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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Picture of the Day


A helping paw

ACORN RETREAT

"Bah, that's only an election. As long as our guys win, who cares?"

After hammering on the corrupt and illegal organization ACORN for years, it is satisfying to see them pay for their sins at least to some degree. The community organizing group is being attacked by its former supporters, defunded in congress, and even large organizations such as Bank of America are withdrawing former support.

Yet consider this: for over a decade, ACORN was in the forefront of voter fraud, repeatedly being busted for stuffing ballot boxes, overloading voting registration with fake cards, and paying people to fill out cards for this purpose. Over and over, every election for years they would be hit with fines, have workers arrested and put in jail, and the clear evidence of their corruption was obvious to anyone who bothered to look. All this time, support and money kept pouring in, and congress kept funding ACORN. Big business kept donating.

Now, because footage comes out of a faux pimp and whore looking for advice from several different prominent ACORN offices on how to cheat the IRS - and getting it, with support and suggestions on how to smuggle in underage girls for sex slavery - the retreat from ACORN begins.

So... let me get this straight. When ACORN is busy destroying democracy, undermining the very structures and principles of liberty, and annihilating the concept of the vote with continual fraudulent efforts to get Democrats elected no matter what laws they must break, that's perfectly acceptable.

But when the IRS is annoyed, now its time to run away?

What the hell kind of twisted standard is that? Don't tell me this is only because of the media attention, the media only paid attention because of the story, not because the information wasn't out there before. Media voices such as Rush Limbaugh talked about ACORN voter fraud before. Bill O'Reilly had former ACORN workers on his top-rated television show talking about their corruption and illegal activity. The information was out there. It was about voting and apparently nobody gave a damn that democracy its self was being destroyed. It was only when sex and the IRS got involved that people started hopping.

ART MAKES ITS OWN MORALITY

"Hollywood is a place where they'll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss and fifty cents for your soul."
-Marilyn Monroe

Roman Polanski on Trial
Roman Polanski is a fairly well known and talented director. His works include Rosemary's Baby, Chinatown, and The Piano and he is acclaimed as a great artist with film. He also was convicted of drugging and raping a thirteen year old girl in 1977. The girl, now in her forties, wants to drop the whole thing because she does not want any publicity or legal problems, but she admits that he did the deed.

Polanski was allowed by the judge to fly to Europe to work on a film (Tess) before sentancing, and the man just stayed there. In an interview he scoffed at the charges, saying "everyone wants to f**k young girls" and claimed the girl acted very grown up and sexually experienced and was not a virgin. According to the trial, Polanski slipped the girl Quaaludes, then raped her as she kept saying "no" to each forcible sexual act despite the drugs, just as a reminder.

Now, after 32 years, Polanski is being held by the Polish police and is going to be extradited to the United States to serve his sentence. In his 70s, Polanski is fighting to stay in Europe and free. OK that much you probably know from any news or blogs you've come in contact with.

You probably also know that people such as Whoopi Goldberg, Salman Rushdie, Wes Anderson, and other actors and intellectuals are all arguing that he shouldn't be punished. Goldberg said it wasn't rape rape (probably thinking it was Statutory - as in illegal to have sex with a minor, but consensual). Their arguments tend to boil down to this: he's such a great artist, you have to make allowances for their eccentricities, and look at what they've contributed to society! Art is so important and necessary that it erases sins of the past, like penance for atheists.

Which begs the question: what, exactly, can you get away with as long as you're a significant artist? Bill Henson's stalking children in schools and photographing naked children is defended because he's supposedly such an artist. What could he get away with because of this artistic talent? Rape apparently is one such crime, Ace has a whole topic with multiple suggestions of crimes allowed due to talent and art.

But seriously, at what point does justice and ethics get negated by artistic ability? When does the line get drawn? If someone can drug and rape a young girl yet be defended and not face justice, is there anything an artist cannot do and be protected because of his talent? What about art makes people think that justice is irrelevant?

Even in that case, the judge tried really hard to find a way to give Polanski a minor sentence, even going so far as to work with the defense and prosecution to script the outcome. Other than a guilty conscience and hoping things they've done don't come out in the light of day, what could possibly motivate these people to defend such a monstrous act? Those of you who are parents, especially of girls: is there any level of artistic achievement and contribution to society that could possibly let someone drug and rape your daughter, then walk free? Clearly Polanski was counting on it.

There isn't from where I'm sitting. And I'm an artist.

Quote of the Day

"Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment."
-Barry LePatner

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

WE HEAR YOU, AND NOW YOU'LL HEAR FROM US

"He played upon our feeeaarrrrs!!!!!"
-Al Gore

In the summer of 2001, almost a decade after the World Trade Center had a car bomb detonated in its basement car garage, the New York Times ran this article:
The Declining Terrorist Threat

Judging from news reports and the portrayal of villains in our popular entertainment, Americans are bedeviled by fantasies about terrorism. They seem to believe that terrorism is the greatest threat to the United States and that it is becoming more widespread and lethal. They are likely to think that the United States is the most popular target of terrorists. And they almost certainly have the impression that extremist Islamic groups cause most terrorism.

None of these beliefs are based in fact. While many crimes are committed against Americans abroad (as at home), politically inspired terrorism, as opposed to more ordinary criminality motivated by simple greed, is not as common as most people may think.
...
Part of the blame can be assigned to 24-hour broadcast news operations too eager to find a dramatic story line in the events of the day and to pundits who repeat myths while ignoring clear empirical data. Politicians of both parties are also guilty. They warn constituents of dire threats and then appropriate money for redundant military installations and new government investigators and agents.

Finally, there are bureaucracies in the military and in intelligence agencies that are desperate to find an enemy to justify budget growth. In the 1980's, when international terrorism was at its zenith, NATO and the United States European Command pooh-poohed the notion of preparing to fight terrorists. They were too busy preparing to fight the Soviets. With the evil empire gone, they ''discovered'' terrorism as an important priority.

I hope for a world where facts, not fiction, determine our policy. While terrorism is not vanquished, in a world where thousands of nuclear warheads are still aimed across the continents, terrorism is not the biggest security challenge confronting the United States, and it should not be portrayed that way.
Just two months later, the worst terrorist attack in American history took place in America.

The writer was Larry Johnson, an intelligence analyst at the Clinton White House. He believed terrorism was not much of a threat, and that the US should focus its energies on other problems. President Bush disagreed, and was working on a new approach to deal with terrorism (albeit a bit too slowly). Larry Johnson, of course, was catastrophically wrong in his analysis and entire world view. That didn't stop him from being a darling of the left and the legacy media as he continually attacked President Bush for being all wrong. If your politics are right and your target is correct, then being demonstrated a fool and utterly mistaken simply is irrelevant to the left.

Well its been nearly a decade since the World Trade Center ceased to be and the New York Times is at it again, or so it seems. This time the writer is Scott Shane, a national security expert and reporter at the newspaper:
Rethinking Our Terrorist Fears

Eight years after 9/11, the specter of terrorism still haunts the United States. Just last week, F.B.I. agents were working double time to unravel the alarming case of a Denver airport shuttle driver accused of training with explosives in Pakistan and buying bomb-making chemicals. In Dallas, a young Jordanian was charged with trying to blow up a skyscraper; in Springfield, Ill., a prison parolee was arrested for trying to attack the local federal building. Meanwhile, the Obama administration struggled to decide whether sending many more troops to Afghanistan would be the best way to forestall a future attack.

But important as they were, those news reports masked a surprising and perhaps heartening long-term trend: Many students of terrorism believe that in important ways, Al Qaeda and its ideology of global jihad are in a pronounced decline — with its central leadership thrown off balance as operatives are increasingly picked off by missiles and manhunts and, more important, with its tactics discredited in public opinion across the Muslim world.
...
Even those who are convinced Al Qaeda is growing weaker offer a cautious prognosis about what that might mean. They say that what is growing less likely is an attack on American soil with a toll equal to or greater than that of 9/11. But they concede that the example of Al Qaeda will continue to produce copycats: “Bin Laden has given others a narrative, a grand story of struggle, and he’s given them tactics as well,” Dr. Mandaville said.

Dr. Sageman said the United States should approach the threat not with hysteria, but with a careful analysis of the motives and patterns of people drawn into violent plotting.
Scott Shane, as Sweetness and Light points out, is the "expert" who said that leaking the name of the CIA agent who interrogated Khalid Sheik Mohammed was perfectly acceptable. From the articles on the topic by Mr Shane, I get the impression he felt differently about the name of non secret agent (by contrast) Valerie Plame being leaked.

Now, he's not entirely wrong. Al`Qaeda is basically in ruins and terrorism as a tactic has apparently fallen into disrepute among Muslims around the world. It isn't accomplishing anything useful for them, and clearly poking the eagle gets you clawed to pieces. And as Rush Limbaugh, taking a cue from noted:
This is the same New York Times who told us that everything we were doing in the war on terror was a waste, it was a bust, we had no business being in Iraq, Afghanistan, ah, really shouldn't be there, either, just capture Bin Laden. Now all of a sudden they say we're succeeding or did succeed so well that al-Qaeda is so fractured and disoriented that there's no reason to fear terror attacks. That's what the sum total of this story is, we really have an unrealistic fear of future terrorist attacks, and there are quotes from terrorism experts in this.
The problem with Mr Shane's article is that his approach is based on the idea that the US responded to 9/11 out of fear. That we shouldn't act from fear, but in careful study, that the past policy was defined by fear of terrorism. When I heard Al Gore's cartoonish speech decrying President Bush for playing on the fears of the left, something occurred to me.

When 9/11 happened, it was a sudden, shocking stab in the heart of New York City, the mecca of the left. All the cushy leftist Manhattanite elites suddenly got mugged by reality: there really are bad guys who really want to do evil to you, and they really will unless stopped. When they saw that, they felt raw, chilling fear. The terror part of terrorism worked with them, they were affected how the bad guys hoped. That's how the left reacted.

The right reacted like President Bush: steely rage and determination to see justice done. A desire for the US to stomp on the people who planned this, to destroy their ability to make this possible again, and to finally take decisive, crushing action against the murderous scum who had been doing it all this time. The speech President Bush made on the ruins of the World Trade Center was the height of his presidency, he sounded strong, courageous, and right.

The left, had they not seen and experienced this leadership, would have been inclined to find ways to appease and mollify this evil. The shock was terrifying to them, they would have tended to (and certainly many pressured the president to) react exactly how the terrorists wanted. The purpose of terrorism is to shock and frighten the public into pressuring their government into taking actions the terrorists desire. Lacking strong leadership, that could have happened.

The left responded with temporary fear and shock, but once it wore off, began to return to normal. They aren't that bad, it was just a small group, we really did bring it on ourselves by our actions in the middle east, we have to understand their rage and pain, you know the drill. Over the last eight years we've heard and read plenty of it in every conceivable forum. When President Bush took action in Afghanistan, it was during the shock period of the left's reaction. When that wore off, they decided a war on terror was too much, it would only make them angry.

So Al Gore was right, from his perspective: President Bush did take action which they supported based only on their fear. When that wore off, they felt angry that they'd let it happen. All those Democratic party congressmen who voted for the authorization giving President Bush their approval to fight against terrorism wherever he found it started to look for ways to back out.

The right never was responding out of fear. We always knew the terrorists were out there, we have always known there are evil men in the world who will do evil to us if allowed. That's why we're always for a strong national defense and a strong foreign policy profile. Because the bad guys must know we're not just able, but ready to take action if they dare do evil to our nation, whatever nation that happens to be for you and I. The left saw terror alerts and speeches about fighting evil as based on fear and fearmongering.

They never were, not from the right. They were information mongering, and taking decisive action to do what was right. They were about justice, and about not standing by as men do evil. The left's perception of this was how they saw things not how we did. And this article about how we have to abandon the fear based decisionmaking of the past is part of that basic worldview confusion. Making smart choices based on good information and an understanding of the enemy isn't fear, its reason.

Mr Shane is right: we shouldn't act out of fear. He's just wrong when he assumes the US was. Just two days before this article, Scott Shane wrote about a recent foiled terror attack in Missouri, and not long before that he wrote about other terrorist attacks. The system put into place by the Bush administration is still getting results: not out of fear, but out of a desire for justice and to stop evil.

*Hat tip Steve Gilbert at the blog Sweetness and Light for the NYT stories.

IMAGINARY FRIENDS

"I was talking to a friend the other day..."

Imaginary Friend
Remember Dick Gephardt? I always thought if the Democrats had gone with him, they would have had a better chance at winning over Senator Kerry in 2004 - except the name, I just can't envision a President Gephardt. One of his big rhetorical tricks was to relate supposed conversations he had about things. These would always support whatever leftist scheme or socialist idea Gephardt was supporting at the time, like the rich friend who loved tax increases on the rich, or the doctor who wanted socialized medicine.

Pretty much everyone knew these were basically lies, or to put it more charitably, they were useful fictions, tales told to enhance a speech. Pastors do it to, and I always have hated it, especially from someone who in theory at least would tell you its a sin to bear false witness. You know the sort of story, there are books of them out there, helpful sermon illustrations which pastors will adapt and tell as if it happened to them.

Recently President Obama told a tale which went like this:
"I was up at the G20 -- just a little aside -- I was up at the G20, and some of you saw those big flags and all the world leaders come in and Michelle and I are shaking hands with them," the president said. "One of the leaders -- I won't mention who it was -- he comes up to me. We take the picture, we go behind.

"He says, 'Barack, explain to me this health care debate.'

"He says, 'We don't understand it. You're trying to make sure everybody has health care and they're putting a Hitler mustache on you -- I don't -- that doesn't make sense to me. Explain that to me.'"
And the first thing I thought of was that this is one of those stories, a useful fiction told to make a point. A story, not an actual event, not an anecdote taken from his life. Maybe it really happened, and maybe it's a mix of Gephard's imaginary friends and Senator Kerry's "foreign leaders."

Either way, it was pretty poor stuff, a good sample of the TV Talkshow-ification of US politics: lots of soundbite and sophistry, filled with emotional appeal but no content or reason.

SCIENCE MARCHES ON, AGAIN

"This is not for average Americans"

A couple of things came up in the news recently about climate change and global warming that I wanted to bring to your attention. The first is about a startup company that multi millionaire Al Gore is backing which was given money by the US federal government:
A start-up automotive company backed by former Vice President Al Gore has been loaned more than half a billion dollars by the federal government.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Fisker Automotive Inc. has received $529 million in taxpayer money. The loan was intended to help Fikser produce a hybrid sports car to be sold in Finland.
This is a loan, so in theory it will be paid back, but since this isn't likely to sell very much (Finnish hybrid sports car??) the likelihood of it being paid back any time soon seems remote. Why help Al Gore make this car?

Well Al's Mr. AGW hysteria, he's the prophet of doom for climate change, a man who has made a huge fortune telling everyone they must live like he doesn't want to and that we're all going to die if we don't give up everything he's earning and enjoying.

In completely unrelated news, picked at random, we find that the charts used by the UN and Al Gore, among many others, showing a radical increase in global temperature over the last few decades is... well, here's the ominous chart:

WE'RE ALL DOOMED!!!!

Except upon closer examination by peers, the chart turns out to be a lie. Not mistaken, but deliberate falsehood. Steve McIntyre at Climate Audit explains:
Two posts ago, I observed that the number of cores used in the most recent portion of the Yamal archive at CRU was implausibly low. There were only 10 cores in 1990 versus 65 cores in 1990 in the Polar Urals archive and 110 cores in the Avam-Taimyr archive. These cores were picked from a larger population - measurements from the larger population remain unavailable.

One post ago, I observed that Briffa had supplemented the Taimyr data set (which had a pronounced 20th century divergence problem) not just with the Sidorova et al 2007 data from Avam referenced in Briffa et al 2008, but with a Schweingruber data set from Balschaya Kamenka (russ124w), also located over 400 km from Taimyr.

Given this precedent, I examined the ITRDB data set for potential measurement data from Yamal that could be used to supplement the obviously deficient recent portion of the CRU archive (along the lines of Brifffa's supplementing the Taimyr data set.)
What he found was that of the total collection of relevant ice cores and tree samples, the people who produced the chart shown above picked only a small number from a specific area. They cherry picked the samples from an area called Yamal which was unusually warm compared to the rest of the world.

When the whole data set was used, not just 30% of it which produced the desired results, the graph changes dramatically. Now it looks like this:

See you can tell where the difference is: the green is the full data set while the red is the "lets find the samples that help make things look dire" set. Suddenly that massive temperature spike at the end of the graph disappears. It goes up, to be sure, but then it goes down, again. And the variation over the years is pretty striking: that number at the bottom is the year, from about 300 BC to 2009 AD. Also missing is the "here's what's going to happen based on our computer models and the tea leaves we looked at" gigantic skyrocketing of temperature. You know the one, its that red line that went up like a kid's energy level after a bowl of Crunch Berries that was projected in 2001. The one that ended up being completely, humiliatingly wrong as temperatures dropped every single year after that, save one.

What this means is not only is the flat part of the "hockey stick graph" absurdly wrong and deliberately bad science, leaving out uncomfortable data, but the hike at the end was wrong as well. It was complete fiction, a deliberate fraud, which the world has been relying on for its cries for change and demolition of culture, progress, technology, and civilization or we're all going to die! Not only that, but the trend of the temperature not down until we destroyed the earth with our evil cars, as the top graph suggests. It is pretty much a sine wave, up, down, up. Almost as if the earth naturally varies in its overall climate in general, repeating patterns. Unthinkable!

Incidentally, it took years for McIntyre to finally get the data from Mann and others who produced that horrible looking graph above. Years of legal action and continuous struggle to force them to produce the data which would allow someone to check it and make sure it was good science. It wasn't.

The science continues to march against global warming hysteria, and Al Gore continues to get accolades, money, and government funding for his cult. The man is a consummate con artist, I'll give him that. He may even believe what he's saying.

Picture of the Day

Quote of the Day

"There is nothing worse than aggressive stupidity."
-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Monday, September 28, 2009

SPY TEST

"Where else could you deliver intelligence to Whitehall, protect your country and pretend you had a boring day at the office?"

MI6 Headquarters
Want to be a spy? The Daily Mail has a bit of MI6's test for Brits looking to work in their intelligence department. Here is some samples, a test to see how good you are at remembering details and creating them to convince people:
You're stationed in Transeuratania. You're a vegetarian, and the food isn't especially good in Metropoligrad - unlike the coffee, which costs less than a shilling for a pot in the best hotel.

Your name is Stephanie Johnson. You were born on 14th December 1974 in Skegness.

At A Level, you gained an A in Geography, an A in French and a B in Economics.

You have two sisters and a brother. You studied Geology at university and now work as a Management Consultant for a company called British Coal Associates.

Now cover up the cover story, and give yourself 10 seconds to answer each question:


Question 1: (checking in at hotel)

What is your name?

a) Joan Stephenson
b) Stephanie Johnston
c) Stephanie Johnson


Question 2: (at the cash point)

What is the currency in Transeuratania?

a) Transeuratanian rouble
b) Transeuratanian zloty
c) Transeuratanian shilling


Question 3: (at the restaurant)

What is your favourite meal?

a) Mushroom Risotto
b) Duck A L'Orange
c) Roasted vegetables with lamb


Question 4: (how well did you pay attention?)

What were your grades at A Level?

a) ABB
b) CAB
c) AAB


Question 5: (in the office)

What company are you working for?

a) CBA
b) ABC
c) BCA


Question 6. (getting to know you)

What was your degree in?

a) Geology
b) Geography
c) Management


Question 7. (family)

What is your brother's name?

a) John Stephenson
b) John Johnson
c) Stephen Johnston


Question 8 (recall)

What is your birthday?

a) 17th December 1974
b) 14th December 1974
c) 19th December 1974
The answers are below the fold.
Correct Answers:
1-c. 2-c. 3-a. 4-c. 5-c. 6-a. 7-b. 8-b

Of course, this is only for field work as an undercover agent. Most of the people working for intelligence are analysts, janitors, supervisors, paper pushers, secretaries, mechanics, and so on. It takes a lot of people to support and work with a few actual spies in the field. Valerie Plame, for example, was one of those classified-level drones, not a real spy but working with intelligence.

Still, Queen and country, I suppose.

Oh and I'd do awful at that kind of test.

Picture of the Day


Tunes for your cat.

PUZZLING TO THE OLDIES

But is this song so different?
Am I doing it all again?
-The Who, The Music Must Change

If you've looked at my Songs I Like series, you can see my interest in music is pretty eclectic, but included in there are some oldies. Oldies are defined as any rock and roll or pop song from around 1955 to 1975, roughly. That runs from Rock Around the Clock to Seasons In The Sun, with a special focus on the 60's. What is curious to me, however, is how that designation was chosen: that era was being called "oldies" in the 1980's.

That means in fewer than ten years, music became "old" and was stuck in a box which certain radio stations and RONCO music collections would feature. I like oldies stations, the music is fun and catchy and the DJs genuinely seem to enjoy their work rather than being burnt out hippies or people desperately trying to have fun. The Oldies make people think of juke boxes and bobbie socks and a more simple, fun time (which was just as complicated and tough as now, but in different ways).

But consider: If you start ten years ago, and pick an era of music running rouhly 20 years you go from The Cars to Smashmouth, that's the era U2's career covers, it starts with Madonna's first records and ends with Green Day's. Yet that's just contemporary music now.

Sure, 80's music and 90's rap is considered old school, but it isn't oldies, its just music from a few years ago. And in the last ten to fifteen years, music really hasn't changed much. Listen to a Matchbox 20 song from their first album and just about any band now and they aren't very different. Rap has changed, but not all that much, especially in the last ten years.

It's just odd to me, especially since I was born in the heart of the oldies era. I saw the music become old when I was in high school, then... it just stopped. The last real big movement in music was Grunge, which wasn't so much new as a resurgence of rock and roll. And that was in the late 80s.

I suppose that you could call the modern era of music the MP3 era (or the I-Pod Era if you're an Apple zombie). Instead of having "our music" for the kids, its just music, and kids are listening to Billie Holliday, Johnny Cash, Buckwheat Zydeco, Clinic, and Sir Mixalot. The new movement in music is eclectic and broad, a mix of almost anything because what is cool is what's new and interesting - even if its old and forgotten.

To me, that's great. There's been great music for as long as man has made music, and most of it has been either forgotten or folded into later music so that people forgot its origin. Whiskey in a Jar by Metallica is an Irish tune from the 17th century. Remakes of old songs are popular, with a lot of the people hearing them not even knowing what the first versions were like. Great musicians like Louis Jordan who were all but forgotten are getting more attention now. And all that is certainly great.

But what happened to popular music that it dragged to such a grinding halt? The reason Oldies are called "oldies" is because the music changed. In about 1965 the psychedelic and electric era of music took over, with bands creating something very new, even when they borrowed from older blues and folk music. The line that divides oldies from classic rock is pretty bright and easy to spot. Into the 80s Punk, New Wave and rap were major changes in music, something new and interesting, that pumped the industry full of energy but.... then it kind of went away.

Have we really plumbed the depths of music? Is there truly nothing new that popular and modern music can offer? I can't believe that's true. I wonder sometimes if innovators like the record label Virgin (which became gigantic by finding new and interesting music and promoting it) aren't around any more. That the music industry has become safe and stale and walled its self in. That started to happen in the 80s, and you could tell. Music was getting just awful, then bands like Guns 'n' Roses kicked the door in and stomped all over the industry, with MTV forcing them to be noticed. Now MTV is the music industry and they hardly ever play videos anyway.

Classical music is still around, and new things are still being done in it. I'm not talking about that ghastly avante garde "classical" that was attempted in the 20th century with random notes and horrid screeching sounds. It's called "movie music" now, and soundtracks are where the good composers have gone. Lacking patrons and public interest, they are getting work and getting paid to produce music but its behind the movies you see.

I had hopes the internet would introduce new music more, would give it an outlet to fascinate and captivate new audiences. Its out there, it just is being drowned out in the sea of other voices. Without a promoter, without a way to capture attention, they just disappear, unnoticed, unlistened for the most part. What's needed is a YouTube type phenomenon for new music. I know people have tried it, but so far it just hasn't caught on.

The music must change.

HOW DARE YOU BE NEIGHBORLY!?!?

"If people are neighborly, they need the state less."
-Glenn Reynolds

There's a news story going around the internet which I wanted to put up here. First the story, from WZZM channel 13 in Middleville Michigan:
A West Michigan woman says the state is threatening her with fines and possibly jail time for babysitting her neighbors' children.

Lisa Snyder of Middleville says her neighborhood school bus stop is right in front of her home. It arrives after her neighbors need to be at work, so she watches three of their children for 15-40 minutes until the bus comes.

The Department of Human Services received a complaint that Snyder was operating an illegal child care home. DHS contacted Snyder and told her to get licensed, stop watching her neighbors' kids, or face the consequences.
This is the kind of thing that always used to be done in the past. Fifty, sixty years ago neighbors did this sort of favor for each other. They'd share food, they'd watch each other's kids, they'd drive someone to the store if it was needed, they'd even cook food for someone in need. It was part of how America (and much of the world) worked: self reliance and helping your neighbors in need. Christianity taught for thousands of years that to help someone in need near you was to do God's work on earth. It was not just religious, it was a part of the social fabric.

The Social Contract taught us all that we all work together to make a society work: giving up a little gained much, and when everyone pitches in to help out, then there's less work for everyone - including you, when the time came you needed help.

Now, because we're in an era where government is seen as the moral and social provider, and instead of private and personal charity for those nearby and in the family, we turn to the big government. Taxed enough we cannot afford to help those around us as we might, we presume welfare will care for the sick, the needy, and the hungry. And big government is always around to make sure it stays that way - and gets that way more and more.

This in a nutshell is the health care debate: do we rely on ourselves and on those near us? Or do we demand all pay into something so the government handles it for us? Will we be self reliant and responsible, or increasing vassals of an all powerful central government?

Quote of the Day

“If the Taliban wants to make a religious state, OK, like the Vatican. Does the Vatican constitute a danger against us? No.”
-Moammar Khadaffi

Friday, September 25, 2009

THE VANISHING DATA OF GLOBAL WARMING

"It wasn't lies, it was just... bulls**t!"
-"Joliet" Jake Blues, Blues Brothers

Con Scientist
In 2005, Australian climatologist Warwick Hughes asked University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit head Phil Jones for the data he used to come up with the foundational study on global warming. Phil Jones' response was dismissive and insulting:
“We have 25 years or so invested in the work. Why should I make the data available to you, when your aim is to try and find something wrong with it?”
Putting aside that peer review and fellow scientists trying to find problems in others work is the basic way good science is done, that is still a pretty odd response to a request for proof of someone's findings.

Then in 2009, Peter Webster claimed he'd been given the data, thus suggesting the whole story was a lie. In response, another scientist filed a request for the same data, to see if he could go through it and test its claims. He was Canadian researcher Stephen McIntyre, but his request was denied because "he wasn't an academic." A friend of McIntyre's, an academic, filed a similar request, but he too was turned down.

Patrick Michaels at National Review Online continues the story:
Faced with a growing number of such requests, Jones refused them all, saying that there were “confidentiality” agreements regarding the data between CRU and nations that supplied the data. McIntyre’s blog readers then requested those agreements, country by country, but only a handful turned out to exist, mainly from Third World countries and written in very vague language.
This tended to cast doubt upon Mr Webster's claim. Finally a request got a different response from just a plain no:
Roger Pielke Jr., an esteemed professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado, then requested the raw data from Jones. Jones responded:

Since the 1980s, we have merged the data we have received into existing series or begun new ones, so it is impossible to say if all stations within a particular country or if all of an individual record should be freely available. Data storage availability in the 1980s meant that we were not able to keep the multiple sources for some sites, only the station series after adjustment for homogeneity issues. We, therefore, do not hold the original raw data but only the value-added (i.e., quality controlled and homogenized) data.
So which is it? Was the data destroyed decades ago, or was it given to Mr Webster? Or was it private and not open to peer review? Or, as Mr Michaels puts it... did his dog eat his homework?

This is one of the most foundational studies of global warming, and the data is... gone? Or hidden? Or was it just sloppy and cobbled together like that outrageously fraudulent hockey stick graph that Mann threw together, ignoring previous warming periods (and, hilariously, he's offered another one that's the same way)? Without the data to work with, it could be anything, yet this is what Al Gore and President Obama are using as a basis to demand drastic, economy-demolishing action be taken based upon.

Shouldn't we, just as a thought, be more sure about the data, and have better science behind the decisions before we take action? The more we learn about global warming the more it looks like a colossal scam based on the work of con artists and shysters than any sort of hard science done in good faith.

HYPOCRITE WEEK

"Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."
-Jesus Christ, Matthew 7:5

All this week I've been trying to highlight people who are on the left and are gross, obvious hypocrites: people who say one thing and do another, people who accuse others of being what they are, or demand others be what they will not. Hypocrites are despised because of their dishonesty and lack of integrity, and more than that because of their arrogance, by pretending to be better than others while they are worse.

Nobody likes a hypocrite. There are plenty around - to one degree or another we all fail to live up to what we say or wish others would, so we're all hypocrites. There are many on the right and all over the political spectrum. The thing is, its only the ones on the right we really see being highlighted as hypocrites. You hear of Ted Kennedy being a scumbag but nobody points out that he calls others to be better than he is. When Kennedy demanded alternative energy that everyone pays for, condemning oil companies for not helping out, he was a hypocrite when he blocked that very energy source because it would make his view at his multi million dollar estate less pretty. Yet when you see hypocrites mentioned, its always some Senator known for his social conservatism caught in some scandal, never anyone on the left.

So I wanted to spend some time pointing out the hypocrisy on the left, and contribute a bit to the almost permanent record on the internet of images and information to counter that tendency. The left is packed with hypocrites, from Al Gore's gargantuan carbon footprint to Barbara Streisand's coast-crumbling mansion to President Obama's demand we all cut back while spending trillions. Hypocrisy knows no boundaries, political or otherwise, so its time the left got the spotlight on it too.

Especially since they're the ones in power.

NUTTY NEWS

"I've been fighting alongside of Acorn on issues you care about my entire career. Even before I was an elected official, when I ran Project Vote in Illinois, Acorn was smack dab in the middle of it, and we appreciate your work."
-Barack Obama

So that whacky ACORN has been up to plenty lately. Breitbart recently unveiled the corruption and bias of the legacy media by cracking a story so huge even John Stewart couldn't ignore it, even though the legacy media did. This brilliant move has led to many a domino crashing down, such as the de-funding of ACORN by the US Congress (whether President Obama will sign the bill or not is a matter of some conjecture).

ACORN has been pretty prominent in the news, almost as if there's been a dam broken and all the news that should have been printed years ago is finally pouring over. For example:

San Diego's Board of Supervisors is starting an investigation into local ACORN activities. Primary in this investigation is... you guessed it... voter fraud and stonewalling by the California state authorities. Kimbery Dvorak at the Examiner has the story:
California State Assemblyman, Martin Garrick-R 74th district said he intends to get to the bottom of this criminal organization. “I’m on the phone today to get a response from the Secretary of State. I want to know why it’s been about a year and nothing has been done about this fraud?”

In addition Garrick said his office would be “following the money to find out what, if any, money has been given to ACORN and how it was spent.”

Again, elected officials used this as an opportunity to underscore the need for California to have a voter identification card. “You need identification to cash a check or rent a video,” Horn said.

During the 2008 election cycle the San Diego Voter Registrars office had disposed of more than 4,000 fraudulent registration cards from ACORN leaving 76 to question.
Also in the news is ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis. She said that she welcomed the investigation into ACORN to find the few people in the organization who might be trouble - then turned around and sued the people who brought the investigation about. She also claimed that ACORN was meticulous in their tax payments, except as Deroy Murdock points out in the New York Post, that isn't exactly true:
The IRS recently filed a $548,000 lien against the group, and Louisiana state tax officials have slapped $334,000 in liens on ACORN since last October.

Evidence that ACORN ignored its tax obligations may be less exciting than its branch offices' eagerness to help a self-professed pimp break multiple laws, or the voter-registration fraud for which various of its workers have been convicted.

...the tax mess shows that the lawlessness starts at its headquarters. (ACORN actually has three national HQs -- in the Big Easy, Washington, DC, and New York City.)

Another New Orleans group, the free-market Pelican Institute for Public Policy, uncovered official records that confirm ACORN's deadbeat tax status. (Full disclosure: Pelican hosted my visit to New Orleans last May.)

At the Orleans Parish Clerk of Courts Office, Pelican researcher Steve Beatty found a Sept. 3 IRS filing showing that "Elysian Fields Corp., Inc., Alter Ego of ACORN" skipped five quarterly withholding-tax payments -- covering income, Social Security and Medicare levies -- in 2005-08, and made no federal unemployment-tax payments for the fourth quarters of 2007 and 2008.

"We have made a demand for payment of this liability, but it remains unpaid," reads IRS form 668(Y). So the federal taxmen have placed liens on ACORN's New Orleans offices at 2609 Canal St. and 2610 Iberville St.

This follows a $1 million invoice that the IRS already had handed ACORN, as Pelican reported last August. The group's in trouble with the state, too.
Speaking of the IRS, that government agency has broken all ties with ACORN as well. They were working closely with the group (per the Obama administration's orders) to help low income people with tax advice, but given the blatant violations of tax law the IRS thought it best to back off.

Then there's the ties between TARP recipients and ACORN donations. Most of the big banks that got TARP money . Kevin Williamson has the story at National Review Online:
Mr. Dimon is the CEO of JPMorgan Chase, which operates a charitable foundation that gave ACORN $1 million in 2007, along with a smaller grant to the ACORN Institute. Beyond the charitable grants, ACORN and its affiliates have long profited from their “partnerships” with the big banks, taking a cut of subprime loans marketed to low-income borrowers in poor neighborhoods.

However, JPMorgan Chase isn’t the only big offender here. According to Peter Flaherty — president of the National Legal and Policy Center, which is tracking corporate America’s underwriting of the Left — other big ACORN benefactors include such TARPalicious names as Bank of America and Citigroup. Taxpayers bail out the banks, the banks fund ACORN, and ACORN dispenses advice on human trafficking and tax evasion to aspiring pimps and hookers. Not America’s proudest moment.
Most major corporations donate to charities like ACORN pretends to be. The amount of money pouring into ACORN was truly staggering, but there doesn't seem to be a lot of evidence that they are actually spending all that much in their community organizing efforts. So... where's all the money going?

And finally, there's President Obama pretending he didn't know much about ACORN. I'd have thought that was a pathetic effort until I saw several leftist commenters on websites pretending they were unaware of any ties, too. Is it simply following their leader's cue or do they really not remember? Here's a few reminders for those who are unclear:
  • In 1991, Barack Obama worked for Project Vote, part of ACORN
  • The next year, he became a trainer for ACORN at their Chicago conferences
  • In 1995, he worked as ACORN's lawyer, forcing Illionis to accept the motor voter law which makes voter fraud so easy
  • In 1996 when he ran for state legislature, Barack Obama listed ACORN as a major supporter.
  • In 2007, when working up to a presidential run, Senator Obama spoke with ACORN leaders, a speech in which the quote at the top is found
  • In 2008, Senator Obama gave over $800,000 in campaign funds to an ACORN subsidiary
  • Also in 2008, Senator Obama gave ACORN his private full list of campaign donors to the campaign for their fund raising efforts
  • In 2009, while president, Obama promises ACORN a seat at the table while deciding policy
  • Also in 2009, ACORN is tapped by the Obama administration to help with the Census drive
He knows about this organization, he's worked with these guys, he's close to them and he's part of the same network of leftist organizers and fundraisers. Like the Ayers connection, the facts are undeniable and plain, but simply not reported on because they are awkward and uncomfortable for his supporters.

Why do right-leaning blogs like this one hammer on ACORN so much? Because they are openly fraudulent, corrupt, and illegal, operating in the United States with federal funding and support and have faced virtually no punishment or action for their continuous lawbreaking. Because they are a powerful, unrestrained force for the destruction of what people like me hold dear. And we want everyone to know what scum this organization is.

*ACORN-Obama picture courtesy S Weasel.

FEAR OF THE OTHER

“We'll be working to undermine the G-20 summit by attacking their power, making connections to the local manifestations of their neoliberal agenda. … The G-20 is in a house of cards: let's shake the table.”

G20 protests
So the G-20 met again, the 20 largest economies in the world. Their topics were varied and mostly rhetoric, but what happened outside the meeting was entirely predictable. Black block "anarchists" and rioters showed up to protest ... well the things that make them able to protest and buy those nifty outfits they wear. Seriously, they are protesting capitalism, government, world trade, consumerism, and all the things that, when not protesting, they benefit from.

Dressed in fashionable black with black bandannas to protect their identities (or, mostly, just to look cool), they clashed with police, broke things, and generally committed mayhem. The press was there to cover the events, noting their violence with a sort of resigned tone of expectation: they'll be here, they will be violent. There wasn't any condemnation of their message or of the left they belong to politically; the tone tends to be sad or mocking more than anything else.

Every time the left would hold an "anti-war" protest of any size, these guys would show up and start blocking traffic, breaking shop windows, spray painting objects and generally being childish, destructive, and stupid. Every time there's a major economic meeting, they show up and cause trouble.

Contrast this with the legacy media's treatment of Tea Party protests. Some people shout, and the cries of violence and danger arise. The body of a census worker was found on 9/12 and connections to the 9/12 Tea Party protest at Washington DC were proclaimed... even though the body was in an advanced state of decay and was found in one of the worst parts of town, no where near the capitol grounds.

Democratic Politicians pontificate about the dangers of Tea Partiers, crying about expected violence, shrieking about klan memberships and worrying about some barely contained catastrophe. Some are even claiming they feel the same way about them as they did in 1963 when President Kennedy was unexpected and shockingly assassinated by a communist radical. In all honesty, I believe that one, because there wasn't any special "feeling" of danger or threat then, it was stunning when the president was shot, not expected or the culmination of an ominous mood.

So why dismiss the G-20 protesters as typical and signifying nothing while inventing demons in the Tea Party?

Well some of it is just partisan posturing, an attempt to manipulate the apparently positive feeling most Americans have for the Tea Party movement (if you believe polls). A lot of people's neighbors, friends, and co workers are attending these events or are at least in support of them. If the Democrats can make these protests look awful then their influence on public perception and voting by congress can be reduced or even eliminated. That much is not particularly new, politicians have been doing it for centuries, and the Democrats have it down more or less to an art these days. Just ask Joe the Plumber or Sarah Palin... or any of the women who accused President Clinton of sexual misconduct.

That's why the Tea Party is demonized for a tiny minority that shows up with crazy stuff but the "anti war" movement was lionized despite a significant chunk of it being made up of lunatics, radicals, and anarchists destroying the neighborhood. The former is made up of the enemy, the latter is made up of the ally, so you do not speak ill of your friends, and presume their goodness while presuming the evil of your enemy.

Yet I think at least some of it is fear. Not fear of the power of the mighty Tea Party, but fear of the people involved. Faux anarchists are pretty much made up of harmless high school and college students who shop at the Gap and drive a Scion they spent thousands of dollars to customize and thus think is cool. They're the I-Pod generation of rich, pampered kids who think they are making a difference between sipping 5-hour energy drinks and texting about how cool they are. They are momentarily violent and disruptive, but more in a manner of youthful exuberance than any real lasting threat.

On the other hand, the Tea Partiers are made up of the mysterious, frightening religious and conservative types, those red staters in flyover country. Who can understand them? The legacy media sends emissaries to interview these strange, alien people who do not live in Manhattan or Los Angeles, but for the most part contact is limited to stories about disasters and mockery. These are people who actually go to church and own guns. They hunt and fish and live on farms, can you believe it? They might actually use those guns. They are bitter clingers, the Jesuslanders, the people who live where no one who is anyone actually goes.

So while the "anarchists" are pretty familiar types - even kids of the legacy media guys and the Democratic party politicians - Tea Partiers are the other, the strange, frightening people who might do anything. And when you've been raised, educated, and work among people who agree with a certain, distorted (if not completely fictitious) version of history, it becomes clear: these are the bigots, they are the ones who killed Kennedy, they are the dangerous types who are one step away from... dare I say it... a militia!

So when the Obama inauguration pulls in over a million people, including some who "tag" national monuments and leave trash all over the lawn, that's just the work of a few scamps while the numbers were closer to 2 million! When the Tea Party pulls in a million or so people who leave the place pristine, it was about 70,000 disgruntled racists who clearly represent the worst in America. Because it is the narrative, not the facts, which drive this perception. Left=good, right=bad, and there is no variation allowed in that basic worldview.

Quote of the Day

"We are the sole survivors of a world no one else has ever seen."
-John LeCarre

Thursday, September 24, 2009

TASTE THE HYPOCRISY

Mayor Bloomberg of New York City is worried about your health. He's been behind several health safety rules which have been passed in the city. Trans fatty acids have been banned, smoking in all public places have been banned, and he's pushing for low salt initiatives as well. All restaurants - even fast food ones - have to show nutritional information for all food served, in legibly sized documentation with the menu.

The man himself? Well turns out what he demand of others - by rule of law and punishment no less - he personally isn't inclined to take part in. Michael Barbaro at the New York Times reports:
HE dumps salt on almost everything, even saltine crackers. He devours burnt bacon and peanut butter sandwiches. He has a weakness for hot dogs, cheeseburgers, and fried chicken, washing them down with a glass of merlot.

And his snack of choice? Cheez-Its.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has become New York City’s nutritional nag, banning the use of trans fats, forcing chain restaurants to post calorie counts and exhorting diners to consume less salt. Now he is at it again, directing his wrath at sugary drinks in a new series of arresting advertisements that ask subway riders: “Are you pouring on the pounds?”

But an examination of what enters the mayoral mouth reveals that Mr. Bloomberg is an omnivore with his own glaring indulgences, many of them at odds with his own policies. And he struggles mightily to restrain his appetite.
...
Under his watch, the city has declared sodium an enemy, asking restaurants and food manufacturers to voluntarily cut the salt in their dishes by 20 percent or more, and encouraging diners to “shake the habit” by asking waiters for food without added salt.

But Mr. Bloomberg, 67, likes his popcorn so salty that it burns others’ lips. (At Gracie Mansion, the cooks deliver it to him with a salt shaker.) He sprinkles so much salt on his morning bagel “that it’s like a pretzel,” said the manager at Viand, a Greek diner near Mr. Bloomberg’s Upper East Side town house.

Not even pizza is spared a coat of sodium. When the mayor sat down to eat a slice at Denino’s Pizzeria Tavern on Staten Island recently, this reporter spotted him applying six dashes of salt to it.


A health tip sheet from the mayor’s office tells New Yorkers to “drink smart” by choosing water, even though Mr. Bloomberg has a three- to four-cup-a-day coffee habit.

“I can count on two hands the number of times I have seen him drink water,” said one dining companion, who spoke on condition of anonymity, so as not to offend the mayor (who likes his coffee weak, and with milk).
Hypocrite: one who demands others live and believe as he will not.

*Hat Tip Van Helsing at Right Wing News for this news bit.

DIGGING IT

"The Templars and the Freemasons believed that the treasure was too great for any one man to have, not even a king."
-National Treasure


I think we've all seen them out there, folks with metal detectors, walking around sweeping the electromagnet over the ground hoping to find something valuable. Most of the time they find bottle caps and pennies and old rusted metal, but once in a while, once in a very rare while, they find something valuable.

Then there are guys like Terry Herbert in Staffordshire England. He found something in a field, and that something ended up being over 1300 pieces of anglo-saxon treasure buried for more than a thousand years. The Daily Mail reports:
Experts have already examined the 1,345 items but another 56 clods of earth have been X-rayed and are known to hold more metal artefacts, meaning the figure is likely to rise to around 1,500.

At least 650 are gold, weighing more than than 5kg, and another 530 are silver, weighing around 1kg. This is far bigger than previous finds - including the Sutton Hoo burial site in Suffolk.

Many of the items in the hoard are warfare paraphernalia inlaid with precious stones, including sword pommel caps and hilt plates.

Experts say it is the best example of Anglo-Saxon workmanship they have ever seen and may have belonged to Saxon royalty, possibly the King of Mercia.

Archaeology expert Leslie Webster, who used to work at the British Museum, said: '(It is) absolutely the equivalent of finding a new Lindisfarne Gospels or Book of Kells.'
The total value of the treasure discovered is unknown at this time, but the bulk of the pieces are made of gold, often inlaid with precious metals. At the current price for gold and silver, the raw metal alone is worth more than $140,000 but historical value can increase that significantly. English law is pretty specific on treasure finds, since the nation is more or less dotted with ancient loot buried or lost in wars and cataclysm.
Anyone who finds gold or silver objects over 300 years old or groups of coins as part of the same find are legally bound to report them to the coroner under the Treasure Act 1996.

If the items are officially declared to be treasure trove by the coroner, they can be officially valued and the proceeds split between the finder and the owner of the land where they were found.

For an item to be declared treasure under the Treasure Act 1996, it must be at least 300 years old and at least ten per cent gold or silver.
So all the gold and silver parts belong half and half to the discoverer and the owner of land, who plowed up the stuff without knowing it. The Bible has a story where someone found treasure on a plot of land, sold everything they owned, and bought the land just to get the treasure - this fellow is fine with just splitting the proceeds.

In newer countries such as the US, the chances of finding buried treasure is significantly lower than in places like Europe or Asia. There just hasn't been as much time or opportunity for treasure to have been buried or lost in the new world, although it still is out there, especially in the ocean in wrecked ships. And there's always pirate treasure, which while fanciful is a very real if incredibly rare thing.

For lots of pictures and more information on the loot dug up, the Daily Mail has a long article on the topic with many related links.

*UPDATE: Even more pics at the Staffordshire Hoard website!

SLIPPING AWAY

"Do it for Ted Kennedy!"

Dr Obama
Socialized medicine has long been a Democratic party dream in the United States. It fits their concept of "social justice" in which everyone has all the material needs they desire even if it is at the cost of progress, liberty, and other peoples' efforts. There have been repeated efforts through the last four decades, each time the fight getting a little closer to victory. Smaller victories such as medicare, medicaid, and prescription drug benefits have been won over the years. Eventually, it seems, there will be some sort of nationalized medicine program in the US despite horror stories from around the world in nations who already have such a system and are looking for ways to get out of it.

This time around, the health care push came at a very bad time. Despite having a large majority in both houses of congress and a leftist president, the Democratic Party picked a time when the public reached the breaking point of frustration watching gigantic bill after gigantic bill rammed through congress, unread no less, without any action being taken on the actual crisis citizens are facing: economic recession. So the fight has been much harder than it should have been for the Democrats, and is probably the last major legislative effort they will attempt before 2011.

Even the legacy media is starting to see some problems with the Democratic Party rhetoric. The Associated Press "fact checked" President Obama's speech and found many flaws, saying "The president's speech to Congress contained a variety of oversimplifications and omissions in laying out what he wants to do about health insurance." CBS News listed five promises about health care that would not be true if the bill actually passed, such as "complete transparency" and "allow importation of cheaper medicine." AP again noted that the $2 trillion in savings President Obama promised were just vapor, and as Hot Air points out, he's said $4 trillion in the past, which is even more absurd a fiction.

Basically, the rhetoric has been filled with promises and good intentions, but the end result is merely nonsense, lies, fantasy, and misinformation - even while the Democrats and President Obama complain that their opponents are the ones doing so. Ultimately, none of this is really about better health care in any case - at least not directly.

To be sure, everyone wants the health care system in the US (one of the finest in the world) to be better. There are some problems which would be nice to address. Even if you throw out the ridiculous 47 million uninsured fiction, there are quite a few who cannot afford the health care they desire or need. Costs are too high, and while the quality of service is superb, it is difficult to access and unequally distributed.

Yet the ultimate goal for the Democrats is not so much to fix the system as it is to take control of it. Their intent is primarily to get federal control of the health care system with a socialized medicine network similar to that of the UK, Canada, Australia, and Sweden (each of whom is looking for ways to back out of their respective systems). The reasons for this are multiple, among which better care for everyone ranks high, but an overarching desire for centralized planning of the economy and equality of outcome for all is also very important. That's why when other options which would help matters significantly yet do not involve socialism or central government control are offered, they are immediately shot down by the left.

Proof of this attitude can be seen when Wolf Blitzer pinned down Obama spin meister and advisor David Axelrod recently on CNN:
BLITZER: Why not break down these state barriers and let all these insurance companies compete nationally without having to simply focus in on a state by state basis?

AXELROD: Because we are trying to do this in a way that advances the interests of consumers without creating such disruption that it makes it difficult to --

BLITZER: Why would that be disruptive if Blue Cross and Blue Shield or United Health Care or all these big insurance companies, they don't have to worry about just working in a state, they could just have the opportunity to compete in all 50 states.

AXELROD: But insurance is regulated at this time --

BLITZER: But you could change that --

AXELROD: State by state.

BLITZER: The president could propose a law changing that.

AXELROD: That is not endemic to the kind of reforms that we are proposing or that --

BLITZER: Why not, why not?

AXELROD: We're proposing a package that we believe will bring that stability and security to people, will help people get insurance, and will lower the cost impact and pass the Congress. And that has to be the test. We're not into symbolic expedition here.
Lets make it universal!Why not something that simple? Yet when Whole Foods owner John Mackey suggested the same thing (along with several other intelligent options) he was savagely attacked by the leftist media and boycotts were begun. How could he betray them, after all the organic vegetables they bought from him? His ideas did not require federal government control, they move away from regulation, socialism, and central planning. They'd work, but most of them were not a way of moving the nation left wards, and thus they were to be opposed by the "progressive."

Yet in this all, you can see the entire effort falling apart. When the usual cheerleaders and sycophants in the legacy media start to doubt and point out flaws with the plan, you know it is crumbling before your eyes.

As one last thought, I'd like to offer some points which are completely non partisan and usually overlooked in the debates over health care reform. Here's the rundown of four major problems with health care reform as the Democrats are proposing it, courtesy John Hawkins at Right Wing News (who in turn got them from Dick Morris):
  • If you're getting Medicare, Barack Obama is going to cut $500 billion dollars out of the program. That means the quality of your care is going to dramatically drop off.
  • If you have no insurance, Barack Obama is going to force you to buy insurance. The CBO estimates it will cost slightly less than 20% of your income. Can you afford to take that much of a hit to get your "free" insurance?
  • If you already have insurance, there is going to be a 1/3rd tax on insurance premiums. Currently, only 15% of plans are over the threshold that gets taxed, but soon, because of medical inflation, a much larger percentage of plans will be taxed. So, this is going to turn into a massive tax on the middle class.
  • Additionally, the quality of care across the system is going to be destroyed because you can't adequately cover 30 million new people without large numbers of new doctors and nurses, none of which will be provided by the plan. In fact, according to a survey done by Investor's Business Daily, 45% of doctors said they'd retire or consider closing their practices if this bill passes. So, the number of people covered will dramatically increase while the number of people caring for them will dramatically decrease. Say "hello" to rationing.
The bill is a bad idea, the solutions offered will not help, rather they would make matters worse, and ultimately even if this was a good idea now is not the time.

For a change, something fresh and interesting, the American people would like to see the Democrats in Washington DC do something to actually help with the very real, very current crisis: the economy. Since nothing is being done - save an insanely huge "stimulus" package which neither stimulates the economy nor is much beyond a laundry list of leftist dream projects - people are understandably annoyed.

So President Obama, please, lets see some leadership. Let's see that new government, that fresh approach, that transparency that you promised while campaigning. Let's see that end to partisan bickering and a fresh, new approach rather than ancient, discredited hippie nonsense from the last 40 years tied up in a new package but still as stinking and failed as it ever was.

Instead of attacking people who disagree, insulting American citizens for dissenting, whining that the press is not helping, and blaming others for your idea not working, lets see you be a president, be a man. Step up and show us something better, because we'd all like to see that.

MANALOG: TRAFFIC LIGHTS

“On a traffic light green means go and yellow means yield, but on a banana it's just the opposite. Green means hold on, yellow means go ahead, and red means where the hell did you get that banana at...”
-Mitch Hedberg

First traffic signal
Ever sat at a light all alone waiting for it to turn? Sometimes it can take an awfully long time, sometimes you just give up waiting and drive through if it is late at night and deserted. Emergency vehicles have a strobe on top which is detected by a sensor mounted on lights, triggering a change so that they can move through swiftly to their destination. Guys like us have to sit and wait, and sometimes that wait can be a long time.

Part of the reason that wait can be so long is because of how some traffic lights work. Some are on a set timer, but others have a trigger to let them know someone is waiting at the light and needs a green to pass through.

Traffic signals started in London of 1868, amid gaslights and hansom carriages. The first signal was a mechanical semaphore at the intersection of George and Bridge streets. According to Brinkster:
Designed by railroad signal engineer JP Knight, it had two semaphore arms which, when extended horizontally, meant "stop"; and when drooped at a 45-degree angle, meant "caution." At night, red and green gas lights accompanied the "stop" and "caution" positions,
The first genuine traffic light had to wait until the new century, and who first had such a device is a matter of some contention. The first functioning traffic light appears to have been in Salt Lake City, set up in 1912. The next year, one was set up in Detroit, and within a year the city had over a dozen. Based on railroad lights, these were the first lights with the familiar red, amber, and green colors for stop, caution, and go. It was Garret Morgan, said to be the first black man to own a car in Cleveland Ohio, whose perfection of the traffic light led to its patent and purchase by General Electric, setting the standard for all future traffic signals.

These earlier lights were controlled by traffic cops, but the first automatic light was installed in Wolverhampton, England using a clockwork timer. In time these devices became more sophisticated, and by 1960 the systems included a system in the pavement which detected cars. These systems do not rely on weight, they are instead a weak electromagnet called an "inductive loop" which is a set of wire in the pavement covered with tar or rubber. When anything sufficiently massive made of iron is over the loop, it sends a signal to the traffic controller that a car is waiting, letting the light know it needs to change.

The problem is that over time advances in metallurgy and plastics means that the hulking iron cars of the 1960s have given way to smaller, sleeker cars made of aluminum, carbon fiber, and composites which means the iron content of cars waiting at a light is lower and lower. Because the EM field is so weak, smaller vehicles sometimes will not trigger the system. Motorcycles, for example, are small enough and contain little enough iron that they often simply are not noticed. Four Wheel drive trucks are so high off the ground that they won't trigger the system either in many cases. And no, your bicycle won't get noticed either.

So there's a few products out there which will help you get noticed. One such is called the Green Light Trigger, a device which you install on the undercarriage of your car. It sends out a magnetic signal that the inductive loop will recognize, even if you're riding something as small as a bicycle (because it is a powerful magnet, you'll want to be careful where you mount the thing on smaller vehicles). Other similar devices are the Red Light Changer and the Signal Sorcerer (although that company appears to have gone out of business).

Incidentally, there are devices you can get which mimic the strobe traffic light changer that emergency vehicles use, but they are all illegal. They work, but they'll get you fined or thrown in jail, and sometimes hit by cars unready for the traffic light shift.

But if you ride a bike, I recommend one of these, just to make sure you get through those lights waiting for someone to show up, because chances are it will never notice you.

Previous Man Catalog posts:

Quote of the Day

"After two years in Washington, I often long for the realism and sincerity of Hollywood."
-Fred Thompson

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

NEVER TRUST A HYPOCRITE

Here's a video to continue my hypocrisy theme this week.


I think calling people "Hitler" or "Nazi" is how a secular society calls someone "Satan" or "evil," but it still is pretty stupid, unless they actually are those things. If they are not, and neither President Bush nor Obama is fascist or Hitler, then you're just being childish and throwing names around in a petulant display.

But more important to me is the unspeakable hypocrisy, the straight-ahead stare in your eyes and betray all integrity and honor that the left is displaying right now, not only with this sort of rhetoric, but claiming that the tea party movement is some part of a massive corporate funded conspiracy as if that's evil when the massively funded astroturfed left's protests were just considered normal activity.

NOW AND THEN, AGAIN

"Those were the days"

Last week I showed several composite photos of areas from Europe during World War 2 and at present, showing how they've changed, and in many cases, haven't changed all that much. As a follow up on that, here's a few more, this time from a less war-torn area: London





These were pretty fun to work on, and not that tough to build, but it isn't easy to find shots close enough in the same area to splice together properly. Taking a picture in exactly the same spot sixty or more years later can be challenging, to say the least. London has changed much more than the French areas shown in the previous essay.

LETS HAVE MORE!

Even as scientists and climate change hysterics are stepping back a bit from their focus on Carbon Dioxide as a pollutant, we find this news by Jad Mouawad in the New York Times:
Global carbon emissions are expected to post their biggest drop in more than 40 years this year
...
The projection from the International Energy Agency tracks other forecasts from government agencies, including the Department of Energy, which found that greenhouse gas emissions in the United States fell 3.8 percent in 2008 compared with 2007; they are estimated to be down another 6 percent this year.
Why this drop in "carbon emissions?" The global economic recession, that's why. People are buying, selling, producing, and traveling less than they did before. And that's what the AGW hysteric wants more of: more economic hardship, more recession, less consumption. The president of the US is with leaders of dozens of nations right now talking about how they can bring that about to stop a mythical disaster which is plainly not happening, and even its strongest advocates are starting to back off from.

THE WAR OF NECESSITY

“We’re going to test whatever resources we have against our strategy, which is, if by sending young men and women into harm’s way, we are defeating al Qaeda–and that can be shown to a skeptical audience, namely me, somebody who is always asking hard questions about deploying troops— then we will do what’s required to keep the American people safe.”
-President Obama

Afghanistan
When al`Qaeda engineered the 9/11 attacks on the United States, President Bush stood on the ruins of the World Trade Center and promised to find who was responsible and deal swift justice to them. Shortly thereafter, a multinational coalition invaded Afghanistan, whose Taliban government was harboring, training, and equipping the terrorists responsible. In short order, despite dire warnings by skeptics and leftists, the Taliban was crushed in Afghanistan and a new government was set up to replace it.

Its been almost eight years now, and that coalition is still in Afghanistan, still fighting remnants of the Taliban, and still hunting down terrorist cells. Some say we should abandon the place, others say we need to step up a military presence and change tactics as the coalition in Iraq did so successfully with the "surge." When President Obama was running for the office, he was clear that the war in Afghanistan was the war that had to be won, that things were being done all wrong there and when he got in office he'd fix it all.

As I and others have pointed out in the past, Afghanistan was considered the "good war," the war we should have been in while Iraq was the bad war. Even the cranks and idiots who called Iraq supporters "chickenhawks" for supporting a war they wouldn't fight in were in support of Afghanistan without feeling any need to sign up for duty. President Obama said as much in speeches, calling Iraq a quagmire and the surge a failure but Afghanistan the war we "must not lose."

However, more recently, President Obama's rhetoric on the fight there has changed. Back in March when General McChrystal was appointed commander in Afghanistan, the White House noted this was a shift in strategy:
I believe that our mission [in Afghanistan] requires new thinking and new approaches from our military leaders,” Gates told reporters. “Today, we have a new policy set by our new president. We have a new strategy, a new mission and a new ambassador. I believe that new military leadership is needed.
Yet now, president Obama is saying that he needs to think more and see if a new strategy will work or not. Many on the right are voicing deep concerns that this is the harbinger of abandoning Afghanistan. Drew at the Ace of Spades HQ points out:
Now Obama and his minions seem to be saying there's some sort of review of the strategy due after the Afghan elections. Funny but Obama said nothing about that when he introduced his new strategy back in the spring.

Even if he always meant to do that, it's silly.

Look at the time line. He announces his strategy in March, there's a new military commander named to carry out that strategy in May (though he didn't even get on station until mid June). So Obama is saying he did this top down rethink of a seven year old war and he's giving that strategy essentially 3 months to play out before he considers abandoning it? 6 months if you start from the day it was announced, not when the new military commander took over.
President Obama's rhetoric has sounded uncertain, hesitant. A recently released report (leaked from the White House) quotes General McChrystal's concerns that without more troops to execute his new strategy, Afghanistan could be lost. Yet President Obama says he's skeptical that more troops would make a difference, and that he wants to be very sure the effort will succeed before committing himself on a surge there.

Given the man's skepticism toward and even blindness to how well the surge worked in Iraq, even as it was succeeding, that shouldn't be too surprising, but it is in direct opposition to previous statements about a need to win the war against the forces who would terrorize and murder around the world and in the US.

Some small voices are starting to leak out, admitting that leftist allegiance to Afghanistan had nothing to do with actual support of troops or the war there, that it was merely a political tool. One example, courtesy National Review Online (emphasis mine):
The Democrats backed themselves into defending the idea of Afghanistan being The Good War because they felt they needed to prove their macho bonafides they called for withdrawal from Iraq. Nobody asked too many questions sat the time, including me. But none of us should forget that it was a political strategy, not a serious foreign policy.
See, by supporting Afghanistan, the left could retain a poor, but politically useful veneer of support for the war on terror. They could pretend they were behind the idea, but not how President Bush was executing it. They could cling to some tattered remnant of their credibility after first supporting, then denouncing the war on terror. Because they supported Afghanistan, and could say "its a loss because of Iraq!" Yet for many, that's all it was, a façade. Rich Lowry goes into greater detail of this fraud in a recent column.

So some are afraid, as I noted, that President Obama is going to abandon Afghanistan, that he'll retreat in the face of difficulty, abandon the effort, and hand the terrorists and the Taliban a win. Not long ago, President Obama called Afghanistan a "war of necessity" and now he sounds like he'd like to forget the whole thing. What is going on, why is he making these statements?

Rush Limbaugh thinks it is because he is trying to keep support for his health care plan alive with the far left. I doubt that the far left would ever abandon President Obama's health care plan, and he can rely on them to vote for him against any Republican simply because he's not the Republican, so I'm skeptical about Limbaugh's thoughts here.

Some commenters I've read suggest that this is an attempt to blackmail Republican congressmen to work with him on health care: holding Afghanistan hostage if they won't vote his way. That seems unlikely to me as well, since it doesn't matter how many Republicans vote one way or another in congress; the Democratic Party controls both houses by a large majority.

However, the radical left is a concern. A few weeks back, Senator Feingold (D-Wisconsin) called for a timetable on withdrawal from Afghanistan.Not long ago Mike Allen wrote in Politico about the pressure the White House is under concerning Afghanistan:
White House officials are increasingly worried liberal, anti-war Democrats will demand a premature end to the Afghanistan war before President Barack Obama can show signs of progress in the eight-year conflict, according to senior administration sources.

These fears, which the officials have discussed on the condition of anonymity over the past few weeks, are rising fast after U.S. casualties hit record levels in July and August.
...
“There’s no question that the drumbeat is going to get louder and louder on the left, and you’ll see some fall-off on the right,” said Matt Bennett of the think tank Third Way, the moderate voice of the progressive movement. “His supporters on the Hill are fighting a really serious political battle to keep the criticism under control.”
Even if they aren't going to abandon president Obama on health care, he needs them to be out and voting in large numbers in order to have any success on election day. If he annoys the left enough, then enough of them may stay home to ruin his reelection campaign in 2012, or lose even more seats in congress in 2010. Historically the far left doesn't vote much. Its only been in the last two presidential elections that the mangy hippie and the radical anarchist, the bong-huffing academic and the red flag waving radical have been out to vote in large numbers. Before that they figured the system was rigged and the man controlled it all, that it didn't matter who won because a shadowy cabal of powers ran everything anyway and so on. Many of them were too busy partying to vote or just forgot. President Obama needs those guys out in large numbers to have any electoral success.

So he's got to pander to the left, and this is one way of doing so. By leaking McChrystal's concerns while sounding like he might pull out of Afghanistan, President Obama can voice reluctance and concern while still signing on to the whole operation and seem like he's doing the right thing despite his worries.

And ultimately, I think he'll sign on to a troop increase. Even during the really disloyal, shrill days of the Democratic Party during the Bush administration, they still voted for troops and funding because the bottom line was they knew it had to happen even if it upset their voters. They could rely on the legacy media and entertainment industry demonizing Republicans and President Bush in particular enough to outweigh their failure to abandon Iraq.

President Obama knows that Iraq was a success, that we accomplished what we set out to do as a part of the Coalition of the Willing, and that President Bush will go down in history as the guy who liberated millions of Muslims and Arabs, and removed a horrific dictator and terrorist support center from the Middle East. In time, all the "millions spent and blood spilled" will fade into "wow that really did work just like they said" and that would stand in stark contrast to a failure in Afghanistan under President Obama. I don't think he wants that to be his legacy, because that's what people would remember: Afghanistan turned back into a hellhole spewing out terrorists, it was a miserable failure and Obama was the man in charge.

So despite these noises - meant only to soothe the far left - I think in the end, we'll see the troops go into Afghanistan. And with the right man and the right strategy, we'll see that place turn around swiftly and remarkably just like Iraq did.

And for those of you who said Iraq was a failure, a mistake, and a quagmire, that we were doomed and should have pulled out, that it couldn't work, that the culture wouldn't allow it:

YOU WERE WRONG: MAN UP AND ADMIT IT.