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Thursday, April 30, 2009

HE SAID, SHE SAID

"The lady doth protest too much, methinks"
Hamlet, Act III, scene 2

OK we have duelling stories again in politics, this time about "torture" approval and awareness. Democrats in congress are claiming they knew nothing, nooothink! about waterboarding and the CIA was going rogue on them. Meanwhile, Porter Goss, former director at the CIA wrote an angry and scathing attack on these congressmen, pointing out what he recalls is very different from their version of events:
Let me be clear. It is my recollection that:

-- The chairs and the ranking minority members of the House and Senate intelligence committees, known as the Gang of Four, were briefed that the CIA was holding and interrogating high-value terrorists.

-- We understood what the CIA was doing.

-- We gave the CIA our bipartisan support.

-- We gave the CIA funding to carry out its activities.

-- On a bipartisan basis, we asked if the CIA needed more support from Congress to carry out its mission against al-Qaeda.

I do not recall a single objection from my colleagues. They did not vote to stop authorizing CIA funding. And for those who now reveal filed "memorandums for the record" suggesting concern, real concern should have been expressed immediately -- to the committee chairs, the briefers, the House speaker or minority leader, the CIA director or the president's national security adviser -- and not quietly filed away in case the day came when the political winds shifted.
Now Nancy Pelosi has responded in a CNN interview with Candy Crowley:
PELOSI: Well, first of all, let me say that perhaps we do live in an alternate universe, Porter and I.

Porter’s orientation is that he was a member of the CIA before he came to Congress and he speaks now as a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

CROWLEY: Is he wrong?

PELOSI: Perhaps he is seeing it from his perspective. If they say we have a legal opinion, it means we’re going to use it. That’s not how I heard it. They said they had a legal opinion. They said they weren’t going to use and when they did they would come back to Congress to report to us on that. But that’s how I heard that.
So she claims, yes, they were told about it but nobody was going to use it, and Goss is in an alternate universe.

Glenn Thrush on the left-leaning site Politico carried this story and what struck me as humorous was that almost none of the commenters believed Speaker Pelosi's story. They called her a liar, they called her out of touch with reality, and almost no one believed a word she said. A few claimed that the CIA was engaged in torture without congressional approval - which is probably true to the extent of referring to that specific congress' approval, but the CIA doesn't need to go to congress for every single act, they just need approval to take actions in overall situations, then apply them under guidelines congress sets down. Given that the CIA is executive branch and congress is legislative, having them oversee the CIA is at best constitutionally questionable, but even were that not so, the objection being raised at sites like Firedoglake is irrelevant.

If Speaker Pelosi wants to clear up the story, all she has to do is release the transcripts. Let's see the congressional minutes, madame speaker. The fact you don't care to do so speaks volumes. The fact is, congress knew, approved - or at least did not disapprove - and kept quiet about things just like Goss says, until the time came when they could make political hay out of it. They want to prosecute lawyers for giving political opinions, a strange and incomprehensible position for anyone to take, and seem to be taking action to "stop fascism" which the left claimed was going on under President Bush.

Pelosi knew and did not stop what she could have, because she knew it was critical for national security and needed to be done, no matter how regrettable or unpleasent it might have been. Honestly I believe most Americans understand that and given that it unquestionably stopped the LA terrorist attack, are fine with scumbag terrorists being made uncomfortable to find out what we need to know. She knew, and nobody is buying her lame story.

A CLARIFICATION

President Obama is right about one thing: he wasn't President when the latest run of high deficits started. It was President Bush who pushed for and signed the first round of bank bailouts and the TARP law. There's just one problem; when President Obama says "Number one, we inherited a $1.3 trillion deficit. ... That wasn't me," he's correct that he wasn't president when the deficits were created. He was more directly in charge.

See, in the United States, it is the Congress that decides spending and passes bills. The president is responsible for vetoing or signing a bill, but the members of congress are even more responsible for the spending because they're the ones that craft and write the budget and spending bills. And President Obama - then Senator Obama - voted for the spending he's claiming no responsibility for. And given that as president he pushed for and supported an even more gargantuan, grotesquely gigantic spending bill (one including earmarks and policy ideas he tried to pass as a Senator but ran out of time before the end of his last session), President Obama cannot somehow walk away from responsibility for the overspending.

Even if he'd like to.

STRANGE STAIRS

"And she's buying a stairway to heaven"
-Led Zeppelin

Stairs and steps are something I tend to take for granted: a way to get up or down, not anything to consider closely. Yet there's a lot of engineering that goes into designing a staircase. At the fancy city hall built in the 1970s here in Salem there is a large plaza that has deep, broad, and very short steps. They look very interesting and Frank Lloyd Wright-y but are very awkward to walk up: the stride is broken up by how short and deep each step is; about four inches tall and two feet deep.

Stairs are supposed to follow a specific proportion: the rise (how tall the step is) plus the run (how deep it is on top) should add up to 17 or 17.5 inches. Yet that cannot simply be a 16" tall step with a 1" deep place to stand, it has to be in proportions that are comfortable to human travel. To make the steps ergonomic, they have to follow a sort of pattern, such as 6" by 11.5" or 8.5" by 9". That's where the city hall steps don't work: they break that rule so they are awkward to walk up and more tiring than normal steps.

Then there are the strange stair cases. Just the usual flight of stairs isn't good enough for some, they have to have something truly unique and unusual. At Toxel.com there's a showcase of unusual and creative staircases that run from the interesting to the bizarre.

SkatestepsOne such set is the skateboard deck staircase. While not particularly unique or bizarre in design it is interesting and recognizable without being particularly jarring. The simple wood steps might not be seen as skateboards immediately without the wheels and the paint and decal art. Like many of these designs, there's no railing because it would break up the art, and possibly an arm or neck some dark night.

AnglestepsAnother potentially neck breaking staircase is this angled set from Stockholm. Each stair is a triangle when viewed from the top so you can't step in the center. This just seems like a disaster waiting to happen, particularly on some sleepy or drunk night. People fall down ordinary steps enough without being encouraged like this. They certainly look interesting, but the staircase here just seems very impractical.

Folding StepsAnd if you want to guarantee someone falls in the middle of the night, you can hit the switch on these stairs and they fold neatly into a socket on the wall, leaving the upper area a sudden cliff. I can see where in a cramped apartment it would be nice to tuck away the staircase, when I was in college my engineer room mate came up with a system by which we could raise and lower the loft. During the day the loft was flush against the ceiling and during the night it was lowered into position for sleeping. It won the "best loft" for the dorm and worked well.

Box StepsSome of the stairs shown are design for design's sake. They aren't especially unusual in terms of stair design but how they are presented is unusual. The box stairs shown first are a pretty basic staircase but the way they are hung makes it look interesting, primarily because of that first missing riser. Hopefully that won't lead to any uncomfortable accidents either. The light wood they used looks good with the white background but I am not sure it works with the more traditional railing shown on the balcony.

Floating StepsThe second is this floating staircase concept. While again it looks unusual, it is little more than an ordinary set of stairs with the railing and every third step missing a riser. These do fit into the surroundings well, in fact they look almost Japanese, somehow. I like the simplicity but they do look somewhat unsafe, again. Sometimes art has to give way to practicality.

Then there are the super-practical stairs. Some designers have realized that staircases represent a lot of unused space. Sure, like the office I work in, many have the space beneath stairs as a little oddly-shaped closet. Harry Potter lived under stairs for a few years in the book series. Yet the area is little more than a gap with a doorway rather than any deliberate design. The strange shape limits how the closet area can be used and makes it awkward to get to some objects in the back.

Drawer StepsThese staircases take that space beneath and even inside stairs, such as this step drawer concept, and makes them each useful. The drawers here will be rather shallow to fit under the steps, but I could see a lot of use for them. Shoes, gloves, scarves, etc, anything you'd want while heading out. If the handles were subtle enough, people may not even be aware the drawers are there, which would make them useful for things you would prefer no one saw out in the open. Just don't yank one out while Johnny is racing down the stairs.

Bookshelf StepsOthers decided the side of the stairs make great book cases. I'm mixed on this one. It does work well, but it also seems like spilled things, mud, and dust would get all over the top layer of books. Still, that unused space beneath the stairs can be used to close off a room and yet have some practical value: both sides could have book shelves if the steps make an island in a room.

Shelf StepsThis is an alternate concept: instead of bookshelves you just make them bare shelves. Obviously nobody is forced to put books into bookshelves. Need space for your collectible plates and "action figures?" Got a collection and nowhere to put it? Don't just throw it under the stairs, display it under the stairs. Again, hats, coats, scarves, shoes, etc could all be put under here.

Bookcase StepsAnd finally we get this one. A cramped apartment can be a tough thing for a bibliophile. Between my brother and I we've got hundreds of books and nowhere to put them all. Well this fellow found a way and it does look pretty smart. Also it looks easy to get to all the books, sometimes a problem for ordinary book shelves. The problem is that these shelves are open to foot traffic, so I could easily see them being kicked and scuffed by travel, and given that the stairs apparently reach up to a window or door leading outside, mud and water spattered or drizzled onto them.

Still, despite some flaws, I have to applaud the engineering and creativity that went into these (and the others on the Toxel site which I highly recommend checking out). Even if they aren't exactly practical, they look wonderful and some of them must have been just awful to work out in design and implementation.

Quote of the Day

"Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."
–C.S. Lewis

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

FISCAL AND SOCIAL

"The reason for the change in perception is that with fiscal conservatism abandoned, the only distinguishing characteristic of the Republican Party is now social conservatism."
-Neil Sorens

In 1993, Hawaii passed a law banning same sex "marriage." The Hawaii Supreme Court then turned and negated the law, claiming the law was unconstitutional unless the state could show that the statute avoided abridgments of rights under the Hawaii Constitution. In response, the public at large cried in alarm - even Gay Rights groups - mocking the very idea of homosexual "marriage" and a law was passed in 1996 by congress and signed by President Clinton called the Defense of Marriage Act which in essence stated that whatever states might decide, the federal government will not recognize any such unions.

Fast forward to today, where the media at large act as if opposing same sex marriage makes you some sort of religious fanatic, a kook, and a Miss America contestant who says that states should make their own choices but she personally opposes it is insulted repeatedly and mocked by at least one of the judges (a gay man who photoshops semen on the faces of people he doesn't like. Why he was a judge at a Miss America pageant to begin with is a matter of some confusion).

The change is dramatic, and over a very brief time period. We went from outrage, mockery, and shock over the Hawaii's Supreme Court decision and a federal reaction opposing the idea to states beginning to force same sex "marriage" on the public in less than ten years.

So when Arlen Specter (D-PA) says he left the Republican Party because it became too socially conservative and changed since the Reagan era, he's not just lying, he's reflecting an idiot's version of events. Dan Reihl explains:
I think the real shift has been cultural and in media. For espousing ideas that were reasonably mainstream during the Reagan Era, one is promptly labeled a religious kook today. While the Republicans have been and remain the more socially conservative party, the Left has been effective in their demonizing of that aspect, especially every time a social conservative Republican goes astray with a hooker, or in a men's room, for instance.
He even suggests comparing, say, Jerry Falwell during Reagan's time to Rick Warren now - compare the rhetoric and the attitude toward social issues.

What was once mainstream America is now attacked openly and mocked directly by the entertainment and news media communities. Has the Republican party changed? Sure: it's abandoned all semblance of being the party of fiscal restraint that Reagan and Gingrich molded it into. It has gleefully rejected the concept of being the party of liberty and limited government. So now, what little social conservatism is actually left in the party stands out as the only real distinctive the Republican Party has to offer, as Mr Sorens points out above (quote courtesy Instapundit).

Christianity was previously respected enough to leave alone, now comedians use "f**k Christianity" as an applause line, complaining about how wierrrd those Christians are, without bothering the slightest attempt at explaining how - or using idiotic slanders and stereotypes to say so. It is a lot like a comedian standing up and saying how lazy those Mexicans are and using the picture of a siesta as proof. Its rank and ugly bigotry, but the culture has shifted so much in so short a time (namely, the Bush administration) that it's not just accepted but celebrated by many.

And the social conservatism, such as it is, left in the Republican Party will almost certainly disappear as well. The Republican leadership - desperate for power, attention, and being liked - are all too willing to abandon everything they claimed to stand for. It is true that social conservatism leads to fiscal conservatism, as I'll explain in a bit, but if you abandon the latter for political gain and popularity, you've already demonstrated a lack of integrity and ethics, which will likely lead to an abandonment of the former.

Ethics and virtue demand action: the practical comes from the theoretical (you have to have something to practice in order to be practical). In this case the very principles and ethics that prompt social conservatism are what defines the reason behind fiscal conservatism. The ideas of small government and lowering government spending are not in a vacuum they have a philosophical worldview behind them that inevitably prompts this position.

The ideas of social conservatism come not from some zealot's idea of eliminating fun, but from an unshakable knowledge that liberty can only come about in an ethical society. That democracy cannot function without a virtuous people. That unless the public is basically good - not just nice, but ethically proper and virtuous - then they will make choices reflecting their lack thereof.
Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die
Let me explain. If you have, say, a people who reject personal responsibility, reject the concepts of sacrifice, hard work, and achievement, if you have a people who do not believe that gaining something comes properly at a price of labor and proper effort, then you have a people who will abandon fiscal responsibility. If you have a people who believe that the here and now are all there are, that personal comfort, enjoyment, and pleasure are the highest goals and ends of mankind, then the inevitable result is irresponsibility in fiscal areas.

If all that exists is what you can touch and measure, if there is no future beyond this life, then this life is best spent finding what comfort and happiness you can, even if (and sometimes particularly if) that means a rejection of what was traditionally considered right and good. Ethics get in the way of accomplishing this goal. Virtue slows down and impedes my gaining pleasure.

Such a people would turn to others to provide what they desire, because hard work and taking responsibility is not fun, is not comfortable, and does not immediately gain pleasure. Why should I work, that takes away from me time. Why should I worry about tomorrow, I'll probably be dead then anyway. You work if you want to, wierdo, pay your taxes and I'll benefit from them. Big government can give me what I need: everyone should pay into this or they are selfish and evil. If you won't give me what I want, you are the bad guy. And when this happens, everyone inevitably loses their liberty.

A rejection of this comes from integrity, from personal responsibility, and from a basic virtue that defies personal gain and pleasure for a higher goal. With this comes a whole array of basic conservative values: family, law, decency, protection of children, and so on. The principles of liberty demand that we all sacrifice a little to gain much. We cannot simply think of ourselves, we must think of our neighbor. We cannot do simply that which brings us pleasure, we have a responsibility to someone other than ourselves. Abandoning that principle abandons liberty and brings anarchy and inevitably tyranny - for our own good.

The ideals which define social conservatism are what underpins and defines fiscal conservatism. We must have a smaller government which taxes and spends less or we lose liberty. The only way for this to work is to have a people who will, without the force of the gun or tyrants commanding us, do what is right. You have two choices in this world: do what is right because you have a reason inside you... or do what is right because you are forced to by someone outside. Of those two choices, the liberty is in the first. When you abandon that liberty, then you embrace tyranny and call for the government to save you and force others to be good.

Fiscal conservatism necessarily comes from social conservatism. Abandon one and you lose the other. And Arlen Specter has made it quite clear he wants nothing to do with either. What can stop the loss of social conservatism in America? An act of God, either as a shift when people get sick of the excesses of the left, or a catastrophic event which requires hard work, a recognition of personal responsibility, and an abandonment of frivolity to rebuild from, or perhaps even a tyranny that freedom is won from. But Social Conservatism is the only possible way to save liberty and the American dream. The only way.

Whatever change may take place, I pray it is soon and as peaceful as possible. Because the road we're on, we've seen many times before in history and it always ends in misery and blood.

*UPDATE: Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican Party recently said ""Is this the same Republican Party, the same rightward-tilting Republican Party that saved his hide in 2004? To whom he went running and pleading for support because he couldn't make it through a Republican primary?"

Meanwhile, analysts note that the GOP has not moved to the right at all:
"I don't think there's evidence that the Republican Party has shifted heavily to the right," said GOP analyst Michael Barone.

GOP pollster Whit Ayers said, "It's hard to identify a lot of issues on which the GOP of today is actually more conservative than it was in 2000, 2002 or 2004, when it won national elections."

And while economic issues dominate today's political debates, some Republicans don't even see a rightward shift on social issues.

"I don't really see any evidence that Republicans are for example coming forward and emphasizing conservative positions on cultural issues," Barone said.

TRAY BANS

No Trays
OK this is just wrong, I'm sorry.
But the once-ubiquitous cafeteria tray, with so many glasses of soda, juice and milk lined up across the top, could soon join the typewriter as a campus relic.

Scores of colleges and universities across the country are shelving the trays in hopes of conserving water, cutting food waste, softening the ambience and saving money.
Trays serve a critical purpose for college life. When the ice and snow comes, the trays become impromptu sleds. I remember well at Calvin College sliding down the hill onto the frozen lake on a tray. I remember the kids surfing on trays while being pulled behind a car (dumb but fun). I remember throwing trays like Frisbee (just don't try to actually catch one). And these are being eliminated?

Seriously, though: a plate of food, a drink, a bowl of soup, a bowl of salad... do they think college students are part octopus? The trays were there for a reason and that reason has not somehow gone away. Not having a tray means making multiple trips, which means more traffic and congestion at the food service areas. It means students, often jammed for time to eat anyway, have even less time to eat, and more stress doing so.

Eliminating trays will not somehow make the college cafeteria seem like a restaurant or home. The food will still be pretty bad, the tables many and loud, the service area basic cafeteria style. According to a environmentalist study group, 126 colleges have abandoned trays, and I bet in five years almost every single one will have them back.

However, one professor sees an important benefit:
Dr. Spina, of the college food service association, cited another benefit: “preparation for the cocktail-party circuit” by having to balance dishware and cutlery. “You eventually have to learn how to hold your hors d’oeuvre and cocktail in one hand while making animated conversation with the other,” he said, “so it’s a life lesson.”
Because if you can't make it at a cocktail party, dear, you must have a menial job and are one of those people who might vote for Governor Palin.

What stupidity people get up to in the name of "sustainability" and "going green" is equaling or surpassing all the idiocy in the name of every other religion.

ICE AND JOURNALISM

"Within a few years, much of the Wilkins ice shelf will likely be gone"
-Ted Scambos, 1999

A few weeks back, an ice bridge connecting a titanic iceberg to an island that is part of of Antarctica collapsed. The Wilkins Ice Shelf is the area in question, and recently a huge section of ice calved off the main body, an area the size of New York City. That should give you an idea of the vast amount of ice involved here.

This ice is free floating, it is not on the continent of Antarctica, but it was connected at one point by a section of ice that spanned the gap of ocean between the two bodies. From the Reuters news service, we get this story by Alistair Doyle which I'd like to examine piece by piece to show the various problems with how it is written.
An area of an Antarctic ice shelf almost the size of New York City has broken into icebergs this month after the collapse of an ice bridge widely blamed on global warming, a scientist said Tuesday.
This is the lede: basic information on the story. It is supposed to avoid opinion, unsubstantiated rumor and superfluous information, but the global warming line was tossed in anyway. There's a reason for that, which I'll get to in a moment. The scientist in question is Angelika Humbert, from the University of Muenster
She said 370 sq kms of ice had cracked up in recent days from the Shelf, the latest of about 10 shelves on the Antarctic Peninsula to retreat in a trend linked by the U.N. Climate Panel to global warming.
Now, notice the difference between how the lede is written and what she reports this scientist to have actually said. The scientist, if this rewriting of the quote is accurate, did not say "this is because of global warming" she said "the UN Climate Panel links events such as this to global warming" which is a bit more specific and proper. She didn't claim that it was widely thought to be caused by global warming. Its possible that she didn't mention the UN report at all, but that the reporter added everything after "retreat" in as an editorial comment.
Nine other shelves -- ice floating on the sea and linked to the coast -- have receded or collapsed around the Antarctic peninsula in the past 50 years, often abruptly like the Larsen A in 1995 or the Larsen B in 2002.

The trend is widely blamed on climate change caused by heat-trapping gases from burning fossil fuels, according to David Vaughan, a British Antarctic Survey scientist who landed by plane on the Wilkins ice bridge with two Reuters reporters in January.
Now we get to the purpose and reason for this article. It isn't about a titnanic section of ice calving off a larger body. It isn't about antarctica or the Wilkins Ice Shelf, and it isn't about sea hazards. It is an excuse to write about global warming theory. The bulk of the story is actually about global warming, not the ice shelf at all - and when the ice shelf is mentioned it is primarily about its loss of ice. The final proof? This article is in the "green business" section of the website. The story is written by an "Environment Correspondent," because just being a regular reporter would not do.
Temperatures on the Antarctic Peninsula have warmed by up to 3 Celsius (5.4 Fahrenheit) this century, Vaughan said, a trend climate scientists blame on global warming from burning fossil fuels in cars, factories and power plants.
Now we play the game of word bias. Notice those words "up to" given there? That means "within a range of different possibilities, I picked the largest one" which is also the least supported by data and the least plausible temperature. Now lets look at another: "climate scientists blame" which is technically true, some do. Yet the way it is worded, the reader is left with the mistaken impression that all climate scientists do. Because she leaves out any qualifier or possibility of questioning this assertion, she's pushing the story in one direction instead of letting the facts stand as they are.

Then, to add to the report's primary purpose of pushing an AGW agenda is this final paragraph:
The Arctic Council, grouping nations with territory in the Arctic, is due to meet in Tromsoe, north Norway, Wednesday to debate the impact of melting ice in the north.
An editor worth a damn would have cut this paragraph entirely, because it has nothing to do with the scientist, the ice shelf, the icebergs, or the Antarctic at all. It is about the Arctic, which is more than five thousand miles north, on the opposite side of the globe.

Now, what's missing from this report?
  1. The fact that the antarctic is actually gaining ice, not losing it overall. What happens when you shove another domino in the back of a line? The front one falls off the table.
  2. The fact that in the area being discussed, scientists have discovered a volcano under the ice, which explains why the area is warmer and actually having ice melt: magma will tend to do that
  3. The fact that over the last ten years the temperature in the Antarctic has been dropping.
  4. The fact that every year about this time the Wilkins Ice Shelf dumps huge amounts of ice into the ocean, thus creating the icebergs that are so dangerous in the area for shipping.
  5. The fact that the ice sheet in the Arctic has repaired and replaced all ice lost in the last 100 years over the previous two winters (since he pointlessly added the Arctic paragraph).
In other words, all the pertinent data that would allow a reader to make an educated, informed decision and understanding of the events. Because it uncomfortably gets in the way of the AGW narrative, and might lead people to not obey Al Gore and the left when it comes to government policy.

And that in a nutshell is a problem with so much of modern journalism. In this case, the problem is exaggerated by the fact that this writer's job is tied to environmentalism, so he has a strong motivation for pushing a certain viewpoint - lose that viewpoint, lose your job. Yet the need to inject a narrative and push a specific conclusion in what is ostensibly just a factual report of events is so common and painfully strong lately it is difficult to read the news.

This isn't exactly new, but it is more prevalent and more blatant in papers who previously would try harder to give the appearance of objectivity and neutrality. Hopefully as papers restructure and review their business and practices in the face of collapse and bankruptcy things will change for the better.

Quote of the Day

“We’ve got 3.5 million layabouts on benefits, and I’m 76, getting up at 6am to go to work to keep them.”
-Michael Caine

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

BETTER LIVING THROUGH CHEMISTRY

"Hope I die before I get old"
-The Who, My Generation

Drugs
In the 1950s and into the 60s, chemistry saw a big boom. Drug that helped you go to sleep and wake, up drugs that helped you calm down and drugs that blocked illness, the scientist seemed to have found the answer to everything. If you read old James Bond novels you will be shocked at how many pills James is popping with his Vodka Martinis. The times seemed wonderful: science is building a better age, a new era where we can use medicine to enhance our lives!
Mother needs something today to calm her down
And though shes not really ill
There's a little yellow pill
She goes running for the shelter of a mothers little helper
And it helps her on her way, gets her through her busy day
The results were pretty grim. Almost all of the pills were addictive, all had side effects the companies either did not know about or did not care to share. Songs like Mother's Little Helper came out to highlight the problems:
Life's just much too hard today,
I hear ev'ry mother say
The pursuit of happiness just seems a bore
And if you take more of those, you will get an overdose
No more running for the shelter of a mothers little helper
They just helped you on your way, through your busy dying day
Over time drugs took on a new meaning, with LSD and other chemicals becoming more prevalent and well known and then by the end of the 70s the drug-taking hippie was considered a loser, a wreck, a fool destroying his life. Pot was for idiots, heroin was suicidal. Yet behind the scenes, Quaaludes and Cocaine were the party drugs of choice for the rich, and with the heroin-laced grunge bands of the early 90s and a President who admitted he smoked pot and was strongly suspected of continuing to do so by most kids, drugs came back.

THEY'RE BACK
And now, in a strange cycle, the modern hope of the future is in drugs once more. There are four major factors that caused this shift, I believe.

The first was the rise in popularity of "herbal remedies" and "food supplements" such as bee pollen and glucosamine. These were not actual drugs, and never had to face the testing and stringent guidelines that actual drugs require in the US and elsewhere. These herbal pills became popular to buy and use, and the concept of taking pills to feel better and have a better life became more acceptable again - after all, these were natural supplements!

The second was the ruling by the Supreme Court of the USA that the ban on drug companies advertising their products was an unconstitutional violation of the first amendment. Now pharmaceutical companies could start to advertise their latest wonder drug; not directly of course, but indirectly with a suggestion to talk to one's physician, and a hurried, small-print list of potential side effects.

The third was the discovery of Viagra. Viagra was a boring blood pressure medicine that apparently showed some promise but also had a strange side effect on men, which turned into the drug's primary focus and use. Now it is one of the biggest selling products on earth, with dozens of copycat pills and medicines, and is being used by men of all ages from teenagers to aged men with one foot in the grave. Advertised as a solution to "erectile disfunction" it is simply a sexual aid now: pop one of these and you're good to go for hours, what a stud you become! As the ads warn, the blood pressure effect it was primarily designed for still is there and its actually dangerous to use. Imagine what the hearts of kids popping Viagra and chugging "energy drinks" are going to be like in ten years.

And the final influence was the aging Boomer. As Boomers aged, they started to notice that while they often had the intellectual maturity and attitude of the teenager they were in the 60s and early 70s, they had the body of their actual age. It was betraying them: no more partying? No more casual sex? No more energy? This cannot be! Surely science can save us from our mortality and age!! Growing old is unthinkable, being young is right and good and should be perpetual. Nanotechnology will save us from our selves! So the push and interest in drugs and science to prevent the horror of growing up is prayed to by a Peter Pan generation.

So now there is tremendous interest in dozens of drugs and remedies claiming to make you a better lover, drugs to make you think, drugs to make you fit, drugs to give you a tan, chemicals to fix your wrinkles, botox to make your face seem smoother, chemicals to hide your graying hair (President Obama, like Ronald Reagan before him, uses this technique to appear younger). The industry is booming, it is a huge business now, and almost none if it is actually about the health it pretends to be.

WRINKLES
Recently, a cosmetic company came out with an anti wrinkle cream that apparently works: it does reduce wrinkles. The stuff is called No 7 & Protect & Perfect Intense Beauty Serum from the Boots cosmetic company and it sells for about thirty dollars an ounce - about half the price of cocaine. If you use this stuff for a year, buying it by the ounce, you can see results. People are lining up around the block like kids hoping to see Star Wars for the gunk.

Over the counter pills that block fat intake by your body and others that make you feel full are available now and selling like hotcakes. The interest is intense as people turn to chemistry to make their lives better. Science will save us all! Science will bring about a better tomorrow! Science is the answer!

As people who are aware of their history know, this is not very discerning or smart to presume. For example, the Boots cream only helps with some kinds of aging wrinkles - primarily sun damage - and in the clinical testing that showed the cream appears to work, it only showed that about 20% of the subjects demonstrated significant reduction in wrinkles as compared to ordinary moisturizer creams.

Another example: the fat reducing drugs. They do actually reduce the amount of fat your body absorbs from food. The problem is not all fat you take in is bad for you, and further fat is not the primary cause of increased body fat. It's not like your body absorbs it and puts it into your skin, fat is broken down and metabolized like everything else edible and it is used in various ways. The more complex the sugars (such as fat) the harder it is for your body to pull energy out of it and the less you store from it. Sweets are actually worse than fats. Further, fat soluable vitamins such as A and D are absorbed less readily if you are absorbing less fat. Finally, it appears that certain people crave different kinds of food or flavors than others: some want more salty, some more sweet, some more fatty, and so on. Reducing the amount of fat you absorb from food will not satisfy that craving, so you might end up eating more fatty food just to get that craving satisfied. In other words: it might be worse for you.

HERBS, MON
Some herbal supplements are actually bad for you, even as they seem to help. Several (L-Tryptophan, Ephedra) were taken off the market because people died taking them. Others interact with actual medicine poorly (one example is St John's Wort which blocks the contraceptive pill's effects). Some are simply useless but advertised as being effective for one treatment or another. Tests have shown that many are no more effective than a sugar pill in what they claim to accomplish. Others are unfalsifiable such as "cold reducing" pills which claim to make your cold have a shorter duration - how would you know, without going back in time and trying without the remedy?

Then there's the advertising. One ad claimed their cookies had only 1 gram of fat, which was accurate, as far as it went. But since each cookie weighed 10 grams, it was 10% fat. Others claim to have fiber, but for any positive effects, fiber has to be high, not simply present. Then there are ones that are more directly deceptive. Dr Regan from the BBC show Professor Regan's Beauty Parlour has some details:
Estee Lauder Advanced Night Repair: This advert, for a repairing night cream, had to be withdrawn when a complaint was made to the Advertising Standards Authority. And the Advertising Standards Authority found that the main evidence to support the product's claim of making someone look 15 years younger was based on the fact that it contained a product to protect against ultra violet light. And you do have to ask yourself - how much sun exposure are you going to get at night when you're wearing a night cream?

L'Oreal Paris Double action Nutri-Repair Conditioner: When I first looked at it I thought it was telling me that if I use this conditioner I would have 95% less breakage of my hair, compared to using another conditioner. But the small print states that the laboratory tests have demonstrated 95% less breakage of hair compared to using a shampoo alone, ie no conditioner at all.
There are dozens of examples in recent years alone of ads which make outrageous or even deceptive claims. The drug Enzyte for example recently got in trouble because it was making claims it was unable to fulfill (you won't get bigger from using Enzyte, guys). The owner got 25 years in prison for lying and an excessively obnoxious ad campaign.

VAIN FEARS
Fear of AgingUltimately all this boils down to two things: vanity and fear. The desire to seem beautiful and young at all costs and all ages, no matter what happens is overwhelming in many, particularly in a culture fixated with youth and beauty and directed almost totally by entertainment. Getting old is horrible: you might not get laid as much, you might not even be able to, or want to. The horror is unimaginable! Gray hair is thought of as ghastly, wrinkles are a terrifying curse, and all the assorted accompanying ailments of age - including, and perhaps particularly, wisdom and a sense of the appropriate and an appreciation of the past - are evils to be avoided.

Along with this vanity is the fear of death. When all you live for is comfort and ease, pleasure and happiness, then the end of that is a terrifying thing. If you reject any life beyond the here and now, consider spirituality a mere psychological crutch and a personal whim, not a transcendent truth, then death is the worst of all possible events. Age reminds people of death and worse it reduces your ability to be happy and comfortable. Age makes you weaker, more sickly, less able to enjoy yourself. This must not be allowed, and so people turn to science as their new God, praying to be saved from this horrific fate. Where once they prayed for salvation so that a better life could be reached, now people are reduced to just hoping they can cling to this life a few more years.

Getting old isn't bad. It isn't evil or horrible. In fact, in many ways it is good: it results in greater wisdom for most people, it forces you to slow down and be more contemplative. It forces you to recognize your mortality and relative worth in the world. Older people tend to be more humble and less ready to judge. With those aches and pains and weakness and sickness comes a better realization of one's own limited nature. We aren't really gods at all. And that, more than anything, is what the West wants to avoid facing.

There's nothing wrong with medicine used in its proper place: to address illness and cure disease. Taking an asprin for your headache is not improper. Taking Botox so your face looks less wrinkly is. The purpose of the first is to address illness. The purpose of the second is to satisfy personal ego and fool others. And a basic worldview shift will eventually reach us all: we cannot run from death, we can only pretend its not coming until it finally catches up.

FILIBUSTER PROOF

"All those little porky things that the House put in, the money for the [National] Mall or the sexually transmitted diseases or the flu pandemic, they’re all out"
-Senator Charles Schumer

Specter
Apparently Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), probably realizing he's likely to lose the GOP nomination when he runs next year, is going to switch to the Democratic Party. This would give the Democrats a filibuster-proof 60 Senator majority. I'm honestly not sure why he waited this long, the man has voted with Democrats nearly every single time in his career.

You'd think as a conservative this would worry and upset me, but it doesn't, honestly. I never considered the man as anything other than a Democrat to begin with, and the filibuster-proof minority is more trouble than help for the Democrats. Let me give you one example to explain.

Recently, there's been a lot of panicked headlines and hype about the Swine Flu pandemic and how we're all going to die from this ghastly disease (psst: think SARS). In their never ending quest to turn everything into a political issue to leverage for power and personal gain, Democrats started to blame Republicans for not having Pandemic funding:
Nichols, a writer for the Nation, actually wrote: “When House Appropriations Committee chairman David Obey, the Wisconsin Democrat who has long championed investment in pandemic preparation, included roughly $900 million for that purpose in this year’s emergency stimulus bill, he was ridiculed by conservative operatives and congressional Republicans.”
Without that last GOP shred of a possible filibuster (which of course was an absurd fantasy to begin with), this already ridiculous attempt becomes even more absurd. Mind you Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is the one that stripped the funding out of the "stimulus" spending and they could have passed the bill without Susan Collins' vote, but that's irrelevant. With that one technical vote that could in theory result in a filibuster, the Democrats could still blame Republicans for something not going exactly to plan in the Senate.

Now they cannot.

Senator Specter, on the other hand, is a repugnant power-grabbing corrupt wretch who knows he can win as a Democrat and is only concerned with his office and power, not who he represents or the truth. He'd already called on Democrats to swap parties and vote for him next year, and has repeatedly been shown to sell his votes to people who give him the most favors in the Senate. The man is wholly without integrity or honor, which I suppose makes him a very effective politician.

Again I have to call for a law that prohibits politicians from changing parties while in office. Think about it: they gained this office as representatives in a specific party and in the election voted for based on that party. Most primary systems will not allow you to vote for the opposing party. That means you are bound by duty and honor to stay with that party until the next election, or you fail to be a representative of the people and are merely a politician. Which explains why Specter and others (such as the many who changed to be Republicans in the 90s) have done so, I suppose.

*UPDATE: Politico inadvertently puts things into perspective:
The last time either party had such a wide Senate margin was during the first two years of Jimmy Carter’s term in 1977-1978, when Democrats under then-Majority Leader Robert Byrd held 61 seats.
Meanwhile, leftists gloat and conservatives shrug, never having wanted Specter around in the first place and not particularly tied to the Republican Party.

SECOND QUOTE

"Get this: The GM bondholders own $27 billion and they’re getting 10 percent of the common stock in an expected exchange. And the UAW owns $10 billion of the bonds and they’re getting 40 percent of the stock. Huh? Did I miss something here? And Uncle Sam will have a controlling share of the stock with something close to 50 percent ownership. And no bankruptcy judge."
-Larry Kudlow on the GM Bankruptcy deal

THE BUCK STOPS OVER THERE

"It's so stupid because they tell you about every fire drill, but they didn't tell us about this"

Photo Op
The White House approved a flyover of New York City involving a 747 and an F16 chase plane. The jet flew low, circled the Statue of Liberty, and left. It was one of the jets used as Air Force One, but from the ground that was not obvious. In fact, from the ground, it looked like another low-flying jumbo jet full of fuel and passengers headed toward the area called Ground Zero where a previous pair of similar jets crashed and killed thousands.

The White House claims that President Obama was "furious" and had a nasty meeting dressing down the people responsible. Mayor Bloomberg claims he was never informed and would have told them to not do the flyby. House Spokesman Gibbs first claimed he had no knowledge of the event, then laughed. Again.

I see a few problems with this whole scenario. First, this was not any sort of significant mission (although that's what the White House called it, a "mission"), it was a photo op, an attempt to get another nice picture of Air Force One flying by the statue of liberty and Ground Zero.

Second, this is yet another example of President Obama blaming other people for something stupid or bad that has happened. During his campaign he did it almost a dozen times, and he's continued this pattern. When something happens that makes him look bad, it's someone else's fault. That's not leadership, its not responsibility, and it is not a good sign. Either he knew and is trying to pass the blame to someone else... or he didn't know and the White House is up to things he's clueless about. Neither of these are good.

Third, the absolute lack of sensitivity and stupidity on display here is difficult to imagine. It's like firing up the Tsunami warnings off Indonesia to get a nice recording. It's like driving vans through New Orleans telling people they need to evacuate because of a coming storm while filming it for a training video. Don't warn people, don't tell anyone what you have in mind, just pull it off. What, people panicked? Who could have predicted that?

Fourth we're left with a troubling set of choices. Either Bloomberg was told and is blustering, trying to cover his political rear end with lies about how he was left out of the loop and would of course have refused the idea... or the White House is lying when they say they informed state and local officials as normal. Bloomberg claims the police knew but he wasn't told. Maybe so, but I somehow doubt the governor was not told.

And finally, we have a sad display of the 9/10 mentality of the Democratic party in America. Because there's been a systematic and continuous effort to avoid mention of 9/11, to never show any images, to totally black out the coverage and memory of the event in the press and politics - even going so far as to change the terminology of terrorism by the White House - so much so that when any Republican mentions 9/11 they are instantly attacked for "politicizing" the events... that they seem to have forgotten the very recent events and how traumatic they were. What's that? People remember that? It's been eight years, stop living in the past!

This was a disgraceful, amateurish, and pathetic display at ever level. Oh, and the New York Times didn't bother with it on their front page: all it had was stories about how great President Obama is.

After 100 days of insanely exploding spending and deficits, incompetent and corrupt administration officials, broken promises and lies, and failure to address the economy and banking crises, this is probably the most symbolic episode of the administration so far.

*UPDATE: An Instapundit reader wrote with this comment:
Isn’t Obama looking for ways to cut $100 million from the budget? What did this photo op cost? $25-50-$100K? Talk about your low hanging fruit…
**UPDATE: Marcia Kramer at CBS has some more inside information, namely that the Obama administration knew this would cause panic but strongarmed people to stay quiet anyway:
Federal officials knew that sending two fighter jets and Air Force One to buzz ground zero and Lady Liberty might set off nightmarish fears of a 9/11 replay, but they still ordered the photo-op kept secret from the public.

In a memo obtained by CBS 2 HD the Federal Aviation Administration's James Johnston said the agency was aware of "the possibility of public concern regarding DOD (Department of Defense) aircraft flying at low altitudes" in an around New York City. But they demanded total secrecy from the NYPD, the Secret Service, the FBI and even the mayor's office and threatened federal sanctions if the secret got out.
She also had a bit of information for the Instapundit reader above:
The cost of the frivolous flight was about $60,000 an hour and that was just for Air Force One. That doesn't include the cost of the two F-16s that came along.

Quote of the Day

A committee is a group that keeps minutes and loses hours.
-Milton Berle

Monday, April 27, 2009

PICTURE OF THE DAY

GOOD RIDDENCE

“These are great times for me"
-Ted Rall, 06/25/2008

“I’ve been laid off”
-Ted Rall, 04/22/2009

MAKING CORRECTIONS

"the Web offers perhaps the fastest way to correct an error and spread the correction far and wide."

Avoiding Embarrassment
One of the more frustrating things about the news industry is how corrections work. Lets say a news report makes a fairly harmless mistake, let's take one I made. I confused Danica McKeller (cutie who played Winnie on The Wonder Years) and Danica Patrick. Well there's a K in the last name and how many Danicas can there be? Well, 4,594, according to How Many of Me, so it was a sloppy mistake. Now, if I was the New York Times then that mistake would go out in circulation and reach all my subscribers, anyone who buys a copy off the stands, anyone who reads the online site, and anyone who reads another newspaper's version of that story they bought from me.

When someone points out (as a helpful reader did on my blog) that Danica Patrick is not an actress, she's an Indy driver, the correction goes in a later newspaper, perhaps the next day or days later... and in an obscure place, a little one-line corner on page A2. So the mistake gets huge coverage, and the correction gets almost no notice. When I wrote about the Plastic Turkey Myth, I had trouble because the New York Times changed the location of their correction. A commenter on another site that linked it sneered how the link didn't go to a correction like I said, so it was all a lie and the turkey was really plastic. Finally Tim Blair found the proper correction and I updated it.

What this means is that if a big story breaks and it is in error, the mistake (or even lie) gets all the way around the world several times and is believed, but the corrections are usually never seen. And when it is some sort of ideological issue, many folks simply will ignore the correction, or demand a much higher standard of proof for the correction than they ever did the original story (this is known as confirmation bias: it says what they believe and want to be true, so the correction is rejected).

And the problem is worse than that. Recently, the Ombudsman of the Washington Post revealed that their paper was not keeping up with corrections.
As of the beginning of last week, The Post had a backlog of hundreds of correction requests, a few dating to 2004. In many cases, readers never heard whether The Post had rejected their request, or why. For them, it was like sending a correction request into a black hole.

The newspaper's process for handling correction requests has not worked properly. In some instances, reporters were never even notified that readers had requested corrections to their stories.
...
"Some of the requests -- whether meriting a correction or not -- have simply fallen through the cracks between reporters and editors and the system we use to track such requests," he says. "And we don't have a system for pushing for closure."
In other words, the Washington Post has almost five years of corrections that they've never responded to, some of which ought to have been printed but were just ignored. The Post claims they've changed that system and they are doing better, but I somehow doubt they're the only paper on earth with this problem.

Lets face it, nobody likes to be wrong. It is embarrassing to have a commenter point out how you made a mistake (and even more so when they do it in a snide and insulting manner). I hate it, and usually I'll make a mistake like that because I didn't take a few moments to be sure before I hit PUBLISH POST. It's my fault, and I hate to be wrong, especially in public. I'm not unique in this. Newspapermen are no different: they hate to be wrong, and hate even more having someone point out how they are wrong in public. It is far easier to just let something slide.

Yet I know that my credibility and the success of this little blog largely depends on being honest, accurate, and known for having integrity. If I make a mistake, I have to man up and admit it, then move on because that's far better for the future of WATN and any hope of respect I might want to cling to if I do so than if I ignore mistakes and pretend I never make any.

Some of the error corrections can be rather humorous, but newspapers really dislike admitting they messed up. Individual reporters often dislike it even more; it is a blow to their ego and sometimes their career. So it is just easier to not bother.

And in the end, the truth is damaged, and we end up with idiot myths like people thinking Sarah Palin said she could see Russia from her house, that President Bush served a plastic turkey to soldiers, and so on. Because not only is the myth stronger than the correction, it is institutionally designed to be so, and people will tend to believe what they want to rather than what is true. And when you live in a society which tends to reject absolute truth for relativist nonsense, the problem is far more prevalent.

FLU FEARS

"I hate pandemics. Not just because of the illnesses that they cause, but also because of the fear that ensues."

McCoy Alert
In 1918, as many as 50 million people worldwide died from the Spanish Flu, which is the most lethal single outbreak of disease in history. This is brought up any time an outbreak of flu kills someone such as the Bird Flu or SARS: see it can be dangerous! The news stories start coming out about how to survive the lethal flu, how to avoid death at the hand of the new pandemic.

Most recently it is the Swine Flu, which has killed 80 in Mexico City. Now it is always wise to try to stay healthy, and there are some basic things you can do to avoid catching disease; things your mom probably taught you to do but you stopped doing when you moved out like wash your hands and clean food before you eat it, make sure dishes are well cleaned, don't leave food out on the counter, etc. Because we live in such a healthy society in America and have such ready access to world class health care, we tend to let this kind of thing slide. So a reminder is good for us all.

Yet, and this is not to in any way make light of the deaths, Mexico City is one of the largest cities in the world, with a population of almost 22 million people in the area. It is also one of the most densely populated cities in the world with over fifteen thousand people per square mile. Couple that with the general level of poverty, poor medical care, shoddy infrastructure and emergency services, and malnutrition in the city and it isn't surprising that people are dying of the flu.

As doctors who have studied the 1918 outbreak note, the flu its self usually does not kill people. Mary Engel at the LA Times reports:
Most deaths in the 1918 influenza pandemic were due not to the virus alone but to common bacterial infections that took advantage of victims' weakened immune systems, according to two new studies that could change the nation's strategy against the next pandemic.
This isn't news to doctors, for years now if you go to a doctor with a viral infection, they will say "we can't fix that but I can give you some antibiotics to make sure you don't catch anything else." In a healthy society where things are generally clean and you have easy access to doctors, the chances of you actually getting that sick from any "pandemic" and dying is rather rare. However, in a nation of 300 million people, the Centers of Disease Control note that quite a few people die each year from the flu, pandemic or not:
By comparison, the CDC estimates that 36,000 people in the United States die each year of influenza-related illnesses. And in spite of this, we in the medical community still have a hard time convincing people to get their flu shots.
The fact is that Swine Flu is not new, it is not unknown to transfer to humans from pigs, and it's not particularly lethal as viruses go. Nor was SARS despite people in China dying from it, nor was Spanish Flu. What is lethal is getting very ill in a filthy area with poor nutrition and health care to begin with. That's bad no matter what the flu is called.

Sure, it makes good press to report about the next flu, it sells papers to scream death and terror, and it never hurts to warn folks of something they ought to be aware of. And the flu can kill the very young and aged especially. This just isn't the next black death like its being reported by Drudge and others.

Quote of the Day

“Really, at this point any CEO who agrees to do business with the government should be fired.”
-Jennifer Rubin

Friday, April 24, 2009

YOU TOO CAN SP*M

You know, when I fired up Google's adsense to maybe make a few pennies off my blog, I didn't know what exactly to expect. Certainly this wasn't what I hoped for:

Ad example
Great: an advertisement trying to get people to sp*m other sites. Kindly disregard that ad, for the sake of everyone, everywhere.

FOLLOW FRIDAY

Five blogs I like that you ought to check out, ones that don't get enough attention in my opinion:

Keepin' It Rural by Eric, who comments here occasionally
Baldilocks who isn't really bald
The Simple Dollar
Strange Maps, just lots of fun
Joanne Jacobs Education Blog

Check 'em out!

THOSE ALIEN CHRISTIANS

"The convocation we attended was filled to the gills with ... a bunch of people almost wetting themselves with the love for their God. I honestly felt like I had to shower when we left."

Christianist Candidate
There once was a college student named Kevin Roose. Attending Brown University - one of the most leftist institutions in America - he decided to write a book about Christians, those alien creatures from red America he'd heard about. So Kevin transferred to Liberty University, the college founded by televangelist Reverend Jerry Falwell. At the Huffington Post, Eric Tucker reports:
"As a responsible American citizen, I couldn't just ignore the fact that there are a lot of Christian college students out there," said Roose, 21, now a Brown senior. "If I wanted my education to be well-rounded, I had to branch out and include these people that I just really had no exposure to."

He was determined to not mock the school, thinking it would be too easy _ and unfair. He aimed to immerse himself in the culture, examine what conservative Christians believe and see if he could find some common ground. He had less weighty questions too: How did they spend Friday nights? Did they use Facebook? Did they go on dates? Did they watch "Gossip Girl?"
Roose's ignorance of Christianity and Christians may seem odd to you, but his background helps explain the confusion. Roose was nominally raised as a Christian by leftist Quaker parents, folks who worked on Nader's presidential campaign, and they were "nervous about their son being exposed to Falwell's views," according to Eric Tucker. In essence, Christians who take the Bible seriously are an alien breed to the far left, a people set apart and strange, even frightening. Why, our son might come home thinking the Bible is God's word!

Eric's idea was pretty straightforward, even if he tried to be fair at the beginning: I'll infiltrate this pack of freaks and write a Jesus Camp book about how weird they are. The problem is, as he spent time in the college, he discovered something expected, to him at least:
He lined up a publisher - Grand Central Publishing - and arrived at the Lynchburg campus prepared for "hostile ideologues who spent all their time plotting abortion clinic protests and sewing Hillary Clinton voodoo dolls."

Instead, he found that "not only are they not that, but they're rigorously normal."

He met students who use Bible class to score dates, apply to top law schools and fret about their futures, and who enjoy gossip, hip-hop and R-rated movies - albeit in a locked dorm room.

A roommate he depicts as aggressively anti-gay - all names are changed in the book - is an outcast on the hall, not a role model.
Mr Tucker is quick to note that some of those craaaazy Christiansts actually seemed to believe that non-Christians go to hell, can you imagine? One even was so insane as to say that the deaths from the crazed leftist Virginia Tech shooter paled in comparison to the hundreds of millions of helpless, innocent babies murdered by abortion worldwide. Kevin was infuriated by this inconceivable statement.

He even interviewed Reverend Falwell and found him to be, of all things, a normal human being. Roose's book ended up not being as critical and condemning as he'd initially thought, or planned. He found that his time at Liberty changed him, making him more faithful as a Christian and even spend time reading the Bible. Back at Brown University, he was initially shocked at seeing gays holding hands, then was shocked at himself for even caring about public homosexual behavior. I am confident that over time, Brown can get him back on the plantation, but for the moment, being exposed to a different worldview has made him question and at least examine things he never considered before.

Meanwhile, some of the commenters displayed the kind of attitude Kevin did before he bothered to find out the facts. Some even were hostile toward him for daring to say anything non-hostile about the dreaded and hated Christianists:
It took him one semester to get brainwashed. That's what I'm talking about. Intelligentsia my a $ $ !
ItJustSux


I commend Kevin for having the courage and conviction for writing the book. I think I will purchase a copy. I don't have much use for the religous right and there thier views. They do not have any tolerance for other views. They justify by thier belief biblically. I have a feeling Jesus would have a hard time being around them.
-Billpoch


Maybe for Mr Roose's 2nd book he should consider writing about the power of brainwashing as it pertains to modern day cults and religion in America.
-teuqirc


"University" indeed! what gall they have to call this hideous cult a university. as if they could 'teach' anything. does anyone actually think anyone could get an education at this place.?
-truthartbeauty



So Roose spent a year or a semester there and just from that started to lose his mind?
just shows the dangers of religious insanity.
-Nunyabiz1


"Infiltrate"...just lower your GPA, drink the Kool Aid and dress like a loser...You'll get in.
-Kappa08


All true institutions of higher learning are inherently "liberal". Conservatism is inherently counter to the whole concept of honest intellectual exploration, is it not?

The south really is a different country.
-Hayduke1969


What seems to be missing in this article is the mind altering tactics that 'got him' and the latter part of the article shows the affects.
-ggmome


The brainwashed telling on the brainwashed.
I do not care.
-Bookkillr


"Once ambivalent about faith, Roose now prays to God regularly _ for his own well-being and on behalf of others."

His parents were right to be worried about Kevin being exposed to the fallacies of dogma...
-macracan


It makes me wonder at what point Mr. Roose lost his objectivity and began to filter his opinions through this brief encounter with Christian extremism. Maybe the idea was good but his mind too supple, too young.
-roblarousse
And on it went. The ironic thing, as Newsbusters points out, is that Kevin Roose went to Liberty University to find intolerance and hate, and he found it... from the left. The presumption of many of the people posting in Huffington Post's comments is that if you're a Christian and to the right of Rosie O'Donnell you are an idiot, a hate-filled madman, an ignorant freak. That's what Roose thought too, and he found out otherwise. Yet instead of taking this eyewitness' word and considering the possibility that he might have found out something, his conclusions aren't just rejected, but he's suspected of having been mind controlled.

The presumption, without the slightest evidence or argument to support it, is that their worldview is completely true, and that anyone who varies from it even slightly is not just confused or misinformed, but brainwashed, idiotic, and even potentially dangerous. Kevin Rousse decided to pray and read the Bible, and that's evidence he was surrounded by zealots who destroyed his critical thinking. As one commenter said:
The echo chamber effect - when everyone around you is saying the same things, confirming the same 'facts' and worldview, bringing up all the news and information that is slanted or biased towards that worldview - it's hard not to buy into that worldview, feel like everyone should feel the same way.
-SusanSoHelit
And she's right, that can happen. Yet what is never considered is this question: who's in the echo chamber? That can go both ways, have you even pondered whether you are the one in there?

As another commenter pointed out, every single one of the "Ivy League" schools, and even Brown its self, started as Christian organizations, they were officially and specifically Christian in worldview and instruction. Over time that was lost, and the quality education has suffered, but it is a fact. Harvard's slogan specifically refers to the truth of the gospel, Yale to its light. They all were started by those scary Christians with a genuine desire to educate and learn more about God's creation. Over time the Christian influence was pushed away incrementally by people who wanted to fit into the culture better instead of affect and influence the culture, until they are anti-Christian at this point. Yet the assumption that anyone who is a strong Christian is some anti-scientific, anti-education drooling idiot is not just without historical or logical basis, it is exactly what you accuse the Christians of being.

In other words, the hypocrisy is so thick and almost painful that I am stunned they don't seem to even consider it. Personally I'd disagree with much of what Liberty University would teach in its theology (Pre-trib, pre-millennial dispensationalism, semi-pelagianism, etc) but I don't presume everyone who goes there is a liar or a moron or a gay kid their parents are trying to straighten out as one commenter insisted.

The lack of desire to even question one's position and consider the opposition is the reason leftist shout down, block, and even attack people who dare to speak at universities - the very seat of diverse thought and the very place where differing ideas are supposed to get a hearing. Because this portion of the radical left - perhaps the majority - don't just think they are right, but they think anyone who disagrees is evil and destructive, that they must be silenced. Because they've become what they hated: the inflexible fundamentalist who shouts down and wants to destroy, without thinking, anything different.

Thankfully not all the left are like this, and many of the comments were more thoughtful and willing to consider a different viewpoint. The problem is too many are, and the ones who are not are at the very least willing to ignore or tolerate that attitude, which helps it spread and build. And this is becoming more and more the public face of the left: grim, unhumorous, bitter, and inflexible, the very Taliban they accuse any Christian who dares to believe the Bible of being.

THE IMPOSSIBLE RETURN

"My passion is to reach beyond inspiration - to be spectacularly creative."
-Chef Robert Irvine

Dinner Impossible Logo
One of the shows I actually tried to catch on television was a Food Network program called Dinner Impossible. The concept was simple: take a chef, then require him to prepare a large meal (dozens, if not scores of people) in several courses in a very short time with limited resources and no advanced planning. Can it be done, or is this dinner... impossible? The chef, Robert Irvine, was a hulking ex-Navy Brit who was likable and very talented, and usually managed to do the job even if it was a bit frantic and stressful.

Last season, Chef Robert was dumped and a fruity guy named Michael Symon was put in his place. Symon tried, but he never really could hold your interest as well as Irvine and the show suffered from the change. Chef Irvine was let go, according to the Food Network, because Irvine inflated his resume with false accomplishments such as baking the wedding cake for Prince Charles and Lady Spencer and that he had been knighted and been given a castle in Scotland. He is said to owe investors millions of dollars for restaurant plans that never came about. Ben Montgomery reports in the St Petersburg Times:
Early in their friendship, she asked how he wished to be introduced.

"He said, 'Sir Robert Irvine, Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order,'" she recalled. "He said there were five levels of knights, and KCVO is the highest level of knight you could be. The queen handpicks you."

Irvine repeated the claim several times. No one questioned it.
...
Irvine's relationships have soured like month-old milk. His Web site consultant claims he owes her thousands. His restaurant designer has backed out. His interior decorator is suing him.

Another woman, St. Petersburg socialite Wendy LaTorre, says Irvine owes her more than $100,000 for marketing and promotions and for helping him find property.
The truth? Well he was at the college where the wedding cake was made and helped put it together. He was never knighted, but explains:"When I first came down there and I met people down there with all this money, it was like trying to keep up with the Joneses. I was sitting in a bar one night and that came out. It was stupid."He did cook in the White House while in the Navy.

Rumors say that he's very insecure and full of ego, that he continually builds himself up like his huge muscles. But all of them, even the news report above, say the same thing: he's a brilliant, incredible chef. And the show is built around the difficulty of the job and his skill as a chef. So in the end, it doesn't really matter what a prima donna he is; no more so than any of a hundred other actors and television personalities.

And fans seem to understand that. I could care less what a fool he is off camera, I like the show and want him back. The Food Network seems to understand that as well: Irvine is back for six more episodes. Here's what his bio reads like on the show's website now:
A native of England, Irvine joined the British Royal Navy at the age of 15 and his skills in the kitchen soon came to the attention of his superiors. As part of his service for the Royal Navy, Irvine was selected to work on board the Royal Yacht Britannia where the Royal Family and their entourages regularly dined. During his time training US Navy chefs as part of a guest chef program, Irvine worked in the White House kitchens and his creations were served to high-ranking government officials.

In over 25 years in the culinary profession, he has cooked his way through Europe, the Far East, the Caribbean and the Americas, in hotels and on the high seas. In his career, he has also had the opportunity to serve 6,000 servicemen and women on a US aircraft carrier and plan the menu at a spectacular celebrity-studded after-party at the Academy Awards.
So now you can catch the original, best chef for Dinner Impossible Wednesdays at 8 EST and see what its all about. And lets hope Robert has learned to let his cooking speak for its self.

Oh, and Chef Michael Symon? He's one of the chefs in the kitchen stadium for Iron Chef America.

THE FATE OF GEOCITIES

"My nephew, who is 14 and codes circles around me, asked 'what was GeoCities?'"

Geocities
One of the first internet businesses that encouraged and helped people to build their own site was Geocities. It was conceived as a series of six differently themed "neighborhoods" such as Sunset Strip, Silicon Valley, etc in which the "homesteader" (web master) could build their website. Enterainment went to Sunset Strip, and so on. These neighborhoods grew to 15 by the mid 90s and Geocities was eventually purchased by Yahoo who was a major advertiser on the site.

How you were supposed to pronounce Geocities I never really knew, was it Gee-AWsities or geo-cities? Probably the former, although the first has a certain charm. At any rate, the popularity of the company as a website host declined, partly due to the relatively small hosting for the free sites (4 gig a month) and largely due to the announcement by Yahoo that it owned all content on any page it hosted (meaning that if you put something on your Geocities website, Yahoo said they owned it). Yahoo dropped the "neighborhood" concept which never was enforced to begin with, and eventually the site became used primarily for hosting semi-legal downloads and home porn collections.

Purchased in the "Dot Com" bubble of the late 90s, Geocities was never profitable for Yahoo, much like their purchase of Webring about the same time, largely due to the mass exodus when Yahoo announced they owned all the content they hosted. Now Geocities has been shut down, according to TechCrunch. Leena Rao reports:
Not with a bang, but with a whimper. Yahoo! is unceremoniously closing GeoCities, one of the original web-hosting services acquired by Yahoo! in 1999 for $2.87 billion. (Fun venture fact: Fred Wilson’s Flatiron Partners was an investor). In a message on Yahoo!’s help site, the company said that it would be shuttering Geocities, a free web-hosting service, later this year and will not be accepting any new customers. Existing customers will still be able to access use GeoCities but Yahoo! is encouraging these customers to upgrade to Yahoo!’s paid Web Hosting service.

GeoCities’ traffic has been falling over the past year. According to ComScore, GeoCities unique visitors in the U.S. fell 24 percent in March to 11.5 million unique visitors from 15.1 million in March of 2008.
These days if you want to post your own website for free, MySpace and other community sites will give you the opportunity without the same limitations and without the claim of ownership of all your content. Yahoo basically killed GeoCities by poor business modeling and decisions. Still, it is sad to see the name go, it was an old standby back ten years ago along with Compuserve, Prodigy, Angelfire, and Tripod.