Saturday, July 13, 2002

Great post on Cold Fury which expresses exactly why I shudder whenever I hear anyone suggest we need some new law or regulation to deal with a problem. Laws against murder not enough, let's have additional laws to examine whether the murderer hated the victim personally, hated him because of his race or just because he wanted some cash. Laws against fraud not sufficient lets make special penalties for CEO's who commit fraud (or perhaps just made bad decisions) in bear markets when their companies go bust. Tobacco bad, numerous laws about where and how you can smoke plus big fines for evil tobacco companies but subsidies for saintly tobacco farmers. Soon congress will start specializing laws by eye color.
Excellent piece by Victor Davis Hanson on European moral hypocrisy:

"No, it is the Europeans themselves who can be scary. We all remember the recent storm of suits, writs, and indictments that faced Mr. Pinochet when he ventured to England. No one wishes to defend such an unattractive character; but why were the Europeans so eager to put him on trial — when literally thousands of much worse war criminals roamed their continent? Whatever Pinochet did, it pales in contrast to the tally of corpses on the hands of eastern European and Russian commissars. Where are the European indictments to bring to justice the perpetrators of the 1956 Hungarian slaughter, or the executions in Czechoslovakia after 1968? Cannot we find a few dozen who ordered all those killings at the Berlin Wall? Ghastly things were done in Cyprus in 1974 that have never been fully investigated. Surely, Europeans should not allow some ex-Soviets to enter their airspace when such operatives helped to butcher thousands during the last five decades. Neither Mr. Ortega nor Mr. Castro has clean hands; are they indictable should they cross into Europe? If Iraqi government agents are in France or Germany, it is more likely that they are buying weapons than fending off EU writs over the gassing of thousands of Kurds. Many of the al Qaeda operatives who planned Sept. 11 organized themselves right under the noses of European policemen."

(via LGF)
SUPREME COURT RULES EARNINGS
SHOULD BE PROTECTED AS "ART"

Recognition of Pro-Formalist Movement Gets WorldCom, Andersen Off Hook

Washington, D.C. (SatireWire.com) — In a surprise decision that exonerates dozens of major companies, the U.S. Supreme Court today ruled that corporate earnings statements should be protected as works of art, as they "create something from nothing." [more] (from SatireWire)


Friday, July 12, 2002

Why the government is not the right group to fix the accounting mess:

"There's something perplexing about the incessant cry for the federal government to do something about corporate wrongdoing, other than put bad guys in jail.
After all, if honest and transparent accounting is the objective, the federal government isn't the first place you would look.
The federal government has a $2 trillion budget. It routinely cannot account for billions of dollars at any given point in time
It doesn't put the money in the wrong category, as WorldCom allegedly did. It literally has no idea where the money is.
The federal government makes no current provision for the future cost of pension obligations.
And like Enron, the federal government hides substantial debt obligations in off-book affiliates."
Here is a very extensive article on the recent changes in the Palestinian Authority.
Here is a funny headline: "99 alien fish snagged in pond". They aren't really alien. They are Chinese fish that were found in a Maryland pond (a pet owner dumped two of them in there two years ago." Apparently the authorities are worried because "the northern snakehead can grow to be 3 feet long and has a voracious appetite. The situation is of special concern to authorities because the Little Patuxent River is about 75 yards from the pond, and northern snakeheads can live three days out of water and even walk short distances on their fins in search of food." Sounds like a pretty kickass fish to me.
Government Overreaction File:
A 12 year old girl in Colorado is on probation because of an 11 week overdue library book. It's a good thing she didn't accidentally damage the book she might be doing hard time now.
Here is a great quote from George Orwell arguing against Pacifism in WWII (thanks to Michael Kelly who used this quote in an anti-pacifist essay of his back in September):

"Pacifism is objectively pro-Fascist. This is elementary common sense. If you hamper the war effort of one side you automatically help out that of the other. Nor is there any real way of remaining outside such a war as the present one. In practice, 'he that is not with me is against me.' "

Here is a nice biased article title "Armed Pilots? Many Travelers Are Gun-Shy." Guess where it is? Okay yeah I know, that's too easy a question (of course its the New York Times). God forbid they call it, "Armed Pilots? Mixed Opinions." In one part the "reporter" writes:

"In nearly four dozen interviews in seven major airports, opponents of the idea outnumbered supporters by a ratio of roughly 3 to 2, and expressed deep concern about the consequences of using a gun on an airplane."

Does interviewing less than 7 people per airport in 7 airports really make a scientific poll? I also like the use of the word "roughly". So how rough? 58 to 42? 55 to 45? How typical.
So according to the mother of the little girl who is at the center of the "Under God" case, her daughter is a practicing Christian, who goes to church, and willingly recites the full Pledge. So hopefully the case is thrown out just for that reason. There has to be an injured party in order for there to be a case and it looks like there isn't one in this particular case.
Sesame Street is planning on introducing an HIV-positive muppet. Have they forgotten that this is a kids show, aimed explicitly at those between the ages of 3 and 7? Its supposed to be happy and magical, not so serious that they start giving possibly fatal diseases to their characters. What's next, a cancer muppet? A heart disease muppet? Will muppets start getting into car accidents? Will they start having heroine addictions? Will there be a cross-over episode with the Meet the Feebles cast?

Thursday, July 11, 2002

So more promising news from Iran. First, it looks like when militias in the town of Isfahan shot at anti-government demonstrators, some of the local police and some "Guardians of the Revolution" shot back. Also, the Imam of the city resigned his post in protest of the government's corruption, something that has never happened in the history of the Islamic Republic. In his resignation letter he said:

""I am embarrassed and ashamed. You cannot blame (the United States and the Shah) for the failures and corruption of our country. This has all resulted in our people turning away from Islam, rising unemployment, inflation, high cost of living, a 'satanic gap' between the rich and the poor, an ailing economy, government corruption and addiction." He describes the regime as a vast mafia that responsible for "a failing foreign policy, corruption, bribery, brain drain, and the harassment and jailing of journalists and writers." These people, he said, "are riding on a stupid camel of power onto the field of politics." And worst of all, this mafia gang funds and supports vigilante forces who "continuously sharpen their dinosaur fangs of violence, with the hope of marrying their ugly, oppressive, fear-evoking bride of violence to religion.""

So here are a couple things that seems nonsensical and shows that people working for ad agencies are so overpaid. The first thing I'd like to talk about is a new DaimlerChrysler ad which was written about today in the WSJ that goes like this:

"A German named Einstein showed us the universe in a whole new light. An American named Edison turned it on. And putting German and American minds together is bringing a new level of quality to Chrysler ... one of the proud American brands of DaimlerChrysler."

That is in somewhat bad taste as Einstein had to flee Nazi Germany because they wanted to turn him into soap. Either that or use him as slave labor on their wonderful Mercedes. Sorry you can't try to kill a man because you don't consider him German and then claim him as your own. I'm probably being overly sensitive but who comes up with an idea for a commercial like this and doesn't realize the implications? Oh yeah, I forgot, ad agencies are full of English majors.

Oh and another reason I think ad execs are overpaid is that the best new name for PricewaterhouseCoopers Consulting they could come up with was "Monday". Yes you got it. Monday. Who in the heck would call their company monday? Nobody likes mondays. Not Garfield, not bank tellers, and certainly not me. The Mammas and the Pappas once wrote in a song, "Monday, Monday, can't trust that day." I heard that one alternate new name was "Verb". I can't believe people get paid to come up with these idiotic names. If they wanted something common why didn't they just pick "The" or "Is" or something. Looks like the crack problem hasn't disappeared after all. It's moved out of the inner city and into advertising agency offices.

I feel better now.
Looks like Israel is going to put one of the PA's leading masterminds on trial in civilian court. It will be interesting to see international reaction to this since they have vehemently been against assasination. If they also oppose trial in civilian courts it will be obvious that they just want Israel to roll over and die.
So here is something pretty cool. A humvee armed with a laser which will be used to blast mines.
Where, exactly, did Mr. Giuliani get $6.8 Million? Hasn't he been in public service for the last 30 years? (Actually the article says he's getting $8 Million in speaking fees this year). Let's see Clinton (B) got what? $12 Million advance for a book he has yet to write a page of + $100K/engagement. Clinton (H) got $8 million for her book plus all the furniture and china she could steal from the White House. 'Public service' is a nice gig, eh?
A judge has released a man accused of obtaining a fake Visa at the embassy in Qatar. He will be monitored electronically. Why was he released instead of being returned to Qatar? What is the INS doing?
At least the House is showing a small bit of sense as they vote overwhelmingly to let pilots carry guns on board. Norman "Make Sure No One Ever Wants to Fly Again" Mineta and the White House still oppose this (which is really quite odd since the White House is pro-gun generally) and the Senate is mixed.
Lucy may have to move over. French scientists have discovered a skull which may be the earliest known member of the human family by more than one million years.
Topless car washes. This would be merely amusing except the story says the city council is "hastily trying to enact a law to prevent topless car washes". Why do they care? Why do politicians feel the need to legislate every last aspect of our lives? Are there no more pressing problems in Moscow, Idaho? If not then they would do better to just dissolve the City Council and thereby save the townspeople the expense of keeping them.

Wednesday, July 10, 2002

Here is absolutely fascinating story on how the Columbian Cocaine cartels are using technology. They are trully e-business. They have B2B exchanges where money launderers bid on dirty money!!! Absolutely brilliant. Read the whole article, it's chock full of interesting stuff. So why are we wasting billions funding a war on drugs we have no chance of winning?
The Israelis are now unfreezing funds that they owe the Palestinian Authority. They say the funds will "be provided in a way that ensures no money goes to fund terrorism." And how exactly do you do that? Any money that goes into the PA areas will simply free up money that they were actually spending on their people and send it to terrorists. What does it matter if the money they are giving the PA goes directly to terrorists or not? It only adds one more step in the terror funding process. This is like giving the hangman the rope he needs to hang you.
Ye Olde Blogge today writes about how an America West passenger was forcibly removed from an airplane because she asked if the pilots were drunk. They said she posed a security risk. Why are we giving the idiots who work at airlines so much power over us?

And here is the hilarious comment by Ye Olde Blogge:

"Fuck me gently with a chainsaw. I'll walk everywhere until my feet are bloody nubs rather than put myself in the hands of this pack of cyborgs. I can't approve of drunken pilots, but I sure can understand why pilots employed by this airline might take to drink."

By the way, if you haven't checked out Ye Olde Blogge, I definitely recommend it. Not only does she make a Heathers reference in today's post but she has a Russ Meyer reference at the top of the page ("Faster, Warblogger, Kill! Kill!"). How cool is that?
Here are a couple interesting tidbits from Iran which I saw on Stratfor:

Iranian opposition media report that security forces in shot and killed two activists in Tehran and injured two others during demonstrations marking the anniversary of student protests that shook Tehran in July 1999. A similar account comes from the city of Maydane, where two reportedly were shot and 12 injured. More protests are occurring in the cities of Isfahan, Sanandag, Ahvaz, Narmak, Islam-Shar and Mashhad.

Opposition sources report that the government has blocked or shut down almost all telephone lines in Iran, and that it is using volunteer Islamic militias and foreign security personnel rather than regular police forces. Neither of the opposition reports could be independently confirmed.

I can't even imagine a democratic Iran. Then again I couldn't imagine a democratic and friendly Russia either.


Mark Steyn has a hilarious piece today on the investigation into the motivation behind the LAX attack and how nobody seems to want to call it a hate crime. Here is my favorite part:

"That left the police with no leads. Nothing to go on. The trail's stone cold. All the FBI has is an Egyptian male, who'd complained to his apartment managers after his neighbours post-9/11 began displaying the American flag; who'd posted a banner saying "READ KORAN" on his own front door; who told his employees that he hated Israel, that the two biggest drug dealers in New York were Israelis, and that Israel was trying to wipe out the Egyptian population by flooding the country with AIDS-infected Jewess prostitutes."

"Could even the most expert psychological profiler make sense of such confusing and contradictory signs? Beats me, Sherlock. But, as Agent Garcia says, there's no indication of "anti-Israel views or any other type of racial views." Orange County's Muslim Public Affairs Council has praised Agent Garcia for his exceptionally advanced levels of sensitivity. Any moment now, they'll be demanding to know why Governor Gray Davis has failed to visit a mosque to reassure Muslims."
Okay so now the liberals are bashing Bush for being born into a rich family. Maureen Dowd's column states as fact, "despite the efforts of W. and Karl Rove to use Poppy's one-term presidency as a reverse playbook, to instead aim for the populist two-term touch of Ronald Reagan, the junior Bush now finds himself combating the same accusations of elitism that cost his father re-election." Okay so when exactly have you heard anyone other than a liberal pundit accusing W. of elitism??? Are people protesting in the streets? She makes it sound like there is this bitterness in the heart of America at Bush being rich. The only people who are bitter are journalists who think they should be praised in this society simply because they chose a profession that pays terribly. As Andrew Sullivan said in his TimeOut New York interview, "if you're a journalist to become rich, you're really stupid."
"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics." - Benjamin Disreali

Thomas Sowell comments on suspicious statistics.

Tuesday, July 09, 2002

Read this article. Replace "American" with "Israeli". The war is the same. The propaganda seems to be too. Note I'm not saying this report isn't true, just note how one sided it is.
Jonah Goldberg's father Sidney points out more leftist bias -- in dictionaries.
My wife has been wanting to get a freezer for the basement so this from Lileks column today made me laugh out loud:

"So now we have a new freezer. It’s smaller - 60 inches tall. Unlike the previous freezer, which was a 72 or 80 incher, I can look this one in the eye. I have since filled it with the basics of life: three frozen pizzas, irradiated hamburgers whose box boasts two gap-toothed towheads to guarantee purity, some Savory Turkey burgers from Happyvale Sunnybrook Farm (a wholly owned subsidiary of Fear-Drenched Deafening-Screams Slaughterhouse, Inc.) and a bottle of vodka. Also popsicles. Ready for the rest of summer.

None of these items will ever be eaten, of course; they’re there in case fourteen relatives show up without notice on a day when all the restaurants and supermarkets have burned down. They will remain in the freezer until the power fails, and they turn into limp gray slurry. Then I’ll use the vodka to disinfect the inside of the freezer."
Looks like they are making a Batman vs. Superman movie. Sure it's probably not going to be as fun as the Freddy vs. Jason movie I've been waiting for but it should still be good. I hope Batman kicks Superman's butt! Bring on the kryptonite! If any of you are feeling Shakesperean and asking "is this a nerd I see before me?" The answer is obviously yes.
It's a risk I'm willing to take.
Report says 90% of people who ask their doctor to assist in their suicide later change their minds. (But only if the doctors didn't assist them I guess).
This is pretty cool: Brain wave art. IBVA seems to have a set of interesting hardware and software to let you interface brainwave patterns to your PC for different purposes.
It looks like the Israeli pullout from the buffer zone in southern Lebanon was all for nothing. Hizbullah has announced it no longer recognizes the Israeli pullback line. Okay not too much of a suprise but you have to wonder if this event is foreshadowing something much worse (and is further evidence that land for peace doesn't work and you should never ever negotiate with terrorists). If a Palestinian state is created then what is to stop them from one day announcing they are unhappy with the borders and re-starting the murder of innocent civilians (assuming they ever stop)? Sometimes I get the feeling that the only way these problems are going to get solved is through World War III (which arguably we are in now). But that could just be the paranoid and pessimistic Russian Jew inside of me. By the way, if you want to see something that puts the conflict in simple terms and presents it concisely, check this out.
Here's the latest threat from an Al Qaeda representative: "Our suicide militants are ready and impatient to carry out attacks against U.S. and Jewish targets inside (America) and abroad." Oh NO! They are not only ready but they are also impatient! Run for the hills! God forbid we have to deal with an impatient terrorist. These guys are like cartoon characters sometimes. And not even from a good cartoon. Maybe something like Dune Buggy or Jabberjaw.
William Safire has a good op-ed on US foreign policy myths.
I think Thomas Friedman is right and Iran is really near the boiling point with some evidence of some sort of collective psychosis brewing from people (especially women) being oppressed for so long. It looks like their is a wave of husband killings in Tehran. Something has got to give over there. Hopefully good things come out of it.
So Nicholas Kristof pukes out another moral equivalence type argument today. The piece is titled "Bigotry in Islam — And Here". Andrew Sullivan skewers it nicely today so I won't rant about it here though I do have one thing to add. How many recenlty immigrated Arab cab drivers do you meet in the city? And how many more Arabs would love to come to this country so that they can make a living for their family while also freely practicing their religion? How many white Christian's and Jews are thinking about immigrating into Saudi Arabia for the same reasons? 'Nuff said.
So here is a troubling statistic which doesn't bode well for our friends the Saudi's, and the other oil-dependent nations, and probably means that we will be constantly intervening in the middle east until they all reform their despotic regimes. According to the International Energy Agency, OPEC’s inflation adjusted per capita oil income has fallen from $1,816 in 1980 to $327 today. Saudi Arabia’s per capita oil income is $2,112 now as compared to $23,820 in 1980 (one thing to remember though is how the wealth is concentrated at the top and the general population only sees a fraction of this). And personally, I expect this trend to continue, thanks to fuel cells and other alternative fuels. Imagine if the Saudi's only make $200 per capita in oil income in 20 years? We're talking a level of absolute poverty here. Seems to me if we do nothing now, things are only going to get worse.
"Can I have my icecream? I finished my pizza." - Homer Simpson

I always knew bacon-cheeseburgers were good for me.

(for a more erudite discussion, see Eric Raymond's comments or Den Beste's)
Here is something I consider to be a pretty offensive headline. "New Drugs for Rich Unveiled at AIDS Conference." Included in this piece is the following quote: "Most of the sophisticated new treatments will be priced out of the reach of developing countries, where 95 percent of those infected by the virus live." Yes, those evil pharmaceutical companies hate the poor so much that they actually only want to help cure rich people. Why would they want to help dirty stinking peasants ("dirty stinking peasants" said in a french accent) anyway? This "reporter", who obviously wants to point out some social injustice, misses the point that it currently costs $800 million to develop a single successful drug (costs of failed therapies are included in this figure). And I know for a fact that these aren't manufactured for free. One of the drugs he picks on for being expensive is currently made in a manufacturing process that costs about $4000 per patient per year (though this number is supposed to go down as they improve yields over time but should still be in the $2000-$3000 range). And this is before marketing expenses. If they gave away their drugs for free, which they'd have to do to provide the drug to people in Sudan and Burkina Faso, they'd go out of business and we wouldn't have any more new innovative therapies. All the people who spend their lives having diseases we have cures for would be okay, but those with medical conditions without good therapies would be totally screwed. That seems to be a much more unfair and unjust outcome to me than charging a fair market price for a drug.

Monday, July 08, 2002

Fred on Marxism.
Bob Herbert spouts more environmental nonsense, this time about Superfund and Bush's decision to cut funding. The real problem is that Bush hasn't gone far enough and should completely eliminate this ineffective, expensive and unfair boondoggle, which has cost billions of dollars and done very little actual cleanup.

Hyperbole of the week award:
"Mother Nature has been known to tremble at the sound of the president's approaching footsteps. He's an environmental disaster zone."
Penis trees. No comment except that safe use requires that they should always be planted next to rubber trees.
Ronald Bailey takes on the report by Malthus, er Mathis Wackernagel that we are using 120% of the Earth's capacity to support humanity.
A refreshing change, an honest Arab appraisal of Arab problems as reported by Victor Davis Hanson:

"Yet this novel panel of Arab intellectuals, remarkably, didn't attribute the dismal condition of Middle Eastern society to the usual causes that Western intellectuals and academics have made so popular: racism and colonialism, multinational exploitation, Western political dominance, and all the other -isms and -ologies that we've grown accustomed to hear about from the Arabists on university campuses.

Instead, the investigators cited the subjugation of women that robs Arab society of millions of brilliant minds. Political autocracy -- either in the service of or in opposition to Islamic fundamentalism -- ensures censorship, stifles creativity, or promotes corruption. Talented scientists and intellectuals are likely to emigrate and then stay put in the West, since there is neither a cultural nor an economic outlet for their talents back home, but sure danger if they prove either honest or candid. The Internet remains hardly used. Greece, a country 30 times smaller than the Arab world, translates five times the number of books yearly."
So just in case you thought Vegan diets couldn't get any more restrictive, some Vegans are now abandoning honey because it is the product of "oppressed bees." No wonder the "Killer Bees" under John Belushi felt the need to rebel in that SNL sketch. The best part of the linked article are the quotes from the cattle rancher who says, "vegetarians don't live longer, they just look older" and "if animals weren't meant to be eaten, then why are they made out of meat?" Now, just so I don't get any emails saying Im some sort of anti-vegetarian reactionary or some such thing, I'm not against vegetarianism, I certainly see the draw and I had been one for two years. But come on folks, everything in moderation. Thanks to Lucianne for this one.
Where is Bob Herbert's piece on the coming Ice Age. When he wrote last month about the extreme warming trend in Alaska and what it forbode for global warming he might have been a little premature.
Jane Galt has a fine post laying out ground rules for civilized debate.
A friend related to me via email what he called an 'Ann Coulter' experience:

"I was sitting in a meeting this afternoon with some people I know and the fellow next to me, a few years older than me, related the story of his recent trip back to Grand Rapids, Michigan for a relatives wedding. After mentioning that a nephew came with a beautiful woman as his date, reputedly a "stripper". He a Sebastopol Liberal began to tell how shocked he was at the number of American flags he saw flying , not to mention the well maintained lawns. He particularly pointed out that he saw only one celebrate diversity bumper sticker but many Pro-choice stickers. He also put the people down because the wedding only served Reuinte wine and beer.
So in my inimitable style of getting right to the point I asked him if diversity meant that everyone had to believe his way. He looked at me like I had just lapsed into speaking Swahili. I could tell from his non response that he was not able to comprehend that people could actually have different view of life than his "correct" position.
As Coulter and Bernie Goldberg have pointed out these people do not even know that their position is actually a position and not the revealed truth.
As I read someplace on your blog -- you can't reason people out of a position that they haven't reasoned themselves into."
So the Czech police siezed 75 pounds of Semtex back in April (it was just announced today). Apparently enough to destroy a 10-15 story building. It's amazing what you can find if you take a stroll through the world's biggest garage sale, also known as Eastern Europe. By the way, guess what the name is of the company that makes Semtex??? Explosia!

Sunday, July 07, 2002

ColdFury has an hysterical post on what a Guardian article about the War of the Rings might look like.
Another superb piece by Mark Steyn:

"Out in Alberta at last week's G8 summit, there was a striking difference between Mr. Bush and his chums as they batted around how many gazillions of dollars to lavish on Africa: if Chrétien or Schroeder or Chirac says X billion, X billion it is; but President Bush can only give what Congress approves. Kofi Annan, having endured eight years of meaningless promises from Bill Clinton at these international gabfests, went so far as to express his impatience at the way these rip-roaring schemes by the global elite wind up getting stalled because of the votes of obscure Senators from Missouri and North Dakota. M. Chrétien is so exquisitely imperial a Prime Minister he thought nothing of tying explicitly the money earmarked for Africa to his own continuation in office, but, alas for the convenience of Secretary-General Annan, America is not a one-man state.

That's where the EU, in their haste to line up at the Eurinals and spray their contempt over Bush, are missing the point. Who is this arrogant cowboy, they sneer, to tell the Palestinians whom they can vote for. Actually, that's not what Bush said. The guys who tell people who they can vote for are the Europeans. Only a couple weeks back, Tony Blair and Gerhard Schroeder told the French to vote for Chirac. In February, the Belgian Foreign Minister threatened sanctions against Italy if they voted for Umberto Bossi's Northern League. When Austria proved less pliable and admitted duly elected members of Joerg Haider's Freedom Party to the coalition government, the EU did, indeed, impose sanctions."
Another Lileks Moment
Why you need to be very explicit with children: Yesterday my wife saw my youngest daughter (almost age 4) climbing on a desk chair (swivel with wheels) to get a toy from a high shelf. My wife took her down and told her that it was very dangerous to climb on the chair like that and that she should use a step stool (very stable wide bottomed) to get things from the shelves. Later in the day I found my daughter on the step stool which she had put on top of the desk chair, like some Cirque du Soleil acrobat. She said her mother told her to do it.