Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Holy Socks!

The Guardian spotted him:
As president of the World Bank, Paul Wolfowitz is clearly not short of a buck or two. So is he just too time-poor to get down to his local mall and invest in a new pair of socks? Known for his sharp suits and hawkish views, he was snapped revealing his inner slob during a visit to the Selimiye mosque in Edirne, western Turkey.
By way of Drudge, who has time to read The Guardian.

Bob Chitester

John Fund tells the story of the man behind "Free to Choose" with Milton Friedman:
Mr. Chitester came to the project with an unusual background. In 1966, he became the general manager of the PBS station in Erie, Pa., at age 29. An opponent of the Vietnam War, he handed out literature for George McGovern in 1972 and admits he knew nothing about economics. Then, in 1976, he met with economist W. Allen Wallis, who gave him a copy of Friedman's "Capitalism and Freedom." Mr. Chitester soaked it up, became a believer in markets, and immediately began pursuing Friedman to do a series that would provide a counterpoint to one by liberal economist John Kenneth Galbraith that PBS was airing.

After all these years, Mr. Chitester is still surprised by how easily Friedman's cooperation came. "I was a bearded, leather-jacketed, small-town TV executive, yet he treated me as competent and honorable, as he did everyone he met, until you proved otherwise," he recalls.

Surprisingly, Friedman insisted on not writing a script in advance of filming. The points that would be made in each scene were discussed, but his commentary was extemporaneous. This resulted in such gems as the economist sitting in a sweatshop in New York's Chinatown, where he recalled the days when his mother worked in a similar environment. "Life was hard," Friedman noted, "but opportunity was real." He then transports the audience to a junk floating in the harbor of Hong Kong, "the freest market in the world," where Friedman discusses how the then-British colony's leaders refused to collect some economic statistics because they feared they would be used as an excuse for government intervention in the booming economy.
As I've mentioned before, those videos changed my life.

Losers

Opinion Journal:
By an overwhelming majority yesterday, the Senate voted for cloture on the minimum-wage hike. But in order to get the provision past the Republican minority, Senate leaders attached it to tax cuts that are supposed to help the small businesses that stand to be hurt by the minimum-wage increase. And, in order to "pay for" those tax breaks, our solons had to find offsetting "revenue raisers"--that is, tax hikes. So, to review: To raise the minimum wage, the Senate had to cut taxes. But to cut taxes, the Senate had to raise taxes.
The losers are anyone whose skills were barely worth the old minimum wage (they're out of a job), anyone who wanted to hire those people (they're out of business), anyone who wanted to do business with them (they'll have to buy elsewhere or do without), and anyone who pays taxes.

The idle rich did alright, of course (it was their idea).

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog

In the mail yesterday; finished today. It's that good.

Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog: The Quirky History and Lost Art of Diagramming Sentences by Kitty Burns Florey mostly charms those of us who are veterans of the same parochial schools. Whether it was taught by Sister Bernadette in sixth grade at St. John the Baptist Academy in Syracuse or Sister Mary Maureen in fifth grade at St. Joseph's in Roseburg hardly matters. The art of diagramming sentences is as thoroughly lost as the simple ability, which all children once had, to sit quietly and pay attention—or at least pretend to.

Money Where Mouth Was

Dr. Martin Rees says he thinks the odds are "no better than fifty-fifty that our present civilisation on Earth will survive to the end of the present century."

John Tierney says, "Want to bet on it?"

Via Hit & Run.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Scariest Ideas in Science

By way of Jonah Goldberg in The Corner, this article in Popular Science is just plain fun. Well, OK, it's a bit creepy, too. Especially if you have an overactive imagination.

Is There A Pilot On Board?

It's every new pilot's daydream but it really happened to Stephen Brown. Brown was one of 210 passengers on a Boeing 757 when the pilot died. The flight attendant asked if there were any licensed pilots on board. Brown raised his hand and was led to the cockpit. The co-pilot switched seats and Brown sat on the right, operating the radios, setting the flaps, and lowering the landing gear.

AVweb has the story.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Desolate Roads Part 2

Michael Yon:
There were five occupants in the humvee: 2LT Mark Daily born in Los Angeles; SSG John Cooper born in Cleveland; SGT Ian Anderson born in Prairie Village, Kansas; Specialist Matthew Grimm from Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. Matt Grimm had recently been awarded a Purple Heart for injuries he suffered while on patrol in a humvee that came under attack. It was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade that killed Sergeant Brent Dunkleberger. Matt had been driving the day Brent was killed, and he was driving again on the morning of 15 January. The fifth occupant was "Jacob," a Christian Assyrian-Iraqi, born in Mosul in 1967, now performing arguably the most dangerous job in Iraq: interpreter for American combat forces.
Read it all. Or just look at the pictures.

Sunday Steyn

Mark Steyn this morning starts off with an anecdote about Margaret Thatcher. From there, believe it or not, it gets better.

Space Sponge

Saturn's Hyperion has very odd looking craters and a low density that might indicate a "vast system of caverns."

Today's Astronomy Picture of the Day.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Kasparov vs. Putin

Melanie Kirkpatrick talks with Garry Kasparov, leader of "The Other Russia" coalition:
Our hour nearly at an end, conversation drifts back to the early '90s and the discussions we used to have about Russia and its future. Is there something the U.S. might have done differently back then, I ask, that would have helped keep Russia on the path to democracy?

Mr. Kasparov gives a wry smile. "I think the best thing [the U.S.] could have done was to get Saddam [Hussein] 15 years earlier," he says. "By going after Saddam in 1991, I think we could have saved Yugoslavia from a civil war and could have sent a message, a very powerful message, to many dictators. . . . In 1991, the United States was much stronger and everybody else was much weaker."
There's more, and it's all worth reading.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Cougar Attack

Wednesday in California:
Jim and Nell Hamm, who will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary next month, were hiking Wednesday in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, 60 miles south of the Oregon state line, when the lion pounced.

"He didn't scream. It was a different, horrible plea for help, and I turned around, and by then the cat had wrestled Jim to the ground," Nell Hamm said in an interview from the hospital....

Nell Hamm said she grabbed a 4-inch-diameter log and beat the animal with it, but it would not release its hold on her husband's head.

"Jim was talking to me all through this, and he said, 'I've got a pen in my pocket and get the pen and jab him in the eye,"' she said.

"So I got the pen and tried to put it in his eye, but it didn't want to go in as easy as I thought it would."

When the pen bent and became useless, Nell Hamm went back to using the log. The lion eventually let go and, with blood on its snout, stood staring at the woman. She screamed and waved the log until the animal walked away....

Nell Hamm, 65, said she was afraid to leave her dazed, bleeding husband alone, so the couple walked a quarter-mile to a trail head, where she gathered branches to protect them if more lions came around. They waited until a ranger came by and summoned help.
Tam spotted it first.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

The Deal

Drudge features a picture of this nice little cabin with the screaming headline "GILDED AGE: THE $155 MILLION HOUSE!"

I thought, "I'll bet that's..." so I clicked through. Sure enough, it's Tim Blixseth, again.

Would you like to know how he got started?
Shortly after his first transaction, he saw an ad from C. H. Berg & Associates, a realtor nicknamed "Click" Berg, advertising 360 acres in Camas Valley, Oregon, for $90,000. He phoned Click Berg and expressed his interest. They got together the next day and drove out to Camas Valley for a meeting with owner, Hayden Taylor, an old logger.

Taylor suggested they tour the property. Click and Blixseth walked through only five acres and concluded they had no idea what the 360 acres were really worth. Blixseth decided to gamble. He walked over to Taylor and said, "I'll take it."

Astonished, Taylor replied: "Young man, have you got 90,000 bucks?"

"No, but I've got $1,000," said Blixseth. "I'll give you the $1,000 now, and the balance in thirty days."

Now flabbergasted, Taylor admonished him. "I'm going to teach you not to gamble with your money," he said, "so I'll take it off the market and sign an earnest money agreement. When you lose your thousand, you'll learn not to gamble."

Blixseth gave Taylor the thousand in cash and drove back with Click. En route to Roseburg, he began to get concerned about why the neighbors hadn't bought it.

When he discovered the Roseburg Lumber Company was the major owner around it, he lost no time visiting the Roseburg Lumber corporate headquarters. "I went up to the front desk," said Blixseth, "and addressed a very prim and proper receptionist with gray hair. She was smartly dressed in a gray suit, and I asked to see Mr. Ford."

"What's your business with him?" she asked.

"I'd like to sell him some land," said Blixseth.

Mr. Ford was unavailable, but his son, Allyn Ford, fresh out of Yale and new on the job, came out to talk. Blixseth made his pitch. Allyn Ford listened intently, asked Blixseth to remain seated, and went back to check the files. Ford returned shortly and asked Blixseth how much he wanted for it.

Surprised by the sudden turn of events, Blixseth's mind raced. He felt if he could profit by $50,000 in cash, he could retire and not work for the rest of his life. The numbers danced in his mind. Payoff a $90,000 debt, add a $50,000 profit—ergo, $140,000.

"The price," said Blixseth, "is $140,000."

"Alright," said Allyn, "we'll take it."
Of course, all this is from an interview, and sometimes the story improves with the telling, but no doubt the basic outline is correct.

Snowy Landing

KTVZ:
Two southern Oregon men escaped injury Tuesday afternoon when their plane made an emergency landing in a logged-off area about a quarter-mile west of Highway 97, near the Highway 138 junction south of Chemult, Oregon State Police reported.

Shortly before 1 p.m., a Cessna 172 with two men aboard was en route from Ashland to Sunriver when it reportedly experienced fuel problems. The pilot, Donald Karpen, 71, of Talent, made an emergency landing on a snow-covered logged off area about one mile from the Beaver Marsh airstrip. The plane received front end and wing damage.

Karpen and his passenger, Frederick Stockwell, 62, of Ashland, were not injured, troopers said.

Erasing History

Bob Tyrrell:
As part of his 2005 plea agreement, Berger promised to take a lie detector test. He never did. This week in a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, 18 Republican congressmen have asked that the Justice Department proceed with the polygraph testing of Berger. It is more critical today than it might have been back in April of 2005. This autumn a congressional committee made an astounding discovery regarding the contents of Berger's socks. The Archives had failed to catalogue the materials that they gave him to review. No one aside from Berger has any idea what he took from the Archives. He may have doctored documents. He may have destroyed documents. There have been many distinguished former government officials who lived to write their version of the history they participated in. Berger is the rare government official who has lived to erase history. A polygraph test might reveal how much history he erased.
I doubt it. A lie detector will only confirm that he lies.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Desolate Roads

Michael Yon:
This went on for what seemed liked several minutes. Long enough so that the gunner and everyone in the Humvee would be dead if the smiling man pushed a button in his pocket. I practically screamed at the gunner to at least fire a warning shot. Had our places been switched, I would have killed the man several minutes earlier. The smiling man with his hands in his pockets sidled right up next the Humvee door. As is my habit when I am about to die, I took a picture.

We Will Not Respond

Coos County Sheriff Andy Jackson informed the County Commisioners that if budget cuts for the department go ahead he will prioritize as follows.

We will respond:
Murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, sex offenses, arson, domestic assault, felony crimes in progress.
We may respond if manpower is available:
Burglary, auto theft, larceny, drunk drivers, misdemeanors in progress.
We may respond at the discretion of the supervisor:
Fraud, forgery, embezzlement, prostitution, gambling, liquor violations, prowlers, runaway juveniles, minor in possession parties.
We will not respond except in unusual circumstances:
Animal problems, civil disputes, lost and found properties, assisting motorists, building security, victimless crimes, bad checks.

Venezuelan Thug

Marcel Granier, chairman of Radio Caracas Television:
These verbal threats constitute, de facto, a public decision to silence RCTV. But RCTV has never been informed legally or formally of the measures that are to be taken against it; nor have we ever been told what exactly are the accusations against us, which makes it difficult for us to defend ourselves. President Chávez has violated the presumption of innocence and has denied us due process.

The actions against RCTV of President Chávez and his subordinates are in violation of the Venezuelan constitution, the American Convention on Human Rights, and the Inter-American Democratic Charter. They are a clear example of abuse of power, and violate the right to work of all those in the media industry, not to mention a violation of the freedom of thought and expression of millions of citizens who seek information and ideas of their own free choice.

We are faced, in effect, with an aggressive campaign to extinguish all thought that differs from that which is officially dubbed "revolutionary."
And you thought the Cold War was over.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Presidential Tag Cloud

By way of the Wall Street Journal a link to Chirag Mehta's U.S. Presidential Speeches Tag Cloud. They're not really "tags" of course, since presidents don't add tags to their speeches. Instead the clouds show the 100 most frequently used words in every major presidential speech from 1776 to tonight's State of the Union speech.

Check it out (the page may take a while to load, so be patient).

The Enemy At Home

FrontPage Magazine interviews Dinesh D'Souza:
...out of courtesy to Mr. D'Souza, in this first part of our interview we will allow him to express his thesis without any rebuttal from my end. In this way, Mr. D'Souza can crystallize his main points without us getting into a point-counterpoint exchange which may prevent his main thesis from being clearly synthesized. Then, in tomorrow's issue, we will publish the debate between us.
I will update this tomorrow with a link to the debate.

Update: It appears the second part will be delayed until Thursday.

Update: It would have been a better "debate" if Glazov had allowed D'Souza equal time, but that's OK. I've ordered the book, so D'Souza will get a fair hearing, with me anyway.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Tail-Wagging Good

Beer for dogs.

You wish I was kidding, but I'm not.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Haruki Murakami

"I think Lizzy misses Japan," my wife said.

"I do too," I replied, "although I've never been there."

Back in December I read in Opinion Journal a profile of the author Haruki Murakami. His novels sounded interesting: "talking cats and monsters that lurk underground" and on a whim I ordered his best-seller The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. I don't generally read fiction, but this one drew me in, as much for its detailed descriptions of everyday life as for its surrealistic characters and psychological drama. Time flows differently in Murakami's stories, and different things matter.
Nakata had passed away calmly in his sleep, most likely not thinking of anything. His face was peaceful, with no signs of suffering, regret, or confusion. Very Nakaga-like, Hoshino concluded. But what his life had really meant, Hoshino had no idea. Not that anybody's life had more clear-cut meaning to it. What's really important for people, what really has dignity, is how they die. Compared to that, he thought, how you lived doesn't amount to much. Still, how you live determines how you die. These thoughts ran through his head as he stared at the face of the dead old man.
When I finished The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle I needed more, so I ordered Kafka on the Shore. Midway through it I thought, this will be enough. But having finished it two days ago I'm still hungry. So I've ordered The Elephant Vanishes, a collection of short stories, and Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche, his only (so far) work of non-fiction.

Blogging may be light for a while.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Go, Go, Gojira!

Tonight after dinner we watched the original 1954 Japanese version of Gojira, with English subtitles and without Raymond Burr. Very different.

Friday, January 19, 2007

The Weather Channel Mess

A Drudge Report link blew his server out of the water but here's a copy of meteorologist James Spann's rebuttal to Heidi Cullen:
Well, well. Some "climate expert" on "The Weather Channel" wants to take away AMS certification from those of us who believe the recent "global warming" is a natural process. So much for "tolerance", huh?

I have been in operational meteorology since 1978, and I know dozens and dozens of broadcast meteorologists all over the country. Our big job: look at a large volume of raw data and come up with a public weather forecast for the next seven days. I do not know of a single TV meteorologist who buys into the man-made global warming hype. I know there must be a few out there, but I can't find them. Here are the basic facts you need to know:
  • Billions of dollars of grant money is flowing into the pockets of those on the man-made global warming bandwagon. No man-made global warming, the money dries up. This is big money, make no mistake about it. Always follow the money trail and it tells a story. Even the lady at "The Weather Channel" probably gets paid good money for a prime time show on climate change. No man-made global warming, no show, and no salary. Nothing wrong with making money at all, but when money becomes the motivation for a scientific conclusion, then we have a problem. For many, global warming is a big cash grab.

  • The climate of this planet has been changing since God put the planet here. It will always change, and the warming in the last 10 years is not much difference than the warming we saw in the 1930s and other decades. And, lets not forget we are at the end of the ice age in which ice covered most of North America and Northern Europe.
If you don't like to listen to me, find another meteorologist with no tie to grant money for research on the subject. I would not listen to anyone that is a politician, a journalist, or someone in science who is generating revenue from this issue.

In fact, I encourage you to listen to WeatherBrains episode number 12, featuring Alabama State Climatologist John Christy, and WeatherBrains episode number 17, featuring Dr. William Gray of Colorado State University, one of the most brilliant minds in our science.

WeatherBrains, by the way, is our weekly 30 minute netcast.

I have nothing against "The Weather Channel", but they have crossed the line into a political and cultural region where I simply won't go.
James Spann's blog, when it recovers, may be found at http://www.jamesspann.com.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Comet McNaught

The brightest comet in decades sweeps across the New Zealand sky. Astronomy Picture of the Day has featured Comet McNaught several times over the past two weeks, as seen from Bad Mergentheim, Krakow, and Catalonia.

The views just keep getting better.

Unfortunately for Oregon, however, our chance has come and gone, obscured by clouds. If you want to see it before it's gone, head for the southern hemisphere. New Zealand's nice this time of year.

Update: a daylight photo.

Update: the whole tail.

Update: more.

Still Playing Catch Up

Walter Mossberg on Vista:
Nearly all of the major, visible new features in Vista are already available in Apple's operating system, called Mac OS X, which came out in 2001 and received its last major upgrade in 2005. And Apple is about to leap ahead again with a new version of OS X, called Leopard, due this spring.

There are some big downsides to this new version of Windows. To get the full benefits of Vista, especially the new look and user interface, which is called Aero, you will need a hefty new computer, or a hefty one that you purchased fairly recently. The vast majority of existing Windows PCs won't be able to use all of Vista's features without major hardware upgrades. They will be able to run only a stripped-down version, and even then may run very slowly.

In fact, in my tests, some elements of Vista could be maddeningly slow even on new, well-configured computers.
The bottom line?
For most users who want Vista, I strongly recommend buying a new PC with the new operating system preloaded.
And there's no rush on that.

Still Playing Catch Up

Walter Mossberg on Vista:
Nearly all of the major, visible new features in Vista are already available in Apple's operating system, called Mac OS X, which came out in 2001 and received its last major upgrade in 2005. And Apple is about to leap ahead again with a new version of OS X, called Leopard, due this spring.

There are some big downsides to this new version of Windows. To get the full benefits of Vista, especially the new look and user interface, which is called Aero, you will need a hefty new computer, or a hefty one that you purchased fairly recently. The vast majority of existing Windows PCs won't be able to use all of Vista's features without major hardware upgrades. They will be able to run only a stripped-down version, and even then may run very slowly.

In fact, in my tests, some elements of Vista could be maddeningly slow even on new, well-configured computers.
The bottom line?
For most users who want Vista, I strongly recommend buying a new PC with the new operating system preloaded.
And there's no rush on that.

Gifted Must Know Their Limits

Charles Murray concludes his series on education with an admonition for the gifted:
We live in an age when it is unfashionable to talk about the special responsibility of being gifted, because to do so acknowledges inequality of ability, which is elitist, and inequality of responsibilities, which is also elitist. And so children who know they are smarter than the other kids tend, in a most human reaction, to think of themselves as superior to them. Because giftedness is not to be talked about, no one tells high-IQ children explicitly, forcefully and repeatedly that their intellectual talent is a gift. That they are not superior human beings, but lucky ones. That the gift brings with it obligations to be worthy of it. That among those obligations, the most important and most difficult is to aim not just at academic accomplishment, but at wisdom.

The encouragement of wisdom requires a special kind of education. It requires first of all recognition of one's own intellectual limits and fallibilities—in a word, humility.
If you haven't already, read parts one and two. And, if you have the intellectual capacity, read his book as well.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Behind the Little Mosque

A British documentary goes undercover to find out what's really going on in that "little mosque on the prairie."
Dispatches has investigated a number of mosques run by high profile national organisations that claim to be dedicated to moderation and dialogue with other faiths. But an undercover reporter joined worshippers to find a message of religious bigotry and extremism being preached.

He captures chilling sermons in which Saudi-trained preachers proclaim the supremacy of Islam, preach hatred for non-Muslims and for Muslims who do not follow their extreme beliefs — and predict a coming jihad. "An army of Muslims will arise," announces one preacher....
Dispatches: Undercover Mosque aired Monday on Channel 4.

Math Is Hard? Skip College

Charles Murray continues his series on American education:
Today I turn to the upper half, people with IQs of 100 or higher. Today's simple truth is that far too many of them are going to four-year colleges.

Begin with those barely into the top half, those with average intelligence. To have an IQ of 100 means that a tough high-school course pushes you about as far as your academic talents will take you. If you are average in math ability, you may struggle with algebra and probably fail a calculus course. If you are average in verbal skills, you often misinterpret complex text and make errors in logic.

These are not devastating shortcomings. You are smart enough to engage in any of hundreds of occupations. You can acquire more knowledge if it is presented in a format commensurate with your intellectual skills. But a genuine college education in the arts and sciences begins where your skills leave off.

In engineering and most of the natural sciences, the demarcation between high-school material and college-level material is brutally obvious. If you cannot handle the math, you cannot pass the courses....
Fortunately, there are alternatives.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Little Mosque on the Prairie

Mark Steyn, who is Canadian, eh? called my attention to it, and I didn't believe it at first, but it's true. The CBC has a new sitcom called Little Mosque on the Prairie.

Muslim Canadian humor? Is this even possible?

To test the concept I used the time-honored fact checking technique of counting Google results:
  • Results 1 - 10 of about 228,000 for "british humor".
  • Results 1 - 10 of about 82,200 for "russian humor".
  • Results 1 - 10 of about 49,900 for "canadian humor".
Clearly Canadian humor exists. Not huge, but it's there.
  • Results 1 - 10 of about 406,000 for "jewish humor".
Oh, now, that's not even fair.
  • Results 1 - 10 of about 23,800 for "catholic humor".
  • Results 1 - 10 of about 2,330 for "buddhist humor".
  • Results 1 - 10 of about 1,630 for "taoist humor".
  • Results 1 - 10 of about 1,560 for "muslim humor".
Dead last? (Sorry, unfortunate choice of words.) No, not quite:
  • Results 1 - 10 of about 782 for "hindi humor".
Oh dear.
  • Your search - "muslim canadian humor" - did not match any documents.
We're not laughing with you, we're laughing at you.

IQ Vastly Overrated

Charles Murray in Opinion Journal:
While concepts such as "emotional intelligence" and "multiple intelligences" have their uses, a century of psychometric evidence has been augmented over the last decade by a growing body of neuroscientific evidence. Like it or not, g exists, is grounded in the architecture and neural functioning of the brain, and is the raw material for academic performance. If you do not have a lot of g when you enter kindergarten, you are never going to have a lot of it. No change in the educational system will change that hard fact.

That says nothing about the quality of the lives that should be open to everyone across the range of ability. I am among the most emphatic of those who think that the importance of IQ in living a good life is vastly overrated. My point is just this: It is true that many social and economic problems are disproportionately found among people with little education, but the culprit for their educational deficit is often low intelligence. Refusing to come to grips with that reality has produced policies that have been ineffectual at best and damaging at worst.
This is the first of a three-part series—more tomorrow.

Rampant Global Warming

Reno Gazette-Journal:
Chilly Las Vegas is shivering beneath a blanket of cold the likes of which it hasn't seen for a decade.
All Headline News:
Freezing temperatures ripped across much of the Midwestern United States, where a stormy mix of ice, snow and sleet disrupted power and impeded travel.
Los Angeles Times:
State officials and farmers estimated today that at least half of California's $1.3-billion winter citrus harvest was destroyed by the record-setting cold temperatures across California.
You happy now?

Hercules

Greg sends the story of Hercules, the "double-wide" tabby, lost in Portland and found — stuck tight — in a dog flap. He's back with his owner now. Story and film here. More details here.

A Rifle in Every Pot

A law professor from the University of Tennessee writes a pro-gun op-ed for The New York Times, and they publish it. What's the world coming to?

Monday, January 15, 2007

Letter from a Birmingham Jail

We have waited for more than 340 years for our constitutional and God-given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political independence, but we still creep at horse-and-buggy pace toward gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging dark of segregation to say, "Wait." But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son who is asking: "Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?"; when you take a cross-county drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading "white" and "colored"; when your first name becomes "nigger," your middle name becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your last name becomes "John," and your wife and mother are never given the respected title "Mrs."; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of "nobodiness" then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.
The true study of history requires the primary sources.

Washington v. WEA

Michael Barone:
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Washington v. Washington Education Association. This is an appeal of the judgment by the Washington Supreme Court that the state National Education Association's First Amendment rights were violated by a 1992 law adopted by the voters in referendum. The law requires that the union get opt-in approval from nonmember teachers before deducting from their paychecks the portion of fees used for political purposes.

The WEA has defied this law ever since...
Worth reading in its entirety.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Take It Easy Today

Global Warming Hits San Diego

From the Union-Tribune:
A mass of freezing cold air over Southern California has sent temperatures plummeting this weekend, with the National Weather Service advising residents to bring pets and sensitive plants inside overnight and the governor declaring a state of emergency.

"Pretty much everyone in the county will be freezing," said Mark Moede, a Weather Service meteorologist in San Diego.

The record cold nighttime weather is forecast to continue for the rest of the week...
State of emergency?
Temperatures tonight are expected to drop to 28 in El Cajon, 30 in Rancho Bernardo and 27 in Fallbrook.

Coastal areas also will be cold, with expected lows of 33 in Chula Vista, 29 in Miramar and 38 at Lindbergh Field in San Diego.
That's t-shirt weather in Minnesota.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Wu Wu

Sure enough, it's right there in the Congressional Record:
Mr. WU. Mr. Speaker, 4 years ago, this administration took America to war in Iraq without adequate evidence. Since that time, the administration has not listened to the American people, it hasn't listened to our professional military, and it certainly hasn't listened to this Congress....

Now, this President has listened to some people, the so-called Vulcans in the White House, the ideologues. But unlike the Vulcans of Star Trek, who made the decisions based on logic and fact, these guys make it on ideology. These aren't Vulcans. There are Klingons in the White House. But unlike the real Klingons of Star Trek, these Klingons have never fought a battle of their own.

Don't led faux Klingons send real Americans to war. It is wrong.
Fortunately, as Oregonians, we're beyond embarrassment.

Population Pyramids


From the U.S. Census Bureau, for most countries in the world, including projections to 2025 and 2050. Compare, for instance, Latvia to Liberia.

Take the projections with a grain of salt, though. I think they underestimate the speed of the demographic transition.

A Really Bad Deal

The Wall Street Journal on Schwarzenegger's health plan:
Like all such political schemes, Mr. Schwarzenegger's plan also works at cross-purposes. It includes new subsidies to help the uninsured obtain coverage, but at the same time it would impose new coverage mandates that would make insurance a lot more expensive. Two rules in particular have all but ruined the market for individually owned coverage in every other state where they've been tried.

The first is called "guaranteed issue," which means insurers are required to write you a policy even if you wait until you're sick to ask for it. It is precisely this "guarantee" that many people use as an excuse to remain "uninsured." Why not buy a new car rather than health insurance when you're healthy if you know you can always buy insurance if you get cancer?

The second rule is "community rating," which means insurance premiums cannot vary based on age or health status. This is akin to telling auto insurers that they can't charge higher premiums to 18-year-old males with a history of speeding tickets than they do 45-year-old mothers. Both rules raise the cost of insurance for everyone.
We priced health insurance a few years ago, and actually bought it for a while (I don't get it through my work). We're all healthy and careful, so our risk and the corresponding premiums should have been low. They were not. We were asked, in effect, to subsidize the sick and the stupid. It was a bad investment, a really bad deal, so we dropped it after a year. We don't mind paying our own way, but we refuse to pay everybody else's.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Mummies From A Lost Civilization

Put this on my wish list. Warriors of the Clouds: A Lost Civilization in the Upper Amazon of Peru by Keith Muscutt.

Drudge caught my attention with some strikingly gruesome photos.
[Twelve] mummies were recovered from the massive cave complex 82ft down.

The vault — which was also used for worship — was chanced upon three months ago by a farmer working at the edge of northern Peru's rainforest. He tipped off scientists who uncovered ceramics, textiles and wall paintings.

The Chachapoyas were a tall, fairhaired, light-skinned race that some researchers believe may have come from Europe.

Little is known about them except that they were one of the more advanced ancient civilisations in the area. Adept at fighting, they commanded a large kingdom from the year 800 to 1500 that stretched across the Andes.

You'll Never Find It.

I recently bought Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire. Our kitchen calendar last year had pictures of the desert, and lots of quotes from Abbey. I wanted to know more about him. Today I read a little about his death, from Wikipedia (not always reliable, I know). He left instructions for his burial:
He wanted his body transported in the bed of a pickup truck. He wanted to be buried as soon as possible. He wanted no undertakers. No embalming, for Godsake! No coffin. Just an old sleeping bag... Disregard all state laws concerning burial. "I want my body to help fertilize the growth of a cactus or cliff rose or sagebrush or tree."...

As for graveside ceremony: He wanted gunfire, and a little music. "No formal speeches desired, though the deceased will not interfere if someone feels the urge. But keep it all simple and brief." And then a big happy raucous wake....

On March 14, 1989, the day Abbey died from esophageal bleeding at 62, Doug Peacock, along with his friend Jack Loeffler, his father-in-law Tom Cartwright, and his brother-in-law Steve Prescott, wrapped Abbey's body in his blue sleeping bag, packed it with dry ice, and loaded Cactus Ed into Loeffler's Chevy pickup. After stopping at a liquor store in Tucson for five cases of beer, and some whiskey to pour on the grave, they drove off into the desert. The men searched for the right spot the entire next day and finally turned down a long rutted road, drove to the end, and began digging.
He's believed to have been buried in the Cabeza Prieta Desert in Pima County, Arizona. Where?
"You'll never find it."

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Iraqi Kids

Michelle Malkin continues blogging from Iraq, as Mr. Reynolds has already noted (but we already knew). So much for Rago's jibe that blogging is derivative.

Click here for updates.

Robert Anton Wilson

Has died.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The President's Speech

I don't watch TV, so I didn't watch The Speech. I did, however, read the transcript, carefully.
Our troops in Iraq have fought bravely. They have done everything we have asked them to do. Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me.
That's right. But you had help.
Our past efforts to secure Baghdad failed for two principal reasons: There were not enough Iraqi and American troops to secure neighborhoods that had been cleared of terrorists and insurgents. And there were too many restrictions on the troops we did have.
Yeah, I read about those.
Our military commanders reviewed the new Iraqi plan to ensure that it addressed these mistakes. They report that it does. They also report that this plan can work.
OK, what's the plan?
20,000 additional American troops to Iraq.... These troops will work alongside Iraqi units and be embedded in their formations.
And what will they do different?
In earlier operations, Iraqi and American forces cleared many neighborhoods of terrorists and insurgents, but when our forces moved on to other targets, the killers returned. This time, we'll have the force levels we need to hold the areas that have been cleared. In earlier operations, political and sectarian interference prevented Iraqi and American forces from going into neighborhoods that are home to those fueling the sectarian violence. This time, Iraqi and American forces will have a green light to enter those neighborhoods...
With Iraqi support?
I've made it clear to the Prime Minister and Iraq's other leaders that America's commitment is not open-ended. If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people -- and it will lose the support of the Iraqi people. Now is the time to act. The Prime Minister understands this. Here is what he told his people just last week: "The Baghdad security plan will not provide a safe haven for any outlaws, regardless of [their] sectarian or political affiliation."
Enough stick. Carrots?
Iraq will pass legislation to share oil revenues among all Iraqis.
Whoo hoo!
And to allow more Iraqis to re-enter their nation's political life, the government will reform de-Baathification laws...
Yeah, no hard feelings!

But what about Syria and Iran?
I recently ordered the deployment of an additional carrier strike group to the region.... And we will work with others to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons...
OK, don't say anything more until the jets are in the air.
Countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and the Gulf States need to understand that an American defeat in Iraq would create a new sanctuary for extremists and a strategic threat to their survival.
Their survival.
Victory will not look like the ones our fathers and grandfathers achieved. There will be no surrender ceremony on the deck of a battleship. But victory in Iraq will bring something new in the Arab world -- a functioning democracy that polices its territory, upholds the rule of law, respects fundamental human liberties, and answers to its people.
We'll settle for that.

Burqini Babes

The Christian Science Monitor has an article on Australia's program to train Muslim lifeguards. Except that these girls are too modest to wear swimsuits. They wear burqinis.

An obvious question: can they swim in that?
The group's trainer, Tony Coffey, says the burqini makes swimming more difficult compared with being dressed in a bikini or swimsuit. "It's the biggest hurdle the girls face. But we can't do anything about it, it's part of the deal. They just need more intensive training."
And the rest of us, while we're drowning out there, will just need more patience.

P.S. Thanks, Derb.

Imitation is the Severest Form of Parody

Here's James Lileks doing Bernard-Henri Levy:
I awake, as is my preference. My waking had, as usual, the pleasant quality of surfacing from one world to another, with the gradual abandonment of one state for another, a trading of realms whose various attributes have merits in eternal opposition. In the sleeping state, one might be conversing with Descartes on an iceberg, while walruses provide hors d'oeuvres on the points of their tusks; in the real, physical state, one finds one has wet the bed again. But to wake is to be born, one thinks, and a certain amount of fluid is present in either case.
You must read them both and then you must to choose: who is the greatest fool?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Oriana Fallaci, 1929-2006

Steyn's obituary of Oriana Fallaci, from the December Atlantic, is now available for free.

GE 1954 to 1962

John H. Fund discusses the eight years Ronald Reagan spent as spokesman for GE.
For weeks at a time he would tour GE's 139 plants, eventually meeting most of the 250,000 employees in them. Reagan himself estimated that he spent 4,000 hours before GE microphones giving talks that started out with Hollywood patter but ended up as full-throated warnings about Big Government. "GE tours became almost a post-graduate course in political science for me . . .," he later wrote. "By 1960 I had completed the process of self-conversion."
Thomas W. Evans has written a history of those years entitled The Education of Ronald Reagan. I hope to buy a copy soon, but not at the full list price that Amazon quotes.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Iranian Brain Drain

Mr. Reynolds links to an article on the BBC: Huge cost of Iranian brain drain.
The number of educated young Iranians trying to leave the country appears to have increased in the last year since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took office judging by the numbers sitting the IELTS exam.

The figures have increased two-and-a-half times this year over the same period last year, according to the Australian administrators of the test.
OK, so how much is that?
According to the IMF more than a 150,000 of the best young minds in Iran are leaving every year.
I popped open my World in Figures. Iran has a population of 69.8 million. 150 thousand? That isn't much.

But wait. Do the math: 28.7% of the population's under 15. Divide by 15, that's 1.3 million graduating from whatever they call high school this year. Ten percent of the graduating class wants to leave.

That's significant.

The Nature Of Our Enemy

Peter Wehner:
It is the fate of the West, and in particular the United States, to have to deal with the combined threat of Shia and Sunni extremists. And for all the differences that exist between them — and they are significant — they share some common features.

Their brand of radicalism is theocratic, totalitarian, illiberal, expansionist, violent, and deeply anti-Semitic and anti-American. As President Bush has said, both Shia and Sunni militants want to impose their dark vision on the Middle East. And as we have seen with Shia-dominated Iran's support of the Sunni terrorist group Hamas, they can find common ground when they confront what they believe is a common enemy.

The war against global jihadism will be long, and we will experience success and setbacks along the way. The temptation of the West will be to grow impatient and, in the face of this long struggle, to grow weary. Some will demand a quick victory and, absent that, they will want to withdraw from the battle. But this is a war from which we cannot withdraw. As we saw on September 11th, there are no safe harbors in which to hide. Our enemies have declared war on us, and their hatreds cannot be sated. We will either defeat them, or they will come after us with the unsheathed sword.

All of us would prefer years of repose to years of conflict. But history will not allow it. And so it once again rests with this remarkable republic to do what we have done in the past: our duty.
Worth reading in its entirety.

Expect A Major Earthquake

In New York within hours.

(Just a hunch.)

Update: OK, so nothing happened. What's the mystery? Refer to this book, the topic of which I first encountered in Tommy Gold's book, which I have mentioned before.

Sunday Steyn A Day Late

Steyn's concerned about the sheep in Belgium, and not, like the professors at Oregon State, because of their sexual orientation.
The Belgian Muslim population has grown so fast that there aren't enough places in the city to perform the ritual sacrifice, and come Eid it's like sheep drive time at every Brussels slaughterhouse, with rams backed up ram-to-ram as far as the eye can see. As reported by the Journal, Mohamed Mimoun grabbed his sheep, took a number and realized he was in for a two-hour wait. Even worse, en route to the slaughterhouse, he was stopped by a cop and fined for having the sheep in the trunk of his Toyota. By law, the sheep is supposed to ride in the rear passenger seats. Baa, baa, back seat.
He gets around to discussing the professors, too. You've been warned.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

On Iraq

P.J. O'Rourke:
I have no idea if some societies, anthropologically speaking, aren't really suited for democracy. I don't think that's true. But there certainly are societies that just love to fight. Northern Ireland, for instance. You couldn't stop that problem because they were having fun—they were really, really enjoying themselves. It would still be going on full-force today if the sons of bitches hadn't accidentally gotten rich. What happened was, more and more people started getting cars, and television sets, and got some vacation time down in Spain, and it wasn't that they wanted to stop fighting and killing each other and being lunatics, but they got busy and forgot.
As interviewed by Joseph Rago in Opinion Journal.

Snow Day January 6th 2007

We don't usually get much snow at 1280 feet elevation, but when we do the kids gamely scrape up every flake and build a snowman anyway.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Peak Oil? Not Likely

A recent item in the Seattle Times about a bunch of "peak oil" apocalyptics reminded me of a much overlooked article by Jonathan Rauch in The Atlantic of January, 2001, entitled The New Old Economy: Oil, Computers, and the Reinvention of the Earth. The Atlantic charges for access but the article is now available for free on Rauch's web site.

I recommend it highly.

Interesting

I just saw the regular garbage truck come and empty the recycle bins—into the compactor truck. The regular, dump-it-in-the-landfill compactor truck.

Guess they were in a hurry today.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Law Prof. Cites Public Choice Theory

Glenn Reynolds on Hugh Hewitt:
...this is actually a place where it's like classic public choice theory, you know, which organizations are run for the benefit of the people running them. In order for news media to do that, they'd have to relax their death grip on this whole self-important notion that they're the Fourth Estate, that they're somehow kind of a part of the establishment, and that they have credentials and status that makes them the superiors of mere bloggers. If they got over that, there's a lot of opportunities for symbiosis...
I remember that. 1986. James M. Buchanan, Nobel Prize in Economics...

If a million people stand to lose a dime so a hundred people can make a thousand bucks, who's going to lobby hardest to get the law passed?

Juvenile Killers

Bly, Oregon (Herald and News):
Two young cougars were shot in the town of Bly Saturday after a resident returned to his home following a long absence.

The homeowner discovered his pet cat had been killed. When he went to his woodshed, two young cougars dashed from the building and away from the property.

The resident tracked the animals onto a neighboring lot and managed to corner them. He called 911 and dispatchers gave him permission to kill the animals if it didn't put anyone else at risk, said Tom Collom, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife district biologist.

"They were 40-pounders, last year's kittens," he said.
The article went on to quote the received wisdom:
  • Do not hike alone. Keep children close to adults and pets back at home...
  • Do not approach a cougar if encountered.
  • Do not run from a cougar. It may trigger its instinct to chase....
...and so on.

Don't go hiking. Don't approach. Don't run away. Make eye contact. Don't make eye contact. They never mention the most obvious solution.

Cougars are supposed to be afraid of humans. You're never supposed to see them. When you do, it's because they're no longer afraid. That's a problem. Make it their problem.

Surfing Before Television

Lileks misses the old days:
Every page of those old papers was crowded with life; you could spend ten minutes taking it all in. Not because everything was brilliant or deathless or necessary or, God help us, useful for your busy life, but because there was just so much of it — the throwaway profiles, the picture of the dog from Omaha that saved a family, a story about a member of European royalty who had divorced her husband (shocking, the morals of those people) a Hollywood celeb mugging for the camera, something about Hitler, a panel about Russia, car accident reports complete with the home addresses of everyone involved, and so on. And on and on. Before TV, this was how you surfed, and it was far more serendipitous and amusing than trudging up and down the steps of the cable-TV listings. Every page of every day: hash, buffet style. Take as much as you like.

Twenty Full Moons

Revenge Is Sour

Christopher Hitchens didn't like the hanging either:
The shabby, tawdry scene of Muqtada Sadr's riffraff taunting their defenseless former tyrant evokes exactly this quality of hysterical falsity and bravado. While Saddam Hussein was alive, they cringed. Now, they find their lost courage, and meanwhile take the drill and the razor blade and the blowtorch to their fellow Iraqis. To watch this abysmal spectacle as a neutral would be bad enough. To know that the U. S. government had even a silent, shamefaced part in it is to feel something well beyond embarrassment.

The Iranian Document

Michael Ledeen:
There is no escape from the war Iran is waging against us, the war that started in 1979 and is intensifying with every passing hour. We will shortly learn more about the documents we found accompanying the high-level Iranian terrorist leader we briefly arrested in Hakim's compound in Baghdad some days ago, and what we will learn—what many key American officials have already learned—is stunning....

He was carrying documents, one of which was in essence a wiring diagram of Iranian operations in Iraq. That wiring diagram included both Shi'ite and Sunni terrorist groups, and was of such magnitude that American officials were flabbergasted. It seems that our misnamed Intelligence Community had grossly underestimated the sophistication and the enormity of the Iranian war campaign.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Tim Blixseth

The Wall Street Journal has a new weekly feature and a blog.
The Wealth Report is a daily blog focused on the lives and culture of the wealthy. The blog is written by Robert Frank, a senior writer for the Wall Street Journal and the author of "Richistan: A Journey Through the American Wealth Boom and the Lives of the New Rich," to be published in June.
Today's column focuses on the divorce of Tim and Edra Blixseth, worth about a billion each. Totally unremarkable people, as billionaires go, except that Tim Blixseth "grew up on welfare" in my home town of Roseburg, Oregon.

Tim made my acquaintance thirty years ago when he needed a backup musician for some demo tapes. His career as a singer/songwriter never took off, but he's done quite well in spite of it.

How I'd Have Staged It

Mark Steyn, the theater critic, didn't think much of the hanging:
Saddam was dispatched in some dingy low-ceilinged windowless room of one of his old secret-police torture joints by a handful of goons in ski masks and black leather jackets. It looked less like the dawn of a new Iraq than a Russian mafia mob hit.
Of course, that's all Saddam really deserved.

But suppose you were in charge? How would you stage the execution?
I'd hold it in the middle of a sports stadium before a crowd of 100,000, tickets awarded by lottery. Security would have to be extremely tight, and even so the suicide bombers would be going off like popcorn, but that's just part of the general ambiance. In the center of the field, surrounded by row upon row of Iraqi police in crisp new uniforms, a stage twenty feet high. And on that stage a gleaming new stainless steel guillotine, enormously tall — sixty feet or more — so high that when the blade is released a full two seconds will pass before it reaches its destination.

Saddam will appear wearing his courtroom suit, hands cuffed behind his back, a hooded executioner on each side. They're enormous, seven feet tall at least, four hundred pounds, so that Saddam looks like a small boy between them. They reach the block and force him to kneel and then bow, and as they place his head in the lunette the crowd roars. Then they step back and hand the rope to a young woman, the daughter of one of Saddam's victims, again chosen by lottery. She faces the monster and waits for the signal.

Loudspeakers call for silence. Total silence. The execution will not proceed until the crowd is silent. The roar dies away to a murmur. The executioners stand with arms crossed. The murmur, amazingly, gives way to a whisper, and then silence. Crows circle overhead cawing. A hand signals. The young woman tugs the rope. We hear the swish of the blade, steel on steel. A low moan from the murderer. And then — chop.

The executioner steps forward and lifts the head, streaming blood, from the basket. The crowd roars. The young woman faints and is carried from the stage. Justice has been served.
That's how I would have done it, anyway.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Year In Review

If you only read one 2006 Year-End Review (and that's what I'd recommend: read only one) read Dave Barry's. He's got his Finger on the Pulse of the Nation (let go, Mr. Barry, you're cutting off circulation).