Monday, August 31, 2009

Old Congresscritters For New

Meanwhile, most voters-young and old-seem to agree that Congress is part of the problem:
If they could vote to keep or replace the entire Congress, just 25% of voters nationwide would keep the current batch of legislators.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 57% would vote to replace the entire Congress and start all over again. Eighteen percent (18%) are not sure how they would vote.

Overall, these numbers are little changed since last October. When Congress was passing the unpopular $700-billion bailout plan in the heat of a presidential campaign and a seeming financial industry meltdown, 59% wanted to throw them all out. At that time, just 17% wanted to keep them.
Maybe there could be a "Cash for Congress members" program...

The Angry Old White Voter

Matt Bai argues that Obama still has the edge with those darn kids, and why relying on the retirement community crowd won't help the GOP in the long run:
The typical anti-Obama activist tends to be white, male and — perhaps most significant — advanced in age. A poll conducted earlier this month by CNN and Opinion Research showed a rather stark age divide when it came to health care: 57 percent of voters under 50 said they favored the outlines of a Democratic plan, but that number was a full 20 points lower among voters over 65. In three Pew Research Center polls going back to April, senior citizens consistently gave Obama’s job performance lower approval ratings than did than any other age group.


The good news for Obama and his party, of course, is that they still enjoy an enviable level of support among voters just breaking into the work force and among those now drifting into middle age. And that means that if reigning Democrats can manage to get health care policy right this time, and maybe even add some fundamental energy reforms, they might still be able to cement more hopeful attitudes about government for generations to come, much as Roosevelt did in his day. Today’s younger voters might never be as party-affiliated as their grandparents were, but neither may they turn out to be as cynical about their leaders as their parents often seem to be.
Of course, youthful idealism can be just as misguided as elderly outrage. But the GOP will need those rotten kids in the future, and so far it's made little if any effort to reach out to them.

The Drug War Is Over If You Want It

Yet more evidence that prohibition has failed:
After decades of bubbling up around the edges of so-called civilized society, marijuana seems to be marching mainstream at a fairly rapid pace. At least in urban areas such as Los Angeles, cannabis culture is coming out of the closet.

At fashion-insider parties, joints are passed nearly as freely as hors d'oeuvres. Traces of the acrid smoke waft from restaurant patios, car windows and passing pedestrians on the city streets -- in broad daylight. Even the art of name-dropping in casual conversation -- once limited to celebrity sightings and designer shoe purchases -- now includes the occasional boast of recently discovered weed strains such as "Strawberry Cough" and "Purple Kush."

Public sentiment is more than anecdotal; earlier this year, a California Field Poll found that 56% of California voters supported legalizing and taxing marijuana. Last month, voters in Oakland overwhelmingly approved a tax increase on medical marijuana sales, the first of its kind in the country, and Los Angeles Councilwoman Janice Hahn has proposed something similar for the City of Angels. "In this current economic crisis, we need to get creative about how we raise funds," Hahn said in a statement.
Considering that most of the city is now on fire, they're going to need those funds quick...

The Wildnerness Party

Bruce Bartlett is skeptical over the idea of a Republican comeback:
I will know that the party is on the path to recovery when someone in a position of influence reaches out to former Republicans like me. We are the most likely group among independents to vote Republican. But I see no effort to do so. All I see is pandering to the party’s crazies like the birthers . In the short run that may be enough to pick up a few congressional seats next year, but I see no way a Republican can retake the White House for the foreseeable future. Both CBO and OMB are predicting better than 4% real growth in 2011 and 2012. If those numbers are even remotely correct Obama will have it in the bag. Also, Republicans have to find a way to win some minority votes because it is not viable as a whites-only party in presidential elections.
It's generally true that the party out of power tends to run to its extreme end in order to get votes from the faithful. But Obama has given the Republicans a big gift in government health care, and so far they've been able to take advantage of it. Whether they can keep that advantage and reject the crazies is still up for debate, however.

Smart Sad Sack

Does being depressed actually make you smarter?
Depressed people often think intensely about their problems. These thoughts are called ruminations; they are persistent and depressed people have difficulty thinking about anything else. Numerous studies have also shown that this thinking style is often highly analytical. They dwell on a complex problem, breaking it down into smaller components, which are considered one at a time.

This analytical style of thought, of course, can be very productive. Each component is not as difficult, so the problem becomes more tractable. Indeed, when you are faced with a difficult problem, such as a math problem, feeling depressed is often a useful response that may help you analyze and solve it. For instance, in some of our research, we have found evidence that people who get more depressed while they are working on complex problems in an intelligence test tend to score higher on the test.
If this is true, I must have been way too happy in school...

The Best And the Worst?

Andrew Sullivan goes into what made the late Ted Kennedy tick:
He was a senator able to be fiercely ideological and also fiercely pragmatic, able to develop friendships beyond politics – friendships that are the grease that makes the Senate work. He was a master of parliamentary procedures and the helm of a ship of highly skilled staffers.

He was also, of course, a politician. Despite being a proponent of green energy, he single-handedly prevented the construction of a wind farm off Cape Cod because it might obstruct his sea view. In 2004 he fought hard to remove Romney’s right to appoint a temporary senator if John Kerry were to win the presidency. And yet in the week before his death he urged a return to the appointment of a temporary senator – in order to keep a Democratic vote for healthcare reform intact. He could be partisan and hypocritical, as well as bipartisan and principled.
Too many of today's pols are interested soley in partisanship and talking points. So was Kennedy, but he also understood the need to play well with others if he wanted to get things done. And, agree with him or not, he did stand on principle, which is something else today's politicians lack.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

A Voice Of Sanity

Juan Williams gets it:

We Heart Our Welfare State

What are the old folks really scared of?
The fear is not of a welfare state but of changes in their welfare state. The result is that the coalition against reform is an odd union between people opposing government-run health care and people defending government-run health care. It’s a potent combination.


But taken as a whole, the attitudes seniors express on health care are arguably the greatest vote of confidence anyone has offered reform. Seniors live in America’s version of Canada. They have single-payer health care. And they love it. They love it so much that they’ve got the chairman of the RNC swearing to protect it.
Now, I'm still not a fan of Obamacare, but being the party that tries to scare Grandma and Grandpa about socialized medicine on the one hand and then tell them that their version will be safe on the other really isn't the best way to argue against it, IMO.

The Blue Pill

Maybe it works after all:
Anthropologist Daniel Moerman found that Germans are high placebo reactors in trials of ulcer drugs but low in trials of drugs for hypertension—an undertreated condition in Germany, where many people pop pills for herzinsuffizienz, or low blood pressure. Moreover, a pill's shape, size, branding, and price all influence its effects on the body. Soothing blue capsules make more effective tranquilizers than angry red ones, except among Italian men, for whom the color blue is associated with their national soccer team.
Viva la placebo? Or maybe Morpheus was right:

Not Your Hippie Grandma's Brownies

An entrepreneur explains his edible pot:
"Digesting cannabis gives a different kind of buzz than smoking it," Shaz says. "It's much more mellow." That's why Shaz eats his own treats to ease the chronic pain of an old back injury. He understands the ameliorative strength of his own homemade goods, so, for example, if he eats one of his chocolate macadamia coconut truffles in the morning, he knows it will ease his pain, but not make him blotto stoned like smoking a joint would, or mentally groggy and physically tired like a pharmaceutical pain killer.
I wonder if they'd be covered under Obama's health plan...

Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Heavy Sleeper?

Maybe he needs an alarm clock:
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa -- apparently a heavy sleeper -- was on the defensive Wednesday about why he's been violating the city's watering law.

At a news conference celebrating the city's reduction in water use, the mayor said his home's sprinklers were in use during illegal times because of a glitch in the system.

"Thank you for alerting me to this issue," Villaraigosa said Wednesday.

The mayor told NBC4's Joel Grover that he was unable to hear the sprinklers because he's a heavy sleeper.

"The sprinklers are so loud in your back yard, you can hear them from the street. How could you or your household staff not have heard them?" Grover said.

"I sleep very heavily and I couldn't hear it," said Villaraigosa, who noted that overall water use at his home has decreased.

On Tuesday, NBC4 released footage of sprinklers watering the mayor's official residence, known as the Getty House, during times when watering was not permitted. Because of the severe drought LA's facing, city law now says residents can only run their sprinklers on Mondays and Thursdays.
Well, maybe some water users are just more equal than others:
During Wednesday's news conference, Villaraigosa said that last month water use dropped by an overall 17 percent compared to July 2008. As part of the campaign to reduce water use citywide, more than 900 warnings and citations have been issued since June by the LA Department of Water and Power.

But this summer, none have been issued to any government agencies or officials caught violating the law.

Back in July, NBC4 cameras caught Los Angeles City Fire Station No. 61 using its sprinklers at 7 p.m. nearly every night of the week. Also, the LA Department of Street Services has been watering street medians on illegal days.

Yet the DWP hasn't issued any citations to government agencies, and the department's CEO, David Nahai, insists it's not giving any preferential treatment.
So, is this literally another "Watergate" scandal?

The Post's Propaganda

What the heck has happened to the Washington Post? Glenn Greenwald tears them a new one:
What makes the Post's breathless vindication of torture all the more journalistically corrupt is that the document on which it principally bases these claims -- the just-released 2004 CIA Inspector General Report -- provides no support whatsoever for the view that torture produced valuable intelligence, despite the fact that it was based on the claims of CIA officials themselves...

The Post article today is one of the most astoundingly vapid and misleading efforts yet to justify torture -- a true museum exhibit for the transformation of American journalism into little more than mindless amplifiers for those in power. It simultaneously touts facts as new revelations that have, in fact, long been claimed (that KSM provided valuable intelligence), while deceitfully implying facts that are without any evidence whatsoever (that he did so because he was tortured). Dick Cheney couldn't have said it better himself. It's so strange how often that's true of The Liberal Media.
For years the MSM has been in decline beause of its panering and caving in to the left. Caving in to the worst impulses of the right won't save it, either, I'm afraid.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Your Laptop, Please

More change we can't believe in:
The Obama administration will largely preserve Bush-era procedures allowing the government to search—without suspicion of wrongdoing—the contents of a traveler’s laptop computer, cellphone or other electronic device, although officials said new policies would expand oversight of such inspections.

The policy, disclosed Thursday in a pair of Department of Homeland Security directives, describes more fully than did the Bush administration the procedures by which travelers’ laptops, iPods, cameras and other digital devices can be searched and seized when they cross a U.S. border. And it sets time limits for completing searches.

But representatives of civil liberties and travelers groups say they see little substantive difference between the Bush-era policy, which prompted controversy, and this one.
Maybe because there isn't any? Disappointing, but at this point, not too surprising.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Lights Are Going Out

Joanne McNeill comments on recent celebrity deaths and how it seems to be a trend:
In the future, a famous person will die every fifteen minutes. Already it's happening. The ascent of the microcelebrities, the 24 hour news cycle, citizen journalism, and our darkest fantasies all collide on Twitter now. The website's question "What are you doing?" sometimes feels more like "Who died today?"

Every day on Twitter, news of another death. Les Paul, John Hughes, Farrah Fawcett, those big names, but also the editor at this publication, the founder of this startup, the people who we might not all know, but someone you know knew them and they are using the space to remember them.
Maybe it's simply a reflection of our aging population, but it is yet another reminder that none of us lives forever, although that won't stop future celebrities from trying.

Stay Classy, Republicans

The clueless are still with us:
U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins told a recent gathering in northeast Kansas that the Republican Party is looking for a "great white hope" to help stop the political agenda of the Democratic party and President Barack Obama.

Videotape shows Jenkins, a Republican, making the comment at an Aug. 19 forum. She was discussing the Republican party's future after Democrats took control of the House and Senate in the 2008 elections, when the presidency went to Obama, the nation's first black president.

A Jenkins spokeswoman told The Topeka Capital-Journal Wednesday that Jenkins apologized for her word choice and did not intend to offend anyone.
I'm sure Michael Steele would agree...

Carbon Chips

So what is Britain's worst polluter? Its own climate-change supercomputer:
The machine was hailed as the 'future of weather prediction' with the ability to produce more accurate forecasts and produce climate change modelling.
However the Met Office's HQ has now been named as one of the worst buildings in Britain for pollution - responsible for more than 12,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year.

It says 75 per cent of its carbon footprint is produced by the super computer meaning the machine is officially one of the country's least green machines.

Green campaigners say it is 'ironic' that a computer designed to help stave-off climate change is responsible for such high levels of pollution.

But Met Office spokesman Barry Grommett said the computer was 'vital' to British meteorology and to help predict weather and environmental change.

He said: 'We recognise that it is big but it is also necessary. We couldn't do what we do without it.

'We would be throwing ourselves back into the dark ages of weather forecasting if we withdrew our reliance on supercomputing, it's as simple as that.'
Well, they could always use crystal seems to be what the green campaigners themselves use...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Cash For Cons

One day after the Herald reported some surprised Bay State inmates - including murderers and rapists - were cashing in $250 stimulus checks, federal officials revealed the same behind-bars bonus was mailed to nearly 4,000 cons nationwide.

A federal watchdog is now probing how the cons were cut the checks. The same cash also may have been sent to fugitive felons, people kicked out of the country and even individuals now deceased.

It’s all part of the massive American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 - and what is becoming an accounting nightmare for red-faced feds.

“President Obama’s $787 billion stimulus bill has done more to help convicted criminals than it has to actually boost our economy and create jobs,” said Republican National Committee spokeswoman Sara Sendek.

The Inspector General of Social Security is now tracing the checks that were mailed to 3,900 prisoners at a cost of nearly $1 million after yesterday’s report in the Herald.

Social Security Administration spokesman Stephen Richardson said yesterday none of the prisoner recipients receive monthly Social Security benefits, meaning they should not qualify for a stimulus check. Such benefits are generally cut off to the incarcerated.

The IG also is investigating whether any improper payments were made to dead beneficiaries, felons on the run from the law, individuals living overseas and recipients no longer legally authorized to live in the United States, said IG spokesman George Penn.
Well, I'm sure they were just trying to help out their fellow crooks...

How Prohibition Ends

Argentina has followed Mexico's lead:
Argentina's Supreme Court ruled Tuesday it is unconstitutional to punish an adult for private use of marijuana as long as it doesn't harm anyone else.

The unanimous ruling makes Argentina the second Latin American country in the past four days to allow personal use of a formerly illegal drug.

The case in question involved five young men who were arrested for having a few marijuana cigarettes in their pockets.

Supreme Court Justice Carlos Fayt, who at one time supported laws that make personal use of marijuana illegal, told the state-run Telam news agency that "reality" changed his mind.
Reality...what a concept!

Bloggin' In The Years: 1981

Computers and news together? There may be something to this Internet thing after all...

A Good Man Is Not So Hard To Find

Fay Weldon has a few words of advice for today's women:
Asked if she thinks feminism has destroyed women, the author of The Lives and Loves of a She Devil and Puffball claimed that there are fundamental differences between the sexes.

She added that men should not be given such a hard time by career-minded women.

'Life is much better, because you are not dependent on the goodwill of men,' she continued, referring to the growth of women in the workplace.

But the trouble is, the battle became too fierce, and the whole culture encouraged women to believe that men are stupid, useless creatures who are the enemy.

'But men nowadays aren't s***. They're actually much nicer.

'They just don't want to commit to you, and why would they when you are a busy working woman who can look after yourself and probably goes to bed easily with them?'

Weldon, a mother of four boys who has been married three times, also said women should not expect men to be their best friend - and should appreciate their need for sex.

'The thing is, you need to find a man who is cleverer than you, or at least not let him know that you are cleverer than him,' she said.

'Women want their boyfriends to be like their girlfriends, fun to go to the pictures with, but men are not like that. They want sex and they grunt.

'If you really want a man to be nice to you, never give him a hard time, never talk about emotions and never ask him how he is feeling.'

The outspoken author added that women should have children before they embark on a career and not be so picky about finding the perfect man.
'I think we should have more teenage pregnancies, and work afterwards.

'If you have children late you have no energy left for sex, and then men wander off to find someone else.

'The definition of a good man has become ridiculous. I just think that as long as you have a sort of semi-good looking, able-bodied, intelligent man, you should have his baby.'
Hey, I'm available...and I don't grunt...

The Ted Kennedy Memorial Bill

James Pethokoukis on the politicization of Kennedy's death:
The so-called Last Lion of the U.S. Senate was not even dead half of a day when the politicking began. Proponents of Democratic efforts to reform overhaul America’s troubled healthcare system quickly began urging passage as a tribute to Kennedy’s lifelong efforts on the issue.

Just a small sampling: Sen. Robert Byrd, Democrat from West Virginia, said he hoped that when legislation has been signed into law, it “will bear his name for his commitment to insuring the health of every American.” Andy Stern, president of the giant Service Employees International Union, noted Kennedy introduced his first healthcare reform bill 39 years ago: “Let us continue his cause. Let us take action this year to pass healthcare reform.” And in the Twitterverse, influential liberal blogger Markos Moulitsas used 58 characters this way: “Honor Kennedy’s legacy by passing real health care reform.”

Maybe they could even call it the Trillion Dollar Tribute for Teddy. But it will take more than nostalgia and sentiment to get healthcare reform passed. A new survey from Public Opinion Strategies finds that just 25 percent of Americans favor President Obama’s proposals, comparable to the scant 23 percent who favored Bill Clinton’s healthcare plan in 1994 as it imploded. Betting markets put the odds of passage of a public option at just one in three. And in its lead editorial today, the Washington Post said the new budget deficit numbers mean the Obamacrats should start from scratch and develop a more affordable approach.

The cold, hard politics of the situation is this: Kennedy’s death makes passing healthcare reform tougher not easier.
So, which is more unseemly-criticizing Kennedy after he's gone and can no longer defend himself, or using his death to get government health care rammed through?

The Pen, Having Writ, Moves On

This must be the year for big-name deaths. Now it's Dominick Dunne:
Dominick Dunne, a best-selling author and special correspondent for Vanity Fair, died today at his home in Manhattan. He was 83.

The cause of death was bladder cancer, said his son Griffin Dunne.

Dunne—who joined Vanity Fair in 1984 as a contributing editor and was named special correspondent in 1993—famously covered the trials of O. J. Simpson, the Menendez brothers, Michael Skakel, William Kennedy Smith, and Phil Spector, as well as the impeachment of President Bill Clinton. He wrote memorable profiles on numerous personalities, among them Imelda Marcos, Robert Mapplethorpe, Elizabeth Taylor, Claus von Bülow, Adnan Khashoggi, and Warren Beatty and Annette Bening. His monthly column provided a glimpse inside high society, and captivated readers.

In 1980, Dunne moved back to New York and saw five of his novels become bestsellers. His books include The Two Mrs. Grenvilles (Crown, 1985), Fatal Charms (Crown, 1987), People Like Us (Crown, 1988), An Inconvenient Woman (Crown, 1990), A Season in Purgatory (Crown, 1993)—which was adapted for television as a four-hour CBS mini-series—and Another City, Not My Own (Crown, 1997). A collection of essays, Fatal Charms (Crown), was published in 1987, and his memoir, The Way We Lived Then: Recollections of a Well-Known Name Dropper (Crown), was published in 1999. Justice (Crown), a collection of articles that had appeared in Vanity Fair, was published in 2001. And his last book, Too Much Money: A Novel, is scheduled for publication in December 2009 by Random House.
Few people covered the lives of the rich and famous (and infamous) as he did. R.I.P.


Remembering Ted Kennedy:
He was a Rabelaisian figure in the Senate and in life, instantly recognizable by his shock of white hair, his florid, oversize face, his booming Boston brogue, his powerful but pained stride. He was a celebrity, sometimes a self-parody, a hearty friend, an implacable foe, a man of large faith and large flaws, a melancholy character who persevered, drank deeply and sang loudly. He was a Kennedy.

Born to one of the wealthiest American families, Mr. Kennedy spoke for the downtrodden in his public life while living the heedless private life of a playboy and a rake for many of his years. Dismissed early in his career as a lightweight and an unworthy successor to his revered brothers, he grew in stature over time by sheer longevity and by hewing to liberal principles while often crossing the partisan aisle to enact legislation. A man of unbridled appetites at times, he nevertheless brought a discipline to his public work that resulted in an impressive catalog of legislative achievement across a broad landscape of social policy.
More reaction here, and here.

Spoiled Brats-The Next Generation

On why self-esteem is mostly bunk:
[H]igh self-esteem doesn't improve grades, reduce anti-social behavior, deter alcohol drinking or do much of anything good for kids. In fact, telling kids how smart they are can be counterproductive. Many children who are convinced that they are little geniuses tend not to put much effort into their work. Others are troubled by the latent anxiety of adults who feel it necessary to praise them constantly.
The real question is what happens when these kids grow up and enter a world that won't treat them as the center of the universe. Where does all of that "Self-esteem" go then?

Ted Kennedy 1932-2009

This will be big news tomorrow, so let me just say that my thoughts are with the Kennedy family at this time:
U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy, a towering figure in the Democratic Party who took the helm of one of America's most fabled political families after two older brothers were assassinated, has died, his family said. He was 77.

"Edward M. Kennedy, the husband, father, grandfather, brother and uncle we loved so deeply, died late Tuesday night at home in Hyannis Port (Massachusetts)," the Kennedy family said in a statement.

One of the most influential and longest-serving senators in U.S. history -- a liberal standard-bearer who was also known as a consummate congressional dealmaker -- Kennedy had been battling brain cancer, which was diagnosed in May 2008.

"We've lost the irreplaceable center of our family and joyous light in our lives, but the inspiration of his faith, optimism, and perseverance will live on in our hearts forever," the family statement said.

"He loved this country and devoted his life to serving it. He always believed that our best days were still ahead, but it's hard to imagine any of them without him," the family added.

His death marked the twilight of a political dynasty and dealt a blow to Democrats as they seek to answer President Barack Obama's call for an overhaul of the healthcare system. Kennedy had made healthcare reform his signature cause.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid said in a statement the Kennedy family and Senate "have together lost our patriarch."
With all due respect to Harry Reid and others who will be waxing nostalgic about the "Kennedy legacy" in the days to come, this is one of the things I've never really liked about the whole "Camelot" thing. We are not a monarchy, and I've always found it ironic that the same liberals who complain about "The wealthy" idolize the likes of the Kennedys, who are the very definition of wealth and privelege.

At any rate, the surviving Kennedy brother is now gone, and hopefully at peace.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Nothing But The Facts

It's about time.
Officials at the Wikimedia Foundation, the nonprofit in San Francisco that governs Wikipedia, say that within weeks, the English-language Wikipedia will begin imposing a layer of editorial review on articles about living people.

The new feature, called “flagged revisions,” will require that an experienced volunteer editor for Wikipedia sign off on any change made by the public before it can go live. Until the change is approved — or in Wikispeak, flagged — it will sit invisibly on Wikipedia’s servers, and visitors will be directed to the earlier version.

The change is part of a growing realization on the part of Wikipedia’s leaders that as the site grows more influential, they must transform its embrace-the-chaos culture into something more mature and dependable.

Roughly 60 million Americans visit Wikipedia every month. It is the first reference point for many Web inquiries — not least because its pages often lead the search results on Google, Yahoo and Bing. Since Michael Jackson died on June 25, for example, the Wikipedia article about him has been viewed more than 30 million times, with 6 million of those in the first 24 hours.

“We are no longer at the point that it is acceptable to throw things at the wall and see what sticks,” said Michael Snow, a lawyer in Seattle who is the chairman of the Wikimedia board. “There was a time probably when the community was more forgiving of things that were inaccurate or fudged in some fashion — whether simply misunderstood or an author had some ax to grind. There is less tolerance for that sort of problem now.”
This has been one of the biggest problems with "The encyclopedia that anyone can edit." Maybe actual editing isn't such a bad thing after all, eh, guys?

Shake N' Bake

In the war on legal medications that can be used to make illegal stuff, the illegal stuff makers have found a loophole in the law:
Only a few years ago, making meth required an elaborate lab — with filthy containers simmering over open flames, cans of flammable liquids and hundreds of pills. The process gave off foul odors, sometimes sparked explosions and was so hard to conceal that dealers often "cooked" their drugs in rural areas.

But now drug users are making their own meth in small batches using a faster, cheaper and much simpler method with ingredients that can be carried in a knapsack and mixed on the run. The "shake-and-bake" approach has become popular because it requires a relatively small number of pills of the decongestant pseudoephedrine — an amount easily obtained under even the toughest anti-meth laws that have been adopted across the nation to restrict large purchases of some cold medication.

"Somebody somewhere said 'Wait this requires a lot less pseudoephedrine, and I can fly under the radar,'" said Mark Woodward, spokesman for the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control.

The do-it-yourself method creates just enough meth for a few hits, allowing users to make their own doses instead of buying mass-produced drugs from a dealer.

"It simplified the process so much that everybody's making their own dope," said Kevin Williams, sheriff of Marion County, Ala., about 80 miles west of Birmingham. "It can be your next-door neighbor doing it. It can be one of your family members living downstairs in the basement."

A typical meth lab would normally take days to generate a full-size batch of meth, which would require a heat source and dozens, maybe hundreds, of boxes of cold pills.

But because the new method uses far less pseudoephedrine, small-time users are able to make the drug in spite of a federal law that bars customers from buying more than 9 grams — roughly 300 pills — a month.
Faster, cheaper, more convenient. If it were legal it would be called a triumph of caplitalism.

Red Green

China has discovered that there's gold in them green hills:
President Obama wants to make the United States “the world’s leading exporter of renewable energy,” but in his seven months in office, it is China that has stepped on the gas in an effort to become the dominant player in green energy — especially in solar power, and even in the United States.

Chinese companies have already played a leading role in pushing down the price of solar panels by almost half over the last year. Shi Zhengrong, the chief executive and founder of China’s biggest solar panel manufacturer, Suntech Power Holdings, said in an interview here that Suntech, to build market share, is selling solar panels on the American market for less than the cost of the materials, assembly and shipping.
What does it say about us that a Communist country has disocvered profit in green technology when we can't (or won't?)

"24" Versus Real Life

Anonymous Liberal counters Jonah Goldberg on visceral vengeance:
When you are shown unequivocally that the person being tortured is an evil mass murderer and that the person doing the torturing is a pure-hearted hero -- and you are then shown that the torture in fact leads to the disclosure of information that saves a bunch of childrens' lives -- it is no wonder that viewers are prepared to morally absolve the torturer. That moral conclusion is being spoon-fed to them in the form of a highly-stacked utilitarian calculus. The thumb is pressing down quite hard on the scale. If, on the other hand, you were to tell a different story, say one involving a detainee of questionable guilt being brutally beaten to death with a flashlight (as described in the IG report), you would likely elicit a very different emotional response.
The real world is not a Jack Bauer revenge fantasy; it has laws and consequences for bad behavior. Obama deserves credit for knowing this better than Dick Cheney does.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Black Letter Law

Black is no longer so beautiful in the UK:
It could be construed as a black day for the English language — but not if you work in the public sector.

Dozens of quangos and taxpayer-funded organisations have ordered a purge of common words and phrases so as not to cause offence.

Among the everyday sayings that have been quietly dropped in a bid to stamp out racism and sexism are “whiter than white”, “gentleman’s agreement”, “black mark” and “right-hand man”.

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission has advised staff to replace the phrase “black day” with “miserable day”, according to documents released under freedom of information rules.

Many institutions have urged their workforce to be mindful of “gender bias” in language. The Learning and Skills Council wants staff to “perfect” their brief rather than “master” it, while the Newcastle University has singled out the phrase “master bedroom” as being problematic.

Advice issued by the South West Regional Development Agency states: “Terms such as ‘black sheep of the family’, ‘black looks’ and ‘black mark’ have no direct link to skin colour but potentially serve to reinforce a negative view of all things black. Equally, certain terms imply a negative image of ‘black’ by reinforcing the positive aspects of white.

“For example, in the context of being above suspicion, the phrase ‘whiter than white’ is often used. Purer than pure or cleaner than clean are alternatives which do not infer that anything other than white should be regarded with suspicion.”

The clampdown in the public sector has angered some of the country’s most popular writers.

Anthony Horowitz, author of the Alex Rider children’s spy books, said: “A great deal of our modern language is based on traditions which have now gone but it would be silly — and extremely inconvenient — to replace them all. A ‘white collar worker’, for example, probably doesn’t wear one. An ‘able seaman’, under new regulations, could well be neither. ‘Spanish practices’ can happen all over Europe. We know what these phrases mean and we can find out from where they were derived. Banning them is just unnecessary.”
So what do they call something that's actually black? "Light-challenged," perhaps?

We Heart Medicare

Michael Steele, the man who would lead the Republicans in a nationwide revival, shows why he (and many other Republican "Leaders") are just as willing to suck up to the old folks as the Democrats:
He offhandedly admits that Medicare's not in great shape, but then he says this: "We need to prohibit government from getting between seniors and their doctors." Come again? Isn't this already a fundamental element of how Medicare works—by paying for a significant portion of seniors' medical expenses? Steele seems to have adopted the confused-at-best thinking of that now-famous town-hall attendee who told his representative to keep his "government hands off my Medicare."

Steele also opposes Medicare cuts to fund health reform and argues that "we need to outlaw any effort to ration health care based on age" or "dictate the terms of end-of-life care." I don't want the government doing any of those things either, but given the op-ed's starting premise that Medicare is sacred, this sounds suspiciously like an argument that Medicare should serve as American seniors' medical sugar-daddy, indiscriminately shelling out for whatever, whenever.

That's not a recipe for bringing spiraling costs under control; it's a clueless, politically motivated attempt to appease seniors by defending Medicare's awful status quo.
The Democrats want to scare seniors into thinking that the Republicans want to take away their health care. The problem is, the Republicans don't want to, even when "Taking away" some of it might be necessary.

Where Obama Still Gets It Right

Jacob Sullum reports:
Today the Obama administration sent Guantanamo detainee Mohammed Jawad back to Afghanistan after nearly seven years of imprisonment. Arrested as a young teenager, Jawad was accused of throwing a grenade at two American servicemen and their translator. The case against him fell apart last fall when a military judge ruled that his confession was inadmissible because it had been obtained through torture and death threats. Last month the federal judge hearing Jawad's habeas corpus petition ordered his release, but the Justice Department had indicated it might want him transferred to civilian custody for trial in federal court. Both the Afghan government and Jawad's former military prosecutor had called for his release.
The message is clear: the law really does matter. Now, if only he could have shown the same wisdom with those who disagree with him over health care...

Ruthless People

Why nice guys often finish last in politics:
A politician willing to do anything to take and hold on to power will have a crucial edge over an opponent who imperils his chances of getting elected in order to advance the public interest. The former type is likely to prevail over the latter far more often than not. This is especially true in a political environment where most voters are often ignorant and irrational about government and public policy. Candidates have strong incentives to pander to this ignorance and exploit it in order to win elections. Those unwilling to exploit public ignorance because they place the public interest above political success are likely to be at a serious disadvantage relative to their less scrupulous opponents. Thus, those who value power above other objectives are more likely to succeed politically.
Of course, there's a difference between ambition and arrogance, and the latter can undo the best-laid schemes of the most ruthless office-holder. The trick for the (mostly honest) politician seems to be in knowing where that line is.

Life In The Village

So how well do all those security cameras in gun-free London work? Not all that well:
Only one crime was solved by each 1,000 CCTV cameras in London last year, a report into the city's surveillance network has claimed.....David Davis MP, the former shadow home secretary, said: "It should provoke a long overdue rethink on where the crime prevention budget is being spent."

He added: "CCTV leads to massive expense and minimum effectiveness.

"It creates a huge intrusion on privacy, yet provides little or no improvement in security...."

Nationwide, the government has spent £500m on CCTV cameras.
The illusion of security can be just as dangerous as the lack thereof. And, as London has shown, the wto often go hand in hand.

Blaming The Google

I was initially sympathetic to her plight, but is this really the best way to deal with some pseudo-celebrity twit?
Speaking out for the first time since a court order forced Google to reveal her identity, blogger Rosemary Port tells the Daily News that model Liskula Cohen should blame herself for the uproar.

"This has become a public spectacle and a circus that is not my doing," said Port, whose "Skanks in NYC" site branded the 37-year-old Cohen an "old hag."

"By going to the press, she defamed herself," Port said.

The pretty 29-year-old Fashion Institute of Technology student added that she's furious at Google for revealing her identity, so much so that she plans to file a $15 million federal lawsuit against the Web giant.

"When I was being defended by attorneys for Google, I thought my right to privacy was being protected," Port said.

"But that right fell through the cracks. Without any warning, I was put on a silver platter for the press to attack me. I would think that a multi-billion dollar conglomerate would protect the rights of all its users."

In her suit, she'll charge Google "breached its fiduciary duty to protect her expectation of anonymity," said her high-powered attorney Salvatore Strazzullo.

"I'm ready to take this all the way to the Supreme Court," Strazzullo said. "Our Founding Fathers wrote 'The Federalist Papers' under pseudonyms. Inherent in the First Amendment is the right to speak anonymously. Shouldn't that right extend to the new public square of the Internet?"
As a blogger, she perhaps did have a right to a certain level of privacy. But is blaming the service that allowed her to make fun of some model most people have probably never heard of?

Sunday, August 23, 2009

It's What's For Dessert

Meanwhile, while the government is promoting cheap, unhealthy food, the well-to-do have their own dietary tastes:
In the West's more rarefied culinary environs, meat has become dessert. In Paris, Pierre Hermé's extensive macaron selection includes a chocolate-and-foie-gras flavor, shimmering with gold leaf. At Chicago's Grocery Bistro, chef Andre Christopher tops a seared lobe of foie gras with shards of Heath bar. And out of her tiny boutique in New York City, Roni-Sue Kave sells handmade "pig candy": whole strips of deep-fried bacon coated in dark or milk chocolate.
Now, if they could come up with a cheeseburger-flavored chocolate bar...

Food For Thought

"Cheap" food may not really be all that cheap:
...Not all food is equally inexpensive; fruits and vegetables don't receive the same price supports as grains. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that a dollar could buy 1,200 calories of potato chips or 875 calories of soda but just 250 calories of vegetables or 170 calories of fresh fruit. With the backing of the government, farmers are producing more calories — some 500 more per person per day since the 1970s — but too many are unhealthy calories. Given that, it's no surprise we're so fat; it simply costs too much to be thin.
And this "Encouragement" is coming from the same government that liberals claim would be a better health care provider...

The People's Court

Despite displeasure and pressure from the usual suspects, the people whose job it is to actually uphold the law in Honduras are sticking to their guns.
Honduras' Supreme Court says ousted President Manuel Zelaya would face trial if he returns to the Central American country.
The Honduran top court is giving its opinion on a plan to solve Honduras' political crisis after Zelaya was ousted in a coup.

Zelaya's return to Honduras under a national unity government is a key provision in a plan by mediator and Costa Rican President Oscar Arias.

Soldiers arrested Zelaya and flew him into exile in Costa Rica on June 28 after he ignored a Supreme Court order to cancel a referendum asking Hondurans if they wanted a special assembly to rewrite the constitution.
Sorry, El Presidente. It looks like you won't have a chance to become a Hugo Chavez clone after all.

Cool Talk

Revenge of the nerds? It's apparently getting harder to be hip these days, at least when it comes to language:
The life of slang is now shorter than ever, say linguists, and what was once a reliable code for identifying members of an in-group or subculture is losing some of its magic.

The Internet “is robbing slang of a lot of its sociolinguistic exclusionary power,” said Robert A. Leonard, a linguistics professor at Hofstra in Hempstead, N.Y., whose slang credentials include being a founding member of the doo-wop group Sha Na Na, formed in the late 1960s. “If you are in a real inside group, you are manufacturing slang so that you can exclude the wannabes.”
I guess if anyone would know what was uncool, it would be a former member of Sha Na Na...

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Coming Of The Digital Pitchforks

How is technology affecting the debate? Not in a way that liberals like:
Democratic politicians and their supporters have discovered new technology is a double-edged sword. Conservatives copied their opponents, and made serious in-roads into the Internet, social media, online petitions and lots more.

In just six months of the Obama presidency, those conservatives have altered the national agenda. After losing on the stimulus vote, they have been much more successful on health care. They know it, too. Hundreds of bloggers, think tankers and activists gathered in Pittsburgh last week for the Right Online Conference to hear one key message: “We’re catching up.”

It’s a world turned upside down. Obama, the man of seven Time magazine covers since his election, is still adored by the mainstream media. Though hard-core lefties think he’s not radical enough, they still back him. The only difference is how conservatives have fought back. If Gallup polls are accurate, the movement is again on the rise – outnumbering liberals in every state.

In just six months, through Twitter, FaceBook and YouTube, conservatives have organized an effective opposition to team Obama. Ordinary bloggers have highlighted administration tax cheats, caught Obama and Biden errors and been a thorn in the president’s side. His once-high-powered tech team has struggled to make sense of it. And they’ve missed the big story.

The new tools enable voters of both sides to speak out and organize more easily. Whichever side is in power will discover that opposition can form even when the media ignore an issue.
I do believe that's why they call it free speech...

A Little Thing Called Big Government

Matt Welch notes it's the one thing the MSM won't blame for Obama's fall:
While the commentariat's condescension is almost comical, the whole evil-or-stupid explanation misses the elephant in Obama's room: Americans of all stripes, it turns out, aren't very keen about the government barging into their lives.

An ABC/Washington Post poll from June showed people preferred "smaller government with fewer services" over "larger government with more services" by 54% to 41%, up from 50%-45% a year earlier (independents were even more pronounced, at 61%-35%). A Rasmussen poll from April showed that 77% of Americans preferred a "free market" economy over a "government managed" economy, up seven percentage points from just last December. A July CBS poll found that 52% of Americans think that Obama is trying to do "too much."

After 11 months of federal bailouts and freakouts, Americans have become bone tired of panicky power grabs from Washington. It's the big government, stupid.

The message of the various Tea Party protests, which predated this summer's ahistorical media panic over town hall "lynch mobs," has been pretty simple, says Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks, the nonprofit that has helped organize the protests, told Reason magazine this spring. "It was: stop spending so much money, stop borrowing so much money, and stop bailing out people who were irresponsible."
More often than not, the people are smarter than the MSM-or the politicians who curry their favor-give them credit for.

Friday, August 21, 2009

One Small Step For Sanity

Jacob Sullum reacts to Mexico's new drug possession policy:
The quantity limits are pretty stingy: five grams (about a fifth of an ounce) for marijuana, half a gram for cocaine, 50 milligrams for heroin, and 40 milligrams for methamphetamine. According to A.P., the cutoff for LSD is 0.015 milligram, or 15 micrograms, far less than a typical dose of 100 to 150 micrograms.

From now on, drug users who are caught with less than those amounts cannot be prosecuted. Instead, they will be offered treatment the first couple of times, after which treatment will be mandatory. A spokesman for the Mexican attorney general's office tells A.P. drug users carrying such tiny amounts were almost never prosecuted anyway, but they were subject to shakedowns by the police. "The bad thing was that it was left up to the discretion of the detective," he says, "and it could open the door to corruption or extortion."
For all its problems and faults, Mexico's government seems to be getting this one right. Would that ours could have the courage to do the same.

Dude, Where Are My Haters?

Matt Welch wants to know where all these alleged bigots and troglodytes are these days:
[If] as the growing media narrative contends, the Republicans have devolved into a rump party of half-sane white southerners wracked by racial anxiety, why does it keep rewarding anti-racist anti-populists at the top of its presidential ticket (including, notably, the ticket that ran against a liberal Democrat black candidate), while rejecting every dime-store Tancredo with prejudice? When does this allegedly mainstream Republican pathology begin showing up in the numbers, or in the personages of those who lead the party?
It's true that the Republican Party still has a long way to go, and they still have whackjobs like Michelle Bachman in their ranks. But if the test is one of the GOP knowing the difference between standing up for its principles and giving in to the fringe, I think they may be starting to pass it. Of course, the type of opposition they have hasn't hurt, either...

The Weight

It's the Ultimate Kilogram:
Since 1889, the year the Eiffel Tower opened, that cylinder has been the standard against which every other kilogram on the planet has been judged. But that's creating problems. According to scientists, the cylinder's mass appears to be changing.

The solution is a new kilogram, one that is based on a constant number instead of a physical object. To get that number, scientists have had to build a special kind of scale, one that measures the kilogram without balancing it against another mass. It has been a long, slow process, but today they are close to redefining the kilogram once and for all.

Please Don't Sneeze On The Kilogram

As it stands, the entire world's system of measurement hinges on the cylinder. If it is dropped, scratched or otherwise defaced, it would cause a global problem. "If somebody sneezed on that kilogram standard, all the weights in the world would be instantly wrong," says Richard Steiner, a physicist at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Md.
The Kilogram of Doom? But if it ultimately becomes useless anyway, then wouldn't sneezing on it be a rather moot point?

Good Work If You Can Get It

Well, this is certainly encouraging news:
While the private sector has shed 6.9 million jobs since the beginning of the recession, state and local governments have expanded their payrolls and added 110,000 jobs, according to a report issued Thursday by the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government.

The report, based on an analysis of federal jobs data, found that state and local governments steadily added jobs for eight months after the recession began in December 2007, with their employment peaking last August. State and local governments have since lost 55,000 jobs, but from the beginning of the recession through last month they gained a net of 110,000 jobs, the report found, in part because of the federal stimulus program.

Government jobs are always more stable than private sector jobs during downturns, but their ability to weather the current deep recession startled Donald J. Boyd, the senior fellow at the institute who wrote the report.

“I am a little surprised at the fact that state and local government has remained as stable as it has in the nation as a whole, given the depth of the current recession,” Mr. Boyd said in an interview.
On the other hand, I'll bet Obama is pleased as punch that Uncle Sam literally seems to be turning into America's Boss...


Get your Too Taa on, typewriter man!

All Cash, No Bling

I have to admit, it's something I've been wondering myself:
How do Afghani drug lords spend their absurd earnings? It’s an intermittently vexing problem. Control of the heroin trade is divided among about twenty drug lords, who split an annual take of (at least) several billion dollars. Afghanistan, though, has trouble absorbing spending on this order: The country’s per-capita GDP is $429, the lowest on the Asian continent. A world-class paucity prevails there—of luxuries to buy, professionals to employ, penthouse suites to reserve. The infrastructure situation makes leisure travel difficult.
Columbian and Mexican drug lords at least have the advantages of being able to spend their loot on stuff from the civilized world. What do the Afghans do with their ill-gotten gains? It's not as if there's a Lexus dealership nearby...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Gone Fishing

With their health care plan in trouble, the Democrats seem to have found a new target with which to direct their wrath:
House Democrats are probing the nation’s largest insurance companies for lavish spending, demanding reams of compensation data and schedules of retreats and conferences.

Letters sent to 52 insurance companies by Democratic leaders demand extensive documents for an examination of ‘extensive compensation and other business practices in the health insurance industry.” The letters set a deadline of Sept. 14 for the documents.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, signed the three-page letter dated Monday.

An industry source replied when asked for comment: “This is nothing more than a taxpayer-funded fishing expedition designed to silence health plans."
So, the same group that wants to spend money on health care like drunken sailors is...accusing legitimate businesses of spending like drunken sailors. The Democrats must have plenty of stones left over for that glass house of theirs...

Look To The East

Asia may lead the way to recovery:
Western populists will no doubt once again try to blame their own sluggish performance on “unfair” Asia. Ignore them. Emerging Asia’s average growth rate of almost 8% over the past two decades—three times the rate in the rich world—has brought huge benefits to the rest of the world. Its rebound now is all the more useful when growth in the West is likely to be slow. Asia cannot replace the American consumer: emerging Asia’s total consumption amounts to only two-fifths of America’s. But it is the growth in spending that really matters. In dollar terms, the increase in emerging Asia’s consumer-spending this year will more than offset the drop in spending in America and the euro area. This shift in spending from the West to the East will help rebalance the world economy.
Which is part of he reason why our relationship with China is so important. Protectionism really is, for all the campaign rhetoric during an election year, going the way of the dinosaurs.

Explaining Obama Logic, Or the Lack Thereof

There may yet be a method to Obama's madness, but if there is, Caroline Baum isn't seeing it:
Impromptu Obamanomics is getting scarier by the day. For all the president’s touted intelligence, his un-teleprompted comments reveal a basic misunderstanding of capitalist principles.

For example, asked at the Portsmouth town hall how private insurance companies can compete with the government, the president said the following:

“If the private insurance companies are providing a good bargain, and if the public option has to be self-sustaining -- meaning taxpayers aren’t subsidizing it, but it has to run on charging premiums and providing good services and a good network of doctors, just like any other private insurer would do -- then I think private insurers should be able to compete.”

Self-sustaining? The public option? What has Obama been doing during those daily 40-minute economic briefings coordinated by uber-economic-adviser, Larry Summers?

Government programs aren’t self-sustaining by definition. They’re subsidized by the taxpayer. If they were self-financed, we’d be off the hook.
Even if you think Obamacare would be the greatest thing since sliced bread, anyone with half a brain should be able to recognize the contradiction in Obama's statement. Public means just that-publicly financed, as in with your tax dollars, and publicly controlled by the government. The government may be many things, but "Self-sustaining" it's not.

Stop The Clock

Wow, these things really do seem to come in threes, don't they? First Robert Novak, now Don Hewitt.
Don Hewitt, a TV news pioneer who created "60 Minutes" and produced the popular CBS newsmagazine for 36 years, died Wednesday. He was 86.

He died of pancreatic cancer at his Bridgehampton home, CBS said. His death came a month after that of fellow CBS legend Walter Cronkite.

Hewitt joined CBS News in television's infancy in 1948, and produced the first televised presidential debate in 1960.

His lasting legacy took shape in the late 1960s when CBS agreed to try his idea of a one-hour broadcast that mixed hard news and feature stories. The television newsmagazine was born on Sept. 24, 1968, when the "60 Minutes" stopwatch began ticking.

He dreamed of a television version of Life, the dominant magazine of the mid-20th century, where interviews with entertainers could co-exist with investigations that exposed corporate malfeasance.

"The formula is simple," he wrote in a memoir in 2001, "and it's reduced to four words every kid in the world knows: Tell me a story. It's that easy."

Hard-driven reporter Mike Wallace, Hewitt's first hire, became the journalist those in power did not want on their doorsteps. Harry Reasoner, Morley Safer, Ed Bradley, Steve Kroft, Diane Sawyer and Dan Rather were among others who also reported for the show.
For better or for worse, Don Hewitt deserves as much credit as anyone for helping to create modern television journalism. R.I.P.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Hot Dogs

Pets. They're what's for dinner:
Animal lovers in New Zealand want to make it illegal for people to eat their pets, after a Tongan family killed and barbequed their pet dog.

The Taufa family killed their pet staffordshire bull terrier Ripper and then invited friends round for a barbeque. Lupi Taufa says it's common practice in her homeland Tonga. "Dog, horse, we eat it in Tonga. It's good food for us," she said.

Derek Haddy works for the SPCA, New Zealand's equivalent of the RSPCA. "I find it quite disturbing that somebody would kill a pet and then eat it. I'm not OK with that, but unfortunately the law allows you to do it," he said. The SPCA says people eating their pets happens more often than society realises.
The ick factor aside, why shouldn't some people be allowed to consume their own animals? In these tough economic times, Spot might be an acceptable alternative for the family on a budget. Of course, I'd never do it. But, logically speaking-is eating Fido really that much different than a cheeseburger?

The Cause Of Fail

Peter Suderman suggests it goes beyond Obama:
Is all the chaos the result of a failure of leadership? Perhaps, but Obama's hands-off approach is a direct response to Clinton's aggressive tactics in 1994. That didn't work so well either.

No, I don't think this is a failure of leadership so much as a feature of democratic politics -- and a reminder of how unpleasant and unsatisfying to nearly everyone the business of politics can be.

Democratic politics is a messy business. It's disorganized and frantic and unpredictable and frustrating. Politics is a matter of shouting, and dissent, and deal-making, and strategy, and slippery rhetoric, and compromise. It is not a matter of deciding on the "right" policy and then making it so -- even when your party controls the White House, the House, and the Senate.

This is especially true when making substantial changes in the operations of a sixth of the economy -- a sector that potentially affects not only people's daily lives, but their very survival.
Of course, you could make the argument that Obama's failure is actually a triumph of the democratic process, because the people have spoken out and he has now apparently backed down. That, too, is a feature of democratic politics.

Night Of the Living Researchers

It's good to know Canada's scientists are on top of things-like how to deal with the impending zombie apocalypse:
In their study, the researchers from the University of Ottawa and Carleton University (also in Ottawa) posed a question: If there was to be a battle between zombies and the living, who would win?

Professor Robert Smith? (the question mark is part of his surname and not a typographical mistake) and colleagues wrote: "We model a zombie attack using biological assumptions based on popular zombie movies.

"We introduce a basic model for zombie infection and illustrate the outcome with numerical solutions."

To give the living a fighting chance, the researchers chose "classic" slow-moving zombies as our opponents rather than the nimble, intelligent creatures portrayed in some recent films.

"While we are trying to be as broad as possible in modelling zombies - especially as there are many variables - we have decided not to consider these individuals," the researchers said.

Back for good?

Even so, their analysis revealed that a strategy of capturing or curing the zombies would only put off the inevitable.

In their scientific paper, the authors conclude that humanity's only hope is to "hit them [the undead] hard and hit them often".

They added: "It's imperative that zombies are dealt with quickly or else... we are all in a great deal of trouble."
Well, even President Bush was worried about them...

Final Dispatch

Robert Novak has gone to that great press room in the sky. In an era dominated by liberal journalists, he stood out in the crowd.
Bob was someone who thought deeply about his country, its system of government and the challenges both faced. For example, in his 2000 book Completing the Revolution: A Vision for Victory in 2000, Bob offered his views on how America should build on the freedom legacy of President Reagan.

He was always eager to share his passion for public policy and politics. In speeches to college graduation classes, Bob distilled the essence of his years-long ruminations on America for young people just starting out in life:

“Always love your country — but never trust your government!

“That should not be misunderstood. I certainly am not advocating civil disobedience, must less insurrection or rebellion. What I am advocating is to not expect too much from government and be wary of it power, even the power of a democratic government in a free country.

“Ours is one of the mildest, most benevolent governments in the world. But it too has the power to take your wealth and forfeit your life. ... A government that can give you everything can take everything away.”
R.I.P., Mr. Novak. Thank you for reminding us of what true dissent and free speech are all about.

Monday, August 17, 2009

"This Relationship Just Isn't Working Out..."

Libertarians and independents are continuing to rapidly fall out of love with Obama:
President Obama is exceeding all their fears on fiscal and economic issues. After promising a "net spending cut" during the campaign and denouncing "the most fiscally irresponsible administration in history," he has sent federal spending and the deficit soaring into the stratosphere.

Meanwhile, he's not delivering what some of his voters hoped for on social issues. [...]

Independents who turned against the Republicans are likely to become equally disillusioned with Obama, and there's already some evidence of that in the polls. Support for "smaller government with fewer services" has risen in the ABC News/Washington Post poll, and independents prefer it by 61 to 35 percent, a margin three times as large as a year ago. The number of people who see Obama as an "old-style tax and spend Democrat" has risen by 11 percentage points.
As someone who was one of those independents, I'm not so much disillusioned as disappointed. I didn't expect Obama to be the great Agent of Change he said he'd be. But it would have been nice if he'd actually started governing on those things I did agree with him on once he won, instead of going on an endless campaign for a questionable health care agenda.

Hammer Time

Maybe these really are the Last Days, after all:
Former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay will be among the cast of 16 celebrities in this season's "Dancing with the Stars" reality television show, the network behind the program said on Monday.

DeLay, a Republican who earned the nickname "The Hammer" for keeping lawmakers in line, served as House Majority Leader from 2003 to 2005.

He is not the first former politician cast in the show, as TV personality and former mayor of Cincinnati Jerry Springer appeared on a past season of "Dancing."
There's no word on whether he'll be borrowing the other Hammer's pants for the occasion...

A Slightly Less Level Of Suck

Thoreau makes the argument that one man's bureaucracy can be another's health care system:
It is...possible (even if unlikely) that the government solution will be better than the status quo. Laugh if you will, my fellow libertarians, but nowhere is it written that one heavily-regulated system is automatically better than another just by virtue of being a status quo system that some big (and politically connected) businesses happen to like. The state can deliver flawed systems with flaws of varying degree, and while I have no great confidence in the state’s competence I also have no sound basis on which to conclude that any and every regulated system will work out in practice to be worse than the status quo. We must wait and see before claiming the pyrrhic victory of being right about the suckitude of the new system.
Of course, that still doesn't change the fact that a lot of what Obamacare proposed is simply lousy legislation. The real question seems to be, which path will do the least amount of harm over the long term? Is Big Medicine really any better or different than Big Government?

Babble-On Nation

And thus we find out what happens when people with too much time on their hands have access to the Internets:
Forty percent of the messages on Twitter are "pointless babble" along the lines of "I am eating a sandwich now," according to a study conducted by a US market research firm.
Pear Analytics, based in San Antonio, Texas, said that it randomly sampled 2,000 messages from the public stream of Twitter and separated them into six categories.

The categories were: news, spam, self-promotion, pointless babble, conversational and pass-along value.

Pear said "pointless babble" accounted for 811 "tweets" or 40.55 percent of the total number of messages sampled.

Conversational messages -- defined by Pear as tweets that go back and forth between users or try to engage followers in conversation -- accounted for 751 messages or 37.55 percent.
This must be why I don't tweet. My daily routine is even more boring than those who think theirs is interesting.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

In The Company Of Strangers

Why do we need friends?
While researchers are in agreement that friendships are good for us, they’re still not sure exactly why. There’s evidence that gender affects what someone wants in a friend - men seek out “side-by-side” friendships that center on sharing activities and interests, women look more for “face-to-face” relationships that provide emotional support and a chance to comfortably unburden themselves. Both require some measure of mutual knowledge to work, but they depend even more on a sort of nonjudgmental steadiness and presence. As much as anything else, what friends do is simply keep us company.
We are a social species, but perhaps we need to better define what makes a true friend and what just makes a good companion or "Pal". Of course, misanthropes don't have this problem...

It's Who's For Dinner

We may literally all be cannibals:
Man and other animals feed on the substance of their predecessors, because human bodies turn to dust and are scattered over the earth and into the air. Thus they are assimilated and become ‘legumes’. There is not a single man who has not ingested a tiny piece of our forefathers: ‘This is why it is said that we are all anthropophagi. Nothing is more reasonable after a battle: not only do we kill our brothers, but after two or three years we shall eat them, after they have put down roots on the battlefield.
So, to all you organic eaters and vegetarians out there-you may be eating somebody's ancestor. We are who we eat...

When Dissent Isn't Patriotic

When one liberal dares to speak out against the Great Healthcare Leap Forward:
Let me see if I have the logic correct here: Whole Foods is consistently ranked among the most employee-friendly places to work in the service industry. In fact, Whole Foods treats employees a hell of a lot better than most liberal activist groups do. The company has strict environmental and humane animal treatment standards about how its food is grown and raised. The company buys local. The store near me is hosting a local tasting event for its regional vendors. Last I saw, the company’s lowest wage earners make $13.15 per hour. They also get to vote on what type of health insurance they want. And they all get health insurance. The company is also constantly raising money for various philanthropic causes. When I was there today, they were taking donations for a school lunch program. In short, Whole Foods is everything leftists talk about when they talk about “corporate responsibility.”

And yet lefties want to boycott the company because CEO John Mackey wrote an op-ed that suggests alternatives to single payer health care? It wasn’t even a nasty or mean-spirited op-ed. Mackey didn’t spread misinformation about death panels, call anyone names, or use ad hominem attacks. He put forth actual ideas and policy proposals, many of them tested and proven during his own experience running a large company. Is this really the state of debate on the left, now? “Agree with us, or we’ll crush you?”
I think that about sums it up...

Drama And Change

Ann Althouse comments on how Hillary, who was feared and loathed as being too polarizing, might have handled the health care debacle:
Barack Obama presented himself as someone who could bring us into a new era of transcendence over partisan differences. There would be Hope and Change. Obama believed — and a lot of us believed — that he was a calm, reassuring figure whom we could all love and trust.

Hillary would have known better. She'd been through it all before. She wouldn't have thought she could could ease you and cool you and cease the pain*. She wouldn't have blithely assumed Americans would quietly accept the vast, complex restructuring of health care that the congressional Democrats dumped on us. Obama naively thought that he was enough, and the more-liberal-than-America Democrats imagined they could get by on the magic of our admiration for the charming new President, who would look even lovelier as he amassed glittering accomplishments. Wouldn't he be wonderful? Wouldn't America be wonderful to have elected such a fine man President?

He and they got all puffed up. I don't think Hillary would have let that happen. He was Hope. She was Experience. Experience would have been different.
I think it's debatable that Hillary would have been able to sell health care reform any more than Obama has been able to-remember Hillarycare?-but in hindsight, maybe with Obama as her Veep, Hillary might have been able to play better with others once she got into office, borrowing on her husband's two-term experience and the simple fact that people knew who and what she was.

Sometimes experience is more preferred over "Hope and change".

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Hey, Mr. Tamborine Who?

You know you're an old rebel when the cops don't know who you are:
A 24-year-old police officer apparently was unaware of who Dylan is and asked him for identification, Long Branch business administrator Howard Woolley said Friday.

"I don't think she was familiar with his entire body of work," Woolley said.

The incident began at 5 p.m. when a resident said a man was wandering around a low-income, predominantly minority neighborhood several blocks from the oceanfront looking at houses.

The police officer drove up to Dylan, who was wearing a blue jacket, and asked him his name. According to Woolley, the following exchange ensued:

"What is your name, sir?" the officer asked.

"Bob Dylan," Dylan said.

"OK, what are you doing here?" the officer asked.

"I'm on tour," the singer replied.

A second officer, also in his 20s, responded to assist the first officer. He, too, apparently was unfamiliar with Dylan, Woolley said.

The officers asked Dylan for identification. The singer of such classics as "Like a Rolling Stone" and "Blowin' in the Wind" said that he didn't have any ID with him, that he was just walking around looking at houses to pass some time before that night's show.

The officers asked Dylan, 68, to accompany them back to the Ocean Place Resort and Spa, where the performers were staying. Once there, tour staff vouched for Dylan.
Next stop: the Old Singers' Home...

The Anti-Capitalist Consumerists

In his review of a new tome on consumerism, Danuel Ben-Ami points out:
Of course such self-appointed experts are not opposed to all forms of consumption. Although they despise the purchase of luxury items by the masses they are happy to indulge what they see as their own refined tastes. Indeed, the notion of ethical consumption is essentially a way of validating the shopping of the elite while deriding the masses at the same time.

From the elite’s perspective, consumption becomes what author James Heartfield calls ‘status affirmation’. The purchase of what are deemed to be ethically acceptable products is seen as marking individuals out from the rabble. So anyone who likes, say, ordinary chocolate biscuits is sneered at as a gullible consumer while those who eat overpriced organic Duchy Originals are viewed as cultured individuals.

Under the ethical tag lurks a new form of snobbery. Only the attack on consumerism is supposedly for the benefit of society as a whole.
It's a truism that liberals tend to be selective in their targets, and mass comsumption is no different. In their worldview, the evil WalMart might be bad, but the trendy, overpriced specialty shops they go to aren't. And, of course, there's the issue of what the writers of these opuses do with their ill-gotten, corporate-provided royalties.

Friday, August 14, 2009

To Dream The Impossible Dream

It's the scenario that dare not speak its name: A Republican win in 2010.
Ask them about it, and many Democrats will point to the continued personal popularity of Barack Obama. But that's not the story. "I think what's going to happen is Obama's going to be fine, and the Democrats in Congress are going to get their asses kicked in 2010," says one Democratic strategist who prefers not to be named. "This is following a curve like the Clinton years: take on really controversial things early, fail, or succeed partially, ask Democrats to take really tough votes, and then lose. A lot of guys are going to get beat, but the president has time to recover."

The polls are definitely moving in the GOP's direction. Just look at the Real Clear Politics average of the generic ballot question, which asks whether, if the election were held today, you would vote for your local Democratic or Republican candidate for Congress. It's been dominated by Democrats for the last few years -- until now.

In recent weeks, poll after poll has shown Republicans neck-and-neck, or even ahead, of Democrats. Even a National Public Radio survey found Republicans in the lead. "There's no question that you're seeing a shift across virtually all the polling," says one GOP strategist, "with Democrats losing ground."
Of course, there's still the problem of actual leadership and ideas on the Republican side, which could make their victory a Phyrric one. But it can't be denied that Obama has been a boon for them, and if Nancy Pelosi isn't careful, she could one day be known as Minority Leader instead of House Speaker.

Mississippi Faking

I would think real white supremacists wouldn't need help from the likes of this guy to look bad:
An African-American man from Mississippi admits posing as a white supremacist to send a death threat across state lines by Facebook.

The U.S. Attorney's Office says 20-year-old Dyron L. Hart of Poplarville pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court to making a threat in November 2008.

Hart admitted creating a name and using a white supremacists' photo to pose as a white man who planned to kill blacks because Barack Obama had been elected president.

He originally was charged with threatening three black students at Nicholls State — where he had attended one semester — but pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count.
Maybe he was just channeling his inner Klansman...

Faster than A Speeding Lawsuit

Score one for the Man of Steel's original creators.
Last year a Federal judge decided that Time Warner was no longer the sole proprietor of Superman, and that the heirs of Jerome Siegel (of Siegel and Shuster) are entitled to a share of the US copyright to the character. This week a court ruled again, giving the Siegel family a larger share of the intellectual copyright.....The court had awarded the Siegel family with many aspects of the Superman copyright, including the basis of the Superman character, his costume, his alter-ego reporter Clark Kent, Lois Lane, the Daily Planet newspaper, and the Clark/Superman and Lois love triangle storyline.

But the ruling did not give the family the full Superman copyright because DC Comics owns some of the important elements identified with the character, including his ability to fly, vision powers, the term Kryptonite, Lex Luthor, Jimmy Olsen, Perry White, and “expanded origins.”

....on Wednesday, Judge Stephen Larson awarded the Siegel family rights to more additional works, including the first two weeks of the daily Superman newspaper comicstrips, as well as the early Action Comics and Superman comicbooks. What this means is that the Siegels now control depictions of Superman’s origin story. Everything from the planet Krypton, his parents Jor-L and Lora, the launching of the infant Kal-L into space by his parents as Krypton is destroyed.
This is not the same as the RIAA's Draconian measures against music file sharers. This is a case of the artist's estate claiming ownership over their own property, and their fair share of Supes. So good for them. Kal-El would be proud.

Losing Control

Mark Thompson explains how the Democrats lost the argument on health care:
The trouble is that Democrats and liberals have become so closely associated with single-payer and government-run universal health insurance that people can’t comprehend that they’re now pushing for something substantially less than that, particularly when so many Democrats, the President included, have suggested that this is a step on the road to single-payer. Attempting to explain that the current leading proposals would not, in fact, be a single-payer system or “socialized medicine” is thus either difficult to believe or impossible to do well in a few sentences. Even where it can be done, there’s not really any way of credibly denying the “slippery slope” argument since so many liberals and Dem politicians have made clear that creating a slippery slope towards nationalized health insurance is precisely what this legislation is supposed to do.
Perception is just as important in politics as facts, and the perception that Obama wants a single-payer system (with his own words not exactly helping) is where they screwed the pooch.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Big Burning Brother

While I normally don't side with hippies, this should make any reasonable person stand up and say, "WTF???"
In a few weeks, tens of thousands of creative people will make their yearly pilgrimage to Nevada’s Black Rock desert for Burning Man, an annual art event and temporary community celebrating radical self expression, self-reliance, creativity and freedom. Most have the entirely reasonable expectation that they will own and control what is likely the largest number of creative works generated on the Playa: the photos they take to document their creations and experiences.

That’s because they haven’t read the Burning Man Terms and Conditions.

Those Terms and Conditions include a remarkable bit of legal sleight-of-hand: as soon as “any third party displays or disseminates” your photos or videos in a manner that the Burning Man Organization (BMO) doesn’t like, those photos or videos become the property of the BMO. This “we automatically own all your stuff” magic appears to be creative lawyering intended to allow the BMO to use the streamlined “notice and takedown” process enshrined in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to quickly remove photos from the Internet.

The BMO also limits your own rights to use your own photos and videos on any public websites, (1) obliging you to take down any photos to which BMO objects, for any reason; and (2) forbidding you from allowing anyone else to reuse your photos (i.e., no licensing your work no matter what is depicted, including Creative Commons licensing, and no option to donate your work to the public domain).

Moreover, the Burning Man Terms and Conditions also strip attendees of their trademark fair use rights. The ticket terms forbid any use of Burning Man trademarks on any website, which means that ticket-holders can’t label their photos “Burning Man 2009” or even use the words “Burning Man” on their Facebook walls or Twitter updates.
Apparently, fair use only goes so far with some people, especially when they have extremely thin skins.

Remembering Les Paul

Keith Richards:
"Les Paul, along with Leo Fender, the most important developer of the electric guitar. He actually taught himself to play guitar in order to demonstrate his electronic theories. WOW!! All of us owe an unimaginable debt to his work and his talent. Mary Ford didn't hurt either."

Here they are, performing one of their signature hits:

He really did help create rock and roll. R.I.P.

The Soft Touch

As the WaPo reports, Cheney was apparently unhappy with his boss. Alex Massie responds:
We often think of political ambition as something to be wary of - and rightly so - but Cheney demonstrates that the quiet lack of personal ambition can have disastrous consequences too, for it frees a man from having to be accountable for his actions, permitting him to justify anything and everything if it moves him an inch closer to achieving goals that he, and he alone, has set.
In other words, it's not as if Dick couldn't do what he wanted anyway-which he did.

Urban Non-Revival Watch

As has been so often noted in the past, cities in America's former industrial heartland are in deep caca. So what are their leaders doing about it? Holding pep talks.
The city representatives lunched on $6 sloppy Joes and commiserated through Power Point strategy sessions: Lure back former residents, entice entrepreneurs and artists, convert blighted pockets into parkland.

What emerged was a sense of desperation over the difficulty of rebounding from both real problems -- declining populations, dwindling tax bases -- and perceived woes.

Valarie McCall expressed frustration at marketing a city that still echoed the image of the polluted Cuyahoga River catching fire. "That was 1969," said Ms. McCall, Cleveland's chief of governmental affairs. "Come on, I wasn't even born then."

Last year, used long-term trends of unemployment, population loss and economic output to devise a list of "America's Fastest Dying Cities." A few months later, Peter Benkendorf was eating chicken tacos when he hatched the idea for the symposium.

Mr. Benkendorf, a 47-year-old Dayton resident, said he was angry the article ignored efforts by the cities to attract small businesses and entrepreneurs. He thinks these cities are poised for reinvention.

"For a long time, people thought granddaddy was going to come back and make everything all right again," said Mr. Benkendorf, referring to the manufacturers that decades ago built the economies of cities like Dayton. "People have begun to realize that's not going to happen."

Mr. Benkendorf, who directs an arts program affiliated with the University of Dayton, named the symposium, "Ten Living Cities." Dayton skeptics called it "Deathfest."

One was college student Joe Sack, 22. "It's like a gambling addict [trying] to help an alcoholic," he said while at work in a coffee shop. "It's hard to see what they can learn from each other."
Maybe there needs to be an intervention for mayors and city managers in denial. Because it's not as if those they've hired to sell their cities to former residents are in any hurry to go home themselves:
A University of Pittsburgh demographer is tracking former residents with the idea of telling them about the city's new direction. "We don't want to force anything on them," said John Slanina, a Youngstown native working on the project. "But we want people to know, 'Hey, Youngstown is changing, take a look.'"

Mr. Slanina said he's optimistic about the future of his hometown. But for now he lives in Columbus, Ohio, and has no plans to move back.
Call me crazy, but maybe things like high taxes and unions scaring away employers has had something to do with this...

Kill Barack, Volume One

I didn't like this stuff when the Left did it to Bush, and I don't like it when right-wing kooks do it to Obama:
A man who was holding a sign reading "Death to Obama" Wednesday outside a town hall meeting on health care reform in Hagerstown, Md., has been turned over to the Secret Service.
Washington County Sheriff's Capt. Peter Lazich said the sign also read, "Death to Michelle and her two stupid kids."

Lazich said U.S. Secret Service agents took the unidentified 51-year-old man into custody Wednesday afternoon after deputies detained him near the entrance to Hagerstown Community College.

Obama was not at the meeting held Wednesday by Maryland Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin.
There are plenty of cranks and nutcases out there. Good for the Secret Service for getting this guy off the street.

Who's Your Daddy?

It apparently is John Edwards:
Sources have told WRAL News that they expect former U.S. Sen. John Edwards to admit that he is the father of his former mistress' 18-month-old daughter.

Edwards, a two-time Democratic presidential candidate, confessed last August to having an affair with Rielle Hunter, who served as a videographer on Edwards' 2008 campaign. He has denied fathering her daughter, saying his relationship with Hunter ended before the child was conceived.

The name of the girl's father isn't disclosed on her birth certificate.

Andrew Young, a long-time Edwards aide, initially claimed to be the father of Hunter's child, but he is reportedly writing a book in which he will claim Edwards is the father.

A federal grand jury is investigating whether Edwards' campaign funds were illegally paid to Hunter to keep quiet about the affair.
I understand his hair will be a witness...

The Last Refuge Of A Conspiracy Theory

When all else in the lawyers: The DNC is alleging, in a complaint filed in federal district court in Manhattan, that top Trump ...