December 2004 Archives

Since I'm going to give a tour of UCLA today, I figure I may as well post a secret treasure map of the university's soft underbelly: the steam tunnels.

The sweet adverturous nectar your departmental overlords don't want you to see!

Legend has it that the tunnels have been sealed since my conspirators and I last explored them, but I'm sure an enterprising urban adventurer could find her way in. There's all sorts of treasure to be claimed and mysterious chambers to explore, like the Toilet Graveyard, the steam plant, and the Royce Towers (as seen on the seal of UCLA).

Dangers await as well, such as certain expulsion (so we hear), rats, burning hot steam pipes, exposed electrical wires, and zombies. Haha, just kidding about the rats. Also: Shelob. Take a flashlight, because the tunnels are mostly pitch black; wear long pants and sleeves, despite the sweltering heat, because there are lots of hot and sharp things that will hurt you. Occasionally the tunnels are flooded with up to a foot of water, and maybe more if it rains a lot. Remember: water + electricity == fun + zombies.

If you go, write up an account of your quest and leave a comment here to let me know how it was.

Here's are a few accounts, some with pictures: one, two, three, four.

Happy 2005!

Is it considered heresy for a Christian to doubt that a particular book of the Bible ought to have been included in the canon? There must be at least some books that are heretical to doubt, otherwise we could doubt away the whole Bible -- but there are books that don't appear to be essential. Even if one believes that the books of the Bible that ought to be included in the canon are divinely inspired, does that mean that questioning the selection of the canon itself is off limits?

As the death toll climbs for the tsunami and earthquake in Asia -- 125,000 by current count -- I began wondering how many people die around the world every day. According to the CIA World Fact book, the average death rate for the world is 8.68 deaths per 1,000 people; with a population (estimated) of 6.4 billion, that gives us 155,000 deaths per day by all causes, and almost 57 million per year. It looks likely that the tsunami and earthquake doubled the number of worldwide deaths for a single day.

According to the World Health Organization, 1.2 million people in 1998 died as a direct result of injuries sustained in a motor vehical accident -- over 3,200 per day.

I bet 2005 will be filled with "tsunamis" thanks to the recent tragedy in Indonesia. "Bush is nominating a tsunami of conservative judges!" "Tsunami of terror floods Iraq before elections!" "Deficit tsunami swamps federal budget!" And so forth.

I've written a lot about the theory of evolution and why it's not really that scientific, and Rand Simberg has an excellent explanation of why his belief in science requires faith.

With regard to my statement that science is a philosophy that rests on faith, I wrote the following:

Belief in the scientific method is faith, in the sense that there are a number of unprovable axioms that must be accepted:

1) There is an objective reality
2) It obeys universal laws
3) Its nature can be revealed by asking questions of it in the form of experiments
4) The simplest explanation that fits the facts is the one that should be preferred

There are other tenets, but these are the main ones. ...

So if science is a religion (in the sense of a belief system, which I think it is), then is it a legitimate subject for public schools? As I've said previously, this is largely a symptom of a much larger problem--the fact that we have public schools, in which the "public" will always be at loggerheads about what subjects should be taught and how. But given the utility of learning science (something that I employ every day, whenever I troubleshoot my computer network, or figure out what kinds of foods are good or bad for me), I think that it is an important subject to which everyone should be exposed. But if I were teaching evolution, I would offer it as the scientific explanation for how life on earth developed, not a "fact" or "the truth."

He notes repeatedly that science isn't a set of facts:

Science is not a compendium of "facts." Science is about how we turn unrelated, boring facts into useful knowledge. Science is a method, not an encyclopedia. That's why I get upset when someone says that "evolution is a fact." Not just because it's untrue, but because it misses the point entirely.

Science is a means of inquiry. It cannot be learned by simply memorizing a set of dry unconnected facts, but that's what is implied by the "science quiz" described above, and much of what passes for science education in primary schools (and even more frighteningly, in many colleges and universities).

He goes on to explain why physics was his favorite scientific subject in school (mine too) and how he hated the memorization required for biology and chemistry (me too).

All that to get to this:

The problem with creation theories is not that they're inconsistent with the evidence--they are totally consistent, tautologically so, as Eugene [Volokh] says. The problem is that they tell us nothing useful from a scientific standpoint. In fact, there are an infinite number of theories that fit any given set of facts. I can speculate not only that all was created, but that it was created (complete with our memories of it) a minute ago, or two minutes ago. Or an hour ago. Or yesterday. Or the day before. Or, as some would have it, 6000+ years ago. Each is a different theory (though they all fall into a class of theories) that fit the observable facts. They are all equally possible, and all (other than some form of naturalistic evolution) untestable.

Except, of course, that unless one has a time machine naturalistic evolution is pretty untestable as well. In truth, evolution is a poor theory. Mr. Simberg continues:

And furthermore, they offer no hope of making predictions for the future. After all, if a creator can whimsically create a universe in whatever manner he wishes, including evidence that he didn't do it, how can we know what he'll choose tomorrow? Orrin Judd likes to make much of the fact that many evolutionary psychologists believe that free will is an illusion, but if that's the case in a naturalistic world, how much more so must it be with a whimsical creator, who can not only make us as he chooses, but unmake, and remake us on the same basis, whenever he chooses?

Kinda how evolutionists constantly revise their predictions to fit the facts?

I heartily agree with Mr. Simberg's characterization of science as a method of inquiry. In fact, I'm a scientist myself and I use science all the time. I've also studied the theory of naturalistic evolution quite a bit -- and used it in my artificial intelligence research -- and I find it to be quite lacking. That doesn't prove that evolution is wrong or that God created the universe 6,000 years ago or 5 seconds ago, but I don't think there's any greater scientific basis for the former than for the latter. Science works by disproving things until only one thing is left, not by proving anything. (Basically, the theory of evolution is based on induction, and induction isn't science!)

Dr. John Mark Reynolds has an excellent response as well (actually, that link is number three; see especially one and also two).

Patterico takes the Dog Trainer to task in his year-end review of my city's major "newspaper" -- it's definitely made of paper, but I use the term loosely. It's beyond me how he found the energy to sift through the necessary piles of rubbish to find these gems of garbagitude, and he promises that this is only part one of two.

Part two.

I'm surprised there aren't more photos of the tsunami itself. Yahoo News has some pictures of the aftermath, but I can't find any of the wave. You'd think that in such touristy areas there would have been more people armed with cameras. FoxNews had some amature video clips posted, but I can't find them anymore, and they weren't that great anyway. Does anyone have any good links? I'm surprised The Daily Recycler isn't all over this, but he hasn't posted anything for over a month!

Tsunami photos and videos! Thanks, TheFreak.

Just when I thought the UN was doing something vaguely useful by organizing relief efforts for the decimated coastlines around the Bay of Bengal, some UN spokeswoman uses the disaster to lecture the United States on the evil of low tax rates.

"The United States, at the president's direction, will be a leading partner in one of the most significant relief, rescue and recovery challenges that the world has ever known," said White House deputy press secretary Trent Duffy.

But U.N. Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Jan Egeland suggested that the United States and other Western nations were being "stingy" with relief funds, saying there would be more available if taxes were raised.

There's plenty more of one thing available for you anyway, Jan (oops, he's a man!): my fist to your face. I will elbow you straight in the nuts without even thinking about it. You're obviously unaware that private international assistance makes up more than 60% of America's contribution to developing countries -- that's right! We're so freaking generous that our government doesn't need to take our money at gunpoint through taxation -- we like helping people.

At $9.9 billion, ODA accounts for just 18 percent of total U.S. assistance-public and private-to developing countries (table 6.1). Private international assistance, by contrast, is $33.6 billion-60 percent of the U.S. contribution, and projected to grow to 65 percent by 2010. Every year the publication of the DAC report results in press reports and statements by academics and opinion leaders disparaging America’s "stinginess," asserting that U.S. foreign policy will be ineffective without more ODA, and claiming that U.S. foreign aid programs collapsed after the Cold War. But ODA is a limited and outdated way of measuring a country’s giving. Given the enormous growth in the private sector around the world, donors should reevaluate the measure.

I betcha Jan the Man isn't even taking into account the non-monetary contributions the United States is providing -- and that only we are capable of.

Money and food are not the only types of aid being sent by the Bush administration. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) also is sending a 21-member disaster-relief team to the region.

Also, the Pentagon has dispatched military patrol planes from the Pacific Fleet. President Bush has written letters of condolence to seven of the affected nations — Bangladesh, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, India, the Maldives and Malaysia.

Yes, that's right, only the United States of America can send letters of condelence from President Bush -- so suck it, Jan (who is a man, despite his name).

Oh, plus we've got military assets to ensure security in the aftermath of the disaster and prevent China from just sweeping in and pushing the survivors into the sea. Yeah, China, you know, that huge country right next door that hasn't yet offered to assist at all? They've got plenty of taxation, since they're communist and all, and yet they don't seem to be measuring up to Jan's ideal. Maybe he should publically denigrate them and see how far he gets.

So to the Man-Jan and the UN: screw off. My sufficiently high taxes pay a quarter of your salary, so don't lecture me on being generous towards the less capable.

The UN spokeswoman has decided to back-pedal in response to my comments.

Additionally, Israel is sending relief supplies to the majority Muslim victims even though some of their help is being rejected. No word yet on how much assistance Muslim nations are planning to send.

I don't think they exist. Or maybe they do!

The Pirate says that he'd rather live in a place that's prepared for natural disasters than in a place unlikely to bear the brunt of them, but I think that's pretty silly.

Dispite what Mike Williams suggests, I'll live in a area that is prepared for a natural disaster, rather than one that would be decimated by one if it happens to occur. We have a good building code in this country, better materials, better construction quality management, better laws regulating construction and better enforcement. In the third world its a disaster, even if there is a building code its not well enfoced. Just look at the quakes in places like Bam and turkey, a shaker that may break your wine glasses in LA, kills 10's of thousands. This is where Attila is exactly right when she says that even developing countries need a minimal building code and importantly they need to get people to follow it and they need someone to enforce it. I would say adopt either the California UBC for siesmic design (where many California regulations are overbearing and pointless, I like the siesmic code being strict because I have this thing against dying) or the specs the Japanese use.

The problem with this proposal is that residents of third-world countries simply can't afford to build structures to the same standards we can in America. It's not that the beach-dwelling fishermen of Sri Lanka don't want to live in steel-reinforced high rises, it's that they aren't productive enough to support a society can can afford such safety. The choice they face is often either living under a tree or building a box house out of cinder blocks that'll come tumbling down in a tremor, crushing everyone inside.

What their governments can afford are mitigation technologies with concentrated costs and distributed benefits, such as tsunami detection and alarm systems. A few buoys and warning sirens could have saved thousands of lives around the Bay of Bengal a couple of days ago. Earthquakes are a bit trickier, of course.

Third-world countries don't have the resources to build hardened lines of defense against natural disasters -- just as America doesn't have the resources to put a parachute on the back of every airplane passenger. Money is scarce, and it has to be spent in ways that save lives as efficiently as possible. For instance, it would be foolish to spend money building earthquake-proof buildings if you couldn't first afford to provide clean drinking water. I'm not suggesting that every decision made by these governments was wise or correct, but saying that they simply need safer building codes is essentially "let them eat cake!"

The ultimate solution is liberty, which leads to prosperity, which leads to safety.

OpinionJournal agrees: "Prosperity is the best defense against a tsunami".

I just finished The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower by Stephen King, and I don't quite know what to say about it yet other than that it concludes what is possibly the best modern fantasy epic I've read, say true. Here we -- the last of his friends; silent members of his ka-tet -- finally travel with Roland to the object of his quest: the Dark Tower. The journey took Mr. King more than 34 years to complete, and ages longer for his hero, and the end is as sweet as the alkali desert that set our boots to earth was bitter, though it left me just as thirsty. Not for more of the same -- this story is done, and well-done for it -- but thirsty for a water of my own creation, if I can dig a deep enough well to find it.

The A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin is close in power, but since it's not finished yet (and not as fresh in my mind) I can't rightly compare it. Mr. King avoids the extraneous trappings that bog down the later volumes of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series, say thankee, but still delivers enough meat to gorge a ravenous imagination.

My only disappointment was in the ignominious fate of Walter o' Dim, that black rogue. But alas, what's done is done.

The Bible Gateway -- my favorite internet Bible resource -- has an awesome collection of audio Bibles in many different versions and a few different languages. They've also got a link to The Book of Life project of the International Bible Society: a Modern Standard Arabic translation of the Bible. And yes, they've got Arabic audio too! Certainly a worthy occupation.

Why isn't there a way to listen to radio stations on my cell phone? Why don't stations offer a number to call to listen to their programming via telephone? Maybe I should just buy a Walkman... the problem is that I hate anything that uses batteries I have to replace. Batteries are so 20th century.

Quake and Tsunamis Kill Over 11,000 22,000 125,000

DeoDuce writes:

Take a gun-toting, redneck Republican and put him in the woods and you get the United States.


In yet another absurd stunt by environmentalists, the Rainforest Action Network has hijacked a bunch of kids and coerced them into holding signs to protest against the nebulous destruction of rainforests.

NEW YORK — A group of Connecticut second graders was bused to New York last week for a well-publicized protest to save the rainforest. And the field trip has some up in arms.

The kids wielded posters they made in school as part of a contest sponsored by an environmental group called the Rainforest Action Network.

"Today we have rainforest heroes, kids the earth can count on are here today to visit J.P. Morgan Chase (search), the world's second largest bank, to ask them to save the rainforest," said Michael Brune (search), executive director of the network.

Mr. Brune must realize that his loony beliefs have no basis in reality or he wouldn't resort to shallow emotional appeals like kids holding signs. You'll note that this sort of tripe is generally only a tool of the left, pulled out when they can't help but lose arguments in the world of adults.

Does anyone think the 6- and 7-year-olds are actually expressing their own reasoned opinions on deforestation? Or are they simply holding up whatever signs are handed to them and spewing forth whatever slogans pounded into their brains? It's a joke, but a dangerous one.

The irony of using a bus to transport kids to a rally against oil drilling and holding paper signs to protest logging isn't lost on critics who say RAN's propaganda has no place in elementary school.

"I think these kids need to learn how to read, write and do 'rithmetic and think. I think first and second grade is way too young to be brainwashed with any sort of political agenda," said Steve Milloy of CSR Watch, a watchdog group for corporate social responsibility.

Thanks, FoxNews; I bet the irony would have been lost on any other news network. It's a shame the Rainforest Action Network cares more about trees than about kids' futures. Methinks Mr. Brune should spend a little more time watching television and learn from the wisdom of South Park: Rainforest Schmainforest.

It looks like the new Afghan government is finally ready to start tackling one of the most insidious evils facing their country: opium.

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — From March to August, the United Nations says, almost 90 percent of the world's opium is grown in the fields of Afghanistan. The U.N. says cultivation of opium poppies, which can be made into heroin, is up 64 percent over last year in Afghanistan.

Afghan president Hamid Karzai (search) says that's humiliating. "We should fight poppy with the same zeal as we fought the Russians. If we do not, our homeland ... will face danger again."

It would have been nice for the US to firebomb poppy fields during the invasion, but it would have been self-destructive and would have hindered the coalition of warlords that helped us overthrow the Taliban. We couldn't accomplish every type of good all at once, but let this serve an an example to people who think we should do nothing just because we can't do everything. Give us time.

Interestingly, the more total time I spend in relationships with women,the more slick moves and mad skills I acquire. I suspect that if one were to take a 75-year-old man who'd been married for 50 years and transplant him into a 25-year-old body he'd have all the girls swooning.

For my more experienced (read: older, married) male readers, do you think you've learned anything from your married lives that could be beneficially applied if you went back in time and re-entered the dating scene?

Update 041223 10:53pm
Just to be clear, I'm not asking for advice! I'm asking if you all agree that the experience you've gotten from your relationships has given you insight into women that would make it easier for you to pick up on them if you were single again.

Richard Rahn explains why we should eliminate the corporate income tax, and points out that economists around the world agree. Emerging economies in New Europe are slashing rates and leaving America uncompetitive with a combined federal and state corporate tax rate average of 42%.

There are still some, but fortunately a diminishing number of mentally lightweight leftists, who believe you somehow can tax a corporation without taxing the workers, customers, suppliers and stockholders (who in many cases are invested in pension funds) of the corporation. When they make the cry, as they surely will, that eliminating the corporate income tax benefits the rich and rewards the greedy, they should be challenged with facts and logic. Advocates of sound economic policy have too many times allowed themselves to be bullied by loudmouths who claim compassion, yet cause misery. Tax reform is too important to allow ignorance to prevail.


(HT: The eminent Larry Kudlow.)

Dave Pollard at How to Save the World has an interesting post on the tyranny of structurelessness in which he points to many earlier posts on his theory of democractic self-structuring organizations. I haven't yet read the posts he links to, so my comments below are only based on my intuitive understanding of the concepts, which may differ from reality.

In essense, Mr. Pollard advocates collaboration within a group rather competition -- presumably competition between groups is desirable. He dislikes hierarchical structures and prefers egalitarianism, and in response to the various problems that prevent social groups from functioning this way he writes:

My (admittedly idealistic) proposal in Natural Enterprise is that self-selection of the group should prevent these problems from occurring in the first place. Those who are disinclined to work for someone who tends to want to dominate will select the dominant types out of the group. Those who want to be dominated, to be told what to do and how to do it, will self-select into groups that include that type of individual. Furthermore, in Natural Enterprise, the self-selecting group's first task is to set out the mutually agreeable principles by which it will operate. Of course, this is a learning process, one that will be very new to most of us, so it should not be surprising that it takes some time for the self-selection process to work. In its early days, every Natural Enterprise will be expelling those who didn't work out, allowing others who didn't understand what they were getting into to select themselves out, and others to be invited or opt in in their place. Every system is messy when it first begins. And I have a great belief in instinct -- it is rare when my first instinctive impression of a work colleague, positive or negative, has proven dead wrong. Nature has given us this marvelous gift of instinct to make the process of group self-selection easier and more reliable.

The idea that people should be allowed to join and leave groups under their own free will is not particularly new (see the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution). In America, anyway, most people are entirely free to join and leave super-groups at will (such as companies, clubs, churches, unions, even families), but the internal structures of these groups is generally hierarchical.

Interestingly, corporations are perhaps the most egalitarian type of group; shareholders vote in proportion to their ownership without regard for any social considerations; of course, shareholders almost universally vote to create a hierarchical structure led by a board of directors, a president, and various managerial types. Employees of the corporation do not, in the strictest sense, "belong" to the corporate group unless they are shareholders, but when they decide to accept employment they know about the structure they're joining and do so voluntarily. I'm not sure how this fits into Mr. Pollard's philosophy; I assume he would argue that the shareholders could achieve a greater return on their investments if they created a more egalitarian management structure. This would, however, reduce their ability to oversee and direct their employees and the use of their capital, so it may be that the more efficient egalitarian structure would be more productive but not in the direction the shareholders desire.

As to collaboration more generally, Mr. Pollard asks some pointed questions.

Are these behaviours -- excessive dominance, bullying, ganging up, hoarding resources, competing instead of collaborating, and doing things without consulting others -- unlearnable? And how about the behaviours that make these foolish behaviours possible -- others' submissiveness, cowardice, self-victimization, self-isolation, passivity, meekness, resignation -- can they be unlearned too? Is it naive and unrealistic to think that we all have something valuable to contribute, we all instinctively seek and belong to communities, and, given a chance, we could and would all participate as equals in every community and organization to which we belong?

I appreciate that nature has endowed us with dominant and submissive genes, to establish a natural pecking order so that, even without language, we can maintain order in our groups. But in nature there is enormous collaboration and sharing of resources, infinitely more peace and equality and less suffering than we find in most human institutions. I'm not saying we need to learn to be exactly equal, just that by 'ousting the egos and outing the wallflowers', we need to learn to be more egalitarian.

I do not share Mr. Pollard's belief that there is enormous collaboration in nature. In nature, pure physical power is the only limit on the actions of any creature. Death runs rampant, justice is a meaningless concept, and suffering is so universal that we can barely perceive it.

Cooperative anarchy may be a desirable condition, but despite common perceptions anarchy is not a natural equilibrium state. Power is always consolidated by the strong, and anarchy inevitably gives way to despotism -- the most fundamental emergent social structure. If we're fortunate (and blessed), despotism eventually yields to democracy, which is more stable than anarchy but still only precariously balanced by the structural forms we build into the system and protect by force, both social and physical.

Here's a non-exhaustive list of things I believe are immoral but should not be illegal. The point is that not everything good should be enforced by other humans at gunpoint.

1. Pride.
2. Lying in general, although subsets such as fraud and perjury should be illegal.
3. Aborting babies conceived by rape.
4. Devising wicked schemes.
5. Being bloodthirsty, delighting in pain and suffering.
6. Stirring up trouble over pointless things.
7. Idolatry.
8. Using God's name as a swear word.
9. Disrespecting the Sabbath.
10. Dishonoring your parents.
11. Adultery.
12. Pre-marital sex.
13. Coveting.
14. Gluttony.
15. Laziness.
16. Lust.
17. Unjustified anger; being short-tempered.
18. Greed.
19. Listening to or spreading gossip.
20. Neglecting the study of God's Word.
21. Neglecting to pray.
22. Neglecting evalgelism.
23. Neglecting church attendance and participation.
24. Drunkenness.
25. Being inhospitable.
26. Neglecting your family.
27. Neglecting the instruction and discipline of your children.
28. Insincerity.
29. Being bullying or overbearing.
30. Being manipulative.
31. Being discouraging or pessimistic.

I'll add more as I think of them.

Lots of people, particularly those familiar with the King James Version of the Bible, probably wonder about the difference between "thou" and "you". It's really pretty simple: "thou" is an archaic second-person singular pronoun, and "you" was originally a second-person plural pronoun. "Thou" faded from use in the 16th and 17th centuries (and was, in fact, quint if not archaic even when the KJV was translated) and almost entirely disappeared from use by the 18th century. In it's place, "you" is now used as both the singular and plural second-person pronoun -- sometimes it refers to you individually, and sometimes it refers to you all as a group.

"Thou" was a much more personal and intimate pronoun because it could only refer to a single person. To the best of my knowledge, English is now one of the only languages without a so-called "tu-vous" (T/V) distinction. No one knows why this is the case, but it seems as if the transition started with the upper classes as early as the 13th century. In modern T/V languages, such as French, I understand that it's considered more respectful to use the V pronoun; T is used in intimate situations or by superiors to inferiors. (Is this right?)

For more information, look up the work by linguist Dick Leith.

The Village Voice has a no-duh article about the burdens of being a woman -- as a man it's interesting to read, but as a rational human it's hard not to wonder why Anya Kamenetz writes as if she's pondering a profound conundrum.

If you're a woman between the ages of, say, 18 and 30, then chances are good you were raised by a mother who aspired to be an '80s superwoman, a CEO-domestic goddess in shoulder pads—and so, minus the shoulder pads, do you. Creative satisfaction, along with money, romance, and gorgeous offspring, is part of our deluxe have-it-all package. And yet, in the years between college and settling down, we run smack into some harsh economic realities that can leave us sounding like women on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

"Just make me sound not too insane," pleaded one woman who reluctantly agreed to talk about her situation.

"I'm in this really hard place and I honestly don't know what to do," said another.

And, "Is this making any sense at all?"

The cause for much of the confusion is that these women have been told that they can have their cake and eat it too, which is impossible for any of us to do. They don't seem to realize that although they have, as women, more biological options than men do, they don't have any additional time or energy to take advantage of every option at the same time.

On a limited budget of time and money, we have to somehow prioritize making a living, making our mark, and making a family. As hard as this economy is for young adults in general, it's that much more complicated for women, who not only earn less but want more. Both men and women of this generation are taking on unprecedented debt for their educations, but at 76 cents on the male dollar, women have a harder time working their way into financial stability. They're also more likely to take time out of the labor force, which slows the career climb and drags down earnings.

Differences in expectations and ambitions between men and women almost wholly account for the pay discrepancy, and taking time out of the work force to have as child is part of that. Why should a person, male or female, who takes a year or more away from a job expect to get paid the same as a person who doesn't? It wouldn't be fair, and it doesn't even make sense. A person has to decide whether time with the child is more important than a higher salary, and in families with two parents it's generally the woman who wants to stay home. Plus, it's convenient because she has boobs.

Lagusta Yearwood, 26, is a chef with her own gourmet-vegetarian meal delivery service, She has struggled to get the business up and running while paying off about $45,000 in debt from student loans and from living on credit cards while in college and culinary school. "I was an English and women's studies major [at the University of Rochester], and now I'm a cook," she says. "I'm happy I went to college, but if I'd known I would come out with so much debt and wouldn't be making money from my degree, I wouldn't have gone."

Yes well, many Americans are over-educated. We tend to worship education as the solution to every problem, but that doesn't always turn out to be the case.

Marriage has traditionally been the means for women to provide for themselves and their children. Of the dozens of women on the 2004 Forbes Richest People list, nearly all of them made their fortunes through marriage. But few twentysomething women today are counting on a breadwinner.

"I feel like girls are really brought up to imagine their lives with a partner," says Sara, 27, who is getting her MFA in creative writing at Columbia. "I can imagine myself in a long-term relationship but not in a way that has any impact on the way I think about my economic life."

This changing ambition among women is probably largely due to the failure of men to live up to our responsibilities. A woman would be crazy to become dependent on a man who can't provide for her and who may not stick around very long. Raising a family is, I imagine, hard, and modern men tend to be flighty and more concerned with comfort than with honor and integrity. Women I know who have found honest, hard-working men who really mean "till death do us part" are incredibly happy in their relationships and don't seem to have much trouble trusting and depending on their husbands.

Kemah, 24, approaches the question a little differently. She is majoring in film and theater at Hunter College and will be around $60,000 in debt by the time she graduates next year. She has resolved to have children whether or not she can find the right partner. "My thinking five years ago was that I have to get married to accomplish some of the things I want to do. Now that I'm getting older I think I can do it myself. I didn't grow up with my father and I don't want to depend on a man."

That's a perfect example of how one pathetic man hardened and disillusioned his daughter. As men, we must prove ourselves worthy to be trusted, otherwise it should be no surprise when we're not. Respect is earned through action.

Young women today were raised with clear messages of achievement and self-reliance. They often outnumbered men at their colleges and graduate programs, and are making economic sacrifices for the fulfillment of their own dreams, without waiting for anyone else's permission. They have taken their equality for granted. Yet as they now struggle to establish themselves, they're realizing, for the first time, the betrayals of gender.

Women are not betrayed by their biology; women have more options than men do but only the same amount of time, so they have to make more decsions and leave more roads untraveled. That's only a burden if you count success by what you haven't done rather than by what you have. If a woman's glass appears less than half-full, it's because she has a larger glass.

Dr. Fels says that as women's access to education at all levels has improved, their second-class citizenship often doesn't kick in until after graduation. "Right now the disadvantages are invisible. It's not as clear as being let into a school, but institutions that employ people still ignore families and children," she says. "It's an issue that women feel is their problem, their personal dilemma, but is really a major issue for the entire country." The good news is that we're not crazy; the bad news is that the system needs a major intervention.

And here we must part ways. As they say, the biology of women isn't a bug, it's a feature. Rather than longing to be just like men, why don't women revel in the opportunities they have, in the joys and sorrows that us men will never know? This writer blithely assumes that what men have is somehow better than what women have, but isn't that view itself a product of a male-centered world view?

(HT: Gawker.)

Jonathan Witt of Witting Shire has written a short article in The Seattle Times explaining again the enlightenment of Antony Flew (which I first mentioned here). His conclusion hits the nail on the head:

The amazing complexity of even the simplest cell; the information-bearing properties of DNA; the exquisite fine-tuning of the laws and constants of physics that make organic life possible; the Big Bang of the cosmos out of nothing — these signs of intelligence do not compel our belief in a God who thundered from Mount Sinai, lay in a manger or hung from a cross. But the evidence does have metaphysical implications, drawing us to a still place of wonder where such notions can be reasonably entertained.

It will always require faith to believe in God: that's a feature, not a bug.

Hebrews 11:6

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Only once God's existence is acknowledged can the search for truth really begin.

(HT: Bill Hobbs.)

Adam Felber at Fanatical Apathy attributes nefarious motivations to recent Republican calls for the resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Donald Rumfeld's getting a lot of criticism from powerful Republicans, as you might have heard. From John McCain, yes, but also Trent Lott. And Susan Collins. And Chuck Hagel. And Norm Coleman. Many of them are calling for his resignation.

Wow! What we can glean from this is that after 4 years of stellar, circumspect, admirable service to his country and deft prosecution of the war in Iraq, Rumsfeld has suddenly made a ton of unpardonably bad choices in the past five weeks. I mean, how else could you possibly explain all of these prominent and patriotic Republicans not speaking out beforehand?

There was the election of course. But who could ever believe that powerful public servants who've vowed to act in the best interest of our country would voluntarily remain silent while they watched the Secretary of Defense inadvisably put American lives on the line? Who could believe that? That would imply that they were willing to see our soldiers die in an ill-managed war rather than risk losing the White House. That would be almost treasonous. It's inconceivable!

He fails to realize that perhaps it wasn't anything about Rumsfeld that has changed, but maybe the circumstances in Iraq are different than they were two years ago. Perhaps it appeared to these senators that Rumsfeld was doing a great job winning the war, but that he hasn't been as successful "securing the peace" (as the new buzz-phrase goes). Maybe they got tired of waiting for improved performance?

Then again, perhaps these senators are from states that are poised to lose military bases in the 2005 round of BRAC; no final decisions have been made/released yet, of course, but the DoD has wide latitude in recommending closures and I'm sure the senators know who is on the chopping block. Additionally, many of the changes Rumsfeld has introduced over the past four years have had unpleasant side-effects on certain states, and maybe these senators are looking for payback. There are a whole host of potential political reasons for the newfound disapproval of the Secretary, and many of them don't relate to Iraq at all (as if that's the only thing Defense is doing!).

Furthermore, it's pretty standard for secretaries to resign after elections are over. DCI George Tenet's recent departure right before an election was very unusual, and it left a vacancy that was hard to fill. Few people are eager to accept an appointment to such a difficult job that they may lose within a month because their boss gets voted out, and when the bureacracy knows that it can be difficult to manage.

But anyway, even if Mr. Felber's worst suspicions are true, they definitely don't amount to "treason", which requires an actual intent to aid our enemies and harm our country. That accusation is best reserved for people who actually want our enemies to win.

(As a side note, remember my motto: Apathy is the key to happiness.)

USA Today ran a front page story about teens playing poker -- an emerging hobby that the subheadline declares is "Not just another teen fad". That certainly remains to be seen, but I hardly think it's the beginning of a new gambling craze that's poised to ruin the next generation.

Now kids as young as 10 are being dealt hands, often with parents' approval. Poker paraphernalia is being hawked everywhere from supermarkets to kiddie emporiums such as Toys R Us. All of which rings alarm bells for gambling addiction experts who warn that poker could be a slippery slope into other high-risk activities.

I play poker, often with teenagers, and we rarely play for any money at all and never more than $5 or $10. Among the people I play with no one really cares about money, they care about winning, beating their friends, and the excitement of making a good hand. Even when you lose you can get the satisfaction of knowing that you played your cards the best way possible.

Barry Shulman understands the game's siren call. “It's so fun it can consume you,” says the real estate developer turned tournament player and publisher of Card Player magazine. “I get e-mails from kids all the time. I'm impressed at how focused they are, how much they ask about statistical aspects of the game.”

Shulman says poker offers teens five things: social interaction, especially for the socially awkward; help with math and other numbers-related skills; an understanding of risk/reward scenarios; lessons on how to read looks and gestures; and insights into your own limits of self-control.

“Gambling is a part of life, at the card table or in business,” Shulman says. “That said, poker is a stupid way to make a living. The correct way for a kid to be taught poker is to learn that it is a very difficult game with a high degree of risk.”

I think that's about right. Kids that learn how to play early are likely to realize early that you lose far more often than you win -- and winning depends largely on luck, no matter how good you are.

Plus, I think the social aspects of the game make it far more beneficial than watching television or playing video games. People get together to socialize and snack, and playing poker is really just an excuse to hang out.

What's interesting to me is that women appear to be much less interested in the game than men are. Most of the time I play it's all-male, and the women really couldn't care less about being included. I guess they're off sewing or cooking or something.

My mom got me a sweet surround sound system for my birthday and I pseudo set it up last night, but it's quite frustrating. For one thing, there are a ton of cables everywhere and I have to idea how to string the rear speakers without having wire draped all over the place. I suppose I could go into the ceiling and such, but I feel in my gut that there's some trick I'm missing.... Do people cut their carpet and run the wire underneath? Running wire across the ceiling would be pretty tacky.

Part of the problem may be that my TV and furniture aren't ideally positioned for my speaker system. If I rotate everything 90 degrees clockwise then I'll have two walls to run the wires along rather than having to span open space. That's a possibility, but then my couches would be in the center of the room and I like having a central open area. What a dilemma.

Anyway, here's a series of articles on how to set up surround sound speakers and a home theater system more generally.

When my big screen TV goes out I'm going to buy a projector to replace it rather than another TV. Combined with a good screen, a projector can look as good as a TV and be as large as you want. They're still a bit pricy, but they're getting cheaper and are comparable in price to good projection TVs.

Eugene Volokh points to a story about an inadequately diverse performance of The Vagina Monologues but misses an opportunity:

They silently stood hand in hand with gray duct tape pasted across their lips and "Vagina Warriors" emblazoned on the back of their white shirts. The front of the shirts had different messages: "Warning: Hostile Vagina," "Not all vaginas are skinny, white + straight" and "My cunt is not represented here."

About 10 people gathered in front of Agate Hall on Friday to protest what they called a lack of representation of different kinds of women in "The Vagina Monologues" production, which ran Thursday through Saturday at the Agate Hall auditorium.

In flyers handed out to audience members at the show, University graduate Nicole Sangsuree Barrett wrote that while there was "diversity" in the show, it was minimal. Women of "a variety of skin colors, body sizes, abilities and gender expressions" were not adequately represented, she said.

"I would just like to call attention to the fact that this could have been a more diverse cast, but a safe and welcoming environment was not created for people that I consider to be 'underrepresented,'" Barrett said in the statement. . . .

Professor Volokh neglected to advocate the inclusion of the largest minority group in America: men.

Three awful things that go terribly together. Regarding my tolerance of legal abortion in cases of rape and incest, Paul Hsieh from GeekPress asks the question some other readers brought up as well:

If you don't mind me putting you on the spot, I'm wondering how the rape-and-incest exception fits in with the rest of your views on the fetus being a human life worthy of legal protection.

I understand those pro-choicers who don't view the fetus as worthy of legal protection and hence allow unrestricted abortion through the end of 2nd trimester.

I understand those pro-lifers who view the fetus as worthy of legal protection, and would therefore forbid all abortions.

But I've never understood the position (which I know that some conservatives take) which would ban abortions except in the case of rape/incest. (For the sake of discussion, assuming that the fetus is healthy and would grow up to be a fully functioning adult). Is there something about the way the fetus was conceived that makes it murder to abort if the mother was not raped, but makes it not murder if the mother were raped? After all, the fetus is equally human and equally innocent (or equally not human/innocent depending on one's ideology) in both cases.

Good question. First off, many pro-lifers wouldn't make the exception, and I'm not sure if my position is in the majority or not. That said, the reason I would tolerate the abortion of healthy babies conceived through rape or incest is that unlike in the vast majority of pregnancies, in such cases the mother bears no responsibility for the conception. Whenever sex is voluntary there is a chance of pregnancy, no matter how remote, and by making the decision to have sex a woman is implicitly accepting the responsibility of handling whatever consequences may result; it isn't morally acceptable to kill another human being to spare yourself inconvenience brought about by your own actions. However, in cases of rape or incest where the woman does not consent, she does not bear any responsibility for the pregnancy and should not be legally required to carry the baby to term.

An imperfect analogy is the difference between finding someone tied to a train track and actually tying someone there yourself. If you find someone tied to a track you have no legal duty to untie them before they get hit. On the other hand, if you tie someone down and they get killed then you are a murderer.

Now, this sets aside the question of moral responsibility -- but the law and morality are different matters. I think abortion should be legal in cases of rape or incest, but I don't necessarily think such abortions are desirable or morally acceptable. That's a more difficult question, and in general I think it would be best to tolerate the unasked-for inconvenience (and risk) of pregnancy in order to protect the life of the baby. However, I wouldn't force a woman to make that decision.

Update 041220 6:36pm
Many people don't get it. Forcing a hypothetical raped woman to carry her baby to term is akin to the police arbitrarily taking your wallet and giving it to the nearest homeless guy. You aren't responsible for him; if you choose to give him charity it may be noble, but society has no business forcing you to do so. In the case of the raped woman, society can't even do much to share the burden of the painful, traumatic, and difficult service she must render -- there is no one else capable of bearing her child but her, whereas the general populace can be taxed collectively to help a homeless man, thus reducing the burden on any specific person.

Is it morally right to help homeless people? Yes. Should you be forced at gunpoint to help homeless people? No. Is it morally right for a mother to carry to term a baby conceived through rape or incest? Yes. Should she be forced to do so at gunpoint? No. (And all laws are essentially coercive threats to enforce compliance with deadly force.)

Has anyone else noticed that the internet is getting old? Many searches turn up sites are are only current as of the late 1990s, and when you're searching for world records or tax exemptions that's just not good enough. When I'm looking for general information about a field of knowledge I'll almost always include the word "blog" in my search, hoping to find a professional who just happens to blogging within his area of expertise.

It looks like my mini-blog Into the Ether won't be making the transition to the new format. It was an interesting experiment, but I think it's time to call it quits. I'm grateful to all the writers who contributed:

Director Mitch
Justin Katz
Andrew Ian Dodge
Marty McKeever (whose site appears to be defunct)
R. Alex Whitlock
Jim Price

Isn't it interesting that throughout history, from cave paintings to digital photos, across all cultures, every depiction of the sun is of the same object?

Mourn for those who will never enjoy even a single Christmas and try to count the number of I I I I I's uttered by one Amy Richards.

Now I'm 34. My boyfriend, Peter, and I have been together three years. I'm old enough to presume that I wasn't going to have an easy time becoming pregnant. I was tired of being on the pill, because it made me moody. Before I went off it, Peter and I talked about what would happen if I became pregnant, and we both agreed that we would have the child.

I found out I was having triplets when I went to my obstetrician. The doctor had just finished telling me I was going to have a low-risk pregnancy. She turned on the sonogram machine. There was a long pause, then she said, ''Are you sure you didn't take fertility drugs?'' I said, ''I'm positive.'' Peter and I were very shocked when she said there were three. ''You know, this changes everything,'' she said. ''You'll have to see a specialist.''

My immediate response was, I cannot have triplets. I was not married; I lived in a five-story walk-up in the East Village; I worked freelance; and I would have to go on bed rest in March. I lecture at colleges, and my biggest months are March and April. I would have to give up my main income for the rest of the year. There was a part of me that was sure I could work around that. But it was a matter of, Do I want to?

I looked at Peter and asked the doctor: ''Is it possible to get rid of one of them? Or two of them?'' The obstetrician wasn't an expert in selective reduction, but she knew that with a shot of potassium chloride you could eliminate one or more.

Having felt physically fine up to this point, I got on the subway afterward, and all of a sudden, I felt ill. I didn't want to eat anything. What I was going through seemed like a very unnatural experience. On the subway, Peter asked, ''Shouldn't we consider having triplets?'' And I had this adverse reaction: ''This is why they say it's the woman's choice, because you think I could just carry triplets. That's easy for you to say, but I'd have to give up my life.'' Not only would I have to be on bed rest at 20 weeks, I wouldn't be able to fly after 15. I was already at eight weeks. When I found out about the triplets, I felt like: It's not the back of a pickup at 16, but now I'm going to have to move to Staten Island. I'll never leave my house because I'll have to care for these children. I'll have to start shopping only at Costco and buying big jars of mayonnaise. Even in my moments of thinking about having three, I don't think that deep down I was ever considering it.

And so two lives are ruthlessly ended to save trips to Costco. Apparently adoption was never considered as an option. Here's a reasonably wealthy, healthy woman who purposefully quit taking birth control pills and then refused to take responsibility for her own actions, preferring instead to spare herself a few months of inconvenience by murdering her children.

(HT: James Taranto.)

I confess that I'm not intimately familiar with the ins and outs of the liberties that Michael J. Totten supports, but as a religious conservative (with libertarian inclinations) I'll answer his call and provide a brief overview of my perspective (for whatever it's worth).

First off, it's important to recognize that almost everyone claims to be in favor of freedom and liberty, and yet there are still plenty of disagreements. For instance, the pro-choice crowd supports the freedom of a mother to kill her unborn child on a whim, whereas the pro-life crowd supports the freedom of an unborn child to not be killed without good reason. Which side is really more pro-liberty? It depends on how you define the term, and if you're shaking your fist at me and yelling no it doesn't you idiot! then I doubt you'll care about anything else I have to say here.

Since "it depends" doesn't get us very far, let me give you an abridged list of what liberty means to me as a conservative right-wing Republican Christian (as I generally consider myself, tongue-in-cheek).

Book burning: People should be free to burn their own books, and this doesn't appear to be an area in which the federal government should get involved. I wouldn't really care if towns or even states decided to ban/burn certain books, but I think it would be pretty bad policy and I wouldn't want to live in such places. Nevertheless, I'm pleased with our current First Amendment protections that restrict the actions of states and cities as well as the federal government.

Drugs: I've written a lot about propospals to legalize drugs. I think that the War on Drugs is poorly implemented and wastes a lot of money, but I'm not at all convinced that broad legalization would be better. I suspect that the right answer is somewhere in between.

Sex: I don't think the government should be involved in what consenting adults do in private. I do think the majority has a right to shape the public sphere according to their tastes, and those with minority view points should either try to convince the majority to change their minds or content themselves with exercising their freedom in private.

Abortion: I think the right of an unborn child to live trumps a mother's desire for comfort and convenience. I would tolerate legal abortion to save the mother's life and in cases of incest and rape.

Guns: Love 'em. Every mentally stable abult should have the right to carry a concealed weapon at all times until they do something to forfeit that right.

Government: Unlike many conservatives, I don't want to cut taxes to maximize government revenue -- I want to keep cutting taxes even lower and minimize government revenue down to the bare bones. I expect we could cut 70% of the federal budget and all benefit from it. I'm not keen on President Bush's proliferate spending, but I vote for him because he's pro-life and pursues an aggressive foreign policy that spreads my version of freedom around the world.

As a general principle, I refer you to Eugene Volokh's treatise on burning witches:

Witch hunts are wrong for a simple reason: We know that there are no witches. If there were witches, who could blight your crops, make you sterile, and turn you into a newt just by an incantation or two, then of course we should hunt them. And humane as I like to be, if witches really had these awesome powers (which quite likely wouldn't stop at the bars of their prison cell), of course we'd have to take some radical steps to protect ourselves. I'm just as much against burning as the next man, but in a case like this . . . . Wait a sec, I don't need to be in favor of burning them, because we know that there are no witches!

He goes on to defend the concept of racial profiling because there are in fact Arab terrorists. Likewise, there are drugs that should not be legal, there are weapons that should not be privately owned, there are natural monopolies that benefit from government regulation, there are sexual practices that should be prohibited, and so forth.

My life is so unbelievably difficult sometimes... I've got a coupon for 10% off any one item from Barnes and Noble and I don't know what to use it on! I've got all my gifts taken care of, so I want to buy something for me. The problem is that most of the books I want are pretty cheap and I don't want to waste the 10% coupon. I want to get Almanac of American Politics 2004 by Michael Barone, but it's not discounted at all and I can't pay full price when it's 40% off at Amazon! Any suggestions?

Michael Jackson is having a birthday party for busloads of kids. In other news: OJ hosts a soiree at a machete factory and Scott Peterson offers fishing lessons for expectant mothers.

(Join in! I'm sure there are plenty more jokes to be made along the same lines.)

Merry Christmas!
(Not to scale.)

Lots of libertarians make strong arguments in favor of drug legalization. Yes, the War on Drugs is a disaster. Yes, people should be generally free to engage in personally harmful practices that don't hurt others. Yes, it's hypocritical that some drugs are illegal while others aren't. And so forth. The thing that holds me back is that we can see what the likely results of drug legalization would be, and it wouldn't be pretty. Just consider alcohol, which is legal but horribly abused in America and all over the world. Does anyone think we wouldn't see worse results from legalized heroin, crack, and meth? Ecstacy? GHB?

Libertarians like to argue that social constraints will limit drug abuse even if legal restraints are removed, but look at how social restraint in Britain is breaking down.

Teenage girls in Britain are binge drinking more than boys, turning the tables on a traditionally male practice, a study has shown.

More than a quarter of girls in the 15- to 16-year-old age group admitted to binge drinking.

Admitted. How many other are lying to themselves as well as the poll-takers?

"The ladette culture has lost its stigma and women are quite happy to go out and drink together. Twenty-four hour licensing will only make matters worse. We do not really know why it is happening but researchers in Australia and America, where there is a similar problem although not so great, think there is a disproportionate amount of advertising aimed at young women.

"Girls have great social freedom in Britain and they think it is okay to get biliously drunk,'' said Prof Plant, professor of addiction studies at the University of the West of England, Bristol.

The problem is, frankly, excessive social freedom. Notice that I didn't say legal freedom, because I don't think we need laws to solve every problem (I'm libertarian-ish). The thing is that when laws disappear, social restraint starts to break down as well. There's social stigma associated with breaking a law, and that stigma can be more powerful than the law itself. However, once social restraint breaks down -- because the law disappears, because people stop caring about the law, or for whatever reason -- then all manner of dangerous and absurd practices can begin to tip the equilibrium of civilization.

On that note, anyone who thinks that the freedom and prosperity we enjoy in America is the "natural state" of life is crazy. Our civilization is not fragile, but it's not indestructable either, and certain groups have been taking sledge hammers to the foundation for quite some time. We need to be careful about major changes we make to the structure of society, and we have to assume that every decision will have unintended consequences that we can't forsee at the time.

(More on drug legalization.)

Everyone should notice that advertising space is now available -- but hurry, supplies are limited. Reach thousands of readers a day for only a nominal fee! Also note that the ghosts of antebellum posts can be found lurking in the archives.

This base jumping video is pretty sweet, but it's nothing next to my imminent Ultimate Stunt.

What's the Ultimate Stunt, you ask? It's simply this: I jump out of a plane into a tornado, fill up a sack of loot from the annihilated city below, and then get blown out of the tornado, fly through a ring of fire, pull my parachute, and land safely on a high voltage powerline -- during an earthquake -- to take a bow and receive congratulatory phone calls from President Bush and Matt Drudge, both of whom add prominent links to me from their websites. I've got everything all set, and I'm just waiting for a suitable tornado/earthquake combination to make the magic happen.

Japanese who move to Paris (that's in France) with dreams of elegance and luxury quickly become disillusioned -- apparently the French aren't very friendly! Who knew?

After a relatively short period of only three months or so, Japanese immigrants expecting to find a haven of civilisation and elegance instead discover a tougher existence with many problems dealing with the French.

"They make fun of my French and my expressions", "they don't like me" and "I feel ridiculous in front of them" are common refrains heard by the doctors.

The article doesn't mention one of the most striking differences between the two cultures: the Japanese don't surrender until you drop a pair of nukes on them.

If and when we dismantle our ludicrously expensive nanny state, what kinds of super projects would you like to see either the government or private industry spend the extra money on? Here are a few of my favorite ideas.

Space elevator.
Super vaccine lab.
Asteroid defense. (HT: Rand Simberg.)
Mars exploration. (Nice blog.)
Core taps or other high-investment energy sources, like solar satellites.

Since a lot of people have been writing about the failed IFT-13C intercept test let me toss in my $0.02: if the decision to fire the interceptor had been made, the test probably would have passed. By my understanding, the reason the test was aborted (not failed) is that the data collection devices needed to record the test results were not working properly. That means that if the test had proceded it would not have fulfilled its purpose, pass or fail. So the test was aborted after the target missile was launched but before the (vastly more expensive) interceptor was launched. The test will probably be rescheduled very soon, and completed normally.

Power Line has similar information from another source.

To follow up on yesterday's post about wayward environmentalism, do you know what many consider to be the number one environmental threat in Africa? If you guessed "elephants" (because they're in the title?) you're right! Since internaltional trade in ivory was restricted at the beck of environmentalists in (I think) 1999, elephant populations have soared, endangering humans, trees, and everything else.

HARARE, Zimbabwe, January 17, 2001 (ENS) - The Zimbabwean government has renewed its demand for legal ivory sales following what authorities say is the swelling of its elephant population. After a single permit under international law issued in 1999, further legal sales are prohibited.

Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management acting director (retired) Brigadier E.W. Kanhanga says that the country's wildlife sanctuaries can no longer hold the elephants which have increasingly become a real danger not only to human beings, but also to the environment and other wild animals.

"We have reached a point where we are saying we do not know what to do with the elephant population here. To say that we have too many elephants would be an understatement," says Kanhanga. ...

In the huge Mana Pools National Park, journalists observed that the elephant has virtually destroyed the vegetation, and all the other animals are now in danger because of lack of food. The park has 3,000 elephants but can sustain only 700.

Hwange, Zimbabwe's largest national park, is currently home to 45,000 elephants when it should hold only 15,000, wildlife officials say. The result has been environmental destruction of such proportion that the lives of other animals such as the black rhino, one of the world's most endangered species, are now under threat.

"To say that we have many elephants is in fact an understatement. What we want the world to know is that we have reached a point where we are saying we do not know what to do with the elephant population here," says M.T. Choto, the deputy director of Zimbabwe's Department of National Parks and Wildlife Management.

While at Cato University this summer, David Schmidtz and his wife Elizabeth Willott delivered a lecture about their recent trip to Africa, including slides that detailed the kind of devestation caused by an uncontrolled elephant population. They also argued that the elephant's only natural predator is man, and claimed that if we won't hunt them then elephants will eventually overrun every ecological sphere in which they can survive.

As with land, the solution to the elephant problem is clear, and the Africans are crying for it.

The southern African countries of Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia that harvested and sold the so-called "managed ivory" under a one time permit in 1999 believe that they should be allowed to use their natural resources, including elephants, in a sustainable manner.

"Wildlife is a renewable resource. If utilised properly and in a sustainable manner, it will go a long way towards improving our people's life as a country and a continent," he says. "We want to make use of this resource which we have in abundance," argues Kanhanga. "The fact that our elephant population is increasing should mean that we have put in place proper and working protection systems. We believe this is something good ... a plus, which those opposed to our call should reward us for."

I have friends from Africa who all tell the same story, not just about elephants but about other endangered species as well. The solution is to "farm" the animals like any other valuable crop, not to just let them run rapant.

Plus, I have a personal stake in the matter as well: the threat of being mailed to Zimbabwe is my Sword of Damocles.

Last night while waiting for my friends to go look at Christmas lights I met a guy who wanted me to sign a petition asking Governor Arnold to ask President Bush to not open up some federal land to logging and mining and recreation. So we sparred for a while and I nearly convinced him that private owners would manage the land more efficiently than the bloated federal government. I got his email address and just sent him the following:


Here are a couple of interesting articles about logging, forest fires, and how modern "environmentalism" has actually caused a great deal of ecological damage.

Playing with fire
Fire in a healthy forest

The second more directly relates to why there is more forested land in North American now than there ever has been before, but I think the first article is even more interesting in that it addresses the larger issue of proper land management.

The federal government is not a very efficient or smart organization; in general, government at all levels mismanages everything it gets its hands on. Government is a necessary evil in some cases (the DMV
perhaps), but it's usually the worst possible solution to any problem.

Privatizing land gives owners an incentive to take care of their property, and incentive which the government doesn't have, since politicians only care about being re-elected.


Saving the world, one leftist at a time.

I sure am glad to be a man -- thanks to biology, women put up with a lot of crap, and we benefit.

Representative Duncan Hunter (R-CA) sounds pretty cool. According to a report by Brendan Miniter, he and his staff do all sorts of nifty arts and crafts:

In addition to ballistic glass, Mr. Hunter has been pushing the military to armor their vehicles. At the very least, he says, soldiers should be given steel plates they can cut for makeshift doors for their humvees. He even made a short video demonstrating how to do it. All soldiers would need is the steel, a couple of piano hinges, a few bolts and an acetylene torch. He was able to bolt on two doors in just two hours. (You can watch the video here.) ...

One way to deter attacks on convoy trucks is to send along armored escorts. But there aren't enough armored vehicles to go around, so some soldiers earlier this year started using plywood, sandbags and any scrap metal they can find to armor up their trucks--"hillbilly armor." Mr. Hunter's office came up with an interim solution for this, too. By bolting a few plates of high-grade steel, ballistic glass and four machine guns onto a truck, his staff was able to convert a regular truck into an escort vehicle that can take on attacking insurgents. The Army initially resisted these gun trucks, saying they weren't needed. But now a handful of them are in Iraq, with more to be delivered Christmas Eve.

Sounds fun and useful! It kinda makes me want to run for office.

This is a threat I'd take seriously.

A routine property dispute in Juhu took a bizarre twist recently. William Nadar, a Juhu resident, has accused a hotel owner of trying to grab his house by threatening to get his daughter raped by dogs trained for the purpose.

(HT: CrimLaw.)

It's past time that I issued a special thank-you to Director Mitch for services rendered -- though even he may not be aware of it. Check out his site; his recent posts offer quite fascinating glimpses into his business-related tour of Asia.

Shannon Keeley and Brian Gibson at Times and Seasons have an excellent post about lines of dialogue that creep into our personal relationships from mutually enjoyed movies and TV shows. Even beyond that, let me suggest that inside jokes are the glue that holds any group together. From family, to friends, to work associates, to church members, the ability to share a knowing laugh and smile over some past experience is the foundation for the fond memories that make it more desirable to work out a problem than to just split.

I've got different sets of inside jokes with different people, and I consciously work to build up a secret repertoire of humor with anyone I care about being close to. There's almost nothing more intimate than tossing out an apparently benign comment to a group of listeners and seeing the one for whom it was intended crack a smile or break into laughter. There's us, and then there's the rest of the world. They don't get it, and they never will. It's like telepathy, getting inside someone's head and curling up for a nice long stay.

Via the elegant DeoDuce I discover that Democrats are considering a retreat from unrestricted abortion.

It might have sounded shocking, but John Kerry isn't alone in taking a new look at how the party is handling the explosive topic of abortion. As Democratic strategists and lawmakers quietly discuss how to straddle the nation's Red-Blue divide, abortion has become a prime target. "The issue and the message need to be completely rethought," says one strategist. Along with gay marriage, abortion is at the epicenter of the culture wars, another example used by Republicans to highlight the Democrats' supposed moral relativism. Polls show that most Americans support legal abortion, yet they also favor some restrictions, particularly after the first trimester. Strategists say that's where many Democrats are, too—the public just doesn't know it. With pro-life Sen. Harry Reid newly installed as Senate minority leader, Democrats are eager to show off their big tent. ...

Democratic lawmakers have found themselves boxed in by a pro-choice orthodoxy that fears the slippery slope—the idea that allowing even the smallest limitation on abortion only paves the way for outlawing it altogether. As a result, most Democrats opposed popular measures like "Laci and Conner's Law"—which makes it a separate federal crime to kill a fetus—and a ban on the gruesome procedure called partial-birth abortion.

A small group of pro-choice Democrats—mostly from Red States—bucked that trend, voting for one or both measures. Still, the issue is so thorny that nearly every lawmaker contacted by NEWSWEEK declined to discuss those votes or the topic in general. But a handful of those senators—including Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, Arkansas Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor, and Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh—have joined a new progressive advocacy group, Third Way, that hopes to move the party to the center on a number of cultural issues, including abortion. The effort is headed by a team of strategists who helped the Dems find middle ground on gun safety.

Make no mistake -- the Dems are pulling back because they're losing votes over abortion, one of the most emotional and powerful issues of our generation. This is how two-party democracy works folks, so take note of the system in action.

It won't be easy for the Democrats to extricate themselves from their allegiance to the abortion industry, but they won't have much choice since the trends are clearly against them. And yes, my eventual goal is to prohibit nearly all abortions -- not by hijacking the courts as the left is so fond of doing, but by convincing people and going through the democratic process.

Emperor Misha brutally fisks an article by Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey in -- of all places -- Pravda criticising the rich of the world for starving the poor during the Christmas season. (If there's anyone who knows about starving the poor, it's the Russians.)

While hundreds of billions of dollars are spent on weapons, war, killing and destruction and countless more billions are spent on Christmas, the number of people starving in the world is increasing, instead of decreasing.

How is that even possible? Don't starving people eventually, you know, die? It doesn't seem like someone who's starving could survive long enough to reproduce, so unless there's some sort of rotation going on I don't understand how the number of starving people could actually be going up. Unless, of course, the pravda is that the use of the word is mere hyperbole.

While certain nations spend billions, not tens of billions but hundreds of billions of dollars on the destruction of the State of Iraq (and tens of thousands of its citizens, including innocent women and children), the number of starving in the world has increased by nearly 20 million since the mid 1990s, according to the report.

Is a certain newspaper advocating that a certain nation instead use its weapons to reduce the number of starving people?

Anyway, I don't need to go into more details about the article: the Emperor handles it quite nicely on his own. Let me just point out that the vast majority of foreign aid goes straight into the pockets of dictators and contributes nothing to the welfare of its intended recipients. Rather than helping the poor, most foreign aid actually props up the tyrannical regimes that spend every waking moment enriching themselves by oppressing the most miserable among us. Maybe Mr. Bancroft-Hinchey should consider that this Christmas millions of people in Iraq and Afghanistan will be finally free from the crushing yoke of fascism which was nurtured for years by his pathetic appeasement and that of his ilk.

History will judge you; indeed, it has already done so, though you fail to recognize it.

From what I've read, the now-condemned Scott Peterson went to church from time to time, so maybe he's familiar with this verse:

Genesis 9:6

"Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man."

That's God commanding Noah after the flood, laying down one of the few laws given in the book of Genesis. Many people, even some Christians, have a completely twisted view of God and think that because man was created in his image we should never take another man's life; in fact, as can be seen in this verse, our Godlikeness is exactly why capital punishment is required by the principles of justice.

Here's some death row statistics from the California Department of Corrections from 2002.

Total Received (1978 to Date): 717
Sentence overturned; resentenced or released: 60
Death sentence was from another state; returned to that state: 2
Suicide: 13
Died: 22
Executed: 10

Here's more capital punishment information for the state of California, including lethal injection procedures and photos of death row.

Considering two inmates are living who were condemned in 1978, Scott Peterson probably has quite a lot of life left in him. The 10 inmates who were executed spent an average of 16.03 years on death row before meeting their fates.

Try not to get toothpaste in your eye; it makes your eye feel minty fresh, but it hurts and makes you feel retarded.

Famous British atheist Antony Flew has decided he now believes in God -- can commenter Mark be far behind?

A British philosophy professor who has been a leading champion of atheism for more than a half-century has changed his mind. He now believes in God more or less based on scientific evidence, and says so on a video released Thursday.

At age 81, after decades of insisting belief is a mistake, Antony Flew has concluded that some sort of intelligence or first cause must have created the universe. A super-intelligence is the only good explanation for the origin of life and the complexity of nature, Flew said in a telephone interview from England.

He's certainly not a Christian, but at age 81 he may still have time for further spiritual growth. So what's he saying?

There was no one moment of change but a gradual conclusion over recent months for Flew, a spry man who still does not believe in an afterlife.

Yet biologists' investigation of DNA "has shown, by the almost unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce (life), that intelligence must have been involved," Flew says in the new video, "Has Science Discovered God?" ...

The first hint of Flew's turn was a letter to the August-September issue of Britain's Philosophy Now magazine. "It has become inordinately difficult even to begin to think about constructing a naturalistic theory of the evolution of that first reproducing organism," he wrote.

That sounds about right. Once one acknowledges the existence of God, it becomes profitable to ponder: does God interest himself in human affairs?; how can a human learn about God?; does God expect anything from me? From the the article it appears that Dr. Flew believes in a God in such a way that his newfound revelation will have no practical effect on his life or on any other belief system, which strikes me as awfully convenient.

Flew told The Associated Press his current ideas have some similarity with American "intelligent design" theorists, who see evidence for a guiding force in the construction of the universe. He accepts Darwinian evolution but doubts it can explain the ultimate origins of life.

I've written on evolution and complexity before. I doubt this turn-about will have much effect on the overall debate, but perhaps it's indicative of the doubts that linger behind the fanaticism of modern atheism.

(HT: Donald Sensing.)

Amanda Witt has a poignant Christmas observation about people who don't seem to be enjoying the season -- in Seattle no less!

What was wrong with everyone? On the ferry home, studying our miserable fellows, I put that question to Jonathan.

He shrugged. “Their ideology is finally seeping into their souls.”

This is what he meant: If you believe that man is nothing but a random collection of atoms, geared only toward self-preservation and bound by no moral imperatives, there comes a point when all your loud demands for justice and equality begin to ring hollow in the void of the universe. Why should you care if women are beaten by their husbands, if salmon die, if Iraqi children fall? Even if, irrationally, you do care, why should you expect anyone else to care? There can be no rights—and no wrongs—in a world inherently constructed around the survival of the fittest. All our caring is but pretense, masking the meaninglessness of life and the inescapable selfishness of our own lives.

Having lost our wits, we now are losing our wit. When there is nothing to smile about, no one smiles.

But what if all those miserable people are mistaken? Perhaps the world is a sensible place, shining with meaning and morality that is, blessedly, not dependent upon us. Perhaps after all there is something to smile about.

This is quite right, and pointing out the final end of secular philosophy is generally sufficient to stop any debate. Sure, the most strident will affirm that their beliefs imply that the universe is random and meaningless and insist that such a conclusion does nothing to invalidate the premise -- which is logically coherent -- but how many of the rest of us are comfortable with such a perspective? Comfort, they will correctly insist, has nothing whatsoever to do with Truth, but most of us will choose comfort over truth any day of the week, and twice on Sunday (heh).

That's not to say I don't believe what I claim, but most people don't put much effort in to examining their beliefs no matter what they happen to be. Both religious and irreligious people alike tend to be rationally ignorant about many of the details of their belief systems. Lest any irreligious readers think that religion is all about comfort, consider that most irreligious people prefer secularism because it allows them to indulge in every vice without fear of judgement. Secularism sells itself on immediate comfort, whereas Christianity sells itself on future comfort -- recall the innumerable martyrs upon whose bodies Christianity was founded. Either way, most people pick based on an unconscious and flawed cost/benefit analysis rather than a real investigation into Truth.

(HT: Bill Hobbs.)

Ace writes that the leftist true believers still think their main problem is that they just haven't successfully articulated their message -- they don't realize that we've heard it, and we just don't like it. I figured that Howard Dean's dismal performance in the primaries was the death knell for the extreme left and that John Kerry's loss had sealed the deal, but now it looks like the Dems want to go down with the ship and stick a proven loser like Governor Dean at the head of the DNC. (Maybe it's because the Dems care more about raising money than winning elections?) So it goes -- you'll never go broke overestimating the idiocy of the left.

In my earlier posts about political sea change I indicated that I think we're in for a realignment. It wouldn't surprise me 20 years from now to struggle choosing between a libertarian-ish party on the left and a statist/religious party on the right. How would I vote? It would depend on the election in question, but my pro-life position on abortion would be a deciding factor wherever relevant, as would my hawkish position on national security. Both of those would likely make it difficult for me to embrace a hypothetical libertarian-ish party, despite my aversion to high taxes and government interference.

I agree with Clayton Cramer in thinking that Arthur Kellerman's desire for the government to ban private ownership of automated external defibrillators is ridiculous. Dr. Kellerman gives a few silly reasons that illustrate the leftist mindset:

On the other hand, AEDs might make real families in a real emergencies waste precious time, says Arthur Kellermann, MD, MPH, chairman of the department of emergency medicine at Atlanta's Emory University.

"Having an AED in the home might make a person less likely to call 911...," Kellerman says. "It might make a family focus their efforts on frantically looking for the thing -- 'Is it under the bed? In the closet?' -- rather than calling 911. We don't know. That's why more studies are needed." ...

Kellerman says. "If you have $2,000 burning a hole in your pocket, join a health club; get help stopping smoking; get help lowering your cholesterol. Sure, AEDs have saved hundreds of lives. But we have saved hundreds of thousands of lives with primary prevention of heart disease. And we don't know whether having an AED in the home will make a family less interested in prevention."

I don't know about you, but I'd rather choose my own risks than have the government do it for me. I can train my friends and family to call 911 first and search for the AED second, but if there's no AED to be found I can't train them to deliver electric shocks with their bare hands.

And this illustrates one of the defining characteristics of the left: they think you're stupid and need to be protected from yourself, and they're willing to endanger and enslave everyone to protect idiots. Sure, smart people who call 911 before looking under the bed for the AED will be made less safe if they can't own an AED, but hypothetical stupid people will be protected from having to make a decision. Even if that theory is correct -- but who would be dumb enough not to call 911 immediately? should they be allowed to live? -- who cares? There's no reason to restrict my liberty and my ability to protect myself just because some other people are stupid. Plus, should we as a society be making decisions that increase the survivability of morons at the expense of everyone else? Won't that breed a society of imbeciles? (Look around, it may be too late.)

My favorite Stupid Evil Bastard points to the trailer of the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory remake that casts Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka. (No word on John Kerry co-starring as an oompa loopma.) Now, I liked the first CatCF, and I enjoy Johnny Depp as an actor (something I say about very few of the most left-wing jesters Hollywood spews forth), but why isn't Tim Burton putting his considerable creative skills towards a more original project?

It's easy for me to imagine being in Mr. Burton's shoes and getting a thrill from the opportunity to remake one of my favorite movies. Heck, if I had a billion dollars I'd love to take a stab at Star Wars or Raiders of the Lost Ark, even though it'd be a given that I couldn't make anything to compare with the originals. So maybe that's the explanation. You can't get big doing remakes, but once you are big you can indulge yourself.

As for Hollywood in general, it's inevitable that big-budget movies will get less and less creative. No one wants to risk capital on a new idea that might not fly. As I've written before (though I can't find the link) the modern movie industry treat books as a sort of minor league for ideas. It's far cheaper and easier to publish a book than to produce a movie (though publishing a book still isn't trivial), and any idea that can carry a movie can also carry a book (though not vice-versa, obviously).

I think Kim du Toit is right on as far as shooting burglars goes, but I take issue with his off-hand snipe at Dr. Seuss as a girlie-man! In fact, the esteemed artist whose real name was Theodore Geisel drew many anti-appeasement pieces in his day, including my favorite World War 2 cartoon:

The Washington Post and the New York Times have stories about the endangered National Reconnaissance Office spy satellite program, and the latter writes,

A highly classified intelligence program that the Senate Intelligence Committee has tried unsuccessfully to kill is a new $9.5 billion spy satellite system that could take photographs only in daylight hours and in clear weather, current and former government officials say. ...

Among the champions of the program, officials said, has been Porter J. Goss, the new director of central intelligence, who served until this summer as the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. But critics, including Democrats and Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee, have questioned whether any new satellite system could really evade detection by American adversaries and whether its capabilities would improve on those already in existence or in development.

"These satellites would be irrelevant to current threats, and this money could be much better spent on the kind of human intelligence needed to penetrate closed regimes and terrorist networks," said a former government official with direct knowledge of the program. "There are already so many satellites in orbit that our adversaries already assume that just about anything done in plain sight is watched, so it's hard to believe a new satellite, even a stealthy one, could make much of a difference."

I have no specific knowledge about this program, but if anyone thinks that the satellites' full capabilities are going to be made known to members of Congress they're quite mistaken. Generally only the members of the Select Intelligence Committees have access to that sort of national security information, and even then they're discouraged from looking into the details. Theoretically they have access, but they rarely know what questions to ask and are generally prevented from learning too much. The technical details of such systems are probably beyond the comprehension of any legislator.

To date, the cost of the program has been in the neighborhood of hundreds of millions of dollars a year, the officials said. But they said that the overall price tag had recently soared, from initial estimates of about $5 billion to the new $9.5 billion figure, and that annual outlays would increase sharply in coming years if the program is kept alive.

There are many reasons for contract cost increases, but with technical projects the most likely explanation is that changes have been made to the design and technology of the sytem. New features, new capabilities, and new costs, all of which are supposed to stay secret. Many features aren't put in the initial bids and requests-for-proposals, and the major contractors like Lockheed Martin Corporation and Boeing Satellite Systems keep it all very low profile. Of course, the cost increse could also be due to simple bloat and mismanagement.

Officials critical of the new stealth satellite program now in dispute said it would have only photo reconnaissance capability, though with high resolution.

Right. I find that very unlikely. If I had to speculate, I'd guess that the increased costs are associated with incorporating some sort of space-based nuclear material detector. Potential technologies include the HEFT project and muon detectors, but you can be sure there are other teams working towards the same goal with approaches that are not public knowledge.

Here's the original story from the WaPo on the third-generation Misty satellites. Here's StrategyPage on stealth satellites (December 16, 2004, no permalink). They note that the Misty satellites can also change orbits and are invaluable for spotting new military technology used by our enemies.

Jay McCarthy over at notes a couple of interesting pieces that highlight the mystical regard in which some hold democracy. He links to James Wilson who writes about the power of the Constitution:

The Constitution is powerless against the claims and wants of the people, especially if those wants are moral and religious in nature yet cloaked in secular, "public good" language. No Constitution can protect the people from a charming demagogue that the people themselves support.

If the ethics and the faith of the vast majority of the people favor liberty and decentralization, they will get it and enjoy it regardless of what a Constitution says. But if they want to control other people in other places through the National State, they will get that also, regardless of the paper restraints on the government. And if the people are indifferent, the government will recognize that as well. [...]

I'd rather fight for liberty rather than for a Constitution, just as I'd rather give my life to God than to the State.

The Constitution is a procedure, a means to an end and not an end unto itself. We'd do well to remember that.

Jay also links to Chris Coyne who quotes from an interview with the illustrious Francis Fukuyama in which he says:

NPQ [New Perspective Quarterly]: Mustn’t a state be democratic to develop?

FUKUYAMA: Well, before you have democracy you have to have government. Period. You have to have a functioning state that can, first of all, provide security and the economic basics. It can be authoritarian and still develop. Most of East Asia has done well under authoritarian governance. It is only over the longer term as the society grows more prosperous and there are greater social demands for participation that not having democracy becomes problematic from a development standpoint.

The cutoff is usually about $6,000 per capita. At that point a country has usually transformed itself from an agricultural, raw-materials-exporting country to a largely urban, industrialized one.

As I've argued before, voting is not a right. Democracy is useful, but only as a tool to protect our essential rights, such as speech, thought, religion, assembly, self-defense, and so forth. Voting, like the Constitution that defines and protects it, is morally neutral -- we can only judge it based on the results it delivers.

Here's an invaluable thread for any blogger or webmaster who wants to understand more about how Google spiders and indexes the web: "Googlebot: Deepbot and Freshbot". Also, a FAQ.

The AP reports that fewer teens are engaging in sex, which is certainly a good thing, but they miss one of the most significant results from the National Center for Health Statistics report on "Teenagers in the United States: Sexual Activity, Contraceptive Use, and Childbearing, 2002".

Among Hispanic teen males the percent declined from 61 to 55 percent; among non-Hispanic white teen males it declined from 50 to 41 percent; and most remarkably, non-Hispanic black teen males’ levels of sexual experience declined 17 percentage points, from 80 to 63 percent. Some of these groups that are now showing changes between 1995 and 2002 did not show changes in the earlier time interval, between 1988 and 1995 (non-Hispanic black and Hispanic males aged 18–19 years). However, the youngest male teens and non-Hispanic black teen males have declines in sexual experience of fully 19 and 17 percentage points, respectively, between 1988 and 2002.

This is clearly good news for the black community, which struggles with a high illegitimacy rate (up to 75% of black children are born to unmarried women) and a high abortion rate.

I don't get how anyone could be so naive as to long for an "independent press", particularly someone as old Bill Moyer.

"I'm going out telling the story that I think is the biggest story of our time: how the right-wing media has become a partisan propaganda arm of the Republican National Committee," says Moyers. "We have an ideological press that's interested in the election of Republicans, and a mainstream press that's interested in the bottom line. Therefore, we don't have a vigilant, independent press whose interest is the American people."

Set aside the blatant lunacy of characterizing the mainstream media as "right-wing" and just consider the more subtle delusion of "a vigilant, independent press whose interest is the American people". Lots of people seem to want that, and anyone who does so reveals a profound ignorance of How The World Works.

This isn't rocket science, so try to follow along. People need food and shelter; therefore, people have to spend their time doing things that provide food and shelter. One way to do that is to get a job (stay with me, lefties), and some jobs are in what's called "the media". Where does the money come to pay reporters' and journalists' salaries, buy food, and provide shelter? That's right, media consumers. Ergo, "the bottom line" that Mr. Moyer so ludicrously maligns.

Unfortunately, reporters and journalists don't volunteer to work for free, which means someone has to pay them, which means they aren't independent. I somewhat doubt that Mr. Moyer was donating his time to PBS, even though the whole network is basically a welfare program for journalists and ideas who/that couldn't compete in the free market. Mr. Moyer didn't have to worry about the evil "bottom line" because his salary was paid involuntarily by "taxpayers like you":

PBS receives its funding through the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), a private, non-profit corporation created by Congress through the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967. The CPB oversees the dispersal of the funds set aside by the government for all public broadcasting, including television and radio; it distributes direct grants for the operation of public radio and television stations. CPB’s appropriation of funds for PBS alone totals approximately $250 million per year; state governments allocate $300 million; and federal grants and contracts contribute another $70 million.

It sure is easy for leftists to condemn us lesser folks for aspiring to earn our own wealth while they ride high on the public hog. So to Bill Moyer, farewell. My tax dollars insulated you from reality for so long that I doubt you'd be able to survive without whatever retirement plan I'm buying for you.

Jonathan Witt has a nifty new blog called Witting Shire, and here's a post that echos some of my own thoughts on raising children.

The shift away from the passion of amateur parenting, toward the cold impersonality of professional parenting, is disheartening enough; but to see parents and pundits alike studiously investing the television set with parental authority is chilling. Certainly, television has been the de facto authority in many children’s lives for a long time now; but for parents to embrace and encourage this unnatural “relationship” is a new low.

It's important for kids to know and rely upon the fact that their parents are the ultimate earthly authorities in their lives -- not teachers, not the police, not the government, not television, nothing except God himself. These days many parents abdicate authority by refusing to make decisions and by then refusing to back up the few decisions they do make. They negotiate with their kids and implicitly give the kids power and influence by their own laziness. Kids become more afraid of what their friends will think and do than of what their parents will think and do.

When I was in third grade I had a friend named Jake who would tease me by grabbing my hat and running around with it. I complained to the teachers and they scolded him a few times, but when I told them that I wanted them to prevent him from stealing my hat again rather than just respond weakly each time, they said there wasn't anything they could do. I told my dad about the situation that night and he taught me where the solar plexus is and told me to punch Jake next time he stole my hat. Which I did.

The teachers were furious of course, but I told them that I shouldn't have had to do their job for them. (Which didn't soothe their anger, for some reason.) The school called in my parents from work and told them what happened. "Michael punched Jake!" they said, and I'll never forget my dad's response. "I know, I told him to. Good job," he said, and patted me on the shoulder.

This, again, didn't assuage the anger of teachers or the principal, but it lifted my spirits enormously and imbued in me a profound respect for my dad. I knew he'd stand by me and support me when I did the right thing, and I knew that as long as I did what he said everything else would be alright. I trusted him, and when he later instructed me on other matters I took his advice seriously and obeyed his (few) commands with confidence.

I don't have any kids yet, but from observation it seems that it's rather hard to be a good parent. It's not difficult to know what morals your kids should be learning, but it appears to be a real challenge to actually muster up the energy and love it takes to do the rearing. Everyone knows their kids should learn not to steal, but it takes attention and discipline to notice and correct a child when he does it. That's why children of two-parent families have such an advantage: it's not just the extra money (if any), it's the extra parental availability and energy.

(HT: Bill Hobbs for the pointer to Mr. Witt.)

Satellites are cool, and so are satellite photos!

Here are some interesting landmarks:
Venice Baptist Church
West Los Angeles
Griffith Observatory -- Oh, the irony.
Las Vegas casinos
The Mall in Washington, DC
Area 51 -- Topographical map only... why no photos?!
Statue of Liberty

Anyway, you get the idea. If anyone else plays around with it and finds something interesting, post a link in the comments!

Is it just me or are the Islamofascists and their various appeasers really beginning to sound like South Park's depiction of Saddam Hussein?

Secretary-General Kofi Annan opened the first U.N. seminar on confronting Islamophobia Tuesday with a plea not to judge Muslims by the acts of extremists who deliberately target and kill civilians. ... Seyyed Hussein Nasr, professor of Islamic studies at George Washington University, said Islamophobia was a question not only of fear but also of hatred -- often by people who know little about the religion. ... Fighting Islamophobia, Nasr argued, requires swift action from those in the West who understand that hatred breeds more hatred. Muslims must also take the lead in speaking out against extremism - steps that should be complemented by educational reforms and more effective use of the media. ... R. Scott Appleby, director of the Joan B. Kroc Institute at the University of Notre Dame, said that in the United States and much of Europe, terrorism had created anxiety about the vulnerability of Western societies, drawn unwanted attention to Muslims, and elicited intolerance and hatred among some Americans. This is what terrorists wanted, he said. In the United States, Appleby said, patriotism should require a willingness to recognize differences and honest self-criticism, not condescension towards people cast as "the other."

Thanks to Wretchard for the pointer to the latest Kofi Annan absurdity, and he's also got other examples of how the villains among us continually try to avoid identification and elimination.

I really don't see all the fuss about Chattanooga Times Free Press reporter Edward Lee Pitts planting questions for soldiers to ask Donald Rumsfeld. I mean, yes, it violated the general essence of "reporting news" and crossed the line into "creating news", but that's hardly novel. As bloggers are so fond of pointing out, journalists aren't a magical breed of wall-flowers, they're just regular people who write stuff down.

The only problem I have is that Mr. Pitts didn't reveal his involvement when he wrote the story, which was rather misleading. He was a major player; he should have made sure his readers knew about the set-up, just like whenever reporters run sting operations. Was he trying to damage Mr. Rumsfeld? Maybe. But is the lack of armor appalling? Yeah, they've had a long time to get the armor there, and the problem needs to be solved. It's damaging because it's true. (Assuming my assessment of the armor usefulness is correct, of course, but it's not as if the Army is saying they don't want or need it.)

Bush Unveils New Homeland Security Initiative

I'm a petty person, so I'm naturally pleased to read about the troubles in the French wine industry.

Pinched by overproduction, shrinking exports, advertising restrictions, an aggressive campaign against alcohol abuse and changing drinking habits, at least 6,000 growers and winemakers staged spirited demonstrations nationwide Wednesday to press the government for help. ...

France's wine industry, which employs about 500,000 people, says exports through Aug. 31 dropped by more than 5.5 percent in volume and 9.6 percent in value. Experts say Bordeaux was particularly hard hit, with foreign sales of its signature reds down 25 percent.

I hope all that UN obstructionism was worth it! Oh well, at least you've got plenty of wine to drown your sorrows. Unless...

Aggressive campaigns against alcohol abuse and drunken driving also appear to have curbed consumption.

President Jacques Chirac, determined to reduce the 45,000 deaths a year blamed on alcohol, launched a crackdown in 2002 that officials say has led to a dramatic decline in road deaths — but also has been blamed for a drop in wine sales.

France has a population of approximately 60 million, so compare that to America's 105,000 alcohol-related deaths per year and our population of 300 million. Maybe France is right to brutally repress the free speech rights of its subjects, but at least one Frenchman still believes in freedom:

Gregory Lozinski, a 22-year-old businessman, said he empathizes with winemakers — even though he only drinks about a bottle a week.

"I can understand that the wine industry is anxious," he said. "I'm a partisan of freedom: If you want to get drunk and die of alcohol abuse, that's your problem."

(HT: James Taranto.)

Here are some brief comments about some items I would have written about if my blog hadn't been down for a few days.

Rich Lowry comes down hard on the AARP and old people in general for being so selfish and screwing the younger generation. I've written similarly on the topic of responsibility, and I think it's disgusting how our supposedly most mature citizens do their utmost to live off the sacrifices of their children.

Stuart Buck writes that many of the fancy -- and useless -- new education paradigms are the result of bored teachers who get tired of using the same method over and over again, even though it works. I've thought the same thing. It's a shame the kids have to suffer for it, and there's not much worse than going through life illiterate.

David Brooks tries to explain to blue-staters one of the mechanisms whereby Republicans are taking over the country. Hint: birds and bees. Not that the Dems don't appear to have plenty of sex... it's just to no effect.

The always excellent Mark Steyn chastises the English for giving up their liberty and making themselves victims in their own homes.

Various reassuring types, from police spokesmen to the Economist, described the stabbing of the Moncktons as a "burglary gone wrong". If only more burglaries could go right, they imply, this sort of thing wouldn't happen.

But the trouble is that this kind of burglary - the kind most likely to go "wrong" - is now the norm in Britain. In America, it's called a "hot" burglary - a burglary that takes place when the homeowners are present - or a "home invasion", which is a much more accurate term. Just over 10 per cent of US burglaries are "hot" burglaries, and in my part of the world it's statistically insignificant: there is virtually zero chance of a New Hampshire home being broken into while the family are present. But in England and Wales it's more than 50 per cent and climbing. Which is hardly surprising given the police's petty, well-publicised pursuit of those citizens who have the impertinence to resist criminals.

Google must be feeling terribly inadequate today! Since I upgraded my blog software and rebuilt everything, I'm sure it can't find any of the posts it had sitting in its index for who-knows-how-long. The host must be serving up 404s like nobody's business, which is certainly affecting the number of hits I'm getting. I wonder if I can get my web master to set up a redirect of some sort....

Heather from the late, lamented Wisehawk and the early, unlamented Heahaw told me how to fix my CSS problem, and now everything should be rendering fine on Internet Explorer. Yay!

Now if only TypeKey would work properly....

I don't think Terry McAuliffe really understands what elections are supposed to be about.

DNC Chairman Terence R. McAuliffe declared: "Even though the pundits called the DNC 'dead' after McCain-Feingold, the American people said otherwise. Thanks to our strong grass-roots support, the Democratic Party surpassed every fundraising goal by a factor of three."

That is impressive, but not quite as impressive as, you know, getting people elected.

(HT: James Taranto.)

I know exactly what Tom Wolfe means:

"When I see something occur that might be repulsive to me, my reaction is not one of repulsion. My reaction is, 'I can use that.' That's good. It's a happy feeling. Every reporter knows that, in those too-rare moments when we know we are getting something. I call it egotistical objectivity."

Although I don't at all agree with his conclusion.

"Whether we're talking about this war, or we are fighting another war down the road, it matters that we do the job of writing the story well. That means more than the outcome of any cause on earth."

I suppose it's typical that a writer would believe writing to be the most important thing in the world. Likewise, naturally, lawyers, doctors, bankers, electricians, garbage men, students, and so forth.

Still, that first paragraph is enough to make me buy his most recent book, I Am Charlotte Simmons -- nothing is more satisfying than reading a perfect description of something you've felt but hadn't been able to quite put into words.

If anyone out there can tell me why the right sidebar is pushing the main blog content down the screen, please let me know. The CSS file I'm using should be visible if you want to take a look at it. I've tried everything I can think of, but it's not acting right in Internet Explorer (surprise!). Naturally it renders and displays fine in Firefox -- which should be reason enough for you to switch.

And no, I'm not going to put everything in a giant table. Unless I have to. Sigh.

For my second post on the new site I want to write a little bit about "yearning for freedom" -- the concept behind much of President Bush's international policy and his vision for the future. Basically, he believes that everyone, from every culture, whether they know it or not, is imbued by God with certain unalienable rights that cannot be justly or morally violated. People who live in oppression yearn to be free and deserve to be free, regardless of lines drawn on maps or UN representation.

The rational counter to this position is pretty simple: look around -- there are plenty of oppressed people who don't appear to be yearning for freedom. There are many cultures that seem to be quite content with their repressive thugocracies. To that I say: maybe so! Maybe there are people who long for their kids to strap on bombs and blow up buses. Maybe they like their rulers to steal their wealth and spend it on fancy palaces. Maybe they like their princes to drive around, grab girls off the street, and rape them. Maybe they like flying planes into buildings. Maybe there are women who think burkas are the height of fashion and who adore genital mutilation... but guess what? They're wrong. They may not know it, but they're wrong.

Who am I to judge? What, are you telling me you'd trade your culture for theirs? Please. As the left loves to frequently intone, think of the children. Maybe the parents love it, but think of the children who have yet to be born, who will never have a chance to know anything else before they're brainwashed by evil. Would you send your litle boys and girls to live in Iran or Saudi Arabia? Not likely. Iraq and Afghanistan, however, and sure looking up.

So rather than get into some sort of existential debate over how we objectively judge the quality of various cultures, why notjust see how people vote with their feet? That's easy: everyone in the world want to come to America. Ergo, we have the superior culture, and the majority of the world agrees on that. They may not like everything about us, but given the choice the vast majority of the people would want to live here rather than wherever they are now. As the acknowledgedly superior culture, we can evaluate other cultures based on their similarity to us; given the unalienable rights granted to all mankind by God, we have a moral justification (if not a duty) to do what we can to reform cultures of evil and remake them for good.

Alright, we're back! Just a minor hacking incident, but my esteemed webmaster Daniel has gotten me back online!

I know, I know, you probably already heard about it from Drudge, but today is my birthday. To mark the occasion, Daniel also upgraded me to Movable Type 3.11, which means that it shouldn't take 500 years to post comments or rebuild the site. On the down side, we've got a bit of a generic appearance at the moment and I'm going to have to put in a few hours to re-introduce the features to which I've become accustomed. (Plus, I loathe the stupid calendar doodad on the right there; could anything be less useful? No.) So just wait a bit and we'll have the message-of-the-day back, and all the various comment reading tools, along with the whimages for the sidebar and the BlogAds for my pocketbook. Ah, glorious blog-wealth -- how I missed thee!

And so forth and so on. Leave a comment, wish me happy birthday, and toss an Andrew Jackson to Spirit of America in honor of me surviving yet another perilous year. (And next year is shaping up to be even more perilous, marked by innumerable floods, earthquakes, and volcanos. I tremble with dread, mixed with expectation. The good thing about disasters is all the post-apocalyptic looting.)

"Do any of us, except in our dreams, truly expect to be reunited with our hearts' deepest loves, even when they leave us only for minutes, and on the most mundane of errands? No, not at all. Each time they go from our sight we in our secret hearts count them as dead. Having been given so much, we reason, how could we expect not to be brought low as Lucifer for the staggering presumption of our love?" -- Stephen King, The Dark Tower

I don't really follow these award things, because, let's face it, no one nominates me and I couldn't care less about anyone else. Still, one thing that's stood out to me as I've been forced to wade through the uncountable mentions on other sites of the 2004 Weblog Awards is that most bloggers are self-deprecating and appear genuinely humble. It's hard to imagine a television station or a movie studio telling its audience that other nominees are as/more worthy of the various self-congratulatory awards that are handed out annually. Maybe it's because few bloggers have money on the line? Eh... the time it takes to write and the pride involved in presenting a pleasing product seem to be as important as mere money. Maybe it's just that blogging attracts a different sort of person than cameras do?

Anyway, shouldn't the thing be called the "2004 Blog Awards"? No one uses "weblog" anymore except the AARP.

Anyway further, if you're planning on voting you may as well vote for the Bear Flaggers below, who really are all excellent writers and deserve to be recognized.

Best Design: Little Miss Atilla
Best Humor: Beautiful Atrocities
Top 100: Aaron's Rantblog
100-250: Patterico
100-250: damnum absque injuria
100-250: 250-500: Digger's Realm
500-1000: Shaking Spears
1000-1750: Legal XXX
Best LGBT: Boi from Troy
Best Military: Citizen Smash

Ace is asking for conservative rock anthems, and I'm no music aficionado but there's one song that comes immediately to mind and wasn't mentioned by him or any of his commenters: Dead Kennedys' Kill the Poor.


Efficiency and progress is ours once more
Now that we have the neutron bomb
It’s nice and quick and clean and gets things done
Away with excess enemy
But no less value to property
No sense in war but perfect sense at home¡­

The sun beams down on a brand new day
No more welfare tax to pay
Unsightly slums gone up in flashing light
Jobless millions whisked away
At last we have more room to play
All systems go to kill the poor tonight

Kill kill kill kill kill the poor¡­tonight

Behold the sparkle of champagne
The crime rate’s gone
Feel free again
O’ life’s a dream with you, miss lily white
Jane fonda on the screen today
Convinced the liberals it’s okay
So let’s get dressed and dance away the night

While they¡­
Kill kill kill kill kill the poor ­tonight

Maybe it's supposed to be ironic or something, but whatever.

Although it's not rock, there's always Political Science by Randy Newman.


No one likes us-i don’t know why
We may not be perfect, but heaven knows we try
But all around, even our old friends put us down
Let’s drop the big one and see what happens

We give them money-but are they grateful?
No, they’re spiteful and they’re hateful
They don’t respect us-so let’s surprise them
We’ll drop the big one and pulverize them

Asia’s crowded and europe’s too old
Africa is far too hot
And canada’s too cold
And south america stole our name
Let’s drop the big one
There’ll be no one left to blame us

We’ll save australia
Don’t wanna hurt no kangaroo
We’ll build an all american amusement park there
They got surfin’, too

Boom goes london and boom paree
More room for you and more room for me
And every city the whole world round
Will just be another american town
Oh, how peaceful it will be
We’ll set everybody free
You’ll wear a japanese kimono
And there’ll be italian shoes for me

They all hate us anyhow
So let’s drop the big one now
Let’s drop the big one now

If I don't get a link for these, I'm gonna be pissed off -- but even if I do, it'll be on a Friday night when no one is reading. Sigh.

As a homeowner with a nearly-due bill, I'm not a big fan of property taxes. One good thing about them, though, is that they're flat instead of progressive. That means that everyone gets hit with them evenly, and people realize exactly how much their government-of-choice is costing them.

With progressive systems you have non-payers voting to tax other people, but with a flat system you spread the burden evenly -- but proportionally -- across all voters. If voters think the burden is too high they should vote to cut spending, not just shift the cost to other people. (On another note, wouldn't it be nice if people could only vote to raise taxes on themselves rather than on others? Taxation with representation was one of the key selling points of this little Republic we've got going here, back in the day.)

Assuming the facts as related by Nick Nolte's publicist are true, it's pretty ridiculous for this victim to sue Mr. Nolte just because she was assaulted on his property.

Parents of a teenage girl have sued Nick Nolte, alleging their daughter was drugged and sexually assaulted at a party at the actor's Malibu home two years ago.

The lawsuit, filed Nov. 29 in Superior Court, also lists an employee and several others as defendants. One of the defendants, Nicholas Woodring, was convicted in March of having sex with the girl, then 15 and a minor. ...

"The incident happened nearly two years ago, when Mr. Nolte was not at the property," Nolte's publicist Arnold Robinson said Thursday. "It is our understanding that the individual responsible has been held accountable. Mr. Nolte was at the time, and still remains, concerned for the young lady's well-being."

Not only was Mr. Nolte not involved in the crime, he wasn't even home at the time it happened. It hardly seems to be his responsibility to know of or control his employee's non-work-related criminal activities. It's obvious why he's being sued though: he's got far more money than the actual criminals do.

I've never sued anyone, and it's hard for me to imagine doing it. I bet most people get through life, take a few knocks, and just deal with it without ever suing anyone. And then there are the people who see our court system like the lottery.... I bet the majority of civil suits are brought by plaintiffs who sue over and over again just hoping to hit the jackpot.

My sources tell me that Iraq is getting ready to unveil a new Iraqi Homeland Security Advisory System to help keep its citizens informed of the terror threats they face on a daily basis. Whoever the new Homeland Security chief here is (yes, I could look it up, but I'm lazy) should look into implementing something similar in America.

Two new California blogs are joining the Bear Flag League: Edwonk, three bloggers who write about the intersection of education and politics, and Paragraph Farmer who writes about "politics, religion, and other untamed subjects". Check 'em out.

As for me I'm still here, just a little light on the blogging recently as I've been distracted by other minor concerns. Good ones though! Been making new friends, which is always fun, and dealing with end-of-year stuff relating to my house and school and that sort of thing. I love the holiday season, but dislike how all my insurance payments, taxes, and school tuition fees seem to come due around the same time. Lots of paperwork, and lots of check-writing. If I may, I'd like to give a free plug to Paytrust, my online bill paying service. I've been using them for a couple of years now, and paying bills online is the only way to go. The level of service I have is $11 per month, which may sound like a lot at first, but when you consider that it includes the costs of processing, postage, and indefinite storage it's not a bad deal. I'd spent that much just on stamps and checks every month if I had to pay the old fashioned way, not to mention all the time it would take. (Note to Paytrust -- buy a blogad!)

Even with all the stuff in Ukraine I'm just not as excited about world events as I was last month. I don't know if anything will top November 2004! Well, I can think of a few things.... But anyway, December is shaping up to be pretty fine as well. My birthday is next week, The Day That Will Live In Infamy, and I'll be turning 27. Not a bad age, right? Time to start donating to SENS. Christmas and New Year's should be particularly fun, however, and I'm not feeling any of the common SADness that's apparently afflicting others so much that they need a map to track it. I'm hearty and optimistic! (Hm, it's a bit early for a looking-to-the-future-with-hope-and-nostalgia post.)

Anywho, thanks to everyone who's reading and linking to me. In a way you're not even the primary audience -- they haven't been born yet.

While searching for gifts for my youngest brothers I came across a new 4th edition of one of my favorite role-playing games ever: Gurps, the Generic Universal Role-Playing System. The 4th edition incorporates a lot of material from 3rd edition supplements which is great for me, considering that I haven't followed the game for probably nearly a decade. I own quite a few 3rd edition source books, and they'll all be compatible, but I haven't gotten any of the more recent material from the late 90s and early 00s.

The new Basic Set is split into two volumes, the 336 page Gurps Basic Set: Characters and the 240 page Gurps Basic Set: Campaigns; they can be bought together for a total price of around $56 from B&N, including whatever taxes and shipping options I ended up with. I also picked up the Gurps Mecha: Mighty Battlesuits and Anime Fighting Machines and Gurps Space: Roleplaying in the Worlds of Tomorrow modules, and I really should get Gurps Vehicles : From Chariots to Cybertanks...and Beyond! just to get a good foundation going.

The interesting thing is that I've only actually played Gurps a few times, and never in very prolonged campaigns. I'd love to, but it's just never happened. What makes Gurps so fun is that the rule books are such a blast to read and really stimulate my mind. They've got (and I own) modules for everything from high fantasy settings to time travel to ultra-tech to illuminati to dragons to superheroes, and they're all engaging and deep treatments that can be combined consistently into a single game. There's no reason your battle mech can't fight against cabals of wizards! Plus, they release a new module every month! (Why don't they have a discounted subscription service?!)

When I finish my PhD I'd like to invest a few nights a month into a neato Gurps campaign. I just gotta find other people to play with me....

(By the way, here's the official Gurps forum.)

(By the way again, yes, I signed up to be a B&N affiliate, so if you follow the links above -- and like, spend money -- I think I get a kickback or something... just as if I worked for the UN! (But unlike as if I worked for Friends of Iraq.))

This female sex patch doesn't sound too impressive to me.

Clinical trials showed that women using Intrinsa had modest improvements to their sex lives. Women who applied the patch to their abdomen twice weekly had one more "satisfying sexual event" per four weeks, compared with a placebo.
President Bush needs to implement a No Woman Left Behind program that ends this soft bigotry of low expectations.

This statement about terrorism by Tom Brokaw on the occasion of his retirement is astonishing to me:

His greatest regret was not covering international terrorism as thoroughly as he possibly could have before 9/11.

"I wish that we had done a better job in dealing with terrorism at an earlier stage," he says. "There were signs aplenty out there, attacks on embassies, the [warship] U.S.S. Cole, the Khobar Towers [in Saudi Arabia] — all those things. But we didn't connect the dots the way we should have."

I mean... yeah, you should have! And so should have our leaders in government, and so should have a lot of people who could have made a difference if they had been paying closer attention.

Mr. Brokaw's lapse was minor compared to the neglect of earlier Presidential administrations (from Reagan on forward), but he's the first person I've seen actually apologize. Ultimately the terrorists bear the full burden of responsibility, but there are plenty of people who had the power to forsee and possibly prevent the attacks and failed to do so.

Scott Ott got an off-hand mention from Rush Limbaugh this morning while Rush was discussing the LA Times story about the military using American media to spread disinformation. He asked rhetorically whether author Mark Mazzetti is actually surprised that our military is trying to win with the fewest casualties, or if he's just ripping off comedy pieces from Scrappleface.

World AIDS Day

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