December 2008 Archives

Iran humiliates the once-great United Kingdom yet again by invading Her Majesty's embassy in Tehran.

Hundreds of Iranian radicals stormed the British compound in Tehran last night, replacing the Union flag with a Palestinian one in protest against Israel’s military offensive in the Gaza Strip.

British officials will be assessing whether the security breach, unprecedented in recent years, was an isolated incident or presages further violent demonstrations.

A hardline Iranian news agency said that protests against Britain and Egypt, whose embassy was also targeted, would continue.

Unless I'm missing something, this "protest" is an act of war against sovereign British territory. More proof that the Brits would rather surrender than fight.

British diplomats are maintaining a low-key public stance on the incident - which involved up to 300 people - in order to limit any repeat and robbing the Tehran regime of any satisfaction. But a strong behind-the-scenes protest from London is certain.


Wife lights husband's genitals on fire, kills husband, burns down house. A "tragedy".

A MAN whose wife allegedly set fire to his genitals while he slept has died.

Satish Narayan, 47, an engineer, lost his battle to survive at the Royal Adelaide Hospital yesterday, 20 days after sustaining burns to most of his body.

The incident has now been declared a major crime by police and it is likely his wife, Rajini, will face a charge of manslaughter or murder.

Police have alleged Mr Narayan's wife doused his genitals with methylated spirit and then set him on fire about 5.30am on December 7. ...

A neighbour told the Sunday Mail she had visited Mrs Narayan in the Adelaide Women's Prison yesterday, before she had been told of her husband's death.

She said she was providing support to her friend over what she said was a "terrible tragedy".

She said the pair had held hands and prayed during her visit. "She wanted him to live, more than anything," she said.

She wanted nothing more than for him to live... except to light his balls on fire.

(HT: RD.)

This is an awesome resource: Google is hosting LIFE Magazine's photo archive with pictures from 1750 through today.

(HT: NW.)

Wealth creates freedom, and freedom creates the opportunity to do wrong. The divorce rate is dropping along with the economy.

The recession and economic turmoil is creating a new class of casualties: Married couples who can't afford to get divorced. In these tough times many people are finding it's cheaper to stay together, even when they can't stand each other.

Aww, poor babies, they can't stand each other! No mention of their vows or the children who are potentially prevented from becoming "casualties" of their parents' selfishness.

A major factor in the divorce downturn, Booden [a family law and divorce attorney] said, is divorced couples have to establish two separate households with current funds -- a prohibitive factor when you're looking at divorce in tough economic times.

Booden said one out of every two clients is seeking consultations because they can't afford to get divorced. They want to know what other options they might have.

"I tell them about the process, about the cost, and what a reasonable outcome might be. And once they hear the cost, and especially how you have to duplicate two households on the same money that currently funds one household, they try to think about some other options," she said.

I guess greed is good! People who just can't stand each other and are willing to break their vows for their own selfish reasons reconsider when their standard of living is on the line. Maybe this does something to undermine the common assertion by divorcees that splitting up was better for the kids than staying together would have been? Except in cases of abuse divorce is rarely about the good of the children, it's about the whims and lusts of the parents.

So, there's nothing wrong with wealth and there's nothing wrong with freedom; but it's much easier to do the right thing when you've got no other choice.

(HT: RD.)

Merry Christmas!

John Lott (and his son?) humiliate the Minnesota canvassing board that is essentially rigging the Senate election in favor of national embarrassment Al Franken. I won't even attempt to excerpt the lashing the Lotts deliver to the corrupt Minnesota process and its executors. The pictures of the contested ballots speak for themselves. Norm Coleman's Senate seat is being stolen in plain daylight.

Nicholas Kristof issues a generosity call-to-action for liberals who are quick to favor the use of government power to help the needy but aren't eager to open their own wallets.

This holiday season is a time to examine who’s been naughty and who’s been nice, but I’m unhappy with my findings. The problem is this: We liberals are personally stingy.

Liberals show tremendous compassion in pushing for generous government spending to help the neediest people at home and abroad. Yet when it comes to individual contributions to charitable causes, liberals are cheapskates.

Arthur Brooks, the author of a book on donors to charity, “Who Really Cares,” cites data that households headed by conservatives give 30 percent more to charity than households headed by liberals. A study by Google found an even greater disproportion: average annual contributions reported by conservatives were almost double those of liberals.

As others have noted, being generous with Other People's Money isn't generosity at all.

Some diabolically brilliant pranksters are turning traffic ticket cameras to an even more evil purpose than that for which they are intended.

Originating from Wootton High School, the parent said, students duplicate the license plates by printing plate numbers on glossy photo paper, using fonts from certain websites that "mimic" those on Maryland license plates. They tape the duplicate plate over the existing plate on the back of their car and purposefully speed through a speed camera, the parent said. The victim then receives a citation in the mail days later.

Students are even obtaining vehicles from their friends that are similar or identical to the make and model of the car owned by the targeted victim, according to the parent.

"This game is very disturbing," the parent said. "Especially since unsuspecting parents will also be victimized through receipt of unwarranted photo speed tickets.

My hat's off to these students for revealing the pernicious flaw behind the concept of camera-issued traffic tickets. I'm saving this article to use in court in case I ever get such a ticket.

I hate this song. Did Mary know who her son was? The multiple angels popping in and out might have given her some clue.

Luke 1:26-33

In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."

So yes, Mary knew. Good grief. This song is dumb. I guess it was designed to play on the emotions of mothers. That's hard to do.

California's financial situation is precarious, but back-door tax hikes aren't the way to fix it.

California's Democratic leaders were planning a vote today on a brazen proposal to raise gas, sales and income taxes through a series of legal maneuvers that would bypass the Legislature's minority Republicans.

The Democratic gambit, announced Wednesday, would raise $9.3 billion to ease the state's fiscal crisis by increasing sales taxes by three-fourths of a cent and gas taxes by 13 cents a gallon, starting in February. The plan would add a surcharge of 2.5% to everyone's 2009 state income tax bill.

The rumble you hear is the stampede of productive people fleeing the state.

My brother sent me a link to ecofont, and true-type font that will save printer ink/toner by leaving out tiny bits of letters that are imperceptible when printed onto paper.


In yet another overreach in the War on Drugs, Missouri police and sheriffs are pushing for a law banning non-prescription sales of pseudoephederine because it is an essential ingredient of meth.

If you live in Missouri, you could soon be forced to get a prescription to buy certain cold medicines.

A group of police officers wants over-the-counter drugs that contain pseudoephederine to be made prescription medications.

Pseudoephederine is a popular decongestant.

But it is also often abused, used as a key ingredient to make the dangerous, addictive, and illegal drug, meth.

"No longer do people have to worry that the house next door to them, or that the trailer home next door to them, is going to explode, " says Franklin County Sheriff's Sergeant Jason Grellner.

Seriously? Seriously. I'm supposed to waste time and money seeing a doctor when I've got a cold because some people live in fear of exploding trailers.

As TDS points out, this isn't law enforcement, it's a farce.

Here's a fun new bloggy site focused on Things You Should Do around the country. I'll have to check out my options in Missouri!

If you haven't watched the actual video of President Bush dodging the shoes, you'll be as impressed as I was at his ninja reflexes.

I used to play MegaTraveller. I could sit around and generate characters for hours... just imagining the stories.

This "Beware of the Doghouse" ad is one of the most insulting pieces of trash that I've seen in a long time. It's very sad that anyone would think so little of their wife that they'd find it amusing to humiliate women as a gender in this manner.

Of course, I assume that the men in the ad were the intended butts of the joke, but that implicit intention really makes women look even worse.

Thankfully my wife is nothing like the ungrateful shrews that seem so prevalent in pop culture.

Newsflash for teenage girls: a "promise ring" means he thinks you'll think he's committed enough to you that you'll have sex with him.

"BusinessWeek Writers" bizarrely claim that carbon offsets don't influence behavior, and list offsets as the worst idea of 2008.

Worst Idea

Carbon Offsets

The wanna-be environmentalist's "Get out of Jail Free" card, carbon offsets enable companies or individuals to invest in tree farms or wind power as a way to compensate for their carbon footprints. Problem is, offsets don't change behavior. They're just the green equivalent of confession, making people feel better about their eco-sins but not stopping them from committing them.

BusinessWeek needs to brush up on its economics; the whole field can be summarized in one sentence: "prices influence behavior". A person who chooses to offset their carbon use will have to buy offsets in order to do so, that the price of those offsets will necessarily influence the buyer's behavior.

I know people who brew small batches of beer for a hobby, but does anyone grow their own tobacco for fun?

The American auto industry has been saved from a government bailout thanks to the greed of the UAW and the rare spinal fortitude of the Republican minority.

A bailout-weary Congress killed a $14 billion package to aid struggling U.S. automakers Thursday night after a partisan dispute over union wage cuts derailed a last-ditch effort to revive the emergency aid before year's end.

Republicans, breaking sharply with President George W. Bush as his term draws to a close, refused to back federal aid for Detroit's beleaguered Big Three without a guarantee that the United Auto Workers would agree by the end of next year to wage cuts to bring their pay into line with Japanese carmakers. The UAW refused to do so before its current contract with the automakers expires in 2011.

This non-bailout will give the American auto industry a chance to survive, hopefully after passing through a bankruptcy reorganization. The idea that the industry could be saved by taking money from competent taxpayers and companies and "redistributing" it to failures was idiotic.

What's more, Americans are solidly against an auto bailout. I own a Honda and a Jeep -- and I like both -- but I will never buy a car from a company that takes a taxpayer bailout due to incompetence and malfeasance.

"When you have the star, you can't get hurt!"

Is President-elect Barack Obama tied to Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich's corruption? The governor is accused of attempting to "sell" an appointment to Obama's recently vacated Senate seat and was arrested this morning by the FBI.

On Nov. 10, Blagojevich, his wife, Harris, Governor General Counsel, Advisor B and other Washington-based advisors participated at different times in a two-hour phone call in which they allegedly discussed, among other things, a deal involving the SEIU.

Harris allegedly said they could work out a deal with the union and the President-elect where SEIU could help the President-elect with Blagojevich’s appointment of Senate Candidate 1, while Blagojevich would obtain a position as the national director of the Change to Win campaign and SEIU would get something favorable from the President-elect in the future.

But then again, it seems like Blagojevich didn't think he would get much from Obama.

Also during that call, Blagojevich agreed it was unlikely that Obama would name him Secretary of Health and Human Services or give him an ambassadorship because of all of the negative publicity surrounding him, according to the complaint. ...

In a conversation with Harris on Nov. 11, the charges state, Blagojevich said he knew Obama wanted Senate Candidate 1 for the open seat but “they’re not willing to give me anything except appreciation. [Expletive] them.”

I sure hope Obama wasn't and isn't involved with this sort of thing.

Let's play another round of Guess The Party! A long Chicago Tribune article about Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich being investigated for corruption can't find space to mention that he's a Democrat.

A source said today that Gov. Rod Blagojevich was taken into federal custody at his North Side home this morning. The U.S. attorney's office would not confirm the information, and a spokesman for the governor did not immediately return a phone call for comment.

A three-year federal corruption investigation of pay-to-play politics in Gov. Rod Blagojevich's administration has expanded to include his impending selection of a new U.S. senator to succeed President-elect Barack Obama, the Tribune has learned.

I bet if he had an "R" after his name they'd be sure to let us know.

Northwestern Mutual has created a longevity game based on their actuarial tables. (It didn't work in Firefox for me.) I'm expected to live to be 87!

Actually, I plan on living forever -- and so far so good.

(HT: My Money Blog.)

Here's a long examination of how Wal-Mart performed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Is centrally directed emergency response and recovery from a natural disaster the only viable option anymore? This belief “seems to be faulty,” judging from the poor response from the federal government and the comparatively effective response from private retailers after Hurricane Katrina, argues economist Steven Horwitz, Ph.D. “Big-box retailers such as Wal-Mart were extraordinarily successful in providing help to damaged communities in the days, weeks, and months after the storm,” he declared.

I hope our government bureaucrats are reading this.

Leftists don't like the way Obama's cabinet is shaping up.

Liberals are growing increasingly nervous – and some just flat-out angry – that President-elect Barack Obama seems to be stiffing them on Cabinet jobs and policy choices.

Obama has reversed pledges to immediately repeal tax cuts for the wealthy and take on Big Oil. He’s hedged his call for a quick drawdown in Iraq. And he’s stocking his White House with anything but stalwarts of the left.

Now some are shedding a reluctance to puncture the liberal euphoria at being rid of President George W. Bush to say, in effect, that the new boss looks like the old boss.

“He has confirmed what our suspicions were by surrounding himself with a centrist to right cabinet. But we do hope that before it's all over we can get at least one authentic progressive appointment,” said Tim Carpenter, national director of the Progressive Democrats of America.

They told me that if I voted for John McCain, we’d get a third Bush term. And they were right!

The joke's the same no matter which party wins: the ideologues are thrown under the bus when they're no longer needed.

Alzheimer's Disease may be caused by the herpes simplex 1 virus.

The virus behind cold sores is a major cause of the insoluble protein plaques found in the brains of Alzheimer's disease sufferers, University of Manchester researchers have revealed.

They believe the herpes simplex virus is a significant factor in developing the debilitating disease and could be treated by antiviral agents such as acyclovir, which is already used to treat cold sores and other diseases caused by the herpes virus. Another future possibility is vaccination against the virus to prevent the development of the disease in the first place.

If antiviral medications can stop the virus then we could cure Alzheimer's at the source rather than just treating the symptoms.

(HT: RD.)

The police can't always protect you, which is why it is the responsibility of every mentally and physically capable adult to provide for his own protection.

A city alderman frustrated with the police response to rising crime called Tuesday on residents to arm themselves to protect their lives and property.

Alderman Charles Quincy Troupe said police are ineffective, outnumbered or don't care about the increase in crime in his north St. Louis ward. St. Louis has had 157 homicides in 2008, 33 more than last year at this time.

"The community has to be ready to defend itself, because it's clear the economy is going to get worse, and criminals are getting more bold," Troupe, 72, said Tuesday.

Troupe said that when he and residents approached a district police commander last year, they were told "there was nothing he could do to protect us and the community ... that he didn't have the manpower."

Even the best police can't be everywhere. Usually the only people attending a violent crime are the perpetrator and the victim... and the police show up later to draw chalk outlines. You can bet that the perpetrator will be armed.

Police did not immediately return requests for comment. Chief Dan Isom wrote Tuesday in a department blog that citizens arming themselves will lead to more danger, not less, he said.

Neighborhood watch groups, and the hard work of helping to eradicate poverty and other social ills, are better crime-prevention tools, he said. ...

"Much of the problem is free and easy access to guns," Rosenfeld said. "This hope that by putting guns in the right hands will have an influence on criminals is a false hope. There's no evidence for that."

The evidence shows that crime goes down when law-abiding citizens carry weapons.

For the first time, researchers analyzed crime statistics for all 3,054 counties in the United Sates between 1977 and 1992, according to one of the authors of the unpublished study, Professor John Lott. After adjusting for a general fall in crime rates, the study found that:

* In the 31 states that now have "concealed right to carry" laws, murders were down, on average, by 8.5 percent.

* Rapes were down 5 percent and serious assaults by 7 percent.

* In cities with populations of more than 250,000, murder rates dropped after the passage of such laws by an average of 13.5 percent.

Either St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and Police Chief Dan Isom are ignorant of the data, or they're purposefully putting citizens in danger to make their own lives easier.

Spengler takes a grim view of Obama's economic team.

Without leverage, the clever folk around Barack Obama are fleas without a dog. None of them invented anything, introduced an important new product, opened a new market, or did anything that reached into the lives of ordinary people. They wore expensive cufflinks, read balance sheets, exercised regularly, sat on philanthropic boards, and assumed that their flea's ride on the Reagan dog would last forever.

All they knew was leverage, and now that the world is de-levering, they are trying to put leverage back into the system. One almost can hear Mortimer Duke, Don Ameche's charcter in Trading Places, shouting, "Now, you listen to me! I want trading reopened right now. Get those brokers back in here! Turn those machines back on!"

I'd rather have executives from successful companies working on the economy rather than a bunch of now-failed bankers.

Mark Roth discovers that hydrogen sulfide derivatives may be useful for putting wounded soldiers in suspended animation until they can be taken to a hospital.

See, it wasn't like Roth ever let go of the dream of immortality. He was still obsessed with the lumps. He just began thinking about them in a different way. Okay, the lumps are immortal -- so what do they do; how do they achieve that end? And here's the answer: They do nothing. They're quiescent. They're couch potatoes! They're immortal, because for all intents and purposes -- in terms of movement -- they're already dead! And maybe that's what immortality is. People always think of it in terms of living forever. But maybe it just means not dying -- not dying when you're supposed to die, surviving the mortal moments. We don't know what life is, anyway. Not really. We just know what life does -- it burns oxygen. It's a process of combustion. We're all just slow-burning candles, making our way through our allotment of precious O2 until it becomes our toxin, until we burn out, until we get old and die. But we live on 21 percent oxygen, just as we live at 37 degrees. They're related. Decrease the oxygen to 5 percent, we die. But, look, the concentration of oxygen in the blood that runs through our capillaries is only 2 or 3 percent. We're almost dead already! So what if we turn down the candle's need for oxygen? What if we dim the candle so much that we don't even have the energy to die?

And so began Mark Roth's career as a deanimator. As a gorker. Gorking is...well, gorking. You take away some creature's supply of oxygen, you're gorking it, man. The trick, of course, is bringing it back. In the beginning, that wasn't so easy, because in the beginning Roth was just free-associating. He was using heavy water, rat poison, and he was a deanimator without being a reanimator. Other scientists were laughing at him: Hey, Roth, did you suspend anything today? But then he did. He gorked some nematodes -- roundworms -- with nitrogen. An inert gas, sure, but it crowded out the oxygen available to them; it diminished the atmosphere. Roth took them to the Death Hole, which was an atmosphere of less than 1 percent oxygen. They died. But then he took them beyond the Death Hole, and they came back when oxygen was reintroduced. There was life beyond the Death Hole! So he tried carbon monoxide. Talk about gorking: Colorless, odorless, the agent of choice for many of the world's yearly cull of suicides, CO is Thanatos in a bottle -- but it didn't kill the worms. It just dimmed the candle, not by taking away the supply of oxygen but rather by preventing the worms from using it. And that was the leap that Roth made -- employing toxins for benefit. Using one of the most toxic substances known to man to interfere with the toxic effects of oxygen. See, when creatures die of hypoxia, they don't die because they don't have enough oxygen; they die because they're still burning the oxygen they don't have enough of. What Roth did was find a way to turn off -- or turn down -- the fire. What he did was find a way to separate the living cell not from oxygen itself but from the capacity to use it.

I'm not sure if Esquire's writing style is to my liking, but the content is interesting.

Is our government actually doing something right? Prescription handguns may be covered by Medicare.

We recently reported about a new 9mm handgun that was designed for folks suffering from arthritis and other disabilities affecting the hands. Constitution Arms, the manufacturer of the firearm, is reporting that the FDA has formally designated the gun as a medical gadget.

(HT: NW.)

Spectrum has a good overview of artificial intelligence in games, now and moving into the future.

Hard to imagine a worse PR move than Planned Parenthood offering abortion gift certificates for Christmas.

The official explained the group offers a range of services that can be purchased with the gift cards including pap smears, breast exams, birth control prescriptions and abortions. The organization performs about 5,000 abortions a year, according to one published figure, out of 92,000 patients treated.

Indiana's health commissioner, Judy Monroe, ignores the mounting political denunciations and calls the idea "really a meaningful gift."

Indiana's Right to Life president, Mike Fichter, concisely frames reality.

But Fichter is unpersuaded. "The tragedy is that almost 6,000 fewer children will be celebrating a first Christmas this year," he said, "because they were aborted in Planned Parenthood's Indiana clinics."

It's hard to imagine anything more ghoulish than slaughtering babies for profit.

(HT: DeoDuce.)

With their enlarged majority, would it be too much to hope that Democrats would start disowning their corrupt members for a change? Instapundit names a few names:

Rep. Rangel may prove Democrats’ albatross amid party’s loud claims of public integrity. Well, along with William Jefferson, Chris Dodd, Kent Conrad, Barney Frank . . . .

But don't forget Alcee Hastings just because he hasn't been in the news recently!

My friend Bernardo Malfitano gave me permission to post this email he wrote to me explaining why there aren't any blended wing body commercial aircraft.

I think it's just "too different".

A couple years ago, someone used a picture of McDonnell Douglas' BWB model, and a CG image from Popular Science from about 8 years ago, and created a fake press-release/leak type thing saying that the "797" would be a BWB. (Do some Googling, you can find it) Despite the obvious fakery (the next "7 N 7" will almost certainly be a 737 replacement, and aviation fans like myself recognized the images used, and the specs listed for the BWB were insane like 900 seats), many aviation sites ended up seeing discussions about the feasibility of introducing of a BWB into commercial service. Some of the points raised were:

- The way that cargo/luggage, food, trash, people, etc, are loaded onto a commercial jet today assumes that you have access to the side of the fuselage, i.e. these mechanisms depend on systems that push people and things horizontally into or out of the side. In a BWB, the "sides" are the leading and trailing edges, and it might not be possible to put doors there, so things would have to be loaded up straight into the belly. That would require a whole new fleet of carts and belts and stairs and so on to get people and luggage and cargo and food and trash into/out of the jet. You'd need to load a BB pretty much the same way you load a bomber.

- Since you can't really put doors on the sides (except perhaps at the very front), how do people get out in case of a belly landing or water landing? You'd probably need a way to get them out onto the top.

- If you're seated in a conventional tube-shaped fuselage, you're at MOST a few seats from the centerline. When the airplane banks, your butt goes up and down a few inches, maybe a foot. But in a BWB you'd have many more people per row, and some of them would be seated way out, and would move up and down several feet when the plane banks. Would people be ok with this? (Then again, people get used to stuff like this. Notice that air sickness bags are not regularly seen anymore. And I would guess that fewer people get carsick today than they did, say, 70 years ago).

- It's harder for the manufacturer to release modified versions. If you want a bigger or smaller version of a 737 or 787 or A320 or whatever, you add or remove a cylindrical section to the tube (and maybe add some area to the wingtips). With a BWB, the cross-section is nowhere near constant in any direction, so you can't really take one and make a bigger or smaller version without redoing the whole thing.

- It's not 100% understood how BWBs stall, or how they spin. A strong gust of sideways wind could induce some funky spinning, and it may or may not be possible to recover. Controllability at the slow-speed edge of the envelope could depend drastically on what we now think are minor aspects to the configuration, like where the engines are and where the control surfaces are relative to each other and to the curvature of the wing. And dynamic stability could be an issue (it has been for all the Northrop flying wings). These are the kind of thing that a fly-by-wire system and big control surfaces (as in the F-22) can overcome, but we don't know 100% for sure, and for commercial operations you'd want something less draggy than the F-22's huge control surfaces. I think it's this set of questions that the X-48 program aims to clear up.

Here are some links about the "797 BWB" thing:

More BWB stuff from the last time this idea was "hot" (late 90s), when McDonnell Douglas and NASA Dryden and Stanford were cooperating in looking into the technology:

And of course, the X-48:

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