Friday, August 30, 2002

Anyone remember the Bakke case? Bakke was a medical school applicant to UC Davis who was denied admission because of their affirmative action program. He sued because they let less qualified applicants in simply because of the color of their skin. He won the case. The article linked to above talks about whats happened to Bakke and what happened to one of the less qualified applicants.
It's about time people started to talk openly about this. The US AID administrator accused environmentalists of endangering the lives of millions of starving people because of their campaign against genetically modified foods. "They can play these games with Europeans, who have full stomachs, but it is revolting and despicable to see them do so when the lives of Africans are at stake."
You know, even though I rarely agree with environmentalists I thought that there was a limit to how idiotic their beliefs could get. I was wrong. During a panel discussion at the Earth summit, an environmentalist panelist complained about the "pernicious introduction of the flush toilet". According to the dictionary, pernicious is defined as:

1a.Tending to cause death or serious injury; deadly: a pernicious virus.
1b.Causing great harm; destructive: pernicious rumors.
2. Archaic. Evil; wicked.

Who in their right mind considers toilets to be destructive or evil? I mean sure, there are some public bathrooms that I would like to avoid like the plague but generally, they are far better than the alternative.

Luckily though, Bjorn Lomborg was at the panel to set things straight:

"A critic of the green movement, Danish author Bjorn Lomborg, told , 'Changing how we flush toilets is not going to change water supplies.'... According to Lomborg, household water consumption worldwide constitutes only 8 percent of total usage, so changing the way we flush will not have any significant impact on water usage, he said. Agriculture accounts for 69 percent of water usage, while industry uses 23 percent, Lomborg said... Lomborg joked that maybe the panelist thought 'we should use the Asian toilet method where you use your hand and a little water.'"

Thursday, August 29, 2002

It's amazing how lax internet security is. Check out this story on how easy it was for a 21 year old hacker armed with an ordinary browser to break into NBC's intranet.

"Five minutes and one guessed password later and Lamo was surfing the television network's private messaging system and an affiliate scheduling application that included internal memos and information on advertising rates. Screen shots of the hack provided by Lamo and reviewed by SecurityFocus Online include a page from an NBC vendor database with the network's trademark "living color" peacock and the warning, 'All information contained on this Web site is to be held in the strictest confidence,' in all capital letters. 'It was a very full service system,' recalls Lamo."
Now this is what I call poetic justice. For a few hours Wednesday morning, hackers made it possible to download a copy of your favorite piece of music directly from the Recording Industry Association of America's website.
Here is a new idea for saving Earth in case of a possible asteroid collision: a giant airbag. I wonder what's next? A giant baseball glove? I wonder if that would still work if the players were on strike.
Just in case you thought it was just US schools that were politicized, take a peak at what's going on up in Canada:

"During Diverse Families Month (which followed Black History Month and Global Harvest Festivals Month, when the kids learned about the inequities of food distribution), the second-graders learned about same-sex relationships. The fourth-graders learned about artificial insemination and sperm donors, and the fifth-graders learned about transgendered people. Everyone discussed gay rights. They wrote poems and drew pictures about diverse families. One Grade 5 class was assigned a crossword puzzle. Question No. 3 down: What is an eight-letter word for heterosexual?"

"'They're giving my kid a college-level course in family sociology, but they can't even teach him to spell 'family.' ' Ms. Hedford has his poetry assignment to prove it. She also thinks they left some parts out. Maybe she'll take him over to Regent Park for another perspective on single mothers."
John Keegan, the great military historian, has a good piece today on what Churchill would do in W.'s place: Attack Iraq.
According to Stratfor, the fight from Afghanistan is far from over:

"U.S. forces inside Afghanistan already are under constant attack, and according to multiple sources are taking more casualties than are officially admitted. Sources in the Afghan government said guerrillas, believed to be Pushtun Taliban members, attacked U.S. troops in the Zawar region of Paktia province on the night of Aug. 4, with several U.S. troops and several attackers allegedly killed. The Pentagon report of the same incident confirmed that a patrol came under heavy fire at that time in Paktia province but said that only two attackers were killed. Similarly, Afghan government sources reported that a rocket attack on a U.S. air base at Jalalabad airport Aug. 28 resulted in casualties among U.S. and allied Afghan troops. However, the U.S. military reported there were no casualties. An Afghan government source also reported that more than 110 U.S. troops have gone missing in Afghanistan since October, the majority presumed dead. And a U.S. military source told STRATFOR that U.S. troops are suffering frequent casualties including fatalities that are going largely unreported in the press."

"STRATFOR's military sources in countries around Afghanistan have repeated similar accounts for some time: that there is more to many of the reported incidents, and still more clashes are not being reported at all. Sources in Russian and Indian intelligence separately estimate the U.S. military has suffered between 300 and 400 killed in Afghanistan, with an unknown number wounded. The Pentagon says substantially fewer than 100 have been killed. Although foreign estimates may be inflated, there is no way to independently confirm U.S. claims either. Sources say there are nightly attacks on U.S. troops, which is confirmed by non-governmental organizations in the country, who add that increased restrictions have been placed on the movements of off-duty U.S. forces. U.S. troops reportedly control only the towns where they have bases, and then only in daylight, while the Karzai government reportedly controls only parts of Kabul."

I guess when something is too good to be true, it probably isn't true. I'm getting a bad feeling about this.
Some people say, "if you are going to do something, do it all the way." It seems that Saparmurat Niyazov, President-for-life of Turkmenistan, has taken it to heart. He really is going all out in being a dictator:

"Having already named cities, streets, mosques, collective farms, celestial bodies and the main airport after himself in his vainglorious incarnation as Turkmenbashi, having littered the country with huge statues, billboards and portraits of himself, having put his face on all the money, all TV broadcasts and the sinister little lapel pins worn by top government officials, he went on earlier this month to remake the Turkmen calendar, renaming months and days after himself and his deceased mother. The stocky 62-year-old dictator also redefined the ages of man, declaring that old age does not begin until 85. This conveniently means he'll have another 23 years before he has to fret about retirement. Though that shouldn't be a worry. This summer he also had himself named president-for-life -- for the second time since 1999. Turkmenistan's sole political party, which Mr. Niyazov heads, recently proposed promoting him from the military rank of army general to the highest rank of marshal. His latest collection of poetry has been hailed by the exclusively state-run media as a masterpiece. The country's sole Russian-language newspaper, which he founded, has been translating from Turkmen into Russian -- to reach a wider audience -- his "holy book" of Rukhname, the country's new spiritual code, which he wrote and requires all Turkmen citizens to study. His birthday doubles as national flag day."

Isn't that just hilarious? Okay, I know its not funny for the Turkmen, but as many Presidents-for-life have found out, putting "for-life" at the end of your title doesn't necessarily extend your stay in office and may shorten it greatly.

Wednesday, August 28, 2002

Jonathan Kay of the National Post explains why the anti-Americanism at the UN conference is both wrong and not in the best interests of the third world.
My co-worker Doug has been hounding me all day to respond to the Kristof piece yesterday on the war on Iraq. Okay maybe not all day, maybe it was just twice. Kristof has five main concerns which I quote and respond to below:

"Can we overthrow Saddam swiftly and at a reasonable cost in lives? Saddam will be smart enough this time not to send his 350,000 troops out into the desert where they are obvious targets. Instead he may keep them in the cities, surrounded by civilians, where the U.S. cannot easily bomb them."

That one is easy. Sure, he could send all his troops into the cities, surrounded by civilians, but all his oil fields are in the desert. If we seize his oil, he won't be content to just wait it out in the cities for many reasons. One being pride, another being that oil is the only thing propping up his economy, so he wouldn't be able to last long without it. Plus, you can't pay your mad scientists working on weapons of mass destruction with promises of eventual payment. Cries of "show me the money" will likely be heard all over Iraq.

"Will an invasion trigger chemical attacks instead of preventing them? It's hard to see why Saddam, if left in power, would risk his future by using anthrax or smallpox for terrorism. But if we invade, he has every incentive to use 'em or lose 'em. In particular, military planners worry that he could send nerve gas raining down on Tel Aviv, in hopes of turning an invasion of Iraq into an Arab-Israeli war. There is force in the contrary argument that it's better to face a modest threat today than a nuclear-armed Saddam tomorrow; but hey, Saddam is 65 years old. Tomorrow he may fall into a coffin on his own."

I'm not too worried about nerve gas. First, I don't think he has enough scuds to send nerve gas "raining down" on Tel Aviv. Second, destroying scud launchers will be one of the first priorities of an US air war. Third, once the war starts, you can bet that every Israeli will be carrying a gas mask with them so any casualties will be minimal. They've even started innoculating against smallpox. As long as the Israeli's trust that the U.S. will make Saddam pay this time, I think they will stay on the sidelines. Even if they don't, what exactly would this Arab-Israeli war look like? There are four countries bordering on Israel. Egypt's economy would collapse if they went to war or even if the US pulls its economic aid. Jordan got suckered into the 1967 war with Israel and has regretted it ever since. That leaves just Syria and Lebanon (which is just a Syrian puppet anyway). Syria would probably last a week against the Israeli army. The economy is bankrupt and their military equipment is falling apart. Since they are not an oil producing nation nobody really has cared too much about them. So what about the rest of the Arab world? They have officially been in a state of war with Israel for over 50 years anyway.

On the last point, sure Saddam is 65 and may be in a coffin soon, but his sons are no angels. Check out the State Department page on the crimes of the Hussein family, including Qusay and Uday (is it just me or are their names reminiscent of something from Pig Latin).

Here are some of Qusay's crimes:

Qusay swiftly helps Saddam eliminate any real or perceived threat to the regime by using bloody and shocking "tools of repression" to blackmail, force confessions, and destroy opponents.

Authorizes interrogation, jailing, and execution of political prisoners and their families.

Periodically ordered during 1988-99 mass prison executions of several thousand inmates ("prison cleansing").

Led crackdown against the al-Dulaym tribe in 1995 and local Shi'a revolt in 1997.

And here are Uday's:

History of extreme violent behavior including murder, torture, and rape of women and girls.

Has tortured and jailed members of Iraq's national Soccer Team for losing games.

A leading regime figure in the wholesale looting of Kuwaiti property.

Heavily involved in Iraq's smuggling against UN sanctions, and in illicit financial dealings.

"Do we have a plan for a post-Saddam Iraq? We must not simply hand the country over to another general who comes from the 20 percent Sunni minority. Yet is the Bush administration really prepared, given its concerns about Shiite Iran, to hand power democratically to the 60 percent Shiite majority?"

I'm not too scared of a democratic Iraq, even if it is 60% Shiite. In the Iranian elections, Shiite's have voted overwhelmingly for reformist candidates (in elections that were far from free and fair).

"Is the Iraqi desert the best place to spend $55 billion? Fighting a war will cost perhaps $35 billion, and it will take $20 billion more to rebuild Iraq. That's more than the federal government spends in a year on elementary and secondary education and health research combined."

That is what, 2% of the annual federal budget? Plus, if we end up with $15 or less a barrel oil at the end of all this (Thomas Friedman thinks we could get below $10 a barrel), the boost to the economy would make up for a lot of the cost.

"Will a war on Iraq set back the war on terror? Outrage around the Arab world at our invasion of Iraq could lead to a surge of anti-Americanism, growing support for Al Qaeda and the collapse of governments in Cairo and Riyadh. What if we won in Iraq but lost in Saudi Arabia?"

We keep hearing about this "Arab Street". And nothing ever seems to happen. What seems to worry the people in charge in Cairo and Riyadh more seems to be the possibility of a democracy in Iraq which will show that it is possible to live in the Arab world and be free at the same time.

The Counterrevolutionary suggests what a news article about the Johannesburg summit might contain at the end of the conference:

"Separately, the US was chastised for the abnormal amounts of particulate matter released into the atmosphere when the Twin Towers of New York were allowed to collapse in September of last year. Sven Lingh of Sweden said that it was “the direct consequence of American hegemony, unilateralism and arrogance.”

Some participants blamed the American use of highly combustible jet fuel in its aircraft as the cause of the Towers’ collapse. “Had Kyoto been ratified, and followed, the jet fuel would not burn at such a high temperature and the buildings would not have crumbled,” added Lingh."
Another take on the proposed Haggis ban from David Carr at Libertarian Samizdata:

"First, they came for the Haggis and I said nothing, because I did not eat Haggis
Then, they came for the Oysters, and I said nothing, because I did not eat Oysters
Then, they came for the Pheasant, and I said nothing, because I did not eat pheasant
Then, they came for the Venison, and I said nothing, because I did not eat Venison
And finally, they came for the Pate de Fois Gras, and there was nothing left worth eating!"
Chris Kanis of Spoons Experience posted this piece which was the talk of the blogosphere yesterday of how he met his fiance through the blog.
We offer our hearty congratulations to Chris. For any attractive, female readers of this blog, alas I have already met and married the woman of my dreams. Jerry is similarly attached to a wonderful woman. Max, however, is quite eligible and a catch. So have at him, ladies.
Great new Lileks screed posted.

"The hard left, on the other hand, demonstrates all the symptoms of anhedonia, or the inability to feel pleasure - there’s a rancid bitterness, a pissy miserablism that makes you feel very, very sorry for them. The world is going to hell, and they’re stuck in the last car with a newspaper they’ve read six times already; the only person they can harangue is sleeping off a skinful of lager, and they’re trying to work up a hot batch of hatred for the woman in the skin-cream ad above the traincar’s window, but she is rather pretty, in a Sloany way. (Bitch.) They’ve given up on convincing the rest of us fools that we’re trampolining with scissors and knives - all they can do is sneer, whine, mope and spit. In high school terms, they’re the skinny spotted unpopular kids who cannot believe the cheerleaders don’t know how wretched their empty lives really are. Sure, they have dates. Sure, they’re going to college. Sure, they’re going to meet big beefy guys with MBAs and end up in a nice house with a big garden, but don’t they know how empty it all is? Don’t they know that their very existence on the planet causes poverty in Peru and kills fish in the Atlantic?"
A 70 year old nun was just beheaded in Baghdad by an "angry mob." Oh, that gentle Islam.
Here is a good piece on the decision of UNC to force incoming freshman to learn about the Koran in order to "understand our enemies":

"It would be as if after Hitler and Nazism rose to power and began subjugating countries and slaughtering Jews, some American university assigned readings from Goethe and required listening to Bach so that their students could better understand Nazi Germany. To understand Nazi terror, you study the hate-filled texts of Nazism, not the beautiful novels of German writers or Bach's cello suites. To understand Islamic terror, you study the hate-filled texts that are published daily throughout the Arab world; you assign the hate-filled sermons that are preached every week in the Muslim mosques in the Middle East and Iran. But none of that will be noted, let alone assigned, at the University of North Carolina or any other major American university one year after 9-11. Our universities are not really interested in having their students understand America's enemies. They are, incredibly, more interested in having their students sympathize with them."
The U.S. and Canada are close to a deal allowing American soldiers to cross the border and operate on Canadian soil in the event of a terrorist attack. The liberation of Canada has begun. Muahahahahahaha.
A Prayer for Johannesburg
by Robert C. Hinkley and John Karvel

Mother Earth, we thank you for your wisdom in bringing our wisest leaders together in South Africa to discuss the problems we have wrought upon you and each other.

We pray you will guide them to find solutions to these problems so that the planet with which you provide us nuture may be sustained.

If these guys think the motley crew of bureaucrats in Johannesburg are our wisest leaders who will solve anything other than which fork to use with their caviar or lobster then we are in really serious trouble. Read the rest of the "prayer" just for the same head-shaking bemusement you feel when you see someone wandering down the street wearing tinfoil on his head muttering about how the CIA trying to control his brain. (via The Corner)

Tuesday, August 27, 2002

President says 'Liberals Right All Along'

At a press conference this morning the President announced that the constant stream of criticism from journalists, academics and left-wing organizations has caused him to see the light. He announced a major shift in US foreign policy. Now made aware of the growing US hegemony around the world the President announced that the US will no longer be the worlds policeman. He has ordered all of our armed forces home and announced that from now on the US military will only be used for the defense of the United States.

With the US occupation forces removed from Europe the Europeans can now once again realize their full potential without the shackles of US control. Germany, where the Schroeder government recently lost the election to a coalition of ultra-right groups, has secretly been building up it's own military forces and declared that it has signed a co-defense treaty with Vladimir Putin and Austria's Haider. Claiming violations of multiple EU regulations Germany has invaded Poland and France with the aid of Putin's forces. The US also returned Slobedan Milosevic to Serbia saying that it regrets the illegal use of force used to remove him from power. And in Asia, Chinese military forces have taken over Taiwan and installed a military government there and is reported to be massing ships around Japan. North Korean forces have poured into the South, casualties are said to be approaching 500,000.

The US also announced it has dropped all plans to invade Iraq. Saddam Hussein interrupted his invasions of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Iran and night and day bombing of Israel to say that now that the US has come to it's senses he thinks we can begin a constructive dialogue to resume trade between our two nations.
Oil prices have hit $315/bbl since hostilities began sending plane and auto travel to a virtual standstill. Many cities have had to idle their emergency vehicles because they cannot afford the fuel costs. While there have been numerous reported deaths due to people being unable to afford winter heating costs, the president said that these deaths while regrettable would be more than offset by the lives saved by the delay of global warming.

The president also announced that we will no longer try to influence foreign governments with grants of money. All foreign aid will end immediately. Egyptian president Mubarek announced that they will have to shut down many anti-US newspapers because of insufficient funds to keep them running. The President apologized for removing our support from Israel, but announced that we would no longer attempt to restrain them either so they should do as they wish with their Arab neighbors. India and Pakistan have resumed massing troops on the Kashmir border and have each announced their intention to launch their nuclear arsenals before weeks end.

After numerous complaints of unilateralism from the Democrats, the President also signed and submitted to the Senate for ratification the Kyoto Treaty, ICC Treaty, CEDAW, CRC, Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, Ottawa Land Mine Treaty and the ABM Treaty. Unfortunately none of the treaties were ratified by the Democratically controlled Senate.

One high-ranking administration official said privately how relieved he was that the US is no longer a global bully, "I will sleep much better at night knowing that we are no longer pushing our weight around the world to further the interests of the oil companies and other corporate interests".

Paul Krugman in a NY Times editorial wrote a piece lavishly praising the president and his actions.

(© Copyright John Hudock 2002)
Looks like the Israeli policy of demolishing the family homes of terrorists is working. According to israelinsider:

"More and more suspected Palestinian terrorists are turning themselves in to security forces, a senior army officer told Maariv. Some 30 Palestinians wanted by Israel have recently surrendered to the army, the officer said. Several of the wanted men negotiated through intermediaries before surrendering to the IDF. The men, realizing that the army was closing in on them and it was only a matter of time before they would be captured or killed, asked for assurances that their families' homes not be demolished, Maariv reported."

Here is another scary item on the federalized security personnel at airports. A supervisor at the Atlanta airport did not notice a .357-caliber handgun and an additional clip of ammunition inside a woman's bag even though he hand-checked it. Where do they find these people???
Looks like some of the federal airport baggage screeners got a total of 15 minutes training. I feel so safe knowing that the feds are in charge of our security.
Here is an example of how slowly Japan moves. Sony has finally decided to discontinue manufacturing Betamax machines.
Here is an article (via Drudge) on how the government's financial statements aren't exactly in that great a shape either:

"Paul Posner, GAO's managing director of budget and strategic issues, said many federal agencies are unable to even prepare a financial statement to be analyzed. 'They don't have clear knowledge and valuation of all their assets, all their property; a lot of their transactions are still not properly accounted for,' Posner said. 'Key [agencies] simply don't have records in sufficiently good order for us to even audit and make an opinion.'"
Corruption at the EC is so bad that even the whistleblowers are resigning. And who is in charge of correcting the problem, Neil Kinnock an over-the-hill failed socialist politician. Perhaps they need to have the ministers certify EC financial statements on penalty of prison. I don't think it will happen..
Looks like there are certain micro-organisms called methanogens which can survive in an environment like that of Mars. Also, these organisms could theoretically help terraform Mars. Which would be super cool if possible. Though it sounds like some people will have a problem with this. One of the researchers, commenting on the terraforming possibility said, "of course, there are many potential ethical and environmental problems with this." What ethical and environmental problems? First, the organisms aren't exactly sentient beings. Even PETA hasn't stooped to the level of defending bacteria yet (at least I don't think they have). Second, what environmental problems? Mars is essentially a giant desert! Its full of sand, in a million years its still going to be sand. Seems like terraforming could only improve the situation. Oh no, I just had a vision of "Mars Day" and "Leave Mars Alone" protests. Oy Vey.
The EU is threatening to ban *gasp* Haggis. What's next? English Blood-Pudding, Norwegian Lutefisk, Chinese Sea Cucumber, Monkey-Brains, Marmite, Spam, Spotted-Dick ...? This is the top of a slippery slope...soon all disgusting food products will be gone and then what will we describe to our children when trying to get them to eat spinach? "You may think you don't like spinach, but in Scotland they make their children eat sheep intenstine stuffed with oatmeal and organ meats, we could move to Scotland".
Here is an excerpt from Cheney's speech to the VFW:

Many of us are convinced that Saddam Hussein will acquire nuclear weapons fairly soon. Just how soon, we cannot really gauge. Intelligence is an uncertain business, even in the best of circumstances. This is especially the case when you are dealing with a totalitarian regime that has made a science out of deceiving the international community.

Let me give you just one example of what I mean. Prior to the Gulf War, America's top intelligence would come to my office in the Defense Department and tell me that Saddam Hussein is at least five or perhaps even ten years away from having a nuclear weapon. After the war, we learned that he had been much closer than that, perhaps within a year of acquiring such a weapon. Saddam also devised an elaborate program to conceal his active efforts to build chemical and biological weapons, and one must keep in mind the history of U.N. inspection teams in Iraq. Even as they were conducting the most intrusive system of arms control in history, the inspectors missed a great deal. Before being barred from the country, the inspectors found and destroyed thousands of chemical weapons and hundreds of tons of mustard gas and other nerve agents. Yet, Saddam Hussein had sought to frustrate and deceive them at every turn. And was often successful in doing so.

I'll cite just one instance. During the spring of 1995, the inspectors were actually on the verge of declaring that Saddam's programs to develop chemical weapons and longer range ballistic missiles had been fully accounted for and shut down. Then Saddam's son-in-law suddenly defected and began sharing information. Within the inspectors were led to an Iraqi chicken farm. Hidden there were boxes of documents and lots of evidence regarding Iraq's most secret weapons programs. That should serve as a reminder to all that we often learned more as a result of defections than we learned from the inspection regime itself.

To the dismay of the inspectors, they in time discovered that Saddam had kept them largely in the dark about his program to mass produce VX, one of the deadliest chemicals known to man, and far from having shut down Iraq's prohibited missile programs, the inspectors found that Saddam had continued to test such missiles, almost literally under the noses of the U.N. inspectors.

Against that background, a person would be right to question any suggestion that we should just get inspectors back into Iraq, and then our worries will be over. Saddam has perfected the game of shoot and retreat, and is very skilled in the art of denial and deception. A return of inspectors would provide no assurance whatsoever of his compliance with U.N. resolutions.

On the contrary, there is a great danger that it would provide false comfort that Saddam was somehow back in his box. Meanwhile, he would continue to plot. Nothing in the last dozen years has stopped him; not his solemn agreements; not the discoveries of inspectors; not the revelations by defectors; not criticism or ostracism by the international community; and not four days of bombing by the United States in 1998.

What he wants is time, and more time to husband his resources to invest in his ongoing chemical and biological weapons program, and to gain possession of nuclear weapons.

Should all his ambitions be realized, the implications would be enormous for the Middle East and the United States and for the peace of the world. The whole range of weapons of mass destruction then would rest in the hands of a dictator who has already shown his willingness to use such weapons and has done so, both in his war with Iran and against his own people. Armed with an arsenal of these weapons of terror and seat at a top ten percent of the world's oil reserves, Saddam Hussein could then be expected to seek domination of the entire Middle East, take control of a great portion of the world's energy supplies, directly threaten America's friends throughout the region, and subject the United States or any other nation to nuclear blackmail.

Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction; there is no doubt that he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us. And there is no doubt that his aggressive regional ambitions will lead him into future confrontations with his neighbors, confrontations that will involve both the weapons he has today and the ones he will continue to develop with his oil wealth.

Here is a great headline: "Lobsters, caviar and brandy for MPs at summit on starvation". And of course all of it comes from taxpayer funds. Which I think is the heart of the problem. These delegates are busy trying to solve the problems of the world but none of the solutions they come up with will cost them anything. They will continue to get caviar and brandy no matter how stupid and destructive their solutions are. Thanks to Lucianne for this one.
Total US music shipments fell 10.1% from the first half of 2001 to the first half of 2002 according to a recent RIAA study. Of course they blame it all on mp3's. Could it also be that the music the industry is releasing simply sucks and fewer people want the wretched crap they keep spewing? Even if it is all online music's fault, the RIAA has nobody but itself to blame. If they had simply worked with Napster instead of deciding to kill it, I'm sure I'd be part of a $10/month Napster pay service right now and they would be seeing a cut. But oh no, that wasn't enough for the RIAA so they decided to kill Napster and now you have these Gnutella based networks with no central directories who the RIAA can't control or kill. As Ben Kenobi told Darth Vader, "if you strike me down, I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine." Looks like that is happening. And yes, I am aware of the fact that everyone's Geek Alarm just went off.
And another reason Public Schooling is Better Than Homeschooling:

LA Schools to Vote on Banning Soda [more]

No progress on banning gun or heroin sales though.
Why Public Schooling Is Better Than Homeschooling (from Scrappleface)

* Most parents were educated in the underfunded public school system, and so are not smart enough to homeschool their own children.
* Children who receive one-on-one homeschooling will learn more than others, giving them an unfair advantage in the marketplace. This is undemocratic.
* How can children learn to defend themselves unless they have to fight off bullies on a daily basis?
* Ridicule from other children is important to the socialization process.
* Children in public schools can get more practice "Just Saying No" to drugs, cigarettes and alcohol.
* Fluorescent lighting may have significant health benefits.
* Publicly asking permission to go to the bathroom teaches young people their place in society.
* The fashion industry depends upon the peer pressure that only public schools can generate.
* Public schools foster cultural literacy, passing on important traditions like the singing of "Jingle Bells, Batman smells, Robin laid an egg..."
* Homeschooled children may not learn important office career skills, like how to sit still for six hours straight.
A harvard study has just come out criticizing merit-based scholarships essentially because they are tending to go to white people. Gary Orfield, co-director of Harvard's Civil Rights Project, is quoted as saying "the whole thing sounds so good, and nobody's going beneath the surface and looking at the aggregate effects of putting billions of dollars of aid into students who don't need it." Students who don't need it? According to the 2000 census, the median family income for a white family was $53,256. When you take taxes out you are probably left with about $30,000, which coincidentally is about how much it costs to send one kid to a private college for one year. In other words, without help, the median white family would have to give up their annual income and live off their savings for four years in order to send their child to a quality private college. Which, unfortunately, many can't do. So what exactly is wrong with helping them out? Poor kids with good grades can generally get a free ride in college. And the rich kids don't worry about how much college costs. It's the middle class who often do need the most help after they receive the financial aid letter from the university they have chosen. I wish Harvard's Civil Rights Project would stop with the racist stereotypes (those rich white people) and think about people as individuals, not as a member of some amorphous group.

Monday, August 26, 2002

Socialist theory at work in Sweden. If you pay them not to work they will not come to work. sick Swedes.
Here is an explanation of how ludicrous Democratic versions of "tax cuts" are (from Curmudgeonly & Skeptical):

50,000 people go to a baseball game, but the game was rained out. A refund was then due. The team was about to mail refunds when the Congressional Democrats stopped them and suggested that they send out refund amounts based on the Democrat National Committee's interpretation of fairness. After all, if the refunds were made based on the price each person paid for the tickets, most of the money would go to the wealthiest ticket holders. That would be unconscionable. The DNC plan says:
People in the $10 seats will get back $15, because they have less money to spend. Call it an "Earned" Income Ticket Credit". Persons "earn" it by demonstrating little ambition, few skills and poor work habits, thus keeping them at entry-level wages.

People in the $25 seats will get back $25, because that's only fair.

People in the $50 seats will get back $1, because they already make a lot of money and don't need a refund. If they can afford a $50 ticket, then they must not be paying enough taxes.

People in the $75 luxury seats will have to pay another $50, because they have way too much to spend.

The people driving by the stadium who couldn't afford to watch the game will get $10 each, even though they didn't pay anything in, because they need the most help.
Building a nuclear weapon or even a dirty bomb is not as easy as it's often made out to be as this amusing article in MIT Tech Review points out:

"I log on to Ask Jeeves and type, ``Where can I buy some uranium?''. Jeeves responds: ``You can find anything at eBay. eBay has everything you're looking for. Find it all at eBay''. So I type uranium into the eBay search box, and discover that there will be a uranium auction in exactly two hours and 46 minutes. The description of the item being auctioned reads: ``This is uranium-238. The vile (sic) and the uranium weighs 22 grams.''There have already been three bidders, the top bid being $18.41. I call Matthew Bunn and ask him if 22 grams of uranium-238 would suffice for a dirty bomb.

``Not very interesting,'' he says. ``It's used for ballast in ships. The US has thousands of tonnes of it that it is desperate to get rid of. I haven't even thought about uranium-238. If I was building a dirty bomb, you know what I'd get my hands on?''

``What?'' I ask.

``One of those machines they use to kill bacteria in meat in a food-processing plant. It contains cobalt-60. If you burst one successfully, blam! That would be a really big disaster. Although they emit shards as opposed to inhalable particles. But there are clever things you can do to turn shards into inhalable particles.''"
According to the Government of Canada, Hamas and Hezbollah aren't terrorist organizations. What exactly does it take to be considered a terrorist in Canada? Say that Canadian beer sucks? That hockey is boring?
Another review of Martin Amis's "Koba the Dread".
"NY Children May Carry 9/11 Mental Scars as Adults". Medical school wasn't wasted on these people. Schmucks.
Here is more on the reaction to the Cynthia McKinney defeat:

"'It puts black voters in a bind because you could end up with some people in the Congress who are black but who don't represent the broad mainstream views of the black community,' says Ronald Walters, director of the African American Leadership Institute at the University of Maryland, College Park."

So Cynthia McKinney represented the mainstream of views in the black community? Somehow I find that hard to believe.

Oh and we keep hearing about how Jewish groups bankrolled McKinney's opponent. According to the above article Denise Majette received $14,250 from pro-Israel political action committees out of a total of more than $1 million raised. Unless I have had a brain tumor for breakfast and can't do my math correctly, that is not even 1.5% of her funds. And according to one of John's earlier posts there were only four people total from out of state who donated funds to Denise Majette. So where is this vast out-of-state Jewish conspiracy we keep hearing about?
Imagine having this job?
Another Children's Book Rant

Last week, we took a copy of Rumplestilskin out of the library for the girls. A lovely version with nice illustrations which both girls enjoyed. For those who don't remember the story let me recap. A miller boasts to the king that his daughter can spin straw into gold. The king orders the girl be brought to the castle and locks her in a room filled with straw and demands, on penalty of death, that she spin it into gold. Of course she cannot, but Rumplestilskin appears and agrees to do it for her in exchange for her necklace. The following day the king very pleased with all the gold locks her in an even larger room filled with straw. This time Rumplestilskin does it in exchange for her ring. On the third day the king locks her in an enormous room and tells her if she succeeds in spinning all this straw into gold she will become his queen, if not she will die. When Rumplestilskin appears she tells him she has nothing left to offer, so he asks for her first born to which she agrees assuming it is an event far in the future and that when the time comes Rumplestilskin will forget all about it. The king, delighted, marries her. Years later they have a son and when he is a few months Rumplestilskin appears to collect. The queen offers him anything else in the kingdom he wants but he is adamant. After much wailing he agrees to let her keep the child if she can guess his name within three days. She has servants scour the countryside gathering unusual names but of course none of them is correct. On the third day she goes out searching herself and comes upon his cabin deep in the woods and hears him singing a song in which he reveals his name. She returns to the palace and when he comes to get the child she reveals his name at which point he stamps his foot in fury so hard that he goes through the castle floor, presumably straight to hell. A classic children's tale, so what is my problem with it? It is that Rumplestilskin is presented as the villain in the narrative, but as far as I can tell he is the only blameless one in the entire story. Let us deconstruct. The miller is a boastful ass-kisser who endangers his daughters life by telling lies to the king to get in his good graces. The king is a greedy, power-hungry lout who threatens the life of one of his subjects if she doesn't make him richer. The girl starts out pretty blameless, but it is she who agrees to give up her child to save her skin. Not particularly evil, but not really a model of selflessness either. It is also not clear that she had no other bargaining chips. Even though she gave up her ring and necklace she was after all a pretty young maid, nudge, nudge, wink, wink. Short and ugly Rumple probably doesn't get laid very often if at all. I'm sure they could have come to an arrangement. But instead she prefers to offer her first born hoping that he will forget about it (ie that she can cheat him). Now lets look at Rumple. He agrees to help a girl in dire need first for some trinkets. She was after all a poor millers daughter so her ring and necklace couldn't be very valuable especially to someone who can spin straw into gold. When she tells him she has nothing to offer on the third time he asks for her first-born. He doesn't say he wants to eat it or do anything horrible to it. Perhaps he is just lonely living like an outcast deep in the woods and wants a child of his own which he can't get any other way because woman threatened with death won't even sleep with him. He fulfills his part of the contract not even knowing if he'll ever be paid since he has no way of knowing if she'll ever have a child. When he comes to collect he agrees to give her an out. Something which is not required by any means. He has a binding contract already, so giving her a way out can only be out of the goodness of his heart. Which leads me to my conclusion that the only truly virtuous character in the whole tale is Rumplestilskin. Now I am basing this assessment on this particular telling, I didn't go back and check the original Grimm version to see if it makes a clearer case (maybe he does want the child for stew) but as I recall it, this is a fairly close representation of it. And so we have another case of an unfairly maligned Capitalist who is disparaged for offering valuable services in exchange for voluntarily offered goods and services.
I don't think I ever realized that there was such a thing as the "Trekkie vote." I wonder how big a constituency they are in Ohio?
Bjorn Lomborg has a great Op-Ed today in the New York Times.

"Despite our intuition that we need to do something drastic about global warming, economic analyses show that it will be far more expensive to cut carbon dioxide emissions radically than to pay the costs of adapting to the increased temperatures. Moreover, all current models show that the Kyoto Protocol will have surprisingly little impact on the climate: temperature levels projected for 2100 will be postponed for all of six years."

"Yet the cost of the Kyoto Protocol will be $150 billion to $350 billion annually (compared to $50 billion in global annual development aid). With global warming disproportionately affecting third world countries, we have to ask if Kyoto is the best way to help them. The answer is no. For the cost of Kyoto for just one year we could solve the world's biggest problem: we could provide every person in the world with clean water. This alone would save two million lives each year and prevent 500 million from severe disease. In fact, for the same amount Kyoto would have cost just the United States every year, the United Nations estimates that we could provide every person in the world with access to basic health, education, family planning and water and sanitation services."

Sunday, August 25, 2002

Good gun control. The right to defend your family.
The anti second amendment people base many of their arguments against gun ownership on lies like those spewed by Mr. Bellesiles. It is amazing that a book that is so full of inaccuracies, distortions and outright fabrications could win a prestigious book award and get great reviews .
As long as the thesis is politically correct then the truth just doesn't matter to these people. Will the media that gave this book so much coverage when it was released now notice it as it goes down in flames? I doubt it.
Another great piece by Rand Simberg:

"Washington, April 3, 1944 (Routers)

Fissures are starting to appear in the formerly united front within the Roosevelt administration on the upcoming decision of whether, where and how to invade Europe. Some influential voices within both the Democrat and Republican parties are starting to question the wisdom of toppling Adolf Hitler's regime, and potentially destabilizing much of the region.

"It's one thing to liberate France and northwestern Europe, and teach the Germans a lesson, but invading a sovereign country and overthrowing its democratically-elected ruler would require a great deal more justification," said one well-connected former State Department official. "The President just hasn't made the case to the American people."

Indeed, some are querulous at the notion of invading France itself.

They argue, correctly, that the German-French Armistice of 1940 is a valid international treaty, and the Vichy government is widely recognized as the legitimate government of France, even by the US. (The British government doesn't recognize it, but much of that is a result of antipathy to the Germans from the Blitz.)"