Friday, September 06, 2002

Check out this headline from the Washington Post:

"Israelis Unapologetic This New Year"

What exactly should the Israelis be apologetic for?
Hasn't Russia suffered enough?
Well, duh, quote of the day:

"Our products just aren't engineered for security."

--Brian Valentine
Senior Vice President in charge of Microsoft's Windows development team
I posted, a few days ago, a letter to the WaPo by Sam Hamod, former director of the National Islamic Center of Washington, who claimed in regard to the Nigerian sentence of stoning for a women charged with adultery that "there is no dictum in the Koran to allow the stoning death of an adulteress; the penalty the Koran prescribes is lashing. The alleged sharia court in Nigeria is staffed by people who are following tribal customs, not Islam's." Perhaps the Nigerian court is following the Hadeeth rather than tribal customs:

Volume 2, Book 23, Number 413:

Narrated 'Abdullah bin 'Umar :

The Jew brought to the Prophet a man and a woman from amongst them who have committed (adultery) illegal sexual intercourse. He ordered both of them to be stoned (to death), near the place of offering the funeral prayers beside the mosque."

I guess they are deviating in that they are only stoning the women to death.
Another shining affirmative action moment:

Denys Blell, Lebanese-African, born in Sierra Leone, was turned down for a position at Loyola College because he's not black enough.
He says he was told by Loyola's hiring official David Haddad that "the African-American faculty (and Haddad, in response to their criticisms) needed to hire an African-American that was visibly black."

Blell claims that Haddad told him "that race and skin color were important issues because 'Baltimore is predominantly black and the state of Maryland has a significant black presence.'" And he says he was not hired because he is "light-skinned, of Afro-Lebanese origin and not an African-American."

(via Best of the Web)
I saw this letter in the WaPo today:

The Depression's Lingering Sting

Friday, September 6, 2002; Page A24

I am a 93-year-old survivor of the Great Depression, and as such, I am depressed by the almost-daily news of large layoffs throughout this vast country.

Jobs were so scarce in the 1930s that I walked five miles from my home to the downtown business district to save streetcar fare. I lived for a week on a peck of lima beans and was happy to get a temporary job paying $20 per week. I survived, and I know the present generation will survive, but it is humiliating to be without work.

My heart goes out to the thousands of people whose lives have been so cruelly disrupted by layoffs, many concerned with making mortgage payments on their homes and meeting monthly payments on their automobiles. I pray that they will rely on the same resolve that sustained my generation in the dark days of the 1930s.

Falls Church

Well yes, it's terrible if you're one of those people who've been laid off, but let's have some perspective. The unemployment rate for August was 5.7% down from 5.9%. In the mid-80s unemployment was running closer to 7% and it wasn't too long ago Fed officials were arguing that the sustainable unemployment rate was on the order of 5-5.5%.
During the Depression the unemployment rate approached 25%, so I don't think Mr. Hartman needs to volunteer to man a soup line yet.
I don't often recommend specific books, I usually use the list of recommended/interesting books at the lower left of this page to do that, but I am currently reading Anthony Bourdain's "Kitchen Confidential" and it was one of the first books in a long time to make me laugh out loud several times in a short period. It is a must read for 'foodies' like myself, but I would recommend it to anyone. One of my favorite gems is his description of Chef Bernard, the grand old master chef/teacher at the Culinary Institute when he was a student there. Chef Bernards students would, for the slightest mistake, receive a withering dressing down in full view of the diners of the CIA's Escoffier Room and the staff. With an ability to hurl invective that makes Ann Coulter sound like the Dalai Lama, he would cause students to run out in tears:

"You are a shit chef!" he would bellow. "I make two cook like you in the toilette each morning! You are deezgusting! A shoemaker! You have destroyed my life!...You will never be a chef! You are a disgrace! Look! Look at this merde...merde...merde!" At this point, Bernard would stick his fingers into the offending object and fling bits of it on the floor. "You dare call this cuisine! This...this is grotesque! An abomination! should kill yourself from shame!"

Bourdain also shows that professors political opinions even affected the Culinary Institute campus years before David Horowitz was on the case

Another class, Oriental Cookery, as I believe it was then called, was pretty funny. The instructor, a capable Chinese guy, was responsible for teaching us the fundamentals of both Chinese and Japanese cooking. The Chinese portion of the class was terrific. When it came time to fill us in on the tastes of Japan, however, our teacher was more interested in giving us an extended lecture on the Rape of Nanking. His loathing of the Japanese was consuming. In between describing the bayoneting of women, children and babies in World War II, he'd point at a poster of a sushi/sashimi presentation on the wall and say in his broken, heavily accented English, "That a raw fish. You wanna eat that? Hah! Japanese shit!" Then he'd go back into his dissertation on forced labor, mass executions and enslavement, hinting darkly that Japan would pay, sooner or later for what it had done to his country.

And finally Bourdain's opinion of vegetarians:

Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans, are a persistant irritant to any chef worth a damn. To me, life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demi-glace or even stinky cheese is a life not worth living. Vegetarians are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit, an affront to all I stand for, the pure enjoyment of food. The body, these waterheads imagine, is a temple that should not be polluted by animal protein. It's healthier, they insist, though every vegetarian waiter I've worked with is brought down by a rumor of a cold. Oh, I'll accomodate them, I'll rummage around for something to feed them, for a "vegetarian plate," if called on to do so. Fourteen dollars for a few slices of grilled eggplant and zucchini suits my food cost fine.

Have I mentioned that I love this book?

Thursday, September 05, 2002

Some thoughtful quotes from the eco-community. (courtesy
German officials have refused to allow a Turkish couple to name their child Osama bin Laden. Hitler is apparently also a banned name in Germany. As offensive as I may find a child named Osama bin Laden (I don't actually, but for arguments sake) this is an example of statism run amock. Let the other kids in the schoolyard make young Osama's life a living hell so he grows up to despise his parents and everything they stand for like all the unfortunate Fokkers and Pschitts. What gives the state a right to determine what names are acceptable for parents to give their children? Does this mean that all the Hitlers who lived in Germany at the end of WWII had to legally change their name to avoid prosecution or was there some sort of 'grandfather' clause. This is a bureaucrats idea of how to make the world a better place, like their banning of "Mein Kampf" as if not having it available for discussion and dissection will make everything ok. From Jerry's post below they obviously don't control product names as well.
From the what were they thinking file. Another example of the lack of historical memory. The Zyklon oven from Siemens. I wonder is it a "gas" oven.
The Story of Donald Scott

This is a summary to date of an old story. It gives a fine snapshot of government greed, excess, incompetence and the trampling the Bill of Rights has taken. I recommend everyone read it.

The police lied to obtain a search warrant in the hopes that they could find some marijuana plants and sieze the property that Mr. Scott refused to sell to them. When they burst into the house early in the morning with guns and no identification, Mrs. Scott screamed. Mr. Scott grabbed his gun and ran to her aid at which point the officers ordered him to lower his weapon. He did and they shot him. (via Libertarian Rant)
Now here is a party platform I could support.
The Israelis have intercepted a 1300 pound car bomb that could have caused an Oklahoma City size blast. (via TurkeyBlog)
The inimitable Mark Steyn on how the world hasn't changed:

"The easiest way to understand how little has changed is to consider the two UN conferences in South Africa which bookend the year. The weekend before 9/11, at the UN Conference Against Racism, Colonialism, Whitey, Hymie and Capitalism, Robert Mugabe’s government was cheered to the rafters for calling on Britain and America to ‘apologise unreservedly for their crimes against humanity’. Last week, when the world’s jetset Luddites convened at the Church of the Sustainable Conception for the so-called Earth Summit, who got the biggest roar this time? Why, ol’ Starver Bob, for a trenchant assault on the wickedness of Tony Blair.

A few weeks earlier, Libya was elected to chair the UN Human Rights Commission. Washington doesn’t expect much from the UN, but why did it have to be Libya? Okay, it’s never going to be America or Britain, but how about Belize or Western Samoa? Why did it have to be something so utterly contemptible of reality as the elevation of Colonel Gaddafi’s flunkey? If the multilateral world is irrelevant, it’s because its organs — the UN, EU, Nato — are diseased and sclerotic, and it has shown no willingness in the last year to address the fact.
As for Europe, for the next couple of decades it will be too preoccupied saving itself to do much on the world stage: the EU faces a declining birth-rate, rising social costs, a swelling unassimilated immigrant population — all the indicators heading in the wrong direction. Islam For All reported approvingly the other day that, at present demographic rates, in 20 years’ time the majority of Holland’s children (those under 18) will be Muslim. It will be the first Islamic country in western Europe since the loss of Spain. Europe is the colony now. "
Mark Goldblatt has a good article in the NRO which shows the result of years of emphasizing self-esteem over core skills and knowledge in our schools. A combination of ignorance and hubris.

"It is a trend that should worry us because, unlike in the past, ignorance is no longer tempered with humility. Rather, after years of psychotherapy disguised as pedagogy, ignorance is now buoyed by self-esteem — which, in turn, makes students more resistant to remediation since they don't believe there's a problem. This resistance, indeed, is part and parcel of a wholly misplaced intellectual confidence that is the most serious obstacle to their higher education. For the last two decades, I've taught freshman courses at CUNY and SUNY colleges in the city; the majority of my students have been products of the city's public schools. I am saddened, therefore, to report that more and more of them are arriving in my classes with the impression that their opinions, regardless of their acquaintance with a particular subject, are instantly valid — indeed, as valid as anyone's. Pertinent knowledge, to them, is not required to render judgment."

(via Joanne Jacobs)
Grizzly mauls animal-rights activist near Yellowstone Park

"Biologists have been worried attacks would rise as a key food source for bears -- nuts from whitebark pines -- dries up."

So they have had to get their nuts elsewhere I guess. (via C&S
A group of Australians think they can make working optical fibers from plastic rather than the traditional glass. Apparently they are smaller and cheaper than glass fibers because of the fact that they don't need as many protective coatings.
John Hawkins skewers a particularly idiotic column about the Kyoto Treaty.
Jimmy Carter has an op-ed in the WaPo today decrying the 'troubling new face of America'. As opposed to the basket-case and laughing stock it was under his administration I suppose.

"Formerly admired almost universally as the preeminent champion of human rights, our country has become the foremost target of respected international organizations concerned about these basic principles of democratic life. We have ignored or condoned abuses in nations that support our anti-terrorism effort, while detaining American citizens as "enemy combatants," incarcerating them secretly and indefinitely without their being charged with any crime or having the right to legal counsel."

Yes, it's just too bad we don't have the same moral standing as that pillar of human rights Moammar Gadhafi who was nominated to be the next chair of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
Life seems to continue to imitate the Simpsons. An LA Cathedral is going to offer Starbucks coffee and shopping which is all eerily reminiscent of the Simpsons episode "She of Little Faith".
Good column by Rand Simberg at TCS on 'sustainable' development.
See Islam is just misunderstood, as this letter in the Washington Post points out:

"As the former director of the National Islamic Center of Washington, the focal point of Islam in North America, allow me to make clear that there is no dictum in the Koran to allow the stoning death of an adulteress; the penalty the Koran prescribes is lashing.

The alleged sharia court in Nigeria is staffed by people who are following tribal customs, not Islam's.


San Marcos, Calif."

He doesn't say whether the lashing should continue until the victim, er adulteress is dead or just until she is maimed. (via Best of the Web)
The FBI has decided that the July 4 shooting at the El Al ticket counter at Los Angeles International Airport might have been terrorist related after all. Let's see: Hesham Muhammad Ali Hadayet, an Egyptian, opened fire at an El Al ticket counter, what could the motive have been...hmmm. Tough call, glad to see the crack FBI is on the case.
Looks like we are soon to see the first commerical moon landing.
Lileks has a devastating column today about the upcoming 9/11 anniversary.

Wednesday, September 04, 2002

This is a pretty sad state of affairs. In the 2002 First Amendment Survey almost 49% of Americans think the First Amendment goes too far in the rights it guarantees. Note that I said "guaratees" and not "grants". The Bill of Rights grants no rights, the founders assumed these rights to preexist. The Constitution is a document which limits the governments power to interfere with those rights. I have commented before on the poor score card the bill of rights would get, this survey indicates why. There are just too many people willing to trade freedom for security. It doesn't speak well for the level of civil and historical education in the country either.

Some specific results from the survey:

• More than 40 percent of those polled said newspapers should not be allowed to freely criticize the U.S. military's strategy and performance.

• Roughly half of those surveyed said the American press has been too aggressive in asking government officials for information about the war on terrorism.

• More than four in 10 said they would limit the academic freedom of professors and bar criticism of government military policy.

• About half of those surveyed said government should be able to monitor religious groups in the interest of national security, even if that means infringing upon religious freedom.

• More than four in 10 said the government should have greater power to monitor the activities of Muslims living in the United States than it does other religious groups.

"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
- Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759.

"I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it."
- Thomas Jefferson to Archibald Stuart, 1791. ME 8:276
A teacher just got a severe reprimand for using the word "niggardly" correctly. This is a word with no racist derivation that I know of. The school board reprimanded the teacher because apparently they lacked "sensitivity to the school's diverse population" and because they weren't "aware of cultural differences." This is just too stupid. It is true that just because you are acting paranoid that doesn't mean they aren't out to get you, but sometimes you are just being paranoid. Here is a good site that chronicled what happened when a mayor's aide in Washington DC used the term "niggardly" in a private staff meeting.
Explaining the demise of the great ape and chimpanzee populations in Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and never once mentioning decades of civil war is another example of politically correct madness. How many apes and chimps were slaughtered by soldiers for food and target practice?
I love the Onion:

Catholic Church Rules Perjury Not A Mortal Sin
VATICAN CITY—The Vatican Synod of Bishops ruled Monday that perjury is not a mortal sin, downgrading the sin to venal."God and The Mother Church will be more than satisfied with a penance of 20 rosaries for any act of perjury," Cardinal Angelo Sodano said. "Any earthly prohibition against lying in a court of law has no relevance to the holy teachings of The Bible." The proclamation comes on the heels of last Friday's doctrinal clarification that adultery only occurs when both participants are adults.
Here is a funny joke from Grouchy Old Cripple:

"I have to insert a crude Jimmy Carter joke here. Did you know that when he and his wife have sex he has to be on the bottom? Why? Because all he knows how to do is fuck up."
Here is a good piece by my ex-colleague Jerry Taylor of the Cato Institute. Here is an especially good passage:

"Blaming Western industrialized nations for producing and consuming too much is misguided. If the West didn't produce as much as it does, standards of living in countries like South Africa would be lower than they are today. If the West didn't consume as much as it did, we'd join those countries in their pool of human misery. Nobody in the United States has to apologize for living in nice houses, eating well, investing in education, spending money on health care, or enjoying life. Despite what the U.N. would have us believe, those things did not come at the expense of the Third World or the global environment. Tropical rainforest deforestation, for instance, has little to do with Western consumption. Less than 10 percent of the harvested timber is exported. Most of that wood is burned for fuel, and most of the cutting takes place to clear the way for Third World farmers who lack the capital to increase yields in any other way save for putting more land under the till. Third World poverty - not Western affluence - is the problem. Pollution, moreover, is likewise primarily a problem in the developing - not the developed - world. As anyone who's traveled can attest, air and water quality in the West is far better than it is in countries like South Africa and continues to improve at jaw-dropping rates. Western nations aren't the ones exporting "brown clouds" to the Third World. It's the Third World that's exporting brown clouds to the rest of us."
I wonder how many of the 3-5 year olds would have been stabbed in Korea if one of the 45 people in the cafeteria had a firearm? You never hear about mass knife attacks in Texas.
Remember how those in favor of nationalizing our health care system were talking about how our system should be more like Canada's? Well according to this study (which is talked at length about today in the WSJ), even though Canada spends more money than any other "universal access" country in the OECD on healthcare, the quality of healthcare that the patients actually receive ranks right up there with Turkey, Hungary and Poland. Why is this the case? Because Canada is the only country in the OECD that doesn't allow a parallel private healthcare system to exist. When will they learn that Communism doesn't work?

Tuesday, September 03, 2002

I must be in a really geeky mood today or something. Here is an interview with Steve Lisberger, creator of Tron. It has some interesting tidbits:

"After we did Tron, that year, we weren’t even nominated for an Academy Award for special effects. When we made an inquiry as to why that might be, they said, 'Well we didn’t nominate you because you cheated. You used computers.'"
Is that a gun in your pocket or are you just happy to see me? Neither, falsies for men.
Thank god Hillary was unsuccessful in nationalizing our health care industry. In New Zealand, cancer patients have to wait up to 18 weeks for their first appointment with a specialist. Considering how important it is to treat cancer in its early stages, I think this is trully a crime. (via Best of the Web)
For some reason this story reminded me of the song "Pretty Vacant" by the Sex Pistols. Hmmm, I have no idea why :)
Oh, here is a shocker, the music industry's subscription sites aren't doing very well.
Someone is trying to get a patent for something which sounds like a early version of a cloaking device.

Here is something interesting: Growing cartilage inside the body.

"A gel platform being developed for growing cartilage cells that could be implanted into damaged joints by arthroscopic surgery is described in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In theory, the new cartilage would grow and unite with the surrounding tissue as the gel slowly degrades. The development team working on the platform for the procedure is headed by Alan Grodzinsky, director of MIT's Center for Biomedical Engineering. Though the procedure has yet to be tested on animals, the researchers noted that the gel platform, or scaffold, is made up of biopolymer fibers that measure 10 to 20 nanometers (billionths of a meter) in diameter -- more than 1,000 times smaller than the materials tissue engineers currently use. 'That smaller size makes all the difference in the world,' said Shuguang Zhang, the center's associate director, who developed the scaffold. The material is also different, he said, because it can be engineered with specific properties -- such as varying rates of degradation -- depending on where in the body it's implanted or how bad the damage is."
My thanks, by the way, to Max and Jerry for holding up the blog site while I was touring the charming city of Montreal with my much better half while my in-laws watched the children. My friends father-in-law likes to say that it's a priviledge for the grandparents to stay with the children. I agree wholeheartedly and being the generous soul that I am, I like extending the priviledge to the grandparents as often as possible. The trip itself went off without a hitch, the weather there was lovely (I heard it rained all weekend in NY). We drove so as to avoid the airport idiocies. It's a straight trip up I87 at 75 mph er, I mean 65 mph (55 near Albany). Without stopping it takes about 5 1/2 hrs. Our only hitch was at the border on the way back. Not that I object to the extra security (they were checking about 2 out of 3 cars from our quick spot check), but a lot of time was wasted because they put up traffic cones to merge 5 lanes into 3 lanes so it could again spread out to 5 booths. Neither my wife nor I could figure out any reason for the traffic cones except that weird combination of government 'logic'/indifference.
Mark Steyn has some comments about the Johannisburg summit.

"In his Guardian column this week, our old friend George Monbiot argued persuasively that poverty made people happier: "In southern Ethiopia, for example," wrote George, "the poorest half of the poorest nation on earth, the streets and fields crackle with laughter. In homes constructed from packing cases and palm leaves, people engage more freely, smile more often, express more affection than we do behind our double glazing, surrounded by remote controls."

He's so right. That's why I'm glad I made the effort to attend the opening gala of the Earth Summit, truly a night to remember. The banqueting suite of Johannesburg's Michelangelo Hotel was packed as Bob Mugabe warmed up the crowd with a few gags: "I don't know about you," he said, "but I'm starving millions of people!" The canned laughter - an authentic recording of happy Ethiopian peasants clutching their bellies and corpsing - filled the room.

After the chorus of native dancers clad only in packing cases and palm leaves, Natalie Cole came on to sing her famous anthem to industrial development, "Unsustainable/That's what you are", and 65,000 of the world's most eligible bureaucrats, NGO executive council members and BBC environmental correspondents crowded the dance floor to glide cheek to cheek under a glitter ball of premium ox dung specially flown in from Bangladesh. It glittered because of the 120,000 flies buzzing around it, their gossamer wings dappling the international activists below in a myriad of enchanting shadows."
Here is a list of commencement speakers from some of the leading universities over the last 10 years. You won't be suprised by their political leanings.