April 2006 Archives

It's interesting that whenever angels are depicted in art they invariably have wings, and yet God never does. It seems that there aren't many serious depictions of God other than as a cloud or a bright light, but even when he is depicted in a human-like form (or do humans have a God-like form?) he is never winged. (For instance, Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel, below.)


Maybe God, unlike his angels, just doesn't have anywhere to go. On the one hand, it must be nice to be omnipresent; on the other, I suppose that when you're God, everyone comes to you. And when you do go out, you've got angels to carry you around.

Guess who is the new vice-chaircountry of the United Nations Disarmament Commission? Which country is now responsible for overseeing the commission's priorities of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation?

The recent record of the Disarmament Commission was far from satisfactory, but now, more than ever, it should use the opportunity of an agreed agenda to strengthen the disarmament machinery to effectively deal with new emerging threats and challenges, the new Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs, Nobuaki Tanaka, said today upon the opening of the Commission’s substantive session. ...

In other business, the following delegations were elected as Vice-chairpersons, by acclamation: Chile, Uruguay and Iran.

Yes, that's right -- Iran is now in change of preventing nuclear proliferation.

(HT: James Taranto.)

I'd be a little more careful choosing my words if I were writing about a man mysteriously struck and killed by lightning.

The neighbors had been chatting outside around 6:30 p.m. about the upcoming hurricane season when Bennett, shirtless and in sandals, hiked up his shorts an inch and took three steps toward Thompson.

He was smiling when the sky lit up with electricity.

The lightning bolt struck his head from behind, and yellow sparks formed inside his mouth, Thompson said.

Standing about 25 feet away, Thompson watched in horror as her friend — the most caring and energetic man she'd ever known — died without a word.

Right. The ads at the bottom of the page may also be in poor taste.


In our flawed, evil, competitive world, it's ironic that greed can create more good than can "kindness".

If pursuing profit is greed, economist Walter Williams told me, then greed is good, because it drives us to do many good things. "Those areas where people are motivated the most by greed are the areas that we're the most satisfied with: supermarkets, computers, FedEx." By contrast, areas "where people say we're motivated by 'caring'" -- public education, public housing etc. -- "are the areas of disaster in our country. . . . How much would get done," Williams wondered, "if it all depended on human love and kindness?"

Greed gets people to cooperate. If you want to benefit from other greedy people, you have to make sure they benefit from you.

In this context it's important to note that "greed" does not imply a willingness to cheat or break the rules, simply a desire to maximize your own benefit by trading with others who are each also want to do the best they can for themselves.

No one person made my dinner possible. It took thousands of people to get me the food. And none of them did it for me. As economist Adam Smith put it, "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest."

It's a strange system that's far less than ideal, but it's apparently the best system possible considering our innate human failings.

(Earlier Greed Is Good post).

Mark Steyn proposes a fun experiment to help understand the world's reaction to Ahmadinejad and the crazy Iranians.

You know what's great fun to do if you're on, say, a flight from Chicago to New York and you're getting a little bored? Why not play being President Ahmadinejad? Stand up and yell in a loud voice, "I've got a bomb!" Next thing you know the air marshal will be telling people, "It's OK, folks. Nothing to worry about. He hasn't got a bomb." And then the second marshal would say, "And even if he did have a bomb it's highly unlikely he'd ever use it." And then you threaten to kill the two Jews in row 12 and the stewardess says, "Relax, everyone. That's just a harmless rhetorical flourish." And then a group of passengers in rows 4 to 7 point out, "Yes, but it's entirely reasonable of him to have a bomb given the threatening behavior of the marshals and the cabin crew."

That's how it goes with the Iranians. The more they claim they've gone nuclear, the more U.S. intelligence experts -- oops, where are my quote marks? -- the more U.S. intelligence "experts" insist no, no, it won't be for another 10 years yet. The more they conclusively demonstrate their non-compliance with the IAEA, the more the international community warns sternly that, if it were proved that Iran were in non-compliance, that could have very grave consequences. But, fortunately, no matter how thoroughly the Iranians non-comply it's never quite non-compliant enough to rise to the level of grave consequences. You can't blame Ahmadinejad for thinking "our enemies cannot do a damned thing."

As Mr. Steyn points out, the Iranian braggadocio should be enough to motivate us to substantial action.

My buddy Randy Kirk has started a new project designed to get kids reading by age five. Considering that most kids can't read when they graduate high school, this is pretty ambitious.

Nineteen years ago, my wife and I decided to teach our 4-year-old daughter to read. We had purchased this 150-year-old reader, and it seemed like it might be fun to see how far we could get teaching her with a book published in 1840. Amazingly, within the year, she was reading at the third grade level.

Is she a genius? We’d like to think so, but since that time, both of our boys have gone through the same program, and with even greater success at earlier ages.

Out of these early efforts a program for early reading was developed. Others have now tested the system with the same kind of success. And now, we are ready to offer it to you.

There's no doubt that our public school system is broken, and this looks like just the sort of thing I'd want to start my children with to make sure they aren't dependent on some government bureaucracy for their education.

Sometimes I watch cable news in the morning while I'm exercising, but I'm getting sick of all the "gas prices are so high!" stories. Duh. This isn't news. Gas prices have been high for years now, and there's no sign that they're going to drop significantly. Why waste airtime "reporting" a story that everyone already knows? It's pointless filler. No one needs an on-location report from some journalist standing in front of a gas station with $3-a-gallon gas; we can see that for ourselves one block away!

In contrast, how many blog posts do you read about high gas prices? Proportionally far fewer. If I were running a cable news network, I'd lose all the journalists and hire a few editors to scour the blogosphere and a few beautiful women to read the best posts on camera. We'd pick stories based on Technorati's "What's happening right now" section (no mention of gas prices in the top 10) and bring the best news and commentary the world has to offer. Then, instead of worthless trackbacks, we'd send $100 cash to each of our sources and show their URLs on-air.

It's interesting that the factors seen in Iraq that apparently prompt so many to cry "civil war!" are even more prevalent in areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority... yet few people who are critical of Iraq are also calling American/European involvement with the Palestinians a debacle.

Violent clashes and mass protests erupted Saturday across the West Bank and Gaza Strip between followers of the militant group Hamas and Fatah rivals, after a Hamas leader accused Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas of treachery.

The two sides traded gunfire and hurled stones and firebombs, escalating a fierce power struggle between militant and moderate factions focused on control over Palestinian security forces.

Abbas said Saturday he would not allow the accusations to plunge the Palestinians into civil war.

Too late? Should the West withdraw its involvement with the Palestinians? Were the years of "peace process" a wasted effort?

(HT: Jonah Goldberg.)

Since 2004 leopards have been hunting people in Mumbai, killing several people a week in India's most populous city.

It’s a classic case of survival of the fittest and the fight for space between man and beast. All the more difficult in a city like Mumbai, whose burgeoning population is increasingly pushing deep into the forest.

The forest, which is Mumbai's green lung is also a wildlife sanctuary and the leopards' natural habitat. But, in the last few months, the big cats have increasingly emerged from the forest and into the urban jungle, killing twenty-two people including children.

Residents are up in arms about what they call “official apathy”, but forest officials say it’s up to residents to take great care in the face of an unexpected threat.

"Take great care", but it's apparently illegal to actually kill one of the cats. Despite this formal preference for animals over people, some Indians apparently think the government isn't doing enough to protect the man-eaters.

It might be strange if i say that i was the happiest person when I heard Leopards had killed some 14-15 people in Mumbai. I’ll also support with my reasons why i’m happy. ...

3) There is nothing wrong with the Leapord in killing people (which is also a part of Population control ) who had encroached within its land. People deserve such capital punishment who for their selfish reasons occupy its terrain. One day it might happen that even domestic animals might seek revenge for the abuses made on them in India.

Though I don't want to make overly broad generalizations, one of the commonalities I've noticed among the Indians that I've met is that they don't tend to put a high value on the lives of people they don't know. Several of the Indians I know best, when asked, have said that of course this is true -- India has far too many people as it is, so why should anyone be overly concerned about the deaths of strangers? This reaction was particularly strong in response to the recent freezing winter in New Delhi and the resulting deaths of countless homeless.

So one major leaker from the CIA has been outed: Mary O. McCarthy was the source for the CIA-secret-jails story, among apparently many others. She's been fired but apparently may not face criminal charges.

Several former veteran C.I.A. officials said the dismissal of an agency employee over a leak was rare and perhaps unprecedented. One official recalled the firing of a small number of agency contractors, including retirees, for leaking several years ago.

Well that's pretty alarming. The whole point of classifying information is to put some teeth behind the otherwise routine requirement that employees not discuss their work with outsiders. Just about every business or organization has a general understanding of that sort, but since it's so much more important when it comes to national security it's taken to another level. Employees at businesses are fired all the time for disclosing proprietary information, so it's pretty surprising that CIA employees aren't fired for leaking classified information. Hopefully this is the start of a trend.

With the encouragement of the White House and some Republicans in Congress, [CIA Directory Porter J.] Goss has repeatedly spoken out against leaks, saying foreign intelligence officials had asked him whether his agency was incapable of keeping secrets.

In February, Mr. Goss told the Senate Intelligence Committee that "the damage has been very severe to our capabilities to carry out our mission." He said it was his hope "that we will witness a grand jury investigation with reporters present being asked to reveal who is leaking this information."

"I believe the safety of this nation and the people of this country deserves nothing less," he said.

Isn't it humiliating for the United State's premier intelligence agency to be untrusted by the foreign services we have to work with? Leakers like Mary O. McCarthy are traitors who endanger Americans and America's interests, even if they have good intentions... which I doubt. It seems a lot more likely that Mary O. McCarthy's leaked to cause political damage to President Bush than to enhance America's security.

Public records show that Ms. McCarthy contributed $2,000 in 2004 to the presidential campaign of John Kerry, the Democratic nominee.

Wow, that's a surprise.

Quotes later in the article show that there are at least a few sensible people left in the CIA who recognize their duties and take them seriously.

But another official, whose experience was at headquarters, said most employees would approve Mr. Goss's action. "I think for the vast majority of people this will be good for morale," the official said. "People didn't like some of their colleagues deciding for themselves what secrets should be in The Washington Post or The New York Times."

Paul R. Pillar, who was the agency's senior analyst for the Middle East until he retired late last year, said: "Classified information is classified information. It's not to be leaked. It's not to be divulged." He has recently criticized the Bush administration's handling of prewar intelligence about Saddam Hussein's unconventional weapons programs.

I hope Mary O. McCarthy does get charged and thrown in prison or executed, but since that's not likely I hope that the blogosphere keeps tabs on her and excoriates whomever is foolish enough to hire her next.

Update 060425:
Mary O. McCarthy has denied leaking information about secret CIA prisons and apparently only admitted to having disclosed some other unspecified classified information to reporter Dana Priest of the Washington Post.

The statement by Ty Cobb, a lawyer in the Washington office of Hogan & Hartson who said he was speaking for McCarthy, came on the same day that a senior intelligence official said the agency is not asserting that McCarthy was a key source of Priest's award-winning articles last year disclosing the agency's secret prisons.

McCarthy was fired because the CIA concluded that she had undisclosed contacts with journalists, including Priest, in violation of a security agreement. That does not mean she revealed the existence of the prisons to Priest, Cobb said.

Cobb said that McCarthy, who worked in the CIA inspector general's office, "did not have access to the information she is accused of leaking," namely the classified information about any secret detention centers in Europe.

Of course this is McCarthy's lawyer saying this, and keep in mind that the story above is from the Washtington Post, that paper which McCarthy admitted leaking to.

Maybe I haven't been following the news closely enough, but apparently this story broke six days ago and I only heard about it tonight: in 2000, President Bill Clinton tried to trick Iran by sending them fake plans for a nuclear bomb... but oops, he sent them real plans.

the transfer of classified data to Iran was personally approved by then-President Clinton and that the CIA deliberately gave Iranian physicists blueprints for part of a nuclear bomb that likely helped Tehran advance its nuclear weapons development program.

The CIA, using a double-agent Russian scientist, handed a blueprint for a nuclear bomb to Iran, according to a new book "State of War" by James Risen, the New York Times reporter, who exposed the Bush administration's controversial NSA spying operation, claims the plans contained fatal flaws designed to derail Tehran's nuclear drive.

But the deliberate errors were so rudimentary they would have been easily fixed by sophisticated Russian nuclear scientists, the book said.

The operation, which took place during the Clinton administration in early 2000, was code named Operation Merlin and "may have been one of the most reckless operations in the modern history of the CIA," according to Risen.

It called for the unnamed scientist, a defector from the Soviet Union, to offer Iran the blueprint for a "firing set" -- the intricate mechanism which triggers the chain reaction needed for a nuclear explosion.

The Russian was told by CIA officers that the Iranians already had the technology detailed in the plans and that the ruse was simply an attempt by the agency to find out the full scope of Tehran's nuclear knowledge.

But, contrary to orders not to open the packet, he added a note which made it clear he could help fix the flaws for money.

Risen states in his book, "It's not clear who originally came up with the idea, but the plan [to give Tehran nuclear blueprints] was first approved by Clinton."

Holy crap, nice going.

(HT: Right-Wing & Right Minded and Its [sic] a Matter of Opinion.)

Mark Steyn lays out a compelling explanation of why we have to prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons.

But it doesn't have to come to that. Go back to that Argentine bombing. It was, in fact, the second major Iranian-sponsored attack in Buenos Aires. The year before, 1993, a Hezbollah suicide bomber killed 29 people and injured hundreds more in an attack on the Israeli Embassy. In the case of the community center bombing, the killer had flown from Lebanon a few days earlier and entered Latin America through the porous tri-border region of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. Suppose Iran had had a "dirty nuke" shipped to Hezbollah, or even the full-blown thing: Would it have been any less easy to get it into the country? And, if a significant chunk of downtown Buenos Aires were rendered uninhabitable, what would the Argentine government do? Iran can project itself to South America effortlessly, but Argentina can't project itself to the Middle East at all. It can't nuke Tehran, and it can't attack Iran in conventional ways.

So any retaliation would be down to others. Would Washington act? It depends how clear the fingerprints were. If the links back to the mullahs were just a teensy-weensy bit tenuous and murky, how eager would the U.S. be to reciprocate? Bush and Rumsfeld might--but an administration of a more Clinto-Powellite bent? How much pressure would there be for investigations under U.N. auspices? Perhaps Hans Blix could come out of retirement, and we could have a six-month dance through Security-Council coalition-building, with the secretary of state making a last-minute flight to Khartoum to try to persuade Sudan to switch its vote.

Perhaps it's unduly pessimistic to write the civilized world automatically into what Osama bin Laden called the "weak horse" role (Islam being the "strong horse"). But, if you were an Iranian "moderate" and you'd watched the West's reaction to the embassy seizure and the Rushdie murders and Hezbollah terrorism, wouldn't you be thinking along those lines? I don't suppose Buenos Aires Jews expect to have their institutions nuked any more than 12 years ago they expected to be blown up in their own city by Iranian-backed suicide bombers. Nukes have gone freelance, and there's nothing much we can do about that, and sooner or later we'll see the consequences--in Vancouver or Rotterdam, Glasgow or Atlanta. But, that being so, we owe it to ourselves to take the minimal precautionary step of ending the one regime whose political establishment is explicitly pledged to the nuclear annihilation of neighboring states.

Lots more, all good.

I don't know abuot anyone else, but I think Sit 'n Sleep's radio ads are awesome. They always make me laugh. Maybe it's because I can relate to Irwin.

I'm sure you've heard the ads. They start out with Larry, the owner, pushing some new sale he's got going -- same-as-cash till next year, 50% off, etc. Then comes Irwin, his accountant, who protests that if they follow through with the sale they'll go out of business -- "You're killing me Larry!" But, of course, Larry prevails and concludes every commercial with the 1-800 number and a promise that "Sit 'n Sleep will beat anyone's advertised price, or your mattress is FREEEEE!!!"

My love for the commercials led me to visit a Sit 'n Sleep store when recently purchasing a new mattress. Unfortunately, even though they'll beat advertised prices they won't beat negotiated prices at other stores, and I ended up getting a better deal from Mattress Gallery.

Last night was one of the best so far. Taylor was great, and so was Katherine. It was nice to see Chris do something a little different. Anyway, who cares about all that, what's important is who gets eliminated tonight! My prediction is that either Paris or Eelliioott will be leaving the show, and I only wish it could be both.

Here's how I'm currently grouping the idols; this will give you some sense of the order in which they'll be eliminated.

Bottom two: Eelliioott and Paris.

Middle two: Ace and Kellie.

Number Three: Taylor.

Top Two: Chris and Katherine.

Interestingly, TradeSports bettors rank the idols differently. Here are the odds they're putting on each idol going home tonight:


Hey, I don't like Ace either; I wouldn't be sad to see him go.

Poison is one of the most effective tools of the assassin, and yet the vast majority of people give almost no thought to protecting themselves. A few drops of the right common household chemicals in the coffee mug you left carelessly on your desk at work could give you a very bad day, land you in the hospital, or even kill you. So while it's not likely that most of us experience many assassination attempts, it's only prudent to take a few simple steps to make your life a bit more poison-proof.

1. Never eat or drink anything that someone else selects for you. This includes waiters at restaurants and bartenders.

2. Only purchase products selected randomly from a large collection. If there's only one bag of sugar left on the grocery store shelf, don't take it, it might have been planted there for you to find.

3. Never consume food or drink that have been left unattended.

4. Always inspect cups and dishes for unknown substances before putting food in them.

5. Before eating or drinking, taste a small quantity and evaluate it for impurities. If it tastes unusual, throw it away. If no ill effects result from the taste within a few minutes, it's probably safe to consume the rest of the product.

6. Eat and drink slowly so that if there's any poison you'll have a chance to detect it working before you consume the whole quantity. This practice can save your life, since all poisons require certain dosages to be lethal.

7. Learn how to induce vomiting.

8. Learn which poisons should be treated with induced vomiting and which should not. In general, most poisons should be vomited except those from a petroleum or corrosive chemical product.

9. Carry a small quantity of activated charcoal. After vomiting if necessary, you should drink a large quantity of water mixed with up to five tablespoons of activated charcoal to dilute and absorb the poison.

10. Stay within range of emergency medical personnel and call an ambulance if you think you've been poisoned. But don't trust the medics too far!

Mark B at the SMI Weblog (subscription required) notes an interesting phenomenon that most people are probably not aware: the equity market can be a hedge against personal ability devaluation.

As with the bones of the body, the financial markets are similarly connected. Understanding those connections can help us see how certain changes and news events often affect stock and bond prices.

For example, today's stock market losses are a reasonably clear reaction to the stronger than expected jobs report released this morning. Why would a good jobs report send the stock market lower? Because strong growth in jobs can lead to a tighter labor market. Tight labor markets lead to higher wages, which is inflationary. And inflation is generally thought to be bad for stocks.

The connections don't stop there. Higher potential inflation is also the bane of the bond market. So today's jobs report makes it more likely that the Fed will raise interest rates higher/longer, and has already caused the bond market to send long-term rates higher (pushing bond prices lower in the process). Since mortgage rates largely follow the rates of longer-term bonds, today's good job news may turn out to be bad news for mortgage shoppers. Which of course wouldn't be good news for the housing market.

So as unemployment goes down, wages go up, which means that the value of each worker's personal ability goes up; in reaction, stock prices go down. This isn't rocket science, but it's interesting that equity and salary can be inversely related (across the economy as a whole).

I found an interesting anomaly yesterday while debugging a .NET System.Net.Sockets.Socket problem. I'm using the asynchronous socket methods, which is probably a mistake. In hindsight, I would have been better off just spawning a couple of threads and using the synchronous methods.

After making the connection between my listening and connecting socket objects, I call BeginReceive on both ends and and pass in my callbacks, named OnReceivedData. (This callback is supposed to get called when there's incoming data on the socket.)

The anomaly is that the connecting socket's OnReceivedData callback is being invoked even when no data is sent by the listening socket. OnReceivedData is (improperly) invoked one single time exactly one second after the connection is made. When EndReceive is called during to this invokation of OnReceivedData by the connecting socket, an exception is thrown, probably because the socket isn't in the right state for EndReceive to work properly. (If EndReceive is called and there is no data, one would expect the method to simply return 0 bytes, not throw an exception.) If this exception is ignored, OnReceivedData isn't invoked improperly again and everything proceeds as would be expected.

If the listening socket sends a single byte within this first one-second window, OnReceivedData is invoked by the connecting socket (properly) and EndReceive is called and completes (as expected) without an exception. The connection then functions normally.

It doesn't seem like it should be necessary for the listening socket to send data to the connecting socket; the listening socket doesn't improperly invoke its callback if it doesn't receive data. Once the connection is established, there's no reason the listening socket and the connecting socket should behave differently. Seeing as how this behavior is not documented, I think it's a bug. I haven't attemped to recreate it yet in Mono on any platform.

According to the new Hamas-led Palestinian government, Israel is to blame for Palestinian suicide bombers who target Israelis because of that nation's "brutal aggression". What's most tragic is that these Israeli-caused suicide bombs are undermining the peace process that Hamas is striving towards so valiently!

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) - A Palestinian suicide bomber struck a packed fast-food restaurant during Passover on Monday, killing nine other people and wounding dozens in the deadliest attack in more than a year.

In a sharp departure from the previous Palestinian government's condemnations of bombings, the Hamas-led administration said the attack resulted from Israel's "brutal aggression." The bloodshed and the hard-line stance could set the stage for harsh Israeli reprisals and endanger Palestinian efforts to secure desperately needed international aid.

Aw, too bad, maybe the kleptocratic Palestinian government will actually have to do some work, build an economy, and provide for its own citizens. Too bad suicide isn't more profitable, but I suppose it's one way to deal with unemployment.

Holy crap. Tom Cruise is a lunatic.

TOM Cruise has claimed he will eat the PLACENTA after fiancée Katie Holmes has their baby.

The actor, 43 — who wants her to give birth in silence according to his Scientology cult rules — said: “I’m gonna eat the placenta, too.

“I thought that would be good. Very nutritious. I’m going to eat the cord and the placenta right there.”

That is possibly the most disgusting thing I've ever heard.

Wade Smith points out what I hope to God is true: being insane will hurt Tom Cruise's box office appeal. How can a studio invest money in this kind of psycho? Who would want to share a stage with such a freak?

President of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, James P. Hoffa, correctly identifies many of the symptoms of the ongoing national health care debacle but is completely wrong about the underlying disease.

Our nation is facing an urgent crisis. Companies, workers and all levels of our government have an equal stake in this fight. Our nation's health care system is broken. America must act now.

General Motors Corp. is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, and Delphi Corp. is already there, largely because of the amount of money they spend on health care for their employees.

GM spends more on health care for its workers than on steel for its cars. GM estimates that it spends $1,500 in health care costs for every car it produces. It paid out about $5.8 billion for health care in 2005. That competitive disadvantage largely explains why the Big Three automakers have eliminated or announced plans to eliminate nearly 140,000 jobs since 2000. ...

Despite these increases -- and maybe even because of them -- there are now more than 46 million Americans without insurance. That's over 15 percent of the population. In 2000, it was 39 million, and it was 31 million in 1987, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

America is spending more and more on health care to cover fewer and fewer people poorly.

Health care costs are destroying our nation's economic edge. The cards are stacked against American companies as they try to compete with low-cost, low-wage foreign producers.

All of this is true, but Mr. Hoffa's proposed solution would certainly make the situation worse.

The only real solution to this crisis is national health care. Meeting such a basic need should not force government budgets, companies and workers into the red. As the crisis grows, more and more Americans, workers and corporate leaders alike, are calling for government action.

Government action is needed, but what the government needs to do is reform the legal malpractice system to protect health care providers from the lawsuits that consume billions of dollars per year in direct costs (e.g., ridiculous payouts) and indirect costs (e.g., unneeded tests).

Teri Robert has collected an array of facts that will astound you and hopefully convince you that we don't need more regulation of health care, we need more regulation of lawsuits.

- Lawsuit costs passed on to consumers add up to nearly $721 per year for every person in America today. - Because of litigation fears, 79% of doctors said they had ordered more tests than they would based only on professional judgment of what is medically needed. - It takes at least a year to resolve most lawsuits, and delays of three to five years are not uncommon. Unfortunately, injured people with legitimate claims can wait years before their cases go to trial. - An estimated $50 billion per year is spent on unnecessary test procedures designed only to guard doctors and hospitals against malpractice claims. - Almost half of the money spent by physician insurers goes towards defending cases that ultimately are closed without compensation paid to the claimant.

And so forth. Rather than turning over one-fifth of our economy to the federal government as Mr. Hoffa proposes -- which never makes anything cheaper, better, or more efficient -- let's limit these lawsuits in a way to leads to better health care rather than just richer lawyers.

The second step, more controversially, is to slash the government regulation of physicians and medication. Rather than require all practicing physicians to be certified by a government-approved authority, the government should simply require that physicians disclose their credentials and leave the certifications to private organizations (as is done in most professional fields). This would open the door for thousands of lower-cost, lower-skill physicians who would be more than able to treat common maladies like colds and broken bones. You don't need an MD to set a broken arm, so why should you have to pay for one? Because currently the government says so. Medication is similar. Consumers need the government to ensure that drug companies disclose all the potential side-effects of their products, but we don't need the FDA to tell us what we can and can't put in our bodies if we're willing to take known risks.

So now along with www.oneclickdigital.com is a scam, I have determined that WAWADigital is a scam as well. I had agreed to buy a new camera at a certain price, and when he called to confirm the order it turned out that he wanted to sell me a refurbished camera. He then offered to sell me a new camera at a much higher price, and when I was I wasn't interested he said he was cancelling my order and he hung up. I've called my credit card company to alert them.

I've never had this many problems buying online in the past.

Matthew 26:31-35

Then Jesus told them, "This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written: " 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.' But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee."

Peter replied, "Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will."

"I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times."

But Peter declared, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you." And all the other disciples said the same.

Later that night, while Jesus was being condemned in a mock trial...

Matthew 26:69-75

Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. "You also were with Jesus of Galilee," she said.

But he denied it before them all. "I don't know what you're talking about," he said.

Then he went out to the gateway, where another girl saw him and said to the people there, "This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth."

He denied it again, with an oath: "I don't know the man!"

After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, "Surely you are one of them, for your accent gives you away."

Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, "I don't know the man!"

Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: "Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times." And he went outside and wept bitterly.

Three days later, after Christ's death and burial...

Luke 24:1-12

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, "Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 'The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.' " Then they remembered his words.

When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened.

John 21:1-19

Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. "I'm going out to fish," Simon Peter told them, and they said, "We'll go with you." So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.

He called out to them, "Friends, haven't you any fish?"

"No," they answered.

He said, "Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some." When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.

Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, "It is the Lord," he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.

Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish you have just caught."

Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." None of the disciples dared ask him, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?"

"Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you."

Jesus said, "Feed my lambs."

Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?"

He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you."

Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep."

The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?"

Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you."

Jesus said, "Feed my sheep. I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go." Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, "Follow me!"

And Peter did.

I'd been quite enjoying the recent South Park satire about the to-do over publishing pictures of Mohammed, and I was very disappointed to discover near the end of the two-part episode that, quoting the show, Comedy Central decided to "puss out" and forced them to censor the image because they were afraid. The show mocked the network in its typical offensive-yet-compelling fashion by broadcasting images that were apparently more acceptable to the executives:

The uncensored depiction of Mohammed is described in the episode by an animated President Bush as not being in itself derogatory: “Hey, that wasn't bad at all. They just showed Mohammed standing there, looking normal."

In the episode, Al Qaeda then retaliates by broadcasting its own cartoon showing Americans, President Bush, and Jesus defecating on each other and the American flag.

Defenders of Comedy Central argue that it regularly allows South Park and other shows to “push the envelope,” with far more lax controls than almost any other cable network.

On the other hand, critics of the network have pointed out that showing “Mohammed standing there, looking normal” is not allowed, while showing Jesus defecating on President Bush and the American flag is permitted.

At the link above Jim Lindgren has a lot more background. It's sad to see threats of terror be so transparently effective.

Everything Between points out something I vaguely remembered, namely that South Park has already broadcast an episode featuring Mohammed; first shown in 2001, "Super Best Friends" depicts Mohammed, Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, Joseph Smith, Lao Tsu, Moses, and Sea Man in their never-ending battle against the evil power of street magician David Blaine.

Mohammed showing off his flame powers, courtesy of Wikipedia and South Park.

Not that many people except spammers care much about how I arrange my trackbacks, but I've decided to follow the model used by The Volokh Conspiracy and simply link to the Technorati search page for each post. It takes a few seconds to come up (and it's usually empty) but theoretically this will still allow people (including myself) to find related information. However, I'm not sure if it will help Google propagate PageRank.

Having coffee with an old friend tonight made me think about my past and realize that there was a single moment, completely out of my control, that set the course for my entire life. When I was four months old my mom was looking for a babysitter for me so she could go back to work, and she investigated various daycare providers without finding anyone she liked. Until she met Moga, who for whatever reason she trusted enough to take care of me. Sometimes Moga would take me to church in the evenings when my parents were working late; eventually I began attending Awana and I became a Christian.

I know a lot of people who are reasonably unhappy, discontent, disillusioned, and rudderless in life despite (in some cases) outward signs of success, and I know that I could have been one of them if my mom had dropped me off with another babysitter. My parents aren't practicing Christians, and there's no way I would have learned about God or began attending my church if it weren't for my Moga.

Since my childhood, then, my faith has shaped every facet of my life, influencing everything from my choice of schools, my jobs, my friends, and my wife. I'm incredibly, unbelievably blessed in every area of life, and God began that blessing when he guided my mom to Moga's house. I had no part in it, yet I'm reaping the rewards of that simple act of divine intervention. No one had any idea that day that the path of my life had been determined in that moment, but looking back it's clear that it was.

What moment defined your life?

Although I think it's likely that America will attack Iran I think it's very unfortunate and that there are many better options. Ironically, America may be forced to deal with Iran militarily because we will probably be unable to convince our "allies" to participate sufficiently to make less violent solutions viable.

For example, Representative Steve Israel has written an article arguing that restricting Iran's import of gasoline would convince the mullahs to drop their nuclear program.

Still, there is one option to consider before resorting to war. Iran may be a major exporter of oil, but it imports 40 percent of its gasoline because it has a limited refining capacity. And like us, its population is sensitive to the price of gas in an uncertain economy.

If diplomatic, economic and other tools don't work in dissuading the Iranian regime from its nuclear ambitions, reducing the amount of gas that goes into Iran may. Doing so would dramatically increase the cost of gasoline in Iran and put political pressure on the government to rethink its nuclear program and isolation in the world. A global commitment to keeping gas out of Iran is more effective and manageable than keeping oil in.

Such a strategy could possibly be effective, if the rest of the world was willing to agree. However, this is exactly the sort of solution that would require consensus from Russia and whatever other countries refine Iran's oil into gasoline. America couldn't enforce such an embargo alone unless we were willing to use military force to disrupt pipelines over land and disrupt shipping overseas. Attacking a foreign ship at sea is an act of war, so unless we get, for example, Russia to agree to stop refining oil for Iran then we simple exchange a war with Iran for a war with Russia. Not a good trade.

The only effective action that America can take on its own, without using our military against countries other than Iran, is to attack Iran itself. Given the near-certainty that the UN its various kleptocrat members will refuse to enforce substantial sanctions against Iran, we'll end up being forced into the military option by our reluctant "allies".

It's worth remembering that countries don't have allies, they have interests. We'll work with anyone else whose interests coincide with ours; anyone who claims to be an ally but who has different interests is only making the claim to hinder us and help themselves.

I'd never been much of an American Idol fan before this season, but for whatever reason (*cough* wife *cough*) I'm watching it almost weekly now. I was pretty surprised last week when Mandisa was eliminated; I think she has an amazing voice, but her performances the past couple of weeks were very sub-par. Tonight, momentarily, I think the contestants most in danger are Bucky (as usual), Ace, and Paris. Bucky is annoying, and even though his performances aren't terrible... he's annoying. Ace has pedosmile. Paris always looks like a little girl playing dress-up in clothes that just don't look right.

Looks like I was right, Bucky was eliminated. Unlike that writer, however, I think Pickler is adorable. My prediction for next off the show: Ace.

A few days ago I ordered a Casio EX-Z750 from http://www.oneclickdigital.com for an excellent price, about 25% cheaper than any competitor, and then I got an email saying that they had to confirm my order over the phone. Ok, credit card fraud is rampant, so why not? I call and the salesman tries to sell me all sorts of expensive peripherals for the camera, which I decline. He gets upset but eventually I tell him that I don't want to buy anything else until I try out the camera, and he gives up.

Today then I called to see if my order has shipped yet, and the guy on the phone says it should go out today. Shortly thereafter I get an email from http://www.oneclickdigital.com saying that my order has been cancelled. Hmmm... could it be because I didn't want to buy their peripherals and they didn't feel like losing money on the sale with their ridiculously low price? Whatever. Screw them.

http://www.oneclickdigital.com is a scam!

Spengler explains how demographics will compel America to attack Iran. I just want to get on record with a prediction that we will be performing airstrikes against Iran within 2006. America is weary of "nation building" in Iraq, but I bet the majority of the public will demand that we prevent Iran from fielding a nuclear weapon.

I'm always amazed when my toothpaste tube runs out of paste. I use so little each time I brush my teeth, it's hard to see how it adds up to a whole tube. But eventually, it does.

At the end of March I wrote about the minor attempt to liberalize the French job market, "Does anyone really doubt that President Chirac and Prime Minister de Villepin will eventually cave in and reject the proposed reforms? The Franch surrender, that's what they do." And of course I was right, because in response to the riots France has scrapped the youth job law intended to increase employment rates for France's youth (the "CPE") and replaced it with yet another doomed socialistic scheme.

French President Jacques Chirac has announced that the new youth employment law that sparked weeks of sometimes violent protests will be scrapped. ...

The plan to replace the CPE was announced after a meeting between the president, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin and other senior ministers on Monday.

The new package of measures includes offering state support for employers hiring young people who face the most difficulties in gaining access to the labour market.

So instead of inching towards a free economy, the French government will now subsidize jobs for young workers (who can never be fired). Sounds like a great plan!

Though my wife may not accompany me, I'm anxious to see United 93, the upcoming movie about the events on United flight 93 on September 11th, 2001. As this Time Magazine review states, I'm sure it will be both unbearable and unmissable.

"Movies need to address the way the world is," [writer/director Paul] Greengrass says. "We have to tell stories about 9/11." He also notes, "The victims' families want this film made. Every single one of them." (Universal, the studio producing the film, is donating 10% of the first weekend's box-office gross to the Flight 93 National Memorial Fund.) Hamilton Peterson, whose father and stepmother died on the flight and who serves as chairman of Families of Flight 93, sees two reasons America needs this film. "One, we're proud of what these Americans did," he says. "These are ordinary citizens who in a matter of minutes overcame what very evil and capable people had planned for years. The passengers took action without police or official support. They knew right from wrong, and they acted on it. Out of the dark of 9/11 came these heroes. And two, it is an example that future world citizens can learn from. If you remember Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, he tried to engage a very dangerous bomb and was thwarted by the bravery of the passengers and crew. Flight 93 served as a beacon for them. I don't think you can reaffirm that message too often or too much."

"I hope we're not as a society inured to the messages of the movie," says Hoagland. Those messages, of the hijackers' terrible cunning and dedication, the passengers' valor and sacrifice, are both timeless and timely. "I know it's not too soon," she says. "I hope it's not too late."

I want to relive it, I want to cry again, and I want to be reminded. It's one thing to say "never forget", but I think that puts an onus on us not to return to "normalcy" and not to lose sight of the vicious attack perpertrated on our country. We're still in a war, we're years away from winning, and we have to keep our determination. Part of that is emotion, and I don't want to lose my anger towards those who murdered more than 3,000 of my countrymen.

Maybe it's just me, but I'm tired of everyone always protesting things. Shut up, live your life, and let me live mine. What especially bothers me are kids who protest. Maybe I'm becoming a crotchety old man, but I think 10-year-olds should do what they're told.

UPPER ST. CLAIR, Pa. -- A 10-year-old fourth-grader is protesting a rule by her school that bans miniskirts.

Zoe Hinkle and her mother, Leslie, said there is nothing wrong with the skirt, if there are shorts sewn underneath.

Aside from the ridiculous subject of the protest, shut up. If your mom has a problem with the rules, let her go to the school administration and talk with them. Since when do kids get involved with making school rules? A mom who encourages her daughter to disobey school rules as a form of "protest" is simply undermining the authority structure of the system she chose to to put her child in. If the mom can't convince the school to change the rules and really wants her 10-year-old to wear miniskirts, then she should homeschool her daughter.

I see this same bizarre behavior in a lot of families: kids decide when they go to bed, what they eat for dinner, how they spend their weekends, who their friends are, etc. It's one thing for a 16-year-old to make most of their own decisions, but a 10-year-old? C'mon. Little kids don't know how to make decisions, and when you let them they tend to make stupid decisions. Young children don't understand consequences, can't make connections between cause and effect, and are generally incapable of behaving at an adult level. Kids who grow up with too much "freedom" never learn how to live inside the boundaries that adults have to deal with.

Well, following in the footsteps of the larger blogs, I'm going to have to disable trackbacks on all past and future posts. The signal-to-noise ratio is simply too low for them to be worth it. Almost all of my recent trackbacks have come from Murdoc's weekly Linkzookery, and as much as I appreciate them they aren't worth the ~1000 spam trackbacks I have to delete every week. So, the trackbacks are going away. Too bad, they were a neat invention... but with all the blog connection tracking sites that are around these days it's easy to find who is linking to you by other means.

Thanks again, spammers.

No, the title of this post doesn't refer to any of the spam trackbacks I've been getting; rather, it's a reference to a bill that just passed the California state Senate Judiciary Committee that will require all textbooks sold in the state to mention whenever a historical figure was gay, lesbian, or transgender.

The bill, which was passed by a Senate committee Tuesday, would require schools to buy textbooks ``accurately'' portraying ``the sexual diversity of our society.'' More controversially, it could require that students hear history lessons on ``the contributions of people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender to the economic, political, and social development of California and the United States of America.''

Though it's a California bill, it could have far-reaching implications, not only by setting a precedent but also because California is the nation's largest textbook buyer and as such often sets the standards for publishers who sell nationwide.

Bill author Sheila Kuehl, D-Los Angeles, doesn't mention whether or not she wants to "out" closeted gay historical figures. I personally think it would be most interesting not just to mention the gays, but to focus on the sexual fetishes of all our historical figures. I want to know who stuck what body part into which hole of what! Only then will I be able to put history into its proper context.

So I got my tax refund back and I'm going to apply a bit of it towards buying my wife an iPod and myself a new digital camera. On the camera, my main criterias are:

1. Less than $300
2. Very small
3. I like the lithium ion batteries better than using regular batteries

So, right now I'm considering getting a Casio EX-Z750; the reviews are almost all glowing, and I liked the way it felt when I handled it at Costco. If anyone has any suggestions for a better camera with many of the same qualities, let me know!

As for my wife's iPod... there are so many non-Apple MP3 players, is it worth getting the brand-name? Are there better alternatives?

I've barely had time to post because of all the spam I've been deleting recently. Spammers should be shot, I'm not even joking. Even with MT-Blacklist I can spend almost an hour each day just deleting spam comments and trackbacks, and I hate it so much. If I ever meet the people who are spamming my site I will punch them in the face.

Lostpedia is a great reference for anyone who's as addicted to "Lost" as I am. In particular, they offer a timeline of the show that's very informative, and a cleaned up image of the invisible writing on the blast door from the Lockdown episode last week.

Apparently the folks at Google Maps have found the Lost island. (Via Digg I think, though ironically I can't find the permalink.)

A reader sent along this site which asks "Why Won't God Heal Amputees? The point of the site is to convince readers that either God doesn't exist or that he hates amputees.

Billions of people believe in the power of prayer and pray their own prayers. Not only do they pray, but they personally witness God answering their prayers every single day. In addition, the entire industry of inspirational literature is built around God's ability and willingness to have a personal relationship with us and answer our prayers. Any Sunday morning we can find thousands of ministers and priests preaching about God's grace, God's love, God's blessings and God's desire to hear and answer our prayers.

Nonetheless, the amputated legs are not going to regenerate.

What are we seeing here? It is not that God sometimes answers the prayers of amputees, and sometimes does not. Instead, in this situation there is a very clear line. God never answers the prayers of amputees. It would appear, to an unbiased observer, that God is singling out amputees and purposefully ignoring them. ...

In the same way, any medical miracle that God performs today is obvious. The removal of a cancerous tumor is obvious because it is measurable. One month the tumor is visible to everyone on the X-ray, and the next month it is not. If God eliminated the tumor, then it is openly obvious to everyone who sees the X-ray. There is nothing "hidden" about removing a tumor. So, why not regenerate a leg in an equally open way? If God intervenes with cancer patients to remove cancerous tumors in response to prayers, then why wouldn't God also intervene with amputees to regenerate lost limbs?

The gist of this argument is that regenerating lost limbs would be the same as healing a tumor, and yet though people are quick to believe that God heals tumors he never seems to regenerate lost limbs.

Howver, it seems to me that those two types of healing are actually quite different because of one characteristic: deniability. It doesn't seem that God performs undeniable miracles any more. (Which begs the question: are any miracles undeniable? In any event, restoring lost legs would sure be a lot harder to deny than the removal of a tumor.)

So the question then becomes, why doesn't God perform undeniable miracles? In order to understand, consider why God ever performed such miracles.

John 10:24-26

24 The Jews gathered around him [Jesus], saying, "How long will you
keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly."

25 Jesus answered, "I did tell you, but you do not believe. The
miracles I do in my Father's name speak for me, 26 but you do not
believe because you are not my sheep.

The miracles Jesus, the other prophets, and the apostles performed were intended to prove that the words spoken by the prophets and apostles were true. There are no prophets or apostles now (because there is no new revelation) so there is no need for miraculous signs. The earlier signs verified the revelation in the Bible, and the Bible needs no further verification because it has not changed.

Interestingly, you'll notice from that passage (and remember from the
Old Testament) that despite witnessing many miracles there were still plenty of people who still refused to accept the Word of God. They killed the prophets in the OT, and they killed Jesus. Even if God were to restore amputated limbs today, there would still be plenty of people who would not believe or accept his message. Do you think the people who own WhyDoesGodHateAmputees.com would believe if they saw limbs restored, or do you think they'd find a different excuse to reject God's teachings? This is why I asked whether any miracle is truly undeniable -- humans have a remarkable capacity for denying anything they don't like.

Similarly, my experience with many "intellectuals" is that they first decide to reject God and then start looking for ways to justify their rejection. There's something appealing to the intellectual to reject the primitive beliefs of the uneducated rubes. Nonetheless, many of the most intelligent and wise people I've known have been strong believers, which leads me to think there may be a self-selection factor independent of intelligence that affects who travels in "intellectual" circles.

The point, made often in the Bible, is that God wants us to come to him through faith.

Hebrews 11:1

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

The lack of undeniable miracles is a feature that God intended, not a bug that demonstrates his nonexistence.

Hi, I'm Troy McClure! You might remember me from such Troy McClure fansites as... Simpsons HQ 2000 and Springfield! Springfield!.

The pseudonymous Spengler vies with Mark Steyn for acclaimation as my favorite columnist in the world. In this edition of his column he answers two -- supposedly fictional -- letters from two rather powerful individuals: one who wants to know if he should admit women to the priesthood, and the other who asks whether or not his invasion of Iraq was a mistake. In both cases his answers are hilarious and spot-on. I'd quote, but I'd end up quoting it all and stealing his punch-lines.

Reader JV points out that tomorrow morning it will be 01:02:03 on 04-05-06. Everyone set your alarms!

Foreign Affairs has a fascinating look at America's ascendancy to nuclear primacy since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Today, for the first time in almost 50 years, the United States stands on the verge of attaining nuclear primacy. It will probably soon be possible for the United States to destroy the long-range nuclear arsenals of Russia or China with a first strike. This dramatic shift in the nuclear balance of power stems from a series of improvements in the United States' nuclear systems, the precipitous decline of Russia's arsenal, and the glacial pace of modernization of China's nuclear forces. Unless Washington's policies change or Moscow and Beijing take steps to increase the size and readiness of their forces, Russia and China -- and the rest of the world -- will live in the shadow of U.S. nuclear primacy for many years to come.

Personally I think it's good for America to be stronger than anyone else in the world, but the article examines both the positive and potential negative outcomes.

In the course of pursuing my continuing years-long crusade to eliminate the penny I considered this afternoon that there must be a relationship between local per-capita utilization of pennies and the locale's sales tax rate. That is, a locale with a 6% sales tax would require four pennies to make change for a $1 transaction, while a locale with a 10% sales tax would use no pennies. Given that there isn't a uniform distribution of purchase prices, there must be some clustering that should result in observable penny utilization differences across states and cities.

Representative Cynthia McKinney, a black Democrat from Georgia, says that the investigation into her assault of a Capitol Hill police officer is being blown out of proportion and has refused to apologize.

McKinney was stopped by a Capitol Hill police officer last Wednesday as she tried to go around a security checkpoint in a House office building. Members of Congress are allowed to go around the ubiquitous checkpoints, but the police officer failed to recognize McKinney as a member of Congress and tried to stop her.

After calling to McKinney to stop, the officer touched her shoulder or arm. That prompted McKinney to spin around and the strike the officer, though there are conflicting reports as to whether she slapped him, punched him in the chest or struck him with a cell phone.

McKinney was not wearing a special lapel pin given to members of Congress to make them easier to identify. She also has changed her hairstyle since her official House portrait, the picture police would check to identify her. ...

Coz Carson, a spokesman for McKinney, said the requested warrant should be dismissed if "this is a prosecutor who's not a politician."

"Any prosecutor with any sense can look at this thing and understand that it's not something that should be blown out of proportion any further," Carson said.

Something tells me that if a white member of Congress had punched a black police officer, Cynthia McKinney would advocate an entirely different standard of proportionality.

The Pharisees didn't believe that a man born blind from birth could regain his sight, certainly not at the hands of a blasphemous lunatic who claimed to be the Son of God.

John 9:24-27

24 A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. "Give glory to God," they said. "We know this man is a sinner."

25 He replied, "Whether he is a sinner or not, I don't know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!"

26 Then they asked him, "What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?"

27 He answered, "I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples, too?"

I didn't have much to say about the recent study that failed to show the healing power of prayer until I got a phone call a few days ago from a friend who was dying from cancer. A few years ago she was diagnosed with a rare kind of nerve cancer and given 24 to 36 months to live. The cancer was fast-moving and always fatal within three years, and no hospital or clinic she went to would even attempt to treat her because they were sure that any treatment would fail and only degrade her remaining quality of life.

My wife and I, and dozens others, held a prayer meeting for our friend almost a year ago and asked God to intervene and spare her life. Since then she has seen numerous doctors -- most of whom turned her away -- and gone through chemotherapy, and a few days ago she called to tell me that her chemo had finished and her final test results had come in: no detectable cancer in her body.

So, that's hardly a scientific study, but despite the predictions of the doctors her treatment was astoundingly and inexplicably effective.

Studying the "power of prayer" is interesting, but I think it misses the point in a lot of ways. Prayer doesn't have power, God has power. Praying to God isn't like rubbing a magic lamp and making a wish, and it's not like putting a dollar into a vending machine and making a selection. Prayer is a conversation with your creator, who has his own agenda that all-too-often doesn't match up with yours because you're selfish and short-sighted. Jesus himself prayed to be delivered from the cross and was denied. If God decides that it's better for a man to suffer physically for spiritual purposes, does that mean that prayer has no power or that we simply don't know what to pray for? Perhaps Jesus' prayer was meant to serve an an example to us: God is more concerned with our spiritual well-being than with out physical health.

When it comes to national defense, appearance is almost everything, as both the US and the USSR learned and practiced throughout the Cold War. President Reagan's "Star Wars" space laser program was never intended to be fielded, but the threat was instrumental in bringing the Soviets to their knees. Similarly, when American scientists entered the former USSR to help decommission nuclear missiles under the various disarmament treaties they discovered that as little as 50% of the Soviet missile fleet was armed with warheads, and even less than that was capable of successful launch, flight, and detonation. Both nations intentionally spent hoards of money on weapons systems that were more for show than for use -- and that strategy was highly classified at the time and known to very few.

I'm reminded of this history when I read about alleged fraud in our missile interceptor program. I don't have any first-hand knowledge of the program, but I know how the defense industry works. Classified programs are highly compartmentalized, with lines drawn based on the infamous "need to know", or NTK. If the team working on part A doesn't need to know how part B works, they won't, and they might not even know that part B exists. Even though each team working on the antimissile program believes that the program is real and that the component they're responsible for will work, it's entirely plausible that the whole program is nothing more than a show for the benefit of our enemies who may otherwise think they have a chance to nuke us with ICBMs.

A senior Congressional investigator has accused his agency of covering up a scientific fraud among builders of a $26 billion system meant to shield the nation from nuclear attack. The disputed weapon is the centerpiece of the Bush administration's antimissile plan, which is expected to cost more than $250 billion over the next two decades.

The investigator, Subrata Ghoshroy of the Government Accountability Office, led technical analyses of a prototype warhead for the antimissile weapon in an 18-month study, winning awards for his "great care" and "tremendous skill and patience."

Mr. Ghoshroy now says his agency ignored evidence that the two main contractors had doctored data, skewed test results and made false statements in a 2002 report that credited the contractors with revealing the warhead's failings to the government.

Despite being well-intentioned, "whistle-blowers" like Subrata Ghoshroy may be undermining an expensive and critical deception on the part of our government, and thereby undermining our national security.

It seems there are/were some people out there who accused recently-released hostage Jill Carroll of being unAmerican because of statements she made while in captivity. It should have been the universal assumption that any statements she made while held hostage were made under duress, and Miss Carroll's subsequent statements confirm that assumption.

In a video, recorded before she was freed and posted by her captors on an Islamist Web site, Carroll spoke out against the U.S. military presence. But Carroll said the recording was made under threat. Her editor has said three men were pointing guns at her at the time.

"During my last night in captivity, my captors forced me to participate in a propaganda video. They told me I would be released if I cooperated. I was living in a threatening environment, under their control, and wanted to go home alive. So I agreed," she said in a statement read by her editor in Boston.

"Things that I was forced to say while captive are now being taken by some as an accurate reflection of my personal views. They are not."

Anyone who's angry with her for things she said with a gun to her head is an idiot.

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