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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Monday, June 30, 2008

GIRLS LIKE MEAT

“I'm not a vegetarian, but I eat animals who are”
-Groucho Marx

OK so PETA declared that buck-toothed idiot singer Jessica Simpson has no right to eat meat. Presumably eating plants are fine, but killing and eating animals is bad, just bad (killing unborn humans: perfectly fine). I've mentioned before the biological stupidity of this kind of thinking: humans are meat and plant eaters, and we need this stuff to survive.

And the UN is getting involved too:
A recent pronouncement from the head of the UN climate change agency that the best thing people can do to halt global warming is to turn vegetarian has taken the debate a step further.
Now, here's the problem with this approach. If you think human beings are emitting so much CO2 that we're creating impending doom from global warming... killing more plants is hardly the answer. Plants absorb CO2 and produce oxygen, they are cleaners, they are the lungs of the planet, as it were. They sweep CO2 which is supposedly going to kill us all. Eating more plants means that you are reducing the planet's ability to clean up the killer CO2.

In other words, activism and good intentions are trumping science, yet again, at the UN and on the left. What makes me so confused is that the left screams that its the right that is anti-science.

*Hat Tip to Alabama in Between for this story

THUG CLUB

This just in: dictator for life likes another dictator for life.
A defiant Robert Mugabe sailed unchallenged through the first test of his presidency by his peers.

Freshly sworn-in following a single-candidate election, he received a leader’s welcome when he strode into the African Union summit in Sharm el-Sheikh today and emerged unfazed, his authority intact.

He dined at a lavish luncheon given by his Egyptian hosts, hugged heads of state and other diplomats in the corridors and stayed at one of the most luxurious resorts in this Red Sea town.
The really strange thing is that the story has been edited. The original story mentioned that the president of Gabon greeted Mugabe as a hero:
He entered the conference hall accompanied by the leaders of Egypt, Tanzania - the AU chairman - and Uganda, and his enemies’ hopes that he would be disowned by his peers were quickly dashed.

“He was elected, he took an oath, and he is here with us, so he is President and we cannot ask him more,” said Omar Bongo, President of Gabon since 1967. “He conducted elections and I think he won.” ...

“We have even received Mugabe as a hero,” he told reporters. “We understand the attacks (by the international community) but this is not the way they should react. What they’ve done is, in our opinion, a little clumsy, and we think they could have consulted us (the AU) first.”
The comments that go along with the story quote this section, pointing out that, gee, a guy who has been "elected president" since 1967 has no problem with another guy fixing an election to be "reelected." Now the story has no mention of the hero's welcome, has no critical statements of the Mugabe election, and has no mention of Omar's 40 year presidency. Was the story sanitized because of editorial demands? Was it just a rough draft? Online stuff like this never goes away, you'd think newspapers would eventually learn.

The African Union's problem is that even more than the United Nations, they are more controlled by thugs, dictators, and presidents-for-life. There's almost no democracy in Africa, so the AU is not democratic, despite false pretension of it and some surface appearance of democracy. A club of thugs acts thuggish and embraces thugs, what a shock.

RETURN TO THE STONE AGE

"Love your mother!"

No cave fires
Coal, which the US has in rather large quantities, has been deemed too dirty to use for energy except in limited quantities. True, technology has come a very long ways since the smoke belching clouds of black soot left London looking charred, the pollution is very reduced, the mining conditions better, and the efficiency increased, but it is still a pretty dirty way to heat things. Coal must be stopped, it is too dirty to even consider.

Hydroelectric is incredibly clean, it relies on natural supplies of water, which the planet has and incredibly plentiful supply of (it falls out of the sky regularly, after all), and it produces energy more or less constantly. Yet, it also causes a permanent flood of gigantic portions behind the dams, and every once in a while dams break, flooding even larger areas and killing people. Dams block off natural habitats so fish cannot swim back. Dams are bad, they must be stopped as well.

Gasoline is incredibly plentiful as well, literal seas of the stuff are under ground, and while the prevailing theory of it coming from prehistoric plant and life matter is widely held, there is some evidence and study that suggests it is possible that petroleum is actually the product of microbes living in the earth's crust. Should this theory end up being valid, the supply is not as limited nor slow to return as is generally thought. Yet gasoline is dirty as well, it produces hydrocarbons, it is adding to CO2 in the atmosphere. If you believe Vice President Gore, we're dooming the entire planet by driving gas powered cars, it is a greater threat to humanity than any other source. Gasoline must go.

Nuclear Power is incredibly energetic, producing only steam as an exhaust, developing tremendous electrical power for very little fuel. Yet the power is scary, melt downs occur (twice, in human history), the fuel is dangerous when spent and has to be stored carefully, Three Mile Island! Chernobyl! I saw China Syndrome six times. No, we can't have nuclear power either.

Wind Power relies on simply tapping into the winds that constantly circle the earth. Wind is vast and unused, all you have to do is put up some turbines and let the air take care of the rest. It's a bit unreliable in some areas, but you can at least supplement power with the wind, farms have done it for ages. But the turbines can kill birds, and they are so ugly and big, they block scenic views, no we can't have that either.

How about solar! That's the wave of the future, panels that passively collect the sun and turn it into power, why the sun is always out there, even when its cloudy, all day long. Solar power is clean, cheap, and readily available! But wait, these huge panels, they might harm the local animals, there are environmental fears to be considered. We can't use solar either.

Geothermal? Those are parklands, you aren't putting your filthy corporate hands on them. Pristine, that's what the areas are, besides tapping the steam might break and kill a rat.

Tidal Energy? Dude, you're messing with my surfing, and what about the whales? Those huge plants in the ocean are dangerous, what if a storm damages one?

Wood Stoves? You can burn yourself on one, and besides, I can hear the trees scream while you cut them down, fascist. The owls need a home too!

Start a fire with a bow and a stick? Violent, causes damage to mother nature, have you seen a forest fire? What if a child gets too close to that open flame?

So what are we left with after all this, what would the environmentalist radical have us do? Live in a cave, a while, eating berries and nuts that grow wild. Except for them, of course, they're the enlightened ones. You can't have a university that way, and how would the United Nations meet? Who would run NPR? Manhattan would have to stay open and have power. Maybe they could put people in flyover country on giant hamster wheels to generate energy.

*UPDATE: Think I'm kidding or exaggerating? Check out this story on wind power and its dangers to children.

SEVEN WORDS

"Racist!"

As a tribute to George Carlin, Bridget Johnson at Pajamas Media has come up with another seven word bit, the Seven Words You Cannot Say in the 2008 Presidential Campaign. Naturally, all these words are in regard to Democrats, because controlling language controls politics. For a long-form examination of this concept, consult George Orwell's book 1984.

Her words are more concepts like Swift Boat or "reverend" than anything else, but there are words you can't say any more, words that are banned from the press, not permitted in polite conversation without howls of dismay.
"Hussein," Senator Obama's middle name which is instantly met with screams of racism and the terror that someone, somewhere might find out that someone with the first name "Barack" has a foreign-sounding middle name. Hussein is doubly bad because it might remind people of the next forbidden word on the list...

Terrorist. Can't say this, can't think it, can't even imply it. Newspapers around the world have made it official policy to avoid even using the word terrorism or terrorist. It is a topic of mockery, only those stupid neocons care about terrorism, we're above this, we're enlightened. Terrorism is so 2001, we're about change

Liberal. While I happen to agree that Senator Obama is not a liberal, he has instructed everyone to not refer to him as such and it's worked. Nobody in the press talks about what a severe leftist he is, the Republican party doesn't even mention how left-leaning Obama is. The Senator isn't a liberal, he's a leftist, a socialist.
Rezko. Tony Rezko, a story the press couldn't ignore, but managed to report in such a way as to make it seem like he was just some dude who happened to live in Chicago at the same time as Senator Obama, not the guy who gave Senator Obama sweetheart real estate deals, ran fundraising campaigns, and donated more than two hundred thousand dollars to Senator Obama's elections.

Ayers, as in Weatherman bomber Bill Ayers, unrepentant domestic terrorist. Sure, they were pals, sure, they worked together, sure Ayers was on Senator Obama's website and was a fundraiser and organizer for Obama's election. He just doesn't matter, doesn't count, must not be mentioned. He's a non person, doesn't exist any more.

Experience. Experience doesn't matter, experience is meaningless, change is what matters. Can he do the job, is he ready for it, does he demonstrate the competence to step into any executive position, let alone the toughest job in the world? Who cares, don't mention that, don't bring it up. Must not be spoken of.

Finance. As in campaign finance, the process by which Senator Obama raised money in the Chicago Political Machine which he claims he had nothing to do with but was in fact deeply involved with (you can't avoid it in politics in Illinois even if you wanted to). Don't talk about his initial stand of how important it was to avoid the corruption of money, then how he decided all the sudden those billions were just fine.

Church. Senator Obama left the TUCC, now it's not a story. Doesn't matter that he spent more than two decades at the place, praised it constantly, defends it still, doesn't matter if his primary speeches and campaign literature were full of stories and praise of this church. He left it so now it is not an issue, period. You're a hater, a bigot to bring up the topic.
As in 1984, when you control the language, you control the political and social discussion. When people cannot even speak certain terms or bring up concepts, then you can force the conclusions reached to specific, desired ends. This is the entire reason behind Political Correctness and the Human Rights Commissions in Canada. The stated reason is politeness, to avoid hate, to protect rights. The real reason is to shape culture and politics to the left, to silence any dissent and to result in one's ideal society.

Polite society avoids certain terms, topics, and concepts to maintain order, that's proper. Telling people they ought not talk about certain topics or use certain words in a public or polite discussion is not just reasonable, it is historically useful. This is how a culture controls it's society, the way we define polite interaction and conversation. Don't talk about religion or politics at the dinner table, they say. The mechanism behind this is societal pressure, shame: people frown on you, change the subject, boot you under the table, don't invite you back, have a quiet talk about it later.

If some topic or words are so incredibly inflammatory that they almost certainly will lead not just to offense or shock but outright violence ("fighting words"), then the law steps in; you cannot deliberately say something destructively untrue about someone legally, that's called slander. You cannot print lies about someone that damages their reputation or finances, that's called libel. Note the qualifications: it has to be untrue, it has to be tangibly damaging. Not merely unwelcome or unpleasent, not simply frustrating or offensive. The truth is a defense for libel and slander, unless you're in a Canadian Human Rights Commission.

However, these have to be terms that are inflammatory, concepts that are damaging, conversations that are harmful or destructive. Merely offending someone is not sufficient cause to silence public political conversation or literary discussion. Merely bringing up uncomfortable facts about a politician is in no conceivable sense a proper restriction for a political campaign. It's one thing to say "hey, let's not talk about that" to a friend or in polite company. It is another entirely to say "you may not bring this up" when the discussion is in reasonable context, or have a policy in a news organization to totally ignore and avoid the topic. It is a step further to tyranny to have the government silence people for saying things they disagree with or find uncomfortable, which is what France did with Bridgette Bardot, and what the CHRC tried to do with Mark Steyn and Maclean's.

The proper reaction to someone attempting to silence you about these topics in a an appropriate political discussion is to keep talking about it and mention how rude the person is for trying to silence you. They're in the wrong here, not you.
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Quote of the Day

"Thomas Jefferson once said, 'We should never judge a president by his age, only by his works.' And ever since he told me that, I stopped worrying."
-Ronald Reagan
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Friday, June 27, 2008

SINS OF THE FATHER

"The clinic is already arranged"

pregnant teen
An eleven year old Romanian girl was raped by her uncle. No word on the uncle's fate, Romania still has the death penalty as far as I know. Romanian law permits abortions up to 14 weeks (aka, almost five months) of pregnancy, after that it is illegal. The girl did not know initially she was pregnant and by the time it became clear, she'd passed this deadline.

A controversy erupted. The family presumed that the baby could be killed at any time because of it's tragic, horrific origins and the girl's age:
"She was just a child herself and one who had been raped and betrayed by one of her own family," said a family friend. "How could anyone expect her to go through with the pregnancy and have the baby?"
How could anyone expect a child not to kill another child? Unthinkable! The child will be flown to England and have the baby put to death there, in a more enlightened society in which killing babies is fine up to nearly any age - at least until they escape their mother.

Now, I understand how this would be incredibly traumatic to the little girl, I understand that she will likely suffer some medical issues because of her age and size. I understand this child is the result of a monster's attack and violation of her body. I understand that rape is evil and the little girl is a victim of a horrible predator. I understand all that.

What I don't understand is why the baby has to die to pay for its father's sins.

ENGINEERING DEPRESSION

"Brother can you spare a Euro?"

Soup Line
In some ways it is hard to watch the world news because even when it is not primarily bad news it doesn't take much discernment to see trends and plot probable outcomes of decisions and ideas. For example, in a time when gas prices have more than tripled in ten years, you can see the ripples of damage that these prices are causing.

High gas prices means shipping costs more, it means packaging anything in plastic costs more, it means mailing costs more, it means transportation such as airlines costs more. It makes everything you buy cost more, everything you produce cost more. It increases utility prices, food prices, clothing prices, everything goes up. Oil is, like it or not, the lifeblood of civilization at the moment - until something better is discovered, and nothing is on the horizon to replace it yet. We have a few ideas to supplement oil, in a minor way, but nothing to replace oil.

Like the government that introduced snakes to catch mice, then cats to catch snakes, then dogs to catch cats, and so on, the reaction to this high cost has been only to make matters worse. Ethanol is the magic bullet, some said, and they managed to get governments to spend billions on ethanol production. Not only does this end up costing 50 cents a gallon in the US alone in government subsidies, but it means farms that once produced cotton for clothing and medical supplies, corn for food, and so on are now making corn for ethanol. Rice, cotton, and feed corn production plummeted. So prices on food have raised even more.

In the United States, the world's most powerful and driving economy, the money value is being undermined and the economy is staggering because of foolish, well-meaning loan and housing policies that extended credit to people who had no rational way of affording it. When the US economy sneezes, everyone gets a cold. So the world is holding its breath, partly hoping the US suffers out of envy and (for some) anger, and party afraid at what will happen when their wish comes true.

Instead of engaging in policies that help make matters easier, in efforts that strengthen the economy, too many major nations with powerful economies are buying into climate change hysteria just as it is becoming obvious to all but the most glassy-eyed zealot that what global warming was real is over and it wasn't human-caused after all. These governments are spending billions on research, programs, and efforts to reduce emissions that are utterly fruitless. In the process, nations such as England have decided they'll tax their citizens more - crippling the economy further and taking money out of the hands of people facing inflation on the most important aspects of a common person's life - to switch over to "green" energy production:
Householders will be warned today to expect five years of higher home energy bills to pay for a green power revolution.

John Hutton, the Business Secretary, will outline plans for a massive shift away from fossil fuels to wind, solar and tidal power, but will add that the change comes at a price. “We think there will be a cost,” he told The Times yesterday.

The plan, which he calls the biggest shake-up in Britain's power generation since the Industrial Revolution, requires £100 billion of new investment but would lead to five years of higher gas and electricity bills from about 2015, he said.
If there's one thing you can rely on from governments, it is if they give you an estimated cost, they're at least a third shy of the eventual real cost. Heaping this extra cost on top of a weak economy, refusing to do what it takes to lower the price of fuel and expand production, propping up false answers that harm the economy further, all of this adds up to a worldwide economic problem. Is the world's economy vigorous enough to absorb all this at once?

I don't think so. I fear that this could end up not just a worldwide recession complete with inflation and high unemployment (well, higher for most of Europe, they've had over a decade of double digit unemployment in some nations), but a real depression. That this could be the world's first deliberate self-inflicted depression, in which the nations of the world intentionally cripple their own economies to appease a goofball eco prophet.

I know it may warm the heart of the left and many others around the world - especially her enemies - to see the US suffer economically. I know it may make Muslim leaders cheer to think of the great Satan suffering depression. I know it feels like justice to people who envy the wealth, comfort, and security that capitalism, democracy, and liberty brought the US. There's just a problem that in kicking the US in the knee, you break your foot off. This will hurt everyone, and the US least of all because of her vast wealth and production abilities.

The ones who always claim they are for the little guy, who claim to care most about the poor, the needy, and the suffering are the very ones who most back all these policies and efforts that are most likely to cause suffering, starvation, misery, and poverty - if not disease and death - for those very people. In the end, it's not really about the little guy for these folks. It's about greater power to implement their ideas and crush their ideological foes. Whoever gets ground in the gears of this machine is just so much lubrication for the utopian future that never seems to arrive.

The left has been screaming recession and depression for eight years now; they may just get that very thing and from where I'm sitting it almost looks deliberate.
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US ELECTORAL CHANGES

I have a few ideas of what we should do as a nation, changes that should be made. These would mostly require constitutional amendment, some would just be shifts in policy. All of them would be at least no worse than the situation we find ourselves in right now.
  1. Any congressman, governor, or legislator who announces officially that they are running for another office immediately is removed from their present office. Sorry pal, you can't blow off your present job to find a better one and keep it, with pay.
  2. No politician may change political affiliation while in office. To do so means the removal from that office of the politician. If you want to swap parties, do it between jobs, people voted for you in that party, they were unable to vote for you in the primaries unless part of that party. They understood you were part of a coalition in government lending power to that party.
  3. The general elections should always include the option "none of the above" or "no confidence" so that voters may give voice to their disgust with the options given them for the most powerful offices in the nation. If "none of the above" wins, then a new election process must take place.
  4. The electoral college should send members from each state not based on the state's population, but rather the number of people who actually voted in the state. If your turnout is awful, you get fewer electors in the electoral college. Nobody would know what states would have what significance until after their primary, thus forcing candidates to heed all states and target more than they do now.
  5. All election coverage on the day of the general election has a total media blackout until the next day. No coverage, no predictions, no "calling the election" no exit polls.
Just a few ideas to fix some flaws and problems with how the electoral system works at the present time.

UN-SPEAKABLE

"female circumcision is a laudable practice that honors women.”
-Geneive Abdo, No God But Allah: Egypt and the Triumph of Islam

“Circumcision for girls is a must as it protects their chastity”
-Egyptian father of three girls

FGM tools
The United Nations Human Rights Commission whose membership includes famed human rights supporting countries China, Cuba, Iran, Egypt, Angola, Sri Lanka, and Saudi Arabia has decided that some human rights topics are off limits.
Muslim countries have won a battle to prevent Islam from being criticised during debates by the UN Human Rights Council. Religions deserve special protection because any debate about faith is bound to be “very complex, very sensitive and very intense”, council President Doru-Romulus Costea said Wednesday.

Only religious scholars should be allowed to discuss matters of faith, he told journalists in Geneva.

While Costea’s ban applies to all religions, it was prompted by Muslim countries complaining about references to Islam.
The Associated Press story explained a bit about how this came up and why:
On Monday Egypt, Pakistan and Iran angrily protested attempts by a humanist group to link Islam to human rights abuses such as female genital mutilation and so-called honour killing of women.
An attempt to link the two, the AP story claims. For what really happened and why, we turn to Robert Spencer at Front Page Magazine:
The ban came after a heated session on Monday, when the representative of the Association for World Education (AWE), in a joint statement with the International Humanist and Ethical Union, denounced female genital mutilation, the penalty of stoning for adultery and child marriage as sanctioned by Islamic law. Egypt, Pakistan and Iran angrily protested, interrupting the AWE speaker, David Littman, with no less than 16 points of order, and succeeding in getting the Council’s proceedings suspended for over half an hour. In the course of this contentious discussion, the representatives from the Islamic countries made numerous revealing statements – statements that are well worth examining as Islamic nations and organizations call with increasing insistence for restrictions on free speech in the West.
As it turns out, official Islamic proclamations such as from Sheikh Al-Azhar state that circumcision is required “for both men and women” (‘Umdat al-Salik, e4.3). The AWE representative was interrupted sixteen times by Islamic countries protesting any criticism against them and claiming that their religion and these practices were utterly unrelated. In June, Egypt outlawed female genital mutilation, but whether the practice will be abated or any prosecutions will be undertaken remains to be seen.

Iran's representative in particular was angry that AWE pointed out that women in his country were awaiting the death penalty by stoning for adultery, claiming this was a lie. Like Amedinejad who claimed homosexuals simply did not exist in Iran, they are presuming that bare assertion will silence the truth and people will just believe them.

Yet these truthful statements were called criticism of Islam and the nations moved to silence them repeatedly. In the end the president of the United Nations Human Rights Commission declared all religious discussions off limits: whatever a nation does in the name of their faith, no matter how much a violation of human rights it may be, is not to be discussed by the human rights commission. In context, this specifically meant Islam: you may not criticize Islam, ever. If someone thinks you are criticizing Islam, then you are silenced.

And so the United Nations marches on. At least they are being consistent with their biggest supporters: the modern left, which is silent on the same issues.

Quote of the Day

"When I am abroad, I always make it a rule never to criticize or attack the government of my own country. I make up for lost time when I come home."
-Sir Winston Churchill
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Thursday, June 26, 2008

ONE BRAIN

"Check out the big brain on Brad!"

Human Brain
The internet is a gigantic network by this point, spanning most of the globe. It consists not just of servers, satellites, and wires, but the data on millions of computers shared and transmitted every second. Here's some stats from Wired magazine about the internet's size and breadth at present (including all somewhat related periferals and storage devices):
  • 1,200,000,000 personal computers
  • 27,000,000 data servers
  • 220,000,000 MP3 players
  • 44,600,000 DVRs
  • 100,000,000 Webcams
  • 3,300,000,000 Cell phones
  • 85,000,000 PDAs
  • 85,000,000,000,000 megabytes of storage
  • 377,000,000,000 watts per day energy usage
That's a pretty staggering array of numbers, and Kevin Kelly calls it the "One Machine," the biggest device on earth. And it's about equal to one human brain in terms of processing power and storage.
A hyperlink is much like a synapse in the brain. Both work by making associations between nodes. Each unit of thinking in the brain — an idea, for example — grows by gaining links to other thoughts. The greater the number of synapses connecting to an idea, the stronger it becomes. Similarly, the more heavily linked a Web node is, the greater its value to the Machine. Moreover, the number of hyperlinks in the World Wide Web is approaching that of synapses in the human brain.
Of course, the internet keeps growing, but then it isn't self aware, capable of abstract or original creative thought, and cannot store concepts that build into tangible thoughts and images either. I find the designation of the internet as one machine a bit odd. Calling the entire internet and all related devices equivalent to one brain is a bit like saying every gnat on earth combined is as strong as a rhinoceros. Well, possibly, but other than an odd comparison its irrelevant.

The internet is a connected series of billions of machines, not one single machine, like coral reefs are made up of the skeletons of billions of tiny creatures. Viewed from a certain perspective it looks like a single unit, but when examined properly, you can see the individual parts.

Still, the comparison is interesting in terms of putting the whole thing into perspective. You're packing around something more powerful than the entire combined internet and it only uses 20 watts a day in energy.

OBAMA, SCOTUS, and GIRLS

Hell is for children
And you shouldnt have to pay for your love with your bones and your flesh
-Pat Benatar, Hell Is For Children

Five Year Old Girl
The Supreme Court of the United States has been busy lately, some good, some awful decisions coming down. Most recent is the decision that yes, the 2nd amendment really does guarantee the right to bear arms, even in Washington DC. However, there was one decision that was made a few days ago that was just unbelievable, even from the leftists on the court.

There was a case before the Supreme Court about child rapists and the death penalty. The court ruled that it was illegal to put men who rape babies to death. While consistent with the 1973 decision not just that babies may be killed legally, but that all states must make it legal, this is a pretty ghastly decision. If there ever was someone who deserves the full penalty of the law, if ever existed a crime worthy of punishment by death, raping children has to be up there.

This case came about because two men on death row in Louisiana took their case to the highest court (with plenty of help from activist lawyers). Their victims? Two little girls

One aged five, one aged eight.

Five and eight.

Justices Souter, Ginsberg, Stevens, Breyer, and Kennedy all think that's not a crime worthy of the death penalty because of "changing standards" in society. Maybe some day society will decide that raping girls at age five isn't really criminal at all, after all, standards change and we cannot judge that. Or something.

Senator Obama made a statement of condemnation regarding this ruling:

Obama maintained Wednesday that the death penalty "should be applied in very narrow circumstances for the most egregious of crimes."

"I think that the rape of a small child, 6 or 8 years old, is a heinous crime and if a state makes a decision that under narrow, limited, well-defined circumstances the death penalty is at least potentially applicable, that that does not violate our Constitution," he told a news conference.

Good for Senator Obama, he's right. I think most people in society, despite the bizarre and horrific decision making process by the tyrants in black, agree with this position. Rape little girls and die. I wonder if these justices would think the death penalty was appropriate for someone who truncheoned a baby rapist to death.

One more time, to wrap up:
  • raping children - not punishable by death
  • Being a child because of rape - mandated legally that you can be put to death, without even a trial.
*UPDATE John Hawkins at Right Wing News points out that Senator Obama has unequivocably stated that he wants more judges like Stevens et al, the ones whose ruling he states opposition to here, which begs the question: which Obama do you trust? The one that says he doesn't like the decision (which is politically appealing to moderates) or the one that says he would appoint more judges who rule in this manner?

LATE MAIL

So, I ordered something I'd written from Lulu.com, an online, on-demand printer. They're a great resource, you can upload something you've written and build a book with it, then they'll handle the orders, printing, and shipping. You set the price and get the profits, they handle the hassle. When I got their "your order was shipped" email, it had this shipping date on it:

Shipped on Wed, 31 Dec 1969 via USPS Media Mail

You'd figure I would have gotten it by now, you know?

Quote of the Day

What we we want
And what we need
Has been confused, been confused
-REM, finest worksong
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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

WHAT CAN IT HURT?

"Vote for me and you can have all this free stuff!"

Cash and prizes
Senator McCain recently offered his energy ideas (of which there was no obvious choices such as drill for more oil immediately and buy cheaper Canadian sands oil). There was some great stuff such as pushing for more nuclear power plants. Then there was the $300 million prize for a better battery. For some, such as Jerry Pournelle, this was great news:
The neat thing about prizes is that we spend no money unless someone wins. Now surely it would be worth far more than $300 million to have any capitalist have the battery technology McCain describes. Indeed it would be worth far more, and the only real criticism of the McCain prize might be that it wasn't large enough. On the other hand, how does it harm us to have the $300 million offered? This is a very good move on McCain's part, and makes me a lot happier to support him than I was.
Like President Bush's prize for space travel, the idea is to encourage people to try to reach the goal for the money. Charles Lindberg flew to Paris on his own for a prize, that kind of thing helped push along early aviation. Mr Pournelle is right, you don't have to pay until someone succeeds, and with a product like this, we'd all benefit. There's a problem though.

How does it harm us? Well first of all, this is a pretty cheap way to offer a prize. It's like saying Joe over there will pay you ten dollars to eat that Habanero pepper. It costs me nothing to use other people's money as a prize. And that's what Senator McCain is offering: other peoples' money. And he's doing it at gunpoint, Joe has no choice but to pay.

This isn't just rude, it is actually illegal. The US constitution at no point authorizes the federal government to take money away from people to give to others to encourage them to create items, no matter how nifty and useful they are for the public. Even if it's a good idea, even if it seems nice, even if it is overall beneficial to the country, it's still illegal if it violates the US constitution. Just because I like something doesn't make it right or lawful. And each time the government ignores the constitution to do something it likes, that weakens the rule of law, expands government power and tyranny, and weakens individual liberty for you and me. As an alleged fiscal conservative, Senator McCain should know that.

Finally, yet again, the president of the United States can't make congress pass laws. Yes, they're pretty likely to pass this one but they would if a Senator offered it up too. If Senator McCain thinks this is such a nifty idea, why doesn't he set up the bill right now to do it? All of the energy proposals he gave he can send through congress right now as a senator, if he was actually in congress and not running around trying to be elected to another job. Why doesn't he suggest it in congress?

Both Senators (McCain and Obama) are playing hooky from their job to run for president, like an employee blowing off weeks at work to find a better job. I think anyone who is running for president should lose their job in congress automatically. Then again if I had that kind of power, I'd make it illegal to change your party affiliation while in office, abolish daylight savings, and make Wednesdays free jerky day.
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SEPARATED BY CENTURIES

In response to the poor and needy suffering from prices and their poverty:

"Let them eat cake."
Marie Antoinette

"Let them take the bus."
-Democrats in congress

FANTASTIC PLACES

"The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page."
-Augustine

There is a park in New England somewhere I was told about by a girl that sounded fascinating. Along the trails of a forest, people have started building little houses out of bark, leaves, twigs, and so on; homes a faerie or gnome could live in. She said these homes are scattered all over, making the place seem fantastic.

I've been hiking in the Oregon mountains quite a few times - not as much as I wish I had - and in the wilderness areas I've seen places that seemed like a fantasy setting, some place unicorns dwell, hidden behind a tree. There are many places in the world like this, places like the are out of the imagination of a fantasy fiction writer. Places like this one:

Door to Hell

That's a place near Davaz, Uzbekistan called "The Door to Hell." Thirty Five years ago, geologists were test drilling for gas and found some, opening up an enormous underground cavern.

Door to HellThe cavern was so big that the entire drill site would fit inside, but it was filled with gas and they couldn't get into there to check it out. At this point the stories vary. Either a collapse occurred or the geologists deliberatly lit the gas to burn it off, but... it never went out. It may burn for centuries, no one is sure how much gas is there to act as fuel.

Here are some other fantastic places on earth, some gruesome, some wonderful:

PetraPetra, one of the new seven wonders of the world. Petra is a series of ruins and cave-structures in Syria, one was featured in the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. As many as thirty thousand people once lived in these canyon structures, but after an earthquake in 363 AD, much of the city was destroyed and Petra never recovered. There are 800 fantastic carved tombs, such as the one used in the Indiana Jones movie.

DamanhurTemples of Damanhur which I wrote about a few months ago, a fantastic series of tunnels excavated by an eccentric visionary and his followers. An whole complex has been built up around the temples, with their own money, farms, homes, and religion of sorts.

Plain of JarsThe Plain of Jars in Laos. This is just an oddity, hundreds of stone 'jars' hollowed out and scattered for miles along a trade route. Were they for watering animals, catch basins for rain? Were they some kind of lunatic king's idea? Some of these are several meters long. apparently they all had lids at one point. What's worse is that there are believed to be unexploded ordnance from previous wars in the area as well.

Floating IslandFloating Islands of Peru, a feature that I actually have used in my fantasy game setting without knowing this existed. These are villages actually on Lake Titicaca, as in floating upon them. Made of reed mats that float on the lake, people just live on these, selling what goods they have or collect to boats that pass by.

Mirror of Heaven, a huge salt flat in Bolivia which is often covered by a thin layer of water, perhaps an inch deep. More properly known as the Corpiasa Salt Flats, this acts as a mirror that when the air is calm is almost perfect in its reflection. Covering 4000 sq miles, this flat pan is more than 11,000 feet above sea level.

Salt Mines CathedralThe royal Wieliczka salt mines in Poland. Hewed out centuries ago to provide salt and commerce for the Polish kings, these mines plunge over a thousand feet down in nine levels, with more than two thousand chambers connected by almost a hundred miles of corridors. Within it are chapels, rooms, and even a cathedral with chandeliers made of salt. There is a chapel with sculptures made of salt near the entrance but the moisture has caused them to corrode and melt slightly. The link above has a wonderful story about how the salt mines were originally found.

Sedlec OssuarySedlec Ossuary in the Czech Republic. What do you do when you have more dead than places to put them? Bury them until the flesh rots off then store their bones in an Ossuary. This one has over 40,000 human remains, many of which have been built into decorations, even ghoulish furnishings such as arches and a chandelier.

DeadMuseum of the Dead. This particularly grim location is in a church in Palermo, Italy. Here, unwanted dead are stored, skin partly on the bones, often posed in gruesome, horrible mockeries of life. This place is ghoulish and disturbing, semi-mummified and partly rotted bodies of children and adults in burial shrouds, standing on shelves and in nooks carved in the wall.

Roriama TepuiVenezuelan Tepuis, several vast plateaus almost totally isolated from the lower jungle. this is almost certainly the kind of topography that inspired Arthur Conan Doyle's Lost World story, a section of jungle that is surrounded by cliff. The landscape atop these is even stranger:
Though flat, the tops of Auyan-tepui are sometimes corrugated into sandstone mazes so intricate that you could get lost in them. Some boast sculpture gardens: balanced slabs in gravity-defying arrays and multi-ton monoliths named for their shapes—the Nun, Crocodile, the Shaman. Pools, caves, and enormous sink-holes draw climbers and spelunkers bold enough to take them on; hikers can challenge sharp and abrasive rock, shin-bashing bromeliads, numbingly cold sloughs. Little wonder that, today, many tepui visitors come and go by helicopter.
The tallest waterfall on earth, Angel Falls, roars down off of one of these Teupis.

Giant's CausewayGiant's Causeway, Found in Cornwall, this area has been featured in several movies. Legend has it this area was formed by the giant Finn MacCool, which is worth just saying a few times. Some say this once led to Tír na nÓg, an atlantis-like paradise which sunk under the waves long ago. Formed of hexagonal basalt columns of swift cooling lava, it's definitely distinct.

All around us are fantastical places, wonders waiting for you to find. I love discovering little ones nearby, such as a spot in the woods I used to play as a child that looked like hobbits lived there. The world is too big to explore it all, so vast that sometimes it is frustrating. I wish I could see more.
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Quote of the Day

"An intellectual is a person who has discovered something more interesting than sex."
-Aldous Huxley
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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

THE WANTED MAN

OK so one of the more useful techniques the police have in finding a criminal suspect is to get an image collected from the memories of witnesses, even if there's no video or picture of the event. Some police sketch artists are very talented, getting clues that people might have forgotten and portraying the images described by the people involved. Some are less so.

In the past, "identi-kits" were used, with modular pieces that were placed in, such as 20 different kinds of noses, fifty different styles of hair, and so on. Other places used an artist with a pad and pencil. Today many tend to use computer programs to model the criminal. These efforts have uneven success, but have led to successful arrests and convictions in the past.

Yet the British Police in Pontypool, South Wales have offered up an image that, while very detailed and carefully crafted is of dubious worth:


Looks kind of like Michael Jackson from where I sit. He's wanted for robbing an old woman of her life savings, so I hope they catch the guy that did it but somehow I doubt this image will be much help.

In a country with one security camera for every fourteen people, I'm amazed they don't have footage of the event.

CARLIN PASSING

"Why do you drive on a parkway and park on a driveway?"

I spent a while yesterday trying to find some online clips of Rick Moranis doing his brilliant George Carlin parodies on SCTV yesterday, but they were yanked from YouTube and other sites due to copyright concerns. Which is very sad, because they were hilarious - more so than George Carlin himself - and showed how gifted Moranis really is despite being stuck in lousy movie roles.

Carlin himself had some funny stuff, mostly just witty or thought provoking such as the 7 words you can't say on television. The problem is that he really wasn't ever funny in terms of making you laugh so much as occasionally laughing at something interesting you'd not thought of before. Unlike Jerry Seinfeld who can look at things in a way you'd not considered or asked questions you had not thought of but make perfect sense - and do it in an entertaining, charming, and funny way - Carlin often came across as neurotic, bitter, and even paranoid.

Supposedly Krusty the Klown on The Simpsons was patterned on George Carlin's darker side, I can't say I see it that clearly. But ultimately Carlin became embittered and less humorous as time went on. From around 1990 on his focus shifted from observing life and commenting on it to telling everyone what rotten bastards Republicans are. His shows got more bitter and angry until they really weren't humor at all, they were just chunks of red meat thrown at the crowd for programmed applause, much like The Daily Show often slouches into.

Still, a Hippie icon, George Carlin is revered by the left: turn on any "classic rock" station and you'll hear the DJs still talking about him and playing his bits; step into any book store or coffee shop, and you'll see black armbands and people talking with reverent tones about his genius, real or imagined. He's one of those guys who has a reputation far above his worth, and it's only going to get more inflated now that he's died. Keep an eye out for this kind of thing, as each Hippie icon passes on, the hype will get worse.

RUNNING WITH THE HERD

"Does the press think Obama is arrogant? Yes."
-Mark Ambinder

So Senator Obama unveiled a seal for his campaign that looked suspiciously like the presidential seal - likely an attempt to get people to associate him with being president so he seemed more so rather than a young, gangly guy with big ears running for president. A visual cue that seemed to indicate competence without actually having the experience or qualifications (beyond the barely technical).

The seal was mocked more or less universally, and even the press was laughing at it. A poor, rookie mistake of which there will be many more before November, I expect. It isn't surprising the Obama campaign would try, they've gotten away with more audacious, pretentious things before this. Yet the seal was a bust and the Obama campaign has dropped it (claiming it was only meant to be used once). In the coverage of this disposal of the Obama Seal, something came up that I think is significant.

It has long been obvious, but rarely stated, that the legacy media is largely a herd animal. That what one major paper does, the rest follow, that like sharks, when blood is sensed, the entire press corps wants to get in on the feeding frenzy and will go berserk wanting to be part of the fun, get noticed with some new bit that others didn't write, and so on.

It also has long been obvious that the press is somewhat lazy in its narrative, writers slouching into the same trench worn by others to follow the same basic ideas. Bill Sammon at the Examiner puts this more specifically, quoting Larry Sabato ( director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics):
“The press corps adopts a subtext for each candidate,” Sabato told The Examiner. “Daddy Bush was 'a nice guy but out of touch.' Bill Clinton was 'smart but randy.' Bob Dole was 'heroic but too old.' Gore was 'brilliant but a fibber and a bore.' Dubya was 'pleasant but dumb.'”

He added: “Obama's subtext is rapidly becoming 'charismatic but arrogant.'”
This basic pattern that the press follows for each candidate is like a style guide: here's how to write about the topic. It is almost subconscious, like conventional wisdom, everybody knows this is how it is. They all seem to do it, they all fall into the same pattern without distinction, creativity, independent, critical thought, or effort. This is a kind of bias that isn't particularly political or agenda-driven, it's the Sloth portion of bias I wrote about in my essays on the topic: it's just easier to do it this way, everyone is doing it so I don't look wierd, and people pat me on the back for following the pattern.

It's true that blogs do this too, Megan McArdle notes today in her blog how outrage and anger is all too common on blogs, creating a "blogstorm" of everyone on one side or another of a given issue writing furiously on the topic, trying to get in on the act. Yet when blogs do this, they're amateurs having fun writing their thoughts on a website. When reporters do it, they're slacking on the job, failing to work, mailing in their efforts to get the paycheck.

Just a note: I couldn't find a single instance of the Obama seal in the Google Image search, I had to use Yahoo, where it was on the first page, the first image. Did Google excise this image, or were they somehow just not keeping up on the picture and never got it into their automatically gathering computer-driven link archives? This is hardly the first instance of Google subtly doing things that seem to indicate a certain viewpoint, politically. Individually, they can be taken with a minor explanation. Taken as a whole? There definitely seems to be fire with that smoke.
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LET ME GET THIS STRAIGHT

"one of these things is not like the other"
-Sesame Street

Confusion
There are some things I can't quite work out that are held as true by many on the left; leftist conventional wisdom
-President Bush is the stupidest man on earth, proven by how he doesn't read much
-President Bush is an evil genius manipulating world events and the mastermind in complex conspiracies

-Ethanol won't result in real production or fuel savings for decades, but we should start now
-Oil drilling won't give us fuel in the tank for years, even a decade, so we shouldn't do it.

-President Clinton told the truth about the WMD in Iraq
-President Bush, using the same intelligence, lied about it

-Iraq after 1 year is a quagmire, we must withdraw immediately
-Kosovo and Bosnia after more than ten years are a successful triumphant endeavor, we must leave troops there forever.

-The marines accused of war crimes in Haditha were guilty of cold blooded murder without needing a trial
-Al`Zarqawi and Osama Bin Laden need to be taken before a civil court and tried

-A self-proclaimed victim of President Clinton's alleged rape is a trailer trash liar without need of any investigation
-Accusations and false memos of President Bush being AWOL are all true without the need of any investigation or proof

-President Bush is a complete liar and constantly manipulates intelligence
-President Bush is the final word on WMD in Iraq when he says they didn't find the huge stockpiles expected

-High prices and a weak economy hurts the poor and minorities most
-We should raise gas prices to encourage people to drive less and pollute less, thus weakening the economy

-France is the icon of society and how a country should be run
-We never should use nuclear power like France does

-Lying is no big deal, everyone does it (if its a Democrat)
-Lying is the worst thing anyone can do (if its a Republican)

-Homosexuality is a harmless variation, completely normal and wholesome
-Homosexuality is a disgusting perversion that should get you thrown out of office (if you're a Republican Senator)

-Hypocrisy is the worst possible crime (if you're on the right)
-Hypocrisy is showing nuance and flexibility (if you're on the left)

-Saying anything that a minority thinks is wrong or unwelcome is racist
-A minority being openly hateful toward other ethnic groups is never racist

-Women are a protected minority (despite being the larger portion of the population)
- Asians are not a protected minority (despite being a small portion of the population)

-Gays should have a dominate voice in shaping the culture and policy despite being a tiny minority
-Christians should shut up and say nothing about their ideas in public, keeping their faith to themselves

-Polls that show the nation supports the invasion of Iraq are meaningless and should have nothing to do with policy
-Polls that show the nation wants the invasion of Iraq to end are compelling and should command policy
I guess when truth is relative it doesn't matter how contradictory you are.

*UPDATE: a new one:
-When things are tough in Iraq, we should pull out and surrender because we're failing
-When things are going well in Iraq, we should pull out because we've won
Which I guess has a sort of appearance of consistency.

Quote of the Day

"There's a whiff of the lynch mob or the lemming migration about any overlarge concentration of like-thinking individuals, no matter how virtuous their cause."
-P. J. O'Rourke
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Monday, June 23, 2008

POST CHRISTIAN

"May God have mercy on us all"

Post Christian
I guess I should comment on this because it's being mentioned on blogs. Senator Obama in 2003 said that America is no longer a Christian nation (watch the video on YouTube):
"Whatever we once were, we're no longer a Christian nation. At least not just. We are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, and a Buddhist nation, and a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelieverism."
I'm not sure "nonbelieverism" is a word but you get the idea. He clarified this further in later statements:
"I think that the right might worry a bit more about the dangers of sectarianism. Whatever we once were, we're no longer just a Christian nation; we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers."

"My intention was to contrast the heated partisan rhetoric of a distinct minority of Christian leaders with the vast majority of Evangelical Christians – conservatives included – who believe that hate has no place in our politics.

"When you have pastors and television pundits who appear to explicitly coordinate with one political party; when you're implying that your fellow Americans are traitors, terrorist sympathizers or akin to the devil himself; then I think you're attempting to hijack the faith of those who follow you for your own personal or political ends."
Now while this last statement is particularly Ironic in a friend of Reverend Wright and an attendee and member of the Trinity United Christian Church for two decades, I am not particularly alarmed or upset by these statements.

Sure, it's absurd to claim that the Christian right somehow is involved in hate or that merely suggesting people are traitors or terrorist sympathizers is hateful or by definition false (they may very well be those things, just being an American citizen does not make you incapable of such an act). Sure he's playing to the quasi religious left who is vaguely spiritual but keeps religion in a little box deep down inside without letting it touch the rest of the world around them.

I happen to agree with Senator Obama: the US is not a Christian nation. It never was, and it never will be. The US is not a nation defined by Christian doctrine, it was not founded with an official state religion, it is not a religious country and it never has been. So he's right, but not right enough in this sense: it never was a Christian nation, not like he means it.

In another sense, the US was best characterized by Christianity, it is still the dominant religion, but the culture and rhetoric of the nation no longer is steeped in Christian ideas and language like it once was. Presidents used to speak openly of God and our duty to obey and honor Him, the presumption was always that your fellow man was at least sympathetic to, if not openly Christian. Those days are past, we are in a post-Christian era for the United States (and Europe) even as the third world embraces Christianity in staggering numbers.

So when Senator Obama says "we're no longer a Christian nation" it's true: we aren't, even in the sense of culture and influence rather than official doctrine and government. I see nothing controversial or problematic in that statement. How well this works out for the nation and the effect on the people living in it is fairly obvious from where I sit, but the recognition of that fact is not wrong or terrible.

Obama faithI disagree with the notion that we have to make other religions happy at the expense of Christianity, or that somehow openly Christian statements or behavior in public office - let alone having your faith and worldview inform and shape your policy making - is by definition bad. I agree with Senator Obama's statement in an openly religious ad run during the Tennessee primaries that "My faith teaches me that I can sit in church and pray all I want but I wont be fulfilling God's will unless I go out and do the Lord's Work."

Of course the same ad somehow suggested that the present government (with the notoriously Christian President Bush who is mocked by the Obama-supporting left for praying about decisions) is not Christian enough:
What I pray for is the strength and the wisdom to act on those things that I can control (aka the Alcoholics Anonymous "higher power prayer") And that's what I think has been lacking sometimes in our government. We've got to express those values through our government, not just through our religious institutions.
Obama PrayerThis seems to somewhat be at odds with his statements above, but then as a politician, he relies on saying to different groups the things that they prefer to hear, even if those statements have to be contradictory.

So in the end my problem isn't with what Senator Obama said here, I have a problem with what he means and believes and with his blatant contradictions in order to gain power, with the full assurance nobody will hear about it or call him to explain or justify these statements.

Oh, and to whatever degree the United States has become post-Christian? Ultimately the only people that can be blamed for that are Christians. Christians so taken up with the culture and need to be liked, Christians who abandon what they believe to be popular, Christians who hide their light instead of letting it shine. Us.
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LEGACY MEDIA GRUDGINGLY ADMITS

When even the New York Times notices that the legacy media has stopped covering Iraq, you know that it has become too obvious to ignore. The better the news got in the country, the less the legacy media cared about the place, and finally now that the surge troops are going home, they are noticing that, yes, it actually is a success. So much so that now Senator Obama has stopped running on "lets pull out quick before we win" and started to go back to his 2004 statements of "lets pull out when we win."

Mind you, the NYT couldn't resist starting with a tale of misery and woe. Some habits are just hard to break.

FANTASY HERO 101

"Roll to hit"

Kestrel Enterprises Logo
Almost forty years ago I learned to play AD&D in a little hole in the wall gaming store called Stuff&Nonsense. Every weekend the owner would teach new people how to play the game in his special prepared dungeon, which was fun for him and good business since the AD&D rulebooks would sell to new players (along with dice, graph paper, miniatures, and so on). Stuff&Nonsense is closed, AD&D is on its fourth edition these days, and I've long since moved on to a better system (Hero games) but I do remember that first session very fondly, and had an idea not long ago.

Like that shop owner whose name eludes me, I decided to introduce new players to fantasy gaming, this time Fantasy Hero (Hero games' fantasy role playing rules). My hope is that in the summer time at least some young collectible card game players and computer "RPG" fans may be interested in trying the real thing out, and in the process maybe Hero games will gain more fans.

I converted the old D&D adventure the Keep on the Borderlands to Fantasy Hero and have it ready to run, with premade characters in case people get there too late to make their own. I have an ad that's going up today at the local gaming store (Borderlands), and next week I plan on starting the first session.

Over the weeks I'll be posting here how it goes, what happens, and the adventure as it unfolds, just one post a week. Stay tuned for adventure!

Songs I Like: Memphis, Tennessee (Chuck Berry)

Last time I saw Marie she was waving me good-bye
With hurry home drops on her cheeks that trickled from her eye

Chuck Berry
Broken homes are an effective source of the blues and most good rock and roll came from the blues. It is when rock gets too far away from blues and soul that it loses its meaning and content, becoming boring pop or mass produced dance music. One of my favorite old songs that tells the tale of a broken home is Memphis, Tennessee. A song by the great Chuck Berry, this has been covered by a host of artists including Elvis, the Beatles, Jerry Garcia, Statler Brothers, Roy Orbison, Johnny Rivers, The Rolling Stones, and many others (I particularly like Johnny Rivers' version).

The song starts out unclear, perhaps it is a man singing about his lover, a sweetheart who called and he can't track down. He tries information to see if he can find her (the old number 555-1212, back before they changed it to 411). As the song develops you find out that it is his daughter that called, his little girl who he misses so much. Why his wife and he split up is not made clear but the pain of separation is clear and little Marie cannot understand why daddy won't come home. one of the advantages of this song is that with only one word change (mom) a woman can sing it with the same impact and meaning as a man. Marie, only six years old, half a mile from the Mississippi bridge with a new number because mom doesn't want to hear from dad ever again.
Long distance information give me Memphis Tennessee
Help me find the party trying to get in touch with me
She could not leave a number but I know who placed the call
'Cause my uncle took a message and he wrote it on the wall

Help me information get in touch with my Marie
She's the only one who'd phone me here from Memphis, Tennessee
Her house is on the south side, high upon the ridge
Just a half a mile from the Mississippi bridge

Help me information, more than that I cannot add
Only that I miss her and all the fun we had
But we were pulled apart because her mom did not agree
And tore apart our happy home in Memphis Tennessee

Last time I saw Marie she was waving me good-bye
With hurry home drops on her cheeks that trickled from her eye
Marie is only six years' old, information please
Help me get in touch with her in Memphis Tennessee
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Quote of the Day

"At times one remains faithful to a cause only because its opponents do not cease to be insipid."
-Friedrich Nietzsche
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Friday, June 20, 2008

PLAYING HOOKY

If you came here looking for new content to read, I am flattered and appreciate your interest but you know what? It's almost summer and today is beautiful outside. Go have some fun somewhere, I'm not up to writing on my blog today. By Monday I should be back on track, but let me be among the first to wish you a great summer in advance!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

DAVID and GOLIATH

“A criminal is a person with predatory instincts who has not sufficient capital to form a corporation.”
-Howard Scott

David and Goliath
OK to bring you up to speed, the Associated Press is being attacked by bloggers, from all sides of the political spectrum. It started when the small anti-drudge leftist blog Drudge Retort ("red meat for yellow dogs") reported that it was being sued by the AP for using some of their content. The story spread rapidly: the AP was trying to sue the blogger for quoting parts of their story, they don't like links, it's the big bad media leaning on the bloggers, old versus new!

Some blogs immediately called for a boycott, some declared that they'd use the direct quotes from other people out of AP stories and paraphrase the AP's content. Then the Associated Press came out with a pricing scheme to allow blogs to use their stories: $2.50 a word! Michelle Malkin mocked this with a total of how much it would cost them to have quoted her repeatedly in fair use citations based on this pricing scheme.

There's a problem with all this, and it's why I haven't touched it on my site. My first reaction was "that's goofy, I'll keep quoting them and they can come after me if they want." After all, fair use is very well established in copyright law, and I have no assets for them to seize even if they somehow won a judgement against me. Can't squeeze water out of a rock, as they say. Yet there seemed to be something missing, a piece of the puzzle that does not make sense.

According to the Media Bloggers association, there is. Here's what Robert Cox says:
As one of the few people who has seen all the legal documents in the case and has actually read the Digital Millennium Copyright Act I can see it would be wise for some folks to cool down and acquaint themselves with the rather prosaic facts in this matter.

AP first contacted Rogers in April not June. They sent Rogers a "cease and desist" letter on April 15th which cited a couple of entries on Drudge Retort as examples of their claim that Rogers was "encouraging" copyright infringement. One of those examples was the whole text of an article and the entire headline the others were similar. Rogers failed to respond until May 14th due to a mix up with his mailing address at which point AP sent him a Take Down Notice for 14 other posts, 13 of which were whole text/exact headline posts to his site. Rogers disputed the 14th entry as fair use but took it down as required under DMCA. Rogers notified his contributor, the person who posted the content, but that person did not file a counter-claim and so the post remained removed.
In other words, if Cox is right: the Drudge Retort was not engaging in fair use, it was copying entire articles including the headlines intact. This isn't a case of someone quoting a few lines or paragraphs of a long article to get the basic information out. This was flat out copyright violation: theft. It is perfectly permissible (and, as it turns out, useful for the original writer) to copy a small portion of the original article like I did above from the Media Bloggers. It is another thing entirely to copy the whole thing.

Fair use drives the blog industry, copyright violation does not, in fact it hurts us all. If someone was to copy and post my entire essay on Virtues, for example, that doesn't direct eyes to my site, it keeps them all on the site that stole my work (which is copyrighted).

This is the kind of thing that makes me cautious to leap on the bandwagon, it is usually wisest to step back and wait, to watch and learn. The Associated Press has it's faults, it is biased and often silly as I've written about many times in the past, but it is not unreasonable or bullying to insist on being paid for its content. The pricing scheme is incredibly steep, but it does at least provide a mechanism for bloggers to buy and print entire copies of AP articles if for some odd reason they might want to.

The Drudge Retort has gotten a lot of attention, hits, and popularity from this "blogswarm" (especially with hard leftists - that's why the Daily Kos backed them up, because it is a leftist site). The popularity has been based on fraud, if the MBA is correct, and the case seems pretty clear. This time Goliath is right and David is a sneaky, thieving chump.
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EVOLUTION PROVED!?

"BELIEVE IN EVOLUTION? Hell, I've seen it done."
-Glenn Reynolds

Flask
E. Coli is best known by most people for the breakouts that rarely occur in fast food restaurants. Mishandled meat, especially by workers who don't bother washing their hands after using the bathroom, can be a breeding ground for the bacteria which can be lethal. It is, however, a very common bacteria with many different forms which range from the odd to the dangerous. E. Coli, in fact, is the bacteria used by the biochemists who believe they've managed to engineer a strain which eats waste matter and excretes crude oil.

Scientists have been studying the bacteria quite a bit because it is common, tough, easy to manipulate, and has a very fast life cycle. For those interested in genetic manipulation or mutations, this is an ideal subject and has the added bonus of not upsetting hyper-sensitive animal lovers and domestic terror groups such as the Environmental Liberation Front.

One such study is claiming that over the generations, they've seen evolution at work.
A major evolutionary innovation has unfurled right in front of researchers' eyes. It's the first time evolution has been caught in the act of making such a rare and complex new trait.

And because the species in question is a bacterium, scientists have been able to replay history to show how this evolutionary novelty grew from the accumulation of unpredictable, chance events.
Over twenty years, the scientists have had 12 cultures of bacteria at the lab and have been observing the generations of bacteria (about one every twenty minutes), transferring them regularly to a fresh flask of nutrients each day.

One generation became able to consume citrates, a characteristic inability that helps distinguish e. coli from other bacteria. The scientist was excited, and was able to duplicate the change over time.

So, is evolution proved? Well, as I pointed out in a related article about a different experiment on bacteria, experimenting with bacteria until it changes and reacts to its environment does not prove evolution (it does, however, hilariously prove Glenn Reynolds' excited "done" portion of the quote, however: the bacteria was designed intelligently).

Everyone who has studied any plants or animals knows that they will react to their environment, even changing physically to some degree. Plants grow toward a light source, bunnies turn white in the winter, you get a sun tan in the summer, and so on. Reaction to external stimulus is not evolution it is merely how you are designed as a living creature.

One of the fundamental theses of evolution is that it happens spontaneously in response to stimulus, not that it happens ex nihilo in a jar. This experiment which kept the bacteria in sterile conditions introducing the bugs to pure nutrients did not show any such reaction, it demonstrated random mutation.

The experiments in which the scientists changed the food sources until the creatures could eat them proved that external, intelligent design can shape these adaptations.

Although scientists have "mapped" DNA, they do not know exactly what each bit does, nor how each bit interacts with the others. They know what chemicals go where, but not how they function to build the living creature's physical form. This is an unbelievably complex and flexible system which allows great variation within the basic parameters (humans have two legs with ten toes, etc). Changes within those parameters is not evolution any more than a baby being born with red hair proves evolution.

Once again: this doesn't prove evolution, "done" or otherwise. It proves that bacteria are incredibly adaptable creatures, something scientists have known for almost 50 years. There's something plaintively needy in the way Evolutionists will appeal to this kind of story, like a Christian seeing Jesus in their toast.
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