June 2008 Archives

Here's a neat article about tuned mass dampeners being used to balance wobbly skyscrapers. First off: that ball doesn't look so big to me.

Second, perhaps a similar effect contributes to womens' (anecdotally supported, at least) superior sense of balance.

(HT: GeekPress.)

Here's a great first-person account of netcentric operations in action.

I joined the Marine Corps when I was eighteen. That was in 1989, when the great Soviet armored divisions were still considered our primary threat, Communism was still the prevailing ideology to fear, and infantrymen ("grunts" or "ground-pounders" as we're often called) never ever touched computers.

How times have changed. Modern warfare is predominantly made up of decentralized small-unit actions and low-intensity skirmishes in complex "semi-permissive" settings. Today's adversaries are not assembled into the ponderous formations of yesteryear with static defenses and unwieldy supply lines. The prototypical "enemy" of the twenty-first century is an urban guerilla who is mobile, adaptive, and draws his strength and resources primarily from the indigenous population. The prototypical soldier needs more than a rifle to deal with him. He requires a different skill set, and needs speedy communications.

Coming from an older generation of infantrymen, I was astonished to see my unit suddenly being outfitted with every variety of electronic equipment, from "ruggedized" laptop computers with Internet access and instant messaging, to man-packed tracking systems, to a plethora of cameras, videos, and other imagery devices. These innovations were introduced to the battlefield in hopes of increasing situational awareness, rapidly gathering data, analyzing it, organizing it, then pushing it back out to operators as actionable intelligence. They also provide commanders with the freshest possible information and aid them in their moment-to-moment decision-making.

But with the diffuse and often dynamic nature of today's battlefield, the military discovered it needed not only a new line of electronic gadgets, but a new breed of soldier as well -- a thinking soldier.

Wars have always been about networks -- even when the "networks" were carrier pigeons and couriers -- but now every battle and every engagement is "netcentric", and the side with the better network wins.

There's something fishy about the Obama-related grafitti in Orlando.

The Orlando Police Department found dozens of city owned vehicles vandalized Saturday.

The vandal or vandals appear to have political intentions; most of the vehicles were spray painted with anti Obama sayings, with ‘Obama’ misspelled several times. Some of their vehicles had their gas caps removed. ...

The person or persons left a business card with political ramblings and other phrases such as ‘How ‘Bout them Gators’ and ‘Legalize Marijuana/ Stop Building Prisons’.

It seems clear that the perpetrators aren't conservative Obama-haters. Check out the card the vandals left behind:

Doesn't seem pro-McCain, does it? Maybe disgruntled Hillary supporters?

Just visited some family in Springfield for a few days and discovered Lambert's Cafe. My new favorite restaurant, bar none. They actually throw food to you. It's all you can eat, and the food is great. Best of all, however, is that when they drop the food on your table it's actually too hot to eat, every time. Made me realize that most restaurants serve luke-warm food that has been sitting on a counter for several minutes before you see it.

Today's SCOTUS ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller was a strong statement protecting one of our most valuable civil rights: the right to self-defense. The reactions from various politicians are especially interesting considering that while an expected 100% of Republicans quoted approve of the decision, so do three out of five Democrats.

Ilya Somin writes that most science fiction fans come to it early in life, but Megan McArdle says that love for science fiction can be acquired by adults, even women. I would have agreed with Somin a year ago, but over the past few months my wife has had a revelation: Battlestar Galactica, Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time, and even Star Trek: The Next Generation are now among her favorite works of fiction. I'm amazed and derive great joy from this newly shared interest.

Two very different online flight simulators.

- This (nameless?) app from Electric Oyster lets you cruise over a beautiful snowy mountain range.

- Goggles is a simple flight sim that let's you fly over a Google Map location and shoot stuff.

Either there hasn't been much to blog about recently, or my brain has been too stressed to find anything. Everything in my life feels crazy right now... not all in a bad way, but argh. Maybe I take on too much, I don't know. I definitely have a "if you want something done right, do it yourself" mentality and it's hard for me to leave responsibilities to other people when I think I can do it better. I'm not sure though what I could cut out:

1. Work. Gotta pay the bills. I'm not working overtime or anything, but work is stressful and very busy.

2. Church. I'm the director of my Sunday School class of 40 young married couples. This isn't a huge amount of work, but it can be draining at times. Fortunately there are a ton of spiritual leaders in our class.

3. Family. Jessica is pregnant! Yay! Very exciting, but the pregnancy is taking a real toll on her and therefore indirectly on me.

4. Hobbies. What hobbies? I play Travian (sign up there to get me bonus gold) but that's mostly a stress relief. Mostly anyway! A 24/7 game can get a little stressful at times.... But I've got to do something fun sometimes.

5. Side projects. My partners and I are getting very close to launching a new website we've been working on for almost a year. Can't quit now.

Anyway, woe is me, right? It's just life, I know, and I'm tremendously blessed to have the life I do. My complaints ring so hollow in even my own ears.

Spengler's most recent article describes a rarely-before-seen opportunity for Christian evangelism among Muslims, largely in Europe but also via the emerging Chinese church. There's no mention of Christianity's ascension in Africa, so add that on too.

In that sense, the president's war policy and the pope's pacifism arise from a common source, the politics of faith. Despite the exigencies of state security, which make necessary the employment of deadly force as well as harm to civilians, someone must speak the voice of mercy, and pray that the stern decree will pass from the world. A religious leader must say, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," while a head of state must follow the maxim, "Do unto others before they do unto you." What divides the president and the pope is not so much their conflicting positions, but rather a difference in the existential vantage point from which each must respond to the great events of the world.

Benedict XVI may preach against violence, but in his own fashion he takes a tougher stance than the American president. That surely is not the way it looks at first glance. Bush invaded an Arab country, while Benedict preaches reason to the Muslim world, receiving in the past few months Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah as well as delegations from Iran. He has agreed to a meeting with a group of 138 Muslim scholars at the Vatican in November. Why should Muslims fear Benedict?

For the first time, perhaps, since the time of Mohammed, large parts of the Islamic world are vulnerable to Christian efforts to convert them, for tens of millions of Muslims now dwell as minorities in predominantly Christian countries. The Muslim migration to Europe is a double-edged sword. Eventually this migration may lead to a Muslim Europe, but it also puts large numbers of Muslims within reach of Christian missionaries for the first time in history.

That is the hope of Magdi Allam, the highest-profile Catholic convert from Islam in living memory (see The mustard seed in global strategy Asia Times Online, March 26, 2008).

The Islamification of Europe is generally seen as a foregone conclusion, a dour and irreversible demographic trend projected by Anglophiles like Mark Steyn (who I greatly like). Spengler's reversal, granting the advantage to Christianity rather than to encroaching Islam, is a very different and intriguing perspective. I pray that he's right, as I pray nightly for missionaries to Muslims.

James E. Gaskin has a great piece about the slow maturation of artificial intelligence that helps answer the question: where's the artificial intelligence?

Artificial intelligence promised us great technology. But has it delivered?

Stanford University computer science professor John McCarthy coined the phrase in 1956 to mean "the science and engineering of making intelligent machines," In the early years of the artificial intelligence movement, enthusiasm ran high and artificial intelligence pioneers made some bold predictions.

In 1965, artificial intelligence innovator Herbert Simon said that "machines will be capable, within 20 years, of doing any work a man can do."

Two years later, MIT researcher Marvin Minsky predicted, "Within a generation ... the problem of creating 'artificial intelligence' will substantially be solved."

Popular culture jumped onto the artificial intelligence bandwagon and gave us Rosie the Robot from the Jetsons, HAL from the movie 2001 and R2D2 from Star Wars.

Yet, here we are, decades later and what has artificial intelligence done for us lately? If you define artificial intelligence as self-aware, self-learning, mobile systems, then artificial intelligence has been a huge disappointment.

And yet artificial intelligence is all around us... just going by different names. Once some bit of artificial intelligence actually works it stops being called "artificial intelligence" and gets named something like "Google search" or "GPS route planning" or "Half-Life".

Kyle Wingfield's profile of Robert Mundell offers some interesting insights into some of the economic principles that have shaped our time.

Robert Mundell isn't in the habit of making fruitless policy recommendations, though some take a long time ripening. Nearly four decades passed between his early work on optimal currency areas and the birth of the euro in 1999 – the same year he received the Nobel Prize for economics.

So when Mr. Mundell says that rescinding the Bush tax cuts "would be devastating to the world economy," that oil prices are "not so far off track," that Asia needs its own multilateral currency, or that the ham sandwiches sitting before us could use some mustard, one is inclined to pay attention – and, except in the case of lunch, to think long term.

(HT: The Pirate.)

Kids these days....

The pregnancy pact between 17 high school girls can be attributed to two things:

1. They have no concept of hardship. I'm sure these girls aren't rich by American standards, but I'm also sure that none of them has ever gone hungry and that they're all incredibly wealthy by historical measures. These girls have no idea what the real world is like, and no appreciation for the difficulties they would be facing if not for the stupid generosity that society will now heap upon them.

2. They have never been disciplined or taught right from wrong. The parents of these girls should be ashamed, as should the girls themselves. Instead, this community has "embraced" "young mothers" to an incredibly destructive effect.

The high school has done perhaps too good a job of embracing young mothers. Sex-ed classes end freshman year at Gloucester, where teen parents are encouraged to take their children to a free on-site day-care center. Strollers mingle seamlessly in school hallways among cheerleaders and junior ROTC. "We're proud to help the mothers stay in school," says Sue Todd, CEO of Pathways for Children, which runs the day-care center.

Despite the pleasant euphemism, these "young mothers" need to be made to face the harsh reality of their situation, not merely helped along as if everything is okay. Help of various forms will of course be necessary and should be provided, but by families and churches, not government agencies. These girls should face social opprobrium: they made some really stupid decisions and deserve their disgrace, and perhaps such denigration will discourage other girls from following in their footsteps.

Are you jealous of the billions of dollars those fat cats and their hedge funds are raking in while you struggle just to fill your car with gas? Don't be so sure that the fat cats aren't the suckers. Warren Buffett thinks hedge funds are basically a scam on the wealthy.

Will a collection of hedge funds, carefully selected by experts, return more to investors over the next 10 years than the S&P 500?

That question is now the subject of a bet between Warren Buffett, the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, and Protégé Partners LLC, a New York City money management firm that runs funds of hedge funds - in other words, a firm whose existence rests on its ability to put its clients' money into the best hedge funds and keep it out of the underperformers. ...

We're way past theory here. This bet, being reported for the first time in this article (whose author is both a longtime friend of Buffett's and editor of his chairman's letter in the Berkshire annual report), has been in existence since Jan. 1 of this year.

It's between Buffett (not Berkshire) and Protégé (the firm, not its funds). And there's serious money at stake. Each side put up roughly $320,000. The total funds of about $640,000 were used to buy a zero-coupon Treasury bond that will be worth $1 million at the bet's conclusion.

My money's on the S&P 500. Let's take a look at the steep hill the hedge funds have to climb:

As for the fees that investors pay in the hedge fund world - and that, of course, is the crux of Buffett's argument - they are both complicated and costly.

A fund of funds normally charges a 1% annual management fee. The hedge funds it puts that money into charge an annual management fee of their own, which for funds of funds is typically 1.5%. (The fees are paid quarterly by an investor and are figured on the value of his account at the time.)

So that's 2.5% of an investor's capital that continually goes for these fees, regardless of the returns earned during a year. In contrast, Vanguard's S&P 500 index fund had an expense ratio last year of 15 basis points (0.15%) for ordinary shares and only seven basis points for Admiral shares, which are available to large investors. Admiral shares are the ones "bought" by Buffett in the bet.

On top of the management fee, the hedge funds typically collect 20% of any gains they make. That leaves 80% for the investors. The fund of funds takes 5% (or more) of that 80% as its share of the gains. The upshot is that only 76% (at most) of the annual return made on an investor's money accrues to him, with the rest going to the "helpers" that Buffett has written about. Meanwhile, the investor is paying his inexorable management fee of 2.5% on capital.

When you add up all those fees, Buffett thinks the super-rich would be better off investing like the rest of us non-Buffetts: in no-load, low-expense index funds.

The world's first billion-dollar private residence will be a 27-story skyscraper in downtown Mumbai.

Like many families with the means to do so, the Ambanis wanted to build a custom home. They consulted with architecture firms Perkins + Will and Hirsch Bedner Associates, the designers behind the Mandarin Oriental, based in Dallas and Los Angeles, respectively. Plans were then drawn up for what will be the world's largest and most expensive home: a 27-story skyscraper in downtown Mumbai with a cost nearing $2 billion, says Thomas Johnson, director of marketing at Hirsch Bedner Associates. The architects and designers are creating as they go, altering floor plans, design elements and concepts as the building is constructed.

Click below to see the concept art.

Mark Steyn has a great little bit on Obama's tendency to use naivety and ignorance as excuses for his screw-ups.

Nothing in Obama's resume suggests he's the man to remake America and heal the planet. Only last week, another of his pals bit the dust, convicted by a Chicago jury of 16 counts of this and that. "This isn't the Tony Rezko I knew," said the senator, in what's becoming a standard formulation. Likewise, this wasn't the Jeremiah Wright he knew. And these are guys he's known for 20 years.

Yet at the same time as he's being stunned by the corruption and anti-Americanism of those closest to him, Obama's convinced that just by jetting into Tehran and Pyongyang he can get to know America's enemies and persuade them to hew to the straight and narrow. No doubt if it all goes belly-up, and Iran winds up nuking Tel Aviv, President Obama will put on his more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger face and announce solemnly that "this isn't the Mahmoud Ahmadinejad I knew."

If Obama can't discern the character of his friends and spiritual advisers, is he really competent to negotiate with America's enemies?

Physician Richard Parker explains the irony of Ted Kennedy's reliance on our mostly-free healthcare market given his decades-long fight to eliminate it.

It was reported that Senator Kennedy chose his surgeon for this difficult operation after very careful research and consultation with his physicians in Boston. Using his free and independent judgment, Kennedy chose Dr. Allan Friedman, a surgeon renowned for his experience and expertise in the field of neuro-oncological surgery.

No government regulations restricted the Senator in this extremely important personal choice. Facing a life threatening illness, no bureaucrat forced the Senator to chose his surgeon nor hospital from a government “approved” list--a list not generated by Kennedy’s independent and free judgment, but by “public servants” who’s expertise is not Kennedy’s life, but the arbitrary and byzantine politics of “pull”, of favors owed and collected, of political pressure groups and the bitter reality of healthcare rationing. No, Kennedy was not forced to sacrifice his life, liberty nor property in the name of the so-called “greater public good.”

The surgeon he chose, Dr. Allan Friedman, has freely devoted his life to treating patients with neurological tumors. Dr. Friedman wasn’t coerced into medicine; his patient load is not presently rationed nor stipulated by bureaucrats. Dr. Friedman was still free to accept Senator Kennedy as his patient and was free to choose the best surgical approach for treating the Senator’s tumor. No bureaucrat stipulated how many patients per day, week, month or year Dr. Friedman may accept and treat during the long decades he spent perfecting his life-saving skill. Dr. Friedman is still relatively free to use his expert judgment in the face of the awesome responsibility he assumes with each patient he treats.

Ironically, however, if Senator Kennedy succeeds in his ambition of forcing a government financed (and therefore government controlled) healthcare system onto the American people, all these life altering and personal freedoms will vanish with the strokes of a few pens in Washington. This is the reality of any government enforced healthcare system—both patients and physicians will face a vast increase in taxation and the loss of additional property (fines) and liberty (imprisonment) if they violate the morass of arbitrary and contradictory regulations that will descend on a healthcare industry that is already all but crippled with the slow but steady creep of government controls over the past 50 years.

I'll be generous enough to hope that Kennedy's ongoing struggle will result in a reevaluation of his urge to nationalize our healthcare system.

(HT: GeekPress.)

Saw this yesterday, but I've been busy.

Researchers used cloned immune system cells to cure advanced skin cancer. As far as I can tell, no embryonic stem cells were used in the cloning process.

US doctors have for the first time successfully treated a skin cancer patient with cells cloned from his own immune system, a study released Wednesday showed.

The ground-breaking treatment for advanced melanoma, or skin cancer, led to a long remission for the patient and used his own cloned infection-fighting T-cells, said doctor Cassian Yee, the lead author of the study in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Yee and his associates from the Clinical Research Division at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle removed CD4+ T-cells, a type of white blood cell, from a 52-year-old man whose melanoma had spread to a groin lymph node and to one of his lungs.

The melanoma was already well advanced and in stage four.

The T-cells which specifically fight melanoma were modified and expanded in the laboratory and some five billion cells were then infused into the patient, who received no other kind of treatment.

Two months later no tumors were found during scans of the patient's organs. And he has been cancer free for two years, Yee said.


I'm sure I saw this on Instapundit yesterday or something... who knows. Anyway, Barack Obama obviously doesn't know much history.

And, you know, let's take the example of Guantanamo. What we know is that, in previous terrorist attacks -- for example, the first attack against the World Trade Center, we were able to arrest those responsible, put them on trial. They are currently in U.S. prisons, incapacitated.

And the fact that the administration has not tried to do that has created a situation where not only have we never actually put many of these folks on trial, but we have destroyed our credibility when it comes to rule of law all around the world, and given a huge boost to terrorist recruitment in countries that say, "Look, this is how the United States treats Muslims."

So that, I think, is an example of something that was unnecessary. We could have done the exact same thing, but done it in a way that was consistent with our laws.

As Confederate Yankee points out, the 1993 WTC bomber is still at-large.

It's quite simple: where is the 1993 World Trade Center bomb-builder? Is he in a U.S prison, as Obama claims? Not even close.

Though grossly neglected in the media, Abdul Rahman Yasin conducted the first attempted chemical weapons attack on U.S. soil by terrorists with the 1993 World Trade Center bomb. The bomb that detonated in the WTC garage in 1993 was built by Yasin to create smoke filled with sodium cyanide, which he hoped would rise through elevator shafts, ventilation ducts, and stairwells to suffocate 50,000 people.

Fortunately for those in the Trade Center that day, the bomb burned hotter than Yasin expected, and incinerated up the cyanide as it detonated instead of spreading it in toxic smoke.

Yasin fled the United States after the bombing to Iraq, and lived as Saddam Hussein's guest in Baghdad until the invasion. He is still free, and wanted by the FBI.

Once again, Barack Obama is dead wrong on the facts.

An Obama presidency would either be a disaster, or he's playing his Leftist supporters for dupes.

I need a 150 Ohm 10 Watt power resistor, and I can't find anyplace around me that sells electronic components. This is when I miss Fry's the most.



Gateway Electronics

2220 Welsch Industrial Court * St. Louis, MO 63146

If you liked Super Mario Brothers, you'll hate The Unfair Platformer.

(HT: Andy.)

A one-man operation called CamTrax Technologies has developed 3D input software called CamSpace that improves upon the system used by the Nintendo Wii:

CamTrax’s core technology is a pure software solution that allows nearly any ordinary PC webcam (95% are supported) to track up to four objects—even as small as 5mm—in real-time and with very high accuracy and reliability. (It works only on Windows). Locking and tracking (X, Y, and Z axes and angle) are all automatic. Yaron Tanne, founder & CEO of CamTrax Technologies, the company behind CamSpace, has been developing the technology practically single-handedly for three years in his apartment in Tel-Aviv.

Tanne claims that most of the algorithms used are in the public domain but have been enhanced. There are also completely new algorithms developed from scratch.

CamSpace requires an agent application to run locally in order to emulate a mouse, a keyboard, joystick, or other input device. Users can then program the emulation based on the game they want to control and the object(s) they want to control the game with. For example, one user could program a steering wheel for a racing game, where moving the wheel on the Z axis shifts the gears up and down. A different user can use two objects for the same game, programming the second object, say a coke bottle, to shift the gears.

(HT: RD.)

It's not unusual to see male-bashing for the sake of attempted comedy -- after all, white men are the only allowable targets for ridicule these days -- but Barack Obama really hit the right notes with his Father's Day address. He wasn't male-bashing: he laid out some very legitimate, and very constructive criticism that the black community in particular needs to hear. (And has heard from Bill Cosby, among others.)

In an address that was striking for its bluntness and where he chose to give it, Mr. Obama directly addressed one of the most delicate topics confronting black leaders: how much responsibility absent fathers bear for some of the intractable problems afflicting black Americans. Mr. Obama noted that “more than half of all black children live in single-parent households,” a number that he said had doubled since his own childhood.

“Too many fathers are M.I.A., too many fathers are AWOL, missing from too many lives and too many homes,” Mr. Obama said to a chorus of approving murmurs from the audience. “They have abandoned their responsibilities, acting like boys instead of men. And the foundations of our families are weaker because of it.”

Accompanied by his wife, Michelle, and his daughters, Malia and Sasha, who sat in the front pew, Mr. Obama, the presumptive Democratic nominee, laid out his case in stark terms that would be difficult for a white candidate to make, telling the mostly black audience not to “just sit in the house watching ‘SportsCenter,’ ” and to stop praising themselves for mediocre accomplishments.

“Don’t get carried away with that eighth-grade graduation,” he said, bringing many members of the congregation to their feet, applauding. “You’re supposed to graduate from eighth grade.”

This speech will certainly appeal to family-value voters, as it is no doubt intended to. From the transcript we can see some parts that even made The New York Times too uncomfortable to print:

We know that education is everything to our children’s future. We know that they will no longer just compete for good jobs with children from Indiana, but children from India and China and all over the world. We know the work and the studying and the level of education that requires.

A mention of globalism that doesn't denounce the competition but instead encourages Americans to rise to the challenge. Nice.

And the speech itself contained an unexpected admission from a Democrat that wasn't in the prepared text:

The change we need is not just gonna come from government. It's not just gonna come from a president. It's gonna come from us. It's gonna come from each and every one of us. We need families to raise our children.

What?! The government isn't the solution to all our problems? Holy crap, who'd've thunk it? It's not in the transcript, but apparently Obama said it.


Oooo, and there's this:

But we also need families to raise our children. We need fathers to realize that responsibility does not end at conception. We need them to realize that what makes you a man is not the ability to have a child – it’s the courage to raise one.

Wait wait wait... the responsibility of fatherhood begins at conception? What about motherly responsibility? Does that responsibility preclude elective abortion?

I haven't yet actually seen such a thing, but The Onion imagines a game in which you control a character who plays World of Warcraft. 'Warcraft' Sequel Lets Gamers Play A Character Playing 'Warcraft':

I suppose that most sports video games could be considered meta-games in this same vein, but since the construction is foundational to the genre I'm not sure they count.

(HT: Kotaku and TechEBlog.)

A relay on the control board of my home furnace buzzes when the furnace blower is on. (The blower is also used for the A/C.) The buzzing started recently, but is fairly loud. I assume the buzzing means that the relay is going bad and that I'll need to replace the control board. Can anyone tell me if it's safe to continue operating the blower until I can get the part I need to fix it?

The Inside Zimbabwe blog has some horrific stories about the atrocities being committed in that hellish country. Despite my support for the war in Iraq, one of my regrets is that it has left our military stretched too thin to decapitate the regimes that torment places like Zimbabwe, Sudan, and Burma. Forget "nation building" for a while... we could do a lot of good just by killing the right sets of people all around the world.

It's disturbing to me that the Supreme Court won't distinguish between mere criminals and enemy combatants captured on the battlefield fighting against American troops.

In a stinging rebuke to President Bush's anti-terror policies, a deeply divided Supreme Court ruled Thursday that foreign detainees held for years at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba have the right to appeal to U.S. civilian courts to challenge their indefinite imprisonment without charges. ...

Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for the 5-4 high court majority, acknowledged the terrorism threat the U.S. faces - the administration's justification for the detentions - but he declared, "The laws and Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, in extraordinary times." ...

Chief Justice John Roberts, in his own dissent to Thursday's ruling, criticized the majority for striking down what he called "the most generous set of procedural protections ever afforded aliens detained by this country as enemy combatants."

I hate to say it, but the majority opinion is just silly. It may be practical to give the 200 detainees currently imprisoned at Guantanamo an appearance before a civilian judge, but what if in the future we capture 1,000 enemy combatants in the mountains of Afghanistan? We have to fly them all back to America for trials? What if we capture 10,000? What if we get into a major war and capture 100,000 guerrillas? The policy doesn't scale well.

Furthermore, it just isn't logical to treat enemies caught on a battlefield the same way we treat domestic criminals, even murderers. Crime-fighting and war-fighting are very different endeavors, with different objectives and different methods. The Constitution recognizes this by granting the power to prosecute a war to the President. Processing imprisoned enemy combatants while the war is ongoing falls under the President's purview as Commander-in-Chief.

And it's the doctor who goes to jail?

Violence broke out at the gas pumps in Orange County. Police say a La Palma doctor waiting in line to buy gas at the Costco warehouse store in Cypress grabbed a tire iron and confronted a motorist who cut into the line.

Sgt. Tom Bruce said the doctor was arrested and booked for investigation of brandishing a deadly weapon in a rude, angry or threatening manner, a misdemeanor.

Witnesses told police the doctor was in line at the pumps Monday evening when another vehicle cut in front of him. When the doctor confronted the motorist with a tire iron, the other driver locked himself in his car and called police.

Who in their right mind would be willing to confront a line-cutting stranger at a gas station without some sort of weapon? This sort of thing is why we left California.

Fred Hiatt's recent column about Senator Rockefeller's investigation into President Bush's alleged lies about pre-war intelligence on Iraq should be plastered around the blogosphere. Despite the Democrat senator's intentions and proclamations, his committee report appears to be a thorough and compelling defense of the President.

On Iraq's nuclear weapons program? The president's statements "were generally substantiated by intelligence community estimates."

On biological weapons, production capability and those infamous mobile laboratories? The president's statements "were substantiated by intelligence information."

On chemical weapons, then? "Substantiated by intelligence information."

On weapons of mass destruction overall (a separate section of the intelligence committee report)? "Generally substantiated by intelligence information." Delivery vehicles such as ballistic missiles? "Generally substantiated by available intelligence." Unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to deliver WMDs? "Generally substantiated by intelligence information."

And so on for quite a ways. In 2002, even the honorable senator from West Virginia believed these very same intelligence reports.

After all, it was not Bush, but Rockefeller, who said in October 2002: "There has been some debate over how 'imminent' a threat Iraq poses. I do believe Iraq poses an imminent threat. I also believe after September 11, that question is increasingly outdated. . . . To insist on further evidence could put some of our fellow Americans at risk. Can we afford to take that chance? I do not think we can."

The real disgrace is how very wrong some of these intelligence reports turned out to be. We may never know how close the ties were between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, or whether Hussein believed his scientists were working on WMD, or even whether Iraqi WMDs were moved to Syria in the run-up to the invasion. But it's crystal clear that American intelligence agencies bungled their job horribly and were never held to account.

Given what we know now, I would still have favored the invasion of Iraq in 2003 -- though with our present hindsight we could have administered it better. But even those who opposed and still oppose the war must eventually admit that it wasn't instigated as a grand hoax on the American people by an oil-crazed idiot-savant, but that the decision was in fact based on the best information available at the time.

(HT: Instapundit, of course.)

The positions on corporations and taxes advocated by John McCain in this article read better than the headline makes them sound: "McCain wants low corporate taxes, regulated CEO pay". "Regulated"?

The Arizona senator, who has wrapped up his party's presidential nomination, also would propose a simpler, alternative tax system and insist that chief executives' pay and severance packages have shareholder approval.

Requiring shareholder approval for huge pay packages doesn't seem like government "regulation" to me. I like the idea.

U.S. taxes were too complicated overhaul, McCain will say in his speech, in which he will argue for an alternative system.

"As president, I will propose an alternative tax system. When this reform is enacted, all who wish to file under the current system could still do so," he will say.

"Everyone else could choose a vastly less complicated system with two tax rates and a generous standard deduction."

I want to hear more details, but it sounds good. I've long been in favor of a Flat Tax or some other such tax system as have become prevalent in Easter Europe, with much success.

But he also takes aim at top corporate executives with big salaries and excessive severance packages.

"Americans are right to be offended when the extravagant salaries and severance deals of CEOs ... bear no relation to the success of the company or the wishes of shareholders," he will say, adding that some of those chief executives helped bring on the country's housing crisis and market troubles.

"If I am elected president, I intend to see that wrongdoing of this kind is called to account by federal prosecutors. And under my reforms, all aspects of a CEO's pay, including any severance arrangements, must be approved by shareholders," he will say.

Ahhh... "called to account by federal prosecutors" sounds good, if there's a crime other than mere incompetence. Not sure what other regulations McCain is considering along these lines. Forcing company boards to allow shareholders to vote on pay packages sounds like a great idea though.

I've got friends in the industry, and from what I've heard restaurants are some of the hardest small businesses to run successfully. That said, it's still pretty sad that the United States Senate couldn't even keep their cafeteria in the black. There really is no such thing as a free lunch, but through privatization the Senate might at least get cheap, high-quality food.

Year after year, decade upon decade, the U.S. Senate's network of restaurants has lost staggering amounts of money -- more than $18 million since 1993, according to one report, and an estimated $2 million this year alone, according to another.

The financial condition of the world's most exclusive dining hall and its affiliated Capitol Hill restaurants, cafeterias and coffee shops has become so dire that, without a $250,000 subsidy from taxpayers, the Senate won't make payroll next month.

The embarrassment of the Senate food service struggling like some neighborhood pizza joint has quietly sparked change previously unthinkable for Democrats. Last week, in a late-night voice vote, the Senate agreed to privatize the operation of its food service, a decision that would, for the first time, put it under the control of a contractor and all but guarantee lower wages and benefits for the outfit's new hires. ...

"It's so bad that the Senate hasn't yet figured out that House 'Taco Salad Wednesday' trumps any type of entree they have to offer," said Ron Bonjean, a former press secretary to both the House speaker and the Senate Republican leader.

But don't worry! The government will do a great job running our socialized health care system.

(HT: The Pirate.)

Apparently female programmers write more sensitive code than men.

The Wall Street Journal quotes a senior vice-president of database company Ingres, a woman by the name of Emma McGrattan, as saying that women are generally more considerate programmers.

McGrattan, purportedly one of the top ranking female programmers in the US, reckons that whereas men feel absolutely no compunction whatsoever to explain what they are doing, female programmers like to leave detailed and waffly accounts of precisely what they did, why they did it, and how they think things should proceed.

McGrattan berates men for trying, “to show how clever they are by writing very cryptic code,” whereas women just want to be understood.

Unfortunately this female-written code spends so much time worrying about, talking about, and sharing its feelings that it only runs half as fast.

Too bad Senator Wayne Allard of Colorado doesn't name names when he says that some Democrats oppose oil shale development because they'd prefer that people quit driving.

Fortune: Has oil shale development always been a partisan issue or is this something new?

Sen. Allard: It is something new. The issue with the Democrats now is they want to cut off any source of carbon. And there are those in the Senate who believe the more expensive you make gasoline, the less driving people do and you force conservation by making driving so expensive people can't afford it.

Somehow I don't get the idea that these Democrats themselves would stop driving or flying. They just want the rest of us to.

The two most common guidelines I've seen for thermostat placement is: don't put it on an outer wall, do put it in a central part of the area to be regulated. The first is certainly a good idea, but the second leaves out a lot of important considerations.

Whoever built my house put the upstairs thermostat in a central location... in the upstairs hallway at the top of the stairs. This is a terrible location, because:

  • people are only rarely in the hallway
  • there are no vents in the hallway
  • cold air flows down the stairs to the bottom floor
  • hot air flows up the stairs from the bottom floor

When the bedroom doors are closed at night it's virtually impossible to keep the rooms at a comfortable temperature. They get too cold in the winter, because the thermostat is warmed by air from downstairs and the bedrooms are cooled by their outer walls. In the summer, the A/C just runs continuously because none of the cold air reaches the thermostat, and what little gets into the hallway just flows down the stairs.

Two weeks ago I spent a day investigating what it would take to relocate the thermostat, but the difficulty is prohibitive. The thermostat wires come up from the basement, through the ground floor walls, to the second floor. Ugh. I was hoping they came down from the attic, but no such luck.

So, yesterday I ordered a Venstar Wireless thermostat sender and receiver set. Theoretically I'll install the receiver at the existing thermostat location and put the sender in my bedroom. The sender has a thermometer on it, and will tell the receiver when my room is the right temperature. The set cost $210 with shipping, but if it keeps my A/C from running all night I'm sure it will save me money over the course of the summer.

Anyone have any experience with these? I couldn't find many reviews, and it didn't seem like wireless thermostats in general are very widely used.

So I saw Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull this afternoon... eh. There were some good parts, and a few solid laughs, but....

  • The bad guys weren't very convincing.
  • The origin of the "crystal skulls" didn't bother me as much as it did my wife, but I never had the sense of epic adventure that filled Raiders and Last Crusade.
  • Harrison Ford is old, but at least the movie didn't pretend otherwise.
  • Marian Ravenwood's reappearance was mostly annoying.
  • Shia LaBeouf was mostly ok.
  • I hate commies as much as the next guy, but the Nazi characters in the earlier movies had more depth.
  • Some of the actions sequences were quite good, especially the jungle chase scene.
  • I liked the 1930s setting better than the 1950s.
  • The adventures Indy reminisces about (that never got made into movies) sound more exciting than the adventure he was actually on at the moment.

If there were ten Indiana Jones movies and this had been number seven, instead of being the last of four, I would have been perfectly content. Not the best, but not terrible. However, bringing Indy back after 20 years for this was anticlimactic. It's a real shame that there weren't more Indy movies made over the past decades, and the inadequacies of Crystal Skull make that shame more acute.

NHS leaves a British woman to die because she went outside the nationalized health system.

A Grandmother whose free NHS treatment was withdrawn because she paid privately for anti-cancer drugs has died.

Yesterday Linda O'Boyle's husband condemned the policy behind the decision and said it had made his dying wife's last months even more stressful.

Mrs O'Boyle, 64, had been receiving state-funded treatment - including chemotherapy - for colon cancer.

But when she took cetuximab, a drug which promised to extend her life but is not available on the NHS, her health trust made her start paying for her care.

The victim's husband, an NHS manager, has had his eyes opened by the experience:

Mr O'Boyle, an NHS manager for 30 years, said: 'I think every drug should be available to all of us if there's a need for that drug to be used.

'I offered to pay for it but was told I couldn't continue with the treatmentwe were receiving at the hospital-The consultant was flabbergasted - he was very upset.'

He added: 'I was always very anti private treatment. But everything she had wasn't working and it was a last resort. ...

Medical experts say the ban on co-payment is one reason why Britain has one of the worst survival rates for cancer in Europe.

But at least rich people and poor people all get to die evenly! Too bad they have to die at the level of poor people, though.

(HT: The Pirate.)

I'm sure there are others you can think of, but here are four faulty approaches to scripture:

Relativistic. The scholarly study of linguistics and literary criticism during the past few decades has been characterized by an increasing skepticism regarding the possibility of absolute truth. Formalism, structuralism, phenomenology and deconstruction have some diversity of forms, but they have led to some common philosophical assumptions, including the impossibility of objectivity, the relativity of truth, the subjectivity of meaning and the resulting primacy of experience (since ultimate meanings are regarded as indeterminate).

Relativism as a worldview now pervades contemporary thought and even pressures many Christians. A common assumption today is that Christianity is an alternative that has already had its day. This is so persuasive precisely because modern culture has adopted the notion that everything changes and anything becomes passe, whether fashions or automobiles or religion or, ultimately, truth itself. One perceptive businessman in the church I pastor commented to me, "I find the persuasiveness [of this view] very sophisticated and tugging at my elbows every day! And I consider my faith reasonably strong."

The impact of relativism is to undermine exactly what James prescribes for our study of Scripture. We say the Bible is the word of God; then we contradict that belief by conceding a cultural relativity to points of doctrine that are presented in Scripture as transcending culture. We say we believe in the authority of Scripture; but we have so often been told "It may be right for you, but not for me" that we begin to believe this relativism in our own hearts. Then, when we read the word of God, it falls on ears that hear but do not respond with action.

In 1 Samuel it is recorded that the Israelites were defeated by the Philistines. The elders of Israel conferred and decided to bring the ark of the Lord's covenant from Shiloh "so that it may go with us and save us from the hand of our enemies" (1 Sam 4:3). When they next went into battle, this time with the ark of the Lord present, Israel was again defeated, and the ark was captured.

What went wrong with their plan? They treated the ark of the covenant as if it were magical, as if it could save them. Instead, they should have sought the Lord. Doing so, they would have realized that they could not expect salvation from a holy God while persisting in wickedness. They would have to do what James says to do: act on God's word.

This is not far off from the way some people treat Scripture still. The Bible is revered as an object, as if it would bring blessing on one's life. The Bible may be read often; prayers may be said frequently; church services may be attended; yet there may still be a self-satisfied overlooking of gossip or lies or irresponsibility or emotional abuse of one's spouse. This amounts to a superstitious use of Scripture.

James is insisting that the words of Scripture are of no value unless put into practice. If you study the word of God and begin to see a picture of true justice or genuine love or real holiness, then start practicing what you are discovering. This is the passion on James's heart.

Emotional. The word of God is certainly intended to affect our emotions. Jesus himself told his disciples that he spoke his words to them so that they might not fear but instead have joy (Jn 14:1-2; 15:11). The misuse of this is the employment of the word of God only for emotional comfort while avoiding obedience. By James's instruction, one should not be satisfied with a superficial devotional reading merely for emotional satisfaction. He demands a reading of the word with the goal of doing the will of God found there.

Theoretical. James's instruction also repudiates the merely theoretical use of the word of God, in which a person may study the word in exhaustive detail but then use the word only as material for philosophical or theological debate. The result is an abundance of doctrinal correctness but a scarcity of biblical godliness. The ones who are "hearers only" after this pattern tend to build a reputation for holding proper theology while leaving behind a trail of divisiveness and damaged relationships.

All of these approaches have a kernel of truth in them (though I wouldn't call the third "superstition" when applied rightly). As the book of James instructs, however, the ideal approach to scripture is to be doers of the Word and not merely hearers.

(HT: Luke.)

Rumors of a Michelle Obama "whitey" video abound, including that it will be released tomorrow and that Hillary is working her hardest to build plausible deniability so she doesn't look the villain. Supposedly the words spoken by Mrs. Obama are something like this:

“Once again, the white man keeps us down, what’s up with Whitey, Why’d he attack Iraq, Why’d he let Katrina happen, Why’d he leave millions of children behind. This is the legacy the white man gives us”

The repeated "why'd he" could also be/sound like "whitey", which makes the alleged transcript more credible.

(HT: also Instapundit.)

It may seem like a small thing, but whenever I'm refilling my soda at a fountain I dump out my cup and get a whole new set of ice cubes. I don't like half-melted ice polluting my fresh soda.

Senator Ted Kennedy is having brain surgery right now. I wish him well. I'm not sure why the health problems of a person I don't know, like, or respect have attracted my attention so acutely. I've been praying for him though.


The surgery was successful.

Several people have told me about problems they've been having leaving comments. Apparently sometimes people will log in, but when they hit "submit" to leave a comment they'll be told that they aren't logged in. I'm working with TypeKey to resolve the matter. For the time being, reloading the page generally fixes the issue and allows you to log in properly and leave a comment. Sorry for the inconvenience!

If you try this and it works (or doesn't) please let me know.

It's just a rumor at the moment, but there may be a video of Michelle Obama ranting against "whitey" from the pulpit of Trinity United Church of Christ.

But the real reason for Obama’s extraordinary freakout is that he fears the release of the videotape, reported here, of Michelle Obama in the pulpit of Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s church railing against “whitey.” And we don’t mean Whitey Ford. Four Republican sources have told me that the tape exists. I’ve also been informed that Karl Rove and his allies have a copy of it and are using it to raise funds for independent expenditure groups. The tape, I’m told, will be disclosed as the GOP October Surprise. It’s a ticking time bomb.

Apparently some television network has the video. Bryan McAffee points out that if the rumors are true this video will be a game-changer.

Of course, if true, the implications are going to be very far reaching and we will either see SDs [southern Democrats] start to go for Hillary in droves, or McCain wins in a 50 state landslide. I don’t know if this will turn out to be a legitimate tape or not, but there is a lesson in here for both parties to learn. The reason why people who have only served for 2 years as a Senator don’t run for POTUS is not about experience per se, its about vetting. Say what you want about Hillary, by now we know all her dirty laundry, from the Rose Law Firm, to buying cattle futures and travelgate. Everything we need to know about Hillary has already been out there and discussed, believed or dismissed. The same cannot be said about Obama. In fact, we know very little about the man. Having lived in Illinois for 15 years, I can tell you that Chicago politics is very corrupt. There is all sorts of slime and corruption that goes on in that particular arena. The fact is, Obama has not been vetted. We do not know everything that he has been through.

As to why the tape has not yet surfaced, rumor is the GOP is holding it for a fall surprise. I’m sure Hillary wishes she found that tape first (if it exists).

I can't decide if I want to video to come out before the Democrat's convention, or before the general election. I know one thing though: I love rumor and innuendo!

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