Saturday, May 17, 2003

When you take a photo of your item for sale on Ebay you should take a close look at the photo before you post it. (via Right Thinking)
Brad De Long offers some sobering facts for the "Friends of Castro" crowd.

The hideously depressing thing is that Cuba under Battista--Cuba in 1957--was a developed country. Cuba in 1957 had lower infant mortality than France, Belgium, West Germany, Israel, Japan, Austria, Italy, Spain, and Portugal. Cuba in 1957 had doctors and nurses: as many doctors and nurses per capita as the Netherlands, and more than Britain or Finland. Cuba in 1957 had as many vehicles per capita as Uruguay, Italy, or Portugal. Cuba in 1957 had 45 TVs per 1000 people--fifth highest in the world. Cuba today has fewer telephones per capita than it had TVs in 1957.

You take a look at the standard Human Development Indicator variables--GDP per capita, infant mortality, education--and you try to throw together an HDI for Cuba in the late 1950s, and you come out in the range of Japan, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Israel. Today? Today the UN puts Cuba's HDI in the range of Lithuania, Trinidad, and Mexico. (And Carmelo Mesa-Lago thinks the UN's calculations are seriously flawed: that Cuba's right HDI peers today are places like China, Tunisia, Iran, and South Africa.).

The source for the statistics are these two papers (pdf): RENAISSSANCE AND DECAY: A COMPARISON OF SOCIOECONOMIC INDICATORS IN PRE-CASTRO AND CURRENT-DAY CUBA and THE CUBAN ECONOMY IN AN UNENDING SPECIAL PERIOD. (via Minuteman)

Friday, May 16, 2003

The End is Near

But apparently not as near as these nuts in Japan, who expected it to end yesterday, thought. Of course, as other end-of-the-world cults have done when their deadlines passed, they can just claim that it was their actions that prevented the end.
Some Friday Humor

Actual maintenance complaints submitted by US Air Force pilots and the replies from the maintenance crews.

Problem: "Left inside main tire almost needs replacement."
Solution: "Almost replaced left inside main tire."

Problem: "Test flight OK, except autoland very rough."
Solution: "Autoland not installed on this aircraft."

Problem #1: "#2 Propeller seeping prop fluid."
Solution #1: "#2 Propeller seepage normal."
Problem #2: "#1, #3, and #4 Propellers lack normal seepage."

Problem: "The autopilot doesn't."
Signed off: "IT DOES NOW."

Problem: "Something loose in cockpit."
Solution: "Something tightened in cockpit."

Problem: "Evidence of hydraulic leak on right main landing gear."
Solution: "Evidence removed."

Problem: "DME volume unbelievably loud."
Solution: "Volume set to more believable level."

Problem: "Dead bugs on windshield."
Solution: "Live bugs on order."

Problem: "Autopilot in altitude hold mode produces a 200 fpm descent."
Solution: "Cannot reproduce problem on ground."

Problem: "IFF inoperative."
Solution: "IFF inoperative in OFF mode."

Problem: "Friction locks cause throttle levers to stick."
Solution: "That's what they're there for."

Problem: "Number three engine missing."
Solution: "Engine found on right wing after brief search."
Charles Krauthammer has a good column in the WaPo today on rebuilding Iraq.

There is a large and overlooked truth about the American occupation of Iraq: Whereas in postwar Germany and Japan we were rebuilding countries that had been largely destroyed by us, in Iraq today we are rebuilding a country destroyed by its own regime.
...
Iraq today is a social, economic, ecological and political ruin not because of allied bombing but because of Baath Party rule. Since 1979 Hussein had managed the economic miracle of reducing by 75 percent the gross domestic product of the second-richest oil patch on the planet. That takes work. Hussein's capacity for destruction was up to the task. He reduced the Shiite south to abject poverty. He turned a once well-endowed infrastructure to rot by lavishing Iraq's vast oil resources on two things: weaponry and his own luxuries. And in classic Stalinist fashion, he destroyed civil society, systematically extirpating any hint of free association and civic participation.
...
Upon the detritus of 30 years of indigenous misrule, we come to rebuild. This is not to say that we lack self-interest here. We are embarking on this reconstruction out of the same enlightened altruism that inspired the rebuilding of Germany and Japan -- trusting that economic and political success in Iraq will have a stabilizing and modernizing effect on the entire region.

But our self-interest does not detract from the truth that what we are doing in Iraq is morally different from what we did after World War II. In Iraq, we are engaged in rescue rather than the undoing of our own destruction. We've undertaken the maddening task of cleaning up someone else's mess.
A kangaroo was hit by a car and killed in Austria. Yes, that's Austria, not Australia. Apparently the kangaroo had some difficulty reading maps and confused the two countries. No, actually it was someone's pet that escaped from it's cage. But if you hear of any mustachioed, Australian house-painters spouting off about the Jews, notify the authorities.
Jonah Goldberg writes about the confusion surrounding the term "neoconservative":

"What is a neoconservative by your definition?" Chris Matthews asked the Washington Post's Dana Milbank on his cable program Hardball. "….Give me a formal definition of a neocon, historically speaking."

"Well," answered Milbank, "it's a split going really back to the '70s over detente and how to deal with the Soviet Union. It's essentially the hard-line of the — within the Republican party as opposed to the establishment which had been dominant. Now, Reagan was part of — more of that conservative side and the first President Bush went back to more of the establishment."

"But why do they call them neocons? New cons or conservatives? Why that phrase?"

"Well, because the old kind of conservative is the alternative to that," Milbank replied.

Some definitions are more high-falutin. Michael Lind — widely hailed as a conservative who moved to the Left — channels some of the more feverish paleocons when he writes in the British magazine, The New Statesman, that "Most neoconservative defence intellectuals … are products of the largely Jewish-American Trotskyist movement of the 1930s and 1940s, which morphed into anti-communist liberalism between the 1950s and 1970s and finally into a kind of militaristic and imperial right with no precedents in American culture or political history." But a recent article in the New York Times says the neocons aren't Trotskyists, they're Straussians: "They are the neoconservatives, or neocons a catchall name for a disparate group of authors, academics, media moguls and public servants who trace their intellectual lineage (accurately or not) to the teachings of a German émigré named Leo Strauss."

Confused? It gets a lot worse. In fact, it's increasingly difficult to find plain-old "conservatives" anywhere these days. National Review, according to a ludicrous article in The New York Observer is a "paleo-conservative magazine" which is "seen as a kind of a relic by the new neocons" but according to The American Conservative, National Review is not only "safely in neocon hands," we actually symbolize the neocon takeover of the conservative movement. Often, the absurdity has become syllogistic: Neoconservatives are conservatives who favor war and if you are a conservative and favor war you are a neoconservative. My own beloved mother perfectly captured the nebulousness of the term. When asked whether she was a neocon by The New York Observer, she jokingly replied, "You mean the people who like to kill people and break things. That's me!"

And then, of course, there's the Jew thing. Neoconservative and Jewish are synonymous for all sorts of people who don't like neocons or Jews or both. But we can get to that later.


Personally I think the whole term "conservative" needs to be dumped. Conservative originally was someone who opposed change. Today, ironically, it is used to describe classical liberals, who, before the advent of socialism, had been the arch enemies of people who had been termed "conservative." In fact, many of the arguments that conservatives had used against classical liberals are the same ones that socialists use against people called "conservative". Also, "conservatives" seem to be in favor of much more change in society than members of the left. School choice, social security reform, the flat tax, pre-emption as foreign policy, are all changes favored by conservatives and opposed by the left, which seems to have run out of ideas beyond giving existing government programs more funding.
Check out this article by a 17 year old girl on how the Democratic fugitives from Texas are violating the spirit of America:

I am not a Republican, and I am not a Democrat. I am a naive 17-year-old girl who has yet to cast her first vote. Maybe looking to the actions of my elders shall help to coach me in the manner that a ballot should be cast. This should be particularly useful in the presidential elections in November, upon which I, along with millions of my fellow young comrades, will have reached the powerful age of 18. So far, I've learned a lot.

...

The creation of the democratic experiment of the United States of America was designed to see if it was possible for men to rule themselves. For the first time in modern history, there existed a haven where there were no dictators, no kaisers, no kings and no queens. There were the people -- the voters, the common man. The people were to rule themselves by imposing a type of controlled majority rule in the place of a tiny group of monarchial individuals. Representatives were to be elected by popular vote with the mission to represent and act upon the beliefs and wishes of their electors. Political parties naturally formed between groups of representatives who symbolized common wishes of their voters. In order to further promote these wishes, political parties unified with one another. The legislation proposed by the parties was made in the interest of the voter and was overturned or affirmed depending upon the will of the majority. Thus, bills were passed by population representatives in an effort to advocate for the bulk of all those represented.

When people impede this delicate process, they encumber the right of every American voter to fair representation. By not allowing a majority rule but forcing a type of minority monarchy, the great voice of the American public has been silenced to a sickly whisper. In the place of a free democracy with freedom for all and dishonesty toward none, a type of legal party regime has been set up, and the rights of American individuals have vanished. If one party is allowed to manipulate government institutions on any level, state or national, as the group of Democrat representatives in leisure at an Oklahoma resort have, our rights as Americans have been breached. We have been denied the government power granted to us upon the signing of our Constitution.

If this is the way that the tumultuous ship of today's government, the institutions of 2003, is intended to be steered, then this is not the America that I had thought it was, been taught it was and hoped it was.

If the America I'd dreamed of and prayed for does not, in fact, exist, and Thomas Jefferson's "boisterous sea of liberty" has long since dried to shadowy pit of political regimes and power-hungry rapists of our Mother Freedom, then I will fight for the hopes of Washington and I will battle for the lessons of Lincoln. If America is to be true to herself, if man still be just, then let our Lady Liberty's voice be heard to mend this crack entrenching on our precious, sacred, irreplaceable bell of liberty -- our vote.


Can you tell she has been practicing for her college application essays?
Sorry for the lack of posts yesterday, we were posting but blogger wasn't publishing. I finally found out it was a problem with our password.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

I am a supporter of screw caps for fine wines. I would gladly use screw caps if there was equipment available for the small, and I do mean very small, winemaker. But nevertheless, a switch in cork is best mindset by consumers to acceptance of screwcaps will benefit both consumers and producers. When a bottle is "corked" the consumer most often blames the wine maker for making a bad bottle and not the cork. Frank Prial at the NY Times does a good job of explaining why this switch is significant and beneficial.
QUOTE FOR THE DAY: "For years, many governments played down the threats of Islamic revolution, turned a blind eye to international terrorism and accepted the development of weaponry of mass destruction. Indeed, some politicians were happy to go further, collaborating with the self-proclaimed enemies of the West for their own short-term gain - but enough about the French. So deep had the rot set in that the UN security council itself was paralysed... Our own Prime Minister was staunch and our forces were superb. But, above, all, it is President Bush who deserves the credit for victory...There are too many people who imagine that there is something sophisticated about always believing the best of those who hate your country, and the worst of those who defend it." - Margaret Thatcher, in New York yesterday. God I miss her. (posted by Andrew Sullivan)

All I can say is I miss her as well.
According to my soulmate calculator:

The Soulmate Calculator

Your probability coefficient: 2.17295427195E-11.
You have to meet 46,020,296,557 American singles who are between 30 and 47 years old who are living in your city or willing to move there.


I guess I'm just lucky I met my wife when I did, because she fits all the criteria I entered. I don't think I could've withstood the strain of dating another 46+million women in NY until I found her.
Investigators believe that the $950 million in cash that troops found stashed around Baghdad is most of the $1 billion that Hussein's son removed from the Iraqi central bank.
Saudi columnist Sulaiman Al-Hattlan has an op-ed in todays NYT telling fellow Saudis to stop blaming the outside world for their problems.

It is time to stop blaming the outside world for the deadly fanaticism in Saudi Arabia, which some Saudis have done in saying that the Sept. 11 attackers had been brainwashed elsewhere. As Mansour Al-Nogidan, a former religious fanatic who has become fundamentalism's strongest Saudi intellectual critic, wrote in a Saudi newspaper last Sunday, Saudi Arabia suffers from a homemade brand of fanaticism propagated by members of the conservative Wahhabi school of Islam. Hamza Al-Muzini, a prominent Saudi linguistics professor, recently wrote in another Saudi daily that his young son is being taught the culture of death at school, and that many teachers influence young Saudis with their extremist political agenda, a situation tolerated by the Ministry of Education. After this article, Dr. Muzini received death threats from Saudi fundamentalists.

Because of the dominance of Wahhabism, Saudi society has been exposed to only one school of thought, one that teaches hatred of Jews, Christians and certain Muslims, like Shiites and liberal and moderate Sunnis. But we Saudis must acknowledge that our real enemy is religious fanaticism. We have to stop talking about the need for reform and actually start it, particularly in education. Otherwise, what happened here on Monday night could be the beginning of a war that leads to the Talibanization of our society.


I wonder if the same piece was published in the Saudi daily, Al Watan, that he writes a column for?
Prof. Lemon has a great post on income redistribution.

Here is a little game I play with my students that is somewhat related to that topic. I would be interested in seeing what other academics think of this little exercise.
At the beginning of class I ask my students how many of them are in favor of progressive redistribution -- taking from those who have a little more and giving it to those who have a little less. About half to 60% of the class stands up (I make them commit to their position by standing up.) I then tell them what I actually was thinking about was the progressive distribution of their grades, taking a few grade points from those who are above the median grade and distributing those extra points to those below the median. (I also propose less severe redistributions that would not put everyone at the median, but still would have the effect of collapsing the grades to the class median.) The immediate reaction is that almost all the students sit down, only one or two students actually remain standing or stand up. Assuming that most of them thought I was originally referring to income (or wealth, not the same thing), I then ask them to explain why they were in favor of income/wealth redistribution but not grade distribution.


Go read the rest.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

The health nazis are at it again. They just released a study saying obesity costs the US $93 billion in additional healthcare expenditures, half of it being picked up through medicare and medicaid. It looks like the arguments they were using to regulate and heavily tax tobacco may be used at some point against fattening food. Watch for studies showing children of the obese also tend to be obese leading some to conclude that "you're not just hurting yourself."
Two million song downloads and counting for Apple. Not bad for 16 days worth of work, eh? And to think that most music execs were expecting to do one million downloads per month. They are all knuckleheads if you ask me.
Well, what do you know? All those trillions of dollars analysts were throwing around several years ago weren't just hot air. They actually turned out to be conservative in some cases. As the folks at Business Week note, those "starry-eyed" projections in 1999 that had U.S. business-to-business e-commerce reaching a "staggering" $1.3 trillion by 2003 were off by a factor of nearly two. Looks like were gonna do $2.4 trillion this year. And for all of those bubble-heads out there, you'll be interested to know that about 40% of the 200-plus public Internet companies made a profit last quarter. Analysts expect that share to rise to 50% by the end of the year.

Gotta run now and see how my auction is faring on eBay...
North Korea is marketing a healing stone that emits infrared rays that they claim are "good for the body". I wonder if they glow in the dark too.
Barely 15% of French adults read a daily newspaper. After reading this article about Le Monde in the Financial Times, one wonders why that percentage is not closer to zero.
"By conservative estimates, at least 290,000 people are missing in Iraq, and answer to their whereabouts likely lies in these graves," said Bouckaert.

I wonder what Susan Sarandon and all of the other Hollywood knuckleheads think of this comment? Oops. I forgot. They don't think. They feel. Sorry about that, folks.
According to the Commerce Department, U.S. households have $3 trillion currently invested in low-yielding, highly liquid savings accounts. If that ain't a cash mountain, I don't know what is...
Michael Fumento has some comments about the SARS hysteria.

University of Toronto medical historian Edward Shorter calls SARS reaction "a media-fanned wave of mass hysteria" and "mass psychosis." He's right.

According to the World Health Organization, 6,903 cases of SARS were reported from mid-November to May 7. There were 495 deaths. It also reports flu causes between "three and five million cases of severe illness and between 250,000 and 500,000 deaths" per year, with 36,000 in the United States.

Thus, flu internationally inflicts far more serious illness and death in a single day than SARS has caused in 20 weeks.
...
How lethal is SARS generally and specifically in countries with good health care? The global death rate is about six percent, in the same league as other forms of pneumonia.

While the death rate is 7 percent in China, none of the 101 cases in Europe and the United States have been lethal. (For those without calculators, that's zero percent.) Not that this stopped the May 1Washington Post from reporting, "Surprisingly, the highest death rates appear to be occurring in the most advanced parts of the world." Surprising, indeed.
(via PowerLine)
According to a new study, people's personalities change over time.

From this large sample of volunteers recruited and examined over the Internet, lead researchers Sanjay Srivastava, Ph.D., and Oliver P. John, Ph.D., working at the University of California at Berkeley, found that certain changes do occur in middle adulthood. Conscientiousness increased throughout the age range studied, with the biggest increases in a person’s 20s; this trait is defined as being organized, planful, and disciplined, and past research has linked it to work performance and work commitments. Agreeableness increased the most during a person’s 30s; this trait is defined as being warm, generous, and helpful, and has been linked to relationships and to prosocial behavior. Neuroticism declined with age for women but did not decline for men; this trait is defined in people who worry and are emotionally unstable. It has been linked to depression and other mental health problems. Openness showed small declines with age for both men and women. Finally, extraversion declined for women but did not show changes in men. (via FuturePundit)

That's why I'm so much damn more agreeable these days! (Actually, I am, as any of the readers of the blog who knew me in my late twenties can testify. Frightening, no?)
Neil Cavuto of Fox News was really pissed off by a this Krugman column. Looks like this could turn into a nasty feud (thanks to Andrew Sullivan for making sure we didn't miss it):

Exactly who's the hypocrite, Mr. Krugman? Me, for expressing my views in a designated segment at the end of the show? Or you, for not so cleverly masking your own biases against the war in a cheaply written column?

You're as phony as you are unprofessional. And you have the nerve to criticize me, or Fox News, and by extension, News Corporation?

Look, I'd much rather put my cards on the table and let people know where I stand in a clear editorial, than insidiously imply it in what's supposed to be a straight news story. And by the way, you sanctimonious twit, no one -- no one -- tells me what to say. I say it. And I write it. And no one lectures me on it. Save you, you pretentious charlatan.

...

Nowhere does it ever occur to you, one can legitimately not agree with you. That doesn't make me less of a journalist. But, Mr. Krugman, it does make you more of an ass. Here's the difference: You insinuated it, I just said it.

Now may I suggest you take your column and shove it?
Barbie is Jewish, according to the new website of the Al-Madina regional branch of the Saudi religious and morality police.

Also shown is a photo of several Barbie dolls, along with the text: "The enemies of Islam want to invade us with all possible means, and therefore they have circulated among us this doll, which spreads deterioration of values and moral degeneracy among our girls." On the photo, under the heading "The Jewish Doll," is a story titled "The Strange Request." The story reads: "One girl said to her mother: 'Mother, I want jeans and a shirt open at the top, like Barbie's!!' The dolls of the Jewish Barbie in her naked garb [sic], their disgraceful appearance, and their various accessories are a symbol of the dissolution of values in the West. We must fully comprehend the danger in them." (via Best of the Web)

Hmmm....according to this Barbie Trivia site:

The full name of Barbie® doll is "Barbie Millicent Roberts." She is from Willows, Wisconsin and went to Willows High School.

Sounds pretty Waspy to me, probably Lutheran, perhaps they are using some sort of strange Nuremberg criteria. Maybe some of her plastic once passed through a Jewish owned factory. Or, maybe, they're just a bunch of LOONY, ANTI-SEMITIC, RELIGIOUS FANATICS who haven't progressed past the 7th Century.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

Things sounds like something from the Onion, but it's not. A policeman in England has been awarded 100 pounds to compensate him for the mental anguish he suffered from being called fat by a drunken teenager. If his feelings are so fragile maybe he should find another line of work:

Pc Montague, a married father of three, said: "Coppers have feelings too, and I am just glad that the magistrates have taken the unusual step of recognising that."

Earlier Sgt Nicholas Coughlan, who was on duty with Pc Montague at the time, told the court that a scuffle had taken place after the defendant ran up to the officers and swore at them.

Outside court Pc Montague, who lives in Dalton-in-Furness, said: "Sure, I enjoy the odd curry and a pint or two, but I am not fat at all; that's unfair.

"I play cricket for my local club and coach junior football, so if anything I think I'm quite sporty."


If he really thinks he is quite sporty, then why did it cause him mental anguish?

Also, at 5'8" and 196 pounds, his BMI is 29.8. Anything over 25 is overweight and 30 is where you are considered obese. So legally, I don't see how the teenager can be fined for this statement as it isn't exactly slander or anything. I wonder if he was given the opportunity to present the BMI tables in court? Or does this fall under hate crime, meaning he has no rights in the matter at all?
The Well DUH Headline of the Day:

"North ditches nuke-free Korea pact"
Here is the New York Post's response to yesterday's New York Times piece on how our taxes aren't necessarily the highest in the nation (for some reason I can't find the article on the Times site search anymore. Maybe I'm having a brain fart, though I did find it on Lexis Nexis):

"No question, New Yorkers pay a lot in taxes and are about to pay more," said the piece, by Janny Scott. "But some studies that have compared the tax burden in cities and states nationwide . . . show that New York City has not been at the top of the list for every tax rate."

Notice the words "some studies" and "for every tax rate." They're red flags warning that the Times is about to engage in some highly selective spinning.

The biggest distortion: Focusing on tax rates among the poor.

After all, New York City's tax rates are extremely progressive: Some 13,000 families in New York account for nearly a third of the city's income-tax revenue - while the poor contribute little or nothing in income taxes.

But this is only accomplished at the expense of higher-income groups, those who earn, say, $100,000 and up.

Consider what the Times omits:

* New York City's taxes are the highest in the nation at the $100,000-a-year and $150,000-a-year income level.

* Its combined state-local tax burden is above average at every income level in the key study the Times piece relies on, a study by the District of Columbia.

* Income taxes in the city for a family of four making $100,000 a year are fully 77 percent above the average for similar cities.

* Tables in the D.C. study don't include categories above $150,000, where New York City's tax edge truly leaves other metropolises in the dust.

* The overall tax burden on Gothamites is actually much higher - right down the line - when you compare only the most relevant cities, such as Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston and Atlanta.

Oh, yeah: The figures also don't include Mayor Bloomberg's record 18.5 percent property-tax hike.


Obviously Jayson Blair is not the only journalist at the Times who has a "gift for fiction".
Fifty-three Democratic lawmakers in Texas are on the lam.

"The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) is asking the public for assistance in locating 53 Texas legislators who have disappeared," the bulletin read. "Anyone who has information regarding the current whereabouts of the legislators listed below is asked to call 1-800-525-5555."

Why are they missing? Mass kidnapping, alien abduction? No, without the Democrats present, the Republican-controlled House does not have the two-thirds quorum needed for a vote on legislation to redraw congressional districts which might lose the Democrats seven seats. I think Bismark may have been unfair to sausage-makers.

Update: I see Max has just posted the same item. Mediocre minds think alike, I guess.
The Democrats are bringing obstructionism to new heights. 53 Democratic Legistlators in the Texas House fled the state to Oklahoma (which is out of reach of Texas law enforcement) in order to avoid being compelled to vote on a bill they knew they would lose. Without their presence the House lacks a quorum and cannot vote. What is the bill? Congressional redistricting legislation which could cost Democrats 7 seats. Considering they are obstructing legislation with federal implications, can't they send in the FBI? Personally I am all for the right not to vote. But as it is their job to vote on stuff and they are breaking the law right now by not being present (if a majority of legislators present vote for a call to quorum, absent members must show up), I really don't have much sympathy for them.
Did someone say "Slippery Slope". The efforts of the busybody nannies who think they know what's best for everyone continues unabated. A lawyer in San Francisco is suing to ban Oreos, arguing the trans fats that make the filling creamy and the cookie crisp are too dangerous for children to eat. The millions of parents of these children are obviously too stupid or clueless to make this decision on their own. Notice that Mr. Joseph isn't asking that warning labels be added indicating possible dangers of trans fats, no, that might leave some individual choice. No the correct step is to ban these products. In fact why don't we go one step further and have daily mandated menus of allowed foods, organized by race, gender, size and age. Oh and let's not forget to ban all dangerous activities. We'll start with skiiing, scuba diving, rock climbing, all contact sports. Oh and driving, let's not forget driving ... and alcohol. Oh, the hell with it, let's just force everyone to become Amish (without the religious part of course).
There is a WSJ article which says the Pentagon has turned to online auctions to get rid of military surplus!
It's amazing how much fun John and I can have with a safety sign builder.
CapMag presents a lecture by Ludwig von Mises, given in Buenos Aires in 1959, on Capitalism in three parts. Part 1 (Mass Production and the Standard of Living), Part 2 (Opposition from the Intellectuals) and Part 3 (Capital and Wages). It is well worth reading.
Larry Soloman examines Cuba's much touted 'accomplishments' in education and medical care.

Monday, May 12, 2003

Via Michele comes the St. Clair Inc. Safety Sign Builder and related contest. My entry:



But actually Barbara should do a few since she has actually worked in the chemical industry where real idiotic signs like these are commonplace. (She once had to watch a multi-hour safety video).

My favorites so far are here

Update: (another one)



and another (I'm stopping now)



This one was suggested by the Evil Overlord List. (See #9)
HappyFunPundit has come up with the top 10 things he hates about Star Trek:

10. Noisy doors.
You can't walk three feet in a starship without some door whooshing or screeching at you. My office building has automatic sliding doors. They're dead silent. If those doors went "wheet!" every time a person walked through them, about once a month some guy in accounting would snap and go on a shooting rampage. Sorry Scotty, the IEEE has revoked your membership until you learn to master WD-40

9. The Federation.
This organization creeps me out. A planet-wide government that runs everything, and that has abolished money. A veritable planetary DMV. Oh sure, it looks like a cool place when you're rocketing around in a Federation Starship, but I wonder how the guy driving a Federation dump truck feels about it?

And everyone has to wear those spandex uniforms. Here's an important fact: Most people, you don't want to see them in spandex. You'd pay good money to not have to see them. If money hadn't been abolished, that is. So you're screwed.

8. Reversing the Polarity.
For cripes sake Giordi, stop reversing the polarity of everything! It might work once in a while, but usually it just screws things up. I have it on good authority that the technicians at Starbase 12 HATE that. Every time the Enterprise comes in for its 10,000 hour checkup, they've gotta go through the whole damned ship fixing stuff. "What happened to the toilet in Stateroom 3?" "Well, the plumbing backed up, and Giordi thought he could fix it by reversing the polarity."

Between Scotty's poor lubrication habits and Geordi's damned polarity reversing trick, it's a wonder the Enterprise doesn't just spontaneously explode whenever they put the juice to it.

7. Seatbelts.
Yeah, I know this one is overdone, but you'd think that the first time an explosion caused the guy at the nav station to fly over the captain's head with a good 8 feet of clearance, someone would say, "You know, we might think of inventing some furutistic restraining device to prevent that from happening." So of course, they did make something like that for the second Enterprise (the first one blew up due to poor lubrication), but what was it? A hard plastic thing that's locked over your thighs. Oh, I'll bet THAT feels good in the corners. "Hey look! The leg-bars worked as advertised! There goes Kirk's torso!"

6. No fuses.
Every time there's a power surge on the Enterprise the various stations and consoles explode in a shower of sparks and throw their seatbelt-less operators over Picard's head. If we could get Giordi to stop reversing the polarity for a minute, we could get him to go shopping at the nearest Starship parts store and pick up a few fuses. And while he's shopping, he could stop at an intergalactic IKEA and pick up a few chairs for the bridge personnel. If you're going to put me in front of a fuseless exploding console all day, the least you could do is let me sit down.

5. Rule by committee.
Here's the difference between Star Trek and the best SF show on TV last year:

Star Trek:

Picard: "Arm photon torpedoes!"
Riker: "Captain! Are you sure that's wise?"
Troi: "Captain! I'm picking up conflicting feelings about this! And, it appears that you're a 'fraidy cat."
Wesley: "Captain, I'm just an annoying punk, but I thought I should say something."
Worf: "Captain, can I push the button? This is giving me a big Klingon warrior chubby."
Giordi: "Captain, I think we should reverse the polarity on them first."
Picard: "I'm so confused. I'm going to go to my stateroom and look
pensive."

Firefly:

Captain: "Let's shoot them."
Crewman: "Are you sure that's wise?"
Captain: "Do you know what the chain of command is? It's the chain I'll BEAT YOU WITH until you realize who's in command."
Crewman: "Aye Aye, sir!"

4. A Star Trek quiz:
Kirk, Spock, McCoy, and 'Ensign Gomez' beam down to a planet. Which one isn't coming back?

3. Technobabble.
The other night, I couldn't get my car to start. I solved the problem by reversing the polarity of the car battery, and routing the power through my satellite dish. The resulting subspace plasma caused a rift in the space-time continuum, which created a quantum tunnelling effect that charged the protons in the engine core, thus starting my car. Child's play, really. As a happy side-effect, I also now get the Spice Channel for free.

2. The Holodeck.
I mean, it's cool and all. But do you really believe that people would use it to re-create Sherlock Holmes mysteries and old-west saloons? Come on, we all know what the holodeck would be used for. And we also know what the worst job on the Enterprise would be: Having to squeegie the holodeck clean.

1. The Prime Directive.
How stupid is this? Remember when Marvin the Martian was going to blow up the Earth, because it obstructed his view of Venus? And how Bugs Bunny stopped him by stealing the Illudium Q36 Space Modulator? Well, in the Star Trek universe, Bugs would be doing time. Probably in a room filled with Roseanne lookalikes wearing spandex uniforms, walking through doors going WHEET! all day. It would be hell. At least until the Kaboom. The Earth-shattering Kaboom.


I especially agree with 1and 9. I feel like the Federation went from being run by Americans in the original series to being run by the French in the Next Generation. Note that you never heard Kirk bragging about socialist utopia while that is the first thing Picard mentions when he meets anyone even close to Capitalist who is unfamiliar with the Federation. And you also have to wonder what kind of society puts a diplomat at the helm of a warship???

I totally disagree with the holodeck hating. Okay, maybe their depiction is a little inaccurate. Well that's good, because maybe when it's invented it won't automatically be banned and we can enjoy the thing for a while.

Thanks to the boost from hosting last weeks Carnival of the Vanities we have moved from Large Mammals to Playful Primates in the Blogosphere Ecosystem.
Quote of the Day

"It is a paradoxical truth that tax rates are too high today and tax revenues are too low and the soundest way to raise revenues in the long run is to cut rates now. The experience of a number of European countries has borne this out. This country's own experience with tax reduction has borne this out. The reason is that only full employment can balance the budget and tax reduction can pave the way to full employment. The purpose of cutting taxes is not to incur a budget deficit, but to achieve the more prosperous, expanding economy which will bring a budget surplus."

--George W. Bush, er, no wait, it was by John F. Kennedy, December 1962
From Scrappleface:

ScrappleFace Editor Stays On Despite Scandal

(2003-05-12) -- Scott Ott said he will remain in his post overseeing the work of the vast editorial staff at ScrappleFace.com despite accusations of plagiarism and "quote fabrication." The scandal at ScrappleFace is the second to hit a major traditional media outlet in a week. The first involved a newspaper based in New York.
Donald Luskin thinks that blogs are superior to and will surpass traditional media as sources of news and opinion.

Of course anything that's wrong with the mainstream media -- bias, error, sensationalism, and so on -- can be wrong with the blogosphere as well. But there are six critical differences, all in favor of the blogosphere.


  1. When you surfing the blogosphere you are never deluded by the false sense of security conferred by an undeservedly authoritative brand-image like that of the New York Times -- you are in the wild west, and you know it.
  2. In the blogosphere you are massively diversified -- you can easily and rapidly access many competing sources of information and points of view.
  3. Blogs tend to cite their sources diligently, and provide hyperlinks directly to source material -- if you want to do your own fact-checking, establish context, or just learn more, you can easily do so.
  4. Blogs can act as a digest of and gateway to the conventional media -- so you have the best of both worlds.
  5. Blogs tend to be written by people who read blogs, and blogs often refer to each other, link to each other, police each other, and so on, so errors or biases are quickly discovered and exposed -- in the heyday of the Internet this used be called "collaborative filtering."
  6. Because blogging permits anyone to be his own author/reporter/pundit/publisher is he wishes, you can personally participate in the process of the formation of news and opinion in the blogosphere -- it's not just passively acquiring information, it's being an insider to an information-processing community.
So much for UN peacekeeping (from Instapundit):

Wielding machetes and rocket-launchers, hordes of tribal warriors and drug-crazed children marauded through the Congolese town of Bunia yesterday, unleashing an orgy of killing and forcing tens of thousands of terrified refugees across the Ugandan border.

United Nations officials warned the Security Council that the crisis was potentially a genocide in the making, drawing parallels with Rwanda, where between 500,000 and one million people, mainly Tutsis, were killed by Hutus in 1994.

"Bunia is on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe," UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's spokesman, Fred Eckhard, said. . . .

There were no details about casualties, although two UN soldiers were said to be wounded. With only 600 troops in Bunia, a town of about 350,000 in the east of the war-ravaged country, the UN has been unable to control the rapidly deteriorating situation.

"We can't do anything," a peacekeeper said by telephone from the UN compound. "We do not have enough manpower. We do not have a mandate. We have sent repeated warnings that this was going to happen. We have asked for reinforcements. Every request was ignored."


UN peacekeepers in Bunia aren't allowd to return fire if civilians are being shot at. So what is the point of sending in UN peacekeepers again?
Speed Bump
The New York Times is finally coming clean on Jayson Blair. One passage mystifies me though:

"Mr. Blair's Times supervisors and Maryland professors emphasize that he earned an internship at The Times because of glowing recommendations and a remarkable work history, not because he is black. The Times offered him a slot in an internship program that was then being used in large part to help the paper diversify its newsroom."

So first he was given a job at the Times based solely on merit and then in the very next sentence he was offered a job through a minority focused job program? Which is it?