Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Other Running Mate

John McCain is apparently looking for at leat one good woman:
Sen. John McCain's growing popularity among women is fueling speculation that he will selecta female running mate, ripening talk about conservative favorite Sarah Palin, governor of Alaska, and former Hewlett-Packard Chief Executive Officer Carly Fiorina, one of his top economic advisers.

Political pundits, election strategists and even some Democrats say putting a dynamic woman on the Republican ballot would tip independents, especially the 'security moms' who helped President Bush win re-election in 2004.

'If McCain picked a woman, it would certainly get the attention and perhaps votes of some Democrats and a number of independents who supported Hillary Clinton,' said Democratic strategist Mary Anne Marsh.
I don't think the problem with McCain is so much his need for a strong, credible VP as it is that his campaign style so far has sucked. And it didn't really help Walter Mondale. But if he wants to give it a try, why not?

Hatin' On The Commission

The self-appointed judges of what constitutes hateful speech, aka the Canadian Human Rights Commission, is under fire from...a human rights group.
B’nai Brith Canada, an organization long concerned with the defence and improvement of Canada’s human rights system, is calling for “urgent reform” of human rights commissions. The Jewish human rights group has successfully brought cases before human rights commissions and tribunals, which it says “have historically played an important role in combating Nazism and neo-Nazi ideologies”. B’nai Brith Canada has called on the Canadian Human Rights Commission to seize the opportunity provided by the current review it has undertaken to “make real changes that will ensure its relevancy into the future”.

“We are calling for a much-needed overhaul of the protections offered by the human rights commission system,” said Frank Dimant, Executive Vice President of B’nai Brith Canada. “We have to ensure that commissions do not become abusers of the very human rights they are charged with protecting."
If these folks know there's something wrong, it's time for the Commission to take the hint.

Harriet Miers, Come On Down

There's some good news for those who actually care about the law.
Congress can force White House aides to testify under subpoena, a U.S. District Court ruled Thursday, rejecting Bush administration claims of immunity.

Former White House Counsel Harriet Miers is not immune from congressional subpoenas, a judge ruled Thursday.

The House Judiciary Committee has been seeking to force former White House Counsel Harriet Miers to testify before Congress about the firing of nine U.S. attorneys in 2006. The White House has been resisting, claiming she cannot be compelled to appear.

But the White House position 'is without any support in case law,' Judge John D. Bates wrote in a 93-page opinion released Thursday.

He said the notion that 'Miers is absolutely immune from compelled congressional process' is 'unprecedented.'

But, Bates added, the ruling does not mean that Miers and Joshua Bolten, the White House chief of staff from whom House Democrats have demanded White House documents, could not assert executive privilege during congressional testimony.

The court 'resolves, and again rejects' the notion that senior White House aides are absolutely immune from subpoena, but the 'specific claims of executive privilege that Ms. Miers and Mr. Bolten may assert are not addressed -- and the court expresses no view on such claims,' Bates wrote.
Sorry, Ms. Miers. Your presence is hereby requested.

Bloggin' In The Years: 1999

This was not your father's Woodstock.
Tents and booths were destroyed, concert light stands and a speaker tower were toppled and a mob tried to destroy a radio station truck during several chaotic hours beginning late Sunday.

'This is not the real Woodstock,' said a disgusted Mike Long, 31, of Detroit as police moved in. 'They messed up. They messed up the whole name of Woodstock.'

'It's a great shame that this happened because in so many ways it was so uplifting,' said concert promoter John Scher. 'It puts a permanent blemish on what happened here. I think the kids made a mistake. They did not intend for this to happen.'
Meanwhile, this is rich:
MTV's Kurt Loder went off the air from Woodstock 99 at 11 p.m. ET Sunday, telling viewers he and co-host Serena Altschul had to leave. State troopers were rolling in, and bonfires were blazing out of control.

"It was dangerous to be around. The whole scene was scary. There were just waves of hatred bouncing around the place," Loder said Monday, back in his New York MTV office. "It was clear we had to get out of there."
MTV, meet your fans.

A Tale of Two Narratives

Chris Bodenner opines on why the symbolism of the campaign may actually be more important than the candidates' biographies:
It's certainly arguable that McCain's narrative has more practical worth for the presidency. (Though one could also argue that Obama's 'awe-inspiring symbolism of his ability to transcend barriers and bring people together' is more relevant in the wake of Bush-Rove than 'duty to country' -- a theme the White House overplayed and perverted.) However, the premise of my post wasn't the pragmatic power of their narratives, but rather their symbolic relevance (which has real, if intangible, impact). On that score, Obama clearly trounces McCain. McCain's POW experience is unique, awe-inspiring, and timeless. But it isn't timely; Obama's 'post-racist' persona provides the country a desperately-needed chance for symbolic healing -- not just on race, but on three decades of Bushes, Clintons, and boomers in general.
Lately, McCain, whom I still happen to think is an honorable man, seems more and more out of touch-an impression that doomed Bush Senior and Bob Dole. They say timing is everything-and in politics, being timely is also everything.

Let Them Eat Salad

On how the cluelessness of liberals hurts the people they claim to be helping.
How does blocking new fast-food outlets provide more choices? It helps local officials 'attract grocery stores and restaurants to the area, by preserving existing land for these uses,' says the release. And why does the moratorium apply only to the poor part of town, around South-Central L.A.? A fellow council member explains: 'The over concentration of fast food restaurants in conjunction with the lack of grocery stores places these communities in a poor situation to locate a variety of food and fresh food.' Supporters of the moratorium call this state of affairs 'food apartheid.'

It's an odd slogan. As the encyclopedia Africana notes, apartheid was a racially discriminatory policy 'enforced by white minority governments.' Opening a McDonald's in South-Central L.A. is not government-enforced racial discrimination. But telling McDonald's it can open franchises only in the white part of town—what do you call that?

And what about the argument that people in South-Central need the government to block unhealthy food options because they're 'in a poor situation' to locate better choices? This is the argument normally made for restricting children's food options at school—that they're more dependent and vulnerable than the rest of us. How do you feel about treating poor people like children?
Liberals feel fine. After all, what are the poor for if not to be exploited?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Making Up For Lost Time

Overdue, or just overblown?
US lawmakers Tuesday offered the federal government's first formal apology for the 'fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity' of slavery and the legal segregation of African-Americans.

The resolution, passed in the House of Representatives by voice vote, 'apologizes to African-Americans on behalf of the people of the United States, for the wrongs committed against them and their ancestors who suffered under slavery' formal segregation laws known as 'Jim Crow.'

Lawmakers also said they were committed to rectifying 'the lingering consequences' of slavery and segregation.

Congressman Steve Cohen, who introduced the resolution in early 2007, praised the move.
'This is a historic moment in the ongoing struggle for civil rights in this country, and I hope that this legislation can serve to open the dialogue on race and equality for all,' he said in a statement.
Considering that the Democrats are in the majority, and they're the ones who supported slavery and segregation in the first place, maybe this is appropriate after all.

Drink 'Em If You've Got 'Em

It's got that smoky flavor:
Nicotine Water, which the Food and Drug Administration removed from the market six years ago, is back. Introduced in 1998, the product was marketed as an alternative to cigarettes in situations where smokers are not allowed to light up. 'From a practical standpoint,' a company spokesman told A.P. in 2002, 'you're on a plane from New York to L.A., this is to keep you from clawing the seat in front of you.' The manufacturer called Nicotine Water a 'dietary supplement,' trying to take advantage of the relatively loose regulatory requirements for products in that category. But in 2002, at the urging of anti-smoking groups, the FDA said Nicotine Water was in fact an 'unapproved drug,' because 'it is intended to treat or mitigate nicotine addiction as a smoking cessation product,' and 'nicotine addiction is considered a disease.' Furthermore, Nicotine Water 'contains an active ingredient [nicotine] that FDA has already approved for use in a drug' (i.e., nicotine gum and patches), a characteristic that made the 'dietary supplement' label inapplicable.

So how did Nicotine Water get around this obstacle? It now comes in two versions. One provides four milligrams of nicotine and contains a little tobacco, rendering it (according to the manufacturer) a 'tobacco product.' The other, described as a 'homeopathic formulation,' contains barely more than half a milligram of nicotine, and I assume it is about as effective as the average homeopathic remedy. This case illustrates both the absurd arbitrariness of U.S. drug regulations and the puritanical zealotry of anti-smoking groups, which actively oppose safer alternatives to cigarettes (including smokeless tobacco), insisting instead on complete abstinence.
And it's bottled, too, which makes it doubly evil. Those tobacco companies sure are insidious.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Right Versus Right

If these folks don't like Mitt Romney, he must be doing something right.
Prominent evangelical leaders are warning Sen. John McCain against picking former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney as his running mate, saying their troops will abandon the Republican ticket on Election Day if that happens.

They say Mr. Romney lacks trust on issues such as outlawing abortion and opposing same-sex marriage and because he is a Mormon. Opposition is particularly powerful among those who supported former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in the Republican presidential primaries earlier this year.

'McCain and Romney would be like oil and water,' said evangelical novelist Tim LaHaye, who supported Mr. Huckabee. 'We aren't against Mormonism, but Romney is not a thoroughgoing evangelical and his flip-flopping on issues is understandable in a liberal state like Massachusetts, but our people won't understand that.'

The Rev. Rob McCoy, pastor of Calvary Chapel in Thousand Oaks, Calif., who speaks at evangelical events across the country, told The Washington Times, 'I will vote for McCain unless he does one thing. You know what that is? If he puts Romney on the ticket as veep.
'It will alienate the entire evangelical community - 62 million self-professing evangelicals in this country, half of them registered to vote, are going to be deeply saddened,' Mr. McCoy added.

Mr. Huckabee, an ordained Southern Baptist minister, was the favorite of evangelical voters in the Republican presidential nomination contest earlier this year and won more delegates per dollar spent than any other candidate in either party.
I'm sorry, but Mike Huckabee wound up alienating everyone who wasn't an evengelical Christian. Romney at least seemed competent, if overly programmed.

For Services Rendered

Ted Stevens has been busted.
WASHINGTON (Map, News) - Sen. Ted Stevens, the longest-serving Republican senator and a figure in Alaska politics since before statehood, has been indicted on seven counts of falsely reporting hundreds of thousands of dollars in services he received from a company that helped renovate his home.
Stevens, 84, has been dogged by a federal investigation into whether he pushed for fishing legislation that also benefited his son, an Alaska lobbyist.

From May 1999 to August 2007, prosecutors said Stevens concealed 'his continuing receipt of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of things of value from a private corporation.' The indictment released Tuesday said the items included: home improvements to his vacation home in Alaska, including a new first floor, garage, wraparound deck, plumbing, electrical wiring; as well as car exchanges, a Viking gas grill, furniture and tools.
Well, at least he was paid for. I blame the Intertubes.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Inheriting The Legacy

Well, isn't this good news.
The U.S. budget deficit will widen to a record of about $490 billion next year, an administration official said, leaving a deep budget hole that will constrain the next president's tax and spending plans.

The projected deficit for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 is higher than the $407 billion forecast by President George W. Bush in February. The bigger shortfall reflects dwindling tax receipts because of the U.S. economic slowdown, the cost of a $168 billion economic stimulus package and spending on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

``We've already seen a pretty sharp cooling in tax receipts, and it's just going to continue into next fiscal year,'' Stephen Stanley, chief economist at RBS Capital Markets, said in a telephone interview.

The deficit projection will burden either Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama, the presumptive presidential nominees of the major political parties, with a constricted budget that has little room for cutting taxes or increasing spending. The next president also will inherit the deepest housing recession in a generation, fears of a crisis in the banking industry, a falling dollar and high energy prices.
In other words, the next president will have the thankless job of cleaning up the mess made during the last eight years. That's the Bush legacy, again.

What It Is, What It Shall Be

Liberal racism is still racism, even when you try to call it something it's not.
Voters are far more favorably disposed to policies described as 'affirmative action' than they are to policies described as 'racial preferences.' When a policy is described as 'affirmative action,' polls show an almost even split in support and opposition. In contrast, a Newsweek poll last summer showed that Americans oppose 'racial preferences' by a margin of 82%—14%. The opposition to 'racial preferences' also includes a plurality of blacks.

Support for 'affirmative action' evaporates when it's revealed to mean that a black applicant to an elite school is 200 times more likely to be admitted than a white comparative. Thus, supporters of preferences employ the term 'affirmative action'— a benign policy designed to 'level the playing field.'
The whole notion of affirmative action seems to revolve around the idea that those poor, oppressed minorities can't succeed without some help from "Compassionate" whites. "Leveling the playing field" may indeed serve a purpose, but relying soley on racial preferences to fill a void doesn't do anyone any favors.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Life, The Universe, And Everything, Dude

It's like, so simple:
A few weeks ago, Lisi posted an academic paper called 'An Exceptionally Simple Theory of Everything' to arxiv.org, a site for scientists that's maintained by Cornell University. The paper outlined his attempt at a theory that would lay out the physics of the universe in one tidy package. For half a century, researchers have sought to reconcile gravity with the three forces that operate inside atoms, where gravity seems to hold no sway. No one—not even Einstein, who spent the later years of his life trying—has been able to explain how these four forces can coexist.

To understand fully Lisi's own stab at the problem requires a grasp of mathematics far beyond all but a handful of people, but the basic premise is that all physical forces and particles can be explained by mapping them onto an incredibly complex geometrical structure known as E8. If Lisi is right, his theory would give an elegant shape to the physics of the cosmos, and E8 would become as significant as E=MC2. This would be a remarkable feat coming from any of the most accomplished physicists alive. Coming from a surf bum, it would be beyond extraordinary.
Of course, traditional academia seems to have gotten its feathers ruffled as evidenced by the reactions. But what if he's actually on to something? What are the stuffed shirts more afraid of-being proven wrong, or being proven wrong by a guy who lives in a van down by the shore?

The Coal Kings

The anti-carbon crusade seems to be falling on deaf ears.
To judge by actions, not words, the carbon-warming view hasn't come close to persuading a political majority even in nations considered far more environmentally enlightened than China and India. Europe's coal consumption is rising, not falling, and the Continent won't come close to meeting the Kyoto targets for carbon reduction. Australia is selling coal to all comers.

On the far side of the environmental curtain China already mines and burns more coal than any other country. Together, China and India control more than one-fifth of the planet's vast coal reserves. Dar predicts--very plausibly, in my view--that the two countries may fire up a new coal plant as often as once a week for the next 25 years, adding about twice as much coal-fired generating capacity as the U.S. has today. Persian Gulf states are planning significant coal imports, because coal generates much cheaper electricity than oil or gas.

In developing countries the political survival of the people at the top depends on providing affordable fuel for kitchens, farms, fertilizer plants, steel mills, highways and power plants. Oil and coal are the only practical fuels at hand.
The War On Carbon has been a favorite cause of limosine liberals. In the real world, not so much.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

What The People Say

When public opinion really starts to matter:
In a country with less in the way of checks and balances, which can be gamed by adroit lobbyists and litigators, we would be building more nuclear plants, and would be drilling offshore and in ANWR. We would be phasing out the corn ethanol subsidies that are enriching Iowa farmers and impoverishing Mexican tortilla eaters, and we would be repealing the 54-cent tariff on Brazilian sugar ethanol (the sugar for which would be produced not in defoliated Amazon rainforests but in the desolate and currently unused certao).
Guilt politics only works up to a point. Even enviro-cult leaders like Al Gore understand this. When people realy get fed up with fuel prices, they'll demand to know why they can't find alternatives. The Al Gores of the world will be hard-pressed to give an answer.

The Audacity Of Victory

It's a quagmire! At least for the bad guys.
The United States is now winning the war that two years ago seemed lost.

Limited, sometimes sharp fighting and periodic terrorist bombings in Iraq are likely to continue, possibly for years. But the Iraqi government and the U.S. now are able to shift focus from mainly combat to mainly building the fragile beginnings of peace — a transition that many found almost unthinkable as recently as one year ago.

Despite the occasional bursts of violence, Iraq has reached the point where the insurgents, who once controlled whole cities, no longer have the clout to threaten the viability of the central government.

(snip)

Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, told The Associated Press this past week there are early indications that senior leaders of al-Qaida may be considering shifting their main focus from Iraq to the war in Afghanistan.

Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, told the AP on Thursday that the insurgency as a whole has withered to the point where it is no longer a threat to Iraq's future.

"Very clearly, the insurgency is in no position to overthrow the government or, really, even to challenge it," Crocker said. "It's actually almost in no position to try to confront it. By and large, what's left of the insurgency is just trying to hang on."
The question now is whether this helps Obama or McCain. My money's on Obama, because it strengthens his argument for a timetable. Ironically, while McCain may have been right about the surge, he may have less of an argument for staying in Iraq now.

Class Dismissed

It may be more convenient, but is online education really missing the point?
At the most basic level, to be a student has always meant actually dragging one’s exhausted body into class with readings in hand, being (more or less) awake, alert, listening, and ready to open one’s mouth. And to be a teacher, for me, means seeing the faces of the students and how their bodies reflect their thoughts and emotions, hearing the timbre of their voices or the lilts in their dialects, experiencing them before me in the rich mix of ideas.
School has always historically been a communal experience, and the best teachers know how to reach their students in ways that you simply can't get from a computer screen. You may be able to get more information with an online course-but are you really learning anything?

Voter Approved

A look at why medical marijuana is such a legal headache for legislators:
The limited legal protections afforded to pot growers and dispensary owners have turned marijuana cultivation and distribution in California into a classic “gray area” business, like gambling or strip clubs, which are tolerated or not, to varying degrees, depending on where you live and on how aggressive your local sheriff is feeling that afternoon. This summer, Jerry Brown, the state’s attorney general, plans to release a more consistent set of regulations on medical marijuana, but it is not clear that California’s judges will uphold his effort. In May, the state Court of Appeal, in Los Angeles, ruled that Senate Bill 420’s cap on the amount of marijuana a patient could possess was unconstitutional, because voters had not approved the limits.
When the Feds say one thing and the satate allows another, it's easy to see how voters can become confused-are they allowed to use the stuff, or not? it's also another example of why forced prohibiitons never work in the long run. Sooner or later, the people will say enough's enough and make up their own minds.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Bloggin' In The Years: 1978

Mrs. Brown, you've got a lovely daughter.
Under normal circumstances, pregnancy occurs when an ovum, or egg cell, released by a woman's ovary during ovulation is fertilized as it passes through the fallopian tube, successfully penetrated by just a single sperm that has traveled through the uterus. After the fertilized egg undergoes a number of cell divisions, the tiny clump of cells enters the uterus, where it burrows into the wall and develops for nine months or so until birth.

To bypass Lesley Brown's fallopian tubes, Oldham Hospital's Steptoe, 65, a highly respected gynecologist, and his colleague, Cambridge University Physiologist Robert Edwards, 52, undertook a remarkable procedure they have been experimenting with for a decade. They removed a ripe egg from Mrs. Brown's ovary, placed it in a laboratory dish and added sperm from her husband. After incubating the ovum as it began to divide, they finally placed the developing embryo in the uterus, where it became implanted and continued to grow into a fetus in what seemed to be an entirely normal way.
I'm happy for the Brown family, and this technique is bound to help many couples in the future. But it still kind of takes the fun out if baby-making to make it so darn clinical.

Magnetic Lights

The mystery of the Northern Lights has been partly solved.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) - Scientists have exposed some of the mystery behind the northern lights.

On Thursday, NASA released findings that indicate magnetic explosions about one-third of the way to the moon cause the northern lights, or aurora borealis, to burst in spectacular shapes and colors, and dance across the sky.

The findings should help scientists better understand the more powerful but less common geomagnetic storms that can knock out satellites, harm astronauts in orbit and disrupt power and communications on Earth, scientists said.

A fleet of five small satellites, called Themis, observed the beginning of a geomagnetic storm in February, while ground observatories in Canada and Alaska recorded the brightening of the northern lights. The southern lights—aurora australis—also brightened and darted across the sky at the same time.

These auroral flare-ups occur every two or three days, on average.
I hate flare-ups myself. Fortunately there's medication for that.

The Rules

China has some new guidelines on how to deal with the foreign devils when they come to town:
Rules for Interacting With Foreigners

Don’t ask about income or expenses, don’t ask about age, don’t ask about love life or marriage, don’t ask about health, don’t ask about someone’s home or address, don’t ask about personal experience, don’t ask about religious beliefs or political views, don’t ask what someone does.

Etiquette for Interacting With Handicapped Athletes

Pay attention to avoiding taboo subjects, quit using bad platitudes, and do not use insulting or discriminatory contemptuous or derogatory terms to address the disabled. Say things such as, “You are amazing,” or “You are really great.” When chatting with the visually impaired, do not say things like “It’s up ahead,” or “It’s over there.” When chatting with athletes who are paraplectic in their upper body, do not say things like “It’s behind you.”
In the old days they probably would have also added "Don't try to defect."

Thursday, July 24, 2008

All The News That No Longer Fits

The state of the modern newspaper:
It has fewer pages than three years ago, the paper stock is thinner, and the stories are shorter. There is less foreign and national news, less space devoted to science, the arts, features and a range of specialized subjects. Business coverage is either packaged in an increasingly thin stand-alone section or collapsed into another part of the paper. The crossword puzzle has shrunk, the TV listings and stock tables may have disappeared, but coverage of some local issues has strengthened and investigative reporting remains highly valued.

The newsroom staff producing the paper is also smaller, younger, more tech-savvy, and more oriented to serving the demands of both print and the web. The staff also is under greater pressure, has less institutional memory, less knowledge of the community, of how to gather news and the history of individual beats. There are fewer editors to catch mistakes.
That may be the biggest challenge facing print journalism overall-the ability to actually gather accurate information the old-fashioned way, by teaching young reporters the basics of fact-finding. Many journalists now use the Web almost exsclusively, but it's still no subsitute for getting out into the community and making sure you've got your facts straight.

A Brief Affair

If history is any indication, the Europeans might not respect him in the morning:
After Inauguration Day, alas, Europe and the world will not face a Dreamworks president, but the leader of a superpower. Whether McCain or Obama, the 44th president will speak more nicely than did W. in his first term. He will also pay more attention to the 'decent opinions of mankind.' But he will still preside over the world's largest military, economic, and cultural power.

This vast power differential is what Germans and Europeans don't quite fathom in their infatuation with Obama. Their problem was not Mr. Bush, but Mr. Big--America as Behemoth Among the Nations, unwilling to succumb to the dictates of goodness that animate post-heroic, post-imperial, and post-sovereign Europe.
And Obama promises a more idealistic, humanitarian interventionism that requests a lot of its allies. It's a subordinate relationship, and the Europeans don't like being in our shadow. That won't change just because Bush will be out of office.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Bolton's Bygone Days

The Bush Administration, to its credit, has purged itself of the neocons it once embraced, and the neocons who were once like "That" with Team Bush don't like it.
Unlike many observers and commentators, Bolton has been looking, not at what the US administration says, but what it does. Ever since the congressional elections of 2006, the US has been in the process of a fundamental change in its policy on a number of key issues: the Arab-Israel dispute, the North Korean nuclear issue, and Iran. Since the administration proclaims loudly that its policies have not changed, and since the tough rhetoric of the past dominates the discussion, it is easy to overlook what is actually going on.

Bolton no doubt noticed that Rumsfeld is gone and replaced with Robert Gates, a very different sort of secretary of Defense. He will have observed that the worst of the neocons (including himself) are now writing books and spending more time with families and friends, cheer-leading for more war by writing op-eds from the outside rather than pursuing their strategies in policy meetings in the White House.

He will have seen the gradual shift of the policy center of gravity from Dick Cheney to Rice and Gates. He will have been listening when the Chairman of the JCS and others have said as clearly as they realistically can that the military option, though never renounced as a theoretical possibility, is the least attractive option available to us and in fact is close to impossible given our over-stretch in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In other words, Bolton, as someone whose policies (in my view) are certifiably insane, recognizes real pragmatism and moderation in Washington when he sees it. And he does not like what he sees in this lame duck administration.
Meanwhile, the rest of us actually do, even though it seems to be coming in rather late in the game. Still, better late than never.

A Gazillion Dollars

Zimbabwe has a way for its people to pretend they're rich:
It has become common now for Zimbabweans to talk of their daily expenses in trillions (one trillion is 12 zeros).

When John Robertson pinned a chart to the wall of office naming numbers up to twice as long, he says he 'raised a bit of a laugh' from his colleagues.

But for many officials and accountants, a quadrillion - a million billion - is the number of the day.

Only last week, the Harare Herald advertised the Lotto bonanza prize being offered was 1.2 quadrillion Zimbabwean dollars. At the time, that was equivalent to around 4,000 US dollars.

So how do Zimbabweans deal with such astronomical numbers?

'I actually Googled what comes after trillion about a month ago, and sent that out to all my friends so they'd be prepared,' says 28-year-old Esther, a Harare resident who writes a regular diary for the BBC.
At this rate, you could soon be able to send each person in Zimbabwe a dollar and they could use it to rebuild their economy, if Mugabe would let them.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Street Life

How an addict comes to a realization:
Too much of a bad thing is bad. If you don’t sleep and eat but drink and drug instead, you will lose jobs, spouses and dignity. And while the lessons of the recovery story are important, they are even more prosaic. Once I stopped doing narcotics and alcohol, I landed good jobs, remarried, had a baby and, of course, learned to love myself.

Junkies and drunks frequently end up putting a megaphone to their own pratfalls in the form of memoir because they need to believe that all of the time they spent with their lips wrapped around glass, whether is was a bottle of vodka or a crack pipe, actually meant something. That impulse suggests that I don’t regret the past — it brought me here to this nice, happy place — but I’d also like to squeeze something more from it. And so I have.
Well, Mr. Carr was lucky. Many others haven't been.

The Savage Is Loose

Where would talk radio be without Michael Savage? Maybe slightly more intelligent.
Michael Savage, the incendiary radio host who last week characterized nearly every child with autism as “a brat who hasn’t been told to cut the act out,” said in a telephone interview on Monday that he stood by his remarks and had no intention of apologizing to those advocates and parents who have called for his firing over the matter.

Skip to next paragraph “My main point remains true,” Mr. Savage, whose radio audience ranks in size behind only those of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, said in the interview. “It is an overdiagnosed medical condition. In my readings, there is no definitive medical diagnosis for autism.”

On the July 16 installment of his program, which is broadcast every weekday, Mr. Savage suggested that “99 percent of the cases” of autism were a result of lax parenting. He told his audience: “They don’t have a father around to tell them, ‘Don’t act like a moron. You’ll get nowhere in life.’ ” Among the other admonitions he felt children with autism should be hearing, he said, were: “ ‘Straighten up. Act like a man. Don’t sit there crying and screaming, idiot.’"

(snip)

Asked Monday if he actually believed that 99 out of every 100 cases of autism were misdiagnosed, Mr. Savage conceded that figure was “a little high.” He added, “It was hyperbole.”

But he said he was proud to have prodded discussion on the subject, and planned to give over his entire show on Monday — broadcast live from Northern California from 3 to 6 p.m., Pacific time — to parents and other callers who wished to disagree with him and to educate him.
I'm sure he has a point about bratty kids. But to say that all autism is just that is to take understanding of it back into the Dark Ages, where, apparently, Savage spends most of his time anyway.

Fakin' It

Andrea Mitchell sounds off on Obama's world tour:
Let me just say something about the message management. He didn't have reporters with him, he didn't have a press pool, he didn't do a press conference while he was on the ground in either Afghanistan or Iraq. What you're seeing is not reporters brought in. You're seeing selected pictures taken by the military, questions by the military, and what some would call fake interviews, because they're not interviews from a journalist. So, there's a real press issue here. Politically it's smart as can be. But we've not seen a presidential candidate do this, in my recollection, ever before.
Now what does she mean by this? That no politician has ever staged a photo-op before? Or that the media has never been manipulated? I'm sorry, Andrea, but this sounds more like sour grapes than anything else.

When The Regulation Hits Your Eye

It seems everyone is being hit hard by the Calorie Police.
The menu rule only applies to restaurants that serve standardized portion sizes and have 15 or more locations nationwide, a distinction that was intended to target fast-food giants. But in practice, the low threshold has swept up little-known outfits like Singas Famous Pizza and other local franchises that have never done nutritional testing before.

Almela spoke with The Associated Press from his car Wednesday as he rushed sample pizzas to a food laboratory. He said the calorie tests for his 35 different pizza combinations will cost $10,000, and he doubts they will produce accurate data.

'I may put 15 pepperoni on a pie. Someone else may put 12. We don't measure the amount of cheese we put on,' he said. 'If you put up roundabout numbers, how does that help anyone?'
Well, it helps the Food Nazis know who the "Bad guys" are. That's all that matters, isn't it?

Monday, July 21, 2008

You Are Where You Vote

Call it subliminal voting:
Jonah Berger, Assistant Professor of Marketing at the Wharton School of Business, conducted a terrific study where he demonstrates that where people vote affects how they vote. Essentially, people whose voting booth is located in a church are more likely to put more weight into social issues, people voting in fire houses care more about safety, and people voting in a school tend to put more weight on things like education.
So does that mean that a person who moves around a lot is literally all over the map when it comes to where they stand on the issues?

Setting The Record Straight

It seems Maliki meant what he said, after all.
Iraq's government welcomed Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama on Monday with word that it apparently shares his hope that U.S. combat forces could leave by 2010.

The statement by Iraq's government spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, followed talks between Obama and Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki — who has struggled for days to clarify Iraq's position on a possible timetable for a U.S. troop pullout.

Al-Dabbagh said the government did not endorse a fixed date, but hoped American combat units could be out of Iraq sometime in 2010. That timeframe falls within the 16-month withdrawal plan proposed by Obama, who arrived in Iraq earlier in the day as part of a congressional fact-finding team.

'We are hoping that in 2010 that combat troops will withdraw from Iraq,' al-Dabbagh told reporters, noting that any withdrawal plan was subject to change if the level of violence kicks up again.
This is pretty much what McCain has said, as well. Welcome to convergence.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

That Old Online Tradition

Apparently McCain's fellow senior citizens are more aware of the Internets than he is.
Blogs have been buzzing recently over McCain's admission that when it comes to the Internet, 'I'm an illiterate who has to rely on his wife for any assistance he can get.' And the 71-year-old presumptive Republican nominee, asked about his Web use last week by the New York Times, said that aides 'go on for me. I will have that down fairly soon, getting on myself.'

How unusual is it for a 71-year-old American to be unplugged?

That depends how you look at the statistics. Only 35 percent of Americans over age 65 are online, according to data from April and May compiled by the Pew Internet Project at the Pew Research Center.

But when you account for factors like race, wealth and education, the picture changes dramatically. 'About three-quarters of white, college-educated men age over 65 use the Internet,' says Susannah Fox, director of the project.

'John McCain is an outlier when you compare him to his peers,' Fox says. 'On one hand, a U.S. senator has access to information sources and staff assistance that most people do not. On the other, the Internet has become such a go-to resource that it's a curiosity to hear that someone doesn't rely on it the way most Americans do.'
McCain may be the last of the Presidents who grew up in the pre-Internet era. There's something kind of bittersweet about that.

The Candidate Cometh

When it comes to members of the press overseas, Obama seems to be ignoring their wishes for interviews:
To my knowledge, no foreign journalist has had one. A reported interview in France's Politique Internationale last summer turned out to be a fake. In February, Obama gave Israel's Yediot Ahronot written answers to written questions about his views on Israel and the Middle East.

Perhaps Obama considers members of the foreign media a risk rather than an opportunity. His campaign learned the hard way how comments to foreigners can resonate at home -- recall adviser Austan Goolsbee's hints to a Canadian diplomat that Obama's critique of NAFTA was just campaign rhetoric, or former aide Samantha Power's 'monster' remark about Hillary Clinton to the Scotsman. Or perhaps we're witnessing the arrogance that comes from being so close to power. One of his campaign advisers told me recently: 'Why should we take the time for foreign media, since there is Obamania around the world?'
For a guy who claims that he actually cares about what the rest of the world thinks, that doesn't come across too well.

Sufferin' Sassafras

Using party drugs is apparently bad for the environment.
"'The production of sassafras oil, which is used to make the recreational drug ecstasy, in southwest Cambodia, is destroying trees, the livelihoods of local inhabitants and wreaking untold ecological damage, according to David Bradfield, adviser to the Wildlife Sanctuaries Project of Fauna and Flora International (FFI).

The sassafras oil comes from the Cardamom Mountain area, one of the last forest wildernesses in mainland southeast Asia, and where the FFI project is based. (...)

Cambodian sassafras oil is highly sought after as it is of the highest quality - over 90 percent pure, according to the head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in Cambodia, Lars Pedersen. 'Massive amounts of sassafras oil are smuggled every year into Vietnam and Thailand from Cambodia,' he said.

Sassafras oil is made from the roots of the rare Mreah Prew Phnom tree - also known as Cinnamomum parathenoxylon. The roots are first chopped into small blocks of wood and shredded into a fibrous consistency. This is then typically put into large metal vats and distilled over hot wood fires for at least five days in the oil distillation process.

'[The Mreah Prew Phnom] is a very rare tree that is now beginning to disappear because of the illegal distilleries in the Cardamom Mountains,' Bradfield said.

'The production of sassafras oil over the last 10 years has severely depleted these trees and if the illicit production isn't stamped out soon, they could become extinct in the near future,' he warned.'"
Get high, kill a tree-it could be an effective anti-drug slogan.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Mom Fights Back

A Pennsylvania mom takes on His Purpleness:
What Lenz and her attorneys at the Electronic Frontier Foundation want are for media companies to stop sending take-down notices in a 'willy nilly' fashion and to make sure that they have a legitimate claim of copyright violation before acting. They failed do this with Lenz's video, according to Corynne McSherry, an EFF attorney.

'This video is so clearly noninfringing,' McSherry said. 'What we've seen is that Universal Music had the view that they could take down Prince content as a matter of principle. But what they were obligated to do was form a good-faith belief that the video was infringing...They may not have formed a good-faith belief at all.'

The good news for her is that U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel said he would take the matter under consideration after hearing arguments from both sides.
Does this mean that the days of the music industry's draconian response to the online age are numbered? One would hope so.

In Obama's Corner

Maliki sides with Obama, and it could hurt Maverick in a big way.
This could be one of those unexpected events that forever changes the way the world perceives an issue. Iraq's Prime Minister agrees with Obama, and there's no wiggle room or fudge factor. This puts John McCain in an extremely precarious spot: what's left to argue? to argue against Maliki would be to predicate that Iraqi sovereignty at this point means nothing. Obviously, our national interests aren't equivalent to Iraq's, but... Malik isn't listening to the generals on the ground...but the 'hasn't been to Iraq' line doesn't work here.

So how will the McCain campaign respond?

(Via e-mail, a prominent Republican strategist who occasionally provides advice to the McCain campaign said, simply, 'We're fucked.'
Yeah, pretty much.

Bloggin' In The Years: 1983

It's a good year for the music biz.
By any standards the summer is a knockout. After four years of slumping sales and stagnating sounds, the pop music industry is once again experiencing a welcome artistic and financial bonanza, one that is making this rock 'n' roll's headiest season of the decade. Says Gil Friesen, president of A&M Records: 'People are buying so many albums by new artists, it adds up to a new passion.'

The fervor is big business. If the beat continues, record and tape sales will soar some 10% over last year's total of $3.6 billion. Soul Rocker Michael Jackson's No. 1 Thriller may sell 9 million copies by the end of the year. David Bowie's Let's Dance has moved 1 million in just three months, and Synchronicity, the latest album by the Police, has sold 2 million in less than a month.

(snip)

Why is it happening? One place to ask is your local cable company. Seven days a week, 24 hours a day, MTV, the two-year-old Warner Amex channel, beams rock-'n'-roll videotapes into 14 million homes across the nation. The tapes, from established stars like the Rolling Stones to hopefuls like the Fixx, are offered free by recording companies in return for air play. Their impact has gone far beyond promotional gimmickry. Says PolyGram's Kiernan, whose group Def Leppard went platinum after TV exposure: "You can feel the sales right away."

Costing an average $35,000 to produce, the three-to five-minute clips on Music Television were originally little more than lip-synched concert or studio bits. Now they accompany almost every album and are often mini-epics. Michael Jackson's Beat It is a $150,000, five-minute West Side Story, in which the singer flashdances through a cast of 80 gang members (most of them real Los Angeles street dudes) and 60 scenes to avert a showdown.
I hope for its own sake the music industry never feels threatened by people wanting to record their stuff the way the movie industry is over VCRs. I don't think they could handle it if people started trading all their music with each other without paying for it.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Barack Obubba?

Would Barack Obama be more like Bill Clinton than JFK?
I see no reason to think that Obama would be less prone to interventionism than McCain. My strong sense is that he’d model himself after Bill Clinton and be eager to use military force for humanitarian and do-gooder reasons, whereas McCain would be more likely to use force aggressively in pursuit of security goals.

Nor do I have any reason to believe Obama would be less prone than McCain to overreach in his use of executive power to advance what he believes to be legitimate and necessary goals. Indeed, Obama’s seeming lack of sense of humor and condemnation of any and all criticism as beyond the pale worries me greatly on that front.
We may be headed for another interventionist presidency whether we like it or not. The neocons may have gotten what they wanted after all.

The Beat Won't Set You Free

John McWhorter takes on the culture of bling:
Far from being truth-tellers, he says, so-called “conscious” rappers recycle endless clich├ęs and conspiracy theories about inner-city blight, the drugs trade and Aids. Instead of generating a desire to change the system, rappers and their acolytes in the media and academia simply encourage a sense of passivity. “Insisting that things are still so simple that black people need to get together and rise in fury against an evil oppressor makes for entertaining hiphop,” he writes. “It sounds good uttered fiercely and set to a driving beat. But this way of parsing things does not correspond to what black America really needs today, as opposed to what it needed 50 years ago.”
Don't get me wrong. There have been some great rappers and hip-hop artists over the past twenty-five years or so. But they are the ones who have been able to break free from the rapper stereotypes and not alienate others by playing the blame game. Good music will always survive. Swaggering posuers beware.

Now It's Our Timetable

When is a timetable a good idea? When the administration can claim to take credit for it.
In the area of security cooperation, the President and the Prime Minister agreed that improving conditions should allow for the agreements now under negotiation to include a general time horizon for meeting aspirational goals -- such as the resumption of Iraqi security control in their cities and provinces and the further reduction of U.S. combat forces from Iraq. The President and Prime Minister agreed that the goals would be based on continued improving conditions on the ground and not an arbitrary date for withdrawal. The two leaders welcomed in this regard the return of the final surge brigade to the United States this month, and the ongoing transition from a primary combat role for U.S. forces to an overwatch role, which focuses on training and advising Iraqi forces, and conducting counter-terror operations in support of those forces.
In other words, we're still leaving, but not because Maliki wants us to go. At least that's what they're saying.

The Candidate Who Wasn't There

Apparently McCain wasn't that interested:
Of the three Afghanistan-related hearings that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has had over the past 22 months, Obama, the presumptive Democratic candidate, has only attended one.

Meanwhile, DeMint, who most recently attacked Obama over Afghanistan, didn't attend any. Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, the Democratic chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, missed one of the Afghanistan hearings too -- while he was in the midst of his own presidential campaign.

A review of the Senate Armed Services Committee hearings as listed on the committee Web site for the past two years reveals that McCain's committee has held six hearings that included the word 'Afghanistan' in the title or Central Command -- which overseas U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

McCain missed them all.
Maybe his level of interest will change if McCain gets elected. Or maybe he'll follow Bush's model and follow a policy of benign neglect, and we saw how well that worked.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Borderlines

A look at one of the forgotten side-effects of empire-building:
Ascherson's geography is, for the most part, European; he discusses nation-states from the early 20th century through to the end of the Cold War. During that time, we read, there were a number of 'less durable spaces' – for instance, the 'parallel but unlicensed institutions' of Solidarity-era Poland. He points out that, 'in the early 20th century, there were a number of spaces which were not absolutely unpopulated but whose allocation to empires or nation-states was undecided.'

From an imperial standpoint, these unofficially recognized lands and institutions – mostly rural and almost always located near borders – represented 'a dangerous breach in space.' They were 'intercellular spaces,' we're told, and they functioned more like 'gaps, crevices, interstices, [and] oversights' within much larger systems of sovereign power.
In fact, these 'unlicensed' spaces 'appear whenever some new international system attempts to demarcate everything sharply, menacingly and in a hurry.'
Modern nationalism as we understand it didn't really begin until fairly recently in world history. Today's countries are basically an extension of ancient tribal alliances. As tribal creatures, we tend to be very protective of our own territory. That part of human nature is unlikely to change, even as we talk about moving closer towards a world without traditional boundaries or borders.

We Heart Dear Leader

In America, we have the Founding Fathers to look up to. In Russia, they have Uncle Joe.
The Soviet tyrant and Second World War leader is battling Tsar Nicholas II for first place in The Name of Russia, a domestic version of the BBC series Great Britons. Stalin had been well ahead in the online vote until the show's producer appealed to members of a popular Russian social networking site to back Nicholas II.

The Tsar edged in front tonight as communists and monarchists whipped up support for their candidates. Stalin has received almost 263,000 votes so far, against more than 267,000 for Nicholas II.

Lenin, the Tsar's nemesis, was third with nearly 187,000 votes. The top dozen included Peter the Great, Pushkin, Catherine the Great, Yuri Gagarin, Boris Yeltsin and Ivan the Terrible.
Remember, one country's dictator is another's national hero.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

By The Code

There's the rule of law, and then there are the rules of law.
Today's federal criminal code is enormous—and growing. Baker also finds that Congress tends to add more laws during election years (surprise!), that federal judges and prosecutors exacerbate the problem by interpreting federal statutes as broadly as possible (sometimes retroactively), and that new federal laws are increasingly lacking a mens rea requirement.

So we have a bewildering federal criminal code that no one person could possibly completely comprehend, the fact that you can be charged for breaking one of those laws even if you weren't aware that what you were doing was illegal, and increasingly leeway and discretion afforded to prosecutors to interpret all of these laws as broadly as possible. Throw in the problem of selective enforcement (there aren't nearly enough resources to prosecute all the crimes on the books), and you have a system where everyone's a potential criminal, but prosecutors can pick and choose whom to target.

Federal prosecutors then win convictions in about 90 percent of their cases—and that's only those cases that make it to trial. Ninety-five percent of federal defendants take plea bargains (which doesn't always necessarily mean they're guilty).
When they say "The Law is the Law", they mean it-even if the rest of us don't understand what, exactly, that law is.

For Want Of A Smoke

Welcome to the Nannystate on steroids.
Gone would be smoking in all businesses and bars, which now make an exception for owner-operated ones.

Gone too would be lighting up in taxicabs and rental cars, city-owned vehicles, farmers' markets, common areas of apartment buildings, tourist hotels, tobacco shops, charity bingo games, unenclosed dining areas, waiting areas such as lines at an ATM or movie theater, and anywhere within 20 feet of entrances to private, nonresidential buildings.

Mitch Katz, director of the Department of Public Health, said he strongly supports both measures - even if they are angering business owners who say it's one more example of San Francisco City Hall overstepping its bounds.

'Tobacco remains the No. 1 cause of preventable death in the U.S. - period,' he said. 'It's government's responsibility to protect people from obvious risks.'
I think that sums up the whole nanny attitude, right there.

Welcome To The Holodeck

Uber-geek alternative rock heroes Radiohead continue their march into the 21st Century:
No cameras or lights were used. Instead two technologies were used to capture 3D images: Geometric Informatics and Velodyne LIDAR. Geometric Informatics scanning systems produce structured light to capture 3D images at close proximity, while a Velodyne Lidar system that uses multiple lasers is used to capture large environments such as landscapes. In this video, 64 lasers rotating and shooting in a 360 degree radius 900 times per minute produced all the exterior scenes.
Welcome to the future, indeed.

Let's Talk

One man's appeasement is another's diplomacy.
U.S. officials on Wednesday dismissed comparisons between the administration's approach to the two remaining members of Bush's 'axis of evil,' but they acknowledged broad similarities in the end game.

They said the participation of William Burns, the State Department's third-ranking diplomat, in Saturday's meeting in Switzerland is aimed at proving America's resolve to peacefully prevent Iran from developing nuclear arms while also exploiting perceived splits in Iran's hardline Islamic government.

'What this does show is how serious we are when we say that we want to try to solve this diplomatically,' White House press secretary Dana Perino told reporters a day after President Bush signed off on dispatching Burns to the meeting with Iranian nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili.
I guess it's only appeasement when a Democratic candidate suggests it.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Mr. Popularity

Well, I guess it will make Bush feel good that he and Congress have at least one thing in common:
Jarred by stubborn economic woes and long-lasting wars abroad, a soured public has given President Bush and Congress record low approval ratings in the Associated Press-Ipsos poll. The survey, released Tuesday, also set a new floor for the number of people saying the country is heading in the right direction.

Just 16 percent said the country is moving the right way, a virtual tie with the 17 percent who said so last month.

In addition, 28 percent said they approve of the job Bush is doing, tying his low in the AP-Ipsos survey set last April.

Congress fared even worse: a new AP-Ipsos low of 18 percent said they were happy with Congress' work, down 5 percentage points from last month.

With soaring fuel prices, ailing financial and housing markets and rising inflation, Bush got his lowest grade for handling the economy. Just 24 percent approved of how he's dealing with it, tying last month's AP-Ipsos low on that issue.

About three in 10 voiced approval for how he's handling Iraq, domestic issues and foreign affairs. All are near or tied with previous lows in the survey.
Is this going to be the Bush legacy? That people thought he sucked a little less?

McBull Moose

John McCain channels TR.
Q: How do you think of your self as a conservative. Do you think of yourself more as a Goldwater conservative or Reagan conservative or George W. Bush conservative.

Senator John McCain: A Teddy Roosevelt conservative, I think. He’s probably my major role model, we could go back to Lincoln, of course. In the 20th century Teddy Roosevelt. I think Teddy Roosevelt he had a great vision of America’s role in the 20th Century. He was a great environmentalist. He loved the country.

(snip)

Q: Roosevelt wasn’t really a small government person. He saw an active role for government what thing in your record in your record would you say are in a similar vein of using government to do things that…

Mr. McCain: Campaign Finance reform – obviously he was a great reformer -- is one of them. Climate change is another. He was a great environmentalist.
I don't know that Roosevelt would agree with today's version of "Reform." And he probably wouldn't agree with the kind of "Compassionate conservatism" or the view of transformational government that Bush has. But he would probably agree with this:
Q: You don’t believe in small government, the sort of classic conservative view of minimal government is not one you would necessarily share.

Mr. McCain: I guess my view is I believe less governance is best governance and that government should not do what the free enterprise and private enterprise and indidividual entrepreneurship and the states can do. But I also believe there is a role for government if there are abuses. TR was the first guy to enforce the Sherman anti-trust act against the quote trusts that were controlling the economy of America. Because I believe his quote was unfettered capitalism leads to corruption. So there certainly is a role for government but I want to keep that role minimal. And I want to keep it in the areas where only governments can perform those functions.

Government should take care of those in America who can’t care for themselves. That’s a role of government. It’s not that I’m for no government. It’s that I’m for government carrying out those responsibilities that otherwise can’t be exercised by individuals and the states -- that’s the founding principles of our country -- and at the same time recognizing there’s a role for our government and society to care for those who can’t care for themselves, to make sure there are not abuses of individual rights as well as the rights of groups of people and to defend our nation. And National Security is obviously No. 1.
I don't have a problem with this. My concern with McCain is that he seems to share an interventionist view with regards to the economy and other issues with the left that Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan, whose mantles he would claim to inherit, wouldn't recognize as being conservative. Big Government Lite is still Big Government.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Do The Right Thing

Barack Obama continues to give Jesse Jackson fits.
CINCINNATI (AP) - Democrat Barack Obama insisted Monday that blacks must show greater responsibility for their actions.

In remarks prepared for delivery at the annual NAACP convention, the man who could become the first black president said Washington must provide greater education and economic assistance, but that blacks must demand more of themselves.

'If we're serious about reclaiming that dream, we have to do more in our own lives, our own families and our own communities,' Obama said. 'That starts with providing the guidance our children need, turning off the TV and putting away the video games; attending those parent-teacher conferences, helping our children with their homework and setting a good example.'

He added: 'I know some say I've been too tough on folks about this responsibility stuff. But I'm not going to stop talking about it. Because I believe that in the end, it doesn't matter how much money we invest in our communities, or how many 10-point plans we propose, or how many government programs we launch—none of it will make any difference if we don't seize more responsibility in our own lives.'
Now, Obama's not the first high-profile African American to say such things. Bill Cosby's been doing it for a long time. But Cosby's not running for President. Obama is, and as far as I'm concerned, the more he makes Jackson, Sharpton, and the rest of the blame-game crowd irrelevent the better off we are as a country.

Polar Opposites

Oh, this is rich.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Former President Bill Clinton warned Saturday that the country is becoming increasingly polarized despite the historic nature of the Democratic primary.

Speaking at the National Governors Association's semiannual meeting, Clinton noted that on the one hand, following the early stages of the Democratic primary, 'the surviving candidates were an African-American man and a woman.'

Clinton's wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, battled for the Democratic nomination into June with fellow Democrat Barack Obama, son of a white mother and black father.

But this achievement was overshadowed by a growing distance between Americans, said Clinton.

'Underneath this apparent accommodation to our diversity, we are in fact hunkering down in communities of like-mindedness, and it affects our ability to manage difference,' Clinton said.
This coming from a guy whose wife's campaign was one of the ugliest in recent memory. It's nice to know he cares now, isn't it?

Like A Rolling Stone

Wow. Global warming really is responsible for everything these days.
More Americans are likely to suffer from kidney stones in the coming years as a result of global warming, according to researchers at the University of Texas.

Kidney stones, which are formed from dissolved minerals in the urine and can be extremely painful, are often caused by caused by dehydration, either by not drinking enough liquid or losing too much due to high heat conditions.

If global warming trends continue as projected by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in 2007, the United States can expect as much as a 30 percent growth in kidney stone disease in some of its driest areas, said the findings published in Monday's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The increased incidence of disease would represent between 1.6 million and 2.2 million cases by 2050, costing the US economy as much as one billion dollars in treatment costs.

'This study is one of the first examples of global warming causing a direct medical consequence for humans,' said Margaret Pearle, professor of urology at University of Texas Southwestern and senior author of the paper.
On the plus side, if we shift the blame to global warming, then lawyers will go out of business because you can't sue Mother Nature, right?

Million Man Watch

From the "I feel so much safer now" department comes the latest numbers:
A watch list of suspected and known terrorists, compiled by the US authorities, has ballooned and contains more than one million names, the American Civil Liberties Union said Monday.

The ACLU said it derived that figure from a Justice Department report on the FBI's Terrorist Screening Center, which consolidates terrorist watch list information.

The Center 'had over 700,000 names in its database as of April 2007 and that the list was growing by an average of over 20,000 records per month,' according to a report by the Justice Department Inspector General, the rights group said.

'By those numbers, the list now has over one million names on it,' the ACLU said in a statement.

Among those on the watch list are deceased people, such as former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein who was hanged in 2005, decorated war veterans, and US Senator Ted Kennedy, the ACLU said.
Well, they're keeping America safe from ted Kennedy at least.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Eat Me

An older article examines the world of primal buffet eating:
The eaters rip in, dunking the sandwiches in the water cups and cramming them mouthward with no regard for manners or decorum. As performers, they are very Dizzy Gillespie: dimples blowfished, eyes laser-locked on the chow. “Violent” is a word that comes to mind. “Assault” is another. It’s scary, the suddenness with which the mood of the contest has morphed from chipper to an insectoid creepiness. Rich “The Locust” LeFevre, who looks like somebody’s geeky uncle with his big plastic glasses and gray comb-over, is particularly fearsome. He rotates the sandwiches once they reach his lips, twirls them like they’re corn on the cob, and mashes them inward, toward his pinker parts, the force spraying bits in a scatter pattern around his swampy water cup. A gluttonous metronome, he never alters his food- shoveling rhythm. This is not normal.
If you're Michael Moore it is.

End Game Zone

The transition to sovereignity continues.
The green zone of Baghdad, a highly fortified slice of American suburbia on the banks of the Tigris river, may soon be handed over to Iraqi control if the increasingly assertive government of Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister, gets its way.

A senior Iraqi government official said this weekend the enclave should revert to Iraqi control by the end of the year. “We think that by the end of 2008 all the zones in Baghdad should be integrated into the city,” said Ali Dabbagh, the government’s spokesman.
“The American soldiers should be based in agreed camps outside the cities and population areas.

“By the end of the year, there will be no green zone,” he added. “The separation by huge walls makes people feel angry.” Dabbagh acknowledged that getting rid of the green zone would be a huge undertaking, given the thousands of American soldiers, private contractors and foreign workers who live inside. He said the concrete walls that divide it from the rest of the city would be taken down slowly, “depending on the threat and circumstances”.
But I thouht we were supposed to stay there for decades. All the neocons told me so.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Sometimes I Wonder What I'm Gonna Do

It may be the dog days of summer, but the candidates seem to be finding themselves in the doghouse with voters.
Despite a political environment favorable to him, Obama has yet to build a substantial lead over McCain in national opinion polls and lately has been defending himself against charges of making policy shifts to endear himself to centrist voters.

For McCain, his campaign has been unable to take advantage of the opening Obama has given him, causing concern and frustration among some Republicans who already are worried about the party's prospects in the Nov. 4 election.

(snip)

Republicans are hoping a McCain campaign makeover engineered by former proteges of Bush's ex-political guru Karl Rove will quickly bring some change.

They complain that McCain, a Vietnam war hero with a solid reputation, has yet to offer a central theme as to why voters should choose him over Obama.

"Everybody is certainly waiting to see what his central message and theme is going to be," said Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio. "I'd say we're waiting with bated breath."

Democrats still like their chances with Obama, pointing to the leads the Democrat has in several battleground states that will help determine the outcome of the race.

"If he keeps doing what he's doing and McCain is unable to undermine him, he wins the election," said Democratic strategist Doug Schoen.

What would help both sides for the battles ahead, said Republican strategist Rich Galen, is a little summer down time.

"Everybody's been at it for so long," he said. "What they ought to do is call a time-out for the rest of July, everybody go on vacation."
Sometimes I feel like both sides ought to take a permanent one. That might be best for all concerned.

Let Us Spray

Good news from out of Africa:
THE World Health Organisation and the European Union have allowed Uganda to spray the DDT chemical, the water and environment minister has said.

Ali Mambule reports that Maria Mutagamba said the Government would use the chemical, to kill mosquitoes that spread malaria.

The union had expressed reservations about the safety of Uganda’s agricultural products due to the spraying of the chemical, which was piloted in Apac and Oyam districts.

“You should now have no fear about the use of DDT concerning the market for our products,” Mutagamba said in Masaka town on Tuesday.
There are some places where people are more important than politically correct environmentalism.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Bye Bye Jesse

Oh, this is good.
'I think Jesse Jackson, he's the biggest player hater,' Nas said. 'His time is up. All you old ..., time is up. We heard your voice, we saw your marching, we heard your sermons. We don't wanna hear that ... no more. It's a new day. It's a new voice. I'm here now. We don't need Jesse; I'm here. I got this. We got Barack, we got David Banners and Young Jeezys. We're the voice now. It's no more Jesse. Sorry. Goodbye. You ain't helping nobody in the 'hood. That's the bottom line. Goodbye, Jesse. Bye!'
What time is it? Time for Jesse to quietly go away. But I don't think he will. It's not in him to be decent in defeat.

Corporations With Heart

I tend to agree with the notion that capitalists have a certain degree of public responsibility, but it should be up to them, which is why this approach sounds better than the usual nannystating advocated by liberals.
Whole Foods CEO John Mackey doesn't exactly disagree with Bill Gates' recent call for 'creative capitalism.'

(snip)

But Mackey doesn't completely agree with Gates either. At a speech here at a political conference on Thursday, the co-founder of the exclusive grocery chain sketched out a more free-market path, Whole Foods-style, that he calls 'conscious capitalism.'

Conscious capitalism doesn't include much of what Gates called 'a direct role for governments.' Mackey views himself as something of a libertarian -- he candidly admits that 'I'm not a big fan of government' -- and says that 'economic freedom is what results in poverty reduction,' and 'big government aid projects' don't.

Mackey does agree with Gates, however, on finding new ways to view the humanitarian dimensions of capitalism. 'Corporations have the potential to discover a deeper business purpose,' he said. 'The fact of the matter is that maximizing profits and maximizing shareholder value, while necessary, is not a particularly inspiring goal.'
It may be the same kind of feel-good liberalism that many wealthy types espouse, but at least it's being promoted as an individual, rather than as a government, endeavour. And the Invisible Hand keeps moving.

Bong Hits 4 The Bay

Massachusetts voters get a lot of flak-they gave the world Ted Kennedy, Michael Dukakis, and John Kerry, after all-but they're not total idiots:
A marijuana decriminalization initiative has qualified for November's ballot in Massachusetts. The initiative would make possession of up to an ounce, currently a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a $500 fine, a civil offense with a maximum penalty of a $100 fine. Pot smokers could not be arrested or jailed, and they would not have criminal records, which trigger ancillary penalties that can be far more onerous than the official punishment. NORML reports that a recent poll found supporters of the initiative outnumber opponents by 2 to 1.
If this passes, I expect it to be challenged in Federal court, but if there was ever a case for states' rights it's this one, IMO.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Ve Are Der Master Search Engine

Unless there's a mass online gathering of neo-Nazis I wasn't aware of, it sounds like a genuine misunderstanding.
Various theories have been circulated about the provenance of the swastika on Google. The first, from a comments thread on Blogoscoped, was that someone on the underground message board 4Chan (the same net location that helped incubate the anti-Scientology group Anonymous) had posted the HTML code for the swastika in the morning, after which 'thousand of people googled it.' I'm not exactly sure why 4Chan members would've been Googling the character itself, unless it was some kind of subversive statement, but either way, the Blogoscoped commenter said the 4Chan post has now been removed.

Another theory has to do with the symbol's original meaning (Wikipedia says the Sanskrit noun 'svastika' means 'meaning any lucky or auspicious object'). Dan at tdaxp points out that if you actually search the character, you get a list of results in Chinese: 'A little thought,' he writes, 'reveals why. The swastika is a traditional Chinese good-luck character, the Olympics are coming up, and good luck is on the Chinese mind.' Dan points to the translation of the Chinese Wikipedia page on 'Wan.'
With the Olympics coming up, and given recent events in China, I'm not surprised that so many Chinese might be looking for a familiar good-luck symbol. It was Adolf Hitler who turned it into a symbol for evil in the West. While we should never forget what the Nazis did, it might do some good for the Chinese to try and take it back.

You're Busted, Snap!

Oh, how Jesse Helms would have loved to have done this.
Same-sex couples from Wisconsin who go to California to marry could face criminal charges when they return home.

A Wisconsin law makes it a criminal offense to enter into a marriage outside the state if that marriage were illegal in Wisconsin.

The law was passed decades ago to prevent underage couples from crossing state lines to marry, but it could be used against same-sex couples, The Capital Times of Madison reported Wednesday.

The penalty is a fine of up to $10,000, nine months in prison, or both.

Wisconsin law limits marriage to opposite-sex couples.
That sound you hear is of fundamentalists rubbing their hands together with glee.

Talking The Talk

How to support free trade without sounding like you're supporting free trade.
When promoting free trade, it’s important to get the language right, according to a survey of Republicans, Democrats and independents commissioned by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Instead of speaking of “globalization,” it is better to refer to “international trade.” The word globalization is “often viewed perniciously,” the survey of voter attitudes warns, and implies that business is “exploiting Third World workers in the name of cheap goods.”

(snip)

Foreign affairs are also touched on. When pushing a Korean free trade pact, for example, “You must distinguish South Korea from North Korea.”
I guess that's because of all the business we do with Lil' Kim.

Good Grief

Meet the latest victims of political correctness.
Across Atlanta they stood, orange signs with black letters that read 'Men At Work' or 'Men Working Ahead.'

Sometimes, the signs stood next to women working alongside the men.

Good demanded Atlanta officials remove the signs and last week, Atlanta Public Works Commissioner Joe Basista agreed.

Score one for gender equality, Good said Wednesday.

'They get it,' Good said about the city in a telephone interview.

Public Works officials are replacing 50 'Men Working' with signs that say 'Workers Ahead.'

It will cost $22 to cover over some of the old signs and $144 to buy new signs, said Public Works spokeswoman Valerie Bell-Smith said.

Good, founding editor of Atlanta-based PINK Magazine, a publication that focuses on professional women, said she's not stopping with Atlanta.

'We're calling on the rest of the nation to follow suit and make a statement that we will not accept these subtle forms of discrimination,' said Good, 48.
I'm curious. Would the cover for Men At Work's 1982 classic album have to be redone, too? I just want to make sure all our politically incorrect ducks are in a row here.

"You're Not Listening!"

He's still a tried-and-true liberal. No, really.
Senator Barack Obama on Tuesday forcefully addressed concerns that he had moved too quickly to the political center, acknowledging complaints from “my friends on the left” about his statements on Iraq, his approaches to evangelicals and his remarks on other issues that have alarmed some of his supporters.

“Look, let me talk about the broader issue, this whole notion that I am shifting to the center,” he told a crowd gathered at a town hall-style meeting in this Atlanta suburb. “The people who say this apparently haven’t been listening to me.”

“I am someone who is no doubt progressive,” he said, adding that he believed in universal health care and that government had a strong role to play in overseeing financial institutions and cracking down on abuses in bankruptcies and the like.
Moving towards the center is the smart thing to do. But this sounds disturbingly similar to what John Kerry, and Obama is far more likeable (and, in my view, electable) than Kerry was. As John Wayne once said, don't apologize, son-it's a sign of weakness.

Nuts To You

I can't imagine anything that would help Obama more than this.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson apologized Wednesday for saying Barack Obama is “talking down to black people” during what Jackson thought was a private conversation before a FOX News interview Sunday.

Jackson was speaking to a guest at the time about Obama’s speeches in black churches and his support for faith-based charities. Jackson added before going live, “I want to cut his nuts off.”

His microphone picked up the remarks.

VIDEO: Click here to watch Jesse Jackson’s comments

At a hastily arranged news conference Wednesday evening in Chicago, Jackson said he supports Obama “unequivocally” and that he hopes to “get this behind me.”
Jesse's angry that Obama won't toe his victimization line. Poor Jesse.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Bloggin' In The Years: 1985

Some things just shouldn't be messed with.
The complainers, not surprisingly, are popping off loudest. To them, changing the taste of the real thing was like tampering with motherhood, baseball and the flag. The new drink, they say, is nerdy and has none of the old Coke's snap. Executives at Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta say they get 1,500 calls a day, almost four times the normal volume. Most of the callers, says Coke, are 'concerned.' And how. 'I hate the new stuff,' says Sharlotte Donnelly, 36, an anthropologist in Cincinnati. 'It's too sweet. It tastes like Pepsi.' Says Wendy Koskela, 35, vice president of an insurance brokerage in San Francisco: 'Real Coke had punch. This tastes almost like it's flat.'
I'm sure it seemed like a good idea at the time. But it looks like Coke has learned its lesson. Like they say, the customer is always right.

Politicians Not Wanted

NASCAR is the very essence of Southern and Middle America-the perfect venue for a Presidential candidate to pick up a few votes, right? Not this year:
Voters should not expect to see either John McCain or Barack Obama making appearances at NASCAR events in Daytona Beach Florida, or a dozen other speedways across the country before Election Day.

According to officials from the International Speedway Corporation (ISC), which owns the Daytona International Speedway, as well as major facilities in both candidates' home states of Arizona and Illinois, the company is implementing a firm policy that prohibits political candidates from campaigning in any capacity at their racing events.

Politics was informed of the policy after a credentialing request had been denied to cover an unofficial appearance in Daytona by Libertarian Party presidential nominee, Bob Barr.

ISC officials explained that credentialing a political reporter would, in their view, constitute the facilitation of a campaign event, in sharp violation of their policy.

The officials declined to provide details of the policy, and offered only a vague explanation of when the policy had gone into effect. But they expressed a belief that fans attending events at their speedways are sensitive to what might be construed as intrusive political activity.
Oddly enough, these same officials had no problem when Rudy Giuliani showed up one day, and they don't seem to have a problem with government subsidies, either. But I guess the taint of politics is too much to bear when you'd rather have audiences' attentions focused on the race rather than on the voting booth.

Black Hole Pun

Oh for...wtf?
A special meeting about Dallas County traffic tickets turned tense and bizarre this afternoon.

County commissioners were discussing problems with the central collections office that is used to process traffic ticket payments and handle other paperwork normally done by the JP Courts.

Commissioner Kenneth Mayfield, who is white, said it seemed that central collections 'has become a black hole' because paperwork reportedly has become lost in the office.

Commissioner John Wiley Price, who is black, interrupted him with a loud 'Excuse me!' He then corrected his colleague, saying the office has become a 'white hole.'

That prompted Judge Thomas Jones, who is black, to demand an apology from Mayfield for his racially insensitive analogy.

Mayfield shot back that it was a figure of speech and a science term. A black hole, according to Webster's, is perhaps 'the invisible remains of a collapsed star, with an intense gravitational field from which neither light nor matter can escape.'
And this Jones character is a judge, and therefore supposedly well-educated. God only knows that would have happened if these two heard of the "Ace of Spades."

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Food For Green Thought

The Democratic Party, in true nannystating tradition, is going all out to make sure their Convention is the greenest ever. And now the menu is getting its own PC makeover.
The Democratic National Convention host committee guidelines for caterers suggest serving mostly organic fare or Colorado products, and avoiding fried foods. The guidelines even suggest color schemes on plates.

'This is the food police,' groused Denver City Councilman Charlie Brown on Monday. 'These people stood in line too long at the Aspen Food and Wine Festival.'

He said he's heard from caterers who feel if they deviate from the guidelines, they won't get DNC business.

The Republicans have not placed restrictions on food vendors working events hosted by the Republican National Convention organizing committee, an official spokeswoman said.

The DNC host committee issued the guidelines a month ago as part of its Lean 'N Green initiative. The suggestions are meant to guide caterers submitting bids and restaurants that want to capitalize on the concept by offering at least one meal that adheres to guidelines, said DNC host committee spokesman Chris Lopez.
Remember, if something doesn't have the right guidelines, then the nannystaters aren't doing their jobs.

Monkey Versus Robot

The line between humans, machines, and animals continues to blur.
On the research track of brain-computer interfaces—direct neural connections that allow brain signals to operate a device—the robo-joystick monkeys look awfully familiar. That’s because Pitt released similar results in 2005, with a different kind of robotic arm used to grasp and retrieve food. And as far back as 2000, electrode-implanted monkeys at Duke University moved a robot arm—again, to reach for food—with their minds. Scientists at Duke ran similar experiments in 2003 and, this past January, showed off a rig that let an owl monkey on a treadmill control the walking movements of a 200-pound humanoid robot in Japan.
The monkeys are evolving. They have a plan...

No Future For You

How far we've fallen. Via the Best Magazine In The World, a response to a New York Magazine article about the current generation of politically correct "Punkers".
Lefty favorite Joe Strummer (of the Clash) was the son of a diplomat, for heaven's sake, educated in boarding school. And what about New Jersey's hardest working band, the Misfits? Brothers Jerry Only and Doyle (bassist and guitarist, respectively) put in 12-hour days at their father's machine shop while singer Glenn Danzig ran the band's mail order Fiend Club business. Those guys definitely weren't squatting in Tompkins Square Park. Hell, even end of days Sid Vicious had a bed at the Chelsea Hotel.

This whole notion of watering down the scene reminds me of the lefties I used to know who thought historian Howard Zinn was more important than the immortal band Black Flag. For these types, let's call them P.C. punks, left-wing politics weren't just encouraged, they were required. I once actually argued with someone who said that guitarist Johnny Ramone didn't count since he was a Republican. Johnny's band (the Ramones) basically set the musical template followed by every punk rocker for the last three decades. If he doesn't count, nobody does.

Along the same lines, it's always interesting to remind the P.C. crowd that the Bad Brains, the legendary Afro-punks who combined Rastafarianism, reggae, and hardcore, also happened to be virulent homophobes. As Steve Blush records in his great oral history American Hardcore, Bad Brains's singer H.R. let loose with the occasional sermon, including, 'We're in Babylon! This is holy Hell! San Francisco is Babylon! All these faggots and bald-headed women running around!' Try to squeeze that into A People's History of the United States!
Revisionist punk rock. What is the matter with these kids today?

FISA Revisited

I have to say, this makes sense.
The compromise legislation that will come to the Senate floor this week is not the legislation that I would have liked to see, but I disagree with those who suggest that senators are giving in by backing this bill.

The fact is that the alternative to Congress passing this bill is Congress enacting far worse legislation that the Senate had already passed by a filibuster-proof margin, and which a majority of House members were on record as supporting.

What’s more, this bill provides important safeguards for civil liberties. It includes effective mechanisms for oversight of the new surveillance authorities by the FISA court, the House and Senate Intelligence Committees and now the Judiciary Committees. It mandates reports by inspectors general of the Justice Department, the Pentagon and intelligence agencies that will provide the committees with the information they need to conduct this oversight. (The reports by the inspectors general will also provide accountability for the potential unlawful misconduct that occurred during the Bush administration.) Finally, the bill for the first time requires FISA court warrants for surveillance of Americans overseas.

As someone whose civil liberties were violated by the government, I understand this legislation isn’t perfect. But I also believe — and here I am speaking only for myself — that it represents our best chance to protect both our national security and our civil liberties.
All good points. If the new bill can do what Halperin says it will, then I don't have as much of a problem with it. Whether it will-aye, there's the rub.

I Heard It Through The Grapevine

If there's one good thing about the Sixties, it was the music, which was rebellious but definitely not as P.C. as it is today. In fact, it may have been more basically conservative than most ex-hippies would like to admit:
I noticed that Marvin's politics were marked by a strong aversion to taxes ('natural fact is/Honey, that I can't pay my taxes' and 'There's only three things that's for sure, taxes, death and trouble'), a disdain for foreign occupation('Father, father we don't need to escalate.'), and a strong belief in the right to privacy ('I want to get it on/You don't have to worry that it's wrong.' or 'There's nothing wrong with love/If you want good loving, just let yourself go.')
This sort of thing probably has more meaning now than it did forty years ago. Which brings me to this gem. Rock and roll will never die-and hopefully, neither will its libertarian attitude.

The Age Of The Dinosaurs

Trying to stave off mass extinction isn't easy.
Powerful moguls come to Allen & Co. investment bank's annual retreat in Sun Valley seeking new acquisitions and alliances and -- increasingly in recent years -- the opportunity to retool their businesses.

But this year both media and online leaders are grappling with the Internet's increasing fragmentation. And they're all looking for more advertising revenue online, where media companies have recouped only a small fraction of what they lost in print and where Web companies want to maximize their investments.

Even the top Internet companies -- save maybe Google Inc. -- are seeing revenue growth slowing as online audiences fragment. And they worry that, without steady access to high-quality content, they won't be able to attract enough viewers to keep growing fast.

At the same time, the barons of old-line newspapers and broadcast TV seem to have realized it's pointless to keep fighting the shift online, but they're still unsure how to embrace it. And they're struggling to attract new online users just to survive.
The problem is, the old guard is still running on a pre-online era business model. This model is based on large numbers of users centered around a few, not very competitive media outlets. The online era has done to them what the desire for free markets did to the old Soviet Union. Like the old Russian commissars, the media moguls are in retreat from the future. It's kind of sad, really.