Friday, March 30, 2007

Tests Don't Always Work

Science Journal:
It can happen that a product doesn't hurt animals, but turns out to be poisonous to patients. That occurred with the catastrophic British trial of an experimental biotech drug called TGN1412, meant to treat leukemia and other diseases. It didn't cause problems when given to monkeys and other species. Then six people took it in a small initial study and had life-threatening convulsions and organ failure.
Worse yet, it sometimes works the other way round: the drug works fine on humans, but the FDA withholds approval because it gives the monkeys a rash.

Play Money

Hong Kong (WSJ):
China's fastest-rising currency isn't the yuan. It's the QQ coin -- online play money created by marketers to sell such things as virtual flowers for instant-message buddies, cellphone ringtones and magical swords for online games.

In recent weeks, the QQ coin's real-world value has risen as much as 70%.
Interestingly enough play money matters.
Economists say virtual currencies work like any other currencies, so long as people trust the institutions behind them. The U.S. dollar, which lost its gold backing in 1971, survives because people trust the U.S. government.

The trouble starts when a virtual currency that isn't backed by a trusted government, becomes linked to a real one that is through an exchange rate. Virtual currency brokers call that RMT, or real-money trade. When that happened to the QQ coin, it effectively turned into a parallel currency operating alongside the yuan, says Yiping Huang, the chief Asia economist of Citibank.

The creation of too many QQ coins, he notes, could, in theory, create a surge in China's total money supply, leading to inflation. While few think a QQ monetary crisis is likely, assessing the economic impact is difficult because Tencent won't say how much QQ coin is in circulation.
Milton Friedman would have enjoyed this.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Pretty Good Material

Thank you, Brian. Laura and I are happy to be here. I'd like to thank the Radio and TV Correspondents Association for providing dinner tonight. And I'd like to thank Senator Webb for providing security.

I'm glad to see everybody here is enjoying themselves. Don't think I haven't noticed all the drinking that's been going on. In my State of the Union address, I said we needed to increase the use of ethanol.

Well, where should I start? A year ago, my approval rating was in the 30s, my nominee for the Supreme Court had just withdrawn, and my Vice President had shot someone. Ahhh, those were the good old days. Sorry the Vice President couldn't be here. He's had a rough few weeks. To be honest, his feelings are kind of hurt. He said he was going on vacation to Afghanistan, where people like him.

You in the press certainly have had a lot to report lately. Take the current controversy. I have to admit we really blew the way we let those attorneys go. You know you botched it when people sympathize with lawyers.

Speaking of subpoenas, it's good to see Speaker Pelosi tonight. Well, some have wondered how the two of us would get along. Some say she's bossy, she's opinionated, she's not to be crossed. Hey, I get along with my mother.

But between the Congress and the press, there is a lot of scrutiny in this job. Not a day goes by that I don't get scrutineered one way or the other. The press is a lot tougher the second term. It's reached the point I sometimes call on Helen Thomas just to hear a friendly voice.

No matter how tough it gets, however, I have no intention of becoming a lame duck President — unless, of course, Cheney accidently shoots me in the leg. Hey, I have 664 days left in the White House. So technically, I'm a temporary guest worker. Considering what's next — President Clinton, of course, wrote a very successful presidential memoir, with 10,000 pages or something. I'm thinking of something really fun and creative for mine — you know, maybe a pop-up book.

I'm considering a number of titles — which do you like? "How W Got His Groove Back." "Who Moved My Presidency?" Or, "Tuesdays With Cheney"?
—President Bush at the Correspondents Dinner

Needed: Large Torque Wrench

John Tierney's on the case:
The best theory I've come up with so far, after brushing up on von Daniken's "Chariots of the Gods," is that it's the Hex Nut of the Giants, affixed to the end of a massive bolt that's holding the planet together. I haven't worked out yet how a race of titanic engineers managed to insert the bolt at Saturn's south pole. Nor have I identified the location of their hardware store, but we need to start looking for it right away, because NASA's video shows that it's swirling counterclockwise dangerously near what looks to me like the end of the bolt. If this thing keeps unscrewing...

Twenty Years Ago In The Economist

The leader asked:
Can either Mr Gorbachev or Mr Deng modernise his country's economy without modernising its politics?

No, because the only way to run a modern economy is to let large numbers of managers make their independent judgments of what the market requires of them on the basis of similarly independent advice from salesmen, scientists, technologists and so on. These are precisely the fields that the apparatus of communist parties has hitherto arrogated to itself. It is by controlling decisions about consumption, production, research and information-exchange that the party man makes his living, and gets his self-satisfaction.
American Survey noted that
The reform of America's 50-year-old and often reviled welfare system seems to be at hand.
And in world business
Mr Michael Eisner, the president of Disney, and Mr Jacques Chirac, the French prime minister, signed a contract for the building of a Disney theme park east of Paris.
But most interesting (in retrospect) was this small item:
The microcomputer industry has produced its first billionaire. He is Mr William Gates, a 31-year-old who taught himself computer programming at the age of 13, and dropped out of Harvard in 1974 to found a software company called Microsoft. Mr Gates owns 11m Microsoft shares (42% of the company), which have recently traded as high as $91—more than four times their price when the firm went public a year ago....

But, with competition in the software business growing, Mr Gate will have to work hard to stay on top.

One of his stiffest challenges will be to create a successor to Microsoft's biggest-selling product: DOS, the operating system of IBM's PC and computers compatible with it....

The advent of Microsoft's "multi-tasking" operating systems will also create a demand for jazzed-up applications software, such as word-processers and databases, which can take advantage of their new capabilities. That could blunt the edge of software standards like Lotus Development's 1-2-3 spreadsheet or Ashton-Tate's DBase III database.
Whatever happened to those old standards?

Rice Up To Her Waist

Lileks is thinking about the VP candidate:
I no longer think it'll be Rice, since there's so much disenchantment over her State performance; she sank up to her waist in Peace Process quicksand, and the only reason she hasn't sunk to her neck is because she's standing on the shoulders of those who have been swallowed whole before. Besides, people are just sick of the Bush team in general. Then again, I'm starting to think that you could put Godzilla in charge of State, and in two months he'd be four feet tall, breathing perfume, and proposing a Tokyo-reconstruction loan program and a six-point program for getting Mothra to sit down with Gamera.
You can't go from Secretary of State to President any more. The last guy to do it was James Buchanan, who served under Polk and didn't make much a president anyway.

The Ripples of 1979

Victor Davis Hanson:
Jimmy Carter established the Western precedent, amplified by Ronald Reagan in the arms-for-hostages deals, that there is almost nothing a Western government won't do to retrieve its kidnapped citizens. Now we see his ripples, as Iran promises to release the female soldier. If there are any minorities among the 15, expect them to follow as in 1979. Iran has "issues" with plenty of other governments. Why not kidnap a Russian diplomat in protest of cessation of fissionable material? The cynic answers that Russian assassination squads and worse might be turned loose.

Iran is betting that that a guilt-ridden and exhausted British public—scolded for decades over its past in Persia, furious at the Iraq war of "Blair-Bush," having gutted the British military for social programs that bring demands for more rather than gratitude—won't or can't do anything....

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

First Blogiversary

A year about today I posted my first item; minutes later I posted the second, Testing the Photo Upload. I finished out March with an item on Phil Fake's Nautical Gallery. I was hooked.

In April I practiced forming opinions (What's Mexican for Laissez-Faire?), writing topical items (Lama Sabach Thani), ranting about my taxes (Cheers), and plotting my escape (Where Do You See Yourself...).

In May I got silly (Vickie, Howie, Pierce, and Ruth; All The Humanity!), watched the high-school musical Junestruck, took a Walk in the Woods, and read how some schmoe Broke My Plane.

In June I posted my Summer Reading List, hiked the Mt. Ashland Meadows, bought my first C-O-L-T (actually a Gaucho), and generally thought How Lucky You Are, Boys.

In July we encountered a few mosquitoes (Master of Understatement), said good-bye to that old Chevy (Ribbons of Progress), saw Lizzy Dining Out in Japan, and went to the Mosquito Festival (as if we hadn't had enough already). I also wrote up my first original news item about Josh who was Attacked By Rabid Nutrias. True story.

In August Leslie and I attended Two Gentlemen, Lizzy said Good-Bye at Fukushima Station, and I dropped in on an old friend Twenty Years On. Care for 'Nother Jug O' Dingo Red?

In September we all went to Salute the Cranberry. I noted the fifth anniversary of a day which will Never Be Forgot, posted a footnote about Hurricane Gordon, mentioned Things Worth Buying, and documented Greg's Motherboard Replacement Project.

In October Lizzy and I climbed Mt. Thielsen 9182 Feet, and I took note of something Leslie and I did Nineteen Years Ago Today (best move I ever made). Politics required several rants: Measure 44, Measure 15-66, Allan Jennings, Shut Up, and Where Our Property Taxes Went, followed by the ineluctable How I Voted Part One and Two. Like anyone cares.

In November I got Mark Steyn's autograph In the Mail Today. Woo hoo! Greg and I flew over Mount Ashland. I noted Remembrance Day with a couple of book recommendations. The election wrap-up included Red Oregon, Blue Oregon, The Party of Big Government, and Post-Election Groovitude. Milton Friedman died. I celebrated National Ammo Day and then Thanksgiving. Photo blogging included November Sunrise.

In December Greg sent pictures From The World Trade Center Site, and Jeane J. Kirkpatrick died (jeez this is getting depressing). I crunched the numbers to prove we live in a Temperate Clime, cheered myself up by reading Marley's Ghost and the gospel of St. Luke. Christmas arrived, as usual, in bleakest mid-winter.

The kids had a Snow Day January 6th 2007. I blogged about Burqini Babes and Hercules the cat. I started reading a lot of Haruki Murakami, noted for future reference how Tim made The Deal, the Coos County Sheriff said We Will Not Respond, and Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog. The blogging started to feel a little disjointed.

In February the yellow-bellied marmot predicted Six More Weeks Of Winter, I got My Valentine, and Dave sent a blast from the past: It Ate My Quarter! Van Halen, 1979? There were Some Changes At Woof, Inc.

In March there were Changing Notions of Liberty, Changing Notions of Justice, and The Lessons of History. I couldn't help noticing Protection Costs Increase Sharply.

I really can't say where this blog is going. I've introduced a new weekly feature, Twenty Years Ago In The Economist. I'll still occasionally note items of local interest, such as Vandals Caught On Film. I look forward to the day I can ignore Patrilateral Parallel Punjabi Pairing. But mostly I want to concentrate on the trivial things that interest me (and probably only me) as I wander along Looking for the Pillars of Rome.

I've enjoyed the first year. Looking back, I think it's been worthwhile. I wish I'd started five years ago. Ten years. No, thirty.

As Jeff Cooper (another who passed this past year) said:
Did you write it down? If you did not, you should have. This is because only what you have committed to paper has significance. Man's experience is only that which he has recorded. The more you consider that, the more significant it may become. The Heinlein Hypothesis declaims that only the historic record establishes the essence of the human experience. If it was not written down, it might as well not have happened.
Time to make amends.

The Private of the Buffs

More fine English poetry by way of John Derbyshire:
Poor, reckless, rude, lowborn, untaught,
   Bewilder'd, and alone,
A heart, with English instinct fraught,
   He yet can call his own.
Ay, tear his body limb from limb,
   Bring cord, or axe, or flame:
He only knows, that not through him
   Shall England come to shame.
Derb provides some background on the incident.

Secret Site of Fort Lane

The Mail Tribune:
The site of historic Fort Lane near Central Point could soon become part of Oregon's state park system, a designation that could help protect the site from the depredations of amateur artifact hunters.

"It's been looted like mad," said Mark Tveskov, director of the Southern Oregon University Laboratory of Anthropology.

The Oregon Parks and Recreation Commission recently agreed to accept the 19-acre property from Jackson County and to create a plan for protecting the site and making it more accessible to the public.

Officials have declined to disclose the exact site of the fort to prevent more looting.

Fort Lane was built in the fall of 1853 after a clash between American Indians and European settlers earlier that summer. It was named in honor of Joseph Lane, Oregon's first territorial governor, who also led military campaigns against the Indians in 1851 and 1853.
More information at The Fort Lane Archaeology Project (Southern Oregon University). Previous Mail Tribune article here.

Google map here. (I don't see anything.)
Topo map here.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Looking for the Pillars of Rome

Michael Barone posts today on the subject of "net internal migration," that is, which states are gaining population and which are losing as people move from one state to another, after factoring out births, deaths, and external (to and from the U.S.) migration. He links to U.S. Census Bureau county-by-county data.

What this Oregon misanthrope found most interesting was the list of counties which lost the most population:
        Harney    -721
Grant -685
Baker -498
Malheur -368
Wallowa -351
Sherman -235
Union -185
Wheeler -143
Gilliam -140
Wasco -79
Every one of these counties is in the eastern half of the state and together they form a single contiguous block of beautiful country—desert, mountains, lakes, a little of everything—except civilization.

It's not just old people dying off. In each of these counties roughly as many are being born. It's just people leaving, presumably for a better life somewhere else, somewhere, most likely, more urban.

They can have it for all I care. When my tribulations wind down, I'm selling this suburban money pit and moving into some little shanty back east. There ought to be plenty of vacant homesteads then. Maybe somewhere around Rome.

No Stomach To Fight

But now we are dwindled to, what shall I name?
A poor sneaking race, half-begotten and tame,
Who sully the honours that once shone in fame.
Oh! the Roast Beef of Old England,
And old English Roast Beef!
Inspired by a post by John Derbyshire noting the difference between Blair and Thatcher.

Quebec Had An Election?

Mark Steyn on the Quebec election:
I was struck by the politically correct torpor of much of the post-mortems: reams of analysis without any discussion of whether the PQ leader's homosexuality had been a liability. Andre Boisclair was a fetching young gay who admitted to doing coke — not back in his student days (as David Cameron did) but while he was a government minister (which is certainly what it would take for me to get through Quebec cabinet meetings). But the minute the gay cokehead became party leader all the papers (French and English) wrote that this demonstrated how Quebecers were the coolest, most relaxed, most progressive folks in North America. Maybe on the island of Montreal, but not in the rural hinterlands, where Quebecers are prone to all the various "phobias" that so distress the liberal mind. I was struck by the number of lifelong separatists who simply resented being subject to Queer Eye For The Separatist Guy and, even by the standards of the ever lamer bluff of Quebec "nationalism", couldn't buy the idea of a gay hedonist as their founding father. There's something a bit feeble about the media's refusal even to discuss this except through vague evasive allusions to the difficulty M Boisclair had "connecting" with Quebec voters.
Montreal's an island?

Al's Carbon Dream

Monday, March 26, 2007

Beverly Hills Turnover

Famed Hollywood screenwriter David Kahane in NRO:
Nobody likes to talk about it openly, except when they're celebrating diversity, but Beverly Hills is currently undergoing the greatest ethnic turnover since Harlem went from white to black in the 1930s. Nearly a quarter of the city's residents are now Iranian, and 40 percent of the school kids. The last municipal election printed ballots in three languages — reconquista Spanish, Upper West Side English, and "Death to the Great Satan" Farsi. What the fall of the shah started, the rise of the mullahs will eventually finish, and 90210 will be just another precinct in Tehran, with the same taste in interior furnishings.
And that's just an aside. It's not even what the column's about.

Stockman Charged With Fraud

New York (AP):
David Stockman, a former top budget official in the Reagan White House, was charged Monday with securities fraud after a probe that focused on possible financial fraud at an auto parts company he headed before it collapsed into bankruptcy.
Throw the book at 'im. (A lot of us have never forgiven him for this.)

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Frankenstein

John Harlow in The Australian:
The conventional account of how Mary Shelley, a teenager, came to invent Dr Frankenstein and his monster is of a "waking dream" brought on by a drinking session with some of Britain's most notorious Romantic poets. But a new book, The Man Who Wrote Frankenstein, claims Shelley, an icon of modern feminism, was a fraud who did not dream up the gothic monster in response to a challenge by Lord Byron on the shores of Lake Geneva. The author, John Lauritsen, claims the true credit for the world's first science fiction novel should go to Percy Bysshe Shelley, her future husband, who was present that night.

Vintage Harmony

Ted Keller, Dwayne Ottinger, Bob Robbins, and Ollie Durand. The theme of yesterday's show was "Grandpa's Attic." When they talk about the great sound of "those old 78s" they might have had these guys in mind.

Creeping Sharia

Welcome Mark Steyn to the Orange County Register. The web site's not as user-friendly as the Chicago Sun-Times, but perhaps the links will persist a little longer. (The Sun-Times seems to have a bit-recycling program; in a misguided attempt to conserve our ever-dwindling reserves of natural silicon, columns published on their site disappear after six weeks or so.)

Katherine Kersten in The Wall Street Journal tackles the same topic but a little closer to home.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

On Principle

Congressman Greg Walden on why he voted against the Iraq War spending bill, in spite of the generous slab of Oregon-bound pork therein:
“Until the majority Democrats in the House and the Senate work out language in the war supplemental that the President will sign, this measure will not become law and our timber-dependent counties and school districts will not receive the emergency assistance they need. Hopefully, by next week we will have a revised measure before the House that does not include an arbitrary withdrawal date of U.S. troops regardless of the assessments of commanders on the ground in Iraq, is not overloaded with non-emergency spending, and is one that I therefore can support.”
In other words he places the interest of his country ahead of the parochial greed of his constituents. That's why I voted for him.

Good job, Mr. Walden.

(No link: walden.house.gov won't respond—DOS attack?)

De Cat's Meow

Much to the delight of his many fans Dave Handy has emerged from a long winter hiatus and posted four times in the last two weeks, including this fascinating photo documentary of his new entertainment hutch.

Give him a twitter (whatever that is).

Better Do What She Says

Robert Novak:
Close friends of Fred Thompson say his wife Jeri is urging him to take the plunge later this year and run for the Republican presidential nomination.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Many Rights, Some Wrong

The Economist says Amnesty International is stretching its brand:
The organisation is as vocal as it ever was. But some years ago it decided to follow intellectual fashion and dilute a traditional focus on political rights by mixing in a new category of what people now call social and economic rights.

Rights being good things, you might suppose that the more of them you campaign for the better. Why not add pressing social and economic concerns to stuffy old political rights such as free speech, free elections and due process of law? What use is a vote if you are starving? Are not access to jobs, housing, health care and food basic rights too? No: few rights are truly universal, and letting them multiply weakens them.

Homeless Hare

Boing Boing has a calvacade of eminent domain holdouts; people—for the most part—who simply refuse to step aside when the bulldozer of progress comes through.

Inspiring stories every one.

Restructuring Columbia Aircraft

The Bend Bulletin:
Current President and CEO Bing Lantis is stepping down to attend to family matters and other personal interests, according to a company press release.

Longtime aviation industry veteran and Malaysian native Wan Abd Majid will be the new CEO. Columbia first partnered with Malaysian investors in the 1990s, when U.S. investors weren't interested, company officials have said. Majid has worked with the company since that time, Bolinger said.
In addition they are temporarily laying off 185 employees—on top of the 59 laid off two weeks ago.

Hampton Inn Roseburg

Roseburg News-Review:
A California developer showed off conceptual plans Thursday for construction of an 85-room hotel along the banks of the South Umpqua River at the Douglas County Fairgrounds.

Xiao Jin Yuan, owner of a Hampton Inn & Suites in Crescent City, Calif., told members of the Douglas County Fair Board on Thursday that he would like to build a three-story hotel and two-story restaurant overlooking the river. The hotel would be located along the southwestern corner of the fairgrounds property.
Not much there now.

Sea Of Fire

Chinese Rat Poison

ABC News has learned that investigators have determined that a rodent-killing chemical is the toxin in the tainted pet food that has killed several animals.

A source close to the investigation tells ABC News that the rodenticide, which the source says is illegal to use in the United States, was on wheat that was imported from China and used by Menu Foods in nearly 100 brands of dog and cat food....

The chemical is called aminopterin.
Full list of brands affected here (cats) and here (dogs).

Scrapped LA Times Editorial Section

Big soap opera in LA. I don't care who's girlfriend worked for what editor; that's just the excuse. What was the reason? What was in that spiked editorial section?

PR Inside
quotes Grazer:
I was surprised and delighted when the Los Angeles Times asked me to guest edit its Current section, because it gave me a chance to work with the L.A. Times and these seven extremely talented writers - Nobel laureate Eric Kandel, Vogue's editor-at-large Andre Leon Talley, psychologist Paul Ekman, social scientist Dalton Connelly, attorney Martin Singer, urban planner Sam Hall Kaplan and artist Shepard Fairey.

Working together, we came up with a collection of essays and art that I think readers would have found genuinely stimulating and would have added to our understanding of our ever-changing culture. My hope now is that we can find another way to present the results of our efforts to the audience it deserves.
I won't hold my breath. But what were they planning to write about?

Nikki Finke has the scoop:
Pitbull entertainment litigator Marty Singer wrote a piece about the "power of allegations"; Eric Kandel, the 2000 Nobel prizewinner in psychotherapy and psychiatry, wrote about the "new biology of the mind"; psychologist Paul Ekman who's a facial interpretation expert wrote about the subject of "catching liars"; Dalton Connelly, an NYU professor wrote about "race and gender in politics"; André Leon Talley, an editor at large at Vogue, wrote about "fashion and status"; and, finally, contemporary graphic designer Shepard Fairey created a drawing to illustrate the package.
Just the usual crap, in other words.

I still don't get it. The WSJ tried to explain it this morning, it's all over the blogosphere, and it just doesn't make sense. What's the big deal?

Update: Benjamin Zycherat at Reform Club says:
For all of Martinez' political correctitude, it is a fact that under his editorship the Times' editorials have become far less reflexively left-wing and Pavlovian than was the case for years. On rare occasions they actually were worth reading. And so it is obvious that the army of hard leftists that is the LA Times simply could not abide that; Martinez had to go and this was the opportunity to get rid of him.

Patrilateral Parallel Punjabi Pairing

Stanley Kurtz continues his series on Muslim marriage practices with a look at British immigrants from the Punjab.
Somewhere between two-thirds and three-quarters of all South Asians in Britain are Punjabis. The Punjab sits athwart the border of India and Pakistan and is home to substantial communities of Muslims, Hindus, and Sikhs. Muslims live almost exclusively in the Pakistani half of Punjab, while Sikhs and Hindus live largely in Indian Punjab. Whatever their religion, Punjabi migrants to Britain have a great deal in common....

Despite these many similarities, the position of Punjabi Muslim, Sikh, and Hindu immigrants in Britain dramatically differs. Ballard focuses his comparison on two immigrant groups: Punjabi Muslims from the Mirpur region of Pakistan and Punjabi Sikhs from the Jullundur region of India....

Now largely middle class, many British Sikhs have abandoned manual labor to start their own businesses, have moved from the inner city to the suburbs, and currently see their children performing academically at the same level as other middle-class Britons. British Mirpuri Muslims, on the other hand, move between unemployment and manual labor, are still largely confined to poor, inner-city ethnic enclaves, and rear children with a limited grasp of English and a notably low level of academic achievement.
What's the root cause? Cousin marriage.

Catch up on parts one and two if you haven't already, and continue with parts three and four. Don't get behind in your reading! This will be on the final.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Vandals Caught On Film

The vandals who destroyed communication equipment at the Tallowbox Lookout on Sunday, March 18th, between 2:30 and 3:00 PM have been caught on film. The Jackson County Sheriff's Department has the photos online, oddly enough in PDF format, and a reward is offered for information.

I have assembled here a montage of each suspect. You can view the original photos at the above link.

The Welfare State

A list circulating in the blogosphere enumerates some of the more outrageous "emergency" spending items included in a "supplemental appropriations bill" intended to fund the War on Terror. Oregon is the butt of the joke (you just gotta laugh) in at least two of these items:
Secure Rural Schools Act (Forest County Payments): Provides $400 million to be used for one-time payments to be allocated to states under the Secure Rural Schools and Community Self-Determination Act of 2000. This program provides a funding stream (known as forest county payments) to counties with large amounts of Bureau of Land Management land, in order to compensate for the loss of receipt-sharing payments on this land caused by decreased revenue from timber sales due to environmental protections for endangered species. The authorization for these forest county payments expired at the end of FY 2006, and counties received their last payment under the Act in December 2006.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA): Provides $60.4 million for fishing communities, Indian tribes, individuals, small businesses, including fishermen, fish processors, and related businesses for assistance related to "the commercial fishery failure." According to the Committee Report, this funding is to be used to provide disaster relief for those along the California and Oregon coast affected by the "2006 salmon fishery disaster in the Klamath River."
The sinister aim of this innocuous-sounding legislation is to create a permanent dependency—to make Oregon State the Welfare State.

The Mail Tribune and every other newspaper in the state has nothing but praise for the legislators and lobbyists who brought this about. The minority of us who actually pay taxes have no reason to be grateful; the money will ultimately come out of our pockets. I intend to vote against the whole lot.

Twenty Years Ago In The Economist

Packed in that tattered old briefcase:
Nigel Lawson's budget did everything that Margaret Thatcher needs to win another general election.
The Economist devoted seven full pages to Britain's Budget as well as a 72-page survey of international banking, of which, to be fair, 41 were advertisement. Typical issues of The Economist ran about 100 pages.

American Survey noted that:
Alarm about America's impending crack-down on illegal workers is spreading fast. In the past three months, border patrols have picked up only half their usual quota of foreigners trying to make their way into the United States through Mexico.
I'm glad we finally got that taken care of.

Books and Arts reviewed a collection of essays by the Czech playwright Vaclav Havel:
Mr Havel has been asked time and again about the future of Czechoslovakia, the aims of Charter 77 (of which he was a founder) and the strength of this small opposition. These questions, he thinks, are not pertinent. What should be asked is how totalitarian regimes affect people's ordinary lives. Missiles facing each other across an iron curtain are hardly relevant to that question; the power of communist states will be curbed only when citizens confront their own lack of belief, a process which, says Mr Havel, will lead them into open confrontation with their governments.
Another hopeless dreamer, no doubt.

The Big Sister We Can Do Without

Steve Chapman in the Chicago Tribune:
You want a uniter, not a divider? Clinton has a way of uniting people who ordinarily would be pelting each other with eggs.

That explains the appeal of the new YouTube spoof, modeled on Apple's famous "1984" Super Bowl commercial, which portrays her as a blandly sinister Big Sister on a giant screen, uttering phony platitudes to an army of robotic slaves. It ends happily when a blonde female athlete sprints in and hurls a sledgehammer at the screen, obliterating the image.

Though the ad included a plug for Barack Obama (it has been traced to a now-former employee of a consulting firm that works for him), it would draw equal ovations if it were shown at a meeting of MoveOn or the Heritage Foundation. Which raises the question: If the right regards her as a dangerous leftist and the left regards her as an unprincipled accomplice in the Iraq disaster, who really likes her?
Via Lucianne.

Hateful Sizeist Comments

Al Gore has roughly four times the mass of Ann Coulter. So why doesn't she pick on somebody her own size?
I don't want to suggest that Al's getting big, but the last time I saw him on TV I thought, "That reminds me — we have to do something about saving the polar bears."
Ooh, that's good. Hit him again, Ann!
Americans spend an extra $2.2 billion on gas a year because they're overweight, requiring more fuel in cars to carry the extra pounds. So even with all those papal indulgences, Gore may have a small carbon footprint, but he has a huge carbon butt-print.
Don't even want to think about that.

You Already Have

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

John Backus, R.I.P.

"Much of my work has come from being lazy. I didn't like writing programs, and so, when I was working on the IBM 701, writing programs for computing missile trajectories, I started work on a programming system to make it easier to write programs."
John Backus, the inventor of the FORTRAN language, died in Ashland on Saturday.

Greg sends a link to an interview with Backus's daughters in the Mail Tribune, which I had missed.

Burrowing Dinosaurs Found In Montana

Yeah, we knew about those.

On The Other Hand

Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, a Phoenix-area physician and director of American Islamic Forum for Democracy -- a group founded in 2003 to promote moderate Muslim ideas through its Web site (www.aifdemocracy.org) -- told The Washington Times his group will raise money for legal fees for passengers if they are sued by the imams.
The Washington Times.

Dubai Aerospace

AVweb:
Dubai Aerospace Enterprise has proposed a $1.5 billion deal to buy Landmark Aviation, an FBO network with 35 locations, and Standard Aero, a provider of overhauls and maintenance for turbine engines.... DAE is a fairly new company, established in February 2006, with plans to expand into all sectors of aerospace over the next 10 years -- from training to manufacturing to aircraft leasing and maintenance -- investing $15 billion and employing 30,000 workers. It's owned by the state and chaired by Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman of the Emirates airline group. Robert Johnson, formerly the CEO of Honeywell Aerospace, was named CEO last summer.
A chain of Muslim-owned flight schools? Sure, what the heck.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Some Kind Of Volution

The Nugget Newspaper, Sisters, Oregon:
Kris Helphinstine lasted less than two weeks on the job as a new Sisters High School biology teacher. The school board fired him last Monday night on the recommendation of Superintendent Ted Thonstad...

"Actually, I did not teach creationism," Helphinstine said. "That's one thing I did not teach. I understand that's not my job. As far as what I taught. I taught ... natural selection, the effects of natural selection, genetic drifts and allele frequency that's what I taught."

That's not how some parents of students in the class see it. One parent, John Rahm, said his daughter reported that only "one day of 10" was devoted to the study of evolution, with the rest devoted to devoted to "Intelligent Design" materials....

That's a Good Question

Dr. Helen looks at bumper stickers.

Probably Never Saw It Coming

A Piper Cherokee with two men aboard crashed into the Pacific Ocean near Gleneden Beach on Saturday.
So far, part of the nose, fuselage, landing gear, one wheel, a headset and fabric from a seat have been recovered.

A Silverton pilot and man from Woodburn are presumed to have died in the crash. Raymond Mullen, 59, was flying the rented plane, with 61-year-old Larry Underhill as a passenger, when the plane slammed at high impact into the ocean Saturday, Winn said.

Mullen and Underhill took the plane up for a "breakfast fly-in" during the weekend at Siletz Bay State Airport near Gleneden Beach.

Authorities said the plane was rented from a flying club in Mulino. Calls to the Aero Dynamics Flying Club were not immediately returned.

Officials have no idea what exactly happened. "There was some fog in the area on Saturday," said Operations Spc. 1st Class Steven Kent, of the Coast Guard Group North Bend. The wind was calm and the seas were reasonable, but visibility came in and out."
High impact, fog, no instrument rating. You cannot fly by the seat of your pants.

Blue Moon

Monday, March 19, 2007

Laughing Lab Rats

John Tierney's tickling rats. And the rats are laughing.
Aristotle declared that humans are the only animal to laugh, but then, he never saw this video of Jaak Panksepp tickling rats.

When you play it, you'll hear the tickled rats chirping — an ultrasonic noise that's audible thanks to the special equipment that enabled Dr. Panksepp and his colleagues to discover this phenomenon. Young rats make the same chirp when they chase and play with one another, and they like to hang out with other rats who chirp at this frequency (50 kHz). It seems to be a happy sound: rats will run mazes and press levers in order to be tickled, and they'll emit the same chirp when the dopamine reward circuits in the brain are stimulated.
Film at eleven.

Protection Costs Increase Sharply

I'm Chiquita Banana, and I've come to say
Bananas want no trouble and we're willing to pay.
Chiquita agreed to pay a fine of $25 million, slightly more than half the profits its Colombian banana-growing operation earned during that period. The first payment of $5 million is due at sentencing on June 1.
That's considerably more than they had to pay the AUC.
Chiquita paid more than $1.7 million starting in 1997 to the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia, a violent right-wing group...
Maybe this violent right-wing group will provide better service.

Two Reports From Kurdistan

One from Michael J. Totten and one from Christopher Hitchens.

If you'd rather just look at the pictures, click on Totten.

Four Years On

"So, Mr. Hitchens, Weren't You Wrong About Iraq?"
Christopher Hitchens answers the question.

21st Century Libertarianism

Virginia Postrel identifies in the American libertarian movement "four distinctive yet complementary traditions, two cultural and two intellectual." She clearly favors the "Hayek-Friedman" tradition:
Most of the libertarian movement's persuasive and policy triumphs have come from this non-utopian, empiricist approach.

Instead of the Continental quest for certainty, this second intellectual tradition is inspired by the Anglo-Scottish heritage of skeptical inquiry. It is the tradition of Smith and Hume, animated by a love not only of liberty but of the learning, prosperity, and cosmopolitan sociability made possible by a society in which ideas and goods can be freely exchanged. It looks for understanding, for facts, and for solutions to specific problems. Its distrust of grand plans and refusal to embrace the one best way—even the one best libertarian way—made it out of place in the 20th century. They make it essential for the 21st.
For extra credit, read it all.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Free Land In Alaska

CNN:
Anderson, a little town in Alaska's interior, has no gas station, no grocery store and no traffic lights, but it does have plenty of woodsy land -- and it's free to anyone willing to put down roots in the often-frozen ground.

In a modern twist on the homesteading movement that populated the Plains in the 1800s, the community of 300 people is offering 26 large lots on spruce-covered land in a part of Alaska that has spectacular views of the Northern lights and Mount McKinley, North America's highest peak.

And what's an occasional day of 60-below cold in a town removed from big-city ills?
TerraServer map here. Web site here.

And a little more information here.

There's No Excuse For This

Roseburg News-Review:
A Klamath Falls pilot ran out of fuel and crashed into a snow-filled ravine west of Diamond Lake late Friday night, but he survived the crash and was rescued.

Marshall Alexander, 56, of Klamath Falls, was flying alone in a four-seat, fixed-wing Cessna 182 when he crashed around 11:45 p.m....

Alexander reported around 11 p.m. that he was lost and running low on fuel, according to a media release from the Oregon Wing Civil Air Patrol. He was unable to maintain altitude and crashed shortly afterward.
The plane was his: N6462A. The accident report should appear in a week or so.

It's About Liberties, Not Guns

The Washington Post:
Meet Robert A. Levy, staunch defender of the Second Amendment, a wealthy former entrepreneur who said he has never owned a firearm and probably never will.

"I don't actually want a gun," Levy said by phone last week from his residence, a $1.7 million condominium in a Gulf Coast high-rise. "I mean, maybe I'd want a gun if I was living on Capitol Hill. Or in Anacostia somewhere. But I live in Naples, Florida, in a gated community. I don't feel real threatened down here...."

And it is entirely his money behind the lawsuit that led a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to strike down the statute this month, a ruling that stunned D.C. officials and gun-control advocates.

Cumberland Blues

Gotta get down to the Cumberland mine
That's where I mainly spend my time
Make good money — five dollars a day
Made any more I might move away
Al Gore's got those Cumberland Blues. According to The Tennessean:
The mine, part of a system of zinc mines in Smith County, released 2.6 million pounds of toxic substances from 1998 to 2003, according to the federal government.
And it made Al Gore a tidy little half million:
Gore received $20,000 a year for 27 years and $10,000 a year for three years, making a total of $570,000 in lease payments. [Spokeswoman Kalee] Kreider said the Gores never considered selling the land.

She said the lease has to be viewed in a "1973 context, not a 2007 context."

"There was a different environmental sensibility about all sorts of things," she said.
Yeah, that's right.
Lotta poor man got the Cumberland Blues
He can't win for losin'
Lotta poor man got to walk the line
Just to pay his union dues
Link via Instapundit, although the story's been kicking around for a couple of days.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Dont' Try This At Home

You want to visit Cowboy Blob now and then. If only for the pictures.

More On The 300

Victor Davis Hanson:
I will write this week's Tribune column on the reaction to the 300. The film's producers must be delighted at the furor of the Iranian government. But how odd! The Islamic Republic believes that history started in the 7th century with Islam, so why all of a sudden are they harkening back 1100 years to infidel Persia?

In this regard, when an unpopular government like the mullacracy wishes to rally Iranians around getting the bomb, it usually appeals to nationalism, in the manner a despised Stalin after the June, 1941 Nazi invasion, suddenly began talking of Mother Russia rather than the Soviet Union.
I'll link to that when I see it. Meanwhile, since I rarely watch movies, I've taken Dave Handy's suggestion and ordered the comic book.

Friday, March 16, 2007

FBI File Confirms What We Already Knew

Robert Kennedy killed Marilyn Monroe.

Cheney's Insanity Defense

Charles Krauthammer in the Washington Post:
"What is wrong with Dick Cheney?" asks Michelle Cottle in the inaugural issue of the newly relaunched New Republic. She then spends the next 1,900 words marshaling evidence suggesting that his cardiac disease has left him demented and mentally disordered.

The charming part of this not-to-be-missed article (titled "Heart of Darkness," no less) is that it is framed as an exercise in compassion. Since Cottle knows that the only way for her New Republic readers to understand Cheney is that he is evil -- "next time you see Cheney behaving oddly, don't automatically assume that he's a bad man," she advises -- surely the generous thing for a liberal to do is write him off as simply nuts. In the wonderland of liberalism, Cottle is trying to make the case for Cheney by offering the insanity defense.
Listen to the doctor.

Illegal, Immoral, and Fattening

Those used to be three separate concepts. These days if something, such as gay sex, is no longer illegal, politicians feel obliged to publicly declare that it is not immoral either. Whereas things that used to be merely immoral, such as smoking cigarettes or not wearing your seat belt, are now illegal as well. And things that used to be only fattening, such as Hostess Cupcakes, are now both immoral and illegal, at least in New York. Eddie Are You Kidding?

Somehow I Doubt That


My blog is worth $2,822.70.
How much is your blog worth?

Relax. Soak Up Some Sun.

Spring is on the way.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Twenty Years Ago In The Economist

America's defense budget is 6.7% of GNP—a third of which goes to defending Europe.
If Europe thinks our budget is too big, say some Americans, fine: we'll cut it, and start by bringing some troops back from Europe.... Some Europeans shrug their shoulders and say that America will never throw them to the Soviet wolves. That argument is little better than blackmail, and may anyway be wrong.
Elsewhere liberals found reason to hope:
The expert view is that, although the Pakistanis may now have all the necessary components for "the bomb", they have probably not yet succeeded in making one. They are taking a chance; they could still find themselves with neither the bomb nor the aid. Why would any country choose, and persist in, such a hazardous course?
And hope again:
Too early, perhaps, to call it a pattern; but about a third of the way through the Supreme Court's current docket of cases, a trend is starting to appear. The youngest of the justices and the most recent recruit to the court, Mr Antonin Scalia, can be found voting with Justice William Brennan, the court's veteran liberal, rather more often than with the conservative chief justice, Mr William Rehnquist, in the cases that make the headlines in the newspapers.
A little-known writer named Salman Rushdie went to Nicaragua to meet the Ortegas.
Mr Rushdie glows with enthusiasm: "For the first time in my life I had come across a government I could support."
And closer to home
...the cross-Channel ferry Herald of Free Enterprise capsized in calm seas less than a mile from port, drowning 135 of its 543 passengers and crew.
Toward the end the article discussed alternatives:
When (if) the Channel tunnel opens in the early 1990s...
It did, but Scalia disappointed, as did the Pakis; Mr. Rushdie found he needed government support rather than the other way round, and seven years later a ferry twice the size of the Herald went down in the Baltic Sea, claiming 852 lives.

America still has 70,000 troops in Germany.

Don't Like the Coffee Either

Lileks. Just don't get him started:
Sorry; there I go again, having an opinion about everything. You know what set me off? There are two official Starbucks CDs available for sale at the cash register, so you can bring that Starbucks ambience home to enhance your lifestyle, and feel as though you're the sort of person who sits around in hip cafes listening to someone fart through a fluglehorn. One of the CDS? The Doors. Or rather an homage to the Doors in celebration of their 40th anniversary. The Doors. God help me. Because Jim Morrison was a poet, maaaan. No, he was a spooky weirdo with a naturally deep voice and pouty lips, and his lyrics are deep and meaningful only if you are in high school and draw your name on your jeans and dot the "i" with a heart.

No, I didn't get enough sleep; thanks for asking.

NCLB's Oxymoron—Ooh! He Said 'Moron'!

Richard Rothstein explains the facts of life to teachers, speaking slowly, avoiding big words, and keeping the math to a minimum:
There is no aspect of human performance or behavior that is not achieved in different degrees by individuals in a large population. There is an average level of math performance for eighth graders, but some perform above or below that level. There is an average level of teaching ability for eighth grade math teachers, but some perform above or below that level. There is an average susceptibility to influenza, an average pace to run a mile, an average height and weight for adults, an average inclination to attend church each week, an average skill in the operation of motor vehicles. In each of these areas, some individuals are considerably above average, many are slightly above average, many are slightly below average, and some are considerably below average. In most of these areas, the distributions are close to what statisticians call normal (when plotted, the resulting graph looks bell-shaped), but perfect normality is not the rule. In general, however, for distributions that are close to normal, we say that roughly two-thirds of all humans perform reasonably similarly on any characteristic — statistically speaking, we say that the approximately one-third who perform slightly below average are within one standard deviation of the mean, and the approximately one-third who perform slightly above average are also within one standard deviation of the mean. But this still leaves about one-sixth who are considerably below average, as well as about one-sixth who are considerably above.

In its administration of NCLB, the U.S. Department of Education barely acknowledges this human variability. It permits the lowest performing 1 percent of all students to be held to a vague "alternate" standard of proficiency, and the next lowest performing 2 percent to be held to a "modified" standard of proficiency, which still must lead to "grade level" achievement and to a regular high school diploma. Let's be clear about what this means: Under NCLB, children with I.Q.s as low as 65 must achieve a standard of proficiency in math which is higher than that achieved by 60 percent of students in Taiwan, the highest scoring country in the world (in math), and a standard of proficiency in reading which is higher than that achieved by 65 percent of students in Sweden, the highest scoring country in the world (in reading).
'Proficiency for All' — An Oxymoron (PDF)

Notice how he avoids as much as possible using forbidden words like "I.Q." and "retarded", choosing instead to relegate that unpleasant topic to an extensive footnote, itself an elegant dance, covering the bottom half of pages 17 and 18.

Unintended Consequences.

John Stossel:
Whenever someone is hurt in an accident, people say, "There ought to be a law!" Politicians rush to oblige them and then take credit for all the lives they saved.

But shouldn't they also accept blame for the lives lost because of those laws?

Lives lost? Yes. A joint study by the Brookings Institution and American Enterprise Institute found that government regulations that are supposed to save lives actually end up killing more people.
Sunstein, Cass R., "Precautions against What? The Availability Heuristic and Cross-Cultural Risk Perceptions" (August 2004). U Chicago Law & Economics, Olin Working Paper No. 220; AEI-Brookings Joint Center Working Paper No. 04-22. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=578303

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Subprime Shakedown

The Economist:
What of the American economy? There could be a vicious cycle, as defaults and foreclosures dump houses on already saturated markets, forcing prices down further and leaving more overstretched homeowners with negative equity. Housing slowdowns drag down GDP growth in two ways: by slamming the brakes on the construction industry, and by making consumers feel poorer so they spend less. The confluence could shock the economy, especially when combined with contracting credit. Homeowners and investors will be braced for more bad news to come.

Restored To Life

Southern Negev:
In quarantine under protective netting, a palm sapling coaxed from a seed nearly 2,000 years old is growing in southern Israel....

In her quest for medicinal plants now extinct in Israel, [Dr. Sarah] Sallon asked Mordechai Kislev, an archeobotanist at Bar-Ilan University, for some ancient seeds he had received in the 1970s from Yigael Yadin, the prominent Israeli archeologist who excavated Masada.

"He asked what we wanted to do with them, and when I said we wanted to grow them, he said, 'You're mad,'" Sallon said, adding that after "a lot of persuasion," five seeds were handed over.

Three of the seeds were planted by [Elaine] Solowey, a specialist in sustainable agriculture who works with Sallon on domesticating indigenous medicinal plants.

Using enzymatic fertilizers and hormones used to promote seed germination and rooting, Solowey planted the seeds in sterile soil on Jan. 25, 2005, which that year corresponded to the Jewish New Year for trees.

"I didn't have too much hope," she said.

But on March 3 the soil in one pot cracked, and a shoot later appeared.

"I couldn't believe it," Solowey said.

The Lessons of History

Paul A. Gigot, March 26, 1993, The Wall Street Journal:
"I keep politics out of what I do, Senator."

So said Janet Reno, America's new attorney general, at her confirmation hearing this month. Most Americans would like to believe her. But now, just two weeks later, she has dismissed all 93 U.S. attorneys in one unclean sweep. If Ms. Reno isn't playing politics, then who is?
Every week-day morning for years I stopped on the way to work to buy a Wall Street Journal from the box, first for 50¢, then 75¢, and finally $1.00. I read it over lunch, mostly the editorial pages but occasionally a feature article—the stock quotes were of no interest to me—and if I found something interesting I'd clip it and save it. I still have boxes of clippings in the basement.

About two years into the Clinton presidency the Journal announced that they would be publishing a collection of their own clippings under the title Whitewater: A Journal Briefing, available for $16.95 postpaid. I stopped clipping, promising myself instead that I would buy the book. As the scandal grew and metastasized they added a second volume, and then a third, and a fourth.

Now the entire collection—six volumes in all—is available both in print and on CD-ROM. Those who do not remember the lessons of history, of course, are condemned to repeat them, but those who were only sleeping in class can buy these excellent crib notes at the Journal's online store. Or better yet, as I did, buy them used.

*** Special Offer—First Come First Served ***

Somehow I confused my orders and bought an extra copy of both Volume I and II. If you would like them (the pair for $10) email me with me your mailing address and I'll send them to you. You can pay by return mail.

Goldberg On The Enemy

Jonah Goldberg's long-awaited review of The Enemy At Home is up at The Claremont Institute and it's well worth reading even if the book is not.

Here are a few snippets:
D'Souza is largely right as far as his argument goes. The problem is that it doesn't go nearly as far as he thinks it does.
And:
This sort of cherry-picking has a familiar feel. In an eloquent review in these pages, Gerard Alexander noted how liberal students of anti-Americanism tend to see the things they don't like about America reflected back in the perverted narcissus pool of global anti-Americanism ("Blame America First," Winter 2006/07). In other words, anti-Americanism is the voice the world gives to my grievances. This seems to be what D'Souza is doing. He is identifying things about America he does not like—divorce, pornography, abortion, etc.—and saying: see, this is why they don't like us.
And:
But here's my primary objection: I don't care. There's something about The Enemy at Home that gets the Irish up, even in a guy named Goldberg.
As Derb said, "...a very fine piece of reviewing work that left me thinking: 'So that's what Dinesh's book is about! Now I don't have to read it.'"

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Conservative Case—For And Against

Opinion Journal hosts a debate today and tomorrow. (Here on the Pacific coast tomorrow arrives before bed-time: Our nine o'clock is New York's midnight and the Wall Street Journal has gone to press.)

Joseph Bottum:
Conservatives voted for George W. Bush in 2000 because they expected him to be the opposite of Bill Clinton--and so, unfortunately, he has proved. Where Mr. Clinton seemed a man of enormous political competence and no principle, Mr. Bush has been a man of principle and very little political competence.
Michael Novak:
Mr. Bottum's charge of incompetence is more troubling, although he may expect from government more than government can deliver. A long-established lesson is that even in the best of times, government is mightily incompetent--and the bigger government gets, the more incompetent it becomes.
As in any good debate, both sides score points.

Impressive Resume

JPod's having Fun With Fred:
He'd make for a thrilling candidate, in part because he would be the first person in history to run for president after playing a president in a film about a terrorist attack (2005's "Last Best Chance"). Thompson has also appeared on film as a White House chief of staff, the director of both the CIA and the FBI, and has been the fictional representative of very nearly every service of the U.S. military.
I'm a Fred fan too, although I've only seen one of his films (Hunt for Red October) and I've never watched Law & Order. I have seen him on TV, though, way back in 1995 during some Senate Judiciary Committee hearings.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Toygers

Life magazine:
The breed standard for the Toyger, as registered with TICA, is a big-boned, pumpkin-colored animal with a whitened belly. Ideally, its stripes mimic those of its powerful role model, flowing up from the stomach and down from the spine, and forming concentric arcs around the face.
"Starting a breed," says Judy Sugden, "is a lifetime project."

Hollywood Con

Screenwriter "David Kahane" in NRO:
As screenwriter-god Bill Goldman says, it's all about the next job. So that noise you hear this morning is the wind created by hundreds of writers from Playa del Rey to Santa Barbara, sticking their fingers in the air to see if the wind's suddenly shifted, wondering if they can shelve their metrosexual Syriana and Babel knockoffs and conjure up some good old-fashioned "men of the West" material.

Because the dirty little secret is, we used to write these movies all the time. Impossible odds. Quixotic causes. Death before surrender. Real all-American stuff, in which our heroes stood up for God and country and defending Princess Leia and getting back home to see their wives and children, with their shields or on them.

And the dirtier little secret is: We loved writing them.
I should quit blogging up a movie I don't plan to see, but, as Mr. Maguire said this morning, this is almost as much fun.

Legalized Bribery

John Fund lays it out in Opinion Journal:
In their favor-seeking, all of the lobbyists visiting Capitol Hill are bound by House and Senate ethics rules that cap most individual gifts at $50 per elected official or staffer, with an annual limit of $100 per recipient from any single source. But local governments, public universities and Indian tribes are exempt from the limit, so they are able to shower members and their staffs with such goodies as luxury skybox tickets to basketball games and front-row concert tickets.

Having members or their key aides attend such free events in the company of glad-handing university presidents and local government officials winds up costing taxpayers a pretty penny....

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Brush Fire In Anaheim Hills

Orange, California (NBC4.TV):
Authorities evacuated more than 500 homes Sunday as a fast-moving brush fire dubbed the Windy Ridge Fire scorched more than 1,000 acres of parched hillside, crept into back yards and damaged homes, Orange County fire officials said.

...the blaze, which ignited at around 8 a.m., may have been started by a vehicle fire on the southbound 241 Windy Ridge Toll Plaza.
Don't worry, kids, it's a good ten miles from Disneyland.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Doing Well, Thanks!

"A new survey of the number of polar bears in Canada's eastern Arctic suggests that the population is thriving, not declining, because of mankind's interference in the environment."

Slideshow at the Telegraph.

The Politics of 300

Via Instapundit a link to a previously unknown blog The Idiom and a brilliant post by Kid Various:
...maybe it's not such a bad idea for America's teens to understand, in the phrase of J.S. Mill, that war is an ugly thing but not the ugliest of things. Maybe it's not such a terrible tragedy for young men and women in our country to get the message that there are things that are worth going to war for. There are things worth dying for....
Read it all. Then, please, talk me out of going to see this movie. Because I hate going to movies.

Bar and Grille Burgers

Raymond Sokolov goes cross-country in search of The Best Burger.
Am I immune from this Rousseauian urge to retreat to the simple life through burgers? Not at all. As I ate burgers from coast to coast, I realized that my passion in this area is a simple, id-driven lust. I love a burger just like the burger that I got from dear old Dad. Or with him, in a "bar and grille." This led me to little, intimate places, distinctive and unpretentious diners and taverns like the bar in Cheers but with better burgers: thicker, charred, seasoned.
Makes me hungry just reading it.

The Little Clay Cart

This year's Shakespeare Festival has a new Artistic Director. Among the plays he has selected for the 2008 season is a Sanskrit drama. Wikipedia has this to say about it.
One of the earliest known Sanskrit plays, this play is thought to have been composed by Shudraka in the 2nd century BC. Rife with romance, sex, royal intrigue and comedy, the juicy plot of the play has numerous twists and turns. The main story is about a young man named Charudatta, and his love for Vasantasena, a rich courtesan or nagarvadhu. The love affair is complicated by a royal courtier, who is also attracted to Vasantasena. The plot is further complicated by thieves and mistaken identities, and thus making it a greatly hilarious and entertaining play. It invited widespread admiration when staged in New York in 1924.
I managed to buy a used copy through Amazon this morning for $2.25.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Free Radical

Joseph Rago interviews Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
"I am supposed to apologize for saying the prophet is a pervert and a tyrant," she declares. "But that is apologizing for the truth."

...Ms. Hirsi Ali was born in 1969 in Mogadishu—into, as she puts it, "the Islamic civilization, as far as you can call it a civilization." In 1992, at age 22, her family gave her hand to a distant relative; had the marriage ensued, she says, it would have been "an arranged rape." But as she was shipped to the appointment via Europe, she fled, obtaining asylum in Holland. There, "through observation, through experience, through reading," she acquainted herself with a different world. "The culture that I came to and I live in now is not perfect," Ms. Hirsi Ali says. "But this culture, the West, the product of the Enlightenment, is the best humanity has ever achieved."
Worth reading in its entirety.

People vs. the FDA

Dr. Elizabeth M. Whelan in Tech Central Station:
Thirty years ago this week—on March 9, 1977—the Food and Drug Administration announced its intention to ban what was then the only artificial sweetener, saccharin....

The evidence precipitating the FDA's 1977 ban came from a Canadian study in which saccharin-fed rats developed bladder tumors. The administered dose of saccharin has been compared to the equivalent of human consumption of 800 diet sodas a day for a lifetime.

Still, that sort of evidence was enough to frighten the public on other occasions. They threw out their cranberries at Thanksgiving in 1959, Maraschino cherries in 1979, and their apples in 1989.

But with saccharin, it was different. The public response to the proposed ban was overwhelmingly negative. Consumers voted first with their wallets, sweeping the stores clean of the little pink packets. Diabetics lobbied Congress to reverse the ban, and they were joined by many weight-conscious members of the general public. During 1977, Congress received more mail on the saccharin issue than any other topic.

Under public pressure, Congress announced it would temporarily delay the ban, instead requiring only that saccharin carry a warning label. The moratorium on the ban was extended for years. Finally, in 2000, Congress voted to remove the warning label altogether.
Dr. Whelan has written previously on bogus cancer scares involving aspartame, red food coloring, and coffee, among others.

Changing Notions of Justice

St. Petersburg Times:
Looming before downtown Tampa was a 10-foot-tall, 2,000-pound bronze sculpture, a New York artist's modern interpretation of Lady Justice. With verdigris skin and gilded ringlets spilling from a crown of stars, the work cost Hillsborough County taxpayers $400,000.

No sword? No scales? No blindfold?

Actually, she's half-blind.

But having lost her sense of balance, and with no means of punishing the guilty, she has nothing left to do but wave her arms. This is truly the modern conception of Justice: goofy, expensive, and ineffectual.


Any wonder that we pine for more traditional forms?

Reading Corruption

Mark Liberman at the Language Log seems surprised:
When I recently posted about wordwide arguments over how to teach reading ("The globalization of educational fads and fallacies", 3/2/2007), I noted with sadness that the issue has become politicized. Reading instruction has been adopted by partisans in broader culture wars, and also has become the focus of alleged influence-peddling and patronage in the context of struggles over the federal Reading First program.
Further down in the post he asked for recommended reading, so I sent him this email:
I have grown weary of this debate, and besides I have to leave soon for work, so this is all I can offer you now.

Why Our Children Can't Read and What We Can Do About It: A Scientific Revolution in Reading
by Diane McGuinness

Ms. McGuinness adds something to the phonics vs. see-and-say debate: that children, before being introduced to the symbols that represent the sounds, must be introduced to the sounds themselves. Many children have difficulty taking words apart and hearing the individual phonemes. Until they can manage that, it is no use asking them to reverse the process, and blend the symbol-sounds back into words.

Of course your question has more to do with politics. When Rudolf Flesch wrote Why Johnny Can't Read in 1955, the debate was already a century old. You could easily trace it back to Rousseau. But that's history.

No political argument about what is best for all can be understood without addressing the ineluctable fact of The Bell Curve. Fifteen percent of the children will learn to read--and read well--in spite of your best efforts to stop them. Another fifteen percent will never learn to read well no matter how you teach. It's the seventy percent in the middle, of course, who would benefit the most from better teaching.

The Bell Curve
by Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray

Both these books were excoriated by the left. It is beyond me to understand their motivation.
My 2¢.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Applied Science

By way of NW Republican a story from Raleigh, NC:
When John Cornwell graduated from Duke University last year, he landed a job as software engineer in Atlanta but soon found himself longing for his college lifestyle.

So the engineering graduate built himself a reminder of life on campus: a refrigerator that can toss a can of beer to his couch...

With a click of the remote, fashioned from a car's keyless entry device, a small elevator inside the refrigerator lifts a beer can through a hole and loads it into the fridge's catapult arm.

A second click fires the device, tossing the beer up to 20 feet — "far enough to get to the couch," he said.
It only cost him about $400 in parts.

Columbia Announces Layoffs

From the Bend Bulletin:
Columbia Aircraft Manufacturing Corp. officials announced today that the Bend-based airplane maker is laying off 59 workers to match sales and production demands.

The cuts, which represent about 10 percent of Columbia's work force, are effective immediately, said president and CEO Bing Lantis.
I wonder if sales of high-end general aviation aircraft is a leading indicator?

Twenty Years Ago In The Economist

The leader began:
The Europeans who may soon be living in a semi-denuclearised continent are a curious lot. Most of them seem to think that this happy possibility is the result of a "Gorbachev initiative"; whereas in fact the zero-option proposal that Mr Mikhail Gorbachev embraced on February 28th was put forward by Mr Ronald Reagan in 1981, rejected by the Russians, then half-accepted but with a crippling star-wars condition attached to it last year, and freed of that ball and chain by Russia only now, 5½ years after it was first suggested.
American Survey noted that Howard Baker, the president's new chief of staff, had recommended William Webster to head the CIA, Robert Gates having withdrawn his name.

Berlin was planning a 750th anniversary celebration in June:
East Berlin is pulling out all the stops, restoring historic buildings and holding concerts, exhibitions and the like. West Berlin is planning quite a wing-ding too, and will have morale-boosting visits from Mr Reagan, President François Mitterrand and Queen Elizabeth.
Gee I hope that cowboy doesn't spoil things by shooting off his mouth.

At Apple Computer somebody named Sculley introduced the Macintosh II:
...six expansion slots, the ability to do colour graphics, and a 32-bit Motorola microprocessor... about $7,000.
And Books and Arts included a review of The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes, which I bought. It was a good read.

All in all a quiet week.

Hanson on 300

Greg sends a link to a review by the historian Victor Davis Hanson of the new Zack Snyder movie 300. His conclusion, interestingly enough, is that for a movie based on a comic book it's pretty true to Herodotus.

New Wallpaper

Click for full image. Right-click, set as Desktop Background, centered. Close the window, right-click the desktop, select Properties from the menu, Appearance tab, and set the Desktop color black.

Update: Sorry, missed the photo link. Fixed now.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Ann and Bill

It's an Iowahawk Online Community Issues Forum Special:
Hello, I'm syndicated columnist and best-selling author Ann Coulter.

And I'm Bill Maher, host of HBO's "Real Time."

Today we want to talk to you about an issue that concerns both of us: the deterioration of civility in American politics.

That's right Ann, you anorexic Nazi whore....

Plane Crash Update

The Herald and News has the full story:
Justin Hall, 24, of Portland, the pilot of the single-engine Piper Cherokee, and Josh Stohr, 21, of Eugene, took off from Eugene on Monday, said [Klamath County Sheriff Tim] Evinger.

He said they were going to fly by the Crescent Lake airport on the eastern slope of the Cascades but developed engine trouble flying at low altitude down a valley. Officials were uncertain of their planned destination and didn't know why they were traveling.

"That rough-running engine got worse, and they ended up crashing into some very thick timber and deep snow," Evinger said. "The airplane was a complete loss, including a wing ripped off it. Rescuers commented that it was miraculous that anybody survived the accident."

Both Law and Fact

The Wall Street Journal says of the Libby case:
The conviction is certainly a travesty of justice, though that is not the jury's fault.
I disagree. The first duty as a citizen, and especially as a member of the jury—and in spite of any contrary instruction by the judge—is to know your rights.
We are aware of the number and variety of expressions at that time from respected sources — John Adams; Alexander Hamilton; prominent judges — that jurors had a duty to find a verdict according to their own conscience, though in opposition to the direction of the court; that their power signified a right; that they were judges both of law and of fact in a criminal case, and not bound by the opinion of the court.
United States v. Doughterty, 1972 (emphasis added).

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Atkins Diet Best

Mercury News:
Stanford University researchers comparing three popular diets over a year found that overweight women lost the most weight on the low-carb, high-protein Atkins diet, much maligned by nutritionists in recent years. Although their actual weight loss was modest, the Atkins dieters also saw drops in blood pressure and cholesterol levels, indicators of improved heart health.
The nice thing about Atkins is you don't feel hungry.

Courage to Look Stupid

Greg Gutfeld in The American Spectator:
SINCE 9/11, these two lines of thinking should compete for attention in your brain each time you're faced with a potential crisis. Should you do nothing and be cool? Or take action, and look stupid? If you don't wrestle with those two thoughts when you're on a bus, subway, or plane, then you are a liar. Or a coward.
Read it all. My first impression is that this is on a par with Dave Grossman's essay On Sheep, Wolves and Sheepdogs. Judge for yourself.

Baggage and Soda Cost Extra

Fort Lauderdale, Florida:
Spirit Airlines said Tuesday it will take the unusual step of charging for all checked baggage and for drinks such as coffee and soda on flights starting in June, while also cutting fares by up to 40 percent....

Customers will still be allowed one carry-on bag for free, but one or two checked bags will cost $5 each if passengers make flight reservations on the carrier's Web site. The fee will be $10 each for one or two bags if passengers don't use the Web site for reservations. The charge is $100 for the third bag and on....

Also starting June 20, soft drinks, juices, coffee and tea — which are now free — will cost $1. Water will still be free.
And you don't—yet—need a quarter to use the restroom.

Plane Crash Near Diamond Peak

Oregonian News Update:
Two men who survived a crash into rough timber country Monday are expected to be airlifted this morning to St. Charles hospital in Bend, said Klamath County Chief Deputy Chris Montenaro.

The hometowns and conditions of the two men, ages 21 and 24, are not known, but one required a backboard, Montenaro said. Two Black Hawk helicopters of the Oregon National Guard in Salem will transport the pair, he said. Columbia Helicopters is volunteering to bring out the searchers.
Update:
A 24-year-old Portlander, Justin Hall, and Josh Stohr, a 21-year-old from Eugene, were rescued from their airplane crash site today in Central Oregon and taken to a Bend hospital, said the Klamath County Sheriff's Office.
Plane type still unknown. More later.

Update: in a separate post.

Psycho Killer's Funeral

Julia Gorin's in Bosnia for the funeral of the Utah killer:
The image we were supposed to have of "Bosnians" was the long-cultivated non-Muslim Muslims ("non-religious"; "secular"; "non-practicing"; "Europeanized"; "non-observant" Muslims). Now the explanation before us is that "Bosnian Muslims" are simply the non-terrorist type of Muslim. Let the record show: In the language of the media that had us take up the Bosnian jihad, "non-observant Muslim" = "non-terrorist Muslim." Ergo, observant Muslim = terrorist Muslim. In other words, Talovic died practicing his faith.
Another case of Sudden Jihad Syndrome.

The Free-Throw Bet

Gene Weingarten had an argument with Dave Barry:
...it came down to my assertion that basketball free-throw shooting takes no particular athletic ability, followed by Dave's contention that I am an imbecile, followed by my declaration that if I took a year off and practiced all day, every day, I could then defeat the NBA's best free-throw shooter in head-to-head competition...

Then, a year ago, I got an e-mail from an author named Todd Gallagher....

Todd was writing a book that empirically answers idiot sports bets like mine by actually staging them. The working title is Andy Roddick Beat Me With a Frying Pan, and, yes, Roddick really did beat him in a tennis match armed with a frying pan instead of a racket. The book is due out this summer.

If I did the training, Todd said, his publisher would hook me up with an NBA star for an official shootout.

It was definitely tempting: On the one hand, I would have to leave my job, endure a year of lonely, mind-numbing, repetitive, non-toning non-exercise at zero pay for some other guy's book. On the other hand, I could shut Dave up for good....

Conspicuous Consumption

Monday, March 05, 2007

Installment XIII of The Deniers

Lawrence Solomon continues The National Post's series on scientists who buck the conventional wisdom:
Claude Allegre, one of France's leading socialists and among her most celebrated scientists, was among the first to sound the alarm about the dangers of global warming....
But that was twenty years ago.
With a wealth of data now in, Dr. Allegre has recanted his views. To his surprise, the many climate models and studies failed dismally in establishing a man-made cause of catastrophic global warming. Meanwhile, increasing evidence indicates that most of the warming comes of natural phenomena. Dr. Allegre now sees global warming as over-hyped and an environmental concern of second rank.

His break with what he now sees as environmental cant on climate change came in September, in an article entitled "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" in l' Express, the French weekly. His article cited evidence that Antarctica is gaining ice and that Kilimanjaro's retreating snow caps, among other global-warming concerns, come from natural causes. "The cause of this climate change is unknown," he states matter of factly. There is no basis for saying, as most do, that the "science is settled."
Series index here. I don't expect you to read it—just bookmark it for later.

Changing Notions of Liberty

The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments in this Union repose excludes any general power of the State to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only. The child is not the mere creature of the State; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.
Pierce v. Society of Sisters, 1925
The constitutional right of parents to raise their children does not include the right to restrict what a public school may teach their children... Under the Constitution public schools are entitled to teach anything that is reasonably related to the goals of preparing students to become engaged and productive citizens in our democracy.
Parker v. Hurley, 2007

Of course in the first case we refer to the United States and in the second case only to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, whose residents, if they value their liberties, are free to leave.

Jeff Jacoby has more on Parker v. Hurley.

More yet. James Lewis in The American Thinker notes this startling diagnosis by Dr. Siegfried Schanda:
Melissa Busekros was examined by us. She has a childhood emotional disorder, severe school phobia and an oppositional denial-syndrome. Melissa lacks insight into her illness and the need for treatment, and considers herself healthy and her behaviour fully normal. M. needs urgent help in a closed setting if need be, and subsequent special education treatment to ensure schooling.
Fortunately for us that's on the other side of the world in the Federal Republic of Germany.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Inconvenient Values

Frank Miele of the Daily Inter Lake, Kalispell, Montana:
Do you remember when you might get your mouth washed out with soap for using a dirty word in front of your parents?

Today, that would be child abuse.
You probably won't understand this article if you don't have children. Read it anyway. Sometimes you have to push the envelope, exercise your imagination, and challenge your assumptions.

Nice Show From London

"While eastern Australia, Alaska and New Zealand missed Saturday's show, they will have front row seats to the next total lunar eclipse, on Aug. 28." Presumably that will include us.

Update: close-up from APOD.

The Eco-Messiah

Don't miss your Sunday Steyn:
Stop me if you've heard this before, but the other day the Rev. Al Gore declared that "climate change" was "the most important moral, ethical, spiritual and political issue humankind has ever faced." Ever. I believe that was the same day it was revealed that George W. Bush's ranch in Texas is more environmentally friendly than the Gore mansion in Tennessee. According to the Nashville Electric Service, the Eco-Messiah's house uses 20 times more electricity than the average American home. The average household consumes 10,656 kilowatt-hours. In 2006, the Gores wolfed down nearly 221,000 kilowatt-hours.
Judging from our utility bills this winter I think we're somewhere in between but toward the high end.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

American Regional Accent Analysis

Virginia Postrel posted on this a few months ago and I thought it was interesting then but not, I guess, interesting enough to blog. I've changed my mind.

Take the quiz yourself.

Definition: Faggot

  • connoting (in particular) the gender image of male wimpiness or effeminacy.—familypride.uwo.ca
  • not really used if somebody is really a homosexual mostly used instead of calling somebody stupid or a loser.—the urban dictionary
  • a kind of pork meatball, a traditional dish in parts of the UK, especially Wales and the Black Country.—wikipedia
Ann Coulter:
I was going to say something about John Edwards, but it turns out you have to go into rehab if you use the word "'faggot.'
Check into rehab, Ann. But just for the weekend. Please don't shave your head.

Update: Adam Nagourney, who I believe is some kind of reporter, emailed Ms. Coulter asking for a response to the kerfuffle. She replied:
C'mon it was a joke. I would never insult gays by suggesting that they are like John Edwards. That would be mean.

Did any of these guys say anything after I made the same remark about Al Gore last summer?Why not? What were they trying to say about Al Gore with their silence?
Credit Kaus, Instapundit, etc.

Empire and Republic

Mark Steyn on Hugh Hewitt discussing A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900 by Andrew Roberts:
Andrew's great thesis is that in the fullness of time, we will look at the period of dominance of the British empire, and then the American republic, as one unbroken cord of human development, as we do with the Roman republic and the Roman empire, that it will not seem like two separate eras, but as one continuous evolution. And I think that's true, and I think it's true not just historically, but it's true today. You know, we hear a lot about Afghanistan, which is the good war that the left and all the Europeans and everybody else support, and it's always presented as a NATO mission in Afghanistan, NATO's doing all the hard work in Afghanistan. When in fact, when you look at it, the only four countries who are doing any combat duties, i.e. going out and killing the enemy are the United States, The United Kingdom, Australia and Canada. And the continental, the European members of NATO, are there in basically support roles. Norway won't fight, the other guys don't like to go out in the snow, because it gets their boots dirty, so they're back at barracks manning the photocopier, or whatever they do, but the hard work of killing the enemy is being done by the four English speaking nations.

Headless Hera

Victor Davis Hanson:
Archaeologists have uncovered an impressive statue of Hera in northern Greece—without the head. Cutting off statue heads was a great pastime of thieves, from Roman times to the Ottoman period, an easy way of selling art to grandees without lugging around the massive bodies.

So perhaps somewhere in an art collection in Europe or in a basement in a Greek museum, are fragments of the missing head. I say that because once in 1979 while excavating at Corinth, we found shards of a red-figure vase-painting, with parts of Herakles' club on it. The then director of the excavation, Charles Williams, took the fragments into the museum, examined them for about a day, and then went to one of cases, took out a vase done by the Altamura painter (ca. 470 B.C.) and, presto, fit in the long missing pieces.

Saturn As Never Seen Before

Space.com:
The Cassini spacecraft has captured a fresh view of Saturn from high above the planet's gorgeous rings and also provided a stunning video of its travels through the ring plane.

The robotic probe has climbed to higher and higher inclinations over the past several months, providing looks at the planet and rings that scientists have eagerly awaited.
Via Instapundit.

Update: Now on APOD—huge.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Arguing Over Probable Cause

Law professor Glenn Reynolds links to a post by Orin Kerr on The Volokh Conspiracy discussing a recent case before the Ninth Circuit (PDF) that turns on the meaning of the phrase "probable cause" in the Fourth Amendment.

Kerr argues that Judge Sidney Thomas based his dissent to the decision on an improper standard; that the Supreme Court settled the meaning of "probable cause" in Zurcher v. Stanford Daily and that it means cause to believe that evidence will be found rather than cause to believe that a crime was committed.

Well I for one doubt that a single decision by the Supreme Court settles once and for all the meaning of a particular phrase in the Constitution. I find it interesting to read not the Opinion of the Court but the Dissenting Opinions, in this case by Justices Stewart and Stevens, Stevens in particular:
When these words were written, the procedures of the Warrant Clause were not the primary protection against oppressive searches. It is unlikely that the authors expected private papers ever to be among the "things" that could be seized with a warrant, for, only a few years earlier, in 1765, Lord Camden had delivered his famous opinion denying that any magistrate had power to authorize the seizure of private papers. Because all such seizures were considered unreasonable, the Warrant Clause was not framed to protect against them....
Stevens argues that the authors had in mind "contraband, weapons, and plunder."
Possession of contraband or the proceeds or tools of crime gives rise to two inferences: that the custodian is involved in the criminal activity, and that, if given notice of an intended search, he will conceal or destroy what is being sought. The probability of criminal culpability justifies the invasion of his privacy; the need to accomplish the law enforcement purpose of the search justifies acting without advance notice and by force, if necessary....

Mere possession of documentary evidence, however, is much less likely to demonstrate that the custodian is guilty of any wrongdoing or that he will not honor a subpoena or informal request to produce it.
In that case, then, a subpoena would do. I join in that dissent.

Taxpayer Funded Mug Shots

Salem:
House Democrats are angry over postcards sent by the Oregon chapter of FreedomWorks, an anti-tax group whose director is the vice chairman of the Oregon GOP. The postcards were sent to the districts of six Democratic lawmakers, targeting them for their support of the agreement to suspend corporate tax credits and use the money for a state savings account.

The legislators — Mike Schaufler of Happy Valley, Chuck Riley of Hillsboro, David Edwards of Hillsboro, Terry Beyer of Springfield, Betty Komp of Woodburn and Chris Edwards from Eugene — are from potential swing districts.

Democrats complained that three of the fliers featured photographs paid for by taxpayers - a violation of internal House and Senate rules.
All of a sudden they're concerned about wasting the taxpayer's money?

Take a look at the FreedomWorks postcards here. Pretty funny if you ask me.

Don't Know Much About History

Ben Witherington III in Opinion Journal:
How momentous is the latest Jesus-as-you-never-knew-him story? Not very....

To skeptics, no amount of counterargument will matter. Yet it wouldn't hurt for the rest of us to exercise a bit of skepticism when listening to each year's new theories about Jesus and the "true" history behind the biblical narrative. Amos Kloner, the archaeologist who supervised work at the tomb when it was first discovered in 1980, has called the documentary's claims "impossible" and "nonsense." As a New Testament scholar, I will trust serious scholars like him. Make no bones about it—they have not found Jesus' tomb.
Still skeptical? Hear him out.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Twenty Years Ago In The Economist

The leader asked:
Is this the nadir, or merely one in a descending order of ever lower points in the fortunes of the Reagan presidency?...

The disclosures of the past three months have not been flattering to Mr Reagan. It has been well known for years that he was not a contemplative man, much given to either ruminating on policies or mastering details; it was recognised that he was largely detached, fond of delegation and often ignorant even about issues on which he had strong feelings. But it was assumed that he had a clear idea of his objectives, would remain firm to his principles, and could keep the ship of state steady on the course that he himself had set.
As always they underestimated him.

American Survey looked ahead to the next year's campaign:
Bar accidents, or unexpected Republican recovery-power, a Democrat will be president in 1989.
Gary Hart seemed to be the front-runner. In fact it was not until the thirteenth paragraph that they mentioned the name of the eventual nominee, and not before this:
Arkansas's Governor Bill Clinton, an attractive man in the Kennedy mould, is also interested.
Bill who? That, as it turned out, was their conclusion too:
Mr Hart became well known three years ago. As senators go, Mr Biden has something of a reputation. But who, outside his own region, party circles or Capitol Hill, has heard of Gephardt or Robb, Dukakis or Clinton, Bumpers or Babbitt?
Who indeed? And who, but for the one we cannot forget, remembers them now?

In other news Syria was messing with Lebanon and the Tamil Tigers were messing up Sri Lanka. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose, I guess, which is French for "same old same old."

Post Thatcher

Max Boot on the decline of "Great" Britain:
The total size of its armed forces has shrunk from 305,800 in 1990 to 195,900 today, leaving it No. 28 in the world, behind Eritrea and Burma. This downsizing has reduced the entire British army (107,000 soldiers) to almost half the size of the U.S. Marine Corps (175,000). Storied regiments such as the Black Watch and the Royal Scots, with histories stretching back centuries, have been eliminated.

Even worse hit is the Royal Navy, which is at its smallest size since the 1500s. Now, British newspapers report, of the remaining 44 warships, at least 13 and possibly as many as 19 will be mothballed. If these cuts go through, Britain's fleet will be about the same size as those of Indonesia and Turkey and smaller than that of its age-old rival, France.

All Over By This Fall

According to Dick Morris:
Nineteen states or more, with half of America's population, are moving to hold their presidential nominating primaries on Feb. 5, 2008, a mere three weeks after the Iowa caucuses and two weeks after the New Hampshire primary. In effect, we will now have a national primary and the presidential nominating season will last only three weeks from start to finish.

The effect of this gigantic sea change will be that whoever is the frontrunner in each party by the fall of 2007 will be virtually certain to win the nomination because only the frontrunner can possibly hope to amass enough money to compete in half the country at once. Nobody but the likely winner in each party will be able to compete at that level on Feb. 5.

Money will now be king. Nothing else will count very much. If you can afford to run a national campaign three weeks after the first caucus, you will win. If you can't, you're doomed. And the polling that designates a frontrunner now will do much to determine the nominee.
Remember when the nominee was chosen at the convention? Yes? Remember when he was chosen in a smoke-filled room?