May 2008 Archives

The Obama family has left Trinity United, their church of almost 25 years, after the most recent insane racist sermon.

Words cannot describe the surreality of watching a middle-aged white man in a priest's collar appearing like he is trying to imitate Jeremiah Wright at his most outrageous.
[garbled] expose white entitlement. And supremacy, wherever it raises its head. I said before, I really don't want ot make this political, because you know I'm really very unpolitical.

When Hillary was crying, and people said that was put on, I really don't believe it was put on. I really believe that she just always thought, 'this is mine. I'm Bill's wife. I'm white, and this is mine. I just gotta get up and step into the plate.'

Then out of nowhere, 'I'm Barack Obama!'

Imitating Hillary's response, screaming at the top of his lungs again, he continues, 'Ah, damn! Where did you come from? I'm white! I'm entitled! There's a black man stealing my show!'

(mocks crying)

She wasn't the only one crying, there was a whole lot of white people crying!

So Barack Obama announced his "disappointment" and left the church. That's Presidential-quality judgment there, folks! It only took him 25 years to recognize what 99% of the rest of America knew at first blush: Trinity United and its pastors are anti-American racist lunatics.

But I'm being disingenuous... it's obvious Obama knew the nature of his church from the get-go -- even if he didn't inhale, he puffed enough to fit in. He's leaving now not because he doesn't like the taste, but because his formerly private vice has become all-too-public. The crowd he's trying to join now doesn't appreciate the "nuance" of his former clique, so he's having to choose.... Now that Obama's too good for them, it will be interesting to see if his old friends still support him.


Holy insanity, Batman, get a load of Obama's reasons for quitting the church:

Obama told reporters he didn't want his "church experience to be a political circus — I think most American people will understand that, and wouldn't want to subject their church to that, either." He said it has been "months" since he has attended Trinity. ...

Obama said he also regrets “all the attention that my campaign has visited on” the church.

So... he's not leaving because the church is full of racist crackpots, but because he feels bad about all the national media attention the church has been getting? Talk about tone deaf.

Glenn Reynolds almost certainly knows more about America's and China's space programs than I do, but I think his characterization of Chinese progress vs. American stagnation ignores at least one important consideration.

Space experts differ on whether China wants to compete directly with the U.S.—perhaps, given our slow and fumbling efforts, beating us back to the Moon—or simply displace Japan as the prime technological power in Asia. On the one hand, the U.S. retains a huge lead, while China is still building up spacecraft, like lunar probes and orbital docking equipment, that we mastered back in the 1960s. On the other hand, like America in the 60s, China is forging ahead, while the U.S. in the 21st century is, at best, standing still.

What would America be doing if we weren't standing still? Sending people to Mars? Establishing a permanent base on the moon? Lowering the cost of lifting mass into earth orbit? Those are all great ideas that I'm very much in favor of... but they're also much harder than what we did in the 1960s and what China is doing now. It seems that the cost and difficulty of progress in space isn't linear, and America has hit a steep part of the curve. China may be catching up to us, but that doesn't mean that they'll be able to bound past us... they're likely to run smack into the same mountains we have.

America's space program has stagnated, but not only because of stifling bureaucracy, lack of vision, and national distraction. The next steps, as most people envision them, are going to be harder, more expensive, and more dangerous than what we've done in the past, by more than an order of magnitude. I'm sure Reynolds knows all this, and perhaps he'd even care to elaborate on what I've said.

Now that I know the game, I'm restarting Travian on US2 in the Southeast quadrant. If you want to play, use this link and I'll earn some bonus gold at no cost to you :) If you want to play on US2 and plan to play seriously, start in the Southeast and shoot me an email.

It's amazing that there are still uncontacted tribes anywhere in the world, and it's very sad to me that anyone hesitates to bring them into modernity.

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil — One of Brazil's last uncontacted Indian tribes has been spotted in the far western Amazon jungle near the Peruvian border, the National Indian Foundation said Thursday.

The Indians were sighted in an Ethno-Environmental Protected Area along the Envira River in flights over remote Acre state, said the Brazilian government foundation, known as Funai. ...

"Four distinct isolated peoples exist in this region, whom we have accompanied for 20 years," Funai expert Jose Carlos Meirelles Junior said in a statement.

The tribe sighted recently is one of the last not to be contacted by officials. Funai does not make contact with such Indian tribes and prevents invasions of their land to ensure their autonomy, the foundation said.

I think it's morally perverse to leave these human beings living in absolute destitution -- doomed to disease, starvation, and misery -- simply because they're ignorant of modern civilization. Any one of us, in their place but knowing what we know, would instantly choose modernity over savagery; it's only due to the twisted logic of "multiculturalism" that we hesitate to rescue these people from their pointless suffering.

These Indians need to be given the same choices we have, the same respect for their human dignity, and they can't make informed decisions if we leave them in ignorance. They aren't "cute" or "quaint", they aren't pets or specimens to be studied. They're people. Just because they're ignorant doesn't mean we should abandon them to lives of barbarism.

From a Christian perspective, evangelism alone is sufficient reason to make contact. Ignorance of the Gospel is no excuse, and the eternal futures of these Indians are at risk. They need to hear about Jesus Christ, how their sins can be forgiven, and how much God loves them. Anything less is in direct violation of the Great Commission.

Matthew 28:18-20: Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

I wouldn't approach it like the Harrises do, but the idea of voluntary simplicity is very appealing to me.

Like many other young couples, Aimee and Jeff Harris spent the first years of their marriage eagerly accumulating stuff: cars, furniture, clothes, appliances and, after a son and a daughter came along, toys, toys, toys.

Now they are trying to get rid of it all, down to their fancy wedding bands. Chasing a utopian vision of a self-sustaining life on the land as partisans of a movement some call voluntary simplicity, they are donating virtually all their possessions to charity and hitting the road at the end of May. ...

“The idea in the movement was ‘everything you own owns you,’ ” said Dr. Grigsby, who sees roots of the philosophy in the lives of the Puritans. “You have to care for it, store it. It becomes an appendage, I think. If it enhances your life and helps you do the things you want to do, great. If you are burdened by these things and they become the center of what you have to do to live, is that really positive?”

The people profiled in the article seem to be more like hippies than I am, but I do my best to minimize my accumulation of junk. I'm not good at throwing things away, but I am good at not buying things in the first place. Generally I follow a less well defined version of the $100-per day rule.

For every $100 that I want to spend on the purchase of a new product, I must wait one day before I make the purchase. This creates a self-imposed ‘cooling-off’ period.

If a new gadget costs $100, I have to wait one day until I can purchase the gadget.

If a new gizmo costs $400, I have to wait four days until I can purchase the gizmo.

If a new thingamajig costs $1400, I have to wait two weeks until I can purchase the thingamajig.

But I pretty much let every potential purchase rattle around in my mind for at least a week.

(HT: My Money Blog.)

Almost a decade ago researchers transplated lamprey eel brains into robots and taught them to navigate towards light sources, and now monkeys are controlling robotic arms with their thoughts. What I'm interested in most for myself is a direct neural link with Google, minus the ads.

There was a funnel cloud in St. Louis yesterday but apparently it didn't touch down and become an official tornado.

Congratulations to NASA, Lockheed Martin, and their partners for the successful landing of the Phoenix spacecraft on Mars.

The probe is equipped with a robotic arm to dig for water-ice thought to be buried beneath the surface.

It will begin examining the site for evidence of the building blocks of life in the next few days.

I bet it won't find much in the way of life, but I'm sure the lander in situ will one day be the centerpiece of a pretty cool museum. Maybe I'll get to visit someday!

What I'm really looking forward to visiting, though, are the future Voyager 1 and 2 museums that will be space stations positioned near the spacecraft and matched to the Voyagers' velocities.

IETester is an absolute life-saver. I wish I had found it months ago. With this amazing piece of software a web developer can see how his page will look in IE 5.5, 6, 7, and 8.1 all on the same computer. Since every version of Internet Explorer has its own quirks and it's impossible to install more than one version on machine, it can be very difficult to design a website that looks decent in every version. BrowserShots is a very handy system, but it's a pain to wait 5 minutes to several hours for a screenshot of your site to be taken. With IETester, you can test your site on your own machine in just a few seconds. Amazing.

To the tune of "I Will Survive".

(HT: AG.)

Here's some footage from the air of the recent tornadoes in Kansas and Oklahoma. You can clearly see the twisters gobble up buildings from various angles, and even a pig farm. Unfortunately, I believe I read elsewhere that many of the pigs were killed.

(HT: Jessica.)

Hillary is in trouble for pointing out the obvious: someone could get assassinated.

Hillary Rodham Clinton yesterday brought up the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy while defending her decision to stay in the race against Barack Obama - drawing a furious reaction from the front-runner's camp.

"My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right? We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California. I don't understand it," she said, dismissing calls to drop out. ...

Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton rebuked Clinton, saying her remark was "unfortunate and has no place in this campaign."

Any comments about assassination and the primary contest are especially sensitive because Obama is the first African-American to advance so far in the race for the White House and he has faced threats, congressional sources have said.

Aside from anyone's skin color, Presidential assassination attempts and successes aren't exactly rare. I've often wondered what would happen if one of the major party candidates were killed the day of the election.

Furthermore, I'm sure that the possibility that Barack Obama will be assassinated is one of the scenarios that the Clinton camp has envisioned as one of their few remaining routes to the White House.

I am exhausted. The past couple of weeks have been extremely hectic, and I'm very excited about my upcoming four-day weekend. The weather promises to be warm and sunny, and I've hardly got any plans at all!

What about you?

I'm glad that airlines are starting to charge for luggage. As a frequent flier who often doesn't check any bags at all, I think it's more fair to charge those who do than to spread the cost across all travelers by increasing ticket prices.

American Airlines will start charging $15 for the first checked bag, cut domestic flights and lay off workers -- probably in the thousands -- as the nation's largest carrier grapples with record-high fuel prices. ...

American Airlines will start charging $15 for the first checked bag, cut domestic flights and lay off workers -- probably in the thousands -- as the nation's largest carrier grapples with record-high fuel prices.

Good. I never need any of these services, so why should I have to underwrite their costs? By separating out these costs, the airlines can charge people for the services they actually use.

First issue: airlines need to be strict with their carry-on size limitations. If they start charging, people will start trying to carry-on giant suitcases that will crowd out other customers.

Second issue: They were dumb to present this as a fee for luggage... they should have raised ticket prices and then offered a discount to people who don't check bags. Or maybe not, what do I know? Maybe higher ticket prices would have made their flights show up lower in travel search engines.

You might be surprised to learn that I have no problem with Canton, OH, considering jail time for homeowners who don't cut their grass.

For residents tired of that overgrown lot that resembles a minijungle next door, the city wants to help by trying to put high-grass violators behind bars.

City Council wants to beef up its existing high-grass and weeds law by making a second offense a fourth-degree misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine of up to $250 and up to 30 days in jail.

In the spring and summer, it's not uncommon for council members to field complaints from residents about overgrown lots owned by individuals or banks and corporations that ignore the law and notices in the mail.

I believe that lower levels of government should have more power to restrict liberty than higher levels of government. I'd oppose a federal or state law governing the height of my lawn, but wouldn't mind having such an ordinance in my city. (Similarly, I wouldn't mind allowing cities or perhaps even states to establish government-authorized religions if their population desired it.)

Lower levels of government are more responsive to citizens than higher levels are. Anyone can go to a city council meeting and be heard, but just try getting your state legislature or Congress to pay any attention to you. Furthermore, it's easier to leave a city that has laws you don't like than it is to leave a state, and easier to leave a state than to leave the United States. Our joint state-federal system was designed to encourage competition and experimentation between different sets of laws. I'm not sure the doctrine of "incorporation" serves us well in this context.

So how should the limits of power be defined for various levels of government? I don't know! That will take some more thought.

Paul Hsieh wonders which "universal health care" country Ted Kennedy will pick to treat his brain tumor. "Will it be Canada, the UK, or Cuba?"

I'm just glad Teddy wasn't driving a car on a bridge when he had his seizure this time.

Really though, I pray for the best for the Senator. Facing a brain tumor has got to be one of the scariest prospects any of us can imagine.

American Idol finale... eh. The thing that's really bugging me is that I'm sure there's a "David vs. Goliath" joke in there somewhere, but I just can't find it.

Every time I visit a doctor -- especially a surgeon -- I'm struck by how differently we view the same problem. Certainly I'm not very knowledgeable about surgery, but anything that can be solved thereby is essentially a simple engineering problem: move a few grams of matter from point A to point B, with as little mess as possible. The trick is in identifying the right few grams and affecting them with as little impact on their surroundings as possible. That's surgery!

If we had matter transporters a la Star Trek, it seems that the vast majority of surgeries would be trivial. Isolate the matter you want to move, and "transport" it to where you want it to be. Voila!

So as an engineering problem, we could improve most surgeries by creating a new way to isolate and manipulate specific bits of matter. Lasers seem useful when you just need to eliminate some matter, and arthroscopic surgery is really popular because it reduces the impact of an operation on the surrounding tissue. Hm.

I hope people with knowledge of medicine and engineering are studying this problem in depth.

Physician Paul Hsieh has written up a very useful list of frequently asked questions about free-market health care and why the free market is inherently morally superior to any form of socialized medicine.

Glenn Reynold's writes that the NRA convention was cheerier this year than he remembers it being a decade ago when the Democrats were trying their darndest to confiscate every gun in the country. This turnaround is a great example of how our two-party political system is supposed to work.

I was struck by the contrast this time around. People seemed much happier, and more optimistic. Most, I think, expected that the Democrats would retake the White House in the fall, but they didn’t seem to expect a return to the Clinton gun-grab efforts.

It’s easy to see why. Hillary is now going out of her way to explain what a hunter she’s always been, and how much she values gun rights. Obama is tagging along as best he can, talking about the Second Amendment and the Constitution, though his record as a Director for the virulently anti-gun Joyce Foundation makes that even less persuasive than Hillary’s attempts. But sincerity isn’t the point, since we’re talking politicians here. The point is that they feel they have to lie. Democrats seem to have given up on gun control — they’ve picked up Congressional seats mostly by running pro-gun candidates in conservative districts — and gun-rights people find themselves a constituency that’s now being courted by both parties, rather than being taken for granted by one.

Gun rights are wildly and broadly popular, and the Democrats have built their current majority in Congress on their acquiescence to that fact -- unpleasant as it may be to their elites. The center point on the issue of gun rights has shifted towards popular opinion because of the competition between the parties for voters near the middle. This is how the two-party system is supposed to work, and it's the sort of effect that doomed last year's "Comprehensive Immigration Reform" despite Congressional and Presidential support.

As much as we Americans like to complain about our bloated, unresponsive, and ineffective government, the two-party "first past the post" system appears to be far superior to the more widespread parliamentary system which is commonly based on proportional representation. (Though, for example, England uses a "first past the post" parliamentary system.)

In a parliamentary system with proportional representation, small political parties can get representation in the legislature with just a small percentage of the vote. For example, in continental Europe it's not unusual for a country to have a Generic Left party which receives 48% of the vote, a Generic Right party which receives 47% of the vote, and a Nazi/Communist/UFO party which receives 5% of the vote. The Nazi/Communist/UFO party only receives a tiny percentage of the vote, and in America they wouldn't win any seats in Congress. Under a proportional representation parliamentary system though, they get 5% of the legislature... and that 5% is enough to swing control of the legislature between the two major parties. The result is that the Nazi/Communist/UFO party gets to break every tie and therefore has power that is far greater than its numbers would suggest. Why should they "move to the middle" when their lunacy lets them play kingmaker?

There's a lot more that could be said on the matter, probably better than I've said it, but hopefully this post whets your appetite and gives you an even greater appreciation for the wisdom of America's Founding Fathers.

New particle-based tools make virtual destruction look more realistic. Well, we're in a particle-based universe after all. Cool video at the link.

Barack Obama doesn't understand what it means to be an American.

"We can't drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times ... and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK," Obama said.

"That's not leadership. That's not going to happen," he added.

Who cares what other countries say? Obama clearly doesn't comprehend American exceptionalism. The whole point of being the wealthiest nation on the planet is so that we can live well and do what we want.

And yes, I'm mostly serious.

I think I'm addicted to Travian. The game has just enough breadth and depth to keep me coming back every day, building, growing, raiding, and worrying when the giant alliances will notice me and crush me. It's one of the best games I've played in a long time. If you decide to check it out, use this link so I get credit for referring you!

Spengler identifies a fascinating parallel between the failed cultures of antebellum white slave-holders and modern black "ghettos".

From this great suffering arise two genres of American popular culture, the Gone With the Wind ilk of Civil War epic, and the "Get Rich or Die Tryin'" brand of gangsta tale. Both try to take the edge off the revulsion and placate the dishonored dead by turning them into folk-heroes. That is understandable, but also unfortunate, for America still has a great deal of killing left to do around the world, and might as well get used to it.

"Get Rich or Die Tryin'" would have been a good epitaph for the Confederate dead, who fought for land and slaves, not for "states' rights" or the sanctity of their soil. Slave-owners along with want-to-be slave-owners had it coming. The Union general William Tecumseh Sherman who said after he burned Atlanta, "I fear the world will jump to the wrong conclusion that because I am in Atlanta the work is done. Far from it. We must kill three hundred thousand, I have told you of so often, and the further they run the harder for us to get them."

Given the sad history of racial oppression in the South for a century after the Civil War, the only thing to regret is that Sherman didn't finish the job. I stopped watching the film version of Gone With the Wind after Scarlett O'Hara saved her plantation from the tax-collector. I wanted her to pick cotton until her back broke.

It is appalling that the criminal justice system has devoured one out of three young African-Americans, to be sure, but the number must be too small, because the police will have failed to apprehend some who still commit crimes. I did not attempt to watch the film Get Rich or Die Tryin'. I want the police to incarcerate such people before they commit enough crimes to fill a screenplay.

His conclusion is one I've drawn before in a different context: sometimes we need to put our merciful sentiments aside and allow the losers to really lose. The South didn't quit fighting until they simply lacked the manpower to continue, and those of us who value liberty must be willing to let oppressive, dangerous cultures kill themselves off -- or even give them some help dying, when necessary. Wishing this were not so is baseless idealism.

I think the recent string of stories about Republican disarray are a bit overstated, but only a bit. Peggy pens perhaps the most painfully pithy point:

"This was a real wakeup call for us," someone named Robert M. Duncan, who is chairman of the Republican National Committee, told the New York Times. This was after Mississippi. "We can't let the Democrats take our issues." And those issues would be? "We can't let them pretend to be conservatives," he continued. Why not? Republicans pretend to be conservative every day.

I'm going to vote for McCain primarily because the thought of being so-close-yet-so-far to a conservative majority on the Supreme Court forces my hand. I've got no hope, however, that Congress will do anything even vaguely conservative until the current crop of Republican leaders is ousted.

(And can anyone think of a synonym for "most" that starts with a "p"?)

Watch out for disingenuous labeling of voters who don't vote for Barack Obama as "racially motivated".

More disturbing, racially motivated voting appeared to be running higher than usual according to exit poll results. Two in 10 white voters in West Virginia said the race of the candidate was a factor in their vote. Of those voters, about 70 percent said they wouldn't support Obama over McCain.

From that link to exit poll results:

Racially motivated voting ran somewhat higher than elsewhere: Two in 10 whites said the race of the candidate was a factor in their vote, second only to Mississippi. Just 31 percent of those voters said they'd support Obama against presumptive Republican nominee John McCain, fewer than in other primaries where the question's been asked.

The implication is clear: people who said that "the race of the candidate was a factor in their vote" are racists. However, there are plenty of other more likely interpretations of the poll results. Just because race was a factor in a voting decision doesn't mean that the respondent voted for or against Obama directly because of his skin color. The connection between the vote and race could be indirect, and quite legitimate.

1. Obama's disgraceful pastor of 23 years, Jeremiah Wright, did more to bring race into the campaign than anyone else. Obama's handling of the Wright issue is a substantial issue that hinges largely on race. His "typical white person" remarks seem intended to cause racial division.

2. Obama's position on affirmative action is a racial issue.

3. Michelle Obama's recently acquired pride in America have a racial angle, considering how much she personally benefited from affirmative action.

4. Obama was quick to call for the firing of Don Imus, despite his multi-decade blindness to the racism of his own church.

I'm sure there are others, but I've got to run at the moment. You fill in the blanks!

The Democrats' panties are in a bunch over President Bush's criticism of Barack Obama's plan to consult with our enemies, but the ladies doth protest too much, methinks.

Speaking before the Knesset, Bush said that “some people” believe the United States “should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along."

"We have heard this foolish delusion before," Bush said. "As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: 'Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided.' We have an obligation to call this what it is — the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history." ...

Sen. Joe Biden, piling on to Democratic complaints about President Bush’s speech in Israel today:

“This is bullshit, this is malarkey. This is outrageous, for the president of the United States to go to a foreign country, to sit in the Knesset ... and make this kind of ridiculous statement.” ...

"There is no escaping what the president is doing," said Durbin, who supports Obama. "It is an attack on Sen. Obama’s position that we should not be avoiding even those we disagree with when it comes to negotiations and diplomacy."

Durbin called Bush's remarks "unfair and really unfortunate."

Well, yeah, Bush is criticizing Obama's foreign policy ideas. The President is in charge of America's foreign policy, so this is a very different situation than when leftist politicians go to foreign countries to malign America. Still, I personally would have preferred if President Bush had made these accusations from the White House or the steps of the Capitol.

I smell a hoax, but Gokhan Mutlu is claiming that JetBlue forced him to sit in the bathroom after giving his seat to a stewardess.

Initially, Mutlu was told a flight attendant had taken the last seat on the plane, but then he was advised she would sit in the employee "jump seat," meaning he could have the last seat, the lawsuit said.

The pilot told him 1½ hours into the five-hour flight that he would have to relinquish the seat to the flight attendant, court papers say. But the pilot said that Mutlu could not sit in the jump seat because only JetBlue employees were permitted to sit there, the lawsuit said.

When Mutlu expressed reluctance to go sit in the bathroom, the pilot, who was not named in the lawsuit, told him that "he was the pilot, that this was his plane, under his command that (Mutlu) should be grateful for being on board," the lawsuit said.

When the aircraft hit turbulence and passengers were directed to return to their seats, but "the plaintiff had no seat to return to, sitting on a toilet stool with no seat belts," court papers say.

It just sounds fishy. Maybe the stewardess had a medical problem? If the story is true, it's still hard to see why Mutlu would be entitled to any compensation other than a refund. He didn't suffer any injury, only discomfort, and he was flying for free using a "buddy pass" so even the refund would be pointless.

Hopefully no one will interpret my reluctance to support Mutlu's $2 million lawsuit as an endorsement of JetBlue's behavior. I've only flown them once, and had a fine trip, but I've read many negative stories about their customer service.

(HT: Neatorama.)

I like fingernails, because no matter how badly you pick them or mangle them they always grow back and you've got another chance to clip them cleanly.

Unlike many law-and-order conservatives, I'm tentatively in favor of mounting cameras on police weapons if the civilian political leaders think it would improve law enforcement.

New York police officers could carry mini-cameras on their guns under a proposal to bolster public confidence following a spate of controversial shootings.

The device, whose introduction is gaining support among state politicians, would create a visual and audio recording of police shootings for use in court.

Officers would not be able to tamper with the five-ounce camera which works by shooting out a bright red laser light at whatever is in the gun barrel’s path within two seconds of the weapon being drawn. The camera would continue to operate for up to an hour.

The laser light could only be switched off if might expose the officer to danger in a dark area. The camera footage could also be used to identify suspects.

I am a big supporter of police, and think they do a wonderful job 99% of the time, but I also realize that some jurisdictions have social/political considerations that put police in as much danger as criminals do. These cameras could exonerate police who are harassed by trouble-makers for justified uses of force.

Furthermore, I think the trend towards paramilitary police units is dangerous, and these sorts of cameras could encourage more careful police work.

In response to the immediately previous post, The Pirate points to what I can imagine would be a rather thankless and difficult job: the guy on the Space Shuttle destruct switch.

Each time the space shuttle rises from its launchpad at Cape Canaveral, Fla., an Air Force officer waits anxiously for the first 2 minutes to pass safely. If the spaceship were to veer off course and endanger a populated area, this range safety officer would bear the terrible responsibility of flipping a pair of switches under a stenciled panel reading “Flight Termination.” The first switch arms explosives on the shuttle’s two solid rocket boosters. Flipping the second switch would detonate them, destroying the shuttle and crew.

“If something happens when it’s just off the pad, there’s only a couple of seconds [to react],” says Bryan O’Connor, a former shuttle commander and NASA’s chief of safety and mission assurance.

NASA needs guinea pigs willing to stay in bed for 90 days in exchange for $17,000. I'm sure some people will read that and think "easiest money ever!", but I wonder how many participants will actually see the experiment all the way through?

Well, pack your bags for Houston because NASA wants to pay you $17,000 to stay in bed for 90 straight days.

The bed-rest experiment, to take place in the Human Test Subject Facility of Johnson Space Center, is designed to allow scientists to study some of the effects of microgravity on the human body. We read on the Bed Rest Study website:

Participants will spend 90 days lying in bed, (except for limited times for specific tests) with their body slightly tilted downward (head down, feet up). Every day, they will be awake for 16 hours and lights out (asleep) for 8 hours.

I certainly wouldn't do it... the health consequences could be severe.

My wife won't like this self-reassembling robot.

(HT: GeekPress, who asks how this technology could possibly go wrong. I, for one, welcome our new unstoppable robot overlords.)

I wrote about David Mamet's break with "liberalism" a couple of months ago, and here's another great story about a Hollywood leftist's conversion to the right-wing.

In my former life I was Oscar-winning director Steven Soderbergh’s agent and manager. I co-owned a prosperous talent management firm, Relativity Management, lived in a four-story mansion, and somehow success­fully stumbled (often drunk and stoned) through the whorehouse called Hollywood. I was an indoctrinated hardcore liberal. If you think I’m a spoiled dick and you hate me, then we’re on the right track. But having a child 10 years ago changed my thinking. It gave me a certain respect for capitalism and even corporate America.

When I bought a new Hummer H2 back in 2002, I ordered a custom license plate that read U.S. WINS. I got it because I believed in the message. I wanted people to have a reaction to the plate, usually negative, and then examine their thinking. Would it be so bad to win this war? Plus, I knew it would fucking piss everyone in the city off because it was Los Angeles.

I could give two fucks about WMDs. There were much more important reasons to topple Saddam—terrorism being one of them. The root causes of terrorism are the lack of capitalism, the lack of democracy, and the lack of modern education. What has stood in the way of those things has primarily been the regimes of Iraq, Iran, and Syria. We just got one of them out of the way.

It looks like visiting Iraq and watching the War on Terror first-hand can really affect one's perspective.

(HT: My wife.)

I was watching last night's results with as much nailbitingness as anyone, but what can I say that the numbers don't put more eloquently? Hillary Clinton's slight edge in Indiana doesn't look like much compared to Barack Obama's huge double-digit victory in larger North Carolina. Obama picks up a net 200,000+ votes and a handful of delegates. Hillary might stay in through next Tuesday's West Virginia primary, where she's expected to do well, but she probably realizes that there's no point now.

What's more, Clinton has been loaning her campaign millions of dollars a month, and there's at least one way she can get it back: agree to drop out of the race if the Obama campaign pays off her campaign debt. Paying off Clinton's campaign debts would be an indirect bribe since most of the debt is to Clinton herself, but at this stage who's counting? Hillary won't have any leverage for this sort of concession if she drags her campaign on much longer.


But maybe a few million dollars isn't much to risk when you're so close to the Presidency.

Someone could run the math, but my intuition tells me that people are overcorrecting for the price of gas by selling their SUVs and trucks at huge losses. Dealerships need to "move iron", but a person who unloads their used SUV, loses a ton of money. I guess it depends on how far you commute.

With stocks of unwanted new SUVs and pickups piling up at dealerships across the country, automakers are offering unprecedented promotions. Incentives for large SUVs, including cash rebates, topped $4,000 in March, or more than double those offered in March 2002, according to, which monitors the motor industry.

At the same time, consumers like Chrystall are flooding the market with used SUVs, trying to trade in hulking Hummers for compact Corollas, and getting thousands of dollars less than they would have just a few months ago. In April, the average used SUV took more than 66 days to sell, at a 20 percent discount from vehicle valuation books, such as Kelley Blue Book, compared to 48 days and a 7.8 percent discount a year earlier, reported CNW Marketing Research, an automotive marketing research company.

Some desperate car dealers and consumers, are willing to lose thousands of dollars just to get rid of their SUVs. Last July, 20-year-old Sannan Nizami, of Lowell, bought a 2007 Toyota 4Runner SUV for $32,000 when it cost about $65 to fill the tank. Six months later, as a gallon of gas soared to $3.50 and more, and tank refills climbed over $80, Nizami put the vehicle up for sale. He posted it online for $27,000 but received no responses for months.

If you need or want a truck, now's the time.

Look, everyone knows that the "gas tax holiday" proposed by Hillary Clinton and John McCain is a stupid idea. I'm all for cutting taxes, but this is one of the few taxes that actually goes towards something that the government is supposed to do: maintain our infrastructure. Why not cut some of the taxes that go towards some of the multitude of unConstitutional activities our politicians pursue so vigorously as they try to buy our votes with our own money?

More than 200 economists, including four Nobel prize winners, signed a letter rejecting proposals by presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and John McCain to offer a summertime gas-tax holiday. ...

``Suspending the federal tax on gasoline this summer is a bad idea, and we oppose it,'' the letter says. Economist Henry Aaron of the Brookings Institution is among those circulating the letter. Aaron said that while he supports Obama, the list includes Republicans and Clinton supporters. ...

The gas-tax suspension has become a flashpoint in the race for the Democrat presidential nomination between New York Senator Clinton and Illinois Senator Barack Obama. Clinton and Republican McCain tout the proposal as an example of their concern for struggling middle-class families. Obama, who estimated it would save the average driver less than $30, calls the idea a ``gimmick,'' rejecting it on similar grounds as the economists.

It is a gimmick, just like the stupid "stimulus" checks that are being paid out right now. I dream of a day when "average" Americans are wise enough to see through this crap.

Hillary Clinton's response to these denunciations is also noteworthy, because she explicitly states what most leftists must think when they hear economic objections to their idiot policies:

Clinton said yesterday on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos that ``I'm not going to put my lot in with economists'' because ``we would design it in such a way that it would be implemented effectively.''

Stupid economists! They haven't taken into account that the plan will be designed and implemented effectively! Well gosh, if that's suddenly with our politicians' capabilities then why don't they go back, redesign, and reimplement the rest of our bureaucracy so it works effectively too?

While everyone is debating how to improve the American healthcare system, Wal-Mart is doing something about it.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world's largest retailer, announced Monday it would expand its discounted prescription drug program to offer 90-day supplies for $10 and add several women's medications at a discount. It also said it would lower the price of more than 1,000 over-the-counter drugs.

The move marks the third phase of a company program that began in 2006 to provide a 30-day supply of generic prescription drugs for $4. The Bentonville-based company said the program has saved customers more than $1 billion.

With the expansion, the company began filling prescriptions Monday for up to 350 generic medications at $10 for a 90-day supply at Wal-Mart, Neighborhood Market and Sam's Club pharmacies in the U.S. Almost all the prescription generics in the company's $4 program were included in the expanded $10 offer, said Wal-Mart senior vice president John Agwunobi.

Competition works in everyone's favor. Any changes the government makes to healthcare regulation should be designed to increase competition in the marketplace, give consumers more options, and loosen restrictions on healthcare providers that drive up cost. Let healthcare providers compete like Wal-Mart does, and we'll all reap the benefits.

Republicans should be concerned about demographic shifts in America, but writer Alan Abramowitz doesn't leave any room for the possibility that conservative positions could gain traction within the emerging majority of non-white, non-married, non-Christians.

Since the potential for additional Republican gains among married white Christians appears to be limited, Republican leaders will need to find ways to reduce the Democratic advantage among voters who are not married white Christians in order to maintain the party's competitive position. However, given the generally liberal views of this group, this will not be easy. In 2006, according to data from the Cooperative Congressional Election Study, 57 percent of these voters supported a woman's right to choose an abortion under any circumstances, 66 percent opposed a constitutional amendment to prohibit gay marriage, and 71 percent favored a single-payer health care system. Any attempt by Republican leaders to significantly increase their party's support among voters who are not married white Christians would therefore require changes in some of the party's longstanding policy commitments -- changes that would clearly upset a large segment of the current Republican base.

There are several problems I can see with Dr. Abramowitz' analysis.

1. The political preferences he attributes to skin color are more likely to be due to dynamic cultural factors, such as recency of immigration, urban living conditions, and so forth. It's unlikely that skin color alone causes a person to favor gay marriage or broadly legal abortion. Whatever cultural factors underlie the leftist dominance of non-whites could change or be changed as easily as white preferences have changed over the decades.

2. Even though people are getting married later than they have in the past, most people still do marry. As longevity increases, it's not clear that people will spend fewer voting years married than they have in the past. Additionally, there's no reason to believe that marriage is experiencing a permanent decline. Perhaps conservatives need to lead by teaching/convincing others about the merits and benefits of marriage. Strong leadership could, perhaps, work to rebuild the institution of marriage within our society and fight against the forces that are working hard to erode it. Instead of trailing these demographic shifts, political leaders should be working to shape the culture.

3. Christianity seems to be rather cyclical in its popularity. There's no doubt that the church needs to be more active in evangelism, not merely for political or demographic purposes, but because God commands it. The political consequences of this calling are secondary to the spiritual, but will follow nonetheless.

Rather than seeing these shifts as a reason to abandon conservatism as Dr. Abramowitz suggests, I see them as a challenge: if we conservatives really do have a better way of running the world than the leftists do, we need to make our case for it and convince the voters. Demographics are destiny, but they are not beyond our ability to influence.

Aside from all the other nefarious goings-on in Pelosi's House, it's this bit that enrages me most personally:

Another motion to lower farm subsidies, by Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, was pending Thursday afternoon when the House adjourned for its usual long weekend of fundraising, politicking and recreation. Unchanged in Nancy Pelosi's House is bipartisan devotion to the three-day week.

I work hard and I work a lot to support my family, to provide for our future retirement, to give my employer and my country an honest return for my wages, and to honor God with my labor.

Eh, maybe I should be grateful they work so little. Everything our Congress does seems designed to screw me over, so maybe the less they work the better off the rest of us are.

It looks like Newsweek has decided that Jeremiah Wright is intentionally hurting Barack Obama.

And while [Oprah] Winfrey, who has endorsed Obama and campaigned on his behalf, had long understood the perils of a close association with Wright, friends say she was blindsided by the pastor's personal assault on Obama. "She felt that Wright would never do anything to hurt a man who looked up to him as a father figure," said her [anonymous] close friend. "She also never thought he'd intentionally hurt someone trying to make history and change the lives of so many people.''

Unless I missed something, how has it been determined that Wright is intentionally hurting Obama, rather than only inadvertently hurting Obama while primarily focused on defending and aggrandizing himself? Seems like Newsweek is providing some helpful spin to the Obama campaign.

Everyone hates red-light traffic cameras, and someone in Arizona decided to do something about them by re-aiming cameras at the ground.

Someone in Tucson isn't happy about the city's red-light cameras.

A vandal re-aimed most of the traffic cameras at collision-prone intersections over the weekend in an apparent attempt to keep them from snapping photos of speeders and red-light runners, an official said.

This doesn't strike me as "vandalism" since there was no damage or defacement. What this looks like to me is civil disobedience.

It would be more efficient, though, to use some sort of spraying device to shoot paint at the camera lens from the ground or from a car. Not that I'd advocate such a thing.

(HT: Instapundit.)

No doubt Barack Obama is poised to announce either a more diplomatic approach or a total withdrawal from his home city:

Fifty-four shootings in two weekends. Shot-up bodies recovered in groups of three and five. Is this Ramadi? Basra? No.

Welcome to Chicago.

After a recent outbreak of gun-related violence, Mayor Richard Daley is now pushed into supporting a plan by new Police Superintendent Jody Weis to arm 13,000 Chicago police officers with assault rifles. Depending on how many weapons are eventually deployed, this may develop into the largest militarization of police patrol officers in United States history. If the department arms 10,000 of their officers with M4s, the police will have 9,900 more assault rifles in Chicago than the U.S. Marines presently have in Fallujah, Iraq.

Advice to Senator Obama as he aspires to run a whole country: Physician, heal thyself.

(HT: Instapundit.)

At least one reader has reported a problem leaving comments using OpenID. I left a test comment using TypeKey and it worked fine. If anyone else is having problems leaving comments please shoot me an email at plasticATgmailDOTcom. Be sure to include the system you're trying to use to sign in (OpenID, TypeKey, etc.). Thanks!

I'm still playing Travian and having a grand old time of it. If you decide to play this online sim/military and use the link above, I get a small bonus for referring you when your city reaches a population of 75 :) Ok, enough blegging.

The National Security Agency says Japanese is hard... so hard that you shouldn't even try to learn it.

(HT: Nick and Bernardo.)

I've written on this topic many times before, but Marty Nemko has the data which shows that many people should not waste their time and money on college.

Among my saddest moments as a career counselor is when I hear a story like this: "I wasn't a good student in high school, but I wanted to prove that I can get a college diploma. I'd be the first one in my family to do it. But it's been five years and $80,000, and I still have 45 credits to go."

I have a hard time telling such people the killer statistic: Among high-school students who graduated in the bottom 40 percent of their classes, and whose first institutions were four-year colleges, two-thirds had not earned diplomas eight and a half years later. That figure is from a study cited by Clifford Adelman, a former research analyst at the U.S. Department of Education and now a senior research associate at the Institute for Higher Education Policy. Yet four-year colleges admit and take money from hundreds of thousands of such students each year!

Even worse, most of those college dropouts leave the campus having learned little of value, and with a mountain of debt and devastated self-esteem from their unsuccessful struggles. Perhaps worst of all, even those who do manage to graduate too rarely end up in careers that require a college education. So it's not surprising that when you hop into a cab or walk into a restaurant, you're likely to meet workers who spent years and their family's life savings on college, only to end up with a job they could have done as a high-school dropout.

Education is a business. The American higher education system is the best in the world, but it's there first to make money and only secondarily to educate. That's not a flaw in the system, that's just life. Don't let yourself or your kids be duped by the sales-pitches if the product really isn't right for you.

I've mentioned the site before, and now has officially launched., a technology startup dedicated to promoting health care transparency and competition, announced today the launch of its new search engine. The search engine enables consumers to look up prices and comparison shop for health care services by searching for price data across different websites. launched an earlier version of their website in July 2007 which provided consumers with a platform to collaborate and expose the true prices of routine health care services. With the addition of the new search engine, the enhanced website collects health care price data from multiple sources including provider price lists, consumer contributed content, claims data from businesses, Government CMS Medicare data, websites that publish health care prices (hospitals, diagnostic testing facilities, clinics, labs, physician practices), and price transparency tools on public websites.

Sounds like it could grow into a valuable resource.

First off, let me say that my wife and I have ardently disliked Hillary Clinton for almost two decades. We would never vote for her for anything. So imagine our surprise when Hillary did quite well during her appearance on The O'Reilly Factor. Bill O'Reilly asked some very good, very tough questions, and Hillary handled them well with a minimum of cast-iron talking-point repetition. I still don't agree with most of her policies and think she's incredibly dishonest, but she came across as poised, likable, and articulate.

To me, the highlight of the interview was when O'Reilly pointed out that her plan to raise taxes (and potentially eliminate the Social Security cap, though she denied it) would result in a 14% tax increase for him personally. She fielded it by saying that people as wealthy as he and her could afford it, middle-class taxpayers would benefit, etc. O'Reilly should have, but didn't, retort by telling her that he employs middle-class taxpayers, and he'd have to lay people off if her tax wishes are granted. But hey, this wasn't meant to be a debate, it was meant to be an interview.

Overall, the wife and I enjoyed watching quite a bit, and we're looking forward to tonight's installment. The questions were far tougher than any we've seen elsewhere, and we can't wait to see O'Reilly interview Barack Obama and John McCain. (Yeah, right.)

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