May 2005 Archives

Nathan Smith forsees newspapers of the future will focus on what they do best: delivering dead trees door-to-door rather than producing content.

A generation from now, running a newspaper will be pretty simple. One, you'll surf the web for good articles, debates, the latest major speeches, think tank reports, and blog posts. Two, select fifty thousand words or so of the best, most relevant content, in a variety of styles. Third, contact the writers for permission to syndicate, decide which fees (for those who ask them) are worth paying, and transfer the appropriate amount to their PayPal accounts. Fourth, correspond with advertisers, and assemble all the ads that are ready to print on a given day. Fifth, lay out your paper. Sixth, send it to the printers. Seventh, distribute it. Your staff will consist of web-surfing editors-and-content-finders, layout people and printers, and delivery boys with bikes, plus a staff to drum up advertisers and maybe a few reporters who deal with local issues.

He's got a lot more, and even describes a system whereby writers could continue to make a living. His ideas are pretty similar to the thoughts I wrote in "Media As a Loss Leader". Bryan at NetCynic obliquely notes that blogging companies face a similar dilemma: charging for their service would reduce its value.

(HT: Clive Davis.)

Maybe someone with more economic insight can clarify the issue, but my understanding of subsidies is that they're ultimately harmful to the economy of the country providing them. Obviously the recipient industry and its owners will benefit immediately from subsidies they receive, but the economy as a whole -- and the taxpayers who pay the subsidies -- will be harmed in the aggregate more than anyone will be helped. Ultimately, economies based on subsidies (i.e., Communism) cannot compete with free markets, but if subsidies are kept small as a proportion of the economy as a whole then specific industries can be built up without seriously threatening the survival of the rest of the system.

So, European Airbus subsidies hurt Europe more than they hurt America -- in total -- but they can do significant damage to the American commercial airline industry, and Boeing specifically. America doesn't want to hurt itself by subsidizing Boeing, but we also don't want Boeing to be put out of business by an opponent that doesn't mind hurting itself to hurt us. Aside from larger economic concerns, we have a national security interest in maintaining a domestic commercial airplane manufacturer, so we can't just sit idle while Boeing is put out of business.

There doesn't really appear to be any way to fight subsidies without using subsidies. The only comfort is that whichever side uses fewer will end up stronger economically in the long run.

So what are you guys up to this weekend? I'm just relaxing. Yesterday my fiancée and I replanted the flowerbed in front of my house. The gardenias were over-grown and 90% wood, so we pulled most of them up and put in marigolds of various flavors. It looks pretty cool, and I can't wait for the flowers to get bigger. It's funny because I don't like gardening, but just about anything I do with her ends up being fun.

I also installed some new exterior lighting; the old fixtures wouldn't accept the fluorescent spotlight bulbs I found. I love fluorescent bulbs, especially for the outside, because I can leave them on all night. Each one only consumes about 11 - 14 watts of power, and I use a half-dozen or so around the house at night so I can see what's going on outside. I don't care for motion sensors -- because they're always clicking on and off when you don't want them to, and they never go on when you need to look out the window.

Today I'm going to go running and hang out with my family. I hope the soldiers in the field are having a decent day, I know we're thinking about them over here. My thoughts have turned to Paul Varner more than once, and my prayers are with his family and all those who have lost loved ones. God bless America.

It's pleasing for many reasons to see that the French have rejected the proposed European Union constitution. The only problem is that the story says that the voters were displeased because the constitution wouldn't have protected France's social welfare system as strongly as the leftists would have liked. I've skimmed through the European constitution, and it's no right-wing capitalist dream -- far from it -- but it would have forced France to lower some of its protectist walls while at the same time sucking power away from the populace and entrusting it to a permanent elite bureaucracy. Unfortunately, the threat to their liberty didn't seem to scare the French as much as the potential loss of their 35-hour work week... which makes one wonder if their taste for freedom has already been extinguished.

USA Today writes about a poll showing that a majority of Americans may vote for Hillary Clinton in 2008. However, I think the results are less significant than the article presents.

For the first time, a majority of Americans say they are likely to vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton if she runs for president in 2008, according to a USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll taken Friday through Sunday. ...

Voters under 30 were by far the most likely to say they would support a woman for president. More than half of them said they were "very likely" to vote for a woman, compared with less than one-third of those 50 and older. ...

•Strongest support from those with the lowest income. Sixty-three percent of those with annual household incomes of $20,000 or less were likely to support her, compared with 49% of those with incomes of $75,000 or higher.

First, the poll was of "all Americans", not likely or registered voters, and this is reflected in the age and income breakdown. Young people don't vote as much as older people, and (I think) very poor people don't vote as much average people. Second, the poll was taken over a weekend, when Democrats typically poll much stronger than Republicans. John Hinderaker at Power Line also points out that it took Kerry a long time to get his negatives this high. From the article:

In the poll, 29% were "very likely" to vote for Clinton for president if she runs in 2008; 24% were "somewhat likely." Seven percent were "not very likely" and 39% were "not at all likely" to vote for her.

Alexander K. McClure points out that New England liberals don't tend to win elections, but it's important to remember that Hillary is from Arkansas. [Xrlq writes in the comments that she's from Park Ridge, IL, but she did live in Arkansas for a while.] She's New York to the core, but I'll bet she can dig into her roots at the right time and summon up some good-old-girl uh, charm. Well, assuming she has any charm at all, which hasn't yet been evident to me.

McQ is the only rightist (I think?) I've seen who looks worried about the poll. He notes that the article says:

Clinton commands as much strong support - but more strong opposition - as George W. Bush did in a Newsweek poll in November 1998, two years before the 2000 election. She is in slightly stronger position than then-vice president Al Gore, the eventual 2000 Democratic nominee, was in 1998.

I think the "more strong opposition" is key, and I highly doubt many of the 39% who said they wouldn't vote for her are going to change their minds. Good impressions can be lost very quickly, but bad impressions last. Once the campaign starts the negatives for both candidates are going to skyrocket, and I doubt whoever the Republican is will start as far in the hole as Hillary.

The article quotes two political pundits, one from Hillary's political action committee and one from Emily's List, a leftist group that works hard to get leftist women into office and keep right-wing women out. No one from the right was consulted on the importance of this survey. I sincerely hope the left is drinking the kool-aid and that Hillary is nominated in 2008.

Cecilia Barnes is suing Yahoo over fake profiles that her ex-boyfriend set up to harass her.

A woman sued Yahoo Inc. for $3 million, alleging the Internet site failed to fulfill a promise to remove nude pictures of her from the Web.

Cecilia Barnes, 48, in a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Multnomah County, claims an ex-boyfriend began posting unauthorized personal profiles of her containing the photos in December. The profiles included her e-mail address and work phone number.

The former boyfriend also engaged in online discussions in Yahoo chat rooms while posing as Barnes and directing men to the profiles, the lawsuit claims.

"Due to these profiles and online chats, unknown men would arrive without warning at plaintiff's work expecting to engage in sexual relations with her," the lawsuit claims.

The key seems to be that Yahoo didn't remove the profiles when they were asked to. The ex-boyfriend could cause as much havoc by posting the same information on street poles and the electric company shouldn't be responsible for the misuse of their poles, but in this case the woman was not able to remove the postings herself and had no choice but to rely on Yahoo to help her out. Does that create a responsibility for them to do so? The ex should be criminally liable for harassment, but I doubt he has deep pockets, which is why Yahoo is being sued. Should the woman win money, or just an order from a judge for the profiles to be removed?

The Blog News Channel says that the woman sent letters to Yahoo in January, February, and March. Actual physical letters? I wonder if emails would have worked better or worse?

Clayton Cramer points to a sad-but-true story about British researchers who want to ban kitchen knives. Apparently these days the sun never rises on the British Empire.

A team from West Middlesex University Hospital said violent crime is on the increase - and kitchen knives are used in as many as half of all stabbings.

They argued many assaults are committed impulsively, prompted by alcohol and drugs, and a kitchen knife often makes an all too available weapon.

The research is published in the British Medical Journal.

The researchers said there was no reason for long pointed knives to be publicly available at all.

Mr. Cramer goes on to suggest that all Britons be required to wear public safety suits that encase their hands and feet in foam so as to prevent them using any sort of heavy object as a blunt weapon. He says that biting someone to death is hard enough that Lecter-like masks shouldn't be necessary, but tell that to these guys.

I've got an idea! Instead of nerfing the world and banning everything that could be dangerous, why not just prohibit people from attacking each other? And then, if they do, we throw them in jail or execute them. The key is that we have to put them in jail long enough that they won't have another opportunity to hurt anyone for a long time. Such laws may or may not deter other would-be criminals, but just by taking thugs out of circulation we should be able to reduce crime drastically.

The future Mrs. Williams. No, behind the rock.

Peggy Noonan has a great piece about how pompous our politicians have become. This is why I hate award shows in which a group gives its members awards and we're supposed to care.

Why do they do this? Is their egomania not part of a trend? Have you noticed that every announcement now made on television has become an Academy Awards show in which the speaker announces that he is the winner? I often watch cable news during the day, and in the past year I've been taken aback by what happens when a local police chief announces the capture of a serial killer who's been murdering people for 30 years. The police chief does not say, "We finally got him." Instead he gives a long speech congratulating himself, lauding law-enforcement personnel, complimenting his department, congratulating investigators and their families, and nodding to the district attorney, the attorney general and the governor. Sometimes the police chief's voice shakes, so moved is he by the excellence of himself, his colleagues and his bosses. Then he announces a bad guy got caught. The only thing he never says is, "Sorry it took 30 years!" The only question he doesn't want to hear is, "Didn't you get tips on that guy in 1978?" ...

I think everyone in politics now has been affected by the linguistic sleight-of-hand, which began with the Kennedys in the 1960s, in which politics is called "public service," and politicians are allowed and even urged to call themselves "public servants." Public servants are heroic and self-denying. Therefore politicians are heroic and self-denying. I think this thought has destabilized them.

People who charge into burning towers are heroic; nuns who work with the poorest of the poor are self-denying; people who volunteer their time to help our world and receive nothing in return but the knowledge they are doing good are in public service. Politicians are in politics. They are less self-denying than self-aggrandizing. They are given fame, respect, the best health care in the world; they pass laws governing your life and receive a million perks including a good salary, and someone else--faceless taxpayers, "the folks back home"--gets to pay for the whole thing. This isn't public service, it's more like public command. It's not terrible--democracies need people who commit politics; they have a place and a role to play--but it's not saintly, either.

Instead of Campaign Finance Reform, how about a law that prohibits anyone from revealing the name or face of a politician? We can assign them all numbers and they can release position papers to their hearts' content, but no public fame or recognition whatsoever.

Orin Kerr and Eugene Volokh point to a company named Professays that writes essays for college students but does an extraordinarily bad job of it. No surprise, since one wouldn't expect a company based on cheating to be made up of intellectual giants. One of Orin's commenters raised an interesting hypothetical:

I'd like to think that perhaps the essays are bad deliberately, as a form of for-your-own-good-we're-going-to-get-you-caught maneuver. (I'm not sure it's good to cheat those desperate enough to pay for a paper, but on the other hand, I'm pretty sure it's good to get cheaters caught, and some of the customers will be merely lazy or wicked, not desperate and honestly failing. In a much less significant way, I put this on the same moral level as taking money to commit a crime and then not doing it - not very immoral at all, but somewhat unsettling.)

As I consider this situation, I'm forced to conclude that it's not at all morally objectionable to use deceit in certain contexts as a weapon against bad guys. After all, is cheating a cheater different than an undercover cop who lies and infiltrates a gang of thieves, a spy who disguises himself and sneaks into an enemy country, or a general who feints with some troops while attacking elsewhere?

The only difference I can see is that Professays is intending to abet and profit from the dishonesty of others, whereas a cop, spy, or general is more nobly motivated -- assuming their larger goals of infiltration or military victory are justified, then so is the deception. But that's just it! In the same way that thieves are the enemies of cops, cheaters may be seen as the enemies of those who live honestly; therefore, honest people are justified in exposing thieves, even if it requires deception. That there's profit in the endeavor makes the exposer no different than the police officer who draws a salary for doing his job.

But what about the fact that Professays -- even if they are trying to expose cheaters, which I doubt -- may often end up merely helping the cheaters to cheat? In order for deception to be morally allowable, it seems to me that the truth must eventually come out in the sight of honest men. Cheating the cheaters is ok, but honest people must not be hurt in the process. Situations in which collateral damage to innocent bystanders is allowed (such as non-cheating students whose grades are ruined or non-combatant civilians who are killed or injured) should be treated as wars and lifted out of the realm of personal morality.

So Carrie Underwood is the new American Idol, good for her. I'm surprised no one objected to Bo singing the mildly racist "Sweet Home Alabama" for his closing number, but whatever, he was building up all season for that song. One interesting piece of trivia came from the president of the company that ran the voting (what was his name?): there were more than 500 million votes cast over course of the season. I wonder if that many votes have ever been cast over any one issue in the history of civilization? I'd bet not.

In today's Best of the Web, James Taranto quotes Howard Dean talking about his religion.

I don't go to church all that much. I consider myself a deeply religious person. I consider myself a Christian. And I don't--you know, some of the other Christians would dare to say that I'm not a Christian. Frankly, it's what gets my ire up. We get back to the Rush Limbaugh stuff. I am sick of being told what I and what I'm not by other people. I'll tell you what I am. I'm a committed Christian. And the fact of whether I go to church or not, people can say whether I should or shouldn't, I worship in my own way. It came out in the campaign that I pray every night. That's my business. That's not the business of the pharisees who are going to preach to me about what I do and then do something else.

The problem with the Pharisees in the Bible was that they added their own set of rules and regulations to the laws that God made. New Testament Christianity isn't supposed to be legalistic, but a person who claims to be a "committed Christian" and doesn't go to church is either fooling himself or trying to fool others.

Hebrews 10:24-25

24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

It's impossible to be a fully devoted follower of Christ without belonging to, attending, and serving in a local church.

Tyler Cowen, one of my favorite economists, addresses an issue I've thought about many times: what's the best strategy for avoiding torture? He assumes that you've already been captured by someone who thinks you have valuable information and is willing to torture you, and that you'd rather spill the beans that get tortured. I think his strategy #2 might be best.

1. Break down immediately, beg for mercy, humiliate yourself, and spill the beans. (If you talk right away, will they torture you anyway? And since no further good information can be offered why should they stop?)

2. Go in acting tough, really tough. At the first sign of serious pain, start crying and switch to strategy #1.

But as a minimally trained interrogater points out about strategy #2:

This also might work. Frequently the tough demeanor types crack the fastest. However, the sudden conversion would be fishy. If I had a lot of time to work on you, I would consider, after you broke, giving you time to rebuild your defenses and see if the tough demeanor returned. If it did, that would be more convincing. That is, if you are really the tough guy type, that won't go away from one session where you broke, and would return after you had time to put yourself back together. It might go away after sustained torture over a long period, but not from one session where you broke at the first sign of serious pain.

The other problem with this strategy is that it might actually work. That is, if you are convincing, what I have learned is that I can get you to alter your behavior by inflicting serious pain. Even if all I am looking to do is extract information, I will probably torture you to the serious pain level at each session, as a sort of warm up.

There's more, and it's an interesting problem to consider.

(HT: GeekPress.)

It's kinda stupid to link to a bunch of stories I found on Drudge, but whatever; sometimes he's got nothing, but today he's got the goods.

First, an inside look at the ratings wars and how Fox has risen and NBC fallen even further over the past year. I remember when Fox first started 19 years ago; everyone said they couldn't possibly compete with the Big Three networks... and now they're number one.

Italian writer Oriana Fallaci has been charged with defaming Islam for writing that "terrorists had killed 6,000 people over the past 20 years in the name of the Koran and said the Islamic faith 'sows hatred in the place of love and slavery in the place of freedom.'" I don't have a good understanding of Italy's legal system, but it appears that a prosecutor refused to bring charges citing freedom of speech, but a judge later indicted Fallaci anyway.

Betty Ostergren is fighting to keep private identity information off the internet by posting the Social Security numbers of powerful people. Sounds similar to protest actions taken against the leaders of the Total Information Awareness program from a couple of years ago.

Boys who attend Christian schools are less likely to be sexually promiscuous, and also less likely to have psychological problems or be suicidal. Correlation or causation, and in which direction? Other studies show that the connection between depression and sexual activity is even stronger for girls.

About 25% of sexually active girls say they are depressed all, most, or a lot of the time; 8% of girls who are not sexually active feel the same. ...

About 14% of girls who have had intercourse have attempted suicide ; 5% of sexually inactive girls have.

About 6% of sexually active boys have tried suicide; less than 1% of sexually inactive boys have.

Of course, early sexual activity and depression may both stem from the same underlying causes, and neither may directly cause the other, even if there is a vicious cycle.

Finally, a tool that shows what it would be like if a nuclear weapon were detonated in your city. Unfortunately the server appears to be overwhelmed.

Oh whatever, who cares? But just for today let's pretend that there isn't much else going on in the world. Who's gonna win? Who should win? According to TradeSports, Bo Bice is the favorite, with his contracts asking 69 to Carrie Underwood's 35. He's certainly a better singer and performer. I wonder how the votes tend to break down? Do female viewers vote for cute male contestants, and male viewers vote for cute female contestants? If anything, I'd say that women are less likely to vote for an attractive female than are men to vote for an attractive male, so on that basis alone I'd give the victory to Bo. But, of course, I have no idea how the demographics of the viewers are spread.

If you really crave more Idol news, check out Judge Jru's top 10 Idol performances. The AZ Reporter has an American Idol News and Results blog that will fill you in on the timeline of this season, in case you can't remember when so-and-so was voted off. I'd keep an eye on American Idolblog also, even though their most recent post is from last week....

Roger Scruton at Right Reason has one of the best discussions of home and private schooling that I've ever come across. In his post he explains the position that I've had but couldn't put into words.

I think it would help the conservative cause to recognize the enduring validity of Hegel’s tri-partite distinction (put forward in the Philosophy of Right), between family, civil society and state, and the contrasting and mutually dependent forms of obligation to which those three spheres give rise. For it is the false dichotomy between family and state that has led to so much of the conflict over education. The third and crucial term has been missing from the debate.

The family is a sphere of affection and duty, governed by obligations that have never been chosen. The state is a structure of command, organised by law, and directed from the centre by legislators and bureaucrats. Between the two lies civil society, which is a system of voluntary association, organised by good will, and directed by local initiatives in which those who have an interest in some outcome are also involved in producing it. Home schooling is an attempt to rescue children from the state and to return them to the family. But it would be sufficient to return them to civil society, in the form of the locally organised private school, where parents play a role and contribute directly to maintaining the teachers who run the operation. ...

Nietzsche pointed out long ago that, in a democracy, state institutions will quickly be colonised by resentment. (He used the French word, ressentiment, in order to emphasize the deep and pre-rational sources of the emotion.) Not able to win people by the normal means of cooperation, concession and mutual respect, the resentful will seek to co-opt the power of the state in order to break down resistance to their punitive goals. In the sphere of education the power of the state is enormous. Legal measures compel parents to educate their children, deprive them of any choice among the schools offered by the state, and impose a curriculum and timetable that transmit the secular and libertine morality best suited to inducing dependency on the state. I don’t say that there is an intention to produce dependency on the state: dependency arises by ‘an invisible hand’, once the egalitarians have succeeded in taking control of the educational network.

Civil society, which flourishes through cooperation, emulation and a forgiving acceptance of talent greater than your own, does not make room for the resentful. Hence, since education is dedicated to achievement, knowledge and the growth of human potential, it should be entrusted to civil society and not to the state. This means that we should encourage the growth of private schools, which will rescue not only the children of the wealthy and the highly educated, but the children of everyone. Home schooling aims to recapture for the family children who had been confiscated by the state. It is, it seems to me, only an interim measure, which must make way, in due course, for the private school. In a flourishing private school children will be protected from state control while gaining valuable social resources from outside the family.

Read the whole thing. I hate public education, but I've never been comfortable with "pure" home schooling; however, I really like the idea of locally controlled private schools that pool the resources of the community for the good of the students -- that's what public schools are supposed to be, and maybe were until Nietzsche's predictions ran their course. I'm not a fan of Nietzsche, but he's got modern bureaucracy nailed.

In the future, when I refer to eliminating the public school system, this is the post I'm going to link to to explain the alternative to my critics. Schools must be taken from the state and returned to the sphere of civil society.

(HT: Max Goss.)

I need to learn about internal combustion engines. It's pretty pathetic that I don't even know how to change the oil in my own car. I haven't been that interested in engines in the past, but with my recent purchase of an old RV it strikes me that my lack of experience in this area is a significant shortcoming. I think I'll take some auto classes at a local community college when I find the time.

I saw Episode III last night with The Spork, who disliked it more than I. The most maddening thing about the recent Start Wars movies -- and recent sci-fi movies in general -- is that they don't even make sense within the context of their own fantasy. The rest of the post contains spoilers, but should I bother warning you? Who hasn't seen it yet?

First off, the pre-natal care in Star Wars is atrocious. How could they not know that Padme was carrying twins? Don't they have ultrasounds? Plus, medical care in general is pretty bizarre. If you fall into lava and get dismembered, don't worry, we'll fix you right up; if you "lose the will to live" and give birth to twins, you're doomed. Haven't they heard of therapy?

Second, everything looks too high-tech. One of the coolest things about the original series was that the spaceships looked like someone built them in their garage. The Millenium Falcon was sweet because it was falling apart. All the ships in the new series look like they were designed by Dr. Seuss.

Third, the war-fighting just doesn't make sense. Why would you ever attack on the ground when you've got spaceships in orbit? Just bombard everything -- particularly when you're fighting giant ewoks with crossbows. (Were the little people too busy filming Willow 2?) Plus, why would Jedi ever get into a spaceship? They're nigh-invincible on the ground, but helpless against vacuum. The easiest time to kill a Jedi is when he's in space, so naturally they spend all their time flying around in tiny helpless spaceships. Why? Because...

Fourth, Jedis are stupid. The Light Side is supposed to eliminate all attachment to anything? Sounds like nihilism. The Dark Side seems much more practical, and if its users weren't murderous maniacs they could actually craft a much more just and useful social structure than any Light Sider could. The problem with Force-users in general is that they're so individually powerful that it's hard for the political process to balance their influence. Philisophically, I'd rather have a Dark Lord of the Sith for Chancellor than some annoying Jedi always pontificating at me; practically, Force-users would be way too powerful to co-exist with regular humans. Further, why was the Light Side so loyal to the Senate and the Republic? I thought they weren't supposed to care about anything. Whatever; it's stupid.

Fifth, George Lucas cannot write dialogue. Everyone knows this. I could ad lib more poignant and humorous scenes opposite a plaster bust of Adam Weishaupt. Maybe Lucas isn't doing as much drugs as he was in the 70s. That being the case, the prequels could have been done as silent movies with letterboards flashing on screen to indicate speech. I'm pregnant! Cue dramatic organ music. That's great! Dun dun dun! Computer generated actors could be used to give the characters a more lifelike appearance.

Sixth, where was Jar Jar Binks? We only got one tiny shot of him walking in a parade near the end. Holy crap, he should have been heeling Anakin every step of the way for a little hilarious comic relief.

Seventh, the part at the end with Darth Vader screaming "Noooooooo!" with his arms in the air was really stupid. C'mon.

Eighth, Qui-Gon Jinn was the first Jedi to become a ghost, but we never see him in Episodes IV through VI? That makes total sense. Plus, if it's something you have to learn, who teaches Anakin/Vader in Episode VI?

Ninth, the whole lightsaber fighting gimmick is done wrong. Robots can't use lightsabers, or at least not effectively against a Jedi. The reason Jedi can use lightsabers and other people can't is, supposedly, because they can use the Force to look slightly into the future to see what their opponent is going to do. They can block blasters not because their arms are fast, but because they know in advance where the blaster bolt is going to be. Robots can't use the Force, so they can't compete with a Jedi using lightsabers.

Tenth, eh, whatever. Time to go watch the originals again. I'm disappointed, but no more than I expected to be.

And now Austria wants to use DNA to catch dog's that poop in public places. If dogs must be allowed in public places, then their owners should certainly keep them leashed and pick up their poop. Although using DNA to catch spitters seems excessive, I'm all for catching dog poopers using whatever technology is necessary, including UAVs and undercover spies dressed like trees.

If anyone in the LAX area has experience with RVs I'd sure love to talk to you. For example, is there a service that will come to my house and empty my RV septic tank? Is there some way I can empty the tank directly into the sewer myself? What about a mobile RV mechanic service? Email me.

Clayton Cramer poses an interesting question, asking "Where Do Your Web Pages Go When You Die?"

As I was pondering this depressing thought today, I remembered something that I learned in Ancient Near East class (and may even remember correctly). Old Kingdom Egyptians may not have had a notion of an individual afterlife for anyone but the pharoah, his family, and a few lucky retainers who were killed to join him. Apparently by the Middle Kingdom, enough mid-level bureaucrats were beginning to have similar hopes for a life eternal, and so they start doing the mummification thing, too. To make sure that their tombs were cared for, and that someone would make appropriate offerings on their behalf, they set up what were effectively eternal charitable foundations with some of their wealth to keep someone doing the right thing--and I guess that at least for a few generations, this actually worked.

And so eternal web hosting is the pyramid of the 21st century, without all the messy body parts. I like the idea, and I hope my family keeps my site up after I die... though I'm sure all my brilliant thoughts will be engraved in marble before then, anyway.

For some reason I've been reading about Antarctica this morning. Did you know that the continent is home to the only land area on earth that isn't claimed by any country? (Even tiny islands?) If I were a country I'd be all over that. Much of the continent is claimed, however, and many of the claims overlap. Fortunately it's covered by ice so there isn't much to fight over, just like Canada but with penguins, i.e., snow chickens. Antarctica is about 40% larger than the United States but has 100% fewer paved highways, which makes it hard to get around except by ski plane -- which still isn't easy.

I couldn't find any bloggers that actually live in (on?) Antarctica, but a student appropriately named Ashley Below blogged her trip to the continent in 2004. Here's a blog-like site called Big Dead Place that has a lot of stories about and interviews with Antarctican people (but isn't maintained by a local, despite popular opinion). Apparently most of the residents are scientists and people who move heavy things around for scientists. Sounds like the perfect setting for a sitcom.

Megan says that Glenn Reynolds was musing about Antarctica two days ago and linked to a blog called 75 Degrees South that's published from the South Pole. Curses.

A new species of monkey has been discovered in Tanzania, proving the law of evolution once and for all. Evidence indicates that the "highland mangabey" or "Lophocebus kipunji" monkey is actually descended from humans, thus completing the so-called "circle of life" that scientists claim "moves us all". The article makes no mention of the national security implications of humans that spontaneously evolve into deadly monkeys, but the Pentagon is holding press conference this afternoon and promising to help the monkeys "find their place on the path unwinding".

You should go to and customize your Google homepage. Everyone's doing it.

The incomparable Mark Steyn agrees that the shenanigans up north amount to a Canadian Constitutional coup, as I wrote two weeks ago. Mr. Steyn writes that the biggest problem facing Canada is that no one cares.

Unlike King/Byng or Sir John Kerr firing Gough Whitlam, what makes this a constitutional crisis is that there’s no crisis: Parliament votes, and Martin shrugs; Martin fiddles the math, and Canada shrugs.

Wretchard thinks that the fact that the left (in America as well) is forced to break the rules to stay in power is a hopeful sign.

What characterizes much of the Left today as exemplified by behavior from George Galloway to Paul Martin is the increasing necessity to maintain their position By Any Means Necessary. While that is dangerous and infuriating, it is a reliable indicator that they have lost control of the system. Things just aren't working the way they used to. And that, despite everything, is cause for hope.

Witness also the tantrums of the American Democrats as they attempt to maintain control of the Senate while holding a minority of the seats.

The juiciest part is that Andrew Coyne links to tapes of Paul Martin's chief of staff bribing an opposing MP.

The Prime Minister's chief of staff, on tape, apparently discussing the possibility of a Senate seat for Gurmant Grewal if he abstains in tomorrow's vote.

Everyone knows about 9-1-1, but do you know about the eight other N-1-1 numbers that may be available in your area?

Usage is generally assigned as follows:

* 211: community services
* 311: government services
* 411: directory assistance
* 511: traffic information
* 611: telco line repair
* 711: TDD relay for the deaf
* 811: telco business office
* 911: emergency services

Only 9-1-1 is used throughout North America; the others vary by location.

I just went to lunch with Leslie Dutton from Full Disclosure and shot a few promos for their series of video blogs -- which are really shaping up to be excellent. They get some of the biggest names in politics, especially in California, on camera and saying things they'll probably regret later.

Video blogging is still in its infancy, and won't be as easy as writing text until we have artificial intelligence software that can edit video automatically. Still, there are a few people out there producing great stuff that is often a lot more evokative than mere text. Evan Coyne Maloney may be the most famous; his videos are particularly entertaining, such as when he interviewed despondent Inaugeration protesters. bills itself as "the ultimate public voyer experiment" and links to hundreds of video bloggers. It's a fascinating niche, but I doubt that video will ever replace the written word, just as video phones have never really taken off.

Personally, it looks like too much work for me to get into. I'm lazy, and I already waste too much time writing nonsense; the last thing I need to do is spend hours filming and editing it. Plus, you can't "vlog" in your pajamas.

Well ok, I'm the one who called Howard Dean a "proven loser", but my predictions (and others') of his inefficacy at the head of the DNC are certainly coming true. What's surprising is that Mr. Dean isn't even raising money for the Democrats, which is the least they expected him to accomplish, even if he couldn't garner new Democratic voters. Robert Novak has a great piece about how Democratic politicians are scared of Mr. Dean's distemperment.

Dean's election by the DNC membership was a case of the inmates seizing control of the asylum. After the 2004 election, party leaders spent more than three months in a fruitless effort to find an alternative to Dean. Their fears of money drying up under Dean have largely been realized, but they have deluded themselves into thinking the former Vermont governor who screamed his way out of any hope for the 2004 presidential nomination was under firm restraint. ...

He was not. He has described the Republican leadership, in various venues, as ''evil,'' ''corrupt'' and ''brain-dead.'' He has called Sen. Rick Santorum, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, a ''liar.'' ...

Dean's deficiencies as face and voice of the Democratic Party were supposed to be overcome by his legendary prowess, evident by his run for president, raising funds in small packages. That so far has proved a grievous disappointment. First-quarter figures show the DNC received only $13 million from individuals, compared with $32 million raised by the Republican National Committee. Overall figures were $34.2 million by the RNC, $16.7 million by the DNC.

Dean has not always kept himself faithful to the Democratic message. On Feb. 23 at Cornell University, he blurted out that Social Security benefits -- if the system is left unchanged -- 30 years from now will be 80 percent of what they are now. That was a shocking departure from the party line that nothing has to be done.

As they say, read the whole thing. So what does the populist left think of Mr. Dean's chairmanship? It seems that Kos likes him because he flies coach, but what about his job performance? I can't find much about Mr. Dean via Google from Josh Marshall either.

I'm so jealous. My cubemate went to the Arclight in Hollywood last night and grabbed a bunch of free Star Wars swag. Gosh! As much as I hate to raise a new hope about Episode III and risk disappointment, I've got to admit that I'm getting excited to see it. Even better, there are two Star Wars television shows coming out soon.

The first, Clone Wars, will be an expanded adaptation of the animated Cartoon Network series. The Lucasfilm production, however, will feature full-length 30-minute episodes and be done with 3-D computer animation.

The second series will be a live-action production set during the time of the Empire, between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. It will feature few, if any, main characters from the prequel trilogy. Lucas stated that "we're probably not going to start that for about a year." Lucas added, "We want to write all the stories for the entire first season all at once. I'm going to get it started, and hire the show runners and all of that, then I'll probably step away."

Hallelujah! Just sit back and make your billions, Mr. Lucas, and leave the exploitation of your absurdly successful franchise to others. I'll watch. I'll buy. Just please don't write any more love scenes yourself.

WaPo made the brilliant move of creating a Star Wars blog called 'Sith' Sense in the run-up to the release of Episode III, and it's actually pretty cool and filled with gossip. There aren't many comments on it, which makes me wonder if anyone else knows it exists? Here's Jan Chaney's account of waiting in line and spotting someone brave enough to show up in a Jar Jar Binks costume.

As for reviews, there's plenty. 7/10 from TheMovieBlog, ModFab says III nullifies the weaknesses of the others, and Jason Calacanis says it's better than Episode V. I'll probably review it myself when I get a chance to see it -- meanwhile, I'll just play with my Legos.

Here are the most understandable statistics I've seen to date that compare the risks of flying and driving. Remember that almost all of the danger in flying comes during take-off and landing, so the length of the flight isn't very important.

In terms of time, at 55 MPH, 11 minutes 47 seconds of driving [10.8 miles] equals the risk of taking a flight. Since the average airline trip is 694 miles and takes about an hour and a half, 11 minutes 47 seconds of driving has the same risk of fatality as the average airline flight. But it also means that 11 minutes 47 seconds of driving equals flying eight hours to Europe or flying fourteen hours to the Orient.

Don't forget that these stats involve rural Interstate driving. If flying were compared with driving on urban or suburban roads and streets, a trip of just one to two miles would be equal in risk to one flight. This means the risk you face every two to four minutes of non-interstate driving equals the risk of one flight. ...

Notice that these figures INCLUDE the fatalities of the passengers on the hijacked 9/11 flights. What if terrorism increases? How much would terrorist have to increase for flying to become as risky as driving? Sivak and Flannagan figure disastrous airline incidents on the scale of those of September 11th would have to occur 120 times over a 10-year period, or about once a month for flying to become as risky as rural interstate driving.

Flying is probably scarier because we do it more rarely and we're not in control of the plane outselves. People are terrible assessors of risk.

Here's a perfect example of why the the opinions of celebrities are almost always completely worthless: "Coldplay attack 'evil' of profits".

Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin today launched an attack on his record label EMI and the company's shareholders.

It came after EMI, the world's third-largest music company, warned that profits would be lower because the band took longer than expected to finish their first studio album in three years.

But as Coldplay prepared for a concert in New York to promote their new album, called X&Y, Martin said: "I don't really care about EMI. I'm not really concerned about that.

"I think shareholders are the great evil of this modern world."

And yet EMI's shareholders are the reason why his albums have been able to sell 20 million copies. Sure, he's a talented musician, but there are millions of talented musicians. It takes a huge investment to turn a talented musician into a star, and the shareholders who invested in him are right to expect a return on their investment. It's incredibly selfish and ignorant of Chris Martin to feel anything other than gratitude towards the shareholders who made his success possible, and that he equates his multimillion dollar record contract to slavery reflects how deep his foolishness runs.

Chris Martin and his fellow celebrity campaigners, beyond spreading idiocy and making themselves look foolish, can actually do real damage to the people they're trying to help. For instance, Eamonn Butler points to an instance of Chris Martin's stupidity covering for tyrrany. Writes Franklin Cudjoe of the Center for Humane Education:

Coldplay frontman Chris Martin has said that Ghana's rice, tomato and poultry farmers need to be protected from cheap imports. Yet the problems of Ghana's farmers lie elsewhere: they and other entrepreneurs are stifled by punitive tax regimes and the high cost of capital, not to mention our disarrayed land tenure systems which lead to low crop production. ...

While these high-profile campaigns continue to blame western countries for our poverty, they simply give our [Ghana's] own politicians more excuses to delay badly needed institutional reforms. Poor Africans would be far better off without rock-star economics.

Celebrities should realize -- as I've had to do to a much lesser extent with this blog -- that the things they say can have substantial effects. If they don't know what they're talking about, they should keep quiet. Good advice for anyone, actually.

Nearly unnoticable in an article about Reuters outsourcing jobs is this nugget that sheds some insight into what Reuters considers "reporting".

[Global managing editor David] Schlesinger also said he was offended by the guild's suggestion - which the union has denied - that American journalists are superior to their foreign counterparts. The wire service remains committed to "on-the-ground reporting, but some stories can be done very well by telephone or by reading something on the Internet," he said from India.

(Emphasis mine.) Since when does "reporting" consist of reading something on the internet? Sounds more like blogging to me.

Yay, my second link from Best of the Web. Is James Taranto is less selective than Glenn Reynolds, or does he just have better taste?

I don't know how I missed this story, but apparently there's some evidence that Saudi Arabia has rigged its oil fields to self-destruct in the event of a collapse of the royal family. If so, it's no wonder that America has been so kind to them, despite the country's support for Islamofacist terrorists. | May 11, 2005 Investigative writer Gerald Posner reveals something most extraordinary in Secrets of the Kingdom: The Inside Story of the Saudi-U.S. Connection, his book to be published by Random House later this month: that the Saudi government may have rigged its oil and gas infrastructure with a self-destruct system that would keep it out of commission for decades. If true, this could undermine the world economy at any time.

Posner starts by recalling various hints that Americans dropped back in the 1970s, that the high price and limited production of oil might lead to a U.S. invasion of Saudi Arabia and a seizure of its oil fields. For example, in 1975, Secretary of State Henry Kissinger murkily threatened the Saudis with a double-negative: “I am not saying that there’s no circumstances where we would not use force” against them.

In response, Posner shows, the Saudi leadership began to think of ways to prevent such an occurrence. They could not do so the usual way, by building up their military, for that would be futile against the much stronger U.S. forces. So the monarchy -- one of the most creative and underestimated political forces in modern history -- set out instead to use indirection and deterrence. Rather than mount defenses of its oil installations, it did just the opposite, inserting a clandestine network of explosives designed to render the vast oil and gas infrastructure inoperable -- and not just temporarily but for a long period.

Fascinating speculation, but I doubt the Saudis will ever let us find out the truth. Even the Daily Kos appears to understand, then, why it is that America has put so little pressure on the Saudis for public cooperation.

If true, it appears our Saudi "friends" are thoroughly prepared to take their whole country, as well as the global economy, down with them in the event of an attack on the house of Saud. It also seems that they perfectly content to essentially blackmail the US in to protecting them and their interests at all costs. I think we all knew that oil was the reason that we don't particularly push the Saudis much on things like "democracy" or women's rights, but I doubt many of us knew that they were willing to make that oil untouchable for centuries should someone, foreign or domestic, moved against them.

Philomathean reminds us of some of the Saudis' involvement with terror.

For decades, Saudi Arabia has used its oil revenues to promote the spread of Wahhabism, an extremist and intolerant form of Islam. The Saudis have financed the construction and establishment of religious schools, or madrassas, in many countries, including the United States. These schools, which in places like Pakistan are often the only affordable educational option available, preach a message of hate and intolerance for infidels. Not all madrassa graduates go on to become terrorists, but enough do to ensure that the War on Terror will continue indefinitely.

Unfortunately, it looks like the Saudis will be hatching diabolical schemes for some time to come. For one thing, they are smart enough not to engage in overt acts that would serve as a justification for regime change. The Saudis also take pains to cooperate with the U.S. on various short-term diplomatic and military initiatives. And they fund an impressive network of lobbyists and political action groups in the U.S.

What can we do to stop them? If we can't convince them, and the royal family promises to blow the oil fields if they ever lose power... we're stuck. The only real hope for a quick solution is some sort of special operation targeting their triggering mechanism; in order for the self-destruct to be fail-safe it can't be easy to set off, which means that control is probably concentrated in just a few locations. Otherwise, we wait.

The Pew Research Center has a new study out that categorizes Americans into nine political groups. Take the test and then compare your category to the others. No surprise: I'm an "Enterpriser". My main problem with the test is that it asks whether immigration is good or bad, but makes no distinction between those who come here legally and those who come illegally. (HT: Conservative Politics: US.)

But will President Bush have the guts? That's not to say I want him to veto it necessarily, but when the editors of the National Review and the New York Times both agree that the highway bill is a huge, steaming pile of grade F snausage, it's hard to disagree. That up to 40% of the money isn't even spent on highways or transportation ("Two typical examples are a program to combat adolescent obesity, and funding for a magnetic-levitation demonstration." -- NR) is a pretty strong sign that as much as I believe we should be spending money to combat congestion, this bill is so wasteful that it'll do more harm than good. (HT: Ryan Woodhams.)

I asked in April, 2003, about the future of law enforcement:

Will police be enabled to pressure everyone they come across into submitting to a DNA test or risk speculation that they are guilty? Or will everyone simply be required to submit DNA to a central database? How long until there are machines that scour the streets for dried spit, compare the DNA to the database, and then mail you a ticket? It might sound ridiculous, but I get the very strong impression that this is exactly the world that some people want to create.

And now, barely two years later, the UK is enveiling DNA kits to identify motorists who spit at parking attendants. Spitting at people is obviously bad, but c'mon.

Parking attendants are being given DNA swabs to help identify motorists who spit at them.

Saliva samples will be analysed in a laboratory and cross-checked against millions of DNA profiles on the police national computer. A match could bring prosecution for common assault.

Hundreds of the £1 "spit kits" are being handed out to the 250 attendants in Westminster this week in a trial backed by contractor NCP. The £200-a-time cost of the DNA checks will be met by the police.

But "met by the police" means that the money will be taken out of the budget that would normally go towards policing serious crimes -- and all police money comes from the taxpayers. I'm in favor of punishing spitters, even with jail time, and using these kits to catch people who spit at parking attendants might even be a good idea... but where will it stop? Robots that scour the streets for DNA and then email out tickets for littering?

Here's a blog run by a real-life traffic warden. No word about DNA tests, but I for one would never spit at this guy.

You know how pissed Mexican President Vincente Fox has been over the Real ID act (direct link to Financial Times article is subscriber-only), but have you ever wondered how hard it is to get a driver's license in Mexico?

To obtain a driver's license in Baja California, (the Mexican state bordering what is for now, our California) for example, a Mexican citizen is required to be at least 18 years old, provide proof that he can read and write, produce a current health certificate, provide proof of residence, pass a written and road test - and prove his or her identity with an official photo ID.

"Official ID" includes a passport, state or local voter or military ID - but not a Mexican-issued Matricula Consular card.

The Matricula Consular ID is one issued by the government of Mexico to its citizens, through its consulates - some mobile - in our country. It is an effort to provide illegal aliens from that nation with some form of ID, as they lack the valid visa or passport that a legal immigrant would possess. The Matricula Consular is not accepted in most banks in Mexico itself because of its reputation for being easily forged. Ask to see mine.

Another very distinct and notable difference between states in Mexico and our own nation in granting a driver's license - the de facto national ID card here - is in the requirements for issuing driver's license to foreign nationals (aliens). In Mexico, one must prove he has entered that sovereign nation legally to be granted the privilege to drive: an official immigration document must be presented before a license is issued.

No proof of legal entry? No driver's license.

Further evidence of Mexico's hypocritical, parasitic relationship with the United States.

I've advocated a "sunset amendment" to the federal Constitution whereby all acts of Congress would automatically expire after, say, 6 or 10 years unless purposefully and individually re-authorized. Somehow though I missed that President Bush is proposing a sort of independent commission modelled after the BRAC process to evaluate federal programs and eliminate them pending Congressional approval.

The Bush administration, for one, is hoping Congress will at least create the conditions for making more tough decisions such as base closings in the future. In its latest budget, it has proposed a pair of commissions that would be assigned to evaluate government programs for effectiveness and efficiency. An eight-member, bipartisan "Sunset Commission" would review every one of the federal government's 1,200 programs to see if they should be retained, restructured or terminated. Congress would establish a timetable for the reviews, and any program recommended for elimination by the panel would automatically sunset unless Congress took action to continue it.

Sounds like an excellent idea to me. As John fund points out in that article, BRAC has worked amazingly well as a (largely) apolitical process, and this Sunset Commission could help lower the equilibrium point of government waste. Naturally, the usual statist suspects are opposed. Rolling Stone magazine mischaracterizes the proposal as the end of government regulation -- if only!

The administration portrays the commission as a well-intentioned effort to make sure that federal agencies are actually doing their job. "We just think it makes sense," says Clay Johnson, deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, which crafted the provision. "The goal isn't to get rid of a program -- it's to make it work better."

In practice, however, the commission would enable the Bush administration to achieve what Ronald Reagan only dreamed of: the end of government regulation as we know it. With a simple vote of five commissioners -- many of them likely to be lobbyists and executives from major corporations currently subject to federal oversight -- the president could terminate any program or agency he dislikes. No more Environmental Protection Agency. No more Food and Drug Administration. No more Securities and Exchange Commission.

Oh please, I'm sure Congress would just sit by and do nothing if the commission proposed eliminating those agencies. The Sunset Commission would derive all its power from Congressional approval, and wantonly unpopular acts would be impossible. However, mildly, locally unpopular acts, such as military base closures, would be much easier. These are things that people are in favor of generally, even though no one wants to lose their military base; by putting decisions in the hands of a less political entity, Congress can insulate itself from having to pick who loses and can then approve of what's in the best interests of the country as a whole.

Plus, despite what Rolling Stone says, the commission members would be picked by the President and Congress together, not just by the President.

Newsmax has an article explaining how the Sunset Commission would likely be used, and it isn't all that terrifying.

A Congressional Budget Office review found that in fiscal 2005, Congress appropriated more than $170 billion for programs whose spending authorizations had expired, meaning there had been no review of whether the money was being well spent.

The average federal program duplicates five others. By a recent count, there are 64 separate welfare programs and 163 job-training programs.

A Sunset Commission to combat this inefficiency is "a simple concept," said Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, a longtime advocate of such an oversight committee.

"Each and every federal government agency must justify its existence – not its value when it was created 100 years ago, or 40 years ago, or even 20 years ago. They must prove that they deserve our tax dollars today."

Such a commission would introduce a sort of competition into the bureaucracy that would be good for everyone, including our public sector employees. And besides, if the Sunset Commission doesn't work out, it can always eliminate itself.

It's interesting that the mere thought of reducing the size of government induces panic among some people.

Conceivably, the Sunset Commission could dismantle every regulation enacted by Congress by a group of men appointed by the president. This is in complete violation of the separation of powers defined in the Constitution. It seems impossible that Bush could get away with such nonsense, but never underestimate how selfdestructive Congress is. It seems absurd that the White House could write this into a budget and think it could really be enforced, but they cannot be so stupid as to believe this is legal. This is an underhanded powergrab. There is no reason to believe there is anything benign about the attempt to create and budget this the Sunset Commission.

Conceivably -- except that Congress would have to approve of the eliminations, and Congress itself already has the power to eliminate any programs it wants. All this agency would do is handle some of the research and paperwork to streamline Congress' job and help reduce the political gamesmanship.

What's odd is that even venerable outlets like Mother Jones, which should have a keener understanding of the political process, oppose the Sunset Commission because they think it violates separation of powers.

If passed, these commissioners would very likely be lobbyists, who would happily strip away the Environmental Protection Agency, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Food and Drug Administration, etc. Bye-bye worker protections. Bye-bye highway safety commission. Bye-bye— "But wait!," you cry. "Doesn't this violate the separation of powers!? Why should the executive branch be able to disintegrate agencies created by Congress? Surely the Supreme Court would knock this little measure down in a heartbeat." Ah, now we're starting to see what's at stake in the court battles. Contrary to the grand belief out there that the Democrats are opposing "people of faith," (yes, that's it, Dick Durbin, devout Catholic, is declaring a war on faith) the real problem is that nominees like Janice Brown would happily carry the administration's water over little anti-consumer, anti-worker moves like this.

The hilarious thing is that the "agencies created by Congress" are -- by this logic -- already violating the separation of powers doctrine by making regulations in the first place. These agencies derive power from Congress, and so would the proposed Sunset Commission. It's really pretty simple, and it shouldn't take a Supreme Court Justice to understand.

The Cato Institute was supporting this idea three years ago in 2002, and says that the Sunset Commission shouldn't just focus on eliminating programs, but on transitioning them into the private sector.

A final amazing note -- to me -- is how many leftist mouthpieces duplicate Osha Gray Davidson's Rolling Stone article in its entirety:
Axis of Logic
True Blue Liberal
Proud Liberal
ReclaimDemocracy, which at least includes a disclaimer.
Smirking Chimp
... and many more.

I don't read many lefty sites, and maybe this is why. I've never seen an article just reposted without comment on so many sites before. Bizarre. Is this normal, or does the Sunset Commission strike close to the lefty heart?

This time the get-America mentality of the mainstream media has cost dozens of people their lives.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Newsweek magazine said on Sunday it erred in a May 9 report that U.S. interrogators desecrated the Koran at Guantanamo Bay, and apologized to the victims of deadly Muslim protests sparked by the article.

Editor Mark Whitaker said the magazine inaccurately reported that U.S. military investigators had confirmed that personnel at the detention facility in Cuba had flushed the Muslim holy book down the toilet.

The report sparked angry and violent protests across the Muslim world from Afghanistan, where 16 were killed and more than 100 injured, to Pakistan to Indonesia to Gaza. In the past week it was condemned in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Malaysia and by the Arab League.

It's not exactly like the Muslim crazies need much of an excuse to riot, kill people, and burn the American flag, but Newsweek is still responsible for fanning the flames that led those deaths and injuries. It's particularly egregious because the magazine obviously intended to set this wildfire, and they're only apologizing because the crap they printed turned out to be false. Is it unpatriotic for an American magazine to purposefully incite hatred and violence against our country? Signs point to yes.

"We regret that we got any part of our story wrong, and extend our sympathies to victims of the violence and to the U.S. soldiers caught in its midst," Whitaker wrote in the magazine's latest issue, due to appear on U.S. newsstands on Monday.

Oh, good job, I'm sure that'll solve the problem. Moron. People died, and heads shold roll at Newsweek.

Whitaker told Reuters that Newsweek did not know if the reported toilet incident involving the Koran ever occurred. "As to whether anything like this happened, we just don't know," he said in an interview. "We're not saying it absolutely happened but we can't say that it absolutely didn't happen either."

Wow, that's some spectacular content you've got in your magazine. Good thing you respected media elites have editors like Mark Whitaker to maintain that exalted maybe/maybe-not standard that all we bloggers marvel at.

The magazine said other news organizations had already aired charges of Koran desecration based "only on the testimony of detainees."

And what motive could Islamofacist terrorists detained for acts of terrorism against the United States possibly have to lie?

Oddly amusing is this threat:

On Sunday, Afghan Muslim clerics threatened to call for a holy war against the United States.

Didn't we cross this bridge, like, three and a half years ago?

Jim Geraghty at the excellent TKS (née KerrySpot) has a lot of links, and says this story will end up being bigger than Rathergate. Makes sense, what with all the dead bodies and all.

And something tells me this one is going to be bigger than Rather. There was something goofy and absurd about the whole CBS memo mess – their ludicrous claim of Burkett as an ‘unimpeachable source,’ the tale of memos passed at a rodeo, Rather’s stubborn insistence that 1972 typewriters could perfectly match Microsoft Word default settings.

This latest journalistic train wreck is just ugly. Dead Afghans, calls for jihad, threats of more violence, Islamists rejecting the Newsweek retraction… This can still get worse, and there will be no laughs in this one.

Still, Jay Tea at Wizbang thinks that some people are overreacting by blaming Newsweek for the deaths.

As noted below and elsewhere, there is a lot of heat going around right now about Newsweek and its erroneous story about a Koran being flushed down a toilet at Guantanamo. And while I agree with a lot of it, I have to argue against the most severe sanctions people are proposing against Newsweek -- in particular, lawsuits for the deaths of those killed in the ensuing riots.

The purpose of such lawsuits is to hold people liable for reasonable and predictable reactions to their actions, and I don't think the riots and deaths fall into that category.

I willingly grant the "predictable" element, but I draw the line at "reasonable." The use of that is to justify the unjustifiable. The riots were a completely irrational and wrong response, and Newsweek should not be held responsible for what a bunch of religious, West-hating whackos do. Those lunatics are simply atrocities waiting to happen, and anything -- anything -- can be the trigger. One might as well find the woman who rejected Ted Bundy and blame her for all the women he subsequently murdered.

But it should be realized that the riots weren't just "predictable", they were intended. If the woman who rejected Ted Bundy was purposefully manipulating him to commit murder, she would bear some responsibility. The thing about responsibility is that by putting some blame on Newsweek we don't have to lessen the blame we put on the rioters -- it isn't a zero-sum game.

HE!D!, a female American veteran, mocks the Muslims for being so thin-skinned.

The BBC is reporting that the Americans are at it again - mercilessly torturing the “innocent detainees” of Guantanamo Bay. Even despite the panty-waist PC strictures placed on interrogations, the evil Americans have found a way to subvert the law and *gasp* horribly scar the gentle souls of the Muslim prisoners!!!
Pakistani officials say they are “deeply dismayed” over reports that the Koran was desecrated at the US detention facility in Guantanamo Bay.

The latest edition of the American Newsweek magazine said such tactics were used to rattle suspects.

“Rattle the suspects”? Wow - I bet crucial information just started POURING out of them once they were “rattled”! Who could possibly withstand such powerful interrogation techniques?!

Sounds right to me. I'm about to go riot right now because of those burning flags; I can hardly contain myself.

Hey Glenn, thanks for quoting Clayton Cramer's piece starting immediately after the sentence where he links to me.

A new study from France indicates that having an abortion puts the next baby at risk for premature birth.

Having an abortion almost doubles a woman's risk of giving birth dangerously early in a later pregnancy, according to research that will provoke fresh debate over the most controversial of all medical procedures.

A French study of 2,837 births - the first to investigate the link between terminations and extremely premature births - found that mothers who had previously had an abortion were 1.7 times more likely to give birth to a baby at less than 28 weeks' gestation. Many babies born this early die soon after birth, and a large number who survive suffer serious disability.

Well gosh, this seems so intuitive. I'm sure that abortion providers warn their patients though, right?

A spokesman for Marie Stopes International, which is the largest provider of abortions outside the NHS, said that women seeking terminations were not told of increased risks of premature births "because so far, they have not been established".

Oh ok, well maybe they've been established now, huh? Not that I want to interfere with your billion dollar industry.

Only a year and a half behind Donald Sensing, the NYT has discovered that the islamofacist terrorists have no plan in Iraq, or really anywhere else in the world. They've got no coherent agenda, no plan to achieve that non-agenda, no leaders, no political presence, and no hope of victory. At least from our perspective.

Counter-insurgency experts are baffled, wondering if the world is seeing the birth of a new kind of insurgency; if, as in China in the 1930's or Vietnam in the 1940's, it is taking insurgents a few years to organize themselves; or if, as some suspect, there is a simpler explanation.

"Instead of saying, 'What's the logic here, we don't see it,' you could speculate, there is no logic here," said Anthony James Joes, a professor of political science at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia and the author of several books on the history of guerrilla warfare. The attacks now look like "wanton violence," he continued. "And there's a name for these guys: Losers."

"The insurgents are doing everything wrong now," he said. "Or, anyway, I don't understand why they're doing what they're doing."

They're violent psychopaths. What people need to realize is that the islamofacist mindset isn't disciplined or organized like the communist revolutions that we have experience with from the 20th century. Even they don't know how to win or what they're doing, but as Steven Den Beste pointed out in 2003, they don't think they have to.

I agree that bin Laden is a terrible strategist. He unquestionably completely misjudged the American people, for one thing. But I don't agree that he has no plan.

Rather, I think he did have one, and I would have thought that a man of God like Donald would have spotted it: bin Laden's strategy was to get God, or Allah, involved in the war against the infidel. ...

If God is not fighting on their side, it can only be because the Muslims have not been devout enough. It's because they don't follow the most strict interpretations of the Qur'an. It's because they let their women run around with bare faces, and don't pray when they're supposed to, and smoke and drink alcohol and gamble and charge interest on loans and in so many other ways don't actually follow God's dictums. It's because they've been seduced by the evil ways of the West. It's because they've become spiritually corrupted. They do not live as God said they should, and thus God refuses to aid them. They're not worthy of God's aid; God is displeased with them and shows it through inaction. And from this only one conclusion is possible.

It is only by embracing God's true teachings, in every way, that they can once again return to God's grace. If they can prove their spiritual purity and dedication to the cause, God will join the war and start to directly smite the Jews and Americans. Without God's aid, they can never win; but with God's aid they cannot lose. They must purify themselves, and prove to God that they have done so.

So they think, and the NYT would do well to read through the archives of the USS Clueless if they really want to understand what the islamofacists are up to. Apparently a couple of bloggers are still miles ahead of university professors and the mainstream media.

Donald Sensing comments and adds that he responded and believes that Steven Den Beste's conception of the Islamic/religious mentality is slightly mistaken.

I attended the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Los Angeles Air Force Base location in 2003, and I'm pleased to see that the Defense Department has decided not to close it in the most recent round of Base Realignment And Closure (commonly called BRAC). LAAFB generates a huge number of high-paying aerospace and defense jobs in my area, and it would have been a blow to the economy to lose it; plus, all the major defense contractors are located nearby, so it wouldn't have made sense, even though Los Angeles is an expensive place to operate. Here's the complete list of bases affected.

The thing to realize, unfortunately, is that military bases don't "generate revenue", despite what Jeb Bush might think. Bases only move revenue from one place to another -- generally from the tax bucket paid into by the nation as a whole to a concentrated community. By reducing the number of unneeded bases, we can save more money for the contributing group than we were "generating" for the receivers, due to the waste associated with every government program. Still states are shelling out big bucks to save their bacon (and I'm glad mine wasn't thrown into the fire).

Zap at Also Also has a detailed description of how BRAC decisions are made.

John Fund explains that many base closures lead to increased prosperity.

James Courter, a former New Jersey congressman who chaired a 1993 base-closing commission, told me that he heard every dire prediction imaginable that communities that lost their bases would die. "In fact, those places that planned ahead, aggressively sought out alternatives and improved their economic incentives often came out ahead of where they were," he says. ...

Keith Caudle, a former Air Force colonel who was serving as McClellan's commander when it closed for good in 2001, credits his base's success story to forward-looking decisions to transfer the entire base to the county in one piece for nothing. The results can be so positive, he says, that "some communities ought to be out there begging the military to close their bases."

It makes sense, but I'm sure the transitions are scary.

I haven't posted much today because I've been researching a topic that's too top secret to write about at the moment. You'll get more than you care to know about it in a while, so just hang on.

As an engineer, I like to be precise, and when it comes to slippery moral questions like sexual behavior it can be difficult for two people to reach a common understanding of each other's position because of mixed backgrounds and expectations. Without a common understanding there is no foundation for rational debate of the positions (no pun intended) on their merits. To that end, I have conceived (npi) the following Sexual Morality Notation (SMN) to help categorize the myriad of possible opinions on the matter. With the understanding that no such notation could possibly be completely precise, I believe that the following architecture will suffice for most English speakers who are familiar with the common dictionary definitions of the words I use.

A SMN code is a five-digit number, with each digit restrict to the range 0 through 4. Each of the five digits represents a "stage" or "type" of relationship. From left to right, in order from most casual to most serious, the five digits are:
1. Strangers.
2. Acquaintances.
3. Boyfriend/girlfriend.
4. Engaged.
5. Married.

As I mentioned, each digit takes a value from 0 to 4, with the numbers representing the standard "baseball" notation for "how far" sexual activity should be allowed to go. 0 has been added to the scale to represent activities that are often not considered "sexual" per se, such has hand-holding and flirting; the other numbers ("first base", "second base", "third base", and "home") should be understood already by most of my readers. If there's really any confusion on the matter, I'll post more graphic descriptions.

Thus, a SMN code of [00004] might be used by stereotypical Puritans who believe that there should be no sexual activity of any kind until marriage. In contrast, modern American morality often looks like [44444], in which sexual intercourse is permissible even between complete strangers. Common relationships may often progress as [01444]. More interesting are people with conflicted moralities who are anonymously promiscuous but otherwise conservative, such as [41334].

Comments? Questions? Do you think SMN is useful for characterizing views on sexual morality?

It appears that the new contraceptive "morning-after" pill called Plan B cannot cause an abortion, due to the fact that when it prevents a pregnancy it does so by suppressing ovulation. (Thus, it's not effective if you have sex after ovulation has already occurred. This method of operation makes Plan B morally superior to RU-486, which can act as an abortive.

Several articles published in the scientific journals Contraception and Human Reproduction have found in rats, monkeys and humans that Plan B, or levonorgestrel (the active ingredient in levonorgestrel is progestin), prevents ovulation without interfering with fertilized eggs.

In contrast, mifepristone, known as Mifeprex or RU-486, is a drug that will induce abortion in the first 49 days of gestation. FDA regulations require that women take the drug only under a doctor’s supervision. Another drug, methotrexate, was originally developed to treat cancer and is also sometimes used to induce abortion.

I've written about RU-486 morning-after pills before and argued that if a woman uses the drug to prevent an implantation it shouldn't be considered as equivalent to abortion; ending a pregnancy after implantation is the real problem. Zygotes fail to implant naturally all the time, and regular birth control pills (also progestin, the same drug as Plan B) can occasionally fail to stop conception but then successfully prevent implantation (possibly, though the evidence is slim). So it goes. Even if human life "begins at conception", it is part of the natural process for zygotes to frequently fail to implant in the uterus, often because they are malformed or unhealthy in some way.

Google has come out with a new technology to complement Adsense that addresses the main difficulty webmasters face who are trying to make a buck off internet advertising: all that pesky, distracting content. Enter Google Content Blocker.

A recent study out of the University of Iowa shows that although opposites may attract, couples with similar personalities are much more likely to stay together.

A study of almost 300 couples, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, found that the happiest duos scored similarly on personality traits such as openness, agreeableness, conscientiousness and "disinhibition" -- a measure of irresponsible or reckless behavior.

Researchers Shanhong Luo and Eva Klohnen of the University of Iowa say sharing the most personality traits creates compatibility and reduces conflict. ...

"What is most intriguing is that when the researchers assessed marital quality and happiness, they found that personality similarity was related to marital satisfaction, but attitude similarity was not," they say in the peer-reviewed article.

"People may be attracted to those who have similar attitudes, values and beliefs and even marry them, at least in part on the basis of this similarity, because attitudes are highly visible and salient characteristics, and they are fundamental to the way people lead their lives." ...

"What we found is, if two people are similar -- both liberal, for example -- they probably will be attracted to each other at first sight," Luo says.

Once people are in a committed relationship, though, it's mostly personality similarities that influence marital happiness, she says.

Although it's shocking that anyone would love a liberal -- even another liberal -- this research lines up with my own experience and intuition. My girlfriend and I certainly think in different ways, but most of those differences are related to gender. I think our personalities are pretty similar; we work together well, and never seem to get tired of being around each other even in difficult circumstances. I think one of the key indicators of compatible personalities is that neither person ever wants the other to "just go away".

(HT: James Taranto.)

Rock the Vote sinks to new depths of innanity with its bizarre line of youth-targeted "I <3 Social Security" gear. I don't see any thongs for sale, despite what Michael Medved said, but the t-shirts and hats are pretty moronic. It's stupid enough that RtV pushes ignorant kids to vote on issues they don't understand -- and always to the left -- but now they're encouraging us to "love" a giant, blood-sucking, government welfare program? Ridiculous. If any of these kids actually wants to get any SS money they should jump behind President Bush's reform package, but that's hardly the line RtV is spewing. Better yet, get a job you bums.

In possibly the most important and yet underplayed story of the week, the democratic government of Canada has apparently collapsed into tyranny. Via Keith at Minority of One we get some insight into the how the Canadian parliament is operating and a link to the blog of MP Monte Solberg who writes about the ignored vote of no-confidence.

I hope this posts. Am blogging from my blackberry in the House where I have just voted for our non-confidence motion. The Libs are trying hard to play this down. They have two cabinet ministers out, Efford and Cotler. We'll win, but they'll claim it's non confidence.

Pretty unhappy campers over there! They can't believe that their iron-grip on power and pocketnooks might be loosed. Kilgour just voted with the Libs. Hmmm. 153 to 150. We win!

Oddly, the Liberal party doesn't feel it requires a democratic majority in order to rule the country, and they've refused to dissolve their government. As Keith says about the matter,

Well, so parliament has been officially declared subordinate to the Liberal party.

A majority of our elected representatives voted that they do not have confidence in the government, and the bastards say it's a procedural matter.

That's it. It's over. No one in theri right mind can accept that the Libranos are a democratic party. Their totalitarian souls have been bared for all the world to see. Bastards.

Kinda similar to how the minority party in the Senate continues to refuse the majority to confirm judges. Hopefully the Conservatives in Canada will have more balls than the Senate Republicans have shown.

MP Solberg writes more about the Liberals making a mockery of democracy today.

Hot here in Ottawa this morning, and will be very hot in the House later today, but the similarities to hell don't end there.

I wonder what our friends from Zimbabwe will think when they hear that Prime Minister Martin and Team Liberal have refused to recognize Parliament's expressed desire that Parliament be dissolved and that a general election be held. I know that Scott Reid and my friends in the PMO have already thought of this but I strongly recommend that, should the opportunity arise, Paul refrain from lecturing President Mugabe for his failure to respect democracy. Paul might also scratch that line in his stump speech about the democratic deficit being his, "number one priority". Just trying to help.

Pretty sad when Canada can't muster the moral authority to lecture Zimbabwe.

I've updated my RSS feeds to be more feature-rich. You can use these feeds with an RSS aggregator, most of which are free.

RDF RSS Feed (RSS 1.0)
XML RSS Feed (RSS 2.0)

(HT: Ben Hammersley and Learning Movable Type.)

Many people want to read and study the Bible, but get discouraged when they realize that it can't be done as easily or as simply as one reads a novel. Unlike most plot-driven stories that we're used to reading or seeing, the Bible is character-driven, and the main character isn't always even on screen. The Bible isn't a narrative sequence about a bunch of stuff that happens to people, the Bible is the account of God's continual pursuit of mankind. As such, anyone who reads the Bible with a focus on plot progression is going to get bored and frustrated.

Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of exciting and profound stories in the Bible, many of which form the foundation of Western art and literature. Reading the stories for entertainment or historical knowledge can be valuable, but that approach misses the actual point of the book, which is revelation. You see, God isn't a tangible being that we can observe and study with our own senses; all we can know of God is what he chooses to reveal to us, and the main instrument of that revelation is his Word, the Bible. The question that should be in the forefront of a Bible reader's mind is, "What is God revealing about himself in this passage?"

Avoiding Evil posts seven quotes from Charles Spurgeon on reading the Bible, and they're all excellent. The most important of those is what I pointed out in the paragraph above: search out what God is doing in each passage of scripture. The other two that are particularly critical in my own study life are application and consistency.

God reveals his nature to us because he wants to make us more like himself. To that end, as we read the Bible and learn about God we need to consider how we can apply that knowledge to our own character. We may read an instance in which God is patient with the rebellious nation of Israel, and we can then learn to be patient with those who hurt us. We may read about Jesus resisting temptation by using scripture, which will inspire us to remember God's Word when we ourselves are tempted. The Bible is a very practical book, because even the parts that don't directly contain instructions are full of revelation about God's character that we can change ourselves to conform to. It isn't easy to be godly, and it can only be accomplished through prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit, but the first step is to read God's Word.

As for consistency, the Bible should be read every day, without fail. Discouragement comes when we miss a day and feel we need to "catch up" to whatever reading program we've locked ourselves into. Personally, I don't find much value in reading the Bible in a year or using some artificial schedule for my study. In general, I read books of the Bible in their entirety rather than study by topic, but I don't feel any need to read all the books in order (though that can be useful to gain a familiarity with the historical timeline). I don't like schedules because I want to leave room to consider and pray about what God reveals in each passage. Often I'll read a single chapter each day, but sometimes I'll read less if time is pressing or the passage requires serious contemplation. Even if I plan my day so poorly that I only have time to read a single verse, I make myself do it and leave my heart open for God to work. As with medicine and our bodies, taking the Bible in every day can work wonders on our spirits.

If you really do want to read the Bible in a year and need a little help, you can check out the Bible in a Year website and get daily emails with the passage to read. (HT: Janette Stripling and Randy Thomas.) Our Daily Bread is a nice deveotional that I've used in the past, though it's based on topics rather than straight-through reading, and My Utmost for His Highest is good though there isn't enough scripture incorporated into each topic and you'll need to do a bit of searching on your own. Any of these is a good place to start, and starting is the first step towards building this essential spiritual habit into your life.

Pray for me, because I am under attack by Satan, who knows my weaknesses and ruthlessly exploits them.

Matthew 4:10

Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'"

The idea that the Constitution is a "living document" is patently absurd to me, and I have a hard time comprehending why anyone of any intellectual rigor would take such a position seriously and genuinely. The whole reason we write ideas down instead of transmitting them verbally is so that we can ensure that they don't change over time without consensual and purposeful action.

When it comes to contracts and other legal documents that represent agreements between parties -- such as the Constitution of the United States of America which is an agreement among the various states -- it is essential that the common understanding of the agreement remain fixed. Most contracts, including the Constitution, provide instruments whereby the agreement can be changed with the consent of the parties involved. For example, the terms of my home mortgage can be changed if the lender and I agree to the changes unanimously. In the case of the Constitution, unanimity is not required; instead, only three-quarters of the parties involved (the states) must agree to an amendment proposed by two-thirds of Congress or two-thirds of the state legislatures in order for the amendment to be accepted. This is not an easy process, nor was it meant to be, nor should it be.

It is unfair and illegal for federal judges to change the meaning of the Constitution. Federal judges are charged with applying the Constitution and the laws passed by Congress to specific cases brought before them. They are unelected, and their opinions do not inherently represent the will of the people or the states in the way that the opinions of our elected legislators, congressmen, and President do. Judges have no mandate to ascertain the desires of the populace or to account for "evolving standards". They are charged with the task of simply evaluating individual cases within the framework of the agreement binding the various states. It is for the states to decide when and how they want to adjust their common agreement, and it is only through the amendment process that such a change can be made.

No one would take it kindly if the meaning behind their mortgage or employment contract changed whimsically according to "evolving standards", and we should settle for no less precision when it comes to our national organizing agreement. The Constitution is not the collection of judicial interpretations, and despite the power it has assumed for itself over the centuries the Supreme Court is not the all-powerful arbiter of Constitutionality. I am not a lawyer and I cannot speak with authority as to the current condition of our country, but my arguments from first principles are clearly logical and far more elegant than the amorphous blob that is our current body of Constitutional law.

Douglas Wilson points out that such a structure is not actually "living" at all, but merely "dead and malleable". Justice Scalia agrees that the Constitution should not be reinterpreted (HT: The American Constitution Society), and he also pointedly asked why any American would want his country run by nine lawyers.

In a 35-minute speech Monday, Scalia said unelected judges have no place deciding issues such as abortion and the death penalty. The court's 5-4 ruling March 1 to outlaw the juvenile death penalty based on "evolving notions of decency" was simply a mask for the personal policy preferences of the five-member majority, he said.

"If you think aficionados of a living Constitution want to bring you flexibility, think again," Scalia told an audience at the Woodrow Wilson Center, a Washington think tank. "You think the death penalty is a good idea? Persuade your fellow citizens to adopt it. You want a right to abortion? Persuade your fellow citizens and enact it. That's flexibility."

"Why in the world would you have it interpreted by nine lawyers?" he said.

(HT: McQ.)

As for the recent filibuster controversy, the actions of 51 senators are far more democratic and representative of the will of the people than are the opinions of any number of federal judges -- particularly when the senators act well-within the powers granted to them by the text of the Constitution.

Why is it that so many lefty protesters are so intolerant of differing viewpoints, even to the extent of assaulting a man over a simple non-obscene t-shirt? Well Michael Graham is the latest victim of these so-called "liberals" -- he was assualted for wearing an "INS" shirt at a pro-illegal-immigration rally in Maryland, similar to how I was assaulted in 2003 for disrupting an anti-war protest at UCLA. Mr. Graham was apparently detained by the police just for standing outside Richard Montgomery High School, while the thugs who accosted him smiled and laughed. He even has pictures of his assailants. The really ironic part is that the excuse the criminals used to exclude him from the rally was his lack of protest-authorized identification.

Around 3:20pm, I approached the gate in my "INS" t-shirt and was stopped immediately. A man who refused to identify himself, surrounded by several large, tattoooed people, told me that the public rally—which I learned about from the pages of the Washington Post—was an "invitation-only event." I showed him my ABC Radio ID and asked again to be admitted. He and his pals--none of whom had displayed any badges or ID--blocked my way and still refused to let me enter. They continued to examine my ABC Radio ID. The apparent leader did have some type of ID badge on, but whenever I tried to look at it, he covered it with his hands. He clearly wanted me to believe he was in the security business.

I kept pressing: "With whom am I speaking? Who are you?" One of the thuggish looking men replied, "Do YOU have any ID."

"Sure," I replied, and showed my ABC Radio ID again.

"Other than that?" he asked.

"Are you saying you’re not going to accept my ID? Are you saying you need tighter IDS at this event?"

His final note on the police reminds me of what the UCLA campus police told me after I survived my encounter with peaceful anti-war protesters.

After several phone calls and conversations, the police official in charge made a very disturbing comment: "Look, we can’t stop you from going in there in that shirt," he said. "But if you do, I can’t guarantee your safety. And when people in there attack you, I’ve got to send my officers in to get you out and that puts them in danger."

In other words, he was confident that the people at the rally would kick my a…er, would react with violence. And because they were violent, I and my t-shirt were the problem. Great.

And women shouldn't travel alone if they don't want to get raped.

(HT: The Babaganoosh and Michelle Malkin, who was also on the scene.)

The Wikipedia entry on the Gregorian calendar is full of interesting historical facts. For instance, did you know that in three years two countries had February 30ths? What's more, Friday is more likely to be on the 13th of a month than any other day because 688 out of the 4800 months in a 400-year Gregorian cycle begin on a Sunday. Speaking of which, the days and dates of 2005 exactly match up with those of 1605... in the Catholic countries that were punctual adopters of the Gregorian calendar, anyway.

It looks like even leftists are becoming disenchanted with the media. Although the post is about NPR selling out, Michael2 doesn't spare the mainstream media. (The "2" is so that I can refer to him without anyone thinking that I'm discussing myself in the third-person.)

"Daddy knows best" doesn't cut it in my world anymore, Mr. Dvorkin. In fact, as a child of the 1960s, it never really did. I began to lose confidence in my elected officials around 1974. The 2000 and 2004 elections haven't done anything to restore any of that lost confidence. They certainly haven't done anything to impress me with the accuracy, the objectivity, or the reliability of the mainstream media.

I have found, however, that by using the power the internet gives me to seek out news and information from a variety of sources around the nation and literally around the world, I can often cobble together a better and more accurate picture, in less time, and without commercial interruptions to boot, than anything I could hope to see or read or hear from the "professional" journalists at NPR or CBS or The New York Times.

Michael2 doesn't mention any websites that he does trust for news other than Unbossed, to which he contributes. I suspect he doesn't frequent Matt Drudge as often as I do and that he's referring to news sites with a greater leftward lean -- and that's great! I doubt Michael2 and I would agree on much politically, but I'm happy to see that the core leftwing supporters of the "elite" MSM are reconsidering their allegiance. The only demographic that leaves them is the ever-shrinking pool of elderly folks who will consume broadcast and dead tree news till they die.

The Black Sheep

An astronomer, an engineer, and a mathematician were riding on a train from London to Scotland when they spotted a black sheep atop a hill near the tracks.

"Aha!" said the astronomer. "Now we know that all the sheep in Scotland are black!"

"Nonsense," said the engineer. "We only know that at least one sheep in Scotland is black."

"Ridiculous," said the mathematician. "All we can really say is that at least one half of one sheep in Scotland is black."

The Glass

A pessimist says the glass is half-empty. An optimist says the glass is half-full. An engineer recognizes that the glass is simply too big.

Drudge links to an article about a study that claims that traffic jams are getting worse. Well duh.

WASHINGTON (AP) - If getting stuck in traffic makes you want to roll down your car window and scream, look no further than another of those studies to find the bad news: Gridlock is getting worse. Congestion delayed travelers 79 million more hours and wasted 69 million more gallons of fuel in 2003 than in 2002, the Texas Transportation Institute's 2005 Urban Mobility Report found.

Overall in 2003, there were 3.7 billion hours of travel delay and 2.3 billion gallons of wasted fuel for a total cost of more than $63 billion.

"Urban areas are not adding enough capacity, improving operations or managing demand well enough to keep congestion from growing," the report concluded. ...

Roads aren't being built fast enough to carry all the people who now drive on them, according to the Transportation Development Foundation, a group that advocates transportation construction.

The number of vehicle miles traveled has increased 74 percent since 1982, but road lane mileage only increased 6 percent, the foundation said.

Most cities have some sort of public transit, but people don't want to use it. Buses and trains, like carpools, are things that everyone agrees that everyone else should be using. But each individual wants to drive himself. Our politicians serve us and should spend our tax money they way we want them to. They should build more highways; that's how democracy works.

Home From St. Louis.

Jon Henke at QandO muses about the international perception of the death penalty and whether or not America could improve its image by abolishing it. He writes that:

After all, the primary international objections to the United States have been with our belligerence, propensity to violence and disrespect for international standards. It seems to me that uliminating the death penalty would soften our harsher edges in the public well as eliminating a talking point for our opponents.

Perhaps so. And, as he writes, there are certainly practical reasons to consider eliminating capital punishment, such as the possibility of making a mistake and the incredible expense of capital prosecutions.

Still, aside from all that, I think we should not forget that our system of punishments isn't designed to make us popular, it's intended to bring about justice. That's why we call it the justice system. Justice will not always be popular, either at home or abroad. As a democracy we must adhere to the wishes of our own people -- even if we think they thwart justice -- but why should we sacrifice justice to "soften" our public image with third-parties? I think it would be morally perilous -- regardless of one's position on the death penalty -- to base questions of justice on popularity. The problem of capital punishment is essentially a moral question, and good is good regardless of how others perceive it.

(HT: Jeff the Baptist.)

My brother just sent me a link to an article about International Science and Technology Centers that are designed for "Stabilizing Employment for Nuclear Personnel".

The International Science and Technology Centers are a multilateral effort to provide opportunities for scientists of the former Soviet Union with weapons of mass destruction (WMD) expertise to engage in peaceful research – both basic and applied. The goal of the two Centers, based in Moscow and Kiev, is to reduce the likelihood – if possible, to zero – that such scientists or the institutes at which they work would be tempted to provide their expertise to terrorists or proliferating states. They do this by providing grants to fund peaceful research by former weapons scientists, combined with some efforts to facilitate these scientists' transition to long-term, sustainable civilian activities. The program includes nuclear weapons scientists, but it welcomes all "weapons scientists and engineers, particularly those who possess knowledge and skills related to weapons of mass destruction or missile delivery systems," in the former Soviet Union.

Sounds like a good idea to me, and a mostly-unnoticed front in the war on terror.

I love reading about the UK's political shenanigans, and although it's almost too late to matter, here are some suggestions on who to vote for.

From the left we have:
- Victor S, who isn't in the UK but wants you to Vote Mebyon Kernow.
- Red Pepper, who complains about the "right wing Labour government" but says you can still vote for some of them them if you pay attention to his handy election map.

From the right we have... uh... I'm actually having trouble finding conservative UK bloggers who list Tory candidates. You can go to Who Should You Vote For? and answer some questions to find out which party most closely aligns with your political inclinations. That's kinda fun, but I can pretty much guess my answer already. Check out this page for more on UK elections.

I'm not a big fan of parliamentary democracy because it lacks strong separation of powers between the executive and legislative authorities in comparison to the presidential system. Here's more on the mechanics of United Kingdom general elections.

Here's an interesting proposal from Tim at who thinks that leftists need to infiltrate the conservative heartland of America using private schools. He does a pretty good job recognizing the principle numerical weakness of the modern "progressive" movement, but I don't think his solution of "Freedom Schools" is really practical.

First, demographics are against him. Not only are "heartland" areas more conservative, they also produce far more children than the leftist coasts. His idea to place leftist private schools in these conservative areas ignores the evidence that as people drift leftward they have fewer children. Even if the children his schools educate end up being more leftist than their parents, they'll end up having fewer kids of their own than will their rightist peers. It's an uphill battle that can't be won unless the converts of his Freedom Schools have more kids in total than the rightist kids who remain. In order for that to happen, he'd need to convert roughly two-thirds of this generation just to reach parity. Of course, the balance only needs to shift a small degree in order to produce some results, even if they aren't determinative.

Second, education is incredibly expensive. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, America spent $7,397 per student for elementary and secondary education in the year 2000. So for the approximately $150 million the Democrats raised for John Kerry's presidential bid, they could have educated around 20,000 students for one year. Except that it took much more than a year to raise that much money, and millions of hours of volunteer labor. Plus, most private schools are more expensive to run than public schools, which that number mostly represents. Finally, 20,000 a tiny drop in the bucket considering that there are around 75,000,000 Americans between 0 and 18 years of age.

Anyway, as I said, it's an interesting idea. Personally, I'm completely in favor of eliminating public education entirely and moving towards a private elementary and secondary education system that mirrors our mostly private university system. Our university system is the best in the world, while our public primary education system is one of the worst. Do the math. I think Tim is way off base in thinking that leftist views are underrepresented in public education, considering that secular humanism is the only religion taught in public schools, but I wholeheartedly support his proposal insofar as I think more private and less public education would benefit our nation immensely.

One of the most gratifying and amusing things about the present -- certainly cyclical -- Republican ascendancy is how frustrated the left has gotten with the effects of their sweeping electoral losses. The most obvious example is the froth over the Republicans' petty insistance on Constitutionality in the Senate which gets them indirectly labeled terrorists for daring to obstruct the obstruction of the minority Democrats. The Dems claim to be protecting the American people by thwarting the will of their elected representatives, which is so thick with irony as to be pretty much beyond comment.

More subtle, and yet closer to home to whatever dozen people watch it, is the rebalancing of PBS. Mick Arran claims that "PBS is about to become a fully-owned subsidiary of the Bush Administration", which is hyperbole that's apparently intended to elicit outrage from his readers. In actuality, the Republican chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, only controls a small portion of PBS's budget, and he isn't seeking to merge PBS with the RNC, he just wants to ensure that public money is used in a way that relfects the will of the majority of Americans. The alternative is that eventually the public will begin to question how its tax dollars are used, and PBS may be defunded entirely as Newt Gingrich tried to do in 1994. I'd be glad to see that happen -- what business does the government have paying for television? where's that in the Constitution? -- but supporters of PBS who want to keep the station around should learn to keep a finger in the air.

How about the demise of the old "politics stops at the waters' edge" philosophy that so quickly fell out of favor once Democrats lost influence and control over foreign policy? What other instances of Democratic floundering and frustration have you seen or read about?

Why are all the stalls in a public bathroom, except the handicapped stall, the same size? Considering that few restrooms other than those in movie theaters and statiums are ever utilized to capacity, why not build stalls of varying sizes? That way, when the restroom isn't crowded people can use the larger stalls and leave the small ones empty; when more people come in, they late-comers have to use the smaller stalls. Such an arrangement would reduce the maximum throughput of the restroom, but under average usage conditions less of the space in the restroom would be wasted by empty stalls.

The restroom at my work is particularly annoying. There are 10 stalls, and I've never seen more than two in use at the same time. Each stall is so narrow that it's impossible to close the door without standing on the toilet (I'm not exaggerating). Why not remove six of the 10 tiny stalls and replace them with three double-wide stalls? We'd still have seven stalls -- more than sufficient -- and under normal conditions every user would get to occupy a luxury stall. Replacing the 10 tiny stalls with seven equal-width stalls would be another option, but to optimally use the space you want to dedicate an amount of area to each stall in proportion to how frequently it is in use.

It goes without saying that the small stalls should be placed between the large stalls, so as to encourage the maximum amount of insulation between users.

The New York Sun has a brilliant editorial that muses on the irony and disingenuousness of politicians who think nothing of aborting babies but supposedly worry about the future Social Security benefits of retirees who won't even be conceived for years.

"There would be at least a 28% benefit cut for a worker who is born five years from now, who retires at age 65, and who has average career earnings," the [Senator Chuck] Schumer [D-NY] press release warns. "There would be at least a 42% benefit cut for a worker who is born five years from now, who retires at age 65, and who has career earnings that are 'the equivalent' of $59,000 in 2005."

Notice those key words "born five years from now." Senator Schumer, to judge by his votes in the Senate, doesn't buy into the idea that unborn children or fetuses or embryos, call them what you will, need to be protected against being harvested and destroyed for stem-cell research or being destroyed by their parents as a method of birth control. This same senator who opposes banning late-term abortions - in other words, who votes as if he doesn't believe an unborn child has a right to life - thinks that children who are four years away from even being conceived, let alone born, have some claim on Social Security benefits indexed to wages rather than prices.

Well said, and ingeniously connected. (HT: James Taranto.)

My little brother's team won second place in the San Diego regional remote-operated vehicle competition and will be traveling to Houston next month to compete in the national 4th Annual ROV Competition for High School & College Students. Oh yeah, he's in 8th grade. Here's the document that describes the RANGER class "Underwater Olympics" that his team's ROV will take part in. Hopefully I'll get some pictures to post at some point.

Amanda Marcotte has a two-part essay about what she calls the anti-feminist/men's rights movement. In part 1 she gives an overview of the players she sees in the MRA, and in part 2 she discusses some of the MRA arguments that she's encountered. The posts are long, and I haven't yet had time to fully digest everything she's written.

My initial impression is that Miss Marcotte is largely responding to the lunatic fringe of those who think men should have the same rights as women. For instance, she quotes men who apparently argue that rape isn't a big deal and then she acts as if such a disgustingly absurd position actually requires refutation. She also ignores a lot of obvious social factors that would undermine her arguments, such as the fact that men who are injured by women who use weapons to commit domestic violence are very unlikely to admit the source of their injuries.

Anyway, her posts are certainly an interesting read, and I'll probably have more to say about them later. I'm sure Miss Marcotte could find plenty to disagree with on my site, but I'd like to find some way to convince her that not all conservative men line up with the stereotype she portrays. Isn't there a middle ground between feminism and idiots who claim that "rape is not tramatic [sic]"?

For instance, this is the kind of nonsense you get when you see the world through Miss Marcotte's eyes.

Pre-teen boys who went to the "Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day" at the University of California-San Francisco's Center for Gender Equity last week got to undergo gender sensitivity indoctrination while their female counterparts took part in all manner of hands-on activities, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

The 9- and 10-year-old daughters got to, for example, work with microscopes, slice up brains, play surgeon or dentist and visit the intensive care unit nursery. The boys, on the other hand, learned about "violence prevention and how to be allies to the girls and women in their lives" using media, role playing and group games.

(HT: Ace. Check out his commenters while you're there.)

Army Pvt. Paul Varner, 20, was killed during a live-fire training exercise last night in Arkansas while preparing to deploy to Afghanistan. He was eager to serve his country, and his death is a loss for all Americans.

A communications error may have led to the death of a St. Louis area Army soldier during a training exercise in Arkansas, the soldier's mother said today.

Pvt. Paul Varner of Wildwood and another soldier in the 4th Brigade, 10th Mountain Division were caught in the middle of live-fire training when Varner was shot, Linda Varner said she was told by the Army. The other soldier was not hit.

Details were still developing as the Army investigated the incident, Linda Varner said. ``Somebody had made a mistake. Communications that should've taken place didn't happen.''

May God have mercy on his friends and family whom he preceded to Heaven.

Been thinking about Paul all day. The thought of death makes me crave life all the more, and leaves me feeling selfish. Is it fair that he died? Is it right? Did God cause it, or allow it to happen? How is he served by Paul's death? I don't know the answers to these things. I doubt the answers would be satisfying, anyway.

Even talking about death feels unlucky, like I'm going to draw its attention. I've heard of survivors feeling guilty... I'm not a survivor or closely related to what killed Paul, but I don't feel guilty. I feel relieved that it wasn't me or anyone closer to me. Then I feel guilty about that. Is that what survivor's guilt is?

Paul was a Christian, and so I am, but I'm afraid to die. Does that reflect a lack of faith? I'm a coward. I want to live. I want to get married and have babies and gripe about taxes for another hundred years. I'm glad there are men like Paul, better men than me, that make my life possible. And then I feel guilty again, all in a circle. I don't know if it makes sense or not.

Proverbs 103:13-18

13 As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;

14 for he knows how we are formed,
he remembers that we are dust.

15 As for man, his days are like grass,
he flourishes like a flower of the field;

16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,
and its place remembers it no more.

17 But from everlasting to everlasting
the LORD's love is with those who fear him,
and his righteousness with their children's children-

18 with those who keep his covenant
and remember to obey his precepts.

Update 2:
Roscoe has a description of combined arms training and why it is both dangerous and important.

Update 3:
Here's some video about Paul with pictures of him and interviews with his brother Adam and some friends.

California: where cloning cats is unethical but harvesting babies is funded by the state.

Cloning hurts animals, exploits grieving pet owners and is unnecessary in a state that kills more than a million unwanted dogs and cats each year, said Assemblyman Lloyd Levine (D-Van Nuys), whose bill, AB 1428, would make it illegal to sell cloned pets in California. ...

Animals, he said, "are not toys to be played with at our amusement."

"I'm concerned that once we start down this road, that's where we're heading," Levine said. " 'Oh gee, the cat got hit by a car, we'll just clone another one.' "

But creating human babies just to kill them and take their stem cells isn't concerning at all!

I went to lunch at Red Robin in the mall today, and half the mall parking lot was cordoned off for valet parking. At. The. Mall. Malls don't need valet parking. Valet parking doesn't create additional parking area unless they stack park the cars, which wasn't happening. In actuality, the vast majority of spots reserved for valet parking were vacant, while hundreds of cars meandered around the lot searching for any other opening.

I hate restaurants with mandatory valet parking, especially when the valet parks your car 20 feet away and then expects you to pay him actual money in exchange for the privilege of having him take his sweet freaking time fetching your car back for you. Screw that. I never ever tip valets unless the valet parking is optional and I choose it myself. Yeah, it's not their fault I hate valet parking, but I don't tip the cop who pulls me over, either.

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