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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Friday, February 26, 2010

PICTURE OF THE DAY


Wondermark, continuing to hit exactly the right note. Click for the full comic.

THE GREAT TOYOTA PILE-ON

"Get her!!!"
-Dr Ray Stantz

Does the name Clarence Ditlow ring a bell? No? How about a Dateline NBC special about the terrible dangers of side-saddle gas tanks? Ditlow is the guy that rigged the pickup with fireworks so that it would burst into flames when a test car crashed into the side. When you can't get your advocacy to match reality, well its time to rig the demonstration.

Well Clarence Ditlow is back. This time he's helping pile on Toyota, with his Naderite Center for Auto Safety as he goes to congress to testify about the terrible, terrible company which has caused such suffering for so many people. In fact it seems that kicking Toyota over and over has become the new US national sport. Who needs the Olympics when you can run 11 straight minutes on the nightly news about this story?

Not only is the chairman of the US Toyota division called to congress to testify, there are FBI raids on Toyota suppliers. And the news is full of stories about Toyota, often recycling old stories of accelerator pedal failures from years ago as if they're new.

Why? What on earth has triggered this? No previous CEO had to testify before congress about their company's recall of cars before. Cars having accelerator pedal sticking isn't new, nor are recalls of automobiles. This one though, suddenly, has become a gigantic issue with government becoming heavily involved and the legacy media pushing it as hard as they can. What is going on?

Well one hint is that the Toyota America plants are non union. They pay just as well (or better) than union shops, but they aren't union. In fact when the auto companies were begging for money from congress, people kept pointing out how Toyota didn't need this money and that the Unions were costing these US companies billions. That is not very appreciated by the politically powerful UAW machine, which coincidentally has donated tens of thousands of dollars to the very congressmen making up the committee grilling Toyota over these recalls.

And lets not forget, Toyota is a major competitor with GM, now owned by the Federal Government (and the UAW). That fact alone gives the US government strong motivation to make them look as bad as possible - and the legacy media to go along.

And finally, if you spend 11 minutes reporting on Toyota, you don't have to spend that time reporting on the economy, the loss of jobs, the foreclosures, the record lows in new home ownership, and overall how badly congress is doing, how little the American people trust their government, how the global warming alarmists are coming undone and their "science" was so fraudulent, and how much they want the health care bill dropped.

Suddenly it all makes sense. Suddenly we know why all the grievance mongering ambulance chasers are showing up like maggots on a corpse.

ONE MORE WORD

This really belongs in the Word Around the Net wrap up below, but I wanted to highlight it and give it attention all by its self. Remember when Hillary Clinton was declared the "smartest woman on earth" by the left and trumpeted as this brilliant scion of genius and leadership? Well Ms "overcharge button" has done it again:
People say to me all the time, what happened to Iran? ... When President Obama came in, he was very clear that he wanted to engage, and that's what he's been trying to do -- reaching out to the Iranian people, reaching out to the Iranian leadership. And you have to ask yourself, why, when so many experts thought that there would be a positive response to President Obama's outreach, has there not?
Golly, why are those radical, hate-filled extremist religious nuts in Iran not responding positively to a cringing, weak hand offering an olive branch? I just can't work that out. Its almost as if what President Bush said about the middle east is correct: they respond well to strength and have nothing but contempt for weakness. That the idea of "soft diplomacy" accomplishes nothing but humiliating the people attempting it.

Its almost as if the experts the US State Department under President Obama were listening to were pointy headed academic theoreticians who knew almost nothing of what they spoke and the previous administration was right all along. Nah. Couldn't be that.

WORD AROUND THE NET

"One Fortune Global 500 company remains. But its founder and chairman is not merely an economic man. He has webs between his toes. But he, too, has some limits."
-Phil Knight

Governor Kulongoski (Democrat) in Oregon is deciding whether or not to sign a bill passed by the state legislature. In Oregon, as in other states, employers are able to look at credit reports on potential hires as part of the decision process. This bill would ban employers from doing so for most jobs. And to be honest, I agree that in most cases it really is none of the business of an employer how bad my credit is. I might be looking for a job because my credit is bad and I need to fix it. Some jobs it makes perfect sense; accountants, for example. Most employers didn't bother with the check because it is costly and more work than it was worth (few even check references either, in my experience).

English police were able to find a stolen van for Christopher Sims. According to Luke Salkeld at the Daily Mail, they even told him where it was. They just didn't bother recovering it:
But Gloucestershire Police insisted they could not take any action as it would be ill-advised to visit the site because of the strong criminal element who lived there.

Mr Sims, 46, said: 'They said they were sympathetic but couldn't risk putting officers' lives at risk.

'They were saying they knew where the van could be but they weren't prepared to go in and find it.'

Mr Sims, who used his van for his job as a market trader, said a female officer told him the 1995 Transit, worth around £1,000, was on a well-known travellers' site, The Willows, near Gloucester.

The father-of-three, of Cheltenham, added: 'She told me it is a very dangerous and volatile place for the police to go.

'She said they would have to mount a huge operation with armed officers, dogs and helicopters and it would never be authorised by senior officers for the sake of a van worth £1,000.'
"Traveler" = Gypsy but for some reason the Daily Mail is shy about using that term. Seems to me that if an area is so awful that it requires a full scale assault for police to enforce the law, that's a group of people who ought to be under arrest already. Yet the British are very skittish about doing anything about Gypsies, since they are an "oppressed minority." Funny I thought it was sort of the job of police to take risks that others wouldn't to enforce the law.

Last year, the international ACORN body changed its name to COI because the old name had become so odious and associated with corruption and lawbreaking. Now the US version is changing its name as well. ACORN is supposedly breaking up because of "bad elements" in the organization, but in truth they're simply reorganizing under a bunch of new titles. For example, the New York Communities for Change and Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE). The leadership is the same, the funding is the same, the organizational structure, goals, and tactics are the same, and usually the addresses of the organizations have not changed. They're just fleeing the ACORN name like rats from a sinking ship and trying to cling to the money and power without changing their organizations. A turd by any other name....

Legacy media outlets are working hard at keeping their power and influence over American culture and political awareness despite loss of advertising revenue and being left behind by technology. ABC for example is "restructuring" their news division, which means a lot of people are losing their jobs. AFP reports:
[ABC News president David] Westin did not say how many jobs the company was seeking to eliminate but he said the restructuring of the news operation to take advantage of digital technology will result in "substantially fewer" people on staff at ABC News.

The Los Angeles Times, citing unidentified newsroom employees, said the network was looking to cut as many as 300 jobs, or around 20 percent of its total staff of around 1,400. The New York Times put the figure at up to 400.

"We anticipate that between now and the end of the year ABC News will undergo a fundamental transformation that will ultimately affect every corner of the enterprise," Westin said.
At this point not many people are watching the nightly news from any network, and the ones that do are old and getting even more elderly every year. That's fine in one sense, but its not a very enduring market share.

Michael Douglas starred in The China Syndrome, a movie about a nuclear power plant melt down. He spent his life and career bieng opposed to nukes for his whole career, but according to an interview with NPR he's changing his tune:
I do support nuclear power now. I wish there were other alternatives, but I don't think there are."
Why this change of heart? Because he thinks global warming is going to doom us all, so we are forced into it. Well, even stupid reasons can lead to good policy some times.

Senators in the US passed a "jobs bill" which is half about jobs (tax breaks for employers who hire unemployed people) and half pork ($20 billion for mass transit and highway departments). Newly elected Republican senator Brown from Massachusetts voted with the Democrats (along with other usual suspects such as Olympia Snowe), as I predicted he would and suspect he will tend to do most of the time. Yet at the same time, this 70-28 vote violated the recent "fiscally responsible" pledge congress recently undertook by passing the so-called "paygo" plan. This plan requires congress to either cut spending elsewhere or find new funding any time new spending is passed. Well I don't think anyone took them seriously anyway.

Journalism isn't what it once was, largely because of a fundamental shift in worldview. Old school journalism was about facts and the basics: who, what, where, when and why. These writers believed that there wasn't just absolute truth but that we could learn enough about it to reasonably inform others and act upon it. Modern journalists are more interested in the narrative, the story that's being told and the background of the people telling it, not the facts or the truth. Recently Jonathon Springston learned all about that when he lost his job. Why the firing? His boss, editor Matthew Cardinale of the Atlanta Progressive Journal explained, courtesy Creative Loafing:
“because he held on to the notion that there was an objective reality that could be reported objectively, despite the fact that that was not our editorial policy at Atlanta Progressive News.”
I keep writing about post modernism and relativism not because its a fun philosophical exercise, but because it matters. What you believe defines and drives what you do.

One of the most influential books to my political thought is a little booklet called The Imperial Congress put out by the Heritage Foundation in the early 1990s. This booklet was all about how the legislators in congress were abusing their power and demanding everyone else live by rules which they continually and by policy exempted themselves. When the Contract With America Republicans took over most of congress in 1994, one of the first things the House did was change the rules to require them to follow whatever laws they require others to. Things really haven't gotten a lot better in some ways, as Jordy Yager explains in The Hill:
More than 70 percent of congressional offices have violated worker safety standards over the past year.

While the majority of all lawmaker offices on Capitol Hill have at least one health or safety hazard violation, this year’s inspection data from the Office of Compliance inspections is an improvement over last year’s.

The number of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) violations found in each office has significantly decreased over the years as well — from an average of about 8.15 violations per office in 2007 to an average of 1.75 hazards in each office this year.
I commend the Democrats in congress for making things better, but they're still basically ignoring the OSHA rules they require everyone else to follow or face stiff fines (congress can basically ignore the fines). My basic question is this: if you think these laws are so complex, difficult to follow, or absurd and unnecessary that you don't put out the effort, why do you demand everyone else do so?

President Obama hasn't had a press conference in almost a full year; 219 days as of this writing. President Bush was routinely attacked by the left and the legacy media (but I repeat myself) for not talking to the press enough. He was secretive! He was afraid! He was hiding something! Personally I don't blame any president for not wanting to speak to the press: they're obnoxious, ask idiotic questions, and generally are adversarial, particularly to Republicans. And really given how lousy President Obama is at speaking off the cuff without carefully prepared speeches fed to him on his omnipresent teleprompter, I am not surprised by this news.

Chase, Citibank, and Bank of America are getting ready to release applications for your advanced cell phone to let you bank easier. This one relies on image recognition technology which lets you take a picture of an item and the phone recognizes and acts on the data. New Zealand's Stuff has the details of this new plan:
Here's how it works. When you take a picture of a check, a computer that receives the image looks for the amount, the check number and the digits on the bottom with information on the check writer's account number and the bank's routing number. A photo of the back of the check verifies that it's been signed by the recipient.

A banking clearinghouse then routes the funds from the check writer's account to that of the recipient. That also prevents the same check from being deposited multiple times.
Oh yeah. I can't see how that would end up bad for anyone in any way. Reliance on images in an era when images are at their absolutely least reliable is just bizarre to me.

Deadly global warming continues to take its toll. In Mongolia, weather has killed most of the livestock and presents a potential deadly hazard in disease from rotting carcasses. Thousands have died from the extreme weather conditions as temperature soar as high as -50 degrees Fahrenheit. Oh wait, that's really cold. Seriously though, the area is being hammered unmercifully by the worst winter in human memory and the UN is trying to help. For once, it seems like they've actually come up with a good plan, according to AFP:
The UNDP on Thursday announced a plan to pay 60,000 herders to clean and bury the carcasses of the dead livestock to prevent the spread of disease before the spring thaw begins.

No strangers to harsh conditions, Mongolians call such extreme weather a "Dzud": a severely cold winter after a dry summer that combined mean food shortages for the livestock that generations have depended on for survival.

A third of Mongolia's 2.6 million people lead nomadic lives and depend entirely on livestock for a living.

Mongolia has approved a special 2.6-million-dollar budget for emergency aid to Dzud-affected areas, but the UN says it will need at least six million dollars more to care for surviving animals and clear the carcasses of the dead.
Instead of just shipping money in, they're paying the nomads to clear the corpses out which will prevent disease and rot come thaw. What will happen in the spring when tall this snow melts is a matter of some concern. When you're thinking about aid for Haiti, consider these people, too.

Nike is one of the biggest companies in Oregon, and employs thousands of workers at its Beaverton headquarters. Phil Knight, the CEO and owner of Nike, warned Oregonians that the ballot measures to raise taxes on companies and the wealthy would not be well received, warning in an article at the Oregonian newspaper:
"They will allow us to watch a state slowly killing itself. They are anti-business, anti-success, anti-inspirational, anti-humanitarian, and most ironically, in the long run, they will deprive the state of tax revenue, not increase it."
He called the bills Oregon's Assisted Suicide Law II, and noted ten other major corporations which have left Oregon in the past because of the state's increasingly business-unfriendly laws and policies. Well the tax measures passed, and now Nike is laying off workers and eyeing a move to Idaho. Like Boeing which grew up in Washington but has begun moving its operations out of state because things got so anti-business it wasn't worth staying, Nike could be next to go. But hey, the state has to pay for midnight basketball and all those union pensions.

COLLEGE PARTIES

"Can U Control Yo Ho?"
-Snoop Dogg, R&G: Rhythm and Gangsta: The Masterpiece

Not long ago a friend of mine mentioned he was going to a "redneck" party. The theme was white trash, dressing up like a trailer-dwelling poor white person, a fan of monster truck rallies, country music, and the confederacy. Naturally few actual people like this exist, but the exaggerated stereotype is fun to mock, and the Blue Collar Comedy Tour was full of jokes about the lifestyle, from a sympathetic, personal perspective. Jeff Foxworthy for example has made a lifestyle out of mocking himself and his family, all self-admitted rednecks.

This kind of thing is accepted and laughed at by society: stupid, poor white people, without education and class. However, if you try this with any other ethnic group, then the outcry begins. Take UCSD (University of California at San Diego) whose students recently hosted an off-campus Compton Cookout. Donald Douglas at Right Wing News has some details:
Women were invited to attend as "'ghetto chicks' with gold teeth, cheap clothes and 'short, nappy hair'."
As Larry Gordon at The LA Times writes:
The university is also investigating whether it can discipline the organizers of the party, which promised guests a taste of "life in the ghetto."
In essence this was a redneck party, but with blacks targeted instead. Dress like ghetto blacks and party! The idea is as valid and fun as a redneck party, with the same sort of stupid exaggerated stereotypical image being mocked... but when its blacks, suddenly people throw a fit. The protests began, with a picture of a black girl with tears running down her face leading off the article at the LA Times. The pain, apparently, was too much to bear.

Most of the LA Times article is a lament that more blacks aren't at UCSD, which was met by school administrators talking all about how they're trying to get more in. Any time an organization doesn't have at least the same percentage of blacks in it as the US population, the protests and complaints begin, as if every single aspect of human life must have that quota. If you have 10 friends, at least 2 must be black and 3 latino, and half female or you're a bigot!

The divergence of outrage here is difficult to avoid: redneck parties mock white people who tend to be very patriotic, dislike leftists, and love things such as NASCAR, guns, and church. That's okay to make fun of, how stupid can you be? But blacks must not be mocked, no matter how ridiculous and absurd they might be. If you dare note that gangsters tend to have names a 9 year old would come up with, why you're a racist and stupid and must shut up. If you point out how dumb a name "bubba" is, well everyone laughs along.

Part of this is because black racial aggrievance has become a lucrative business. You can make good money by running around shouting about racism and bigotry against blacks, and there will always be plenty of legacy media types who will stampede each other just to shove a microphone in your face.

See, its not that there's any basic economic or power difference here. Poor white trash and ghetto blacks are equally destitute and powerless. Its that the media cares about blacks, and doesn't care about poor whites. If someone mocks white people, the lilly-white legacy media says "Thank you sir, may I have another!?" If someone mocks blacks, they scream bigotry and hate.

Yet if we're going to be consistent can't we at least admit that both are equally offensive and insulting? That both misrepresent the people involved and both are at best cruel exaggerations of the worst people in each group? I am not saying they shouldn't happen, but I think there ought to be some consistency and thought. Sure, these are 20 year old airheads that throw these parties, their deepest thought is wondering why we park on a driveway and drive on a parkway. They think The Daily Show is deep political analysis.

Still, when I heard my friends talking about that redneck party and laughing about how they'd get shirts with flags on them (because, apparently, that's something to mock), I wanted to ask "are you going to throw a nigger party next?" Because really, isn't calling someone "redneck" or "white trash" in a pejorative sense just as insulting, racist, and offensive? Somehow I doubt they'd have thought it was as cool and funny.

Quote of the Day

"I think Jesus was a compassionate, super-intelligent gay man who understood human problems."
-Elton John

Thursday, February 25, 2010

APOLOGIES

I really got nothing today, so I'm gonna recommend you read a book or something. Maybe my book, Snowberry's Veil.

Quote of the Day

"We are the people our parents warned us about."
-Jimmy Buffett, about his generation

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

RADIANT

"Its perfectly safe!"

There's a Swedish man named Per Segerbäck who lives in isolation. He apparently has a problem with modern technology, a very rare condition which makes him extremely sensitive to electromagnetic radiation. Normal background radiation is fine, but high energy bursts such as a cell phone when it is active, causes his brain to seem to short out. James Geary writes at popular Science:
Segerbäck suffers from electro-hypersensitivity (EHS), which means he has severe physical reactions to the electromagnetic radiation produced by common consumer technologies, such as computers, televisions and cellphones. Symptoms range from burning or tingling sensations on the skin to dizziness, nausea, headaches, sleep disturbance and memory loss. In extreme cases like Segerbäck’s, breathing problems, heart palpitations and loss of consciousness can result.

A cellphone has to be in use—either making or receiving a call, or searching for a signal, when radiation levels are highest—for it to have this kind of effect on Segerbäck. Phones that are on but neither sending nor receiving usually don’t produce enough radiation to be noticeable. But it’s not the sound of the phone that sets him off. Once, while on a sailboat with friends, he recalls, he was on the front deck when, unknown to him, someone made a call belowdecks. Headache, nausea, unconsciousness.
There is some controversy whether or not Electro-Hypersensitivity (EHS) which Mr Segerbäck is said to suffer from actually exists but what we do know is that the world around us is a radiation soup which we wash through, mostly unaware.

Radiation is all around us, continually. If you have a light on, you're being swept with radiation from the light source. Any energy that expands from a source is technically radiation; that means your pet's warm body radiates infrared heat which is comfy on a cold day and not so comfy on a hot one. Radiation is natural, normal, and usually safe.

There are two kinds of radiation for the purposes of this article: ionizing and non-ionizing. Ionizing radiation cannot pass through your body without causing some damage; this is why atomic bombs are so deadly. They put out several kinds of high-energy ionizing radiation which destroys tissue and causes cancer.

Non-ionizing radiation, such as radio, either bounces off your skin or can pass through you with little to no effect and almost all of us are bombarded with this every day, continually. Sitting in front of your computer, you're being washed with it. Light is a kind of non-ionizing radiation, so is the heat from your furnace. Even something like an electric razor puts out a small level of radiation.

Even non-ionizing radiation can be damaging (get too much heat and you cook something), but it isn't destructive in the A-Bomb sense. All radiation causes some level of warming because energy which collides with matter causes it to become excited and warm. It just depends how much and how long you are in contact. Radio waves in the air cause virtually no warming, for example.

At present, the vast majority of research shows no harm from cell phones, and a small portion of it suggests the slight possibility of slight harm. Some fear cell phones cause brain cancer (along with most other radiation), but there's just no evidence that using a cell phone does any such thing, and there are now billions of test cases walking around the world and have been for years.

What scientists are worried about, however, is that radiation can cause precancerous cells to metastasize and develop into cancer. The only question is how much and what effect being continually bombarded with radiation has on this process. Normally, the world emits low levels of natural "background" radiation: rocks, trees, etc. The sun coats the earth with radiation, most of which is blocked or absorbed by the upper atmosphere, but enough gets through that a few hours of direct sunlight will begin to cook your skin - a sun burn. Individually, each of us emit a low level of electromagnetic radiation. That's around everyone all the time and always has been, its part of living on earth.

However, if you live in even a small urban area, you're being covered with radiation constantly. Radio and television stations broadcast waves of EM continually. Radar from police and alarm systems bombard you, spreading out in weaker and weaker waves from the source. Light sources such as neon, cars, and street lights all wash us even further. Some materials such as plastics and metals emit more radiation than normal. Power lines appear to emit a great deal of non-ionizing radiation. Your glow in the dark items all emit radiation. And yes, your cell phone bombards your brain with radiation several inches deep.

How much of this is harmful and what the cumulative effect is no one is really sure. As James Geary writes, there is some basis for concern:
According to a 2004 report from the U.K. Office of National Statistics, the rate of childhood brain and spinal-cord tumors in Britain rose from just under 20 per million in the early 1970s to just under 30 per million in the late 1990s. Citing concern over “continuing uncertainties about possible health risks” of EMFs, the European Parliament has suggested an awareness-raising campaign geared toward young people between the ages of 10 and 20; the French Ministry of Health, Youth and Sports has warned against “excessive” cellphone use among youngsters; and U.S. senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who survived a brain tumor, has held Senate hearings on the issue.
Radiation is a pretty recent study, and it really is still an area of discovery and research. I suspect there's more going on than we know about, and I think in time we'll find that part of the warming in cities and part of the increased cancer frequency and the rise of odd diseases we never heard much about in the past like Neuropathy or Fibromyalgia are a result of this radiation around us all.

I'LL GET YOO

"In 2005, a Navy Seal team dropped into Afghanistan encountered goat herders who clearly intended to inform the Taliban of their whereabouts. The team leader ordered them released, against his better military judgment, because of his worries about the media and political attacks that would follow.

In less than an hour, more than 80 Taliban fighters attacked and killed all but one member of the Seal team and 16 Americans on a helicopter rescue mission."

Justice Department lawyer John Yoo worked in the Bush administration. During that time, he offered legal advice to the President about various topics, including the use of what some call torture to interrogate captured terrorist suspects. This was his job as a lawyer working for the president, it is the kind of work nearly every lawyer on earth does at some point in their career.

When President Obama took office, he brought with him a sensibility that is found most often in the academic left, a sort of theoretical view of the world without experience or common sense which compelled him to take various actions meant to repudiate the previous president. Yoo explains in a Wall Street Journal article:
In office only one day, Mr. Obama ordered the shuttering of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, followed later by the announcement that he would bring terrorists to an Illinois prison. He terminated the Central Intelligence Agency's ability to use "enhanced interrogations techniques" to question al Qaeda operatives. He stayed the military trial, approved by Congress, of al Qaeda leaders. He ultimately decided to transfer Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the planner of the 9/11 attacks, to a civilian court in New York City, and automatically treated Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who tried to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day, as a criminal suspect (not an illegal enemy combatant). Nothing better could have symbolized the new president's determination to take us back to a Sept. 10, 2001, approach to terrorism.
President Obama also decided to hound anyone involved in the Bush administration for daring to make decisions he didn't care for. The Holder Justice Department (the same guys who blocked investigation and judgment on Black Panthers intimidating voters, hounded the prosecutor who dared to start the case out of his job and hiring lawyers who defended terrorist suspects to now prosecute them in clear ethical and legal violation) went after Yoo and other lawyers with the long knives out.

Yoo and the other lawyers were cleared of any wrongdoing in their work, but only after a long investigation and against the wishes of the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR). Yoo explains what he and the others had to overcome:
Rank bias and sheer incompetence infused OPR's investigation. OPR attorneys, for example, omitted a number of precedents that squarely supported the approach in the memoranda and undermined OPR's preferred outcome. They declared that no Americans have a right of self-defense against a criminal prosecution, not even when they or their government agents attempt to stop terrorist attacks on the United States. OPR claimed that Congress enjoyed full authority over wartime strategy and tactics, despite decades of Justice Department opinions and practice defending the president's commander-in-chief power. They accused us of violating ethical standards without ever defining them. They concocted bizarre conspiracy theories about which they never asked us, and for which they had no evidence, even though we both patiently—and with no legal obligation to do so—sat through days of questioning.

OPR's investigation was so biased, so flawed, and so beneath the Justice Department's own standards that last week the department's ranking civil servant and senior ethicist, David Margolis, completely rejected its recommendations.

Attorney General Holder could have stopped this sorry mess earlier, just as his predecessor had tried to do. OPR slow-rolled Attorney General Michael Mukasey by refusing to deliver a draft of its report until the 2008 Christmas and New Year holidays. OPR informed Mr. Mukasey of its intention to release the report on Jan. 12, 2009, without giving me or Judge Bybee the chance to see it—as was our right and as we'd been promised.

Mr. Mukasey and Deputy Attorney General Mark Filip found so many errors in the report that they told OPR that the entire enterprise should be abandoned. OPR decided to run out the clock and push the investigation into the lap of the Obama administration. It would have been easy for Mr. Holder to concur with his predecessors—in fact, it was critical that he do so to preserve the Justice Department's impartiality. Instead the new attorney general let OPR's investigators run wild. Only Mr. Margolis's rejection of the OPR report last week forced the Obama administration to drop its ethics charges against Bush legal advisers.
They tried really hard to find these men guilty, no matter what it took, but did such a poor job that the department finally rejected the entire investigation. It was little more than a witch hunt, an concerted political effort to find a victim but in time it failed. The Obama administration wanted someone's head to roll as a symbolic punishment for the Bush administration but they failed despite their best efforts to stack the deck.

John Yoo considered it his duty to fight this and to preserve the executive department's ability to fight wars, defeat terrorists, and defend the people of the United States. He put it this way:
If a president cannot, or will not, protect the men and women who fight our nation's wars, they will follow the same risk-averse attitudes that invited the 9/11 attacks in the first place.
President Obama took office with a 9/10 attitude but time has shown he has changed his mind as reality and the world confronts him implacably and unapologetically with the hard, painful truth. Guantanamo Bay is still open. The show trial in New York has been called off. Military Tribunals are being reconsidered. And even the president's "ban" on what some call torture does not apply universally, the CIA is still allowed to do it in emergencies.

When ideology confronts reality, ideology has to adapt to the real world. What seems obvious when surrounded by like-thinking people in a safe, theoretical environment rarely survives contact with the real world. President Obama took office with his head full of this kind of theoretical nonsense and such a naive and clueless worldview that he tried to take actions which were foolish and self destructive. The cruel hate of terrorism and difficulties of foreign policy stripped much of that out of him, but he still hasn't learned the lessons of economics and fiscal issues yet. Likely he never will, its too easy to stay in the theoretical world when you're a multi millionaire politician and celebrity.

PICTURE OF THE DAY

So what is this?

WOW
That's part of a graphic detailing statistics about World of Warcraft, the online game. Click on it for the full version with all the data.

Quote of the Day

"I love quotations because it is a joy to find thoughts one might have, beautifully expressed with much authority by someone recognized wiser than oneself."
-Marlene Dietrich

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

THE HATE FOLLOWS

“Jews came to Sweden to get away from persecution, and now they find it is no longer a safe haven”

The specter continues to raise its head in Europe. A 2009 poll noted that 74% of Spaniards and a full 25% of Europeans on average blamed Jews for the recent financial meltdown, but things have gotten even worse for Jews in some countries. Nick Meo reports in the Telegraph:
In 2009, a chapel serving the city's 700-strong Jewish community was set ablaze. Jewish cemeteries were repeatedly desecrated, worshippers were abused on their way home from prayer, and "Hitler" was mockingly chanted in the streets by masked men.

"I never thought I would see this hatred again in my lifetime, not in Sweden anyway," Mrs Popinski told The Sunday Telegraph.

"This new hatred comes from Muslim immigrants. The Jewish people are afraid now."
Swedish Jews, however see another culprit: the Swedish government. Like many other European nations, the leftist government of Sweden does not wish to seem racist and is afraid of Muslims, so they do little about these "youths" and their destructive hate. Unless, like Denmark, they arrest and try people who point out the problem.

"Hate crimes" against Jews doubled last year, and the Muslim schoolchildren simply ignore personal testimony of holocaust evil done to them. In heavily Muslim areas of the city of Malvo, schools ban mention of the holocaust entirely. When Israel defended its self against hundreds of rocket attacks against it by palestinians a few years ago, Jews rallied in support of Israel's right to self defense. Police stood by as Muslims threw bottles and firecrackers into the crowd. The mayor took quick decisive action by... hosting a forum where people could talk about it.

Hundreds of thousands of Jews came to Sweden after World War 2 to find safety and a place to live away from the hate. Now they're moving away because the hate has followed them there, and the government is merely standing by and waving its hands. The guy pictured is a Swedish member of parliament wearing a palestinian keffiyah, because its so stylish. Like most of the European left, he is anti-Israel and pro-palestinian.

THE WORLD IS NOT WORTHY - Somalia

"Along the borders to Ethiopia and Somalia, anarchy reigns, the police and military have retreated quite some distance."
-Richard Leakey

What most people know about Somalia is limited to the book and film Blackhawk Down and some memories from the early 1990s when the Somali people begged the UN for help, and the UN did its usual bang-up job. By the time President Clinton withdrew US troops from the country in 1995 and the nation has been more or less on its own since then.

Not long ago, the neighboring country of Ethiopia took control of much of Somalia because they were partly tired of continual border incursions and partly upset with some attempts by the Islamic Somali warlords to change Ethiopia to an Islamic nation. Eventually the Ethiopian army left and the place turned back into chaos. Most recently, Somali pirates have been the most familiar image from the nation, with small boats of heavily armed Somalis taking huge ships for ransom in the millions.

Yet in the country of Somalia, the chaos has a more personal face. Christians living in the nation have never had it very easy, and the nation's continuous war and factional struggles between warlords have caused starvation, disease, and dislocation to be suffered by all peoples. Open Doors writes in their World Watch List for 2009:
During the reporting period, the situation in Somalia became worse. Ethiopian forces left the country in January 2009 and Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmad of the Djibouti-based Alliance for the Reliberation of Somalia (ARS) opposition was sworn in as president by the Parliament of the Transitional Government. In April 2009 Parliament voted unanimously to institute Islamic law, hoping to strengthen popular support for the government and siphon it away from the Islamist militias fighting an insurgency here. These militias (al-Shabaab and rival Hizbul Islam) control most of southern Somalia and fight Sheikh Ahmad and his government situated in the capital, Mogadishu.

Christians are monitored by the government and the Islamic militias. Extremist Al-Shabaab is even hunting for Christians, and we received reports of at least 11 Christians killed for their faith; several others had to flee, were kidnapped, arrested or physically harmed. The Transitional Federal Charter provides for religious freedom, but in practice this right is little respected, because the Charter also establishes Islam as the national religion and the constitution states that laws cannot contradict Islam.
Somali Muslims are mostly followers of Ismaeli Islam, a smaller offshoot of Shiite Islam. This sect is more radical and regressive, like Wahhabism, and is primarily African in origin - the Sharia courts of this brand of Islam teach female circumcision as a requirement, not based on any Muslim writings, but on Ismaeli tradition.

This more radical, inflexible brand of Islam is what makes other religions suffer, as its adherents hunt down and try to destroy all other faiths in their zeal for Allah. In the process already suffering Somalis suffer even more for being Christian.

Picture of the Day

Quote of the Day

"The best scam ever was when men convinced women that working fulltime is some sort of liberating experience."
-Glenn Reynolds

Monday, February 22, 2010

THE BIG FLAW OF MCCAIN

"I am very sorry that you noticed what I did and I regret deeply that it has hurt me politically."
-typical apology from a politician

During the 2008 presidential campaign there was one event that changed everything. When the banking crisis emerged, suddenly, triggered by a mysterious gigantic run on banks which has never been adequately investigated or reported on, Senator McCain was riding high. His pick of Governor Palin as a running mate was brilliant and gave him a huge surge in popularity (and in the polls). Palin's presence made the GOP convention more watched than the Democratic Party one, and her speech was stunningly effective.

Then Senator McCain did something that some thought was idiotic or suicidal - or worse, a political stunt. He took a week off from campaigning, went back to congress, and worked on the banking crisis. Senator Obama went around campaigning still. McCain explained it this way: this is a crisis, my job is to serve the American people, and I can take time off from campaigning when it needs to be done.

I thought it was a great move, even if it was a crass political stunt. It showed he cared more about serving the public than campaigning and being treated as a godlike figure. It highlighted Obama's ego and need for public attention and contrasted the two: a workhorse vs a celebrity.

The problem is, Senator McCain went to Washington and didn't lead. He just went there and voted for a bill most people thought was a bad idea, and then went back to campaigning. He didn't even lead in the push for the bill, he just went along with everyone else. John McCain had a glorious, historical opportunity to turn this event into a small-government, fiscal-responsibility pulpit, to make a stand against bailouts for huge corporations who can't run their own business.

He didn't. His polling and public interest cratered. From that point on, Senator Obama led and won comfortably to become President Obama. John McCain might lose his job in the Senate this year. Now, Senator McCain claims that he was "misled" on the TARP bailouts.

I'm reminded of the Democrats who stumbled over each other to vote for the presidential authorization to use force in Iraq. They couldn't wait to vote yes to give the president the power to fight terrorism and to act in Iraq. Then, in 2004 when it became politically useful to claim the war was an awful evil thing and a failure, all the sudden they claimed they'd always been against it.

When the facts were shoved in their faces, proving that they'd not just voted for this action but made speeches and statements in support they hemmed and hawed and cleared their throats, then started claiming they were misled.

Now, its hard to say which is worse of these two options but basically these congressmen all share the same problem about what to tell their voters.

Either they made a stupid choice and did something wrong... or they were so idiotic they couldn't figure out what to do and were easily manipulated. Which is it going to be? Is it really better to think a congressman is so gullible and easily fooled that they'll vote for crap, or that they just make bad policy decisions? I consider the Iraq invasion a good move at the right time, but the Democrats tried to pretend it wasn't, back then. And a lot of their leftist voters think it was a mistake, at least then.

And this is Senator McCain's biggest problem. I wouldn't be surprised to learn he was misled. The man shows bad judgment and makes foolish mistakes. He tried to ban Mixed Martial Arts tournaments because he was led to believe they were brutal and awful. He pushed for campaign finance reform because he was misled by activists such as the Pew Foundation to believe that the public was outraged by money in politics and wanted work done now. He was misled by Russ Feingold to think that the bill he signed on to was a good idea rather than a technique to silence everyone but the press and special organizations the left was preparing to set up, like MoveOn.

And he voted for gargantuan spending bills to bail out stupid companies who deserved to collapse for being run so poorly. Because he was misled, he claims - and I believe him. And that's the problem with John McCain. He's rash, and angry and often shows little discernment. Granted I think he'd have been a marginally better president than Obama, but he was a poor choice too. He was the guy the GOP wanted and pushed for, but he was the wrong guy. It isn't that a president has to show perfect, flawless judgment, that's simply impossible. Its that he has to not show a continual tendency to do so.

A HATIAN CLARIFICATION

"Still, flights from that group Doctors Without Borders are being turned away."

A great deal of criticism has been leveled against the way planes and ships of goods arriving at Haiti have been handled. I've said little about this because I suspected there was more to the story than we've been told.

For example, the AP recently reported (courtesy Mudville Gazette):
Nearly all the groups sending in aid insisted their load was urgent, said Air Force Capt. Justin Longmire, who has been coordinating the flight schedules and is helping prepare the airport to reopen for commercial flights on Friday.

"Could I take the list of all the flights and put it in order of most important to least important? Water? Food? Digging equipment? Doctors? I don't think so," Longmire said.

The result: Church of Scientology ministers landed, as did AP reporters, CNN's Anderson Cooper and diapers from Canada. But a French portable hospital and planeloads of doctors with medical supplies were diverted to the Dominican Republic.

Planes carrying half of a Norwegian field hospital landed in Port-au-Prince, while those carrying the other half were diverted to the Dominican Republic and had to be trucked in over the mountains, delaying the opening of one of Haiti's first post-quake field hospitals.

"It was extremely frustrating," said Norwegian Red Cross spokesman Jon Martin Larsen.
That sounds pretty bad. What are those stupid US military guys in charge doing?? Yet at Instapundit Glenn Reynolds posted a comment by a reader which helps put a few things in better perspective:
I can’t let the implications pass, Glenn.

Port-au-Prince airport has one runway and very limited ramp space. At the time that the Air force Special Operations people landed, it had two tow bars and two fuel trucks with planes parked in any open space.

The Air Force set up a landing pattern based on priorities created by the government of Haiti. Those priorities also were heavily dependent on the aircraft operator having followed procedure and registered, the ability of the airport to unload the aircraft in a timely manner and the room available at the airport.

Planes arrived without having asked for clearance. Planes arrived with loads that would take six or more hours to unload. Planes arrived when there was no room on the ground for them. Planes arrived without fuel to take off. Every single one of these problems were handled by the Air Force and the Haitians that they were working with.

One aircraft that landed the first day took six hours to fuel with the primitive facilities the airport had. The Air Force squeezed planes in for landings where they had bare feet on either wingtip.

According to the Air Force, the field hospital arrived without clearance and unloading it would have taken the airport out of service for hours.

North Shore Journal Link

Associated Content Link

It is very easy for the media to nitpick, especially since it concerns our military. Yet, there was not one NGO, not one other nation or international agency, capable of the response given by the United States military to the people of Haiti in their time of need.
-Chuck Simmons
So there's more to this story than is being reported. If this comment is correct (and it seems likely to me), the heavily damaged and repaired airport and harbors are small and insufficient to the demand. The Air Force is doing its best to jam everyone in as quickly as possible, but that means people who can get in and out fast and efficiently will get priority over people who are unready, slow, and inefficient.

So Anderson Cooper gets in while doctors don't. And the stories of how much of a mess things are are blown out of proportion and misleading, just like with Katrina. CNN has been hammering this hard, pushing the "the pentagon is messing everything up" line nearly every day. They aren't mentioning how their news guy got in easy enough, though.

The big difference between Haiti and Katrina, of course, is that the military is being blamed here by the press rather than the President. Kanye West hasn't stood up to say President Obama hates blacks because a mobile hospital was delayed in arrival. Sean Penn hasn't sunk a boat sent to help people. Never go full retard, Sean.

MISSING IN ALL THIS

President Obama has unveiled his health care plan in an attempt to show some sort of leadership in his big agenda. The thing is, I believe that most people are not all that unhappy with how health care works in America, and just want things to cost a bit less. I believe that most people view health insurance as something you get for emergencies, not regular checkups. Those two aspects are being ignored by the Democrats in government in their mad rush to get something passed.

Originally I believe this was intended to be the Trojan horse its original planner meant it to be: a foot in the door that would allow socialized medicine to be implemented in America. That the Democratic leadership wanted to set up a system by which more Americans become dependent upon and thus vote for those who push for bigger government. By now, though, I think they're just interested in getting anything passed that sounds like its a health care plan.

The only good thing that's been mentioned by the left in this entire debacle has been the idea of abolishing Medicare and Medicaid. Both programs are unconstitutional and painful examples of the failure of bloated government to meet its stated goals and intents. I'd be glad to see those completely eliminated at the federal level, but that's simply not going to happen unless something even more bloated and unconstitutional takes its place.

Quote of the Day

"A little nonsense now and then, is cherished by the wisest men."
-Roald Dahl

Friday, February 19, 2010

WORD AROUND THE NET

Just a short WATN this time; lots happened but its been covered well elsewhere or is almost all on Warmaquiddick which I plan on writing about when I'm feeling a bit better.

First a raft of bad economic news, to get it out of the way.
  • For 12 straight quarters, the mortgage delinquency rate has increased - that means people unable to or unwilling to pay for their homes and having their mortgage lapse. The rate hit 6.89%, and this is the last step before homes foreclose. Nevada had the highest rate.
  • According to social services offices around the nation, US homelessness rate is on the rise, likely related to the above statistic. With unemployment relentlessly hanging on around 10%, paying for high ticket items like houses and cars is becoming difficult for many families.
  • Jobless claims "unexpectedly surged" in January, despite official Obama administration numbers claiming the unemployment rate declined last month. Conservatives and skeptics noticed right away that the legacy media always uses "unexpected" to describe bad economic news lately, but I wonder if the general public has caught on?
  • Inflation seems to have started as well, with wholesale prices moving up by 1.4% as well. Inflation plus unemployment = recession at the very least, no matter what Obama economic adviser Robert Reich claims.
  • The economy is said to be growing, but even the standard which shows this is slowing, with only .3% growth in January. Given the above statistics I'm curious where, exactly, this growth is happening, other than government.
Even more than most media outlets, the BBC has been pushing the alarmist doom line. They've invested funds (much of which are collected from license fees paid by British customers) to promote awareness of alarmist theories, and have run endless articles and segments on the topic, some of which infamously were edited to match demands by climate alarmists. Now it turns out we find that they've invested heavily in "green" technologies and alternate energy companies. The BBC has invested more than 10 billion dollars of its pension fund in climate change companies. The Express reported (courtesy Australian Climate and Madness):
Concerns are growing that BBC journalists and their bosses regard disputed scientific theory that climate change is caused by mankind as “mainstream” while huge sums of employees’ money is invested in companies whose success depends on the theory being widely accepted.
Even more troubling from the viewpoint of the BBC being impartial and concerns of conflict of interest is this:
The BBC is the only media organisation in Britain whose pension fund is a member of the Institutional Investors Group on Climate Change, which has more than 50 members across Europe.

Its chairman is Peter Dunscombe, also the BBC’s Head of Pensions Investment.
This all may have been done in good faith without any intent of manipulating the market or public opinion, but if anyone else had done it, the BBC would be reporting on conflict of interest and it sure looks like it would be a serious violation of finance laws in the US at least.

People are driving their cars longer before getting a new one, according to a new study. Christopher DeMorro at Gas 2.0 reports
According to a study by Auto MD, which is owned by the US Auto Parts Network, Inc. (i.e. people who have a vested interest in making parts for used cars) 77% of people are, on average, planning on driving their current cars at least 50,000 miles more than their previous cars.

Considering the average American racks up between 12,000 and 15,000 miles per year, this means people plan on keeping their cars an extra 3-4 years.
When cars cost so much and the future looks so economically uncertain, this just makes sense. And cars do tend to last longer than they did at other times in the past, so why not?

Congress is calling for the president of Toyota to testify about their recent recall on various cars. Can you remember any recall by any company for any product getting the kind of reaction and publicity this one is? Could this possibly have anything to do with GM and Chrysler being effectively owned by the Obama administration? Hmmm?

Insane pilot Joe Stack crashed his plane into an Austin, Texas government building. Instantly the cries claiming this man was anti-government and thus a lunatic-yet-typical Tea Partier were heard. News organizations (using the term loosely) such as MSNBC made this claim hours after the event. Yet the suicide note which is apparently genuine includes lines such as this:
The communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed.
And the man blames President Bush for most of the world's woes. The guy was just a crank, with random views and a general anti-government and conspiratorial viewpoint but was never a tea party guy and seems, to whatever extent you can pin down his political views, to be leftist. But hey, why let that stop the narrative?

United Nations Secretary General of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Yvo DeBoer, is resigning. His latest effort was to negotiate an international effort to stop climate change, as if by the UN's will or the world's governments demanding it, climate stops changing. Never fear, though, he got a job at a multi-billion dollar corporation consulting them on alarmist issues.

Finally, George Will has some great advice for approaching Sarah Palin: Don’t hate Sarah Palin, but don’t let the fact that others hate her cause you to give her more credit than she’s earned.

And that's the Word Around the Net, February 19, 2010.

MOST BEAUTIFUL?

"With a population of more than 300 million, they do have an unfair advantage."

Americans are the most beautiful people in the world. At least, that's what a poll of British folks claims. The poll asked 5,000 global travelers in England what nation they thought had the most beautiful people, and the US came in first. Brazil was second, no surprise there. The United States, I think, gets an edge primarily because of movies and television. Beautiful US celebrities fill the media with George Clooney and Jessica Alba known worldwide instead of Joe Blow and Jane Doe.

I would guess that because of greater ease, health care, and wealth the US probably does come in on average as more attractive than many nations, but some countries seem to have an unusually high rate of beautiful models such as Germany and Brazil. England isn't typically known for its beautiful people, but there are some very attractive folks from there, too.

Here's the full list:

1. America
2. Brazil
3. Spain
4. Australia
5. Italy
6. Sweden
7. England
8. India
9. France
10. Canada

11. Mexico
12. Portugal
13. Wales
14. Russia
15. Japan
16. Ireland
17. Argentina
18. Netherlands
19. Scotland
20. Germany

Based on what I've seen and know, I probably would shuffle those around and rank them differently - asking English folks means you get an Anglo-centric spin (all of the British Isles in the top 20 most beautiful nations?) and while I like the Mexican people, they aren't the prettiest folks on average. I'd probably rank Japan and Germany higher, at least.

Not that it means anything, really. There's no objective standard and no way to gather it even if there was. Even the most beautiful people look pretty blah some days, and some pretty average looking people can be really beautiful once you get to know them. And some nations we see almost nothing of and have difficulty making a proper judgment about. And really, China has more than a billion people; by the mere law of averages that means its going to have a lot of beautiful people.

Quote of the Day

"Beauty is essentially meaningless and it is always transitory."
-Halle Berry

PICTURE OF THE DAY

Some clever online fellow came up with a flow chart showing how painful it can be to try to watch a movie on DVD.


I think pirating movies is wrong and do not do so. Yet this is certainly something film companies should consider, and why some people rip their movies on to a computer then burn just the parts they want onto disc.

Even the movies without as much junk in the beginning or the ones that let you skip past trailers and advertising are obnoxiously long. When I put a disc in, I want to watch the movie or the special features, not this crap. And especially I don't want to watch a 30 second animated menu that won't let me do anything until its all finished.

Film companies are rightfully upset about pirating and theft, but anyone intelligent in the business ought to understand that their attitude and the packaging (not to mention the content) is driving people to find another way to get a movie. Talk about cutting your own throat as a business.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

FIND THAT SPECIAL SOMEONE

"If you had to sit down and write what you wanted in your dream guy, most girls would write 'tall, hot and well-off.'"

The average height for a man in the United States is 5' 10" (177 cm) tall. I sort of break that curve by being 6' 2 1/2" but I go to church with a lot of guys who are much taller. For some reason, some people seem very impressed with height, as if somehow I worked hard to be this tall.; special exercises, perhaps. It has advantages (getting things out of cupboards) and drawbacks (bashing your head on cupboards).

According to a recent study, on dating sites, being tall has advantages as well. Duke University analyzed 22,000 online daters and found what most people already knew: being chubby as a girl or being poor as a guy means you don't find love as easy. Eric Frazier writes at the Charlotte Observer:
For example, the study showed a 5-foot-9-inch man needs to make $30,000 more than a 5-foot-10-inch one to be as successful in the dating pool.

Men in the study showed strong preference for women with a body mass index of 18 or 19 - "which is slightly on the anorexic side," Ariely said. (A 5-foot-6-inch woman would need to weigh about 115 to fit that profile, according to the National Institutes of Health's online body-mass index calculator).
As I've written before, few men really know what stats are on women. If you asked a guy how tall and what a girl should weigh in numbers most guys will either shrug or guesstimate and be pretty widly off base. So you have to take these desires with a grain of salt. Yet the idea of guys wanting a more slender woman and girls wanting a more wealthy guy isn't exactly unusual.

At my height, apparently I can be $150,000 poorer than a 5' 9" fellow, but somehow I doubt that any women would put up with that. As it turns out I am roughly that much poorer than most guys, but being a poverty-stricken 44 year old writer isn't sexy or attractive to women no matter how tall you are. By contrast, a vastly wealthy guy can look like pretty much anything and get flocks of interested women.

And certainly what you put down on paper as your ideal isn't necessarily what you demand before you'll even consider someone. Dating sites ask what you are looking for, not what you'll put up with. They tend to ask questions to find out what sort of person your ideal would be rather than what you will consider. So you get these dream dates with guys looking for a slender girl with red hair and huge boobs and women looking for a muscular tall guy with a gigantic bank account.

And really, if you're going to browse through thousands of potential choices, you're going to start out by weeding out all but the absolutely most desirable people. Then if they don't pan out you start to relax the standards a bit.

Certainly for women, wanting a guy who is well off is not unreasonable. Women want security and a man who'll be able to give them nice things. Even the ones who say "we can live on love" know better in the long run; you need money to survive. Eventually you're going to get too old to work and your cute young looks will give away to older matronly looks and you need something to hang on to for your life. And honestly if you asked most guys if they'd prefer a poor girl or a wealthy one, they'll pick the wealthy one, all other things being equal.

Guys certainly would prefer a woman who is not fat because they want someone who's healthy and attractive. Now, what's "fat" varies significantly between men, and you can't really pin down what that number is. The older guys get the less stick-like they demand women be, but few men actively seek out a Roseanne Barr (particularly given her mental state). This again is reasonable: a healthier girl will tend to present fewer health problems and will likely be more attractive physically which does matter even if it isn't the most significant thing in a relationship. And let's face it, while women pretend that looks aren't as important to them as men and that they don't fixate on bodies... they do, and they are. So its an equal concern for women, just a less verbally expressed one, at least around men.

And then there's a basic final flaw with online dating sites. These aren't casual people who are just living life and working hard hoping some day maybe they'll run into someone special. They're folks actively seeking and hunting for someone in their lives. These are people who, if not desperate, are at least anxious to find a love, and as such are going to be a bit more fixated on how that love matches up to what they long for than someone who just happens to find the right person. So their preferences and ideals may not be exactly representative of the average person.

The Charlotte Observer article seems to not quite comprehend any of this. It talks of fairness (there is no such thing in dating or attraction, it is inherently unfair and unjust), and it talks of evolutionary principles, but not basic common sense facts of life.

In the end, I'd trust a talented, experienced matchmaker over any computer site, no matter how clever they are. And really: if they worked so well and were so great at finding someone for you... why do they offer a year-long subscription you can easily renew?

GOLDEN GLOVES

"The last thing baseball needs is more stats."

Baseball Camera
Sometimes baseball can be confusing to people who don't know the game well. For example, take Barry Bonds. No, not his steroid use or his home runs, I mean his fielding. Barry Bonds was, in addition to one of the greatest hitters of all time and a base stealing machine, one of the best outfielders in baseball. As time and the wear of long baseball seasons beat up his body he wasn't as excellent but he always was good.

The problem is, Bonds usually didn't look like a great fielder, at least to untrained eyes. Ken Griffey jr in his prime was spectacular, he'd be bouncing off the wall, making diving catches, running around with blazing speed, and so on. He looked like he was doing an amazing job. Bonds usually was just standing there when he caught the ball. When someone hit a home run over him, he'd just turn and watch it go. So what was the big deal?

Derek Jeter is another example. Statistically he doesn't look very impressive. Compared to his team mate Alex Rodriguez some analysis shows him as poorer at the position. Jeter's lifetime fielding percentage is .976, averaging 14 errors a year. That isn't terrible but for the position it isn't outstanding either. Baseball stats guru Bill James ranks him 22nd at this position in the major leagues. Yet he's won golden gloves for year after year, being declared the finest fielder in his position. Why?

Well, there's more to the game than hard stats. Someone can only hit .250 but always seem to get that clutch hit when the team most needs it. Its when and how you hit that helps more than what your numbers look like. If you hit .350 but strand runners on base constantly, you're an impressive-looking liability.

Fielding works the same way. one of the things most praised about great outfielders of the past such as Joe Dimaggio and Andy Van Slyke was that they just always seemed to be where the ball was hit. Barry Bonds does the same thing; he just seems to be where the ball is going to go when its hit. Guys like that can read the batter, the pitcher, and the status of the game and have a good idea where the ball is going to go. Griffey jr looked more impressive, but he had to run around because he wasn't ready for where the ball was going to be. Or if he was, he didn't care because it looked cooler to run.

It works like this: a great fielder will know things like how a hitter tends to hit the ball: this guy usually hits to left, this guy tends to hit line drives, etc. Then he also knows what the pitcher is likely to do: this pitcher tends to give up high pop ups, this one usually delivers grounders. Then he knows what the pitcher is likely to throw in any given situation: there's a man on third and 1 out, so he'll probably throw this pitch in this location; that batter won't be able to catch up with it, so the ball will probably fly over here if he hits it.

So they walk over there, camp, and catch the ball. That's some amazing fielding and baseball skill. So it doesn't look like much, but if you know the game you are just impressed when you see Bonds with his hands on his knees, leaning over, then stand up as he lets the ball fall in his mitt.

There's a new camera system which Popular Science reported on recently which helps this analysis. Bjorn Carey writes:
Sportvision’s FieldFX camera system records the action while object-recognition software identifies each fielder and runner, as well as the ball. After a play, the system spits out data for every movement: the trajectory of the ball, how far the fielder ran, and so on. “After an amazing catch by an outfielder, we can compare his speed and route to the ball with our database and show the TV audience that this player performed so well that 80 percent of the league couldn’t have made that catch,” says Ryan Zander, Sportvision’s manager of baseball products. That information, he says, will allow a much more quantitative measure of exactly what is an error.
In essence, it is a lot like the system of cameras used for The Matrix where they were able to spin around a motionless person and show them from all angles while in action. The image up top gives some idea of how the system works, allowing analysts to visually study the plays rather than just look at numbers.

Yes, Jeter really is a great fielder, not because he's so free of errors but because he gets to balls that other shortstops might not and fields so cleanly he gets the outs that are needed. The problem is, that skill doesn't show up on paper. It only shows up when you watch the game.

And that took a lot of introducing to show why it is so significant and interesting, for baseball fans at least.

A BETTER FIREFOX

"Tabbed browsing is the bees knees!"
-Timothy Lord

Firefox
Although it once was, Firefox is no longer significantly safer or more stable than Internet Explorer (although for me it loads pages much faster and slows down my system much less). There was a time when Firefox was used so much less that malware and adware designers would not build their annoying programs to work with the browser, but sadly they've caught up by now.

However, I still prefer Firefox for a variety of reasons and one of the main ones is the Addon idea. The latest version of Internet Explorer has some addon functionality but Firefox still leads the way. Addons are small programs which run with the browser and enhance performance or security. I have quite a few and they can turn a good browser into a very great one. So here's my list and why:

Adblock Plus. This is a must-have addon for Firefox. It finds and stops many major advertising types and you can simply right click to add most to the list. It just sanitizes adds off your browsing so you can see content without the junk. And since ads usually load first and slower, it makes the page load faster as well.

Noscript: This is a perfect companion for Adblock, as it finds and stops almost all obnoxious or problematic scripts and you can add any annoying script to the list, or temporarily allow them from a site if you need to view it. Scripts are programs which run with the web page and most malware rely on this system to attack your computer. This tends to wipe out pop ups and poorly designed website features so that pages load smoother and more quickly. With Adblock Plus, you can browse with much more comfort and safety. Noscript updates constantly with new scripts it has learned about and will protect you from.

IE Tab: Coral's IE Tab allows you to swap to an internet explorer version of browser for those websites which are designed for IE and load poorly or not at all for firefox. This version of IE tab actually supports adblock plus, so you can look at internet explorer on your firefox without the ads.

Fasterfox: Already a quick browser, this little addon makes Firefox run even quicker (and gives you a nifty readout about how fast each page loads at the bottom). Still in beta with the latest version of Firefox, but it works fine.

TinyURL Creator: This little tool allows you to right click on any website and create a "tinyurl" link in your clipboard. Some URLs are so long or difficult to remember that they take up a huge amount of space. Often, message boards or comment sites won't allow that long a string, so you have to use tiny url. Also tinyurl allows you to post a link without revealing the contents, which can help with creating mystery about a video you want to show off or a site people might not otherwise look at simply because they dislike the source (Fox news, for example). In programs such as Twitter, the character count is so low you want to save space any way you can. TinyURL is your friend.

Copy Plain Text: This is a godsend for my blogging. Copy Plain Text allows you to copy a block of marked text without any tags, formatting, or special characters. Most text you see on news sites have all sorts of hidden tags which control the font, spacing, formatting, and so on and to keep the appearance of my blog consistent, I have to strip all those out. Copy Plain Text does it all for you by adding a new option to the menu when you right click to copy text out.

BetterPrivacy: Cleans up cookies when you leave a site, so you leave no trace of having been there and also cannot be tracked by the site. Cookies are used by some websites to watch your behavior and where you go on the internet, ostensibly to better serve you in shopping and so on, but personally I don't like that.

Text Formatting Toolbar: I don't like extra toolbars. They're like an infestation on your browser, dumping trash that you don't want or need. However, this one is actually very useful if you comment much or visit message boards very often. This addon allows you to, from a toolbar, format text properly for either standard HTML, BBcode (most message boards use this), or even Wiki code with a few clicks.

Bing Search: Google has a powerful search engine, but I don't really like Google, and Bing seems to be better at picking only what you were interested in, not it and a thousand other somewhat related hits. You can use this to add the Bing search engine to your Firefox search window at the top. Note, however: Bing's image search sucks, a lot.

Then there's Oldbar. With the new version of Firefox, they added an obnoxious "help" called Awesomebar which floods you with options and suggestions every time you type something in. This isn't based on places you've been before, its ideas that they think you might want even if you've never been there before. I hated it, and so do a lot of other people. Oldbar strips that away and lets you just browse without their "awesome" suggestions.

When you browse to a given site very often, take a look at the search options. Many sites have a search window, and some offer the option to add their search window to your Firefox browser. The Addons section of Firefox's official website has a huge list of potential search engine choices, and I recommend a look at that as well. If there are sites you visit often and need info from, this is a good way to go.

Firefox is moving away from its fast, easy to use, and customizable to more clunky and cluttered, but it still is more easy and customizable than Internet Explorer. The one major enhancement I'm waiting for is split screen tabs. This is something the developers of Firefox have talked about for several versions but so far it hasn't shown up; it would allow you to open up a tab as half your browsing window (or more) and thus see both tabs at the same time. This would make blogging significantly easier.

Go forth and customize, friend! It is easy and definitely rewarding.

Quote of the Day

"You need only reflect that one of the best ways to get yourself a reputation as a dangerous citizen these days is to go about repeating the very phrases which our founding fathers used in the struggle for independence."
-Charles Austin Beard

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

TO ESSAY OR NOT

There's been an absolute tsunami of global warming and alarmist news that's come out in the last few months, of which I've written about a small portion. I've been pondering a sixth part to my Global Warming essay series to update the information, but I'm not sure if people aren't just sick of it all by now.

To put it very briefly, the alarmist science was not just misleading but often deliberately fraudulent, their data often was cooked and now conveniently cannot be found, their information gathering absurdly beneath the most basic standards of science (for example, there's one temperature recording station for a huge section of Canada), and the worst part is that they seem to have known all this and still pressed on.

As I've said before, I think we should keep pushing for alternate energy, keep trying to reduce our use of resources and pollution, and keep acting responsibly. The problem is the most powerful motivation for this activity in recent years has been based on a preposterous lie. So what happens when people figure this out? I fear the worst.

While the essay series I did was largely to demonstrate the logical and scientific error in presuming human activity could cause global warming, I didn't actually touch on the science involved in how the work was done, because almost none of it was known except by the alarmists. Now we know why: because it was trash.

So maybe I'll put another section on the essay in the next few days, I just wondered if anyone really cares.

PEAK OIL, AGAIN

"Oil depletion and climate change will create an entirely new context in which political struggles will be played out. Within that context, it is not just freedom, democracy, and equality that are at stake, but the survival of billions of humans and of whole ecosystems."
-Richard Heinberg

Last time I wrote about "peak oil" I got several comments from people who wanted to correct me to make sure I understood that simply because we keep finding gigantic oceans of oil doesn't mean we're not about to run out. One even suggested that peak oil wasn't about reaching the limits of the world's oil reserves at all, but that it was about reaching the limits of cheap oil.

The problem is, whether that is true or not, the general understanding of peak oil is that it means we're running out. And that's something I've been hearing since I was old enough to pay attention. In the 1970s we were told absolutely that all the world's oil supplies would be totally used up by 1990. All that's changed is the date, it keeps being pushed forward.

As I noted in the original article, one of the flaws with this idea is that it presumes that oil is not a renewable resource - or if renewable, takes millennia to recover. That may not actually be the case, some scientists are coming to believe that there are microorganisms which live in the earth's crust producing oil. If this is true, then the rate at which petroleum is replenished may be much faster than we know.

In any case, a recent story in Business Insider helps illustrate why I'm not as worried about running out of oil as some. Vincent Fernando writes:
Exxon Mobil (XOM) announced today that in 2009 the company's proven reserves increased by 133% of the amount of oil produced.

Exxon now has 23.3 billion oil-equivalent-barrels of reserves comprised of about half liquids and half gas. It's the largest amount in the company's history.
For sixteen straight years, Exxon - one of the industry's most conservative in exploration and development of new oil sources - has found more oil than its pumped out of the ground. They just keep finding more.

Every few months I read of some new supply of petroleum that's been found. Its a pretty regular thing, and some of the finds are gargantuan. We've got plenty of oil, in fact, we've probably got more oil than we're going to need before we find an alternative to the stuff.

Yet in the United States, the federal government is run by people who want very much for us to not get any of that because its so nasty and dirty. Canada who has the largest oil sand deposits in the world, is looking to sell their oil to China now, because the US simply refuses to buy any.

Recently at The Hill, Ben Geman reported on an economic study:
A new report says U.S. oil-and-gas drilling bans will increase consumer energy costs and decrease cumulative U.S. GDP by $2.36 trillion over the next two decades

That’s an average annual GDP drop of roughly a half a percent.

The report, commissioned by the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, comes as President Obama is signaling that he’ll back expanded offshore drilling as he seeks GOP and centrist Democratic support for a broader energy and climate bill.
President Obama is sending conflicting messages about energy, but he seems to be leaning more toward my viewpoint: drill, but push for nuclear energy as well. With a call for new plants, President Obama is looking in the right direction; we've already lost decades of potential development in nuclear power plant technology and need the cheap, clean energy they provide. However, he's facing leftists such as House Speaker Pelosi who want no drilling anywhere.

This report suggests that the economic damage of a drilling ban in the US would be catastrophic, on top of an already damaged economy. It is unquestionably true that reliance on foreign energy has been problematic at best for the United States, particularly when there are so many resources at the nation's fingertips which for various political and ideological reasons are not being exploited.

Where the US goes from here is up to the Democrats in Washington DC, because they're the ones in charge. The burden of consequence for what they decide rests on their shoulders as well. So far they've shown very little wisdom and almost no economic comprehension, but we can only hope that things will change.

If Democrats continue their policies regarding energy that they've clung to in the past, the peak oil predictions of the end of cheap gas will definitely come true; not because of any shortage, but because of a refusal to even attempt to gather what we can.