Saturday, July 20, 2002

Byron York details Terry McAuliffe's (ahem) business transactions. You have to imagine that the only reason McAuliffe contines to harp on Bush's Harken transaction (which amounts to nothing) is that he knows the mainstream press will continue to publish his empty innuendoes about Bush while ignoring his own far shadier collection of deals.

Friday, July 19, 2002

Well at least Europe is willing to go to war over serious matters.
Camille Paglia has a fine article at Frontpage:

"The larger issue is that gay life in the U.S. has increasingly become a cultural wasteland. I began attacking what I called "gay Stalinism" over a decade ago. In "Junk Bonds and Corporate Raiders", a 1991 expose in Arion (reprinted in my 1992 essay collection, Sex, Art, and American Culture), I rebuked "queer theorists" for their infatuation with poststructuralism and postmodernism. The glib, amoral Michel Foucault, I argued, was no role model for gays. Instead I celebrated the humanistic gay tradition extending from Walt Whitman and Oscar Wilde to Tennessee Williams and Allen Ginsberg, all of whom had profoundly influenced my thinking. (The muddled Goldstein has borrowed this among other things from me without attribution.) My in-depth study of Whitman and Wilde is contained in my 700-page book, Sexual Personae, published in 1990.

There was a time when gay men were known for their scathingly independent minds and their encyclopedic knowledge of culture. The welcome relaxation of legal and social sanctions against homosexuality over the past 30 years has paradoxically weakened the unsentimental powers of observation for which gays, as outsiders, were once renowned. Gay men used to be ferocious exemplars of free thought and free speech. But within 15 years of the 1969 Stonewall rebellion, an insidious totalitarianism infected gay activism, parallel to what was occurring in feminism in the Catharine MacKinnon/Andrea Dworkin era. Intolerance and witch hunts became the norm.
...
As a libertarian, I have warned about the dangers to civil rights in a bureaucratic expansion of government authority--the intrusive octopus that gay leftists dream of in their nanny-care utopia of cradle-to-grave socialism. I have also criticized the splintering of liberal politics into special-interest groups clamoring for government boondoggles. The truly progressive stance, in my view, is to argue for legal protection of all consensual, nonconformist behavior, thus allying gays and the transgendered with bohemian heterosexuals.
...
There have been seismic shifts in feminism and gay politics over the past decade. My wing of pro-sex feminism has triumphed, and gay life in general has become more integrated with mainstream America. The fire has gone out of activism, since we are in a period of negotiation rather than confrontationalism in social-policy issues. Communication lines between gay and straight have opened dramatically, except in the most retrograde patches of religious fundamentalism. Hence the small cells still stoking their fury in feminism and gay activism are mostly fanatics--those who are still nursing childhood wounds and who cling to "the movement" as a consoling foster family. They are harmless, except when impressionable young people fall under their spell: their parochial jargon and unresolved resentments stunt the mind.

Serious problems arise when scientific inquiry is obstructed, as in the inflated myth of the "gay gene", by an excessive concern for gay sensitivities. The self-policing by the indulgent major media on these matters has come perilously close to censorship. True gay intellectuals should encourage open discussion of the genesis of homosexuality, a complex subject that has been in limbo, a political blackout, for 20 years. We must demand equality before the law, but that does not excuse us from the philosophic obligation of self-knowledge. Heterosexuality and homosexuality need to be objectively studied by psychologists and historians as interrelated dynamic systems that change from culture to culture."
Buckymedicine.

""One of the best ways to use fullerenes' unique structures is as scaffolding for building drug molecules, says Friedman, now at the University of Missouri in Kansas City. "You can think of the fullerene as a molecular pincushion," agrees Uri Sagman of C Sixty, a small, Toronto company specializing in developing fullerenes for biomedical uses.

A buckyball is akin to a benzene molecule, a hexagonal ring of carbon atoms used widely to make pharmaceuticals, says Sagman. Benzene can be tailored with various chemical appendages, but it's planar and floppy, so the added chemical groups sometimes interfere with one another, he says.

Most drug molecules are, like benzene-based pharmaceuticals, flexible in solution. So, it's difficult to build a molecule with the precision needed to dictate intimate interactions with a target molecule, such as a protein on a cell surface, says Sagman. Because a buckyball is rigid, researchers can decorate it with clusters of atoms at specified angles and distances from one another, features that hold steady as they match up with a target."
I never thought I'd see the day but there is an anti-corn tirade in the New York Times. Sometimes I think that the logical extension of environmentalism would turn back the clock on both the industrial and the agricultural revolutions. How about a compromise, they give up their Starbucks and blueberry muffins and become hunter gatherers. And we enjoy life.
More horrors (and here) from another workers paradise, but it's wrong to call them evil. We, afterall, give our prisoners creamy peanut butter instead of chunky and refuse to save their ice cream for later so who are we to judge other cultures? Can't forget the obligatory moral equivalence.
Sorry Max, you obviously just became loud, aggressive and obnoxious when you got older. Besides I did state that these were averages and that both had wide and overlapping distributions.

Thursday, July 18, 2002

In reference to John's latest post I just wanted to tell him to stop oppressing me with his social norms. He says, "little boys are loud, aggressive and obnoxious.Little girls are quieter, more emotional and introspective." Actually I was quiet and introspective. So are you saying I was acting like a little girl John? For a guy who doesn't even know the difference between a schmuck and a putz you certainly think you know a lot about the differences between little boys and girls.

;-)

This little piece of PC idiocy from a NYT Circuits article about online toyshops specializing in travel toys for kids:

" The Travel Tots backpacks, which hold age-appropriate activities to appeal to both readers and pre-readers, had one obvious drawback. They reinforced traditional male and female roles in their selections, offering pinkcentric merchandise, Mermaid stickers and a travel game called Hairdo Harriet for girls. For boys, the selection leaned toward Chinese dragon tattoos and an invisible-ink game book. To avoid perpetuating stereotypes, I could have chosen one of the Quick Trip backpacks suitable for either girls or boys for $12.95.

"We don't ever want to pigeonhole girls or boys into any kind of role," said John Keen, Travel Tots's owner. "But I notice that my own three girls tend to gravitate toward pink and green and things that have rainbows."

To be honest, so does my 4-year-old. Not that I am proud of that tendency. In fact, I agonize over it. "Did I socialize her, unknowingly, to like pink?" I asked.

"Now, that's a question for a sociologist or a psychologist," Mr. Keen said. "Maybe it just depends on the kid."

Maybe. " [Emphasis mine]

Yeesh! Give me a break. I agonize whether my kids will hurt themselves by doing one of the numerous stupid things small children do when you turn your head or whether my older daughter will have trouble making friends when she starts school because she's shy in new social situations or whether they'll get knocked up or start using cocaine in the 8th grade. Not whether I have unknowingly socialized my daughters to prefer pink to blue (so far their stated favorite color changes weekly). These whining PC NYT writers have got to come back to the real world. Little boys and little girls are different, a fact obvious to everyone except the social 'science' types who study childhood behaviour. Little boys tend to be loud, aggressive and obnoxious. Little girls tend to be quieter, more emotional and introspective. Both have wide and overlapping distributions of behaviour. That's what makes them individuals. Maybe.
So remember how I wrote about that Pakistani woman who was gang raped because of orders from her tribal council? Well according to this letter to the editor in the New York Times there was something even more horrible that took place:

"I was horrified to read about the Pakistani woman who was gang raped by four men to punish her family for a crime probably not committed. But even more horrifying was the woman's statement that she wants to continue living to see her tormentors hanged."

How is that "even more horrifying?" That's not even as stupid as a moral equivalence argument since its saying a victim is being more horrible than her tormenters because she wants justice done. Remember when Michael Dukakis was asked by Bernard Shaw during the 1988 election what he would do if his wife was brutally raped and murdered and he didn't seem like he would be that upset? That seems to be the type of person this reader likes. I'm flabbergasted that anyone would say something like that. Something tells me that unless you have had the experience of being gang raped, you shouldn't be chastising the victim for wanting the perpatrators punished. Thanks to Best of the Web for pointing this letter out. God, I'm so pissed. Deep breaths.
The FCC has just allowed the telephone company to sell customer data without your permission. This data would include your phone number, who you call, when you call and how long you talk for. Before they first had to get your permission. Its really scary how little privacy you have.
Here is a funny little rant by Neal Boortz:

"Washed-up pop star George Michael makes some anti-American statements. He produces a music video in which he portrays British Prime Minister Tony Blair as Bush's lap dog. He speaks against America's war on terror. He doesn't want America to invade Iraq. Now he's being criticized by Americans – and he says it's all homophobia?"

Well Neal, don't forget, criticism of that child molesting freak Michael Jackson is all racism.
The One-Minute Democratic Speech-Maker.
Excellent article by Elizabeth Nickson in the National Post. (via The Safety Valve (via Ranting and Raviing))

"Now if you think you have heard this before, it's because you have. Endlessly, from all claim participants for decades. And this newspaper refuted these claims efficiently, rationally, and for all time, in last Friday's lead editorial. Except by the way, the part about the peaceful pre-contact cultures. There is solid evidence to suggest that natives are just as human as every other race, and pre-contact, on the West Coast, there was pre-existing disease and seasonal starvation, some tribes kept slaves, they fought constantly over territory, and in some tribes, women were treated as pack animals.

So, having nothing to lose, I take a stab.

Does Seymour think that the prejudice he feels might have something to do with the fact that natives generally do not educate themselves, get jobs, build careers, stick to them, build equity, and pay for things, like everyone else? Does he think that resentment might flow from the vast, seemingly useless, even destructive, transfers from Canada to the trillion nations? Immigrant group after immigrant group has come to this country with absolutely nothing, zero, zip and built prosperous useful lives, why can't natives? Does he think that the solution might be as simple as their letting go of their grievances and their demands for ever-increasing money, land and royalties, joining the rest of us, and working for a living, side by side, with every other race under the sun, like everyone else in Canada?"
Some fine rants at GOCInAtlanta. The heat and humidity down there must be making him particularly cranky. My kind of guy.
Excellent post on option expensing from More Than Zero. I have had similar discussions with colleagues on why just 'expensing options' is not the simple fix-all it is made out to be. I would also point out that it is a counter-cyclical earnings adjustment so that when earnings are up and stock prices (presumably) with them the greater option expense will offset the higher earnings, when earnings and stock prices are down there will be a negative ie upward adjustment to earnings from the now lower option valuation. There is nothing wrong with this, per se, but I predict here publicly that if rules are adopted by FASB to require expensing of options that in a few years we will hear complaints about companies 'padding' their earnings with reduced option costs when the stock price is down.
For real reform I am actually more in favor of doing away with option grants altogether and replacing them with outright stock grants with long blackout periods. This would remove the one-sided incentives executives have to push the price up short-term ignoring long-term company health and success. Of course, I think this should be done through shareholder initiatives rather than government ones.
I am frightened and dismayed when I find I actually agree with Bob Herbert these days. But he doesn't call for full legalization he just calls for a rollback of the idiotic Rockefeller laws so I can't say we are completely on the same page.
Reasons for even less sleep:

The technique used to create the first synthetic polio virus, revealed last week, could be also used to recreate Ebola or the 1918 flu strain that killed up to 40 million people [more]
Quantum entanglement more robust than expected. [more]
One of the many reasons my wife will be living off my life insurance proceeds for many years.
Paul Craig Roberts on accounting and accountability.
I knew there was something keeping my dementia at bay. [more]
Excellent piece by Robert Samuelson in the Washington Post about the dangers of 'reform' mania:

"...We live in an era of moral exhibitionism. Every reform moment is an opportunity for public figures -- politicians, TV commentators, columnists -- to strut their self-righteousness. These crusades become orgies of rhetorical self-promotion. This is why the present campaign to restore confidence in the stock market is, almost certainly, backfiring.

Starting with the president, politicians compete to show how outraged they are and how tough they'll be on corporate "crooks" and "cheats." Pundits ooze indignation. Is there any rhetorical exercise easier than assailing executive greed? Watching this spectacle, most sane investors must feel disillusioned. There are genuine scandals: WorldCom, Enron, Tyco. But the din of denunciation makes all of corporate America seem a cesspool of dishonesty.
...
Some proposals before Congress might improve accounting reliability. But financial markets are likely to cure accounting inadequacies faster than Congress. Having been hurt by misleading financial statements, big investors are demanding more detail and clarity. Companies whose numbers are suspect will suffer through lower stock prices. Some companies -- notably, Coca-Cola -- have even decided to include the cost of stock options in income statements.

By contrast, some congressional "reforms" clearly overreach. By a 97-0 vote, the Senate passed a provision to make "any scheme or artifice" that defrauded investors a crime. This sweeping language could unwisely criminalize any bad business judgment and invite random investigations by ambitious prosecutors. Its appeal is political. It allows senators to fulminate about how they're going to toss corporate thugs in the slammer. Great sound bites."
I received this note from a friend:

Heard this author on the radio this afternoon and she sounds like she's got the nub of the problem -- moral equivalency and the teaching that judging anyone is wrong.
I heard the most astonishing thing today when someone referred to large vehicles like truck and SUV's as "killer cars". Now machinery is evil but people aren't. I didn't take the time to mention that these large vehicles are responsible for a lower vehicular death rate because it would be futile . She's from Sebastopol and guess what? She a pregnant unmarried hippie and drives an old school bus -- ironic or stupid I've given up trying to decide.

Wednesday, July 17, 2002

Norwegian Blogger explains that the EU is a union of prosperity and innovation. (Yes, of course he's kidding). (via Blissful Knowledge)
Is there such a lack of educated, intelligent, hard-working folks in the world who want to enter the U.S. that we need to loosen restrictions against keeping deported felons out?
Holman W. Jenkins op-ed on current myths about business. The author of this uninformed drivel should read it carefully.
Larry Miller on the deep mystery of the shooter's motives at LAX.
Thomas Sowell takes on 'economically illiterate activists'. Amen.
'The Graduate' updated

"I just want to say one word to you...just one word."--Mr. McGuire to Benjamin Braddock
"Yes, sir."--Ben
"Are you listening?"--Mr.McGuire
"Yes, sir. I am."--Ben
"Nanotubes."--Mr. McGuire
Excellent essay on the foundations of government in America and it's current state:

"It's not surprising over the course of the life of a civilization that it will depart from its foundation, which in America's case includes the Constitution. People and times change; words shift meaning; memories are short.

Which is why today it sometimes is hard to see the federalist (as opposed to "federal" government) nature of our polity. The federal government consumes 20 percent of the GDP, 10 times the norm in the 19th century. Myriad regulations control our lives.

Federal authorities effectively have pre-empted the state and local governments in such matters as internal security and law and order. The feds also have pre-empted individual rights on health care (Medicare and Medicaid), retirement savings (Social Security), helping the poor (welfare), etc.

I remember growing up in the early 1960s in a country with a much smaller federal presence. More was locally governed - schools, courts, city and state governments. Nowadays, these bodies usually beg for federal grants for training or some new service, which usually come with federal controls.

One of the worst developments is the uniformity of police forces across the land. Many top-level police get training from the FBI. And the unconstitutional "war" on drugs has federalized police forces as never before. In California, local police sometimes don't use our state's property-seizure law because in the mid-1990s the Legislature made it less onerous. So the local police use federal laws, which make it easy to seize property even if a person is innocent, the Fourth Amendment guarantee against "unreasonable searches and seizures" notwithstanding.

Since 9/11

The "war on terrorism" since 9/11 has made matters worse. The U.S. Justice Department under Attorney General John Ashcroft - ironically a supporter of the Federalist Society - has increased surveillance on and decreased the liberties of citizens. The feds now can snoop on just about anybody on the Internet without a warrant.

The feds are doing this as a matter of "homeland security." But what are they securing? Not the Constitution they keep violating.

But despite these violations, the federalist impulse in the American polity remains strong. It practically is impossible to control almost 300 million people from a central authority. Even the Soviets couldn't do it, with even stronger police powers. "
Another reason to like Churchill: (from Newsmax)

The oldest surviving pet of Winston Churchill, Britain's wartime prime minister, is a parrot named "Charlie the Curser."

Decades after Churchill's death, Charlie is still parroting his former master, voicing a stream of expletives for all to hear.

His most common refrain, we hear, is "F--k the Nazis," or the equally obscene "F--k Hitler."

Parrot Charlie, we hear from Churchill scholar James Humes, is 103 years old and resides comfortably in a pet sanctuary in Reigate, Surrey.

Churchill bought the pet in the mid-1930s. Humes says Churchill had a varied pet collection, which included lambs, pigs, cattle, swans and, at one point, a leopard.

But Charlie was among Churchill's most-favored pets.

Charlie did have residence in a Surrey pet store for many years, but complaints emanated from customers upset with the expletives Charlie would utter in front of the children
A woman was sentenced by a tribal council to be gang raped in Pakistan because her 12 year old brother was found in the same room as a woman in her upper 20's. One local Imam calls it "against the spirit of Islam." And blowing up school children isn't?
Word of the Day

Lethologica - Not being able to remember the word you want.
From personal experience it is a problem which increases with age along with not being able to remember all sorts of other things.

Tuesday, July 16, 2002

This definitely belongs in News of the Weird. You just have to read the article. I can't do it justice through a comment.
The House just passed a bill 385-3 allowing hackers to get life sentences. Talk about a cruel and unusual punishment which certainly doesn't fit the crime. I always thought life sentences were essentially only supposed to go to murderers and rapists. The same bill also allows "limited surveillance" without a court order. This is all pretty disturbing.
This is pretty cool technology. It is a new, cheaper and more realistic method for creating 3D holograms. I can't wait for the first Lucas 3D film.
Three Skinheads stab an Orthodox Jew in Toronto and "Canadian Police said Monday that there is no concrete evidence that indicates that Rosenzweig was murdered because of his religion." Yeah right. And Canada has a rich and distinctive culture. Its kind of amazing. Jews are one of the most persecuted minorities in the entire world and yet, not only are Jews not covered by affirmative action (which I'm against anyway but I'm just saying...) but nobody ever wants to say that any sort of obviously anti-semitic attack is anti-semitic. To paraphrase "Fiddler on the Roof," I know Jews are the chosen people but once in a while can't God choose someone else?
Here is an Amity Shlaes piece on the bubble.

Monday, July 15, 2002

On the one hand I am fascinated by the science involved, on the other this terrifies me. Scientists have managed to create a live polio virus from scratch. [more]

If anyone is getting too much sleep (not a problem of mine) and would like to lose some of it I heartily recommend Richard Preston's The Cobra Event. It's a great read and you won't ever want to ride a subway again.
Here is a good piece on cloning in The Atlantic Monthly. Here is a key quote:

"In the end, politics will settle the debate in this country about whether human therapeutic cloning is allowed to proceed. If the decision is yes, then we will continue to lead the world in a crucial, cutting-edge area of biomedical research. If it is no, U.S. biologists will need to undertake hegiras to laboratories in Australia, Japan, Israel, and certain countries in Europe—an outcome that would leave American science greatly diminished."
Here is something funny from SatireWire:

"Black artists, however, declined Jackson's offer to serve as a figurehead to lead the charge for equality, saying they would prefer that a black man spearhead the effort."
Here is some scary news from the bioweapons front. Scientists have been able to create the polio virus from scratch using publically available genetic sequences and readily available tech. One of the main researchers is quoted as saying, "we feel this could be used for ebola, smallpox, just about anything."
George Will on why we shouldn't be a part of the ICC.
They say close to $70 million of Palestinian Authority funds have recently been transfered to private European bank accounts. This includes $5 million transferred for the sake of Arafat's wife. A lot of good all that humanitarian aid from the Saudi's and Europeans did the Palestinian people. Looks like a huge chunk of it went straight into the PA's retirement fund.
Good editorial in NRO:

"... It turns out that accounting frauds and irregularities are a reason for new regulations when it comes to the private sector; for new subsidies, when it comes to Amtrak. Pension funds that deprive workers of choice, put all of their retirement assets in one basket, and withhold useful information from them are a monstrous crime in the private sector; but Social Security is a sacred trust. When the Bush administration helps companies, whether through action or inaction, it is typical Republican sympathy for fatcats; when they let companies go bankrupt, they are displaying typical Republican callousness toward workers and small investors. After years of neglect, liberals are suddenly interested in the new investor class — now that the goal of restoring its confidence in the markets is the hot justification for regulation.

The ideological malarkey that the corporate scandals have called forth from the dirigiste party in American life is at least sincere. The same cannot be said for the partisan opportunism to which they have also given rise. Al Gore says that Enron, WorldCom, and the rest show us what happens when Republicans are in charge rather than unnamed solons who would side with "the people, not the powerful." Tom Daschle says that anti-regulatory zeal, impliedly Republican, led to corporate malfeasance.

A little perspective, please. The corporate behavior now under the microscope occurred mainly during the later Clinton years. It is the subject of political controversy now only because first the market and then federal prosecutors began to uncover and to punish it during the Bush administration. Nobody has even suggested an alternative course of action that Bush or his men could have taken since January 2001 that would have mitigated the harm done by this behavior. Harvey Pitt, the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, has been under heavy fire from Democrats and John McCain for his ties to the accounting industry. But these critics do not criticize any specific decisions he has made as SEC chairman. (His ties to the industry were well known in 2001, by the way, when the Senate voted to confirm him in a voice vote, reflecting the lack of opposition to him.) And opposition in the 1990s to regulation of the accounting industry — much of that opposition justified — was a bipartisan affair."
Government efficiency. (Military Intelligence, Jumbo Shrimp ...)
More evidence on why private initiatives are preferable to government solutions. Joe Caldara describes different attempts to alleviate the homeless problem in Boulder:

"Bob's 120-bed operation costs around $400,000 a year to operate. Over half comes from those in-house businesses, so the real cost is less than $200,000 a year, or about $1,667 per bed per year. Not a penny comes from government, but from foundations and private contributions, making it easier to require adult behavior from adult guests.

By contrast, Boulder's new 135-bed facility will cost around $1,000,000 just to operate. That's $7,407 per bed, over four times more than Step 13! And here's the kicker: it's only open seven months a year, from October to April. "
Jonah Goldberg in top form in his piece on cliches. I should point out that using cliches as a form of argument is a subset of the "appeal to authority" which is a well known branch of informal logic. Informal logic is the name given to an entire set of arguments which "seem" rational or logical but in fact are nothing more than empty sophistry. Other examples include: tradition, false syllogisms, commonness, etc... I would recommend reading one of the many good books on the subject such as With Good Reason by S. Morris Engel.

I should point out that I disagree with his position on disregarding proper protections for Padilla, Reid et al. But it is because I think the Bill of Rights protections are important and fundamental to our society and I am naturally mistrustful of government (and therefore any situation where government assures us that we only need trust them). I also think if you can't get enough evidence to convict them it is argues more for a complete overhaul at the FBI rather than for curtailing the constitution even further for our protection. But I do agree that using cliches is a mistake (and one mistake can lead to another. : )
Interesting article about the problems of Palestinians attempting to cross into Jordan.
I don't have a link to a story about this since I just heard this on Fox News this morning. Apparently the guy suing about "under God" being in the Pledge is a practicing Jew. What a nutjob. I guess he just wanted to stir things up for jollies.
Mark Steyn on Bush vs the Europeans.