Friday, December 06, 2002

Cal Thomas is offended by the stripping away of anything that seems to be even remotely religious from public life. He laments at the fact that instead of saying "Merry Christmas" people now say "Happy Holidays." He even gives an example of an event that he finds particularly distasteful:

Officials at South Orange Middle School canceled a field trip to a performance of Charles Dickens' classic, "A Christmas Carol, " because some students (or parents) might find the play "offensive. " One news story attributed the cancellation to a single Jewish parent who was offended by the play's "Christian theme. "

I've seen "A Christmas Carol " on many occasions and have yet to discover a "Christian " theme in it, unless you consider the "conversion " of Scrooge by the "ghosts " of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas yet to come a religious act. It is a story about charity, kindness and good will which, the last I checked, was a theme not only in all religions but also among humanists and other non-theists.

What exactly have you been smoking Cal? You can't find the Christian theme in "A CHRISTmas Carol"? First, Christmas is the celebration of the birth of someone who you consider to be a god, it's not exactly a purely secular holiday. And come on Cal, you don't have to dig deep into that story to find some blatant anti-Semitism, so a Jewish parent has every right to keep their kids from having to see it. Ebenezer Scrooge is a businessman who doesn't celebrate Christmas and is "shown the light" of the error of his ways and converted. Do I need to draw you a picture? And I don't think I've read a Dickens novel that didn't have some back-handed comment against Jews. And don't you remember the character Fagin in Oliver Twist who was a money grubbing and deceitful Jewish person in control of a criminal gang.
Here's another example of how the environmentalists are static thinkers and by following their lead we can only head to deprivation and poverty.
The article never mentions why cork is losing out to other forms of wine closure. It's because cork is not the best form of wine stopper. Wine industry estimates are that about 3% (some say as much as 6%) of wine bottles are spoiled by bad corks. That is corks that is infected with a bacteria that causes an off smell and taste in the wine. The problem is there is no way to tell an infected cork from a good one. In the past there was no alternative. But today synthetic cork and screw caps, my favorite although I use synthetic corks, do a better job as a wine closure. As wine production has grown natural cork has become more expensive and more variable in quality.
The cork producers will for the first time in centuries actually have to spend some money in researching alternative uses for their product. How's that for a novel idea.
The UN and the Dutch showed their true backbone in Serbia when it might have be dangerous.
Quote of the Day

“I’d still vote for him because I would have done the same thing.”

-A Berkeley student on the allegations that the Mayor-elect stole and threw away a thousand copies of the school newspaper after they endorsed his opponent.

So much for Berkeley being a hotbed of free speech.
This is a very cool optical illusion (via Volokh Conspiracy)
Lieberman-McCain in 2004? That is probably the one ticket the Democrats could come up with that would actually stand a very good chance of defeating George Bush. Both are strong on defense and have tremendous personal integrity. Of course, as it is their best chance, there is probably no way they are going to do it. They'd probably come up with a Gore-Pelosi ticket which would be eerily reminiscent of the Mondal-Ferraro ticket.

The Democrats' favorite Republican, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, insists he won't be on the same ticket with possible presidential candidate Sen. Joe Lieberman, but the Connecticut Democratic won't rule it out. "You know, it's so far ahead," Lieberman tells the New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin in the upcoming issue. "There's nobody I think better of, just in terms of integrity, purpose, honor, trustworthiness." And when Toobin suggested to McCain that the two feel the same about President Bush, Bush's same-party rival responded: "Exactly . . . I probably don't feel as strongly negative."

Snow angels sighted...
Jonah Goldberg makes a liberal case for war with Iraq.

Though this would come as a surprise to college students today, there's nothing inherent to liberalism that makes it reflexively anti-war. Indeed, in the 20th century context, it is conservatives who are more reliably knee-jerk in their opposition to military action -the great exception being the right's principled and pragmatic opposition to communism. Liberals created the idea of interventionism around the globe. Woodrow Wilson painted himself as a liberator of oppressed peoples and exporter of democracy. FDR could hardly be called a knee-jerk peacenik.

Obviously, it was Vietnam that drained the will to fight from liberalism, though certainly not from many individual liberals. But it's worth noting, again, that liberals were complicit in getting us into Vietnam and they saw no intellectual inconsistency in doing so.

The liberal justification for war has always seemed the more compelling to me morally. The conservative case for war is obviously more compelling intellectually. Liberals believe in helping people around the world. Conservatives believe in doing what is in our self-interest and no more.
The point is that -until recently -liberals didn't think liberal ends were negated simply because conservative ends were being satisfied as well. But no more. During the 1990s, liberals opposed any conflict that was defined primarily as being in America's interests and supported any conflict that was defined as purely humanitarian. Hence, liberals supported armed intervention in Kosovo, Haiti and Somalia but had a problem with the Gulf War.

If Saddam Hussein were the president of Belgium, New Zealand or Chad with no oil under his feet, but with just as many tortured and brutalized subjects, I can't help but suspect that liberals would be in favor of removing him from power. What I don't get is why liberals can ignore the indictment against Saddam simply because conservatives have good reasons for going after him, too.

Holland has now banned the production of Kosher meat. It is now the fifth country to do so on the European continent. The countries are Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland and now, Holland (I bet the only reason Germany isn't on this list is because it would have been too obvious). Switzerland is even looking into a ban on even the import of Kosher meat. Does anything seem strange about this list? Could it be that all these countries are Aryan? Oh no, we don't still hate Jews, we are just anti-Zionist.
My family dog just died today. He was 12 and died in his sleep, which is probably the only way to go. Luckily I got to see him a few days ago when I was visiting my mom's house. I had absolutely no idea this was about to happen. He was very lively when I saw him and still acted like he was a puppy, granted a 120 pound puppy, but still like a puppy. Here is the only picture I have of him in electronic form. He is the white dog doing his impersonation of a bearskin rug.

Very good Lileks bleat today describing a new HBO documentary on Saddam.

The documentary had a rushed quality, narrated with haste and edited with a sense of nervous urgency, as if the editor expected a knock on the door any minute. As an overview of Saddam’s family politics, it’s invaluable; we meet his wife, who was a Tami-Feh-Baquer-type, a squat overdone glam queen until Saddam publicly stepped out on her. Then she took up the veil and the frown, and slumps around exuding dowdy bile. We meet the charming sons, Uday and Qusay, described in glowing terms by a grinning little toady who will be played by Steve Buscemi in the movie version. We hear the tale of the defector who fled to Jordon, denounced Saddam - then grew homesick for the smell of the Tigris, accepted Saddam’s promise of amnesty, and took his family back to Iraq. (They’re dead.)

It all felt like “Scarface” on a national level. Except that “Scarface” didn’t have a nightly TV news broadcast, and Saddam does. I’m always fascinated by the way other cultures adopt the conventions of the nightly news - the upbeat urgent theme music, the catchy graphics. Gouged-Out-Eye Witness News! In the case of Iraq, you see a planet rotating in space, stopping when Iraq rolls around. The nation grows green - a taste of things to come, perhaps - and fills the screen; we see a famous statue of a mythological figure pouring water, no doubt a Baghdad landmark. It all seems so normal, so modern, so familiar - and it’s all in the service of a miserable, rotten man who spent his childhood shoving hot pokers into dogs and cats.
Fun Site of the Day
This site let's you mix and match face parts to create new faces. The resulting faces are pretty realistic, if freaky.

Thursday, December 05, 2002

So Ann Coulter doesn't seem to think that the Central Park Jogger five are guilty, no matter what some lifer in prison says:

The "Innocence Project" has produced an 11th-hour confession from a sixth rapist, Matias Reyes. Stunning no one but gullible reporters, he claims he acted alone. As is always the case with surprise confessions exonerating others, Reyes faces no penalty for this confession. To the contrary, Reyes is surely the toast of his cellblock -- where, by happenstance, he is serving time with another Central Park rapist, Kharey Wise. The statute of limitations has run on the rape and Reyes is already serving life in prison.

Compare Reyes' new confession to the videotaped confessions of the five animals back in 1989. Their confessions would land them in prison. These were "statements against interest" in the strongest sense of the phrase. And yet, they still confessed. Their confessions were tested in court, attacked by defense counsel, and believed by two unanimous juries.

Consider only the odds of a false confession leading to a conviction. If the judge believes a confession is not an expression of free will, the confession will be thrown out. If the jury believes a confession is not an expression of free will, the confession will be thrown out. If an appeals court finds the confession was not voluntary, it will be thrown out. If the police fail to read the suspect his Miranda rights, the confession will be thrown out. If the defendant lyingly claims he was not read his Miranda rights and gets some appeals court to believe him, the confession will be thrown out. If the police question a juvenile outside the presence of his parents, the confession will be thrown out.

The videotaped confessions of the animals convicted in the Central Park attack were not thrown out. They were admitted into evidence and believed by two unanimous juries.

In 10 videotaped statements, members of the wolf pack implicated one another as well as themselves. They corroborated aspects of one another's stories. The police obtained statements from literally dozens of teenagers who were in the park the night the jogger was attacked. In the end, only five of those who gave statements were prosecuted for the attack on the jogger.

She definitely makes some very good points here. Who knows what the truth is. As the jogger is permanently brain damaged and has no memory of the attack, we probably will never know. I hope Bloomberg doesn't mess up the City so bad that we have to go back to those bad pre-Guliani days.
According to this study, 46% of the Earth's surface is still "wilderness." Maybe the watermelons will stop whining about over-development. Sorry, I needed a laugh, it looks like Siberia outside. And two days ago, it was so cold when I left for work that my normally warm winter coat felt like it was made of paper. I miss global warming. I need to find an aerosol can. In the words of Drew Carrey, "screw the grandkids, I'm cold now".
Here are some really beautiful images of Earth taken from space.
'Tough' microbes may offer clues to self-assembling nano-structures.

Sulfulobus is one tough bug. Part of an ancient branch of one-celled life called the Archaea, it thrives in near-boiling springs of sulfuric acid in places like Yellowstone National Park.
How, Jonathan Trent wondered, does it do that? Why doesn't it just fall apart?

The question led the NASA biologist down a long path to an interesting conclusion: The same chemistry that keeps the microbe alive may also be the key to making perfect arrays of tiny particles, one of the goals of the emerging discipline of nanotechnology.
An interesting an counter-intuitive piece by Bruce Bartlett on employee ownership plans. I have always supported such initiatives, assuming that having employees directly benefit from the success of the business would contribute to higher productivity and greater well-being for both the employees and the shareholders. According to Bartlett's column, however, the evidence does not seem to support this conclusion.

Economists that have looked at ESOPs generally find that there is no significant increase in productivity at companies with such plans. The benefits to each individual worker are too small to fundamentally change their attitudes. On the contrary, they often use their ownership to block productivity-enhancing changes. The result is that management is even more hamstrung than it was before, leading to losses and bankruptcies.

A Dec. 4 report in The Washington Post looks at the experience of China with employee ownership, which the government strongly encouraged. Workers proved unwilling to make radical changes, blocked layoffs, slacked off from work and often abused corporate assets. At the Jing Wine Company, for example, workers apparently drank much of the profits.

Says economist Martin Sullivan about ESOPs in general, "There do not appear to be any microeconomic foundations to back up claims that employee ownership of large corporations is good for the economy. In fact, there are -- unfortunately -- many reasons for economists to believe employee ownership can just cause problems."
Thomas Sowell comments on socialism and Joshua Muravchik's new book "Heaven on Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism"

In all these very different societies around the world, the story of socialism has been a story of high hopes and bitter disappointments. Attempts to redistribute wealth repeatedly led to the redistribution of poverty.

Attempts to free ordinary people from oppression repeatedly led to what Mikhail Gorbachev frankly called "servility" to new despots. How and why are spelled out with both facts and brilliant insights expressed in plain words.

Human nature has been at the heart of the failures of socialism to produce the results it sought, even when socialist leaders were idealists like Julius Nyerere in Tanzania or Pandit Nehru in India.
Worst of all, the concentration of political power necessary to try to reduce economic inequalities has allowed tyrants like Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot to impose their notions and caprices on millions of others -- draining them economically or slaughtering them en masse or exploiting them sexually.
Some people who are Pro-Palestinian argue that it's their land and the Israeli's are invaders. Well check out this account on how it became "their" land:

“…the whole Gaza region up to Cesarea was sacked and devastated in the campaign of 634. Four thousand Jewish, Christian, and Samaritan peasants who defended their land were massacred. The villages of the Negev were pillaged…Towns such as Jerusalem, Gaza, Jaffa, Cesarea, Nablus, and Beth Shean were isolated and closed their gates. In his sermon on Christmas day 634, the patriarch of Jerusalem, Sophronius, lamented…that the Christians were being forcibly kept in Jerusalem: ‘…chained and nailed by fear of the Saracens,’ whose ‘savage, barbarous and bloody sword’ kept them locked up in the town…Sophronius, in his sermon on the Day of the Epiphany 636, bewailed the destruction of the churches and monasteries, the sacked towns, the fields laid waste, the villages burned down by the nomads who were overrunning the country. In a letter the same year to Sergius, the patriarch of Constantinople, he mentions the ravages wrought by the Arabs. Thousands of people perished in 639, victims of the famine and plague that resulted from these destructions.”

Professor Gil emphasizes the singular centrality that Palestine occupied in the mind of its pre-Islamic Jewish inhabitants, who referred to the land as "al-Sham". Indeed, as Gil observes, the sizable Jewish population in Palestine (who formed a majority of its inhabitants, when grouped with the Samaritans) at the dawn of the Arab Muslim conquest were "..the direct descendants of the generations of Jews who had lived there since the days of Joshua bin Nun, in other words for some 2000 years..".
Here is an excerpt from a column in the Washington Post which slams Kissinger:

He helped write some of the darkest chapters in American history: The prolonging of the Vietnam War included the shameless exploitation of U.S. POWs as the alibi for covering a retreat that had been inevitable for four years. The subversion of Chile's elected Socialist government led to more rage, tears and deaths that are not yet counted. In Central America, of course, Kissinger was on the wrong side.

So now he is being blamed for prolonging the Vietnam war instead of being credited with helping pull American troops out? What would this columnist have had us do? Scream "run away, run away!" and get out of there irrespective of what a hasty retreat would do to our international standing. Losing in Vietnam hurt our international prestige as we had never lost a war before (though we did have a couple ties) but we still left with some of it intact. If we had done what this columnist suggests, we would have been laughingstocks. Oh and notice how the columnist mentions that the retreat "had been inevitable for four years." As we left in 1973, that inevitability showed itself in 1969, which happens to be when a Republican administration took office. So in other words, LBJ and that bunch of goons were fighting a good fight, while Kissinger and Nixon were simply pig-headed people who were wasting American lives in a lost cause.

And what side is the wrong side in Central America? Funny, I don't remember Kissinger being on the side of the Communists. Oh wait, that's not what she meant is it.

Must've been the big plate of goat and beans he had for dinner last night.

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Egg on their face?

The FDA plans a bigger (taxpayer funded...) study to test the results of an Atkins vs. FDA-recommended low fat diet stand-off conducted at Duke University. The results, on 120 test subjects, are astounding. If someone reported similar results for drugs in trial, the drug corresponding to the low-fat diet would be immediately dropped as insufficiently theaputic compared to alternatives. Check it out.
Lisa Snell has an interesting piece on how schools use the "learning disability" label to cover up their failures.

The SLD label is increasingly popular not because it suggests a particular pedagogical approach but because it brings schools extra money. The incentive to identify students as disabled is especially strong in schools with large numbers of low-income students. Such schools can obtain funding under Title I as well as IDEA, double counting each low achiever. "In essence," write Wade Horn and Douglas Tynan, "low-income, low-achieving students can be ‘twofers’ when it comes to maximizing procurement of federal and state funds."

It is commonly asserted that special education puts a financial strain on schools. Yet during the last four decades per pupil spending has increased from $2,360 to $7,086 in inflation-adjusted dollars, while student outcomes have been flat. "Whatever the causes for this productivity crisis in education (spending more without improving outcomes)," the Manhattan Institute’s Jay Greene notes, "it is not reasonable to blame special education for consuming extra dollars or burdening schools with more difficult to educate students." Even as they shift more and more students into special education, schools have more money for general education than ever before. "Schools are classifying more normal but low-achieving students as learning-disabled using vague criteria," Greene writes. "Schools get more money for these special-education kids but don’t spend much to ‘treat’ them."
Unlike special education, early intervention with intensive instruction appears to reduce the number of children who have reading difficulties later in life. The research suggests that when children like my nephew Clayton are taught the basic phonological skills necessary for reading, they can avoid a disability label altogether. The experience with early intervention programs that emphasize phonemes (basic units of speech) indicates that the rate of truly intractable reading problems is close to the rate of other serious disabilities. In five recent studies, when kids with poor phonological skills were given intensive instruction in phonemes and phonics, the expected incidence of learning disabilities, originally 12 percent to 18 percent, was reduced to around 1.5 percent.

"The emphasis on prevention begs the question of what constitutes a disability," write reading expert Reid Lyon and his colleagues in the Rethinking Special Education report. "If the role of inadequate instruction is taken seriously, and more aggressive attempts are made to teach all children to read, the meaning of disability could change in the future. In this scenario, the actual diagnosis of LD could be reserved for children whose reading or other academic problems are severe and intractable."
A sick but true post from Scrappleface:

Mid-East Muslims Look To Export Major Product
(2002-12-04) -- The best-known product manufactured by middle-eastern Muslims may soon be exported globally, coming to a supermarket near you.

Lebanon-based Hezbollah leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, said in a speech recently, "Martyrdom operations--suicide bombings--should be exported outside Palestine. I encourage Palestinians to take suicide bombings worldwide. Don't be shy about it."

Sheik Nasrallah said the product would be available in supermarkets, shopping malls and even aboard public transit. Apparently Palestinian manufacturers of the product have lacked the confidence to export, preferring to offer their wares almost exclusively to their neighbors, the Israelis. But last week, in a prototype market test, a few entrepreneurs made a go of it at a hotel in Kenya, with encouraging results.

U.S. President George Bush said Muslim exporters could expect to pay "extremely high tariffs and if necessary, uniformed U.S. authorities will come and inspect your manufacturing facilities with the help of our friends, the Israelis."

Mr. Bush said the Palestinians were known to violate child-labor laws and worker safety regulations in the making of this product.

"The product is obsolete, and it never really worked anyway," said Mr. Bush. "Americans have no appetite for such things."
Okay, time for a little balance. A religious adviser for Planned Parenthood seems to be just as out of his mind as those bible-thumpers I mentioned earlier. Here is what he wrote to the O'Reilly Factor:

"In your show you said that Jesus was not pro-choice and you were sure he would be insulted were he to see this card," referring to Planned Parenthood's "Choice on Earth" holiday greeting card.

"Even as a minister I am careful what I presume Jesus would do if he were alive today, but one thing I know from the Bible is that Jesus was not against women having a choice in continuing a pregnancy," he continued.

"Jesus was for peace on earth, justice on earth, compassion on earth, mercy on earth, and choice on earth," Bigelow added.

Okay, in what passage did Jesus claim support for partial-birth abortions? I am definitely not an expert about Jesus as I have never even read the New Testament. But from my understanding he held all life sacred. And as the Bible doesn't explicitly define life as something that begins only outside of the mother's womb, I think it's nonsensical to assume he would be for abortion.

Another thing that makes me skeptical is that I know that Jesus was a student of the Kabbalah and one of its lessons is that everything has a soul, including things that don't seem alive. So he might agree that a fetus isn't alive but he might actually still be against abortion simply out of kindness to its soul.

This is why I don't like either side. They both are completely looney tunes in my opinion.
Howard Feinberg looks at recent studies of adverse health effects from the Three Mile Island accident and finds that ... there were none.

Judge Sylvia Rambo of the U.S. District Court in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, trained a skeptical eye on the effects of TMI when faced with the anti-nuclear vanguard - trial lawyers. In June, 1996, she dismissed a class action lawsuit linking the accident to adverse health effects: "The parties to the instant action... have had nearly two decades to muster evidence in support of their respective cases... The paucity of proof alleged in support of plaintiff's case is manifest. The court has searched the record for any and all evidence, which construed in the light more favorable to plaintiffs creates a genuine issue of material fact warranting submission of their claims to a jury. This effort has been in vain." Translation from legalese to English: after all this time, there is not the slightest evidence of so much as a cold linked to the TMI accident.

Like much of the other anti-technology, Luddite thinking of the Greens, the strong anti-nuclear positions holds no water. I live about 8 miles from Indian Point and am constantly being presented with local petitions to shut it down. Nothing about effects on the local economy, jobs lost, or power shortages is considered, just the "Nuclear Power Bad" mantra repeated endlessly.
Nuclear power has been trumpeted for decades as a threat to our health for decades, but it never spawned the development of any Godzilla-like disaster. Even the meltdown of the Chernobyl plant in 1986, one with few of the safeguards and protections of American plants, killed only 41 people, not the 2,000, 15,000 or 110,000 rashly predicted at the time.

It has always amazed me that the folks who worry most about pollution and greenhouse emissions from coal and oil sources also oppose replacing current energy sources with nuclear power plants one of the cleanest sources we have that is practical (excluding solar for the forseeable future). Fears of what to do with nuclear waste are also greatly overstated. As for safety concerns, note to the solar-power greens, the sun kills over 15000 people a year. Could there be a major nuclear plant accident...Yes, but the Sun could at any moment explode and obliterate life as we know it. Life is risky and the only certainty is that it's not permanent, so get over it. It terms of actual risks, over the last 50 years the number of deaths attributed to the Sun exceeds 75000 not including heat-related deaths. Deaths to to coal-mining, oil-refinery fires etc... I'm sure also goes well into the thousands over the same time period. Nuclear related deaths during the same period are less than 100 (mostly due to Chernobyl). So if you really want to protect your health, maybe you should get a nice house near a nuclear power plant, stay indoors as much as possible and always wear sunscreen.
Ronald Bailey explains why inserting animal genes into plants does not make them non-vegetarian, and how biotech advances may in fact save the lives of some animals.

It is easy to see how committed vegetarians, concerned as they are with animal welfare, might be worried about the effects of genetic engineering on the health and well-being of animals. But it is far from clear why vegetarians would object to inserting animal genes into plants. Ethical vegetarians want to prevent animal suffering. But genes have no feelings, no capacity to suffer, no desires of any kind. Genes are just sequences of the chemical bases adenine, cytosine, guanine, and thymine that provide recipes for combining amino acids to produce various proteins. Worrying about eating animal genes is akin to worrying about the ethical implications of eating a page out of a steak cookbook.
Vegetarians (although not strict vegans, who eschew all animal products, including milk and eggs) already have a precedent to guide them on the issue of animal genes in food. Until 1990, the vast majority of cheese was produced using a curdling agent called rennet, the sole source of which was the linings of the fourth stomachs of slaughtered calves. Twelve years ago, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a biotech version called chymosin, which is produced by yeast and bacteria into which the calf gene for the enzyme has been spliced. Now nearly 80 percent of all hard cheeses made in the United States are produced with the biotech enzyme. Many vegetarian groups have embraced cheeses made with chymosin as "vegetarian cheese." They recognize that an animal gene spliced into a fungus is saving millions of calves from being slaughtered for their rennet. Surely this is an animal-friendly result.
I really wish that celebrities would stop commenting on politics as if their opinions matter more than anybody else's. Check this out:

Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins are scoffing at Bush's appointment of Henry Kissinger to head a commission probing intelligence and security failures that led to Sept. 11.

"It's like something that 'Mad TV' thought up," Sarandon told us Monday night at a benefit for New York's 21-year-old Vineyard Theater. Asked who she might nominate to join the former secretary of state on the panel, the actress suggested, "How about [ex-Serbian strongman] Slobodan Milosevic? Let's put all the war criminals on it."

Funny, I don't remember Slobodan Milosevic's PhD dissertation on the Congress of Vienna still being read in Political Science classes all across the country. Considering we are dealing with an issue related to security and international relations, shouldn't we have someone who was both National Security Advisor and Secretary of State? And what evidence exactly is there of him being a war criminal? All I hear about is involvement in the Chilean coup (last I heard, coup d'etat's are not war crimes) and the bombing of Cambodia (which was targetted because of Viet Cong encampments there). So I don't see how he is a war criminal. I bet that most of these celebrities have so totally accepted the fact that Kissinger is a war criminal that they probably don't even know exactly what he is accused of anymore.
Mark Steyn has another exceptional piece in the Telegraph about Canadian/European anti-Americanism.

...I was in the Gulf six months ago, and I came to the conclusion that a majority of the people I met - somewhere between 55 and 70 per cent - were, to use the technical term, nuts. That's to say, they believed things that no rational person could believe. You'd be talking to an attractive, westernised, educated Bahraini lady doctor and she'd suddenly start babbling on about how there was no plane that crashed into the Pentagon on September 11, all the footage had been faked by the government. "But I know someone who saw it from his office window," I said. "He just thinks he saw it," she replied. "The Americans know how to do these things."

John Derbyshire of America's National Review thinks the Middle East needs a massive invasion of psychiatrists. Well, about halfway through this last week in Canada, I realized I was beginning to feel about my homeland exactly the way I'd felt in Araby: these guys are nuts. Quebec's biggest English-language radio station, CJAD, conducted a listener poll on the question "Is George W Bush a moron?" Every single person said yes, he's definitely a moron, except for two who thought he was merely an idiot. On the letters pages, it was the same, except for Art Peel of Hamilton, Ontario, who complained that calling Bush a moron "does a disservice to the mentally challenged, most of whom are kind, gentle people".

Exactly. Most Canadians and most Europeans are kind, gentle people but, Bush-wise, they're the ones who are mentally challenged. The "moron" line is simply inadequate: no rational person can believe a twice-elected Texas Governor, successful US President and overthrower of the Taliban is a moron unless a majority of Americans are morons, too. And in that case how come the morons have a global dominance unparalleled in history? As with those wacky Arabs and their Zionist conspiracies, Euro-Canadian anti-Americanism is a psychosis.

In fairness to the late Ayatollah Khomeini, when he dubbed the US the Great Satan he at least understood that America is a tempter, a seducer: his slur attempts to explain its appeal. Calling America the Great Moron, by contrast, is just feeble. I happen to like moral clarity myself, but I can appreciate that for some tastes Bush's habit of dividing the world into "good" and "evil" and using these terms non-ironically might seem a little simplistic. But it's nowhere near as simplistic as dividing the world into "I'm right" and "you're stupid".
Rich Lowry explains that the plight of poor Latin American coffee growers, is not as the anti-globalization activists believe, due to Starbucks and the other evil American corporate interests, but rather is due to the entry of poor Vietnamese coffee growers into the market creating an oversupply.
Joel Mowbray has a good piece on why, even if the proposed Information Awareness Office, which is meant to gather all sorts of personal data on everyone--from what movies you watch, what meals you eat, what flights you take, etc... -- in order to locate people who fit certain "profiles", were not a flagrant violation of 4th amendment protections against unreasonable search (to say nothing of the current Supreme Court views of constitutionally protected privacy rights), it would be another ineffective federal boondoggle.
Here is an account of one student's experience taking a mandatory diversity course at the University of Michigan:

All students who wish to be in the University of Michigan's ResStaff program (those who wish to be Residence Hall Assistants) need to take a class which is worth about half as many credits as a normal class. The class is Psychology 405, Social Psychology in Community Settings. ResStaff's website states that the course's purpose is to "enhance each student's ability to analyze... differences and commonalties among cultural groups and group foundations of justice and injustice..." (more). The class instructors made sure to encourage that we voice our opinion on the discussion topics, but it soon became clear to me that this was not their preference. I spent the first half of the class avoiding trouble by keeping my mouth shut. We read many articles on victimization, oppression, etc. of minorities. But I had no choice when an activity called for full participation; we had to go around and talk about at least one way in which we have been/are oppressed. When my turn came up, and I answered that I have never been oppressed, the instructor corrected me, saying that I must have been, as I'm female. I persisted, saying that being female has never been anything short of a blessing for me. The instructor was relentless, insisting that I was necessarily oppressed at one point in my life. The instructor asked to speak with me after class. He was visibly shaken and angry. He told me that my classroom behavior was disruptive in the least (although I was never voluntarily disagreeing), and that I would be kicked out of class and would thereby lose my job and my housing for the next year unless I learned to be more cooperative. An article exposing the class' leftist agenda was published in the University of Michigan's conservative newspaper, The Michigan Review, but there is no link available to the article online.

I love it, you are being disruptive in a class about diversity if you voice a diverse opinion. I hope that instructor gets a giant rash that never goes away.
Here is a passage from a Washington Post editorial on the Supreme Court's decision to hear a case involving affirmative action at the University of Michigan:

In our view, the court would be wise to leave Michigan's program alone. Nobody ought to be comfortable with the state's treating people differently by race. But the question for the court is not whether preference programs are a good idea or whether their social costs outweigh their benefits. It is whether they so violate the basic ground rules of American democracy that they should be removed from the policymaking table altogether. It is certainly reasonable to demand that preference programs be carefully designed. But it would be wrong for the courts to decree that equal protection -- a doctrine meant to prevent the subjugation of one race by another -- demands race-blindness from all schools.

Do they actually read what they write? How can you have equal-protection and racial-preference programs at the same time? Or is this just another case of them believing that all men are created equal but some are more equal than others? What the pro-affirmative action forces always seem to ignore is the fact that affirmative action doesn't just help certain students get into a university, it keeps an equal number out. And those that they keep out aren't always going to be white anglo-saxon protestant. They are also going to be Vietnamese boat people who came to this country with nothing. They are going to be Russian Jewish immigrants who have had their families persecuted and murdered by Russians, cossacks, Ukrainians and Germans for centuries.
Vivendi must have been in trully dire straits if Standard & Poors said that their desire to increase their exposure to the decimated telecom industry actually increases their credit standing.
Very funny site containing news clippings, signs, etc. Check it out.
It's amazing how some people can get their underwear in a bunch over nothing. In a card offered by Planned Parenthood are the words "Choice on Earth" against a blue backdrop with white snowflakes. Inside it reads, "Warmest wishes for a peaceful holiday season." The linked article includes some criticisms from members of the religious right:

"The group twists a well-known Scripture in which God offers peace on earth -- not abortion -- through the birth of his son, Jesus Christ," said a statement by Wendy Wright, senior policy director at Concerned Women for America. "Planned Parenthood officials are too hardened by their mission of profiting from abortion to see that Christmas itself flies in the face of all they stand for."

The Family Research Council blasted the card as a "grotesque mangling" of the story of Jesus' birth and called on Planned Parenthood to withdraw it.

"To celebrate abortion at the season when Christians worldwide remember the birth of the Savior is just plain sick," read a statement from the group.

Just so you know, I am pro-choice but I really don't like most of the advocates from both sides. So this is probably the first time I actually am defending Planned Parenthood in my life. But I just have to in this case. First of all, until I read the article I didn't realize that "Peace on Earth" was copyrighted by whoever wrote the New Testament. Hell, I don't think I was even conscious of the fact that it came from there (oops I said "H-e-double hockey sticks" in the same paragraph where I mention the New Testament I hope I didn't ruffle any feathers ;-)). And I definitely didn't know it had anything to do with Jesus (yes yes, I know, it's all about Jesus). Something tells me that whoever wrote the card wasn't really doing anything purposely militious either in writing the words "Choice on Earth" (though I know they don't really shy away from infuriating the religious right at PP). They probably just thought they were being a little clever.

You know, if you think hard enough, you can believe just about anything is a slight against you. Here is how I can turn the card into a Pro-Arafat statement. Well, the holiday season includes Hanukkah and Hanukkah is the celebration of an independent Jewish state being created in 165 BCE after a war of independence against the Greeks. So by celebrating abortion at the same time we are celebrating an independent Jewish state they are calling Israel an abortion. See how easy it is to be a completely deluded paranoid psychopath?

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

The German military is a joke and we should treat them accordingly when they complain about our policies. It's apparent the Greens now run Germany. I would like to know where their peace dividend is considering how small a part defense spending is of GDP. Shouldn't their economy be just racing ahead of the U.S.?
Below is a sign posted in what looks like a store window in South Korea (from Drudge):

Excuse me but didn't Americans fight a war over these people in which as many Americans died as they did in Vietnam? That's gratitude for you. I wonder how they would feel if they had to live on 1,200 fewer calories per day than they currently subsist on (and the stats I linked to are actually the highest number I found on how many calories a day North Koreans get. While it estimates about 1,899 calories, I've seen many estimates of below 1000 calorie consumption). It's funny, if America doesn't get involved in a conflict it is "turning its back" or "turning isolationist" and if they do get involved, stuff like this happens.
Grouchy Old Cripple has a nice rant dissecting an argument from someone who favors the US spending a lot more money assisting under-developed nations (aka the developing world, the third world, shitholes) in dealing with AIDS.

Below are a couple quotes from a Diane Sawyer interview with Whitney Houston which I think are rather funny.

Here is where Diane Sawyer asks which drug Whitney has a problem with:

DIANE SAWYER: ... Is it alcohol? Is it marijuana? Is it cocaine? Is it pills?

WHITNEY HOUSTON: It has been at times.


HOUSTON: At times. Uh-hm.

And here is where Diane Sawyer is trying to find out the extent of the problem:

SAWYER: This says 730 thousand dollar drug habit. This is a headline.

HOUSTON: Come on! Seven thirty? I wish.

She goes on to say that she doesn't spend nearly that much on drugs. My question is, what is the "I wish" for? Does it mean that she wishes she could do that many drugs?

So the Penn students who poured oil on a Princeton debate team member have finally been charged with something. It's about time! While I definitely think these hoodlums should have the book thrown at them, I do question one of the charges. Check out this list of charges and think about what seems out of place:

The Penn students face several charges including aggravated assault, simple assault, reckless endangerment of another person's life, terroristic threats, conspiracy to commit a crime and possession of an instrument of crime.

Terrorist threats??? I think, as usual, those in law enforcement are using broad applications of terms instead of narrow ones (although the opposite seems to hold true if say, an Egyptian starts killing people in line at the El Al counter). Yes, they were causing a person terror, but how are these people terrorists? Yes, Penn people do feel they are Princeton's rivals but its not like they have declared a fatwa or jihad or anything here. It's not like Penn is filled with paramilitary organizations who aim to destroy the student body of Princeton or anything like that. I think they went a little overboard.

And what exactly is "possession of an instrument of crime"?
It's official. Bloomberg signed a 18.5% property tax increase early yesterday. Say buh-bye to what's left of the New York economy. Raising taxes dramatically during a recession, what a wonderful idea.
So I'm back from scenic Western Massachusetts! Okay, so it's not so scenic, but what can you do? Anyway, I'm going to try to post some today but no promises as I still have 400 emails to get through. One thing I do want to say is that I highly reccomend the new movie Solaris. It is probably one of the most romantic movies I've seen. I thought George Clooney was fantastic and it was nice that the movie didn't over-use completely made up technical jargon (e.g. "Captain, we must polarize the graviton field in order to neutralize the tachyon flux") and made it a romantic story with a twist (instead of a science fiction movie which has a romance, which seem to be a dime a dozen). I just ordered the Russian version (which my mom happened to do sound effects on) and I can't wait to see it. One warning however is that you shouldn't expect much action and I think about 30 seconds were spent actually discussing the Planet Solaris itself and what it does. I actually think that 2001 was better at explaining what is going on.

Monday, December 02, 2002

Sorry for the light blogging today. Max is out and I had to sort through a ton of stuff after being away all last week. Jerry has been filling in admirably. When going through all my emails I came across this from last weeks Best of the Web which I found particularly amusing:

I suffer from pretraumatic middle-aged white-male disorder. As I grow older I become increasingly traumatized by the mantle of responsibility that I will acquire. It will soon be my fault that African-Americans were forced into slavery. It will be my fault that Native Americans were stripped of their heritage and lands. It will be my fault that women were second-class citizens and don't earn as much as I do. It will be my fault that Muslims around the world must face Zionist aggression (and I'm a Methodist!). It will be my fault the homeless have no home, the pro-choice have limited choice, and the poor have fewer tax breaks. And I'm supposed to laugh all of that off on the way to the bank?
This story deserves wider distribution. It's another example of the ongoing war between humane values and brutal Islam. An Islam that will accept no criticism. (via Andrew Sullivan)
Some little known facts about the homeless and NYC's budget crisis. It's impossible to solve a problem if you cannot manage it.