sept. 11 could be hiding. He’s shot at, bullied and reprimanded. Spurlock even had his cameras shut down. But still he persisted.

The result of "Where in the World is Osama bin Laden?" is extraordinary. Along the way, his meetings with regular people — man-in-the-street-type stuff — in those aforementioned countries are superb.

No visits to Iraq or Iran, alas, but it still looks like a fascinating production. If it isn't a trash-America movie then this is certainly one I'm going to want to see.

I love the Japanese, but they are strange. On the fringe they seem to be stranger than Americans, even if our medians are very close.

What's your favorite John Hughes movie? Yes, these are the only possible correct answers.
Vacation (1983)
Sixteen Candles (1984)
Weird Science (1985)
Pretty in Pink (1986)
Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)
Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)
The Great Outdoors (1988)
Uncle Buck (1989)
Christmas Vacation (1989)
Home Alone (1990)
  

It's sad that police detective Jarrod Shivers was killed during a drug raid, but the responsibility for his death lays with his police department and not with the man who shot him.

Portlock residents who saw a deadly police shooting unfold on their “quiet street” are finding it difficult to return to normalcy. The man accused of killing Detective Jarrod Shivers said he had no idea the man he shot was a police officer until it was too late. ...

Shivers, a 34-year-old father, was shot as was trying to enter at the house in the street’s 900 block around 8:30 p.m. He and several other officers were there with a search warrant as part of a drug investigation, police said. ...

Police arrested 28-year-old Ryan David Frederick, who lived at the home, and charged him with first-degree murder and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. He is being held in the Chesapeake City Jail.

Frederick said in a jailhouse interview Friday he had no idea a police officer was on the other side of the door when he opened fire.

“No, sir,” he told WAVY-TV. “I just wish I knew who they were,” he said. “I didn’t want any trouble.”

Frederick said he was in bed when he heard someone trying to come into the home.

“I thought it was the person who had broken into my house the other day,” he said.

Frederick said his home had been burglarized two or three days earlier.

Frederick has no criminal record, and the police won't reveal any information about the investigation that led to this drug raid.

Police did not say whom they were investigating when they executed the search warrant. Other than a few misdemeanor traffic violations, Frederick has not been convicted of any felony crimes in Chesapeake, according to online court records.

Chesapeake police spokeswoman Christi Golden said she could not comment on specifics of the incident, including whether the officers who tried to serve the narcotics warrant were in uniform.

Sounds to me like the police screwed up and one of their officers is the victim. The tragedy will only get worse if Ryan David Frederick is prosecuted for this killing, apparently done in self-defense in his own home in the middle of the night.

(HT: The Agitator.)

I had a dream last night that I was at Disneyland, and in my dream there was a children's maze-like attraction with a haunted/pirate theme similar to Pirates of the Caribbean meets Haunted Mansion meets Tom Sawyer's Island. Despite the elaborate decorations, my dream-self considered the attraction to be pretty boring and designed just for kids. The maze was too simple to be interesting, and once you did it there was no replay value.

But then, as I was walking through the maze I noticed a kid go through a door that I had thought was merely a decoration nailed to the wall. I followed him and discovered that in addition to the simple maze all the kids saw, there was a whole labyrinth of secret rooms that most people never knew about! In order to get access to the various rooms you had to solve puzzles hidden throughout the park. Naturally this made the attraction a lot more interesting, and I spent the rest of my dream running around Disneyland and exploring the secrets of the maze. It was a pretty awesome dream.

Does anyone else ever dream up challenges for themselves? I love puzzles and exploration, so this kind of dream was right up my alley. I can't recall hearing about dreams like this from other people though... most stereotypical "good" dreams are more result-oriented.

"Hotlinking" an image is when a web designer embeds an image tag into his webpage that pulls an image from another site rather than making a copy of the image and hosting it himself. It's lazy, and it "steals" bandwidth that the person hosting the image is paying for. The image appears normal on the hotlinker's site, but it's being loaded from the host's site without any credit being given. That's not cool! And so, I've been forced to protect my images from hotlinking by modifying my .htaccess script.

Normal Podhoretz lays out the case for maintaining the military option against Iran despite the recent National Intelligence Estimate claiming that Iran is not now pursuing nuclear weapons.

The trouble was this: only by relying on the accuracy of the 2005 NIE would Bush be able in all good conscience to pass on to his successor the decision of whether or when to bomb the Iranian nuclear facilities. But that estimate, as he could hardly help knowing from the CIA’s not exactly brilliant track record, might easily be too optimistic.

To start with the most spectacular recent instance, the CIA had failed to anticipate 9/11. It then turned out to be wrong in 2002 about Saddam Hussein’s possession of weapons of mass destruction, very likely because it was bending over backward to compensate for having been wrong in exactly the opposite direction in 1991, when at the end of the first Gulf war the IAEA discovered that the Iraqi nuclear program was far more advanced than the CIA had estimated. Regarding that by now notorious lapse, Jeffrey T. Richelson, a leading (and devoutly nonpartisan) authority on the American intelligence community, writes in Spying on the Bomb:

The extent that the United States and its allies underestimated and misunderstood the Iraqi program [before 1991] constituted a “colossal international intelligence failure,” according to one Israeli expert. [IAEA’s chief weapons inspector] Hans Blix acknowledged “that there was suspicion certainly,” but “to see the enormity of it is a shock.”

And these were only the most recent cases. Gabriel Schoenfeld, a close student of the intelligence community, offers a partial list of earlier mistakes and failures:

The CIA was established in 1947 in large measure to avoid another surprise attack like the one the U.S. had suffered on December 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor. But only three years after its founding, the fledgling agency missed the outbreak of the Korean war. It then failed to understand that the Chinese would come to the aid of the North Koreans if American forces crossed the Yalu river. It missed the outbreak of the Suez war in 1956. In September 1962, the CIA issued an NIE which stated that the “Soviets would not introduce offensive missiles in Cuba”; in short order, the USSR did precisely that. In 1968 it failed to foresee the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia. . . . It did not inform Jimmy Carter that the Soviet Union would invade Afghanistan in 1979.

Richelson adds a few more examples of hotly debated issues during the cold war that were wrongly resolved, including “the existence of a missile gap, the capabilities of the Soviet SS-9 intercontinental ballistic missile, [and] Soviet compliance with the test-ban and antiballistic missile treaties.” This is not to mention perhaps the most notorious case of all: the fiasco, known as the Bay of Pigs, produced by the CIA’s wildly misplaced confidence that an invasion of Cuba by the army of exiles it had assembled and trained would set off a popular uprising against the Castro regime.

Basically, our intelligence agencies don't have a very good record for accuracy and it's foolish to believe them now when they claim that Iran isn't pursuing nuclear weapons. Podhoretz has a lot more analysis of the NIE and its context in his long and detailed article, and he makes a very strong case that the writers of the NIE were intentionally deceptive for the purpose of lowering pressure on Iran.

Despite the fact that "the war" (in Iraq) is over and that we've long-since moved into a peace-keeping/counterinsurgency phase, self-described "anti-war" activists are still working hard to undermine America's success.

After a series of legislative defeats in 2007 that saw the year end with more U.S. troops in Iraq than when it began, a coalition of anti-war groups is backing away from its multimillion-dollar drive to cut funding for the war and force Congress to pass timelines for bringing U.S. troops home.

In recognition of hard political reality, the groups instead will lower their sights and push for legislation to prevent President Bush from entering into a long-term agreement with the Iraqi government that could keep significant numbers of troops in Iraq for years to come.

Why? If we're there at the invitation of the Iraqi government then it's hardly a "war" is it?

Moira Mack, a spokeswoman for AAEI, was also at the meeting. “There was a lot of agreement that this is really the way that we can best get our message across about endless war versus end-the-war and draw clear distinctions between anti-war Democrats and pro-war Republicans. They really don’t want to end the war. This is the perfect legislative opportunity.”

Yet another "perfect opportunity" that will go nowhere and do nothing. Technically the Korean War is still ongoing also, and yet no one is fomenting dissension over the 50,000 troops we've had there for 50 years. Despite technicalities, the Iraq War is practically as over as the Korean War is, all that's left (in both cases) is to actually claim victory and consolidate the gains.

The new strategy doesn’t mean that the groups won’t be active during budget battles. “The budget debates provide an enormously rich opportunity to engage the public,” said former Maine Rep. Tom Andrews of the group Win Without War. “We’re spending $8 [billion] to $10 billion a month.”

I find it incredibly hard to believe that any of these huge-government "anti-war" people are actually concerned with constraining government spending. They'd just prefer spending this money on socialist nonsense and oppressing liberty at home.

In the House on Tuesday, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) introduced a bill that would make clear that no federal money could be spent to implement an agreement Bush reaches with Iraq unless it’s in the form of a congressionally approved treaty.

Members of the anti-war coalition say they are working to gather co-sponsors for the bill but that they will also attempt to insert similar language in the upcoming supplemental spending bill. Late last year, Bush requested nearly $200 billion for the war effort; Democrats gave $70 billion and will be revisiting further funding soon.

That doesn't seem too unreasonable. Do Congresscritters really want to go on record voting against such a treaty? That doesn't sound like a winning strategy to me.

Despite not being wealthy, I completely agree with the conclusion to this otherwise fluffy Readers' Digest article about growing wealthy:

Every millionaire we spoke to has one thing in common: Not a single one spends needlessly. Real estate investor Dave Lindahl drives a Ford Explorer and says his middle-class neighbors would be shocked to learn how much he’s worth. Fitness mogul Rick Sikorski can’t fathom why anyone would buy bottled water. Steve Maxwell, the finance teacher, looked at a $1.5 million home but decided to buy one for half the price because “a house with double the cost wouldn’t give me double the enjoyment.”

It’s not a fluke: According to the 2007 Annual Survey of Affluence & Wealth in America, some of the richest people “spend their money with a middle-class mind-set.” They clip coupons, wait for sales and buy luxury items at a discount.

No kidding! Talk show host Tyra Banks calls herself the Queen of Cheap and keeps perfume samples from magazine ads in her purse for quick touch-ups.

Sara Blakely, founder of the $100 million shapewear company Spanx, gets her hair trimmed at Supercuts.

And Warren Buffett, the third richest person in the world, according to Forbes, lives in the same Omaha, Nebraska, home he bought four decades ago for $31,500.

Some people see every bit of additional income as an opportunity to spend more money on nonsense, but you'll be much better off investing that money in your own future. You may not "get rich quick", but anyone can get rick slowly.

(HT: My Money Blog.)

Here's the accident report and video analysis of the recent Missouri Air National Guard F-15 accident in which the plane broke in half in mid-air. The pilot thankfully ejected and survived.

More American babies were born in 2006 than in any year since 1961, which sounds like good news except for for this spin by unnamed "experts":

Experts believe there is a mix of reasons: a decline in contraceptive use, a drop in access to abortion, poor education and poverty.

Or, gosh, maybe Americans believe in our culture and our country and have hope for the future of our civilization? (Things which can't be said in many parts of the world.)

There are cultural reasons as well. Hispanics as a group have higher fertility rates — about 40 percent higher than the U.S. overall. And experts say Americans, especially those in middle America, view children more favorably than people in many other Westernized countries.

"Americans like children. We are the only people who respond to prosperity by saying, `Let's have another kid,'" said Nan Marie Astone, associate professor of population, family and reproductive health at Johns Hopkins University.

Whew, for a moment I was afraid that Americans are reproducing faster than any other Western nation just because we're the poorest, dumbest, most oppressed people in the world.

Even though I'm only a luke-warm Mitt Romney supporter, I was glad to see him win in Michigan last night. Romney isn't my ideal candidate, but I have a lot of respect for his executive experience, which far eclipses any of the Democrats and surpasses even the other Republicans who have served as governor of a state. Romney "should" have won in Iowa and had victory snatched from him by Huckabee, a candidate who is only in the running for a shot at VP.

... than I'd yet heard of. A buddy told me about this idea: it's very simple, and can catch multiple mice at a time without having to be manually reset.

Items required:

  • five gallon bucket
  • wire
  • aluminum can
  • bait, such as peanut butter
  • water
  • brick
  • some sort of ramp/stick/etc.

Construction is simple. Place the bucket wherever you've got the mouse problem and fill it partially with water. Thread the aluminum can onto the wire very near the bottom of the can, so the base of the can points up into the air when the wire is stretched out horizontally. Tie the wire across the middle of the mouth of the bucket and smear your bait (such as peanut butter) onto the upward-facing base of the can. Place your ramp/stick/etc. against the outside of the bucket so that mice can climb it to get to the wire, and hence the bait. When a mouse crawls out to the peanut butter, the can will tip the mouse into the water where it will drown. The brick can be placed in the water about an inch below the surface; mice that climb up onto the brick will squeal for help, luring more mice into the trap.

Simple and brilliant.

419 Eater cons a Nigerian email scammer into copying a whole Harry Potter book by hand by promising him USD DOLLARS $100 (ONE HUNDRED) per page of handwriting sample. Brilliant. There are jpeg scans of the handwriting as well.

(HT: LM.)

Another article on about plunging computer science education requirements from a couple of college professors who have witnessed the decline first-hand:

Let us propose the following principle: The irresistible beauty of programming consists in the reduction of complex formal processes to a very small set of primitive operations. Java, instead of exposing this beauty, encourages the programmer to approach problem-solving like a plumber in a hardware store: by rummaging through a multitude of drawers (i.e. packages) we will end up finding some gadget (i.e. class) that does roughly what we want. How it does it is not interesting! The result is a student who knows how to put a simple program together, but does not know how to program. A further pitfall of the early use of Java libraries and frameworks is that it is impossible for the student to develop a sense of the run-time cost of what is written because it is extremely hard to know what any method call will eventually execute. A lucid analysis of the problem is presented in [4].

We are seeing some backlash to this approach. For example, Bjarne Stroustrup reports from Texas A & M University that the industry is showing increasing unhappiness with the results of this approach. Specifically, he notes the following:

I have had a lot of complaints about that [the use of Java as a first programming language] from industry, specifically from AT&T, IBM, Intel, Bloomberg, NI, Microsoft, Lockheed-Martin, and more. [5]

He noted in a private discussion on this topic, reporting the following:

It [Texas A&M] did [teach Java as the first language]. Then I started teaching C++ to the electrical engineers and when the EE students started to out-program the CS students, the CS department switched to C++. [5]

Computer science needs to fork and create a "technical" branch X that fulfills the analogy:

electrician:electrical engineer::X::computer science

Rand Simberg agrees.

(HT: GeekPress.)

The race warfare between Obama and Hillary could play out like this: Hillary wins the nomination but completely alienates black Democrats, thereby dooming her in the general election. Blacks have voted 90% for the Democrats for the past 40 years and have frequently made the Democrat's margin of victory. Blacks don't have to vote for Republicans to let the GOP win in November, they just have to stay home out of disgust for Hillary's perceived "racism".

I've long predicted that the combating interests within the Democratic party would lead to just this sort of fracture. The Democrats thrive on group-identity politics... live by the sword, die by the sword. Maybe Republicans have an opportunity to show blacks they might prefer a party of limited government, economic conservatism, and social values.

I'm not alone in thinking that the next decade will see an exponential increase in medical breakthroughs, and here's another potential: growing organs from stem cells.

SCIENTISTS have created a beating heart in the laboratory in a breakthrough that could allow doctors one day to make a range of organs for transplant almost from scratch.

The procedure involved stripping all the existing cells from a dead heart so that only the protein “skeleton” that created its shape was left.

Then the skeleton was seeded with live “progenitor” cells, which multiplied and grew back over it, eventually linking together into a new organ. Such cells are involved in the formative stages of specialised types of tissue such as those found in the heart. ...

The new technique was reported at the American Heart Association’s recent annual meeting in Orlando, Florida. “This is a proof of concept,” Taylor said. “Going forward, our goal is to use a patient’s stem cells to build a new heart.”

Like the last paragraph says, the researchers from the University of Minnesota think they will be able to grow organs from a patient's own stem cells -- yet another medical advance that won't require murdering babies for their embryonic stem cells.

The videos of Ezra Levant addressing the Canadian Human Rights Commission are priceless. I can't believe he was actually dragged before a "court" to answer for publishing the Danish cartoons of Mohammad in the Weekly Standard. Hopefully Canadians will see and object to how their government bureaucrats are spending their tax dollars.

Power and network companies often talk about the "last mile" in their distribution networks -- that is, the mile between a network substation and the customer's house. The last mile is the hardest to build, the most expensive to maintain, and the most important part of the network. Well, I think the "last mile" for internet video is the distance between the office chair and the couch. Internet video is exploding but it will be restricted to the tech-savvy until there's a simple, cheap, way to bring that video to the couch where people currently watch traditional television.

About a minute into the latest B-Cast by Liz Stephans and Scott Baker of Breitbart.TV (whom we interviewed a few weeks ago on PJM Political), they casually mention that their previous show attracted about 400,000 views.

In and of itself, that's an impressive number for a newscast. (Any show on MSNBC would be considered a hit if it pulled those numbers.) But consider the extreme economy of scale going on here:

As of 2005, CNN in primetime attracted less than 700,000 daily viewers, but with a budget of zillions of dollars and a ton of real estate, technicians and on-air talent. In contrast, the B-Cast is, I believe, run out of an office in Pittsburgh by two people with one set, a couple of cameras, laptops for the on-air talent (in other words, Liz and Scott) to cue those cameras and YouTube clips, and I guess another computer or two to record the sum of all those parts and upload the show to Andrew Breitbart’s news aggregation site.

I know there are a lot of ways to do this already, but none of them are simple enough that I've bothered yet, and I'm hardly a technophobe.

(HT: Instapundit.)

Most colleges don't really teach computer science anymore, they just churn out Java programmers. I personally hate Java, and though I really like C# and the .NET framework in general I completely agree with Joel Spolsky when he writes that modern CS students don't really learn more than what's needed to generate monkey-level software and basic websites.

Instead what I'd like to claim is that Java is not, generally, a hard enough programming language that it can be used to discriminate between great programmers and mediocre programmers. It may be a fine language to work in, but that's not today's topic. I would even go so far as to say that the fact that Java is not hard enough is a feature, not a bug, but it does have this one problem.

If I may be so brash, it has been my humble experience that there are two things traditionally taught in universities as a part of a computer science curriculum which many people just never really fully comprehend: pointers and recursion.

You used to start out in college with a course in data structures, with linked lists and hash tables and whatnot, with extensive use of pointers. Those courses were often used as weedout courses: they were so hard that anyone that couldn't handle the mental challenge of a CS degree would give up, which was a good thing, because if you thought pointers are hard, wait until you try to prove things about fixed point theory.

All the kids who did great in high school writing pong games in BASIC for their Apple II would get to college, take CompSci 101, a data structures course, and when they hit the pointers business their brains would just totally explode, and the next thing you knew, they were majoring in Political Science because law school seemed like a better idea. I've seen all kinds of figures for drop-out rates in CS and they're usually between 40% and 70%. The universities tend to see this as a waste; I think it's just a necessary culling of the people who aren't going to be happy or successful in programming careers.

Yeah, it's too bad that most CS programs these days aren't hard enough to create good computer scientists... but then, real computer science is so hard that there just aren't many people who can do it (if I may be so humble). The fact of the matter is that the world needs code-monkeys, and Java (and the like) were created so that people closer to the mean would be able to contribute to the information age. There will always be a need for real computer scientists who can do the theorizing and architecting, but most programming jobs don't require that level of expertise.

(HT: Cypren.)

WowWee's Rovio robot looks amazing. Here are more details, including an expected release data of Fall 2008. For $299 it looks like a steal.

Too bad my wife is scared of robots.

Bloxorz is way too addictive to find during work hours. (And more time wasters, courtesy of GeekPress.)

Bernardo sent me a link to some neat software from the Australian Center for Visual Technologies that can extract 3D models from video with some human assistance.

VideoTrace is a system for interactively generating realistic 3D models of objects from video—models that might be inserted into a video game, a simulation environment, or another video sequence. The user interacts with VideoTrace by tracing the shape of the object to be modelled over one or more frames of the video. By interpreting the sketch drawn by the user in light of 3D information obtained from computer vision techniques, a small number of simple 2D interactions can be used to generate a realistic 3D model. Each of the sketching operations in VideoTrace provides an intuitive and powerful means of modelling shape from video, and executes quickly enough to be used interactively. Immediate feedback allows the user to model rapidly those parts of the scene which are of interest and to the level of detail required. The combination of automated and manual reconstruction allows VideoTrace to model parts of the scene not visible, and to succeed in cases where purely automated approaches would fail.

As that sales pitch indicates, automated 3D model generation from video is very hard and doesn't work that well yet. By relying on a human operator to perform some of the edge recognition Video Trace is a great intermediate step towards full automation.

I spent a couple of minutes scouring the web but couldn't find strong data to support this hunch, nevertheless... I doubt that pregnant teens gain much benefit from special programs that help them earn symbolic high school diplomas.

Pregnant students in a Denver high school are asking for at least four weeks of maternity leave so they can heal, bond with their newborns and not be penalized with unexcused absences.

The request is unusual in Colorado's public schools, where districts tend to deal with pregnant students or new moms with specialized programs or individualized education plans. ...

"It's critical that these young women have a chance to bond with their babies," Moss said. "Maybe we do need a policy. Clearly, as a district, we have to look at what is going on with our young women. We've got to look at the birth-control issues and teen pregnancy and how we best help them deal with it and still graduate."

Despite the fact that high school graduates earn more than drop-outs, I expect that girls who have babies while they're in high school earn about the same whether they end up getting a diploma or not.

"If there are young mothers asking for maternity leave, the board should listen to them," said Lori Casillas, executive director of the Colorado Organization on Adolescent Pregnancy, Parenting, and Prevention. "If they think it is a barrier to graduation, the board should look at that."

Her organization advocates that schools provide child-care services for new moms. Too many girls drop out after giving birth, and schools must do something to keep them, Casillas said.

My hunch is that there's very little point. The 1.5% of teen mothers who go on to finish college are undoubtedly exceptional; I suspect that the vast majority of girls who get pregnant in high school will benefit very little financially from a symbolic piece of paper.

As many people have been pointing out for a long time, despite his current attractiveness to disaffected conservatives Ron Paul is a crazy, racist conspiracy loon.

Finding the pre-1999 newsletters was no easy task, but I was able to track many of them down at the libraries of the University of Kansas and the Wisconsin Historical Society. Of course, with few bylines, it is difficult to know whether any particular article was written by Paul himself. Some of the earlier newsletters are signed by him, though the vast majority of the editions I saw contain no bylines at all. Complicating matters, many of the unbylined newsletters were written in the first-person, implying that Paul was the author.

But, whoever actually wrote them, the newsletters I saw all had one thing in common: They were published under a banner containing Paul's name, and the articles (except for one special edition of a newsletter that contained the byline of another writer) seem designed to create the impression that they were written by him--and reflected his views. What they reveal are decades worth of obsession with conspiracies, sympathy for the right-wing militia movement, and deeply held bigotry against blacks, Jews, and gays. In short, they suggest that Ron Paul is not the plain-speaking antiwar activist his supporters believe they are backing--but rather a member in good standing of some of the oldest and ugliest traditions in American politics. ...

[skip past pages of craziness]

In other words, Paul's campaign wants to depict its candidate as a naïve, absentee overseer, with minimal knowledge of what his underlings were doing on his behalf. This portrayal might be more believable if extremist views had cropped up in the newsletters only sporadically--or if the newsletters had just been published for a short time. But it is difficult to imagine how Paul could allow material consistently saturated in racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, and conspiracy-mongering to be printed under his name for so long if he did not share these views. In that respect, whether or not Paul personally wrote the most offensive passages is almost beside the point. If he disagreed with what was being written under his name, you would think that at some point--over the course of decades--he would have done something about it.

Anyone who supports or associates with this sort of idiocy should be ashamed. I know that none of the mainstream Republican candidates are perfect reincarnations of the idealized Ronald Reagan, but that doesn't excuse embracing a nut like Ron Paul.

From the National Air Traffic Controllers Association FAQ we can see some interesting numbers.

On any given day, more than 87,000 flights are in the skies in the United States. Only one-third are commercial carriers, like American, United or Southwest. On an average day, air traffic controllers handle 28,537 commercial flights (major and regional airlines), 27,178 general aviation flights (private planes), 24,548 air taxi flights (planes for hire), 5,260 military flights and 2,148 air cargo flights (Federal Express, UPS, etc.). At any given moment, roughly 5,000 planes are in the skies above the United States. In one year, controllers handle an average of 64 million takeoffs and landings. ...

There are 14,305 air traffic controllers that work for the Federal Aviation Administration, according to FAA data (dated Aug. 2006).

Assuming the air traffic controllers don't work much overtime (unlikely) we can guess that 20% of the ATCs may be on-duty at any particular moment -- they work 24 hours a day, seven days a week -- so about 3,000. Does it really take 3,000 air traffic controllers to coordinate 5,000 flights?

I'm not a pilot, so am I missing something? Is our air traffic management system so inefficient that we need a controller for almost every flight?

I've discussed the wisdom of the 19th Amendment before, but I've never sunk so low as to accuse women of voting on pure emotion!

Then Clinton began getting emotional: "It's not easy, and I couldn't do it if I didn't passionately believe it was the right thing to do. You know I have so many opportunities from this country just don't want to see us fall backwards," she said.

Then, her voice breaking and tears in her eyes, she said, "You know, this is very personal for me. It's not just political it's not just public. I see what's happening, and we have to reverse it." ...

After the event, Pernold Young told ABC News that she was glad Clinton showed emotion.

"That was real," Pernold Young said.

Another woman in the group, Alison Hamilton of Portsmouth, New Hampshire said she, like most of the people in the group, had been leaning toward voting for Obama.

But after seeing Clinton become emotional, she said she was going to back Clinton.

"That was the clincher," Hamilton said.

If I made this stuff up I'd be branded as a sexist. Can't Hillary, the voters, the media, and America do better?

I think the city of Los Angeles is being perfectly reasonable in seeking financial disclosure from police who handle large quantities of seized cash. Assuming the financial data will be properly protected (a safe assumption?) this request is no different from the expectations that already lie on many other professionals with access to valuable assets. Naturally the police union is up in arms.

Los Angeles, CA. According to Hank Hernandez, chief legal counsel of the Los Angeles Police Protective League (LAPPL), the City of Los Angeles entered into a collective bargaining agreement with the police union four years ago. And now the City is attempting to change the agreement that was negotiated in good faith. Hernandez says the Police Commission’s vote to require gang and narcotic officers to disclose their personal finances is “unacceptable.”

The FULL DISCLOSURE NETWORK® presents an exclusive eleven minute Video News Blog featuring Hernandez, a former LAPD Lt. who has served for over 20 years as the legal counsel to the Los Angeles police union. He describes the Federal Consent Decree as the reason the Police Commission voted to require financial disclosure. Among the disclosure requirements for gang and narcotic officers, to be implemented within ten days of the vote are:

  • List of assets, investments and liabilities, even if jointly owned.
  • Proof of bank accounts and mortgages with statements.
  • Individual financial disclosures to be reviewed and questioned.
  • Positions could be denied based upon the review.

Hernandez also describes how the LAPPL is advising the officers whether or not to comply and suggests the perils when an employer requires employees to turn over their personal information.

One can only hope that Wal-Mart solves the "health care crisis" before November....

The issue highlights the difference between the right and the left. Leftists see our health insurance / care system and think the answer is more government regular. Rightists see the same problems but think that the best way to solve them is by unshackling the free market. Wal-Mart's example should be a light for our path.

(HT: Instapundit.)

lost returns.jpg

In a drama that only grows more bizarre with each passing month, Britney Spears has been involuntarily hospitalized as a danger to herself and others and put on a 14-day lock down.

Britney Spears has reportedly been placed on a 72-hour lock down in a special suicide watch-style unit for a mental evaluation after holding her children hostage and refusing to hand them over to their father at a court-appointed time.

Amid extraordinary scenes, the fallen popstar was stretchered bleary-eyed from her home last night under police guard and then taken to hospital by ambulance for tests when she was suspected to be "under the influence of an unknown substance".

The story says 72-hour, but based on my familiarity with the system in Los Angeles I believe the authorities can hold her against her will for up to 14 days while they decide what to do.

Britney Spears in Bondage

Britney Spears' life is a tragic example of how the American Dream can go horribly awry without any moral boundaries or spiritual guidance. She has everything anyone could ever want, and is still a miserable wretch.

I've been writing about Hillary Clinton's unelectability for years, so I'm very conflicted over the results of the Democrats' caucus in Iowa last night. On the one hand, few people are slimier, more corrupt, or less qualified than Hillary Clinton, so I'm saddened to see her lose because I think she would have been easy for any Republican to beat in November. On the other hand, no one wants face the prospect of an America saddled with such a slimy, corrupt, unqualified president of either party.

I disagree with Barack Obama on every political issue I can think of. Barack Obama's "Christian" church is literally insane. And yet, he doesn't come across as slimy and corrupt as Hillary Clinton which means that -- despite sharing her inexperience -- America would likely do much better with an Obama presidency than a Hillary presidency. If I had to pick a Democrat for President, Obama would be near the top of my list, so in that sense it's good that he trounced the Hilldabeast in Iowa.

If Obama wins the nomination, as seems likely, the Republicans will have a hard time beating him. Huckabee certainly won't stand a chance. Hopefully Romney or Giuliani will shine over the course of the next month and one of them will turn out to be a diamond.

In 2002 some physicists determined that the Large Hadron Collider is not likely to destroy the universe this May. Fortunately, there's very little need to worry that the LHC will create micro black holes that will suck up the whole earth, magnetic monopoles that accrete all charged matter in the universe, or strange matter that converts everything it touches into quark plasma. Whew.

Captain Ed has put out a porkbusting call-to-action for us citizens as well as for President Bush.

In case you aren't familiar with the situation, Congress recently passed the Omnibus Spending Bill which included in the text of the law a whole bunch of pork-barrel earmarks. These earmarks that are in the text of the law are called legislative earmarks because they identify spending that is now required by law.

However, Congress also issued a bunch of paperwork with the law that identifies additional earmarks that they want various government offices to spend money on but that aren't specifically called out in the text of the law. These are nonlegislative earmarks and do not have the force of law because they are not in the text of the bill that was passed by Congress. In essence they are preferences expressed by one or more lawmakers (not a majority, or they would have been in the text of the bill) for how they want some of the money spent. Constitutionally, because these nonlegislative earmarks don't have the force of law, the President can issue an executive order instructing the government to completely ignore these earmarks and to instead spend the money in the way that the departments think is best for the country.

President Bush should do exactly this, and we citizens should be pressuring him issue such an executive order. Call or email the White House as described below.

Sources on the Hill tell some of us that a critical point has been reached at the White House on whether to issue an Executive Order that would prevent federal agencies from spending funds on 90% of the earmarks in the Omnibus Spending Bill. According to the whispers, the earmarkers on Capitol Hill have begun to lean heavily on the White House to let the matter drop and to keep the earmark funding in place. Every day brings a fresh round of calls from the same lawmakers who porked up the overdue spending bill, "airdropping" almost all of them (against the new rules in Congress) to keep the porkers from accountability.

If CapQ readers want George Bush to issue the Executive Order and hold Congress responsible for violating its own rules while pursuing personal political benefits, they need to let the White House know now how they feel. The EO advocates need to remind Bush that only through dramatic action can the GOP reclaim any momentum on fiscal responsibility. A rescission package would only play into the hands of the same people who larded up the spending bill while delivering it three months late.

You can make a difference. Call 202-456-1111 and politely explain why the President should issue the EO, or e-mail the staff at comments@whitehouse.gov.

(HT: Instapundit.)

This story about a "hearty eater" being banned from a buffet can serve as a great example for why socialized medicine doesn't work.

On his most recent visit, he said, a waitress gave him and his wife's cousin, 44-year-old Michael Borrelli, a bill for $46.40, roughly double the buffet price for two adults.

"She says, 'Y'all fat, and y'all eat too much,'" Labit said.

Labit and Borrelli said they felt discriminated against because of their size. "I was stunned, that somebody would say something like that. I ain't that fat, I only weigh 277," Borrelli said, adding that a waitress told him he looked like he a had a "baby in the belly."

Buffets are very similar to health insurance in that everyone pays nearly the same price, but people use very different amounts of service. Health insurance providers are prevented from many forms of price discrimination by law, which means that like a buffet that can't discriminate all they can do is refuse service to unprofitable customers. Socialized medicine would reduce the ability to discriminate by price even further, leading to even more unhealthy people being denied treatment.

The end result is that unhealthy people won't be able to get treatment from the socialized system because they're too far from the norm, and they won't be able to buy treatment because the free market will have been destroyed. It goes without saying that poor, uneducated people tend to be the least healthy, so who's really going to benefit from socialized medicine?

The site seems a lot faster and cleaner to me since I changed hosts and it has been getting plenty of hits, but comments have completely flatlined. I've tested the TypeKey login and it works just fine, plus there are several other options now... and yet no one has anything to say. Is there a technical problem with the commenting system? Is it too hard to use? Should I enable anonymous comments?

Update:

It appears that MT won't send out the verification emails required for people to create accounts on my site. That's annoying. For now just use TypeKey, because I know it works.

It's too bad that President Bush has so ruined America's international standing that Britain and France are fighting over who is America's closest ally.

After decades of Anglo-French rivalry, in which France has vehemently deplored the global influence America and Britain have attained and what every president of France since Charles de Gaulle has described as "Anglo-Saxon culture," Mr. Sarkozy claimed during his visit to Washington last week that France, not Britain, is now America's best friend and partner.

Mr. Brown, who has been portrayed on both sides of the Atlantic as having distanced himself from America to avoid the charge against his predecessor, Tony Blair, that he was Mr. Bush's "poodle," fought back last night, claiming in a speech at a banquet thrown by the lord mayor of the city of London that the French president's bid to usurp Britain's traditional place alongside America would not succeed.

(HT: Transterrestrial Musings.)

Even though we humans can only perceive three dimensions of space and one dimension of time, Itzhak Bars thinks there may be two dimensions that we're missing.

"There isn't just one dimension of time," Itzhak Bars of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles tells New Scientist. "There are two. One whole dimension of time and another of space have until now gone entirely unnoticed by us." ...

Changing our picture of time from a line to a plane (one to two dimensions) means that the path between the past and future could loop back on itself, allowing you to travel back and forwards in time and allowing the famous grandfather paradox, where you could go back and kill your grandfather before your mother was born, thereby preventing your own birth.

He has proposed some experiments for testing his theory with the Large Hadron Collider when it opens this year.

It's fascinating to consider how humanity might appear to a creature capable of perceiving all six dimensions described by Bars. I highly recommend the novella Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions to get a flavor for such speculation. (Having been written in 1884, Flatland is available free from Project Gutenberg.)

My wife tells me that the men attacked by a Tiger last week were carrying slingshots.

Two brothers who were injured when a tiger attacked them at the San Francisco Zoo had slingshots on them at the time, a source said.

An empty vodka bottle was also found in a car used by Amritpal Dhaliwal, 19, and his brother, Kulbir, 23, on the day of the mauling, which left 17-year-old Carlos Sousa Jr. dead, according to the source.

The discoveries could be an indication that the brothers may have taunted the 350-pound Siberian tiger before it leapt from its grotto.

Someone call the Darwin Awards.

If you're using Firefox you can view your browser cache by navigating to about:cache. I find this particularly handy if I saw an image that I want to post about but can't remember where I found it.

This Des Moines Register article breaks down the supporters of the various Democrats running in the upcoming Iowa caucuses. Eric at Classical Values notes that Hillary has a problem attracting young voters, as shown here:

HillaryJugend.jpg

But what's especially intriguing is that Hillary's supporters are also the least educated and poorest. Since her supporters tend to be old, wouldn't you also expect them to be wealthier and more educated? This strange conflation doesn't bode well for her.

(HT: Instapundit.)

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