Saturday, May 03, 2003

Watching most of the media coverage of post-war Iraq you might imagine there are non-stop anti-American rallies and Iraqis telling Americans to go home. Not so, says Jonathan Foreman in the Weekly Standard. In fact, he says, you have no idea how well things are going.

IT'S ENDLESSLY FASCINATING to watch the interactions between U.S. patrols and the residents of Baghdad. It's not just the love bombing the troops continue to receive from all classes of Baghdadi--though the intensity of the population's pro-American enthusiasm is astonishing, even to an early believer in the liberation of Iraq, and continues unabated despite delays in restoring power and water to the city. It's things like the reaction of the locals to black troops. They seem to be amazed by their presence in the American army. One group of kids in a poor neighborhood shouted "Mike Tyson, Mike Tyson" at Staff Sergeant Darren Swain; the daughter of a diplomat on the other hand informed him, "One of my maids has the same skin as you."

It's things like the way the women old and young flirt outrageously with GIs, lifting their veils to smile, waving from high windows, and shyly calling hello from half-opened doors. Or the way the little girls seem to speak much better English than the little boys who are always elbowing them out of the way. Or the way the troops get a sense of the gender violence endemic in the culture: Yesterday in the poor al Sahliya neighborhood two sweet 12 to 14-year-old sisters on a rooftop who introduced themselves to me and Staff Sergeant Gannon Edgy as Souha and Samaha were chased away by a rock-wielding male relative. His violent anger hinted at problems to come here.

But you won't see much of this on TV or read about it in the papers. To an amazing degree, the Baghdad-based press corps avoids writing about or filming the friendly dealings between U.S. forces here and the local population--most likely because to do so would require them to report the extravagant expressions of gratitude that accompany every such encounter. Instead you read story after story about the supposed fury of Baghdadis at the Americans for allowing the breakdown of law and order in their city.
(via PowerLine)
We are hosting this weeks Carnival of the Vanities. Send your entries to commonsensewonder-at-yahoo-dot-com by Tues May 6th.
The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Second Level of Hell!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
LevelScore
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very Low
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Moderate
Level 2 (Lustful)Very High
Level 3 (Gluttonous)High
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Moderate
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Low
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very High
Level 7 (Violent)High
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Moderate
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Moderate

Take the Dante's Inferno Hell Test

Friday, May 02, 2003

The Modern Language Association provides your laugh for the day. If you can't do, teach and plead for subsidies.


SUBSIDIZING IRRELEVANCE

By MARC BERLEY
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------



May 2, 2003 -- 'LITERARY theory" has been the hot thing in academia for 20 years, but now the professors who do it admit their work is irrelevant. Worse, no one wants to read the leaden prose, which makes it tough for up-and-coming theorists to get a book published - a standard prerequisite to tenure.
After all, they can't force presses to publish what readers won't buy, right? Wrong. And you're gonna pay for it.

At a recent gathering in the Windy City, leading "theorist" Stanley Fish, dean of Arts & Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago, announced: "I wish to deny the effectiveness of intellectual work." More, he said he would "counsel people against the decision to go into the academy because they hope to be effective beyond it."

Such moaning led New York Times reporter Emily Eakin to declare: "The era of big theory is over." The "grand paradigms that swept through humanities departments in the 20th century - psychoanalysis, structuralism, Marxism, deconstruction, post-colonialism - have lost favor or been abandoned," she wrote.



Unfortunately, that report of theory's death is both naive and premature. Here in New York, the theory-obsessed Modern Language Association, the country's largest association of English professors, is campaigning to get universities nationwide to subsidize the publication of books by postmodern theorists - despite their now-admitted lack of value or relevance.

The editor's column in the latest issue of the MLA's journal describes two plans for making tenure easier for young theorists: 1) End the requirement of publishing a meaningful scholarly book; 2) Have universities subsidize the publication of books their young professors can't get a press to publish.

Since most "theorists" are leftists, it's not surprising that their admission of self-induced irrelevance would accompany a cry for subsidy of their future meanders. And it could work.

Here's how we arrived at this madness: For decades, professors pushing theory and denigrating great books brazenly refused to generate interest in the very subject on which their livelihood depends.

In their view, Shakespeare and other icons needed to be bashed and mangled - viewed only through blinders (race, class, gender, etc.) that paint great men as criminal and lackluster theorists as infallible. Theorists thus robbed the study of literature of all beauty, enjoyment and usefulness, estranging students and readers - and wrote themselves out of the market. Now, having haughtily disdained the American public, they seek its cash.

But subsidy is no cure for irrelevance. To regain standing, English professors need to: 1) Teach the virtues of the great books (rather than act smart by slighting them); 2) Show why the great writers matter. If great writers don't matter, how in the world could English professors matter? Not to mention their books.

Theory hasn't been abandoned. Its practitioners simply got upset enough about their inability to do real things in the world (i.e., deconstruct President Bush as he protected America) to fly to Chicago and complain about their failure. Meanwhile, in New York, they're working hard to end objective standards, make you pay for their vanity publishing, and so make irrelevance irrelevant.

Actually, the MLA plan is even more corrupt: Note that it would subsidize would-be authors who'd already been chosen for promotion - chosen by a system that so discriminates against true merit that only subsidies can keep it alive. A longstanding prerequisite would become a perk of failure and irrelevance.

And the theorists would see it as a grand achievement.

Marc Berley is editor of "Reading the Renaissance: Ideas and Idioms from Shakespeare to Milton," just published.

From the NY Post
Perhaps this explains the shades and goofy smile shown off by the glorious North Korean leader for life ..high quality smack and Meth.
Arthur Silber has a fine post on what it was like growing up gay in the '60's and why Santorum's comments exhibit nothing more than continued unacceptable intolerance.

I actually haven't commented about Santorum's comments before now, but my immediate reaction when he went on about 'if we allow gay sex we'll have to allow all sorts of other forms of sex between consenting adults' (I'm paraphrasing), was "yeah, so? and your point is?" I have never understood this strong impulse to butt into people's other people's private lives and choices when they don't directly affect you. As I've state before, my view of government is very simple: 1) It should provide for common defense. 2) It should protect individual rights. 3) It should be the enforcer of consensual contracts (and not the decider of what types of contracts are acceptable). I am willing to accept the doctrine that children cannot give fully informed consent and therefore are deserving of extra protection, but otherwise the government should just mind it's own business. Let your church, if you have one, and your conscience direct your moral life and let the government just make sure you don't interfere with my choices nor I yours. If you don't do it to me or do it on my property I don't care what you do.
California is borrowing $11 billion in short term debt in order to be able to pay its bills. They are so guilty of financial mismanagement it's not even funny.
Looks like Mugabe's days may be numbered.
A New York Times reporter was finally forced to resign after people realized he plagiarized a story. Apparently the Times had to run 50 corrections in connection with his stories. My question is, with so many corrections, how come he wasn't fired earlier? Does the Times only fire you after 100 corrections?
Oh here is a shocker, Arafat is already violating one of the clauses of the "road map". All Palestinian security organizations are supposed to be under the control of the Interior Minister (Abu Mazen, who is also the Prime Minister), but Arafat just issued an order creating a national security council to do this. This national security council will of course have plenty of Arafat cronies. Essentially Arafat just made it nearly impossible for the new Prime Minister to implement real reforms. Looks like terror will continue.
Nicholas Kristof on September 10, 2002 wrote about how "our entire system of civil liberties is at risk" due to the detention of suspected terrorists and "material witnesses". This is a legitamite argument and one I can respect. Today however, he came out with a column titled "Lock 'Em Up" in which he writes that people with certain diseases should be locked up against their will for the sake of public health. Check out this choice passage:

I first encountered the dictatorial approach to public health in rural China, which combated leprosy much more effectively than democratic countries like India. Leprosy is so humiliating a disease that sufferers sometimes do not seek treatment, risking infecting others. So China instituted rewards — turn in a leper (even your spouse) for cash. This policy wiped out leprosy in China, and the Chinese are better off for it.

First, I don't see how public health is any more important than national security, both are just facets of public safety and both are matters of life and death. Second, I don't understand how it is more permissible to compromise on civil liberties when the victims are obviously innocent versus when the victims of the compromise are possibly guilty. Third, under this policy, Kristof would have been in favor of locking up homosexuals during the AIDS craze of the early-to-mid-1980's as little was known about AIDS then and how it was really transmitted. And how would this be any different or better than what we are doing now with suspected terrorists?
D.M. Gorman has an essay in Policy Review on the growth of "anti-reason" and related postmodernist nonsense in academia over the last several decades, generally and specifically in the case of evaluating public health programs.

In 1996, the Johns Hopkins University Press published a book entitled The Flight from Science and Reason that brought together an impressive collection of papers from a New York Academy of Sciences-sponsored conference convened to discuss the effects that various forms of “anti-reason” have had on the academy over the past four decades. In one of the papers included in the volume, the philosopher of science Mario Bunge drew an interesting distinction between two types of activity that currently pervade academic circles — anti-science and pseudoscience. The former, he observes, developed in the United States out of the counterculture of the 1960s, and is premised on a total denial of rational thought and empirical research — considering science to be merely an ideology that serves as a tool of male and/or racial and/or class domination. Variants of academic anti-science include existentialism and radical feminism.

In contrast, academic pseudoscience looks, at least superficially, like real science in that it formulates theories and hypotheses, measures and quantifies phenomena, and conducts statistical analyses. However, while it may display some of the “accoutrements of science,” Bunge observes, it lacks its underlying substance. One type of pseudoscience is comprised of theories that apply these principles in an inappropriate manner — for example, developing meaningless and unquantifiable models of human behavior. Another type of pseudoscience is comprised of empirical studies that purport to be scientific but whose practitioners violate the most basic premises of scientific research. Specifically, there is no genuine attempt in this form of pseudoscience to subject hypotheses to empirical tests that can falsify them.
...
From an epistemological standpoint, the problem with the science-based approach to health promotion, according to its critics, is that it ignores the fundamental ontological distinction between natural processes and social processes. The former can be and have been successfully understood by the application of scientific methods and techniques. The latter cannot be and have not been elucidated through the application of science. Advocates of the humanistic approach such as Buchanan contend that the reason for this is that social phenomena derive from the aims, beliefs, expectations, choices, and intentions of individuals. These cannot be comprehended in terms of cause and effect. The best we can hope for is to describe social processes and actions, and in doing so we might better understand and make sense of aims, beliefs, expectations, choices, and intentions. However, while one can go some way toward “making sense” of social processes and actions one can never know what “causes” them to occur. Thus, in health promotion one cannot introduce a program or policy intended to produce a specific outcome, “control” for other factors that might influence that outcome, and assess the effects of one’s intervention. That is, one cannot undertake scientific research.

Not surprisingly, these arguments for rejecting the scientific approach to studying social processes have not gone unchallenged. Bunge, for example, in his recent book Social Science Under Debate (University of Toronto Press, 1998), has demonstrated that it is very difficult to draw a line between the subject matter of the social and natural sciences. Many disciplines — linguistics and psychology, for example — draw heavily from both the social and natural sciences. Likewise, the content area of public health and health promotion — namely disease processes and behavioral problems — simply cannot be understood as either solely biological processes or solely social processes. Bunge also observes that while the behavior of any one individual may be difficult to predict or explain, group-level properties and patterns do exist (for example, in birth rates and voting) and can be predicted and explained. Thus, aims, beliefs, expectations, choices, and intentions are relatively homogeneous at a group-level, and therefore understanding individual idiosyncrasies is both unnecessary and pointless.

Beyond these broad epistemological objections, I would argue that the movement toward a postmodernistic health promotion policy has potentially disastrous consequences in that it entails the abandonment of trying to rationally understand whether our attempts to improve health are effective and worth expending resources on. If the postmodern edict that explanation of real social events or processes is impossible to achieve is followed to its logical conclusion, then all anybody (including a researcher) can ultimately do is present his or her unique subjective understanding of that event or process.
Er, E=MC2...I'm a very good driver...F=MA...

Some British researchers think that Einstein and Newton may have suffered from a form of autism.

Thursday, May 01, 2003

Anatole Kaletsky has a fine May Day column celebrating the greatest boon to workers wherever it is practised: Capitalism.

Today is May 1, the International Day of Labour. It seems appropriate, therefore, to devote this column to the triumph of global capitalism. For if there is one social principle on which all economists, historians and politicians must now surely agree, it is that capitalism has done more than any other human construct to benefit working people around the world.

Even if there were room for argument about the benefits of free trade and free markets to workers in advanced industrial countries — and there really cannot be, if we compare what has happened to ordinary people’s lives in Western and Eastern Europe, not to mention in North and South Korea, during the 50 years since the Second World War — the principle that global capitalism is the most benign and successful of all human creations would be firmly established by the social progress in China since its integration into the global economy.
(via Zogby)
Looks like there were survivors of the Shuttle Columbia disaster: Worms.
Here is the latest post on the Boycott Hollywood blog:

Well, folks - it's been a blast and it's been fun.

Apparently, our domain registrar (namesdirect.com - subsidiary of Dotster.com) have caved to the pressures of the William Morris Agency giant. On April 29, 2003, Dotster.com received a letter from the William Morris Agency in regards to this website. Their complaint accused us of liable and potentially other civil and criminal offenses.

This is another fine example of how Hollywood feels that their opinion and view is the only one that matters. Average citizens are disallowed the free expression of our point of view because they don't like being challenged for their views. I stand firm on the belief that we have done nothing wrong at this website - - The celebrities have expressed their views, and we have responded in kind by expressing our views regarding the thoughts and ideas that they have, publicly, expressed.

Dotster.com has suspended our update information at this domain and have informed us that the DNS information of this domain has been changed and the website will be down within the next 24 hours and our contract with them is now null and void. They are doing this because we did not provide accurate contact information in their public database.

When I explained that the reason we did not provide accurate contact information is because we have received multiple death threats and I did not wish for just anyone to have my personal information - and asked them for suggestions on what to do - Dotster was unmoved. They did not give me the chance to update the information with accurate information and keep the domain. That's not an option - - they are just simply going to shut down our domain - no explanation needed.


Have any of you ever known flakey young actors who never feel that any of their actions should ever have consequences? Looks like they don't grow out of this when they are older. Someone needs to tell those in Hollywood that Free Speech is not speech free from criticism.
Find out what movies were out in the year that you were born.
Here's a story that Prince Charles and all other Luddites out there should read. It looks like researchers are using advanced genomics technology to sequence the SARS virus. The publication of the virus genome, which is being rushed into print by Science journal, should help researchers find drugs to treat the deadly respiratory illness and to develop a vaccine to prevent the infection.

Technology, Dear Charles, isn't inherently evil--or doesn't have to be at least. It's men that make it so. As a Buddhist Priest once told the late physicist Richard P. Feynman, every man has the key to the gates of heaven; the same key opens the gates to hell.
I received an email recently from my friend Mark Anderson, President of the Strategic News Service. I couldn't say it any better myself.

"With a strong European defense, we contribute to a strong NATO. This is in the best interest of Europe. It's also clearly in the interest of the Atlantic alliance."
-- French PM Jacques Chirac, Tuesday, at a quasi-Euro summit to which only anti-US countries were invited.

First, Jacques: nice try, but don't lie. Second: the French long-term Gaullist strategy is now brightly lit for all the world to see. Its presumption that Europe must stand against the US is, as Blair pointed out this week, not the basis for a happy future. For a country that hasn't won a war since Napoleon, acting bellicose may be a losing strategy. And alienating the US market at a time when European growth continues to slow, is simply stupid.

Someone needs to cork Jacques, so we can get back on track with being friends. On the other hand, it looks like he is doing it to himself, without any outside help. Chirac will lose prestige through these antics, and harm the entire European movement.
NYT Spin of the Day.

This was the headline in a NYT piece about Greenspan's testimony yesterday:

Greenspan Says Tax Cut Is Not Needed for Growth

What Mr. Greenspan actually said was:

Mr. Greenspan said he strongly supported the president's tax policy, particularly the proposal to eliminate taxes on most stock dividends, "provided it is matched by cuts in spending."

So the NYT could just as easily made the headline "Greenspan Says Spending Cuts Required for Growth".
I've been somewhat busy lately so I haven't really had a chance to comment on Prince Charles' concerns regarding nanotechnology (plus Steve already beat me to the punch). Check this passage out:

It is claimed that Charles knows that the technology has huge potential for progress but fears that scientists plan to create miniscule nanorobots programmed to build new substances, atom by atom from raw materials.

The Prince is said to be concerned that this could lead to an apocalyptic ‘grey goo’ theory in which these miniscule robots would reproduce like viruses, feeding off all natural matter and consume the whole planet; leaving behind only a grey goo.


The only grey goo around is inside your head Charles. Charles is a guy who could probably have had any girl in the world and chose Diana, a not-terribly-bright plain-looking bullimic whom he didn't even love and then had an affair with a woman who looks like a man. And does he even remember how many times he has fallen off a polo pony?

Just about every new advance has dangers, the development of cities helped spread disease, cars led to more transportation related deaths, etc., but that doesn't mean that you don't develop something potentially revolutionary. That kind of thinking would have left us as hunter gatherers with 25 year life expectancies.

Looks like the looting at the Iraqi National Museum was not as extreme as previously thought.
From Bob Herbert's column today:

"The Oregon public school system was terrific, one of the best in the nation. Now, suddenly, it's speeding along the road to ruin, the victim of a bad economy and, more than anything else, the radical antitax fever that has gripped so many Americans."

This "radical antitax fever" as he calls it was the voting down of a ballot initiative to "temporarily" raise the state income tax. First, no tax is temporary. We still have a federal excise tax which was enacted as a temporary measure to help fund the Spanish-American war. Second, if during a bad economy, where people are having trouble making ends meet or are worrying about losing their jobs, you ask them if you can take more money away from them, of course their answer will be "no". This is not a "radical antitax fever", it is just common sense.

Tissue engineers grow penis - with feeling

Tissue engineers who recently demonstrated penis replacement in animals have now added a vital missing component - nerve cells.

"The nerve cells are very important - they are responsible for all the sensory function," says Anthony Atala, at Boston Children's Hospital. "In order to do complete [penile] replacements we need to make sure all of the parts are there, including the nerves.


I'm glad that someone at the forefront of penis growing research realizes that the nerve cells are important. And let's not forget friction. Yes, I'd like to use this space to publicly declare my thanks for nerve cells and friction.
Kamil Zogby is directing people to sign a petition to save Amina Lawal, the Nigerian woman who was condemned to death by stoning for adultary. The petition is available at this site. You can follow the link to ZogbyBlog for more info.

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Happy Malaria Day! Ah, well, not exactly. You probably didn't know this but Malaria is killing one African child every 30 seconds. This stunning statistic was cited in the most recent issue of Nature, the weekly science journal.

Malaria is killing more children in Africa than ever before. It continues to impoverish much of the continent, and drugs to fight it have all but run out. So concludes the first comprehensive report on malaria in Africa, published today, Africa Malaria Day.

Perhaps Chirac and his fellow policymakers in Europe have a solution. I'm not holding my breath, and I suspect most people aren't either.
Numenorean
Numenorean


To which race of Middle Earth do you belong?
brought to you by Quizilla

I wouldn't want to be an elf. They remind me of the French.
Quote of the Day
I am convinced that there is not a single example in science of a discovery that was not accidental.
--Phaedon Avouris, manager of nanoscale science and technology at IBM Research.
I've never had trouble playing guitar like Sweet Baby James, but singing his songs has always been problematic for me. Perhaps with this technology being developed at Purdue University's School of Electrical and Computer Engineering, my singing worries will soon be over. As Purdue professor and researcher Mark J.T. Smith notes, the ultimate goal is to have a computer system that will transform a poor singing voice into a great singing voice. Rollover Beethoven.
The Matrix Re-loaded at an IMAX theatre? Ok. I'm sold.
We suggest Prince Charles takes a look at this interview with scientist Eric Drexler in the British magazine The New Scientist. As you will see from reading the interview, Dr. Drexler has quite a few IQ points on Prince Charles.
Jonah Goldberg tries to give Tim Robbins, Madonna and their Hollywood cohorts a short lesson in civics and explains the difference between censorship and criticism.

None of these people are being censored. They are being criticized. And only people so pampered, so spoon-fed with praise and encouragement, could confuse the free speech of others with the chilling of free speech in America.

No other profession in America has this confusion, journalists included.

If I wrote a column supporting the Taliban or pedophiles or whatever, I would suffer professionally in the form of dropped columns and canceled speaking engagements. If a plumber wrote "Down with America" on the side of his van, he would lose customers.

Only Hollywood types believe that we should applaud speaking out as courageous but that those who speak out shouldn't face any consequences or criticism for what they say. Courage without risk isn't courage; it's play-acting. And -sorry, Madonna -a society where elites with huge fortunes and PR machines are immune from criticism isn't a democracy, it's an aristocracy for Hollywood know-nothings who spew nonsense whenever they open their mouths.
The latest victim of PC idiocy, use of the word 'brainstorming' for fear of offending people with epilepsy.

The term "brainstorming" has become the latest target of political correctness, according to a charity.

Trainee teachers are being told to avoid the word for fear of offending pupils with epilepsy. Instead they are being advised to use "word storm" or "thought shower".


Dostoevsky must be rolling in his grave.
Radley Balko defends sweatshops. Low paid labor is often the only competitive advantage third-world countries have and the alternative to sweatshops is not clean, pristine factories and 40 hour workweeks but rather even worse jobs (prostitution, crime, etc...) or no jobs at all.

In truth, every prosperous country on the planet today went through an industrial period heavily reliant on sweatshop labor. The United States, Britain, France, Sweden and others all rode to modernity on the backs of child laborers. The choice was simple: kids worked, or they went hungry. It wasn't a terribly rosy set of choices, but at least the choice was available. Anti-globalization activists are doing their damndest to make sure choice isn't available to those living in today's fledgling economies.

Critics counter that unlike in the early 20th century, western companies today are wealthy enough to pay "living" wages, to establish comfortable working conditions, and to protect third world environments. They may be right.

But then, what advantage would there be to investing in the developing world in the first place? Cheap labor is the only chit the third world has to lure much-needed western investment. Take it away, and there's no reason for western corporations to incur the costs of putting up factories, shipping, security and the bevy of other expenses that come with maintaining plants overseas.
I received this via email from a friend today. Although it sounds much more like something Dennis Miller would say than Robin Williams, but until someone posts a comment correcting the attribution I will leave it as I received it. It sounds like a good plan to me.

Robin Williams' Plan

I see a lot of people yelling for peace but I have not heard of a plan for peace. So, here's one plan:

1) The US will apologize to the world for our "interference" in their affairs, past & present. We will promise never to "interfere" again

2) We will withdraw our troops from all over the world, starting with Germany, South Korea and the Philippines. They don't want us there. We would station troops at our borders. No more sneaking through holes in the fence.

3) All illegal aliens have 90 days to get their affairs together and leave. We'll give them a free trip home. After 90 days the remainder will be gathered up and deported immediately, regardless of who or where they are. France would welcome them.

4) All future visitors will be thoroughly checked and limited to 90 day visits unless given a special permit. No one from a terrorist nation would be allowed in. If you don't like it there, change it yourself, don't hide here. Asylum would not ever be available to anyone. We don't need any more cab drivers.

5) No "students" over age 21. The older ones are the bombers. If they don't attend classes, they get a "D" and it's back home, baby.

6) The US will make a strong effort to become self sufficient energy wise. This will include developing non polluting sources of energy but will require a temporary drilling of oil in the Alaskan wilderness. The caribou will have to cope for a while.

7) Offer Saudi Arabia and other oil producing countries $10 a barrel for their oil. If they don't like it, we go someplace else.

8) If there is a famine or other natural catastrophe in the world, we will not "interfere". They can pray to Allah or whomever, for seeds, rain, cement or whatever they need. Besides, most of what we give them gets "lost" or is taken by their army. The people who need it most get very little, anyway.

9) Ship the UN Headquarters to an island some place. We don't need the spies and fair weather friends here. Besides, it would make a good homeless shelter or lockup for illegal aliens.
9b) Use the buildings as replacement for the twin towers.

10) All Americans must go to charm and beauty school. That way, no one can call us "Ugly Americans" any longer.

Now, ain't that a winner of a plan? "The Statue of Liberty is no longer saying 'Give me your poor, your tired, your huddled masses.' She's got a baseball bat and she's yelling, 'You want a piece of me?'"

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg have said they favor a European Defense Union in order to make their defense less reliant on the US. Wouldn't that actually mean spending money on your military when your budgets are currently at or above Maastricht treaty limits. This union has about as much chance of success as Van Halen getting back together with David Lee Roth.
And speaking of genocide, Dean also has a fine post detailing the long and disgraceful history of genocide in the 20th century.
Today is the Jewish Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah), or as Yasser Arafat's choice for Palestinian Prime Minister, Mahmoud Abbas, would describe it: A day to remember when the Germans inconvenienced a few Zionist dogs. You can find additional info about the day it at the Yad Vashem, the Jewish Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' museum in Israel. Perhaps Mr. Abbas will have a look now that new talk of peace is in the air. (hat tip Dean's World)
Elvish
Elvish


To which race of Middle Earth do you belong?
brought to you by Quizilla

Funny, I don't look Elvish.
The Iraqi lawyer who led U.S. forces to Jessica Lynch has been granted asylum by the United States. (via Gaggle)
Hey, we've become a large mammal in the latest TTLB ecosystem. Ah, it seems like only a few months ago we were just a multicellular microorganism. Evolution's a great thing, n'est-ce pas?
In addition to the Diane Ravitch book I pointed out below have a look at the new blog Zero+Zero=Zero, which focuses on the idiotic zero tolerance policies sweeping schools across the nation. It seems the schools are aiming for a zero-thinking policy among both the staff and the students.
Interesting report of a cosmological 'Town Meeting' held at the American Natural History Museum.

But he was only getting warmed up. Shortly thereafter he led Dr. Spergel through an inventory of the cosmic contents, as revealed by the Wilkinson map.
Atoms make up 4 percent, Dr. Spergel began; 24 percent is invisible "dark matter," detectable by its gravitational influence on galaxies and stars; and 72 percent is the even more mysterious dark energy.

Dr. Tyson repeated: "Everything we've ever heard of is 4 percent? And a quarter you have no idea —"

"We have guesses," interjected Dr. Spergel.

"For a quarter you have guesses," Dr. Tyson summarized. "And for three-quarters you have no idea."

"I'm listening to all of you, and you want me to believe what you're telling us," he went on, waving his arms and roaming behind the panelists with his big microphone. "This is not encouraging."

"Do you wake up every day worrying about what 96 percent of the universe is?" he asked Dr. Peebles.

Dr. Peebles coolly asked, "Why should the universe be constructed so that you can tell what it is made of?"


I'm sorry I wasn't there to see it. Hopefully they'll issue a video.
Safire has an entertaining column on the use of political invective to make a point. He ends by quoting the great master of the art, Winston Churchill.

"I remember, when I was a child," said Winston Churchill in the 30's, directing his Commons oratory at J. Ramsey MacDonald's Labor government, "being taken to the celebrated Barnum's Circus, which contained an exhibition of freaks and monstrosities, but the exhibit which I most desired to see was the one described as `The Boneless Wonder.'

"My parents judged that the spectacle would be too revolting and demoralizing for my youthful eyes," said Churchill, fixing a cherubic gaze at MacDonald, "and I have waited 50 years to see the Boneless Wonder sitting on the Treasury Bench." 
Looks like Prince Charles is on the war path again. First it was GM foods. Now, it's nanotechnology. You would think that the Prince would have better things to do with his precious time than to spout off on things he knows little about.

In my view, the Prince would be better off spending his time watching re-runs of Absolutely Fabulous.
Shelby Steele has a good piece in the WSJ on black protest and the evolution of race relations and the differing visions and influence of W.E.B. DuBois and Booker T. Washington on the 20th centuries racial conflicts and resolutions.

But "Souls" did more than predict. It gave the 20th century its first encounter with unapologetic black protest. Just beneath its eloquent King Jamesian surface was a brittle indignation that anticipated the unequivocal racial anger of later protest writers like Richard Wright and James Baldwin. Most importantly, "Souls" was an impassioned reaction against a black racial ideology of accommodation and humility. It introduced moral accountability into the racial debate in a way that asserted white responsibility for racial reform and justified black protest. Today, 100 years after its first appearance--and even after the great civil-rights victories of the '60s--we still understand race by the protest framework laid out in "Souls."
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The man DuBois attacked most fiercely in "Souls" was Booker T. Washington, the great accommodationist who believed blacks should develop in the trades, practice entrepreneurialism, and win admiration through the achievement of excellence. This outraged a protester like DuBois, who believed black dignity had to be a given under the law. Washington, he said, was allowing whites to "shift the burden of the Negro problem to the Negro's shoulders . . . when in fact the burden belongs to the nation." But Washington believed black dignity was an outgrowth of achievement, ownership and success in commerce despite the restrictions of Jim Crow. He believed, in effect, that emergence and the self-development it required were not tied to a civil-rights kind of freedom. To read his "Up From Slavery," published three years before "Souls," is to encounter a true understanding of slavery's human desolation, and to learn how simple achievements compiled over time, and through the mastery of ever more complex skills, could transform the slave into a responsible citizen.

His genius was not to give away responsibility, not to let others carry the burden of one's uplift. Responsibility, he knew, was the transformative agent, the only power that could change a slave into an individual who could know himself as the true equal of others. Washington did not deny black inferiority; he started his work there.
I am not sure what I think about this story. A man wants his drug-dealing conviction thrown out, arguing that eight bags of heroin he threw up after emergency medical treatment should never have been admitted into evidence because he hadn't been read his Miranda rights (mostly it seems because police were busy getting him an ambulance since he was sweating profusely and didn't look too good). Now on the one hand I think the entire drug war is a mistake and drugs should be legalized or decriminalized at least except for sales to minors. I also firmly believe in making sure suspects understand their rights against self-incrimination. But when the guy throws up the evidence, it seems to me the plain view exception to Miranda has come into play, the disgusting plain view exception I grant you, but plain view nonetheless.
The NYT has a review of Diane Ravitch's new book "The Language Police" about the more frequent and increasingly successful attempts by left-wing and right-wing pressure groups to sanitize school textbooks, lest our children ever read something which might offend their delicate sensibilities (or have an original thought).

¶Mickey Mouse and Stuart Little (because mice, along with rats, roaches, snakes and lice, are considered to be upsetting to children).

¶Stories or pictures showing a mother cooking dinner for her children, or a black family living in a city neighborhood (because such images are thought to purvey gender or racial stereotypes).

¶Dinosaurs (because they suggest the controversial subject of evolution).

¶Tales set in jungles, forests, mountains or by the sea (because such settings are believed to display "a regional bias").

¶Narratives involving angry, loud-mouthed characters, quarreling parents or disobedient children (because such emotions are not "uplifting").


So much for encouraging independent and critical thinking in children. My wife and I have had many discussions on whether to put our children in public or private school or even to home school them. For elementary school at least we have decided on the local public school, but stories like the above make me strongly consider options #2 and #3. The hope is that we can counteract the worst of the above by encouraging independent reading at home. I have just bought but have not read Ms. Ravitch's book so I cannot offer a personal recommendation yet, but based on other things I have read by her I expect it to be well written and carefully researched.
Check out this AP headline:

"Some Iraqis not happy with new-found freedom that was once banned"

Read through the article and you get the sense that Iraqi's are very happy about their newfound freedom:

Teenagers gape at Christina Aguilera's navel via brand-new satellite dishes illegal under Saddam.

Young lovers smooch in roadside cars, hidden behind tinted windows that were banned by Saddam because they prevented police from spying on motorists.

Prostitutes walk the streets in some neighborhoods, beckoning passing motorists.

Bookworms excitedly leaf through political histories that could have gotten them tortured in years gone by.

Shiite Muslim religious leaders watch grainy VCD images of ceremonies from neighboring Syria, banned for years out of fear that clerics might challenge Saddam for Iraqis' loyalties.


To the AP, the glass is one quarter empty.
Here's an interesting blog: True Porn Clerk Stories. I won't be adding it to the blogroll since it's a little outside our scope, but it does contain some fascinating views of human behaviour.
I know my fellow blogger Max doesn't like Apple, but Steve Jobs' latest foray into digital music looks far better than anything we've seen coming out of the Recording Industry. Best of all, Apple's innovative digital music platform appears to be perfectly legal. Leave it to a Silicon Valley tech head to pull the RIAA's head of out it's arse.

Time to get an iPod Max. Resistance is futile.
The Telegraph also has a transcript of documents showing links between Baghdad and Al Qaeda.
The FT has an interesting interview with Tony Blair.

FT: Would you still say that depriving Saddam Hussein of his weapons of mass destruction was the main motivation of the war?

A: Yes, because the United Nations resolution made it clear that these weapons were a threat and that he had to be disarmed of them. I think in terms of the moral justification for conflict, as I have always said, however, that is really about the nature of the regime. And I hope that most people can accept now just the full extent of how horrific a regime it was and why it was right that we got rid of it. And whatever the difficulties, the more that emerges about the tales of torture and imprisonment and the numbers of people killed, the more obvious it is that it was the right thing to do.

FT: You don't have to find weapons of mass destruction to morally justify the war?

A: As I say, I have always thought that getting rid of the regime was justified in its own terms morally, but the reason for our action was around the issue of weapons of mass destruction and the link with terrorism. And here again I think that that link is very clear, I think it is highly significant, for example, that those people that were the last fighters in Iraq were in the main not Iraqis. What we found in the end was that they were al-Qaeda people, they were people from various different Arab states, various extremists, we had Chechnyans even there.

Personally I have no doubt at all this is the security threat that we face, and I think as a result of the action we have taken we are going to find it easier to deal with those states that still have weapons of mass destruction and are promoting terrorism.
As more papers are uncovered in Iraq, the French government looks sleazier and sleazier. Not only did they give Iraq information about US war plans but they also colluded with the Iraqi secret service to undermine a human rights conference in Paris held by the group Indict.
Looks like we won't have any trouble re-filling the Iraqi National Museum. Archaelogists believe they just found the tomb of Gilgamesh.

Monday, April 28, 2003

Stop what you're doing and immediately go and read Bill Whittle's latest essay. I am not going to excerpt anything here just follow the link and read the whole thing.
There is a sculpture of Darth Vader's mask embedded in one of the exterior arches of Washington National Cathedral. Of course the geek inside me thinks it's very cool and wonders when people will figure out that the Imperial March is a better tune than our current anthem. The non-geek is shaking his head speechless.
Here is a good article on the increasing use of Special Forces in combat. These guys were on the sidelines of combat for too long. Looks like the military is finally gaining some intelligence. And if you are interested in the frustrations that our commandos have felt in prior conflicts, check out Richard Marcinko's Rogue Warrior.
Looks like SARS cases have started to peak and fall in some countries. My prediction is that by next year people won't even remember it.
Jeff Jacoby discusses the search for the 'smoking gun' in Iraq, WMD.

Now it is conceivable, if just barely, that when all is said and done, the search for Iraq's WMD -- ''weapons of mass destruction'' -- will turn up nothing. But it is much too soon to speculate. Coalition forces have been in Iraq, a country bigger than Germany, for only five weeks. There are more than 1,000 suspected storage and manufacturing sites to be examined and some 5,000 Iraqi scientists who were involved in chemical and biological warfare programs to interview. The surface has hardly been scratched.

Remember: If Saddam's regime had dismantled its stockpile of unconventional weapons as it was required to, the world would have known about it long ago. Baghdad was supposed to document the shutdown of its WMD facilities and account for its chemical and biological stocks; Hans Blix's job was simply to verify that the weapons were gone. But Iraq refused to provide that documentation. Instead it filed a 12,000-page sham filled with omissions, falsehoods, and irrelevancies. The only rational conclusion was that Saddam intended to keep his lethal materiel.
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But in a larger sense, all of this is beside the point. Whatever chemical, biological, or nuclear evidence the United States and its allies may find, they have already eliminated the real weapons of mass destruction: Saddam Hussein and his evil government.
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The threat posed by Saddam's pursuit of unconventional weapons was real. So was his support for terrorism, his record of aggression, and his flouting of UN mandates. Those were the formal grounds for war, and they added up to a strong rationale for regime change in Baghdad.
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It was not to find a ''smoking gun'' that the United States went to war. It was to crush one of the bloodiest tyrannies the modern world has known. The critics and faultfinders are busy, but time and distance will make it clear even to them that these last weeks have indeed been, in George W. Bush's words, ''good days in the history of freedom.''
The new Brad Pitt exhibit in Madam Tussaud's Wax Museum in London has silicon, squeezable buns.

A spokeswoman for the museum said: "Brad Pitt is one of our sexiest exhibits, so he is an ideal candidate for the first ever squeezable waxwork.

"He is a big hit with the ladies and, after Kylie's bottom got so much attention, we thought we'd have some fun with this new figure.


Enjoy, ladies.
We've just had a large family reunion this weekend which was lots of fun, if a little exhausting (we hosted it). I got to see some of my uncles, aunts and cousins I haven't seen in years, some of them not since I got married. I have one group of relatives who lives relatively close by (tri-state area) who I get to see more frequently, a few times a year, but others are dispersed as far west as Colorado and Montana and as far south as Florida who I don't get to see that often so it was very nice to see them again (Actually the ones from Colorado and Montana couldn't make it but we did see folks from Michigan). We are going to do a reunion for my wife's mother's family this summer, but that will be in Ohio at a large park with cabins so we won't have to clean up afterwards.

Sunday, April 27, 2003

At what point must a country be considered an enemy ? France seems mighty close to that point if it hasn't already crossed the line..