May 2010 Archives

Claudia Rosett explains why the Gaza "Freedom Flotilla" is a farce.

The basic narrative spun by the organizers of this "freedom flotilla" is that some 700 "activists" from dozens of countries have boarded eight or nine ships filled with tons of "humanitarian aid." Their mission is to run the Israeli blockade, "break the siege of Gaza" and "establish a permanent sea lane between Gaza and the rest of the world." The umbrella website for this venture is labeled "The Free Gaza Movement," and on it the "Free Gaza Team" of the "Freedom Flotilla Coalition" professes a dedication to nonviolence and respect for universal human rights.

All that might make sense if Gaza were a peaceful and democratic enclave, unreasonably walled up by its neighbors. But there's some important information that the flotilla crew omits. Gaza is a terrorist enclave. Gaza is controlled by an Islamist terrorist group, Hamas. And Hamas is: backed by Iran; headquarters some of its leaders in terror-sponsoring Syria; has a busy and violent history of suicide bombings, shootings and rocket and mortar attacks; and is dedicated in its charter to the destruction of Israel.

That is what the blockade is all about. It didn't happen because the neighbors decided to victimize Gaza. Rather, it is Hamas-run Gaza that threatens the neighbors, and for that matter, is hostile generally to liberal, western societies.

Then follows a laundry list of atrocities committed by Gaza's rulers, the terrorist group Hamas. Finally, is the flotilla really interested in delivering "aid" and promoting freedom?

For this coalition to describe itself as affiliated in any way with "freedom" is an abuse of the term. Likewise, the show of bringing tons of "aid" is hollow at best. Israel, in an attempt to head off a confrontation, offered to let the Gaza flotilla unload its cargo at an Israeli port and have the goods delivered (after inspection) to Gaza by land. The flotilla folks weren't interested. Nor were they willing, despite their avowed love of universal human rights, to try pressuring Hamas to let them bring letters and food to the kidnapped Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit.

It's all a ruse, and Israel is wise not to fall for it. That the rest of the world is so eager to believe the flotilla's stories is reprehensible.

Thank you to all the soldiers, sailors, and airmen who have served our country and protected the liberty that we'll all enjoy today.

The White House has released a memo attempting to explain away the job the administration offered Joe Sestak on the condition of him dropping his primary challenge to turn-coat Arlen Specter.

Michelle Malkin explains how the various parties coordinated their story.

Kurt Bardella, Spokesperson, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, responds: “If the White House is coordinating it’s response with the Sestak campaign, as Congressman Sestak has reported, it certainly explains why the President, when given the opportunity at a nationally broadcasted press conference, abdicated the opportunity to address the issue candidly and definitively. Instead, it appears as if the White House is taking time to circle the wagons and coordinating their message. This revelation that the White House initiated a dialogue with Sestak at the same time they are preparing their public response certainly leaves the impression that there is a coordinated effort going on. Of course, if everyone just did the right thing and told the truth, the need to speculate about motive and impartiality wouldn’t be necessary.”

Republican Congressman Darrell Issa says that the White House's lawyerly explanation is an admission of guilt:

“I’m very concerned that in the rush to put together this report, the White House has done everything but explain its own actions and has instead worked to craft a story behind closed doors and coordinate with those involved. The White House has admitted today to coordinating an arrangement that would represent an illegal quid-pro-quo as federal law prohibits directly or indirectly offering any position or appointment, paid or unpaid, in exchange for favors connected with an election.

“President Clinton and Congressman Sestak now need to answer questions about what the White House has released today – that at the behest of the White House Chief of staff, they dispatched a former President to get Joe Sestak out of the Pennsylvania Senate Primary. Regardless of what President Clinton or Congressman Sestak now say, it is abundantly clear that this kind of conduct is contrary to President Obama’s pledge to change ‘business as usual’ and that his Administration has engaged in the kind of political shenanigans he once campaigned to end.”

Future of Capitalism points out the interesting features of the Future of Capitalismmemo release mechanism.

The White House chooses the Friday afternoon before Memorial Day weekend to unload the news -- in the form of a memo from the White House counsel, so that anyone he talked to about it is covered by both lawyer-client privilege and executive privilege -- that "The White House Chief of Staff enlisted the support of former President Clinton who agreed to raise with Congressman Sestak options of service on a Presidential or other Senior Executive Branch Advisory Board." There's no explanation of why Mr. Clinton was enlisted for this task. If it would have been legal or appropriate for a White House official to do it directly, why bother getting Mr. Clinton involved? And if it would have been illegal or inappropriate for a White House official to do it directly, does the use of a cut-out, even if it comports with the letter of the law, match the spirit of the law or the administration's stated intention to set a high ethical bar?

Keith Hennessey offers a readable explanation of underfunded defined benefit pensions and how they compare to defined contribution pensions.

In a defined contribution (DC) pension plan, an employer commits to contributing specific dollar amounts into an employee’s pension account. The employee then makes investment decisions for the funds in his account. The employee has both the upside and downside investment risk: if he invests well, he will have more for retirement. If he invests poorly, he will have less. The employer usually contracts out to a private investment firm (like Fidelity) for the account and investment management.

In a defined benefit (DB) pension plan, an employer commits to pay the employee a specific benefit amount at retirement. The employer owns both the upside and downside investment risk.

There's a lot more at the link, along with an explanation of the three-way political tug-of-war that causes the chronic underfunding of DB pensions.

This hardly seems like news, but I'll bite. Mean insurance company bills family for damage caused to car by loose dog.

A car insurer has asked a Canadian family to pay for repairing a broken bumper after their dog was struck by the vehicle and died, local media said Thursday.

The traffic accident occurred in March while Jake, a 12-year-old yellow Labrador, was out for his daily stroll around a quiet neighborhood in Aurora, Ontario, north of Toronto.

Kim Flemming had let the dog out when she arrived home from work. Moments later, a man knocked on the door to say a car had run over Jake.

"I got to the road and he was dying," Flemming told the Toronto Star. "He died in my arms."

Two months later, the family received a bill in the mail for 1,732.80 Canadian dollars (1,648.95 US) from State Farm Insurance. ...

"We've lost a member of our family but we're supposed to pay for the damage to her bumper? That's just wrong," daughter Katherine Flemming said.

The Flemmings lost "a member of [their] family" due to their own negligence. In the process, they damaged the vehicle of an innocent passerby. Their grief over their loss does not negate their responsibility towards the victim of their negligence.

The brief safe.

(HT: RD.)

If Chris Christie is successful in New Jersey maybe he can relocate to California and help out the Golden State, which faces most of the same problems.

He then opened the floor to questions. A few were softballs, including the declaration by Clara Nebot of Bergenfield that Christie is "a god" to her relatives in Florida.

But borough teacher Rita Wilson, a Kearny resident, argued that if she were paid $3 an hour for the 30 children in her class, she’d be earning $83,000, and she makes nothing near that.

"You’re getting more than that if you include the cost of your benefits," Christie interrupted.

When Wilson, who has a master’s degree, said she was not being compensated for her education and experience, Christie said:

"Well, you know then that you don’t have to do it." Some in the audience applauded.

Christie said he would not have had to impose cuts to education if the teachers union had agreed to his call for a one-year salary freeze and a 1.5 percent increase in employee benefit contributions.

"Your union said that is the greatest assault on public education in the history of the state," Christie said. "That’s why the union has no credibility, stupid statements like that."

In California the same could go for prison guards, police, and firefighter unions. These public sector unions bear a large share of the responsibility for many states' economic woes, and it's refreshing to hear these them called out publicly for raping state treasuries.

(HT: Hot Air.)

Nicholas Quinn Rosenkranz argues that judicial review should always begin with the question "Who has violated the Constitution?".

Abstract: Two centuries after Marbury v. Madison, there remains a deep confusion about quite what a court is reviewing when it engages in judicial review. Conventional wisdom has it that judicial review is the review of certain legal objects: statutes, regulations. But strictly speaking, this is not quite right. The Constitution prohibits not objects but actions. Judicial review is the review of such actions. And actions require actors: verbs require subjects. So before judicial review focuses on verbs, let alone objects, it should begin at the beginning, with subjects. Every constitutional inquiry should begin with a basic question that has been almost universally overlooked. The fundamental question, from which all else follows, is the who question: who has violated the Constitution?

As judicial review is practiced today, courts skip over this bedrock question to get to the more familiar question: how was the Constitution violated? But it makes no sense to ask how, until there is an answer to who. Indeed, in countless muddled lines of doctrine, puzzlement about the predicates of constitutional violation follows directly from more fundamental confusion about the subjects.

This is a brilliant new approach to judicial review. The point is that if a statute is unconstitutional, then Congress violated the Constitution by enacting the statute. You shouldn't have to wait for the statute to be enforced or applied to you in order to challenge it, because an unconstitutional statute is unconstitutional immediately.

(HT: Randy Barnett, Instapundit.)

"Scientists" -- in scare quotes since climatologists seem to be mostly political activists -- are just starting to grapple with the fact that they've completely lost the public trust on global warming.

Here in Britain, the change has been driven by the news media’s intensive coverage of a series of climate science controversies unearthed and highlighted by skeptics since November. These include the unauthorized release of e-mail messages from prominent British climate scientists at the University of East Anglia that skeptics cited as evidence that researchers were overstating the evidence for global warming and the discovery of errors in a United Nations climate report.

Two independent reviews later found no evidence that the East Anglia researchers had actively distorted climate data, but heavy press coverage had already left an impression that the scientists had schemed to repress data.

I don't think it takes a brilliant scientist to interpret the hoard of climategate emails.

From: Phil Jones To: ray bradley ,, Subject: Diagram for WMO Statement Date: Tue, 16 Nov 1999 13:31:15 +0000 Cc:,

Dear Ray, Mike and Malcolm,
Once Tim's got a diagram here we'll send that either later today or
first thing tomorrow.
I've just completed Mike's Nature trick of adding in the real temps
to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) amd from
1961 for Keith's to hide the decline.
Mike's series got the annual
land and marine values while the other two got April-Sept for NH land
N of 20N. The latter two are real for 1999, while the estimate for 1999
for NH combined is +0.44C wrt 61-90. The Global estimate for 1999 with
data through Oct is +0.35C cf. 0.57 for 1998.
Thanks for the comments, Ray.


Prof. Phil Jones
Climatic Research Unit Telephone +44 (0) 1603 592090
School of Environmental Sciences Fax +44 (0) 1603 507784
University of East Anglia
Norwich Email

It's nice that "two independent reviews" found no wrongdoing, but c'mon. That's absurd. We're not exalted "climatologists" but we can read.

The fact of the matter is that people don't need to understand the science. Scientists ask us to trust them because they know more than we do, but the climategate emails demonstrate that the world's leading global warming proponents are not trustworthy people. It doesn't matter that they're smart and educated. The emails show that they regularly lied to and manipulated the public.

That's that.

Brilliant explanation of why geeks are so irritating: reversed tact filters.

All people have a "tact filter", which applies tact in one direction to everything that passes through it. Most "normal people" have the tact filter positioned to apply tact in the outgoing direction. Thus whatever normal people say gets the appropriate amount of tact applied to it before they say it. This is because when they were growing up, their parents continually drilled into their heads statements like, "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all!"

"Nerds," on the other hand, have their tact filter positioned to apply tact in the incoming direction. Thus, whatever anyone says to them gets the appropriate amount of tact added when they hear it. This is because when nerds were growing up, they continually got picked on, and their parents continually drilled into their heads statements like, "They're just saying those mean things because they're jealous. They don't really mean it."

When normal people talk to each other, both people usually apply the appropriate amount of tact to everything they say, and no one's feelings get hurt. When nerds talk to each other, both people usually apply the appropriate amount of tact to everything they hear, and no one's feelings get hurt. However, when normal people talk to nerds, the nerds often get frustrated because the normal people seem to be dodging the real issues and not saying what they really mean. Worse yet, when nerds talk to normal people, the normal people's feelings often get hurt because the nerds don't apply tact, assuming the normal person will take their blunt statements and apply whatever tact is necessary.

(HT: MG.)

Despite the near impossibility of overcoming a Democrat filibuster even if Republicans manage to take both houses of Congress and the Presidency by 2012, a growing majority of Americans support the repeal of Obamacare.

Support for repeal of the new national health care plan has jumped to its highest level ever. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 63% of U.S. voters now favor repeal of the plan passed by congressional Democrats and signed into law by President Obama in March.

Prior to today, weekly polling had shown support for repeal ranging from 54% to 58%.

Currently, just 32% oppose repeal.

It's hard for me to envision a scenario in which Obamacare is actually repealed, but I think it is likely to be significantly modified before the major provisions begin to take effect. It will still end up being a huge net loss to our country (as intended by its proponents).

Despite the near impossibility of overcoming a Democrat filibuster even if Republicans manage to take both houses of Congress and the Presidency by 2012, a growing majority of Americans support the repeal of Obamacare.

Support for repeal of the new national health care plan has jumped to its highest level ever. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 63% of U.S. voters now favor repeal of the plan passed by congressional Democrats and signed into law by President Obama in March.

Prior to today, weekly polling had shown support for repeal ranging from 54% to 58%.

Currently, just 32% oppose repeal.

It's hard for me to envision a scenario in which Obamacare is actually repealed, but I think it is likely to be significantly modified before the major provisions begin to take effect. It will still end up being a huge net loss to our country (as intended by its proponents).

As an example of good business writing, here's a great tutorial on leather tanning and quality. Lots of great pictures explain exactly what you're looking at when you pick up a piece of leather, and they even explain the tricks that some companies use to disguise their cheap, low-quality leather.

Jason Fried identifies some colorful business writing and explains how it will set your business apart from the boring competition.

Not mentioned in the article: the automobile industry is one of the most stodgy domains I've ever seen when it comes to creative copy.

I love the reaction from this terrorist lawyer to the court ruling that prisoners captured and held on foreign soil do not have a right to a hearing before an American judge.

A federal appeals court ruled Friday that three men who had been detained by the United States military for years without trial in Afghanistan had no recourse to American courts. The decision was a broad victory for the Obama administration in its efforts to hold terrorism suspects overseas for indefinite periods without judicial oversight. ...

A lawyer for the detainees, Tina Foster, said that if the precedent stood, Mr. Obama and future presidents would have a free hand to “kidnap people from other parts of the world and lock them away for the rest of their lives” without having to prove in court that their suspicions about such prisoners were accurate.

“The thing that is most disappointing for those of us who have been in the fight for this long is all of the people who used to be opposed to the idea of unlimited executive power during the Bush administration but now seem to have embraced it during this administration,” she said. “We have to remember that Obama is not the last president of the United States.”

Right, I mean, obviously it's fine if Obama imprisons these terrorists, because he is wise and just... but remember folks, an evil Republican might one day win the presidency!

Obviously the Obama Administration is on the side of rationality in this case. has lots of exactly what you'd think: pictures of people illegally crossing America's southern border.

(HT: RC.)

New research affirms that discipline is more important than intelligence.

Highly self-disciplined adolescents outperformed their more impulsive peers on every academic-performance variable, including report-card grades, standardized achievement-test scores, admission to a competitive high school, and attendance. Self-disciple measured in the fall predicted more variance in each of these outcomes than did IQ, and unlike IQ, self-discipline predicted gains in academic performance over the school year.

Not surprising. Everyone can cultivate discipline, no matter what genes you've been dealt. This is one of the most important lessons I want to teach my daughter.

I've considered many of these paradoxes of creativity before, but never put them into such a nice, concise list.

To create, a person must
  • Have knowledge but forget the knowledge;
  • See unexpected connections in things but not have a mental disorder;
  • Work hard but spend time doing nothing;
  • Create many ideas yet most of them are useless;
  • Look at the same thing as everyone else, yet see something different;
  • Desire success but learn how to fail;
  • Be persistent but not stubborn; and,
  • Listen to experts but know how to disregard them.

Worthy of contemplation.

Yesterday I had the opportunity, along with a few other local bloggers, to meet with Bill Corrigan, a Republican candidate for St. Louis County Executive. Even though I live in St. Charles County, St. Louis is the heart of the local metro area and so I was quite interested to hear about Mr. Corrigan's campaign plans.

During our discussion, one of the main points I made was that our region should really try to take advantage of the current recession by maximizing in-migration from the coasts. The recession has hit America's coastal cities harder than it has hit us here in the Midwest -- especially as reflected by the housing market -- and I think there's a huge opportunity to attract people to the St. Louis metro region. This story about migration from California to Missouri is from 2005:

Today, the most popular destinations for people moving from Los Angeles and San Francisco are less expensive parts of California, like Riverside and Sacramento. Las Vegas and Phoenix also remain near the top of the list, but Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Nashville, Virginia Beach and Oklahoma City are becoming popular, according to

In the Kansas City area, which straddles Missouri and Kansas, a small band of Californians are discovering the plentiful supply of spacious homes for prices that would not buy a shack back where they came from.

"They just walk in and go 'Wow, we can have space,' " said Sandy Tasker, a real estate agent with Coldwell Banker in Overland Park, Kan.

According to I.R.S. data, the net population transfer to Missouri from California more than tripled, to about 2,200, from 2001 to 2004.

Nothing prevents St. Louis from joining that list, if we have the wisdom and political will to make a few changes. This migration report doesn't have more recent data, but it does give a more detailed breakdown that includes the St. Louis area as the nation's 12th highest in-migration metro area.

I look forward to seeing Mr. Corrigan's economic development plan, and I hope it includes a vision for drawing in hard-working, talented people from around the country that have perhaps become disillusioned with their prospects on the coasts. At an explicit extreme, I could even envision an ad campaign targeted at the coastal cities with a theme like: "Are you tired of high taxes, red-tape, and a government run by clueless socialists? Come check out St. Louis! We've got beautiful, affordable real estate, world-class universities, and high tech jobs without all the government tentacles you that make your life miserable!"

This animated GIF machine is very cool.

(HT: TB.)

Although last night was a good night for Republicans and a bad night for incumbents, I must admit that I'm disappointed that Democrats held John Murtha's seat -- for now.

In the western Pennsylvania special House election to replace the late Rep. John Murtha, Republican Tim Burns called and conceded the race to Democrat and former Murtha aide Mark Critz.

The race was painted by Republicans as a referendum on the "Obama-Pelosi agenda" and Republicans are now likely to face questions about whether or not, even in this environment, just criticizing the "Obama-Pelosi" agenda as Burns had done through this entire campaign is sufficient. This district was precisely the kind of district that Republicans needed to win in order to become the majority party this fall.

Republicans will argue that the turnout advantages for Democrats in a special election on primary day with a competitive Democratic primary at the top of the ticket were too great to overcome, but that they will win this seat in November.

Excuses are nice, but not as nice as winning. The results weren't even very close.

In the end, Republican Tim Burns didn't come that close to winning the race in Pennsylvania's 12th District. Democrat Mark Critz took the seat with 53.4 percent of the vote to 44.3 percent for Burns, a margin of 12,208 votes, with the remainder of the vote going to a Libertarian Party candidate.

Coming after polls showed Burns running as high as 49 percent -- in the one district that voted for Kerry in 2004 and McCain in 2008 -- it was a shock and a disappointment to tea party activists. Robert Stacy McCain, a freelancer who made four trips into the district to shadow Burns, reported that Burns allies like Diana Irey, who ran against the late John Murtha in 2006, were even interpreting early results that showed Critz narrowly winning some Democratic precincts as proof that Burns would win.

Despite other losses yesterday, Democrats should draw great solace from Critz's victory. I think this special election was the main event yesterday, and it doesn't point to a Republican takeover of the House in November.

Back to the first article, let me point out some bad word selection in this paragraph about Blanch Lincoln's failure to win the nomination for her own seat:

In Arkansas, incumbent Sen. Blanche Lincoln, D-Arkansas, facing the toughest political battle of her career, failed to win the majority of votes in the Democratic primary. She will now face a runoff election with Lt. Gov. Bill Halter on June 8.

Lincoln was the target of much of the same anti-incumbent sentiment as Specter. But unlike the Pennsylvania senator, she did garner a majority of the votes, but not the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff.

I think the word they were looking for is "plurality".

The Environmental Protection Agency channels "1984" while announcing its new "Rulemaking Matters!" video contest.

Almost every aspect of our lives is touched by federal regulations... Even before you leave the house in the morning, government regulations help set the price of the coffee you drink, the voltage of electricity in your alarm clock, and the types of programming allowed on the morning news.

Uh... that's a good thing? It's scary that some government bureaucrats are actually proud of their meddling.

Paul Hsieh apty describes how ObamaCare will destroy health care:

ObamaCare thus places a noose around private insurers' necks. Insurance companies will be required to offer numerous benefits determined by politicians and lobbyists. But they will be allowed to charge only what government bureaucrats permit. No business can survive long if it must offer $2,000 worth of services to customers but can charge only $1,000.

Although it is tempting to take delight at the insurance industry's self-caused plight, the inevitable collapse of the private insurance market would also leave millions of Americans without coverage. Even though this crisis would be caused by government policies, liberals would gleefully portray it as a "failure of the free market" and demand that the government "rescue" health care. The end result would be a "single payer" socialized medical system like Canada's or Great Britain's, with rationing and long waits for medical care.

Instead of making their Faustian bargain with the government, insurance companies should have advocated for free-market reforms such as allowing customers to purchase policies across state lines, repealing existing mandatory benefits, and allowing patients to use Health Savings Accounts for routine expenses and low-cost "catastrophic-only" insurance to cover rare expensive events. Such free-market reforms could reduce insurance costs up to 50%, while preserving quality of medical care.

He also rightly points out that destroying health care isn't a bug in ObamaCare -- it's the underlying purpose! The point is to destroy the market for health care and force the American people into a completely government-run system. Why? Because it will give the elites more control of our lives and reduce our liberty. They think we're too dumb to be free, so they're trying to help us out.

A history of programming languages that will be amusing only to software engineers. I won't quote it... if you think you'd like it, you probably will.

Marco Rubio is right for confronting the American citizenry about our addition to government.

Republican Senate candidate Marco Rubio told an anti-gay marriage group Saturday the country is relying too much on the government, in part because of a breakdown of family and faith values over the last 50 years.

"You know what the fastest growing religion in America is? Statism. The growing reliance on government," Rubio said. "Every time a problem emerges, increasingly the reaction in American society is 'Well what can government do about it?'"

America became the greatest country because of its strong society where people did not sit back and wait for government to act, he said. "They did it themselves," Rubio said.

Hear hear! When we face a difficult situation our first reaction shouldn't be to run to the government for help. We need to help ourselves and restrict the government to the few domains for which its blunt power is appropriate.

Idiotic college students pour vodka into their eyes to get drunk faster, go blind.

Even as drunken student antics go, it was, by any stretch of the imagination, a disturbing scene. Surrounded by cheering rugby players, applauded by fellow members of the university netball team, 19-year-old Melissa Fontaine tipped back her head and giggled as fellow drinkers in the Students' Union bar pulled apart her eyelids and allowed them to pour a shot of vodka into her left eye.

'Vodka eyeballing', as it is known in student circles, is the latest drinking craze to sweep through Britain's universities.

Those who do it claim that it induces feelings of drunkenness at break-neck speeds, providing an instant high.

Maybe these morons need to drink more vodka and kill of some brain cells just to protect themselves from their own stupid ideas.

Electronic high-speed trading is an area fascinates me and matches my technical expertise (artificial intelligence), but that I've never worked in professionally. Maybe someday! Meanwhile, reading about the latest advances in electronic trading algorithms makes me think that I've probably got a lot of easy ideas that haven't yet been tried in this domain.

"System and method for prioritized automated trading in an electronic trading environment" describes a software algorithm that decides the order in which to put through a list of trades when more than one of those trades would normally be triggered after a single condition is satisfied--say, that the price of a stock drops to a pre-determined level. The patent describes what might be considered a fairly basic function of all automated trading software, which is relieving the burden of prioritizing a batch of trades that were previously queued up and are waiting for the right conditions before they're sent to the exchange.

Prioritizing trades is inherently a deterministic process, unless you're trading on a so-called "dark pool" where trades are invisible the details of your trades are available more or less instantaneously to everyone watching the market. If you are moving a sufficient volume of shares and another trader can predict what your automated system is going to do next, they could swoop in and take advantage of whatever directionality you're providing in the up or down movement of a stock.

Hence a second approach, published in a patent also issued to Trading Technologies International just a few months earlier. "System and method for randomizing orders in an electronic trading environment" allows a trading strategy that is seemingly at odds with deterministic prioritization of trades. This patent describes a process that seeks to make your trades indistinguishable from the background noise of other trades so that no one can predict what you'll do next, or where the price of a stock might move as a result. If it works as advertised, there is the possibility that no one would even know you are trading that stock.

Scheduling algorithms are a huge field in artificial intelligence, and random scheduling is one of the first things you should always try. If financial software developers are just figuring that out, maybe I'm in the wrong field.

My wife and I drove a Sienna from Los Angeles to St. Louis when we moved, and it's actually quite an awesome vehicle. I have to admit that I'm kinda looking forward to getting a mini-van someday.

(HT: RB.)

Evgeny Morozov argues that cyberwar is a threat manufactured to generate revenue for large government contractors and endorsed by the government because it excuses incompetence.

Recasting basic government problems in terms of a global cyber struggle won't make us any more secure. The real question is, "Why are government computers so vulnerable to very basic and unsophisticated threats?" This is not a question of national security; it is a question of basic government incompetence. Cyberwar is the new "dog ate my homework": It's far easier to blame everything on mysterious Chinese hackers than to embark on uncomfortable institutional soul-searching.

Thus, when a series of fairly unsophisticated attacks crashed the websites of 27 government agencies—including those of the Treasury Department, Secret Service and Transportation Department—during last year's July Fourth weekend, it was panic time. North Korea was immediately singled out as their likely source (websites of the South Korean government were also affected). But whoever was behind the attacks, it was not their sophistication or strength that crashed the government's websites. Network security firm Arbor Networks described the attacks as "pretty modest-sized." What crashed the websites was the incompetence of the people who ran them. If "pretty modest-sized" attacks can cripple them, someone is not doing their job.

I don't know many details about ongoing cyberattacks, but I do believe that the solution is probably more of the same thing we're doing now: virus scanning, firewalls, secure passwords, physical security, and awareness of social hacking.

(HT: TH.)

Despite Democrat assurances to the contrary, it's a big deal when one of their most powerful committee chairmen decides not to run for re-election.

Rep. David Obey, a Wisconsin Democrat who is one of the most powerful and longest-serving members of Congress, said Wednesday that he wouldn't seek re-election this year, adding a new burden to Democrats in what is shaping up as a difficult election year. ...

Mr. Obey's retirement also means the departure of one of Congress's most high-profile figures. As chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Mr. Obey plays a central role in divvying up hundreds of billions of dollars each year for basic government programs, such as Pentagon weapons procurements and Park Service salaries. First elected in 1969, he is the third-longest-serving member of the House.

"There is a time to stay and a time to go, and this is my time to go," Mr. Obey said. He described himself as "bone-tired."

Even before Mr. Obey's decision, Republicans were eyeing his largely rural, Northern Wisconsin district as a possible opportunity to pick up a seat. Mr. Obey was facing a spirited challenge from Ashland County District Attorney Sean Duffy, a Republican whose resume includes a stint on the cast of MTV's reality show "The Real World."

Internal Democrat polling data must look miserable.

(HT: JW.)

California is in the process of being reconquered by Mexico.

On any other day at Live Oak High School in Morgan Hill, Daniel Galli and his four friends would not even be noticed for wearing T-shirts with the American flag. But Cinco de Mayo is not any typical day especially on a campus with a large Mexican American student population.

Galli says he and his friends were sitting at a table during brunch break when the vice principal asked two of the boys to remove American flag bandannas that they wearing on their heads and for the others to turn their American flag T-shirts inside out. When they refused, the boys were ordered to go to the principal's office.

"They said we could wear it on any other day," Daniel Galli said, "but today is sensitive to Mexican-Americans because it's supposed to be their holiday so we were not allowed to wear it today."

The boys said the administrators called their T-shirts "incendiary" that would lead to fights on campus.

The proper solution to this dilemma is to control the potentially violent students and then prosecute them if they break the law. Unfortunately it's often easier to limit free speech (even patriotic speech) than to keep thugs in check... so the thugs win.

(HT: SW and Getting Prepared.)

It's hard to comprehend how some paint on canvas can be worth more fifty times what an average person will earn over a lifetime of work. Nude, Green Leaves, and Bust sells for $106 million.

Last month The Classicist broke the news that a rarely-seen Picasso was expected to fetch up to $90 million at Christie's landmark Evening Sale of Impressionist and Modern Art, which took place yesterday in New York. Now the results are in and the painting, Nude, Green Leaves, and Bust (above) dated 1932, from the Collection of Mrs. Sidney F. Brody, was sold for a staggering $106.5 million to an unidentified telephone bidder, breaking the previous world record for any work of art sold at auction (set back in February when a Giacometti sculpture brought in $104.3 million).

I guess that's the point of "luxury" items though, right? Their value isn't fungible and largely derives from the psycho-social benefits perceived by their owners and admirers.

Taking advantage of your credit card's concierge service.


I made my first call to the Visa Chase Freedom concierge service by calling the toll-free number on the back of my card. I was connected to a concierge named David, who I pictured wearing a little bellboy hat, like a hotel concierge, though I think they just wear a telephone headset nowadays.

David spoke English, which was a nice change from my usual calls to Visa. “I’m traveling to Austin next week, and I want a big tub of nacho cheese. Make that a HUGE tub,” I told him. “Enough to fill a punch bowl.”

“Does it need to be in a tub?” he asked, taking the request with the seriousness of someone who worked for me.

“Can, jar, tub, I don’t care,” I said. “I just want liquid cheese, and a lot of it.”

(HT: LM and Credit Card Chasers.)

A very cool website that visually explains the abberation of light at relativistic velocities. I think it would be very hard to comprehend without the graphics.

For more relativistic fun, start at the first topic: the C-Ship.

(HT: Top Cultured.)

Does Japan's decision to build a naval base in Djibouti signal the decline of the United States Navy?

Japan is spending $40 million to build a base in Djibouti (on the northern border of Somalia), for its military personnel supporting the anti-piracy patrol. Most Japanese military personnel in the area are at sea, in warships. But now they have a place ashore to for supplies and maintenance facilities. Japan also has maritime patrol aircraft in Djibouti. All this is to help protect Japanese maritime trade, which is considerable.

Up till now, our allies could trust our capability and will to protect trade across the high seas.

So the National Enquirer is reporting that President Obama is having/had an affair with a staffer... at first blush, I find it credible. When you consider how blind the press was to John Edwards' affair, it's easy to imagine the mainstream media covering up an affair by Obama. We'll have to see all the evidence, but I won't be shocked if it's true.

Some people are eager to dismiss sexual affairs as "private" matters that shouldn't be considered when evaluating politicians. Others (such as myself) believe that marital infidelity reveals a fundamental character flaw, and said flaw will also manifest itself in the political realm in ways that may not be directly visible. I.e., if you cheat on your wife, why should I trust you not to cheat on me as a citizen?

But I think there's an even more important consideration: national security. From this angle, it isn't the affair that's important, it's the fact that the affair is an embarrassing secret. Secrets provide leverage to be used by enemies, and not just personal enemies but national enemies. If an enemy of the United States were to discover that the President is having a secret affair, there's no telling how much damage the enemy could inflict in the form of concessions, espionage, theft, political appointments, vetoes, and so forth.

Note: affairs that aren't secret don't carry this same danger. If an affair is common knowledge then it can't be used as leverage. At that point, it's "merely" an issue of character and trustworthiness.

If President Obama were having a secret affair, I think it would be prudent to impeach him immediately on national security grounds. Breaking trust and having poor moral character are bad, but I see those as issues that can be sorted out by voters via the election process. Endangering national security for personal sexual gratification is a much more serious matter.

Virtual Sistine Chapel. Better than being there!

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