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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Quote of the day

"Suppose I hire you to repair my computer. The job is worth $200 to me and doing the job is worth $200 to you. The transaction will occur because we have a meeting of the mind. Now suppose there's the imposition of a 30 percent income tax on you. That means you won't receive $200 but instead $140. You might say the heck with working for me -- spending the day with your family is worth more than $140.

You might then offer that you'll do the job if I pay you $285. That way your after-tax earnings will be $200 -- what the job was worth to you. There's a problem. The repair job was worth $200 to me, not $285. So it's my turn to say the heck with it. This simple example demonstrates that one effect of taxes is that of eliminating transactions, and hence jobs."
-Walter Williams (on the effect of taxes)
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Monday, May 29, 2006

GONE FOR THE WEEK

Oregon Coast
I'm going on vacation to the Oregon coast, one of the most beautiful places on earth. In the interim, I'll leave you a few things to read and think about, some links to peruse and even Sultan to play with (Internet Explorer viewers, it's down at the bottom of the page - get Firefox!).

I'll be back in about a week, and the blog will start right back up where it started, I hope you'll all be back and we can explore the word around the net once more!

-Christopher Taylor

HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE

“We’ve lost the peace,” men tell you. “We can’t make it stick.”

This article ran in Life Magazine about the war and rebuilding and how it was a failure. We were, in their words, "losing the peace" even though we'd won the war. It was a quagmire, a waste of money and the locals hated us.

In Germany, 1946. This article ran January of that year:

We are in a cabin deep down below decks on a Navy ship jam-packed with troops that’s pitching and creaking its way across the Atlantic in a winter gale. There is a man in every bunk. There’s a man wedged into every corner. There’s a man in every chair. The air is dense with cigarette smoke and with the staleness of packed troops and sour wool.

“Don’t think I’m sticking up for the Germans,” puts in the lanky young captain in the upper berth, “but…” “To hell with the Germans,” says the broad-shouldered dark lieutenant. “It’s what our boys have been doing that worries me.”

The lieutenant has been talking about the traffic in Army property, the leaking of gasoline into the black market in France and Belgium even while the fighting was going on, the way the Army kicks the civilians around, the looting. “Lust, liquor and loot are the soldier’s pay,” interrupts a red-faced major. The lieutenant comes out with his conclusion: “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” You hear these two phrases again and again in about every bull session on the shop. “Two wrongs don’t make a right” and “Don’t think I’m sticking up for the Germans, but….” The troops returning home are worried.


“We’ve lost the peace,” men tell you. “We can’t make it stick.”
Germany Picture
A tour of the beaten-up cities of Europe six months after victory is a mighty sobering experience for anyone. Europeans. Friend and foe alike, look you accusingly in the face and tell you how bitterly they are disappointed in you as an American. They cite the evolution of the word “liberation.”


Before the Normandy landings it meant to be freed from the tyranny of the Nazis. Now it stands in the minds of the civilians for one thing, looting. You try to explain to these Europeans that they expected too much. They answer that they had a right to, that after the last war America was the hope of the world. They talk about the Hoover relief, the work of the Quakers, the speeches of Woodrow Wilson. They don’t blame us for the fading of that hope. But they blame us now. Never has American prestige in Europe been lower. People never tire of telling you of the ignorance and rowdy-ism of American troops, of out misunderstanding of European conditions. They say that the theft and sale of Army supplies by our troops is the basis of their black market. They blame us for the corruption and disorganization of UNRRA. They blame us for the fumbling timidity of our negotiations with the Soviet Union. They tell us that our mechanical de-nazification policy in Germany is producing results opposite to those we planned. “Have you no statesmen in America?” they ask.

Yet whenever we show a trace of positive leadership I found Europeans quite willing to follow our lead. The evening before Robert Jackson’s opening of the case for the prosecution in the Nurnberg trial, I talked to some correspondents from the French newspapers. They were polite but skeptical. They were willing enough to take part in a highly publicized act of vengeance against the enemy, but when you talked about the usefulness of writing a prohibition of aggressive war into the law of nations they laughed in your face.

The night after Jackson’s nobly delivered and nobly worded speech I saw then all again. They were very much impressed. Their manner had even changed toward me personally as an American. Their sudden enthusiasm seemed to me typical of the almost neurotic craving for leadership of the European people struggling wearily for existence in the wintry ruins of their world. The ruin this war has left in Europe can hardly be exaggerated. I can remember the years after the last war.

Then, as soon as you got away from the military, all the little strands and pulleys that form the fabric of a society were still knitted together. Farmers took their crops to market. Money was a valid medium of exchange. Now the entire fabric of a million little routines has broken down. No on can think beyond food for today. Money is worthless. Cigarettes are used as a kind of lunatic travesty on a currency. If a man goes out to work he shops around to find the business that serves the best hot meal. The final pay-off is the situation reported from the Ruhr where the miners are fed at the pits so that they will not be able to take the food home to their families.

“Well, the Germans are to blame. Let them pay for it. It’s their fault,” you say. The trouble is that starving the Germans and throwing them out of their homes is only producing more areas of famine and collapse. One section of the population of Europe looked to us for salvation and another looked to the Soviet Union. Wherever the people have endured either the American armies or the Russian armies both hopes have been bitterly disappointed. The British have won a slightly better reputation. The state of mind in Vienna is interesting because there the part of the population that was not actively Nazi was about equally divided. The wealthier classes looked to America, the workers to the Soviet Union. The Russians came first. The Viennese tell you of the savagery of the Russian armies. They came like the ancient Mongol hordes out of the steppes, with the flimsiest supply.

The people in the working-class districts had felt that when the Russians came that they at least would be spared. But not at all. In the working-class districts the tropes were allowed to rape and murder and loot at will. When victims complained, the Russians answered, “You are too well off to be workers. You are bourgeoisie.” When Americans looted they took cameras and valuables but when the Russians looted they took everything. And they raped and killed. From the eastern frontiers a tide of refugees is seeping across Europe bringing a nightmare tale of helpless populations trampled underfoot. When the British and American came the Viennese felt that at last they were in the hands of civilized people.

But instead of coming in with a bold plan of relief and reconstruction we came in full of evasions and apologies. [Emphasis mine] We know now the tragic results of the ineptitudes of the Peace of Versailles. The European system it set up was Utopia compared to the present tangle of snarling misery. The Russians at least are carrying out a logical plan for extending their system of control at whatever cost. The British show signs of recovering their good sense and their innate human decency. All we have brought to Europe so far is confusion backed up by a drumhead regime of military courts. We have swept away Hitlerism, but a great many Europeans feel that the cure has been worse than the disease. The taste of victory had gone sour in the mouth of every thoughtful American I met.

Thoughtful men can’t help remembering that this is a period in history when every political crime and every frivolous mistake in statesmanship has been paid for by the death of innocent people. The Germans built the Stalags; the Nazis are behind barbed wire now, but who will be next? Whenever you sit eating a good meal in the midst of a starving city in a handsome house requisitioned from some German, you find yourself wondering how it would feel to have a conqueror drinking out of your glasses. When you hear the tales of the brutalizing of women from the eastern frontier you think with a shudder of of those you love and cherish at home.

That we are one world is unfortunately a brutal truth. Punishing the German people indiscriminately for the sins of their leader may be justice, but it is not helping to restore the rule of civilization. The terrible lesson of the events of this year of victory is that what is happening to the bulk of Europe today can happen to American tomorrow. In America we are still rich, we are still free to move from place to place and to talk to our friends without fear of the secret police. The time has come, for our own future security, to give the best we have to the world instead of the worst.

So far as Europe is concerned, American leadership up to now has been obsessed with a fear of our own virtues. Winston Churchill expressed this state of mind brilliantly in a speech to his own people which applies even more accurately to the people of the U.S. “You must be prepared,” he warned them, “for further efforts of mind and body and further sacrifices to great causes, if you are not to fall back into the rut if inertia, the confusion of aim and the craven fear of being great.”

The first winter of peace holds Europe in a deathly grip of cold, hunger and hopelessness. In the words of the London Sunday Observer: “Europe is threatened by a catastrophe this winter which has no precedent since the Black Death of 1348.” These are still more than 25,000,000 homeless people milling about Europe. In Warsaw nearly 1,000,000 live in holes in the ground. Six million building were destroyed in Russia. Rumania has her worst drought of 50 years, and in Greece fuel supplies are terribly low because the Nazis, during their occupation, decimated the forests. In Italy the wheat harvest, which was a meager 3,450,000 tons in 1944, fell to an unendurable 1,304,000 tons in 1945. In France, food consumption per day averages 1,800 calories as compared with 3,000 calories in the U.S. Germany is sinking even below the level of the countries she victimized. The German people are still better clothed than most of Europe because during the war they took the best of Europe’s clothing. But their food supply is below subsistence level.

In the American zone they beg for the privilege of scraping U.S. army garbage cans. Infant mortality is already so high that a Berlin Quaker, quoted in the British press, predicted. “No child born in Germany in 1945 will survive. Only half the children aged less than 3 years will survive.” On Germany, which plunged the Continent into its misery, falls the blame for its own plight and the plight of all Europe. But if this winter proves worse even than the war years, blame will fall on the victor nations.

Life Magazine CoverSome Europeans blame Russia for callousness to misery in eastern Europe. But some also blame America because they expected so much more from her. On the following pages the distinguished novelist John Dos Passos, who has been abroad as LIFE correspondent, reports on Europe’s suffering and what it means for America.

This article was mentioned on the Rush Limbaugh Show, from which I got the text and images. He made the same case I'm making: people need to be patient and have some historical perspective. The press and some people - even soldiers - were crying that we were a failure in Germany, that the people hated us, that we were wasting our money and ruining the victory we'd won. They were criticizing the president and America.

Just keep that in mind next time you read or see a report on Iraq's rebuilding.

LINKINATION

Here are a few useful links you might enjoy, first some fun stuff:
James Lileks' sites, one of the finest writers alive today
Smithsonian Magazine Online
National Geographic Magazine Online
Apple's Movie Trailer Site: see em before you watch a movie! (warning: slow computer killer)
Cute Overload! Tons of cute stuff and critters
The Hubble Telescope Site with lots of images from the space telescope!

Some humor sites to tickle your funnybone (warning, some may have language content):
Frank J's IMAO
Scrappleface
Iowahawk
Broken Newz
Engrish (Japanese and other asian signs and materials translated to English)
The Onion

And some blogs you probably didn't know existed:
Eye Level, the Smithsonian Art Museum blog
William Shatner's blog site, although he doesn't update it much
The LAPD Blog, with updates on cases, requests for info, and more
Chris Farrell's Gaming Blog - board games, computer games, you name it!

Some smaller blogs you ought to take a look at but might have never seen:
Reformed Chicks Blabbing
Right Wing Sparkle
Anna Venger or is that An Avenger?
Tigerhawk
Hispanic Pundit
Stuck on Stupid Lies, or as his site says "It’s not what you don’t know that disturbs me, it’s what you know that isn’t true!"
Seixon - an American in Norway
Mostly Cajun, All American, and Opinionated
The Texas Rainmaker
Tom Grey, LIBERTY DAD!
Hollywood, Interrupted - a hollywood type going and doing what reporters fear or won't do in Iraq
Stand to Reason Christian Apologetics blog

Check em out folks, lots of places to go, things to read and interesting stuff to learn!

And don't forget to check the sites I have linked to the right hand side!

REVEREND FUN

A daily cartoon of bible and church humor - safe for kiddies

www.reverendfun.com

TERRORISM ON THE DOLE

"something tells me if we were paying some eskimoes, or any number of other groups some of these 'handouts,' they wouldn’t be repaying us by 'allegedly' planning to blow us up"
This isn't some stunning shocking development, either. In a column on December 29, 2001, I noted the likes of Zac Moussaoui, the French citizen who became an Islamist radical while living on welfare in London, and wrote: "If you're looking for 'root causes' for terrorism, European-sized welfare programs are a good place to start . . . Tony Blair pays Islamic fundamentalists in London to stay at home, fester and plot."

I wasn't the first to notice the links between Euro-Canadian welfare and terrorism. Mickey Kaus, the iconoclastic California liberal, was way ahead. But, after 3-1/2 years, one would be entitled to assume that Tony Blair might have spotted it, too — especially given the ever greater numbers of British jihadi uncovered from Pakistan and Afghanistan to Israel and America.
That's how Mark Steyn points out in a column on terrorism in the UK how so often terrorist suspects and terrorists are found to have been living on welfare and off the public dole. For example, the Australian newspaper Herald Sun has this story:

Australia’s 22 terror suspects and their families receive more than $1 million a year in taxpayer-funded welfare and legal aid.

And simply because the men were locked up, their families received a social security pay rise of as much as $1700 a year.

One of the jailed Melbourne men, Abdul Nacer Benbrika—leader of a radical group of Islamists—has been in Australia for 10 years and has never had a job.

Taxpayers provide his wife with almost $50,000 a year in welfare.
Tim Blair also noticed this on his blog, and commenters, well, commented:
“If you’re looking for ‘root causes’ for terrorism, European-sized welfare programs are a good place to start.”

We all get told time and again how harsh the American system of pensions and unemployment insurance are - that if you don’t pay anything in, you don’t get anything out. But in cases like these, it don’t seem so bad…
-by AlburyShifton


Current policies of the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (DIMIA) towards some = the root cause of a future Dhimmia of the many?
-by tmciolek


From my calculation here in Australia our welfare spending happens slightly above $2000 per second.
-by Hank Reardon

Under Centrelink rules, she is entitled to almost $50,000 a year in welfare while her husband is in prison, awaiting trial.

That’s a good whack, that’s more than what most people earn through working their butts off. It’s the same in the UK, where they booted out some radical cleric, however his wife and dependents remain in the UK sapping public welfare of a country they so hate.
-by darrinh

Taxpayers provide his wife with almost $50,000 a year in welfare.

Just some statistics that I find interesting.

The average Australian wage is now A$53,861.60($US 40,846.02).

(OECD)Table 1.2 : Income tax, employee social security contributions and gross wage earnings.
-by joejr


May be its got something to do with sex education in Islamic schools see: http://weekbyweek7.blogspot.com/2006/05/when-saying-no-is-not-ok-sex-education.html#links
-by weekbyweek


Hmmmm, while i am no great fan of paying immigrant bludgers especially (that haven’t contributed anything to the country yet) to sit on their behind for 10 years doing diddly squat, something tells me if we were paying some eskimoes, or any number of other groups some of these “handouts”, they wouldn’t be repaying us by “allegedly” planning to blow us up.....

i don’t think we should dump completely on the system just becoz of a bunch of bad apples, who as so often seem to be adherents of the RoP… afterall any number of us may have needed a bit of a helping hand out at times, it the blood sucking parasites who constantly take the system for a ride who really need to be singled out…

hopefully these are getting fewer and fewer under the “work for the dole” schemes, but probably just like community service for minor crims programs, it is probably being abused in places…

but this concept of having untold numbers of children which the community ends up paying for has really got to be looked at, for the white trash and other groups who tend to like playing this game… four or five kids max and anything over that is a lifestyle decision of your own making and you damn well foot the bill people!!!
-by casanova


Bugger! my suprise gland must be dicky. i read that and didnt feel anything.

O/T A mate of mine is currently becoming a police officer in WA and has allready got a horror story. The cops cant even discuss each others case or ask for info without running the risk of an internal investigation. This is because of “privacy issues” for the crims.
Those faint 2 thudding noises were the collective testicles of the WA police farce /service being cut off.
-by thefrollickingmole


There is a a tendency to believe that the “dole” in itself is an act of jihad. A way to weaken the economy of the host country. It is basically the jizya tax that the infidel must pay to the superior muslims who are engaged in jihad against the west.
Although these guys are in jail, they must view these payments as a victory over the infidel.
Centrlink are surely totally incapable of understanding such political manoevres.
-by davo


My own humble thoughts on the mindset permitting this rampant stupidity.

For at least 3 generations the objective of the Communist movement was to question and attack the legitimacy of any other advanced system of government. It was largely successful in removing kings, somewhat successful in removing facists and dictators.
it proved utterly useless at persuading people to rise up against democracies and representitive rule though. So it changed its tactics slightly to take over the propaganda organs, and none were more attractive than the school systems.
It began slowly enough with the wooing and outright corruption of the universities. How many historians, social, and “soft” studies were active or sympathetic to Communists wont be known for sure. But a glance at the politics of many tenured instructors today seems to indicate a pattern of patronage where politics of a certain sort didnt hurt.
This form of corruption then began to infect the past, by disowning, demeaning, and fabricating whatever was neccessary to diminish the “west”. 3 generations later and the damage caused by this acidic eating away of anything good or glorious about the west is almost total.
The guilt industry spawned by the marxist corruption runs to billions in Australia alone. we must save the whales, refugees, aboriginies, environment, criminals, as well as feel shame about wars overthrowing theocracy and brutal dictators.
Think about being European and having your own governments actively shut down ANY debate leaving your ownly options to keep quiet (socialy acceptible) or vote far right (social death).
Communist tactics worked, I doubt if Europe would have resisted if the collective will was as low 30 years ago as it is today. Communism just didnt survive long enough to harvest its corrupt “fruit”, that will fall to the Muslims.
Im sure people much more elloquent than me can put it clearer/better and would like them to do so.
/rant off
-by thefrolickingmole


An explanation for gussy’s “dog whistle” slur, for North American readers who may not appreciate its currency in Australia.

“Dog whistle” is the slur-du-jour of the left against the right in Australia, especially as applied to John HoWARd.

In Oz at the moment it means you accuse the “dog whistler” of saying something with a hidden message that is heard by the rednecks in society and they instintively react to it and support the whistler.

Strangely, the left elites can also understand the hidden message and this allows them to accuse the “dog whistler”.

How gussy could EVER have the nastyness to discern the hidden “dog whistle” message in Tim’s post is beyond me. Maybe you are more like us than you think, eh gussy?
-by StopContinentalDrift!


The problem with welfare is just trying to find an appropriate balance between helping those people who are a bit down and need society’s assistance (such as short-term unemployed) without giving them so much that they lose the drive to become self-sufficient. I think that the only clear solution is to do the obvious and cut down on welfare until these people start contributing back to society.
-by anagallis


OK. Let me ask a question...hypothetical, but still a question...:).

Let us say I...ME, this nice little kid were young enough to migrate to OZ. I would need a skill (to provide for myself) of some sort to do so, correct?

OK, I lied, two hypothetical questions...BUT if I were say a, ummmm of a certain group with a supposed ‘religion’ that happens on a very regular basis fires RPG’s, straps on Bomb Belts, grows a beard, treats women like chattel, honor kills those women, and more things of that nature...I could come to OZ and live on dole money?
-by El Cid

I have to echo el Cid's question: I thought to emigrate to Australia you had to have a job and skills that contribute to the nation. What happened to that system with these Muslims? Any Australian readers, can you help us out here?

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Comment Type #23

THE TYRANT

All blogs and comment sections are on someone's web site. You can read, comment, and even copy things off of their site at your leisure, but only because of someone's generosity. Many websites that allow commenting have some form of moderation, which allows editing or deletion of comments and posts that are too offensive, off topic, or simply violate the rules and policies of the website.

When moderation is done well, this is a great benefit to the blog or message board, preventing advertising, spamming, and dealing with trolls and other obnoxious web pests.

It also allows for mistake posts to be deleted to clean up the board, such as when lag or an error makes it appear that your clever comment didn't get posted when it actually did. Which results in duplication.

It also allows for mistake posts to be deleted to clean up the board, such as when lag or an error makes it appear that your clever comment didn't get posted when it actually did. Which results in duplication.

With moderation, this kind of effect can be cleaned up and not only save bandwidth but make the comments easier to read without wading through duplication (although it's fun sometimes to see what small editing and changes people make as they repost and rethink what they said).

However, moderation can take an unpleasant turn. Some moderators and bloggers are tyrannical, deleting anything that remotely disagrees with their ideas, banning people for the slightest hint of problem, and eliminating any real possibility of discussion. The website Democratic Underground will delete the post of and ban anyone who dares post something that does not toe the radical leftist line, for example. This kind of tyrant is distasteful and unwelcome, and will over time either create a dull echo chamber that only the most extreme zealot will appreciate, or kill off a blog entirely.

However in the context of a comment, there is another kind of tyrant, a sort of tyrannical comment. This kind of comment will demand that people do things a certain way, insisting that something not be discussed any more or that people stay on topic. The tyrant assumes control over the writing and ideas of other people, or the flow of conversation.

Tyrant Comments will command that a topic is dead, or that someone is no longer credible and ought to simply go away. A tyrant comment is the kind that tries to exert force and authority over others through rhetoric and demands. Often, these are done by someone with no authority or power whatsoever on a website. Instead of the moderator, this is often simply someone who has been at the website a long time and presumes by familiarity and seniority that their word is more potent and important than others.

Many message boards keep track of the number of posts someone has made and gives them rankings, which are sometimes used as a club to attempt to bludgeon others (rhetorically speaking) into submission. "I've been here for 3 years and seen this topic over and over, it's a dead horse, stop kicking it!"

Another kind of tyrant is the kind that presumes that everyone that posts on a site has the entire site constantly memorized, and daring to post on or ask a question that has already answered is met with contempt, mockery, and dismissal.

Don't be a tyrant. There's nothing wrong with suggesting things might not be worth talking about any more or that someone is off topic and interrupting the discussion. Noting that someone is a troll or that a question has been asked before is a valid topic, but shouldn't be done with the presumption of power or that people ought to obey them. Someone might have lost all credibility (at least with you) but this should be obvious to anyone who reads if it is true, and simply saying so about someone adds nothing but an appearance of arrogance - I should know, I've said it before and was wrong to do so. Tyranny is unwelcome everywhere, especially in the internet.

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DIG THAT SCARF

"I've always felt that hijabis are discriminated against in the Arab world much more than in the West, and I've experienced it first hand."

Hijab
In the past, women wearing scarves was a common thing, even in the United States. My mother used to wear one to keep her ears warm in cold weather, but since she changed her hair style a scarf mashes it down so much she goes without. Not so long ago it was popular for young teen girls in the United States to wear scarves, and the image of the grandmother in a scarf was so ubiquetous in Russia the word for Grandmother in Russian (Babushka - бабушка) is simply the word for scarf, with the accent on a different syllable for each to distinguish between them.

The UAE blog Green Print is by an Arabic Girl named Noor (like the Queen of Jordan), and she had some thoughts recently on the hijab, the scarf muslim girls wear:

Wearing a scarf is one of the biggest choices a Muslim girl can make. For some, the choice to do so or not is expected, for others, the choice is extremely difficult. But regardless of the difficulty of the situation, the resulting choice marks a girl in nearly all aspects of her life.

She notes that not all Muslim girls wear the hijab, and points out why she does:

So why haven't these girls and i, especially those of us who weren't pressured into it, gone ahead and done so? In short, the answer is this: Because we believe in hijab and what it stands for. Hijab is the Muslim woman's show of modesty. There are many different ways of wearing it and different beliefs as to how much skin a woman should cover, but the general idea is the same.

Noor shares an incident that happened with another girl:
At AUS's Global Day, there was a Syrian traditional dance going on, called a 'dabkeh'. I jumped in, grabbing the hand of a poufy-haired, makeup-y girl. Now, i don't have anything against girls with that description - when they're nice. But this one totally tried to ignore me. She was barely holding my hand, practically ruining the dabkeh, and then halfway through, she ran to the other side of the dabkeh where some other poufy-haired, makeup-y girls were.
Now, why exactly did she do this? Because i wasn't as poufy-haired and makeup-y as she was. I promise you, if i'd been wearing a miniskirt and full on makeup and had my hair done, she would've stayed next to me. But no, being a hijabi is just not cool enough. Actually, being anything short of a sex toy is not cool enough. Now that that's said, i have to turn around and say that the situation isn't always like that. Most non-hijabi girls are as sweet as can be; one of my closest friends isn't hijabi. But we've gotta recognize this issue, this 'hijabism' in Arab society. If we want to be recognized in the West, then we've gotta be recognized in our own countries first.

Commenters responded:
Wow!..some strong words there. And i think i agree with everything you've said...although I've not personally witnessed any particular act of discrimination. However, from a male perspective, I know alotta guys who do not want to be with hijabis because they feel that its religiously wrong to do so. But, since im not a Muslim, i dont knw if thats true or not. But i guess it just comes down to maintaining that fine balance between tradition and novelty.
-by Mathew


Nice post and blog :) I've always felt that hijabis are discriminated against in the Arab world much more than in the West, and I've experienced it first hand. As if Arab women aren't already discriminated against as a whole, some make it worse by discriminating against their fellow hijabis because they think that the latter have hurt their struggle for women's rights. Before we ask for rights equal to men or women in the West, we need start respecting ourselves and the individuals around us for who they are, not how they look.

Oh, and I must say I like the "hijabism" terminology!
-by Moi


Well, there is another side to the story, of course. I don't blame those who are suspicious of the hijabis, as you say. You said it yourself when you say that the cloth is an affirmation of your faith. Maybe those women aren't interested in religion and they should have the right to have that opinion. So when they see a girl with a headscarf they assume someone who IS religious!

There IS a logical connection, you know.
-by pro-freedom
I know this isn't the most earth-shattering topic, and it doesn't compare in deep significance to some other issues of the day or things I've covered. It's just a glimpse into another culture, another nation, and some thoughts on something we in the west take all too granted: freedom and religious liberty.

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WET FOOT, DRY FOOT

"I lift my lamp beside the golden door, right here in Miami. Give me your Cubans."

Mexican Foot, Cuban Foot...

A few weeks ago I posted about how I was sick of the immigration debate as it was being waged and tired of posts about the topic. I said I'd not post until something significant happened - but there's a perspective in this debate that is not being talked about in the media which I think is interesting and important.

Babalu blog is primarily concerned with the island nation of Cuba and it's cruel, greedy dictator Fidel Castro. But it also has occasional thoughts on other matters in the USA regarding national topics, Val Prieto had a post on immigration recently.

I do, however, have to state publicly, here and now, that I am extremely disappointed in our "Republican" Cuban-American Senator from Florida Mel Martinez. He voted "yea" for the amnesty bill, which included a last minute ammendment to said bill which states:

(b) CONSULTATION REQUIREMENT.--Consultations between United States and Mexican authorities at the federal, state, and local levels concerning the construction of additional fencing and related border security structures along the United States-Mexico border shall be undertaken prior to commencing any new construction, in order to solicit the views of affected communities, lessen tensions and foster greater understanding and stronger cooperation on this and other important issues of mutual concern.

Basically, the US government must now ask permission from the Mexican government before it secures our borders. This is the same Mexican government, Senator Martinez, that just deported 57 Cuban refugees seeking freedom from fidel castro's tyranny, the very same tyranny you fled all alone as a child via Pedro Pan. What kind of precedent will this set, Senator?

Val includes a warning for his senator, one among the millions that congress best heed:

And still, not a damed peep from you, Senator Martinez, on the wet foot/dry foot policy. You prefer to grant amnesty to immigranst from a free country as opposed to exiles from a dictatorial state.

I can assure you, Senator, that this Cuban-American Republican will remember this come re-election time.

The wet/dry foot policy he mentions is also brought up in an excellent article by Jay Homnick in the Why Simper to Fidel?:

So I'll tell you what. Here's my deal. If you guys in the Senate want to ram through an immigration bill to reach out and bring all these folks into the Big Tent of the Republican Party, I'll bite my lip and go along. I won't be legalistic or puristic or a nudnik. You want me to give you your short-order cooks and your lawn guys and your house painters, you got it.

But I want something in return. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door, right here in Miami. Give me your Cubans. (No, not the cigars. Apparently Babbin copped all of those.)

HERE WE HAVE one of the great ironies. The one group of emigres with the most legitimate claim for asylum is the Cubans. The one law-abiding cadre that doesn't make large demonstrations is the Cubans. The one enclave that never presses for bilingual education but works to master English without complaint is the Cubans. (You would never hear them yelling "March!" in April.) And -- here is your full daily USDA RDA of irony -- the only reliable clique of Hispanic voters for the Republican Party is Cuban. Well, guess what? As things stand, the proposed immigration bill leaves the Cubans missing the boat.

These folks are living ninety miles from our shores under the longest-ruling dictator on the planet. While he jubilantly closes in on his jubilee, defiant in his autocracy, oppressive and restrictive and vindictive, we not only refrain from interfering in his internal affairs, we turn away his escapees. Plenty of hardy Cubans would hot-foot it here, but they get cold feet because of our "wet foot - dry foot" policy. This means that after days of baking in the sun on a makeshift raft made out of a car fender and a few pickle barrels, then swimming with labored strokes toward shore, throat parched, breathing stertorous, spirit flickering, if the Coast Guard can intercept you a foot from shore, back you go to the Communist paradise. Foot on shore, more sure of foot, you stay.
This article as well is a good read and brings up problems about immigration that are not being considered in the haste to appease corporations and big farms. Commenters on Bablu Blog had this to say:
Great article, how long has it been since that wet foot/dry foot "meeting"? Too bad President Bush doesn't have the b*lls to just do what's right. Eleven million cross our border illegally and that's acceptable, but i guess a thousand or so Cubans is just more than we can handle. What a cruel hypocrisy.

I can't wait to hear the Cuba policy recommendations. Is there any doubt that Cubans are the immigration scapegoats? God f**g forbid we upset V. Fox and Mexico, but it's kiss castro's ass time once again. By the way, I predict that the estimated count of 12 million illegals will turn out to be more like 16 million plus.
-by Ziva

It might be wisest to keep an open mind. The way I see these Mexican migrants voted with their feet, and they voted for the US.

Yes I get angry every time I hear of Cuban rafters returned to Cuba from Mexico, but that is the Mexican government doing that. Those idiots with images of the murderous Che Guevara on their t-shirts are only trying to make trouble, they know that by now 40% or so of Mexican Americans vote Republican.
Yes I know it is not the 80-90% of Cuban American still it is enough to help swing the balance.

let us press Senator Martinez to get rid of that dry foot requirement, and let all escaping Cubans into the US.
-by Larry Daley

I live in LA, I grew up here, and for LA, this whole discussion is at least 30 years too late. I honestly don't care about the Mexicans moving into LA because by the second or third generation they are English speaking conservative homeowners. That's a fact. What I care about is the hypocritical amnesty for 12 (in my opinion a very conservatie estimate) millon Mexicanos while handfulls of Cubans are sent back to castros gulag. Where the fuck are the Cuban American politicos on this? What is this? Hug a Mexican, execute a Cuban? What the hell is wrong with people?
-by Ziva

Thank God that the Senate can't make Laws without the House! It's not over until the fat lady sings! American public opinion will not allow this charade to continue much longer.
-by Jose Aguirre

Any immigration policy that favors Mexico because it makes life easier for some businesses at the expense of other immigrants - particularly those trying to escape the misery that the island paradise of Cuba was crushed into by communist rebels - is a policy I cannot support.


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Quotes of the day

LibertySome thoughts from the past about remembering those who have gone before, their valor, thier honor, and their deeds that have built the country we now enjoy, the life we now take for granted, and the freedom we now savor:

"Anybody who doesn't appreciate what America has done and the President Bush, let them go to hell."
-Betty Dawisha (Iraqi Voter, December 2005)

"I would like to salute you and salute all the troops who are freeing 27 million people. Please stop questioning the administration and their decision. It was the best decision anybody could take, freeing 27 million people! Thank you, Mr. President!"
-American Iraqi Kurdish woman, during President Bush's appearance in Kansas.

"The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country."
-Abraham Lincoln

"If we are forced into war, we must give up political differences of opinion and unite as one man to defend our country."
-Thomas Jefferson

"If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or your arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen."
-Samuel Adams

"Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty."
-John Philpot Curran

Freedom"I am a revolutionary so my son can be a farmer so his son can be a poet."
-John Adams

"Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect every one who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are ruined..."
-Patrick Henry

"Posterity--you will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it."
-John Quincy Adams [courtesy anna venger]

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Saturday, May 27, 2006

IN MEMORIEM

Freedom Isn't Free
Islamofascist Nightmare
Islamofascist
What Have You Done?
Aussie Fighter
Brit/US flag
defending freedom together since 1801

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GENUINE BIAS - THE MISTAKE

Never attribute malice to something better explained by sloth or incompetence.

One of the charges most often leveled against the press by any political party or person of any ideology is that they are biased. Biased against them, biased for the other guy, slanted in their coverage. Conservatives point to stories and one set of facts, liberals point to other stories and other sets of facts, and the media claims snowy-white innocence and purity. So is there bias in the media, does the news media carefully craft stories to hurt one political party or help another, is there a sinister cabal of cigar-smoking media moguls sitting around a table deciding how things go and what will be said tomorrow?

Whether bias is present in a their work or not, the news media is suffering a series of setbacks and losing audience rapidly. Circulation of newspapers is down sales of news magazines such as Time and Newsweek are lower, and viewing of almost all television news shows and channels is lower – with Fox and MSNBC being the exception.

First, the task that must be addressed is to define what bias is and is not. There are many times which bias is not the source of a problem, and times that it is. Sometimes it is the bias of the reader that perceives problems, rather than a problem of the news media. There are several categories of problems both real and apparent that the media suffers from in it's coverage of events.

1) ERROR
2) SLOTH
3) INCOMPETENCE
4) CREDULITY
5) BIAS

Each on one of these areas will take a significant amount of coverage to express with examples and citations to show where and how they happened, so each will be taken as a separate essay.

ERROR
Newspapers, news magazines, and other media news sources have always had to face the fact that human beings are fallible and will make mistakes. There’s rarely a regular newspaper that goes out without a small section correcting mistakes made in the previous day’s paper, and while spell-checking and editors try their best, occasionally spelling mistakes will make it through the system into print. The process of proofreading and checking is so smooth and practiced at this point that such errors are real, but when a newspaper prints tens of thousands of words a week, it is unavoidable. Sometimes the errors will be using homonyms incorrect (there instead of their, for example – something spell checkers will not catch because both are spelled correctly), or even an embarrassing sort of sentence collection.
Ladies, don't forget the rummage sale. It's a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Don't forget your husbands.
This is the kind of mistake that, apart from a source of amusement, is acceptable and does not present the appearance of any sort of political, religious, or ideological bent. It is possible, however, to make an error that seems to betray bias.

Example:
Talk show host KTRS St Louis Dave Lenihan was discussing the possibility of US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice taking over the Paul Tabliabue’s job as commissioner of the National Football League:
She's been chancellor of Stanford. She's got the patent resume of somebody that has serious skill. She loves football. She's African-American, which would kind of be a big coon. A big coon. Oh my God. I am totally, totally, totally, totally, totally sorry for that.

I didn't mean that. It was just a slip of the tongue. She's definitely got all the attributes to be commissioner. I'm really sorry about that.
Rice Gone With The WindNow, this could be taken as the kind of hateful bias against Condoleeza Rice that Ted Rall’s described in a political cartoon as a “house nigger,” in the Washington Post, or the LA Times column which said
Loyalty has been the price of admission to this administration, and black conservatives have proved to be more loyal than most.

That has unfortunately, but not always unfairly, invited comparisons to slave times, when the most loyal blacks were those who worked in closest proximity to their white masters — house Negroes, as they were derisively known.
With this kind of commentary (and it’s only a small portion of the rhetoric regarding Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice alone for the crime of Republican While Being Black (RWBB) it is easy to view this radio host’s response as a sort of freudian slip, an attack on the Bush presidency by someone unable to contain his bias. But it was a genuine mistake, the man was praising Dr Rice and her accomplishments, and instead of saying “coup” said “coon” by accident. This unfortunate mistake ended with the radio station admitting it was a mistake, with Condoleeza Rice accepting the apology from Mr Lenihan, but his being fired anyway. In short, it was a stupid, sad mistake, not bias.

X CheneyHowever, there’s another kind event that can be more difficult to discern if it is a mistake or not. On November 21st, 2005, CNN ran footage of a speech by Vice President Cheney at the American Enterprise Institute. Several times in the speech a large black X appeared over the Vice President’s face for less than a second. CNN called it a technical error, others pointed to several incidents in the past where CNN has had what they called technical errors, always at the expense of a Republican.

Subliminal advertising was outlawed in the United States and many other countries because of its presumed potent effect on many people. The average person can see things no faster than 1/10th of a second, and if an image is flashed at or slightly slower than this speed, the brain may be able to pick up what was shown or said – if it is simple enough – but may not consciously notice the image. That’s the theory behind subliminal messaging. This kind of advertising is said to prompt urges in people without their thinking about it consciously. During World War 1, the United States government allegedly used subliminal messages in songs and posters to attempt to increase numbers in the draft. In the 2000 campaign, the Bush for President team ran an ad that had the word “Bureaucrats” flashed on the screen, and allegedly the word RATS was the only part that showed up in one frame. While likely accurate that at least some bureaucrats are quite ratty, the Gore campaign complained about this ad.

Was this an attempt to use a subliminal message that is negative to the Vice President? Was this an attempt to imprint in peoples’ minds a negative idea of the man, or to portray what he said as false? Or was it a genuine error that somehow managed to show up repeatedly and only at this one time? How likely is it that a giant black X was cued up and ready to use on CNN and was triggered very briefly over and over? There’s no way of knowing whether this was intentional or not, and it may have been an genuine error.

It is an easy out for any public figure to simply say “well, that was just a mistake, oops!” Certainly everyone makes mistakes, and the more public a person is, the more public their errors are. Some degree of latitude has to be offered to anyone who works with words and is in the public eye constantly. But when these errors form a pattern, when they can be categorized along a certain ideological lines, then the mistake excuse is a bit less easy to swallow.

*UPDATE: Take a look at these two pictures and see if you notice a difference:
CBS Before
CBS After
William Jefferson is, of course, a Democrat. The first picture ran earlier today, and as of 5:30 PM PST had been changed to the second picture. Honest mistake? Possibly, but at the same time, it might betray a certain viewpoint of the writer. Instead of checking the party, did they just presume he must be Democrat? A wag on the Ace of Spades Headquarters imagined this exchange:

[Inside CBS headquarters]

Editor: Another corrupt Congressman! These white male Republicans will stop at nothing!

Asst Producer: Uh, sir, in this photo, he looks black.

Editor: But, but... there are no black Republicans!

Asst Producer: Maybe we should embargo this until we can check it out.

Editor: No, no. Just run it and we will confirm he is white later.
-by Terry Notus

If this was a simple mistake, it's a sad one because rather than being upfront about their error and correcting it the way blogs do, CBS simply slipped in a fixed version without notice, updating, or even any sort of indication of a change.

For example, I moved the cartoon of Condoleeza Rice to where I meant it to be originally and removed the quote marks from around the introductory line, since I'm the originator of the sentance and don't need to quote myself. That's how blogs work: up front, obvious, open corrections without hiding errors. Without this clarity and honesty, bias will appear more likely in a source, especially in a source that seems to consistently make mistakes that target one particular political party or ideology.

Next Week: Sloth

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Friday, May 26, 2006

DON'T SUE THE LAWYER

There was a class-action lawsuit brought against Apple Computers for their I-Pod Nano music player, claiming the screen of the Nano scratched easily, becoming unreadable. The lawfirm Hagens Berman are seeking remedies including a refund of moneys paid and a share of the company’s profits on the music player’s sales. One cannot deny this would be a sweet deal for the lawyers, but I hope the suit is thrown out and the legal firm publicly mocked for even attempting it.

However, the legal blog Overlawyered points out a side story related to the Nano suit:

An education in how class actions start: Jason Tomczak says that he posted on his blog about the iPod Nano, and was contacted by plaintiffs' lawyers seeking to bring a lawsuit against Apple. Tomczak says that he told the lawyers he wasn't interested in suing, but, nevertheless, the law firms of Hagens Berman and David P. Meyer and Associates filed suit naming Tomczak as the lead plaintiff. Two days later, they realized their mistake, and sent Tomczak a proposed attorney-client retainer, which Tomczak refused to sign.

Annoyed at the bad publicity and being named in a lawsuit he did not choose to be...

Tomczak hired lawyers and filed a lawsuit against the law firms; his lawyers don't seem to have explained to him the repercussions of challenging the plaintiffs' bar, however, and, after what he calls a harassing deposition, the law firms have filed counterclaims against Tomczak, seeking their fees for defending themselves. Jason Tomczak now asks to clear his name: are there reporters out there who want to cover this David v. Goliath story? (See also Milt Policzer, "Who Needs Plaintiffs", Courthouse News undated).

Commenters had their day:

It sounds like Hagens Berman showed at a minimum gross negligence in filing official court documents. KNowingly doing so is definately a violation of the legal rules of ethics. The court should sanction them, and maybe a judge with a taste for justice will recommend that lawyer(s) be disbarred over this filing and the firm's subsequent actions.
-by JKoerner

It is almost impossible to read this story and believe that it is on the level.

Let it be that Hagens Berman follows in the steps of Milberg Weiss down the path of professional disgrace and ignominy.
-by wavemaker


Any legal filing should require the signature of the person it's supposedly filed in the name of to be valid.

Unforunately, that is not the case, and this case is not the first (or likely the last) of its kind.

I had a friend who had a lawyer file in his name without permission. He personally went down to the courthouse and dropped the suit, since the lawyer wouldn't. A year later, the defendent sued HIM for defamation; he lost, even though he hadn't filed the suit, so he sued the lawyer who filed it, only to have that thrown out as after the statute of limitations. It was a complete screw-over, to the tune of over $50K.
-by Deoxy


Deoxy: in what state did THAT happen? Statements made in legal filings can almost never be used as the basis for defamation. I think you may not have the whole story there.
-by Mike


Musta made some comments to the court clerks while he was filing his voluntary dismissal.
-by wavemaker


Why sue the law firm? Better to have his own lawyers file a motion to have him dropped from the suit, and file an ethical complaint with the state bar.
-by AMH

I had a short discussion with a lawyer friend about the Milberg-Weiss case and he mentioned the disproportionate power law firms have over public policy by lawsuits and publicized cases. Former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards made millions in lawsuits, including a highly publicized case in which he "channeled" a baby in the womb of a mother, claiming to speak for it, wishing that more tests were done because it was born with Cerebral Palsy. The lawsuit was won and despite the medical fact that the test would have done nothing for the child in question, it's a regular part of many hospitals' childbirth procedure, to avoid such a lawsuit again. This obviously increases the cost of the entire experience for parents, which through insurance affects all of us. I think it's high time for tort reform.

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Comment Type #22

THE BOAST

There is such a thing as proper pride, in feeling good about one's accomplishments in the innocent way a child is delighted when you like something they have done. But the more common kind of pride is self-gratifying and unattractive. Pride can take on a character of egotism and arrogance, which is certainly unwelcome in a person.

This kind of attitude can find its way onto a comment or message board entry, often by the same person again and again. It can be bragging about accomplishments or personal attributes, it can be a claim to some deed or action that few can match, it can even be the pretence of being something that a person is not. Gaming boards such as for World of Warcraft (WoW) or Everquest are full of this kind of comment.

The WoW database site Thottbot has shared information about various quests, locations, creatures, and such from the MMORP. Some of the more difficult quests or dungeons have tips on how to accomplish the task, with notes about how challenging it is. Inevitably someone will chime in with how very easy it was and how he did it alone (soloed it) with x or y character.

Such a post does not add a thing to the site, and is usually met with disdain or dismissal. It may have been intended as a joke, or it may have been an honest post of some astonishing deed, but nobody gains from such a comment except the person's ego who posted it.

Other boasts usually involve personal abilities such as athletic or monetary. Jobs making giant amounts of money are claimed, the kinship or friendship of famous people, personally being famous is occasionally attempted. Often claims about personal attributes are claimed, saying someone is so vastly attractive that they have to chase off women with a broomstick, and so on.

A third kind of boast is the kind used to give an argument credibility or weight by the respectability and experience or expertise of the person arguing. This will take the form of someone claiming to have served in the military and thus their viewpoint on the army is more valid than someone who has not. Or that they are have a doctorate in economics, so one must heed their wisdom. This may or may not be true - one need not have served in the military to understand something about it, and one may have a degree in an area and still be quite wrong.

not meIn general, the more someone boasts about themselves in an anonymous setting, the less one has cause to believe them. It is easy to claim anything whatsoever about one's self where there is little to no way to verify their position. I could claim to be Brad Pitt, and while nobody would believe me (for good reason) as far as a casual reader could tell it might be true. On the other hand, why would anyone believe me to be someone as successful and busy as Mr Pitt when clearly I have a lot of time on my hands and live in Oregon?

In logic, there is a kind of fallacy - an error - called ad hominem that is often used when sheer logical and rational power does not carry one's point. A form of ad hominem is called "appeal to authority" in which one either rejects a argument simply because an authority says otherwise or insists on their point by claiming authority. This is a fallacy because rather than arguing the case with logic and pointing out it's validity by reason, one is simply insisting that the point is true based on the experience and training of someone. As pointed out above, merely having expertise and a degree does not make one infallible or accurate.

Ultimately the internet is the test of Dr King's dream where a man is judged by the content of his character. Boasts and bragging claims have little weight but the way you act, react, write, and read all have much more significant impact. Don't be a braggart, and don't feel compelled to boast. If you are someone of character and wisdom, of intelligence, experience, and thoughtful ideas, then people will notice without your needing to point it out.

You'll find this is true in real life as well.

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Quote of the day

"Personally, I liked the university. They gave us money and facilities, we didn't have to produce anything! You've never been out of college! You don't know what it's like out there! I've worked in the private sector. They expect results."
-Dr. Raymond Stanz (from Ghostbusters)

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Thursday, May 25, 2006

ADVENTURES IN MEDICINE

"He'll be discussing a subject that seems to carry a body count with it no matter where it goes: 'privacy.'"

Some stories make me wonder how on earth this came about in the first place. For example, recently doctors have discovered that giving some comatose or vegetative patients doses of the sleeping medicine Zolpidem will awaken temporarily:
An improvement was seen within 20 minutes of taking the drug and wore off after four hours, when the patients restored to their permanent vegetative state.

Patient L had been in a vegetative state for three years, showing no response to touch and no reaction to his family.

After he was given Zolpidem, he was able to talk to them, answering simple questions.

Patient G was also able to answer simple questions and catch a basketball.

Now, how on earth did a doctor decide to attempt this? Why would someone ethically give a comatose patient sleeping pills, what prompted the idea? Ace of Spades Headquarters carried the story, ending with this wry point:

In related news, Michael Schiavo just said "Whew! That was a close one!"

Commenters awoke:
Schiavo's speaking at Yearly Kos, you know. Go over to the event site and look in the tentative schedule section.

He'll be discussing a subject that seems to carry a body count with it no matter where it goes: "privacy."
-by Allah


Ritalin, a stimulant, calms down hyperactive children.

Now we find that Zolpidem, a sleeping pill, can revive some people in a vegetative state.

Well, based on scientific extrapolation from the above data points, I've decided that the best way to sober up is to do a few shots. I plan to field test this ground-breaking theory before work tomorrow morning. If all goes according to spec, your old pal Sandy is gonna make millions.
-by Sandy Burger

Wasn't this a Robin Williams movie? With Robert DiNiero?
Awakenings. This was a true story, too. Possibly the best movie Robin Williams has done (low bar I know). DeNiro was an encephalitis victim which caused Parkinsons like symptoms, mainly uncontrollable shaking, which ultimatley manifested into a paralyzed state. Williams gave him L-dopa, which was being used for Parkinsons and it brought him around.

Unfortunately, much like Parkinsons, stronger and stronger doses of the medicine were required to keep the symptoms away until ultimately no does would suffice. Brain diseases are still very mysterious and very, very sad.
-by JackStraw

Gotta wonder about the person who came up with this approach. How did that thinking process go?"
"How can I get this SOB to stop breathing so I can collect the life insurance, yet not have bleeding wounds that make it look like murder?"

-by Purple Avenger

Having practiced nursing for over ten years, (nope, never did get it right) and having followed medical research closely for a lot longer, I'm convinced that humans are much more complex than anyone realizes. Just think about the medical research, and the conclusions that have become, "facts," and have later been debunked.

I was told, not long ago, that anyone in a coma for an extended period of time was beyond recovery, and should be, for lack of a better term, "Schiavoed." Now, more and more cases of people in, "irreversible," comas, and even those who have been diagnosed as, "brain dead," who have awakened, are coming to light.

My question: Are these people being misdiagnosed, or are things not what they have seemed for the last several years?
-by JannyMae


People can function with gigantic brain damage. People in a full-on coma can wake up after years. Doctors are in no better position to know what constitutes consciousness and what goes on inside damaged skulls than anyone else. They just see more examples. The good ones acknowledge that.
-by S. Weasel


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EATING IN THE DARK

"I laughed out loud at the first “dark” picture. Writing lol wouldn’t have done it justice."

Dinner is served
I'm always in favor of clever new ideas for a business and am sympathetic toward any new endeavor or product, as I know it represents the best hopes and dreams of someone who came up with it. Sometimes the ideas are poor, but sometimes wierd or poor ideas take on a life of their own and become quite successful.

In London there are a lot of restaurants, and one that has opened is called Dans le Noir, a Parisian food restaurant that serves its food with no lights. As in total, cave-like darkness. The Blogjam Fraser Lewry has a report of his experiences trying out this unique place:

The first thing you notice when entering Dans Le Noir are the reviews. In the manner of all good high street curry houses, the walls are lined with the framed excerpts of favourable reports, in this case a series of searingly pretentious quotes proclaiming the restaurant’s lack of pretension. It’s not a good start, and neither is the wine list, which features both roman alphabet and braille listings. This is a nice touch, except that the Braille is printed on the page, not embossed. In other words, a blind person couldn’t read it.

He ordered some wine in a well-lit bar, then headed into the inky dining area.

We meet our ‘guide’ (they’re not called waitresses, of course) and are led, though a series of thick black curtains, into the dining room where, like it says on the tin (printed in braille, no doubt), it’s absolutely pitch black. You have no idea where your fellow diners are sitting, how many are at the table, how big the room is, or indeed if the guy in the next seat has stripped naked and is rubbing asparagus spears into his groin. It’s genuinely disconcerting. Pouring wine becomes a Krypton Factor-style test of nerve and dexterity, and despite inserting three fingers into the glass to gauge the level, I still manage to soak the tablecloth. Luckily enough no-one can see this, of course, although our guide notices straight away. Pretty soon our first course arrives.

He was, overall, unimpressed with the quality of the food:

Dans Le Noir is a truly interesting experience in sensory deprivation, but the grub is underwhelming and bland. The restaurant would probably argue that because you’re denied sight, your other senses compensate and you appreciate the food in new and pleasurable ways, but this simply isn’t true: your senses are jumping all over the place, trying to adjust to an environment they’ve not experienced before, and it becomes altogether impossible to concentrate on the flavour.

Commenters gave their reviews:
I laughed out loud at the first “dark” picture. Writing lol wouldn’t have done it justice.
Was it as pricey as it was pretentious?
-by phenoptix
[he responded: "it was £34" (that's about 50 bucks US) "for the three courses. Wine was extra."]

I laughed out loud too. What a shame about the food.

Its one of those places you kind of guess would end up being all about the gimmick, but hope it isn’t.
And having the menu in printed braille is appalling. It turns the whole thing into an embarrassing theme restaurant.
I once did a project with the RNIB. They were talking about restaurant experiences which included: in braille ’see board for specials’ and also the name of the restaurant *over the top ofthe door* in giant braille. How is anyone supposed to reach that?

Shame… makes you wonder what the pointof this restaurant is…
-by pep


Not cheap then, but not madly pricey for London. What sort of chef wants his creations served where they can’t be seen, good food isn’t just about flavour, it’s about presentation and impact on the eye, er, unless you’re blind of course.
-by Yorkshire Soul


One thing you didn’t mention was that the portions seemed incredibly small - one reason I ended up scrabbling around my plate with my fingers was that I was hunting for the rest of the food.

I’m convinced my “3 tastes of foie gras” as actually only 2 tastes. Unless my third fell off somewhere, I think I was sold short.
-by Mike


Of course, the management are filming everything on night vision cameras and are totally raking it in after cutting a deal with the makers of “You’ve Been Framed”.
-scaryduck


“Apart from hearing. I’m not sure if that matters so much.”
Usually no, but there are some examples. Like the sizzling hot plate you can hear before it even gets to your table – or someone else’s table for that matter. That’s a guaranteed way to get me salivating. That and when the bloke with the beard over there rings that bell. I wish he’d stop doing that.
-by gusset


I agree completely. The food has almost nothing to do with the experience - having over-excited conversations with the other guests who’s voices emerge from the ether as if you’re talking to them on the phone is truly hilarious.
The food is almost a distraction, and I, having ordered the surprise menu, couldn’t tell what the Hell I was eating. I still have no idea, and don’t really care.
I’m going back in July though…booked it today. It really is an experience and a good old laugh.
But spare a thought for the cleaners….imagine the mess at the end of the evening!
-by nick27

Apparently the staff is mostly or entirely blind, which makes the printed braille even more odd. Unless you're Daredevil.


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INVEST IN AFGHANISTAN

"Yes, I can remember Karzai saying that he wants to be an exporter of foreign aid as soon as possible."

Because the death tolls are lesser than in Iraq and the political left tend to support or at least accept the invasion of Afghanistan, news about the country's rebuilding is generally left unreported unless a story pops up about poppy sales or the alleged regrowing Taliban menace. But there are always blogs to the rescue, and from the area we can see an inside view from the Afghan Warrior blog. Waheed reports about how business and rebuilding are going:

An international business conference was held in the capital Kabul last week to find out new ways to invest in Afghanistan. More than 25 foreign companies from different countries participated in an exhibition in order to introduce their goods to the market. After the decades of war and conflict, Afghanistan is finally open for business. Many foreign inverstors have invested in different business fields which gives a good benefit to the government and also opens up job opportunities for the Afghan people.

So far so good, but he also laments incompetence and corruption in the government, at least at some levels (a song every nation knows well):

The income taxes which have been brought to the government treasury have not been used properly and according to some reports around 400 milion dollars from the general revenue of the country has been wasted due to administration corruption and lack of working capacity. There are some Afghans that are living under tents but our ministries are spending thousands of dollars on buying fancy cars and furnitures. Even though our budget increased 30% this year, living conditions are not developed in the country.

It takes time for changes to take effect, and a change in a budget one year usually lags a good two to three years before real impact is felt by the public. Commenters had a few thoughts on the matter:
Yes, I can remember Karzai saying that he wants to be an exporter of foreign aid as soon as possible. It is wonderful to see the Afghans trying so hard. I think the future is bright for the whole world. But we should remember to thank the Americans for doing the lion's share of the work. And getting nothing but bile for all their efforts. It is sad to see.
-by Paul Edwards, Mu'tazilite


Thanks for the well-written explanation of what is going on these days.

Controlling corruption will be the key. Bluntly, corruption cannot be eliminated (got some prime cases going in the U.S. right now, in BOTH political parties), but it's impact on what needs to be done has to be limited. Certainly limited to the point where civil servants get paid enough to live on.
-by Mike O


Your mention of ministry corruption is not unlike here in China. Government officials here are constantly showboating around in their newest benz as well as buying up top-notch clothing, furnishings & housing.

Shanghai's a good example of that. Outside of Shanghai, workers are squeezing about 5000 RMB per year, while local government officials inside the "Inner Circle Road" (what locals call the Foreigner & Government Haven) turn a blind eye & celebrate the grand opening of the newest luxury hotel & Ferrari dealership.

Government officials cheer their booming capitalist economy & the upcoming Olympics while turning a blind eye to poorer sections of the country. Unless the poorer people are in the way of the next Olympic stadium to be erected. Then they shoot them.
-by Eric

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MEMORIES OF KATRINA

"Cannibalism? Good Lord, it's only day two. Are you THAT hungry?"

One of the most amazing displays of the remnants of the legacy media's power and influence was when Hurricane Katrina struck the southeastern coast of the United States. Although newspaper circulation is down, TV news viewing is down, and people's trust in the news media is even lower than it was in the past, they still have some influence. Ask yourself, what are the three most significant or memorable stories or images of Hurricane Katrina, and how do you think of President Bush when you consider the disaster? To this day, radical tales still are told of mass graves, deliberately breached levees and a conspiracy to sacrifice a city to cover up some story about President Bush.

What you think about and what you remember is largely shaped by the news coverage at the time, images and stories told over and over again to fill a 24-hour news cycle. And these stories were told with a certain bent and lurid excitement that lingers still. Real Clear Politics has an article about the coverage of Katrina, including these lines:

Remember the dozens, maybe hundreds, of rapes, murders, stabbings and deaths resulting from official neglect at the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina? The ones that never happened, as even the national media later admitted?

Sure, we all remember the original reporting, if not the back-pedaling.

It goes on to talk about events that didn't actually happen, coverage that focused on some things to the exclusion of others, and the furious effort by Louisiana and New Orleans officials to put the blame on someone, anyone other than themselves.

Jonah Goldberg at National Review Online says he has difficulty thinking of more fraudulently inaccurate coverage in his lifetime of any event. I agree with his analysis, the coverage was incredibly poor and inaccurate, to the point of deliberately misleading viewers. As millions were glued to CNN, events were reported that simply were not happening, the government was accused of things that were untrue, claims were made of inaction that was actually taking place, and reporters struggled to portray the Bush administration in the worst possible light while ignoring or downplaying culpability and incompetence of the local officials.

Canadian Blog Small Dead Animals advises people remember this event, the coverage that was given it, and keep that in mind the next media frenzy that comes along, and the next, and the next...

Commenters gave their coverage to the news:

"if the news doesn't suit your agenda, just lie about it" seems to be the modus operendi of the pseudo journalists that ply the trade these days.

Always remember the dimwit in the canoe, paddling bravely through the flood waters that devasted so many lives, while having to avoid the technicians who accidentally walked through her shot in six inches of water and "spoiled" her dramtic breaking news . . .
-by Fred

[Fred refers to NBC' Today Show reporter Michelle Kosinki's stunt in which she was shown in a Canoe for her field report when several rescue workers casually walked by in camera, demonstrating the water was inches deep. Video can be seen here, in Real or Windows Media format]

I was hoping the press would do a follow-up on the claims that the po' folk had to resort to cannibalism because President Bush did not personally deliver the rations to the Superdome.

I remember thinking WTF? Cannibalism? Good Lord, it's only day two. Are you THAT hungry? Holy $hit, day two and they were already writing the script for "Alive 2: Hey Kids, Grandma Tastes Like Chicken", a made-for-tv movie starring Sean Penn and Susan Sarrandon. Music by the Dixie Chicks. Special guest appearance by Harry Belafonte as Mayor Nagin.

Remember Anderson Cooper's crocodile tears? Or were they alligator tears? Remember Oprah going to Nawlins? Screw FEMA, Oprah will get things done, right?

Meanwhile, as Sean Penn bails out his boat with a Dixie cup, hundreds of school buses sat in the compound, partially submerged.....THESE are the two pictures I'll remember about Katina the most.
-by Eskimo


Here's an article on "pack journalism":

[Live Journal Article]

"Instead of checking facts, the media prefer to follow what others are saying. And what others are saying is often inspired by establishment hardliners seeking to impose their agendas with the help of bogus news agencies, subsidized research outfits and hired scribblers."
-by bobby fletcher


I'd love to see a show featuring some of the most memorable bs moments from the big time reporters on New Orleans.

IMO, Shepard and Geraldo on FOX were terrible too.

It looked like there were just too many broadcast minutes that had to be filled.

The reports featured all kinds of what was to become laughable hearsay and innuendo and rumours.
-by concrete


Currently reading Douglas Brinkley's "The Great Deluge", and in it NOLA native and resident Brinkley tears Nagin and FEMA's Mike Brown new ones right through the entire book. Gov. Blanco is dealt with in slightly more sympathetic tones. The real first-responders were the big, heartless bastards like Walmart.
As far as media-weasels, NBC's Brian Williams is given thumbs up as are the freelancers hired by ABC. A local talkshow host who stayed on-air right through the storm is also considered highly by the residents for keeping his cool while the windows were blowing out of his studio.
-by bruce strang


Maybe the truth about the levys will surface.
The feds had been giving money to New Orleans for years to shore up the levys but the tree huggers like the sierra club said to fix the levys would harm the fish and wildlife in the sippi river so nothing was done.
A disaster witing to happen. To bad the Mayor didn't load up all those school buses and evacuate all those po folks. The buses were lost as well as lives.
-by scott


Psuedo-blogged in real time here, by Yer Obediant Servant:

-HURRICANE KATRINA- archive of links--

Note particularly the "live thread" links ( 23 of them ) which covered Katrina as it happened.
-by backhoe


As a Houstonian, I can vouch for a lot of what is written in the article Peter Rempel linked to, and say that next time NOLA gets hit Houston won't be opening up it's arms so fast.

The dredges of Chocolate City ended up staying here while the actual hardworking minority of New Orleans residents have already gone back to rebuild or moved on. That "give a man a fish/teach him how to fish" thing is lost on the majority of evacuees. They are still trying to get more money from anyone but an employer. Kind of like Dipper entitlements. Sad but true and heaven help you if you mention this as the race card comes out faster than you can say Jesse Jackson/Al Sharpton.

As in Iraq, the MSM always tried to put a humanity vs bad Bush spin on this disaster but one thing always puzzled me. Every time a reporter from any MSM outlet got on line they started by saying "Every day when we drive here to the Superdome we see..." and proceed to interview dirty, hungry, thirsty evacuees. My question is: " Why didn't you pack that SUV full of water and food so you could help the people you are interviewing?" If Geraldo can fly down from New York City and get to the Convention Center to cry on camera then why did he come empty handed? Oh, the humanity!
-by texas canuck

For an excellent, well-written and calm analysis of Hurricane Katrina and what should be done to prevent another disaster, read Popular Mechanics' online article.

*UPDATE: A recent drill was run in Baton Rouge, Louisiana to respond to a mock flooding, and as the AP story reports, it was less than encouraging:
A misunderstanding about who had jurisdiction over a Federal Emergency Management Agency trailer park for evacuees canceled the first day of mock evacuations on Tuesday but was later resolved.

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