Even a blogger needs to eat. This blog is primarily Charles' hobby. But if he is intent on continuing to woo the Hooter's waitresses
in Chatanooga he needs something that pays.... wings don't come free you know. Here's a link to his
day job where he works the education beat
and, assuming he can't annoy enough people that way, is sometimes allowed to write opinion pieces.
Need perspective? Watson offers readers all they could possibly eat. For a unique view on current events, namely how they look from
orbit, here's Chuck's Real-Time(ish) Satellite Imagery of Areas of Interest.
Whenever it strikes his fancy, and there's good telemetry, Chuck will
process and post near real-time images of locations in the news. Eminently engrossing.
Wanna get into the head of a Japanese salaryman? Why, for Chis'sakes?! Well, assumin' you do, feel welcome to check out
the on-line journal of
Campbell's English class. Everyday, a group of disaffected salarymen are required to spill out their inner-most thoughts about life, the universe
and everything in broken English. Amazingly prosaic.
Shoutin' across the Pacific
Chiizu taberu koufuku shiteiru saru ga kangei-saremasen.
Wednesday, July 31, 2002 Stossel's Drug War. Juan Non-Volokh says John Stossel's special last night was another instance of liberal bias. "Stossel is an avowed libertarian, but the show generally steered away from libertarian or conservative critiques of the drug war," he writes. I tend to agree. It wasn't the special I would have done. It probably wasn't the special John would have done if he acted alone.
But TV journalism is a collaborative effort. Producers, not correspondents, do most of the heavy lifting. John has said that one thing that limits him in what he can do at ABC is convincing producers to work with him on a topic. I'm sure that he may have had to slant the special a bit to the left to get people to work with him.
Even if he could have made it more libertarian, John may have had reasons not to do so. He isn't the most popular guy at ABC, for both ideological and personal reasons. Toning down his libertarianism, where possible, may have been a politically wise thing to do on this special. Tossing the liberals a bone could help reduce their feeling that he is a right-wing ideologue and make his job a bit easier.
To understand the workings of American politics, you have to understand this fundamental law: Conservatives think liberals are stupid. Liberals think conservatives are evil.
Well, in this case, both sides have got it exactly backwards.
Proof of liberal villainy is easy enough to find: just about anything that Bill Clinton did, the smear of Clarence Thomas, the attempted smear of Charles Pickering, Chappaquiddick, etc. Liberals have no ethics, and they know it. Quick, name a liberal you'd trust with your money or your wife. Clinton? Jesse Jackson? Ted Kennedy? Bob Torricelli?
Want proof of conservative stupidity? Turn on talk radio, or browse FreeRepublic.Com. They are morons, mouthbreathers, five-toothed, in-bred, banjo-playing yokels from Mississippi. They can't put together coherent sentences. They are unable to sustain a logical argument.
And it isn't just the conservative masses that are freakin' morons. Congressional Republicans were presented with Bill Clinton, the most crooked president since Nixon. Bill Clinton had all of the patently false sincerity of a used-car salesman. And he was guilty, guilty, guilty of numerous crimes. But when the dust settled, Bill Clinton was not removed from office and his popularity was at record highs. But the House lost two speakers in a matter of weeks.
Republicans like to say they were up against the greatest politician in a couple of generations. Bull! Bill Clinton wasn't that good. Ken Starr, Newt Gingrich, Tom De Lay and all the rest were just that bad.
That's why government keeps growing, and why conservatives keep standing around scratching their asses, not noticing until it's too late to do anything about it.
In high school terms, the Democrats are that guy who really wasn't a cool kid but sometimes got to hang around them by doing their homework and making them laugh. The Republicans are the mildly retarded fellow who has been held back a couple of grades and seems to own just two shirts. The Dem takes out his frustration at not being really cool by playing practical jokes on him. The Republican is embarrassed, angry and humiliated each time it happens. He hates the guy and vows never to be his fool again. But the next time the Dem says "Pull my finger" the Republican yanks away.
Happy Birthday, Milton Friedman! Friedman is arguably the most important libertarian of the last half century, and he turns 90 today. Joel Miller and Jacob Sullum offer a look back at the man's legacy.
Tuesday, July 30, 2002 Abolish the FBI. Turn homeland security over to pornographers. I'm serious. They seem to be doing a better job than our junior-league Hoovers.
When Web operator Jon Messner gained control of one of al-Qaida's prime Internet communication sites, he offered it to the FBI to use it for disinformation and collecting data about sympathizers.
What followed, he says, was a week of frustration.
FBI agents struggled to find someone with enough technical know-how to set up the sting. By the time they did, the opportunity was lost as militant Islamic Web users figured out the site was a decoy, said Messner of Ocean City, Md.
"It was like dealing with the motor vehicle administration," said Messner, who runs Web sites, many of which sell pornographic materials. "We could have done something that could have seriously impacted things. It took me so many days just to get somebody who understood the Internet."
An Officer and a Wimp. Change is often good, and I'm not sure that sadistic, frat-boy-style hazing was the best way to mold the nation's military leaders. But it seems the U.S. Naval Academy is going more than a little too far in the other direction. I do want naval officers to think about killing
Databases In my very first post , I pointed out that Law Enforcement already has access to more data than it can handle, and that scary things were happening in the realm of linking data bases. The Village Voice has an interesting article on how companies are cooperating in this travesty.
There is a fine line in the intel business between not having enough data and having too much. Amateurs (i.e. Congress) and the Power Hungry (many of my LE colleagues) always try to get every scrap of information they can. But it just doesn't work. Even with advanced data processing techniques, our ability to analyze data is where the bottleneck is. And statistical tools, while valuable to the trained analyst, can be dangerous in the hands of an amateur. That's the practical reason the TIPS program is bad idea - too much data is just as bad for the intel business than not enough, and having a flood of data from untrained observers would probably be a disaster. The other down side is that when there is a flood of data, lots of people who have no business looking at it start poking around for purposes unrelated to why it was collected.
Safe, Secure and Inexpensive National ID. In the Enterprise Economy forum, reader Jerry Emerson has posted some interesting thoughts on using the private sector to provide ID.
While some conservatives and libertarians have a knee-jerk reaction against any ID requirements, there are clearly times and places where it is necessary to have a reliable form of ID. The problem is to minimze any possible abuses. I'm not sure that we'll ever square those conflicting desires, but Emerson has some interesting ideas on how we might try.
Sunday, July 28, 2002 Fish. Rotting. Head. For more than 20 years, FBI headquarters knew that its Boston agents were using hit men and mob leaders as informers and shielding them from prosecution for serious crimes, including murder. But documents obtained by the AP directly connect FBI headquarters in Washington to a pattern of collusion with notorious killers. The AP found 20 memos from Boston agents to the FBI director's office, along with six replies, showing that headquarters was told of the abuses and condoned them.
The Boston agents also allowed innocent men to go to prison to protect their informants.
From Ruby Ridge to Waco to Richard Jewell to Sept. 11, the FBI has repeatedly displayed a pattern of corrupt and inept behavior, yet it keeps getting rewarded with more power, more money and more responsibility. Does anyone have the guts to clean this agency up?
What I did on my summer vacation. This summer my wife and I visited several "marine parks" in Florida. There is a lot of controversy over some of these parks, especially those who hold cetaceans (Whales and Dolphins). Even more controversial are those with dolphin swims/encounters. Here are a few thoughts for those who may be interested in trying these programs, or are planning one last vacation spree for the kids before school starts. First a bit of background. My wife and I are both scientists. She is a biologist and a "master teacher", currently teaching upper level high school biology and astronomy, and has worked for both USDA (in something called "biological control" - finding "good" bugs to eat "bad" bugs), and at a small science museum. Readers of my rants here know a little of my background (electrical engineering and geophysics), but I also have taught seminars and classes ranging from elementary school through graduate level classes in remote sensing, environmental science, and natural hazards. So we are a tough audience, but also aware of the issues around public science education and "infotainment". Over the last couple of months we went to Sea World in Orlando, the Dolphin Research Center on Grassy Key (middle Florida Keys), and Marineland, on the east coast between St. Augustine and Daytona. Our goals: to have fun, get some sun, see some neat stuff, and collect some info and pictures for Vickie's classes.
Sea World. We didn't care for Sea World. It's huge, commercial, and has very little information content. It is pure entertainment - not even infotainment (and a surprising number of errors in the info that was provided). The big draw are the killer whales - orcas. Apparently, they are all named "Shamu". It wasn't much fun - crowds were too big, and we felt managed the whole time. If you want to be entertained, a la universal studios or Disneyland, it's fine, but don't kid yourself that there is much educational value here. I can't really recommend it, and felt that the animals are being exploited pretty much for the pure commercial value of it.
Dolphin Research Center . I've already commented on DRC here, but will add some perspective having seen some other programs. While you can just drop by and see the dolphins, the main draw here is the ability to swim with them. The program is heavy on conservation - overly preachy, in my view. These people are clearly more toward the environmental side of the house. Info content was fairly good, but way too touchy-feely for my taste. Example: they constantly talk about "how much the dolphins can teach us, if only we will listen". Well, we can learn a lot by studying dolphins, but they don't actively teach us. That's just emotional crud. The swim program was very controlled, and actual contact time is minimal and happens so fast you really don't get a chance to study the animal. They do two sessions a day, for about 8 people per session. Also, there was a crowd watching - you are a part of the "show", so be warned. On the other hand, for a fee they will videotape your "encounter", and it's pretty spectacular, since you do get to do foot pushes, dorsal pulls, etc. If you are looking for a photo-op and a fun trip DRC, is ok.
Marineland of Florida . Marineland was built in 1938, and some of the facilities are showing their age. They are under new ownership, and are working on things. However, of the three, Marineland had the best programs by far. Information was presented in an entertaining way, and was accurate. They discussed conservation without being overly sentimental, and explained that many of the behaviors the dolphins demonstrate are either natural or connected with husbandry. The dolphin encounter program was great. It is limited to three people per day, and while people can wander by while you are working with the animal in the stadium, it is not part of an organized public program so I didn't feel I was on show like the DRC program. You get a lot of time up close to the animals, and have a great opportunity to study them. You don't "swim" with the dolphin, but rather stand on a platform in the tank and under the direction of the trainer give commands and interact with the animal. Overall, we really enjoyed both the dolphin programs and the other displays and programs (like sea lions and penguins).
Bottom line: I strongly recommend Marineland, both to visit and especially if you can schedule an interaction. They also have snorkel and dive programs in their big tank - we will probably go back for that soon. DRC was OK, but given a choice do Marineland. Skip Sea World.
For a contrary view on dolphin swims, see the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society. I don't agree with them regarding already captive animals, and on using captive animals in education (such as Marineland), but they have some points that should be thought about. I feel the educational and research programs such as DRC and Marineland outweigh the moral objection to captivity, with the caveat that the animals should be well treated, and the current captive population should be maintained and bred rather than capturing more.
Saturday, July 27, 2002 Muslim Rape Epidemic. It seems that Norway and Australia aren't the only nations where Islamic sexual predators run rampant.
The Pakistan Human Rights Commission estimates that at least eight women, five of them minors, are reported raped every day; more than two-thirds of them are gang-raped.
In Pakistan rape is often used for revenge or punishment against an enemy. A woman is "defiled" to taint her family.
Muslim clerics accuse those who want to end honor killings and rapes of trying to impose Western values on their nations. Guess what? They are.
Western values say that you can't rape a woman just because you and your friends catch her alone or because she is a member of another religion. It says you can't kill your daughter or sister just because she speaks to someone you disapprove of. That's why we are superior to non-Western civilizations.
And any woman who says Western values aren't better should go live in Pakistan or Algeria or walk alone into the Muslim quarters of Paris or Sydney. And any man who says Western values aren't better should send his daughter to be raised in one of those places.
Warthogs and Gazelles. I got a bit of feedback on an earlier post on organizational performance and the role talent and intelligence play in an organization’s success.
Many of you wanted to know more about the formation of Seal Team Six under Commander Richard Marcinko.
Orr Kelly gives a brief but objective account of the unit’s formation in his book “Brave Men, Dark Waters.” Again, Marcinko was able to raid existing SEAL units. It was to be composed of the best of the best. But Marcinko’s idea of who the best were differed from that of other commanders.
Kelly writes of Marcinko’s visit to one SEAL unit, and how that unit’s commander reacted.
Although reluctant to lose his top performers, he pulled the personnel files of the very best at each pay grade and had them on the desk when the commander of the new team arrived. Marcinko glanced quickly through the folders, brusquely brushed them aside, and demanded to be taken to the records room. There, the officer later recounted, he went through the files and “uniformly, he pulled out the scum.”
Marcinko has a different take on his methods in his autobiography “Rogue Warrior.”
What was I looking for? Shooters, of course. If you can’t kill the bad guy, then everything else is FUBAR. Second question: what’s the best way to get to where the bad guys are? Ilo-Ilo island taught me that: why knock politely on the front door and eat bullets when you can hop and pop through the back door – where you are least expected – and feed them some lead….
Third question: what sort of people can slide in the back doors most easily? Dirtbags. Dirtbags with union skills – truck drivers, crane operators, bricklayers, electricians, longshoremen. But I wasn’t looking for just any dirtbags. I wanted motivated dirtbags – AVISes – the guys who try harder. I went through each candidate’s BUD/S records to see where they ranked in their classes. Whereas the number one man may have breezed through, the guy who was seventy-seventh probably had a bitch of a time in the water, didn’t like crawling through mud, and hated demolition, but he never quit. Experience had taught me that warthogs who tough it out are better in combat than your natural gazelles.
Marcinko wrote of one of the first men he chose for Six:
He’d seen combat as a Marine, so I knew he’d pull the trigger if he had to. Moreover, I’d been his CO for a short time at SEAL Two…I hadn’t gotten to know Larry very well, but he’d impressed me as steady and dependable – the first guy to show up and one of the last to leave.
In fact, if there was one type of man I’d visualized whenever I thought of the archetypical plank-owner of SEAL Team Six, it was Larry. He was a sailor in the tradition of Ev Barrett, a PO2 who never stopped working with the men under him.
Ev Barrett was the CPO of the first UDT platoon Marcinko was assigned to. He taught him what Marcinko later called the First Law of the Sea: Officers, senior noncoms and guys with just more experience have to help and teach those under them, have to pass along their knowledge.
What do You Say You Convict Them Of A Crime First? House Republicans want to apply some of the worst aspects of the war on drugs to alleged corporate fraud. The say they want to seize the property of top execs at companies like Enron and WorldCom.
Current law allows the Securities and Exchange Commission to collect civil fines and other penalties for corporate malfeasance and distribute that money to aggrieved investors. Total collections in 2001 exceeded $500 million, and Rep. Richard H. Baker, Louisiana Republican, said that total "will likely go up rather dramatically."
Mr. Baker said he hopes the legislation will give the SEC seizure powers much like the Drug Enforcement Administration.
"If you happen to be selling drugs and you're in somebody else's car, that car gets impounded, put in a lot and protected until the issues have been resolved," Mr. Baker said. "So, we seize assets so that they don't run off to the Caribbean or off to trial lawyers, that they stay in a bank account so that they can be allocated to their rightful owner."
Yes, you have to confiscate those mansions to keep the crooks from sneaking them out of the country. Right.
Friday, July 26, 2002 Propping Up the Stock Market. Andrew Sullivan calls attention to a letter he received showing how the Clinton administration and the Federal Reserve deliberately created a stock bubble, and how we are now all paying for that policy. Do we really want to return to that policy?
To the Core. The Bush administration's embrace of protectionist measures, such as duties on foreign steel were widely seen as a victory for his political aides over his economic advisers. But Brad De Long points to an interesting interview with Bush's top economic adviser, Larry Lindsey, that shows Lindsey has either embraced protectionism himself, or will lie to keep his job.
Cut Interest Rates? That may be the sort of thinking that got us into this economic mess. Roger Garrison is one of the smartest macroeconomists around, and he explains how the Federal Reserve's easy-money policies led to an artificial boom. Meanwhile, banker Christopher Mayer explains why recessions are painful but necessary and why attempts to artificially ease the pains of a bust will only make things worse.
Wednesday, July 24, 2002 Better Late Than Never. My latest Enterprise Economy column is up. It covers the Congressional reaction -- or more accurately, overreaction -- to corporate accounting scandals.
Muslims On Another Rape Rampage. Apparently, Australia isn't the only nation with an epidemic of rape commited by Muslim men. Bruce Bawer reports that 65% of rapes in Norway are committed by non-Western immigrants, a group that consists mainly of Turks, Moroccans and other Muslims.
Once Again, What's The Problem? Minnesota is also seeing resistance to its efforts to make sure that the information on driver's licenses is accurate. Again, civil liberties groups and Islamic organizations claim the new rules are unfair to immigrants.
But what's wrong with requring someone to prove that he is who he claims to be before giving him a license?
The Man's Own Words. I found this at Steve Earle's web site. It was written before this all broke, but it's still relevant.
Here's what he had to say about "John Walker's Blues."
"I'm happy with the way the song came out, but I'm nervous, not for myself, but I have taken some serious liberties with Walker, speaking as him, in his voice. I'm trying to make clear that wherever he got to, he didn't arrive there in a vacuum. I don't condone what he did. Still, he's a 20 year-old kid. My son Justin is almost exactly Walker's age. Would I be upset if he suddenly turned up fighting for the Islamic Jihad? Sure, absolutely. Fundamentalism, as practiced by the Taliban, is the enemy of real thought, and religion too. But there are circumstances. Walker was from a very bohemian household, from Marin County. His father had just come out of the closet. It's hard to say how that played out in Walker's mind. He went to Yemen because that's where they teach the purest kind of Arabic. He didn't just sit on the couch and watch the box, get depressed and complain. He was a smart kid, he graduated from high school early, the culture here didn't impress him, so he went out looking for something to believe in."
Monday, July 22, 2002 Think Again. A certain newspaper ran an editorial today on the market meltdown. This graph caught my eye:
To repair the damage the bursting of the tech bubble has done, to restore faith of investors who have suffered huge market losses, to head off the panicky liquidation of mutual fund holdings and to allay the fear and uncertainty added by 9-11, Washington must act. The Fed can go first. Yes, it has cut rates a lot already. But more is needed. And by that, we mean more than a quarter-point.
I remember talking to the editors of that paper in the late 1990s about the market and the economy. I expressed my fears that the market, and the tech sector of the economy, were indeed in bubbles that would break with disastrous efffects. They disagreed. They listened to me politely, but I never changed their minds. It's nice to see them agree with me now about those bubbles.
But what do they think caused the bubbles? I held that it was a too-easy monetary policy by the Federal Reserve. If I'm right, the only solution they can come up with would just create another bubble.
Come on, guys. Look around and see the damage done. If there was a bubble, the only thing we can do is wait for the economy to sort out all of the malinvestment. Your advice is rather like telling a man with a bad hangover the only thing for him to do is start drinking liquor again, and fast. It will only lead to more malinvestment.
The market is correcting, and will correct if the government doesn't screw things up. Calling for more government interference in the market, via artificially low interest rates, will just screw things up more. As my Enterprise Economy colleague Brian Wesbury notes, inflationary pressures are building, and the Fed will have to raise interest rates soon to choke them off. Battling inflation, not propping up the stock market, is the Fed's job.
More Lyrics. The great Tom T. Hall wrote and recorded this song about another John in 1972. Country radio didn't boycott him.
TURN IT ON, TURN IT ON, TURN IT ON
Johnny got up one morning; he went down to the company store
Got him a big box of bullets to fit into his .44
The store man said, "Son, are you gonna work? You know you owe me too much to stop."
John said, "I got a little workin' to do but I ain't goin' by your clock."
People said John was a slacker, 'cause he wouldn't fight in their war
A man wasn't much if he wouldn't fight back in 1940 and 4
The doctor said John was just too sick to go, but the people said that he was a coward
And one of the men makin' fun of him was a fellow named Milton Howard
Milton was down at the cold spring, a-drinkin' from a mason jar
He said, "John, you better get yourself to work or you're gonna fool around 'til you get fired."
John blew the dust from his old .44, put two holes in Milton's head
When Johnny walked off to get some more shootin' done, that ol' cold spring was a-runnin' red
Next guy he met was a Stigall boy, and the boy had a hammer in his hand
John said "Son, you should've built yourself a box, 'cause you're a headed for the Promised Land."
Stigall fell down to his knees to pray, and he cried "Lord, Johnny please don't shoot!"
Before he got halfway to saying "Amen", well old Johnny shot him out of his boots
Word went out through the county, that old John had lost his head
The people were runnin' and screamin'; there were seven of 'em lyin' there dead
Johnny hid out in a farmhouse; he had satisfaction in his eyes
He said "I know they're coming to get me, boys, but they ain't a-gonna take me alive."
People gathered 'round that old farmhouse; it was the relatives of all them dead
Now John said, "If the sheriff comes through that door I'm gonna fill him plumb full of lead."
The sheriff kicked down that old farmhouse door, but old John's gun would not shoot
Johnny just smiled at the sheriff and said, "The Lord must think a lot of you."
They took old John to the jailhouse; he entered in a guilty plea
The judge said death in the electric chair, 'cause it's murder in the first degree
John's last meal was a lot of fried chicken, cold beans and baby squash
He ate every bite that they brought him, then he smiled and said, "I thank you all a lot."
They put old John in the electric chair; they shaved his ankles and his head
The preacher said, "Son, have you got something to say; in a minute you're a-gonna be dead."
John said, "I ain't no coward, and the people know that I won't run."
Then Johnny smiled up at the warden and said, "Turn it on, turn it on, turn it on!"
You better stay away from Copperhead Road. Steve Earle has a new song allegedly praising John Walker Lindh and the Taliban, "John Walker's Blues." I say allegedly because the source of this story is the New York Post. No, I don't doubt that Earle recorded such a song. And I haven't heard it yet, so I can't say that it doesn't praise Walker. But the Post isn't the most reliable of guides. Still, relying on the Post story, talk radio is really blasting Erle today. But country and folk music have a long tradition of singing sympathetically, but not approvingly, of bad people.
To take one example, Johnny Cash's "Folson Prison Blues." The protagonist of that song famously "shot a man in Reno just to watch him die." Not exactly a nice person. Or take Merle Haggard's song "Mama Tried." The protagonist of that song "turned 21 in prison doing life without parole." We aren't told what his crime was, but he clearly wasn't selling Girl Scout cookies. The point is that neither of those songs is pro-murder. Nor was "Pardon Me I have Someone To Kill" or "Delia's Gone" or "John Hardy Was a Desperate Man" or "Banks of the Ohio" or "Knoxville Girl" or a host of other songs told from a killer's point of view.
Folk music and country music are often about those living on the margin. So a song taking John Walker's point of view may be interesting, and it need not be unpatriotic. So it's a bit unnerving to see smart people like Glenn Reynolds and Damian Penny and Dawson Jackson condemn the song without, apparently, having heard it.
Having said that, I await hearing the song with a great deal of unease. Earle was once a very talented songwriter, but lately he's descended into the inevitable path of all self-styled folk musicians and become unbearably preachy. He's always been a lousy excuse for a human being.
I do wonder, however, about the New York Post's sources for this piece of analysis:
Music-industry heavyweights are already expressing outrage over the controversial song, and many predict it will be banned from the majority of radio playlists when it is released in late September.
Steve Earle hasn't been on many radio playlists since around 1990. Even without the Walker song, country radio would likely ignore Earle's latest effort.
How can you commit career suicide when you don't have a career?
James S. Gordon is a former follower of late Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh whose cult carried out bioterrorism attacks on U.S. citizens in Oregon in the late 1980s. Gordon seemingly has never met an "alternative" therapy he didn't embrace.
Clinton set up this commission, but W. has failed to disband it.
One-Term Bush Redux. As with his father, the economy could prove to be W.'s undoing. Actually, the problem with both Bushes isn't so much the economy, as their own inattentiveness and poor policies. The first Bush presided over the second-mildest recession since the end of WWII. The current recession is, so far, the mildest.
But the markets are worried and W.'s pursuit of short-run political gain instead of long-run sound economic substance on a whole range of economic issues has undermined confidence in the administration's economic policy management. The steel tariff and the farm bill have had severe repercussions in reducing confidence.
"When an administration is driven by politics, there's a sense in the markets you'll get bad policy out of it," said David Hale, chief global economist for Zurich Financial Services.
Like his father, W. has abandoned the low-tax, small-government policies that can stimulate growth. But the current trend toward bigger government can't be blamed solely on the administration. Congress is hammering OMB Director Mitch Daniel for his attempts to rein in their spending from extremely profligate to merely profligate.
Why The Fight Against The Drug War Is Important. Congress is poised to pass a bill that defines bottled water as drug paraphenalia. It's part of an anti-rave bill that basically criminalizes an entire genre of entertainment. Can the claims of the drug warriors get any more irrational? And can there be any doubt that even those of us who don't use illegal drugs are seeing our rights restricted in this war?
Update: Dave Kopel and Glenn Reynolds have previously shown just how dumb this bill is.
Another One-Term Bush. Christopher Caldwell, who may be the most consistently interesting conservative journalist writing these days, shows why W.'s sale of Harken Energy shares wasn't illegal, but still could be a real problem for him. And if Caldwell's speculation on who the mystery buyers of that stock may be is correct, Harken could be a major problem for the president.
Saturday, July 20, 2002 OK, enough of this foolishness .
This "war on terror" has finally hit my (admittedly low) tolerance level:
1) We are not at war, not in the conventional or even unconventional sense. While several governments in the Middle East are in dire need of being overthrown or changed in some way (Afghanistan is done, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Saudi, and the PA should be on the short list, and most of the rest, including Israel, on the long list), military action is not really the answer to the terror "problem" except against regimes that actively support them, and once the regime is gone, our military should pull out and let USAID and the EU nations "military" handle things from there. Our military forces are not structured to handle "peacekeeping" or "nation building", nor should they be. In Afghanistan we have overstayed our welcome. By continuing conventional operations, more civilian casualties will occur and the political situation, currently fragile but promising, will deteriorate. Anyone who uses war terminology either (a) doesn't know what they are talking about, or, (b) is using war talk to advance a political agenda.
2) This is not fundamentally a law enforcement problem, either. No law enforcement techniques that we should be willing to tolerate on a general scale will do squat about terrorism, and honestly even the ones we shouldn't tolerate (i.e. TIPS) won't work either. The most oppressive regimes in history, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, had "terror" problems (we would call them freedom fighters, but it depends on your perspective). Want to live in either one of these regimes? We know who the problems are: fundamentalist islamic extremists. The 9/11 culprits would have been caught with relatively minor changes to existing systems. They got lucky.
3) The biggest problem is our lack of will to do what needs to be done from a covert action standpoint. Intel is not the problem - analysis is, and a mechanism to act on indications of potential action. A lot has been said re human intelligence. In my view this is over rated; we had and have the tools and raw data to identify terrorists. We should be willing to go in and take out those who threaten us. Some will point to Israel and say "aren't they doing that?" Not really, and, besides, Israel presents a very different problem. We aren't a directly occupying power - they are.
4) Even with that, if someone isolated nut wants to harm others, they will. It's a fact of life. Bush actually had it right when he said the best thing we can do is to get on with life as normal. It seems clear that the 9/11 guys got lucky. Yes, there are holes in the system. but were actually small, and could be fixed with no change in lifestyle by the vast majority of Americans.
Sorry I've Been MIA. My phone service crashed harder than my stock portfolio around noon Friday, and I couldn't access the Internet. It's just been restored, so I'll try to start posting again. Ah, life in the sticks.
Friday, July 19, 2002 A Well-Deserved Fisking. That's what Pejman Yousefzadeh gives Brendan O'Neil. BTW Brendan, Iranians still aren't Arabs. And they do have access to the Internet, so some of them are laughing at you, too.
Thursday, July 18, 2002 So What? The Indiana BMV has new rules for those wanting driver's licenses.
Under the policy, new applicants for driver's licenses or state identification cards must provide extensive documentation establishing their identity and residency. The documents include proof of citizenship or of legal immigration status.
The bar is lower for people seeking to renew a license or ID card, but still much stricter than the old rules. The new requirements: a Social Security card and two proofs of Indiana residency.
Critics claim that the new rules will make it harder for illegal aliens to get licenses.
I tend to be pro-immigration, and I'm really worried about the Bush administration's proposals to "harmonize" the various state driver's licenses and basically turn them into national ID cards. At the same time, I think that it's only common sense for someone issuing a driver's license to make sure that the name on the license belongs to the person applying for it. And if that makes it tougher on illegal aliens or legal ones or poor people or whatever, tough.
I Don't Get It. I really don't get it. Angelina Jolie and Billy Bob Thornton have announced they are splitting up amid rumors of his serial infidelity. Meanwhile, the rags have Halle Berry's husband bagging everything in sight while she's away making a movie. I guess Chris Rock was right when he said, "Show me the most beautiful woman in the world, and I'll show you a man who's tired of f---ing her."
Wednesday, July 17, 2002 Jerk. Sorry don't know what else to say about Brendan O'Neill. He wants to mock the attempts by some bloggers to show solidarity with the people of Iran. Fine. Seems a bit silly to me to. But over-earnest bloggers aren't his real target. America and the West and those millions of Iranians who embrace Western values such as freedom and limited government are.
Listen, Brendan, the bloggers reaching out to Iran may be a bit, um, touchy feely, but they know the difference between tyranny and freedom and why the second is better. They know that America isn't responsible for all of the world's problems. And they know that Iranians aren't Arabs.
More reasons to oppose abortion and cloning. The July 4th issue of Nature (not available on-line without a subscription, and it's expensive) has an interesting summary about early development in mammals. There is an increasing consensus that important characteristics of higher animals (including humans) are formed in the first 24 hours after fertilization. This has huge implications for both the abortion and cloning issues. I oppose both on moral and religious grounds, but have in the past respected those who disagree (on cloning, anyway) because the science wasn't there. Well, if a distinct animal is already forming so early in the process, the "it's just a bunch of undifferentiated cells" argument no longer holds, and creating a single cell organism that starts dividing is in fact creating a unique life. Sobering thought., with scientific, political, and moral implications.
Hottest Woman In Sports. It's down to Jamie Sale and Sasha Cohen. Of the two, I'd pick Sale. But I still suspect this thing may be rigged. Sale is cute, but I don't see how she could have beat Anna Kournikova. For that matter, Cohen's first-round vicotry over Mia St. John is a little questionable.
White Men, Black Women. Both Mickey Kaus and Glenn Reynolds have picked up on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution story that I first noted a few days ago. Clearly, the number of WM-BF couples is on the rise. But neither the AJC nor any bloggers have hit on a good reason for this relatively sudden rise.
But after a few days of thought I think I have the answer: Saved By The Bell.
For kids in the 1980s, this show was a staple, and one recurring plotline was the nerdy Screech's endless pursuit of the lovely Lisa (played by Lark Voorhies). Screech never got his girl. (He had to settle for a pre-plastic surgery Tori Spelling.) In fact, at one point Lisa even became violently allergic to Screech. But Screech never gave up, never got discouraged. And I think that his bravery gave a generation of Screeches the courage to pursue their own Lisas. And unlike SBTB, no scriptwriters were there to keep them apart in order to further a running joke.
The Wahhabi Lobby doesn't seem to like the idea of a free press. Reporter Eli Kintisch writes in The American Prospect of his troubles with the American Muslim Council:
I was there covering a story about Muslims in American politics. But when I attended a panel called "American Muslims in the Media," Abdurahman Alamoudi, a former executive director of the group, approached me and asked if I wanted to talk about the story outside.
Out in the foyer, I interviewed him, as I have in the past, and then thanked him and returned to the session. At the time, members of the 100-plus in attendance were asking questions at the microphone; one was saying something about September 11 and the question of who was behind the attacks. Before I had a chance to sit down, Alamoudi approached me again.
"It is not good for your health that you are here," he told me suddenly. I was confused. Was he threatening me? He repeated what he said, and I felt immediately intimidated. It was clear he was worried about what the audience members were saying at the microphone, and about how I would report on their comments. "They are not aware that you are here," he explained.
"We have a small problem with the Forward," he added when we had gotten back out to the foyer, explaining that in his opinion the paper had given the AMC unfair coverage in the past. When I told him I thought I had seen another reporter inside, he went inside to check, then returned to say he didn't know of any other reporters there. (Actually, the four panelists on the stage were journalists themselves, including Joyce Davis of Knight Ridder and Barbara Ferguson of the Arab News.)
Alamoudi went on to explain that if I wanted, he would "get up and tell them that a reporter from the Forward" was there. Given his first comment about my "health" and the possibility that he would somehow incite the crowd against me, I decided to leave.
The group later apologized. But what can you expect? According to international watchdog Freedom House, 11 of the 14 countries in the Middle East are "not free" with regards to the media. Maybe that's what some Muslims want for the U.S.?
Shut Up And Do Nothing. That may be the best advice for President Bush and Congress. My Enterprise Economy colleague Brian Wesbury has another great piece up today. He points out that pro-growth policies of Bush's first year in office have given way to anti-growth policies: restrictions on free trade, skyrocketing government spending and increasing red tape. If the economy goes back into the tank, Bush will have no one to blame but himself and Karl Rove.
Tuesday, July 16, 2002 Hottest Woman In Sports. The Fox Sports poll is now down to the semifinal. Jamie Sale upset favorite Anna Kournikova in the quarter finals. She's now matched against Sue Bird. Sale is currently leading the vote, which wraps up tomorrow. In the other bracket, Sasha Cohen and Andrea Nagy square off. Cohen has a comfortable lead.
Falling Dollar. The Economist has an excellent article on the dollar's decline. Basically, the dollar has been overvalued, and we've been due for a correction. Unfortunately, currency markets tend to overshoot at first during such corrections. So the dollar could fall pretty steeply before bouncing back a bit. Japanese policy makers aren't going to like that one bit, as a stronger yen makes their exports less competitive.
Libertarians and Drugs . I agree that the Libertarian Party obsession with drug laws is counterproductive. It's one reason I don't have anything to do with the movement. I would suggest that one way to approach the problem is to emphasize that the legal system should be concerned with consequences rather than behavior or precursor actions. There is no compelling state interest in the fact that an Adult chooses to do any given drug, be it Alcohol, Pot, or some antihistamine. Same thing with cell phones or big macs. There is a huge interest in deterring or punishing reckless actions that endanger others, driving, for instance. So we vastly simplify our legal code and preserve personal liberty by having one law: if you drive in such a way as to endanger another you lose your license. If you do it twice, or hurt somebody even the first time while not fully engaged in driving responsibilities, you go to jail. I suspect that the jails would still be full of many of the same people who are there now for drug related offenses. Anyone who does drugs is a moron. The difference is they would be in jail for reckless endangerment, vehicular homicide, etc., and those few who can manage their drug problem without destroying their life are free to do so, and the rest of us are protected from a government run beserk. The folks in jail would also have company: people who talk and drive, drop their coke in their lap and hit me (which has happened), and 70% of the drivers in Savannah who don't need chemical assistance to drive like they've been pithed.
Libertopia. Diana Hsieh has an interesting account of a speech she gave to the Colorado Libertarian Party Convention. Her experience mirrors my own when it comes to big L libertarians. Like her, I too haven't been very impressed by the intellectual acumen of many party members. (Which isn't to say that there aren't smart people in the LP who are well-versed on many issues.) And far too many LPers seem more motivated by hostility to the state than by love of liberty.
I remember all those many years ago, when I attended my first LP function. I was still in high school. I had been reading Ayn Rand and Henry Hazlitt and Frederic Bastiat, but I knew very few real libertarians in my small town. This was my first chance to interact with a large number of people who shared the same political beliefs I did. To say it was a disappointment would be a major understatement. In my youthful naivete, I expected to be in Galt's Gulch. Instead, I found myself in a hotel filled with people who looked like they had stepped out of a Diane Arbus photograph. If I had wanted that I could have gone to another science fiction convention.
But I do disagree with Diana on one point. She writes
Also noteworthy was the fact that ending the war on drugs seemed to be a top priority for a great many people. Let me rephrase that: gaining the freedom to get high seemed to be a top priority for a great many people. Now, I'm all for ending the drug war. People have the right to put whatever substances they want into their bodies. And the drug war, like prohibition before it, promotes crime and fosters the worst in government. But the drug war is hardly the worst violation of rights we suffer here in the US. So by focusing heavily on the drug issue, Libertarians come off as a bunch of druggies just looking for an easier high. Of course, I suspect that that's precisely what a great many of them are.
This is a typical charge that both Objectivists and paleolibertarians raise against LP types. It may be true. But I still think the drug war should be the top concern for the LP. The drug laws themselves are a problem. But many other restrictions on liberty emanate from the drug war. Financial reporting requirements, racial profiling of drivers, asset forfeiture and many other invasions of privacy and liberty are being justified by the drug war. End the drug war, and you end the excuse for these practices.
Monday, July 15, 2002 Talent And Intelligence Are Overrated. The New Yorker has a fascinating take on the failure on Enron. For the past decade, corporate America has been advised to court and coddle the best and brightest. And that may have been a msitake.
By contrast, I recall what Richard Marcinko, founder of Seal Team Six, wrote in his autobiography, "Rogue Warrior." Marcinko put together what even his detractors admit was one of the finest counter-terrorism units in the world, and he did it in a little over a year. But he wrote that his superiors and peers were dismayed by his methods. Given carte blanche to raid other SEAL units, he rarely went after men that other commanders regarded as their best. Finishing last at BUD/S, the SEAL training camp, was seen by Marckinko as a plus. Finishing first was a negative. Why? Marcinko explained that you never knew what one of those gazelles was going to do when he was really challenged. But he knew what the warthogs would do: They'd suck it up and keep moving. About one SEAL who turned out to be one of Six's best operators Marcinko said, as a compliment, "He wouldn't out-think you, he'd just out-work you."
Of course, as Marcinko's subsequent career showed, he may have been one of the "narcissistic" leaders the New Yorker mentions.
I think the New Yorker goes a little too far in the opposite direction. Intelligence and talent are indeed a plus. but they have to fit in with the needs of the organization. Strong organization plus brains and talent is the best combination.
Bill Clinton With A Less Active Libido. That's what George Bush is. In addition to expanding the federal government in ways Clinton could only dream of (as Chuck noted earlier), Bush is a master at racial pandering, even if it undermines the good of the nation as a whole. Case in point: Education Secretary Rod Paige has come out in favor of bilingual education despite its decades of failure. Even worse, he has put the administration officially on record as opposing a Colorado state initiative that would ban bilingual education. A similar measure passed in California a few years ago, and guess what? Test scores among immigrant children have been climbing. Wouldn't want that to happen in Colorado.
The Road To Nowhere. During the Prohibition era, Irish gangs were almost as prominent as Italian mobsters, and someday someone is going to make a film that does for the Irish mob what The Godfather did for the Mafia. But Sam Mendes isn’t that director and Road to Perdition isn’t that film. (Takeshi Kitano would have been a better bet for this sort of thing.)
Based on Max Allen Collins’ excellent graphic novel (which was, in turn, influenced by the "Lone Wolf and Cub" manga and movies), the story, such as it is, focuses on a pair of father-son relationships: mob hit man Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks) and his 12-year-old, also named Michael, and the elder Sullivan’s boss, John Rooney (Paul Newman) and his son Connor.
Quite frankly, Hanks is miscast as a mob hit man. The idea is that Sullivan by night is the strong arm of bootlegger Rooney, a man capable of walking unarmed into the den of his enemies and killing them all. (In the comic, Sullivan was nicknamed the Angle of Death because of his prowess.) But by day, he is a loving if moody Catholic father. Hanks was chosen for the everyman quality he brings to the second part of Sullivan’s life. But one can never buy the pudgy Hanks as some sort of mob Superman. Hanks didn’t help matters by growing a mustache for this role. To call it scraggly would be a compliment. The kid who plays his elder son can probably grow a better one.
The makers of this movie would have been better off finding a man who can genuinely project menace and showing the softer side of him. If this movie had been made in the 1930s, Jimmy Cagney would have been a great choice.
Sullivan’s roles as father and hit man come into conflict when his elder son witnesses Connor Rooney kill one of the family’s underlings and Sullivan kill several more cleaning up the younger Rooney’s mess.
At that point, John Rooney’s loyalty to Sullivan, who is like the competent son he never had, and his loyalty to his own screwed up flesh and blood also come into conflict.
So far, so good.
But then things just go completely screwy. The script relies too much on coincidence (The younger Michael is kept after school for fighting, which keeps him from being at home when a killer comes looking for him) and movie clichés (A mob hit man fires several times at Sullivan from just a few feet away and never hits him. But just a few seconds later, that same hit man, now blind in one eye, fires a pistol down from a third-floor window at a moving car some 75 feet away and hits the occupant.)
But the biggest problem may be that nothing really much happens. Mendes seems to have been going for an elegiac feel to the movie, but it ends up just being ponderous and slow moving.
The performances, apart from Newman, aren’t very strong. But most of the other actors really don’t have much to work with. Jennifer Jason Leigh is wasted in a nothing role as Sullivan’s wife. Stanley Tucci plays Frank Nitti with all the menace of an small-time acountant.
There are some good things in this movie. The Irish wake near the beginning has some of the feel of the wedding scene that opened The Godfather. And there’s a scene where the younger Michael Sullivan asks his father if he loved his younger brother more than him. Sullivan quickly tells him that he loved them both the same. “But you treated us differently,” the boy points out. The father hesitates and slowly replies, “Peter was such a sweet boy, and you … are more like me.” There’s real power in that scene that Hanks just doesn’t bring to the rest of the role.
In short, I say skip this movie until it comes to cable. If you don’t have cable, then it might be worth a couple of dollars at the video store. But it ain't worth $7.
One Minute You're Having A Nervous Breakdown. The next, you're flying a plane. Okay, the reason for this guy's breakdown is stupid enough. But I can't believe they let him fly after this emotional outburst.
Saturday, July 13, 2002 Japan 1989 = U.S. 2002? Maybe I'm just pessimistic. But I fear that Stephen Roach may be right. It may take a few years for the effects of a burst asset bubble to work their way through the economy.
Islam And Women. Australia has seen a mini-epidemic of gang rapes of women. But press reports have curiously downplayed a crucial fact about the attacks: The perpetrators are Muslims of Middle Eastern origin. And their victims are not. Indeed, according to court testimony by the victims, there was a racial element involved. They seem to have been singled out for attack because they are of a different ethnic backgound than the men.
Now, Sheik Tajeddine Hamed el Hilaly, the Mufti or spiritual leader of Australia's Muslims, has stepped forward to try to get the young men who have been convicted of rape to try to show some remorse for their actions.
Still, the head of the Lebanese Muslim Association has urged newspapers not to release the names of the rapists for fear it would tar the entire Muslim community.
Update: The Sydney Morning Herald seems unwilling to go along with the cover up of the racial aspect of these gangs rapes. And it looks like more than the press is involved. Apparently, prosecutors and judges also tried to hide the racial aspects of these rapes.
Yes, it is unfair that the vast bulk of law-abiding Lebanese Muslim boys and men should be smeared by association. But their temporary discomfort may be necessary so that the powerful social tool of shame is applied to the families and communities that nurtured the rapists, gave them succour and brought them up with such a hatred of Australia's dominant culture and contempt for its women that they think of an 18-year-old girl, dressed for a job interview in her best suit, sitting on a train reading a book, as a slut.
More Religious Bigotry. Here's Article Six of the U.S. Constitution:
All debts contracted and engagements entered into, before the adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.
This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.
It seems that senators Inhofe, Kyl, McCain, Miller, Nickles, and probably quite a few more need to read that section, especially the last sentence.
BTW, regarding Franklin's request to open sessions of the Constitutional Convention with a prayer. He couldn't get anyone to second the motion, and it was never even voted on.
Friday, July 12, 2002 Communication Breakdown. The Japanese government seems to have figured out that, despite its best efforts, few Japanese speak English well. Ron, you've been over there for six years. Haven't you done anything about this?
Update: Look, I taught 'em; they just didn't learn. Actually this is a subject for a much longer post. (At least for me since it's my career.) But the state of Japanese teachers of English is horrible, most cannot speak English beyond a simple (2nd or 3rd grade) conversational level and few have any experience speaking the language in real-life situations. Sure, they know textbook grammar and can parse a sentance from 'Walden', but they can't order a cafe latte.
There have been all sorts of attempts to explain away Japan's consistantly poor mastery of spoken English (the whole l and r thing, the Japanese mind is more 'holistic' than the Western mind (no I don't get it either), Japanese cannot hear dipthongs in Western speech because theirs is a syllabic language constructed on units beginning with a consonant and ending with one vowel sound, it's something in the sushi, etc.) but their English sucks for the same reason my Japanese does; they don't use the language. Spoken English is not taught in the classroom. And it's not taught because the teachers don't have the speaking skills and are afraid to actually use the language in front of students for fear of shaming themselves.
OK.. this has already gone on too long but one anecdotal story. At my old high school there was an English teacher who must have had been there for 30 years. He was a quiet old man of about 60 or 65 but I never heard him speak English, not once, in the three years I was at the school. One time I even sat outside his class and listened to 20 minutes or so of his class. He never said anything in English. He had students read vocabulary and sentences but he only acknowledged them in Japanese.
One time I was in the office and the section chief had something that I needed to fill out and sign. That old teacher was the only English teacher in the office at the time so he explained the situation to the old man and asked him to translate. Now from context and with even my poor grasp of the language I understood what he was saying but it would've been rude not to let the guy do the translation so I waited quietly. The old man took the papers, turned to me, beads of sweat on his forehead and just looked at me with that Japanese shika in the headlights sorta stare. Then he pushed the papers at me and yelled, "You sign prease!" before almost running off.
"You sign prease?" 30 years of English instruction and that was the best you got? A guy who could diagram sentences from Dickens suddenly has all the communicative skill of Korg? It was probably the first time that poor guy had spoken English in years. And I'm sure it was the first time in several decades he had said anything more than, "Gudo Moningu," to an English speaker. Every teacher here has tons of these kinds of stories... the Japanese system doen't teach the langauge as a skill but as an abstract academic puzzle-like exercise. more on this later--ron
Bad Science, conservative style. As Charles pointed out, one of the problems with Science Education is the educators. I seem to recall that my wife (a science teacher who actually happens to be a scientist) mentioned that in Georgia only one in four high school science teachers have degrees in science!
Another Charles doesn't fair so well. Charles Krauthammer shows that conservatives don't understand how science works any better than liberals like the leadership of WWF, or are willing to foster misunderstanding of science for political ends. One sample:
But we think of modern science as infinitely more enlightened and more solid.
Not so. Less than a century ago, the most exalted scientific theory, Newtonian mechanics, was overthrown. Today its successors, general relativity and quantum mechanics, have yet to be fully reconciled. Thirty years ago, the scientific consensus was that we were headed for global cooling. Today it is global warming. The only thing I feel reasonably sure about is that 30 years from now meteorological science will have delivered yet a new theory, a new threat, a new thrall.
Guess what, CK: Columbus was wrong, too. The Earth isn't really round. It's an oblate spheroid (football shaped)! The point is that for the most part, progress is incremental. While quantum mechanics has in fact revolutionized our understanding of both subatomic and large scale processes, Newtonian physics was most certainly not "overthrown" or proven wrong. In fact, on the way to the moon Frank Borman, when asked who was driving, could reply that it was "Sir Isaac" in the drivers seat. Newtonian physics was shown by Einstein to be a special case of relativistic physics. At slow speeds and time scales, the relativistic equations reduce to the familiar forms derived by Newton. This is a classic case of how science normally works. Uncertainty is reduced or reallocated, and better representations ("models", in the scientific lexicon) of the natural world are created. I'm working on a climate change rant (the much anticipated, over hyped "hot socialist babes" rant) that addresses the cooling/warming thing, but again the problem isn't with the science.
The problem CK really should address is how science is used to influence policy. This is a widespread defect many conservatives have: they attack the science, rather than the true problem, namely, how science is used to influence policy. Many bad policies are a result of the lack of understanding of uncertainty in science and engineering, and how the scientific process works. Most of the examples he cites fall into this realm. Also, using medical issues to attack science in general is disingenuous. Given his background in medicine (practicing medicine in other than pure research environments is not the same as being a scientist) he should know better. But I guess it's easier to take the cheap shots at science in general rather than tackling the real problem.
Pakistan Has Nuclear Weapons. The public gang rape of a woman in Punjab province appears to have begun with another crime: three higher-caste tribesmen sodomized her 11-year-old brother, then tried to cover up what they had done, the New York Times reports.
On June 22, a tribal council in the village of Meerwala ordered the rape of 18-year-old Mukhtaran Bibi, of the low-caste Gujar tribe, as punishment for allegations that her younger brother, Abdul Shaqoor, 11, had "illicit relations" with a 30-year-old woman of the higher caste Mastoi tribe.
Four men carried out the sentence in public, in front of her father, reportedly as much of the village looked on. She was then ordered to walk home naked.
The governor's investigation, as reported by the Agence France-Presse, said that the allegations of an affair were fabricated by the older woman to cover up the sodomy of the boy by her fellow tribesmen.
The family is under police protection to prevent harassment by Mastoi tribesmen.
The governor's investigation also reported that a local official, identified as Muhammad Iqbal, knew that the boy had been sodomized, and also tried to cover up the crime.
"He kept the boy in a cell deliberately and unlawfully so that he could not inform anyone about this crime,` an investigator told the French press agency.
Thursday, July 11, 2002 Takes One To Know One. Qadaffi on al Qaida. Actually, there was very good piece in Jane's recently about how enemy states such as Syria and Libya have been giving the U.S. more aid in tracking down Al Qaida than Saudi Arabia. That's really not surprising given that the dictators who rule those nations are basically secular. Islamists loath them almost as much as they do the U.S. The two forces have sometimes been allies of convenience. But perhaps the secular thugocracies have come to the conclusion that Islamism is now a greater threat to them.
Tuesday, July 09, 2002 Socialist Theocracy. The Israeli government has approved a proposal that would prevent Arab citizens of Israel from purchasing government-owned land in some rural communities, effectively restricting them to Jewish residents. this is actually just a return to a policy Israel practiced since its founding that was overturned by a 2000 court decision. That decision has never been enforced.
Okay, This Post Is About Wrestling. There's so much wrong with this New York Times article that it's hard to know where to begin. Bill Carter lets the WWE make all sorts of excuses for its plummeting ratings, but he never asks them about the main cause: piss-poor writing for over a year. Characters have been inconsistent. Storylines have lacked even the rudimentary logic and realism one demands of pro wrestling. In short, the writing staff, headed up by the owners' daughter, sucks.
He lets them get away with the wrestling-is-a-cyclical-business and Vince-McMahon-made-pro-wrestling-hot myths. This may be one of the biggest howlers in the story:
But the popularity of wrestling seems to come in generational waves. Hot in certain cities in the 1950's, it went into decline for a time, then revived at various times in the 60's and 70's, though mainly in rural areas.
Really? I didn't know that red-hot wrestling markets of the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s such as New Orleans, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Chicago, Charlotte, Chattanooga, New York, Tampa and St. Louis were rural areas.
Measured by total live attendance, wrestling was far bigger in the 1970s that it has been at any time since the mid 1980s.
Want another blooper? Try this:
The up-and-coming babyface name that seems to be on most lips at the W.W.E. is Brock Lesnar, whose background is surprisingly legitimate — for pro wrestling at least. He was a N.C.A.A. heavyweight wrestling champion.
Lesnar is a bad guy in the storyline. And as for his background, it's surprsingly legit only if you don't know that the WWE already has a former Olympic wrestling medalist as one of its biggest stars. It's only surprising if one doesn't know of past NCAA wrestling champs who were big pro-wrestling stars such as Jack Brisco, Verne Gagne, Richard Hutton, Bob Backlund and Danny Hodge, among many others.
Sunday, July 07, 2002 And this is partly why they get away with it. This AP story from the Washington Times web site reports an NSF study on scientific literacy among americans. This is partly why groups like WWF and their opposite numbers (like Limbaugh) get away with stupid indefensible statements and "studies". Voters and their elected officials don't have the knowledge or logical thinking skills to evaluate statements like "we will need two planets by 2050" (WWF) or "mankind cannot harm the environment" (Limbaugh). The news media doesn't help, by trying to present both sides of questions that really don't have two sides. But most journalists, even so-called science reporters, don't have much of a science background. They don't know enough to ask the hard questions to shoot down a lot of nonsense, or at least put it in perspective.
WWF Does It Again. Sorry, this is not a wrestling post. The Guardian reports that the World Wildlife Fund has come out with a report saying the Earth will run out of resources by 2050, and we will be forced to colonize other planets because this one will be used up. And, of course, it is the Evil Americans who are at fault by using twice the resources that Europe does, and 24 times the resources that some parts of Africa use. Well, I'm all for space exploration for it's own merits, but this study sounds like just a load of grass processed by the digestive system of a member of the equine family. I haven't been able to track down a copy yet, but based on the Guardian article, they are probably using a bogus method for computing resource utilization. One small example: the Europeans come off better on carbon emissions and energy utilization because France gets 80% of it's electricity from nuclear power - something the environmental groups abhor. But the French are good, anti-american socialists . . .
Let there be no mistake: I am concerned about the impact humans are making on the earth. Part of my research is on the potential impact of climate change on storm hazards, and I am convinced that anthropogenic climate change is either in the early phases or imminent. There is overwhelming evidence that humans are having an adverse impact on numerous ecosystems. But the environmental lobby drives me nuts. The rank and file truly believes that the world is in trouble and we should do something to reduce the human impact on the environment. But the leadership consist of a bunch of socialists or outright communists who are more concerned about pushing their agenda than really fixing environmental problems. In this Mush Windbag is correct (and it pains me to admit that since he usually so wrong on scientific issues). At meetings I've seen the envirolobby shoot down perfectly valid, free market solutions to a problem because it doesn't fit their agenda. They also have a "everything must be a crisis or nothing will get done" mentality. Are depleted fishing stocks a problem? Of course - and we better address the issue. Is it the end of the world? Of course not.
Saturday, July 06, 2002 Why They Hate Us. We take our wives on romantic drives. We don't lock them up in a seraglio. I found this post on a discussion board for U.S. Special Forces members. It was posted by the wife of a SF 18C. That's a Green Beret combat Engineer to you and me.
His favorite trick is to take road trips with instruction (to me) on where to place charges to bring down various structures then on the way home...a pop quiz. My favorite expression is "button to bang time" Now how hot is that?
Submitted for your approval . . . I get some weird emails via my company email accounts. This one came in today to the account for news media questions:
If you are a time traveler or alien and or in possession of government or alien technology I need your help! My entire life and health has been messed with by evil beings! If you have access to the carbon copy replica model #50 3000 series, the dimensional warp, temporal reversion or something similar please reply! I simply need the safest method of transferring my consciousness or returning to my younger self with my current mind/memory. I need an advanced time traveler to work with who can help me, I would prefer someone with access to teleportation as well as a variety different types of time travel. This is not a joke! I am serious! Please send a separate email to me at: Dragonball03@aol.com if you can help! Thanks
Posted in the hope somebody can help this person out.
I would, but it would blow my cover . . .
The Next Baseball Player To Hit .400 may be the last player to hit .400. Ted Williams' estranged daughter says the baseball great's son plans to freeze the hitter's body in hopes of reviving him in the future -- a decision that she said goes against Williams' wishes to be cremated. She also says the son may hawk his dad's DNA.
Friday, July 05, 2002 Well, The Blog Still Looks Odd. But at least I can now post. I haven't been able to access the blog all day until now. Ron, all of Japan must be proud of Takeru "The Tsunami" Kobayashi. He sucessfully defended his hotdog-eating championship and broke his old record to boot. I just wish there weren't all that controversy about him vomiting some of those hotdogs.
Of course, controversy has followed Kobayashi throughout his career.There's those nasty rumors that he uses drugs to distend his stomach. People just don't want to believe that a 113-pound Jap can scarf down eight pounds of dogs.
But they don't appreciate that Kobayashi is a world-class athlete. In fact, he's one of those rare two-sport athletes, with a world championship in cow-brain eating. He must be a national hero back in Japan.
Media Reality Check. The news just gets worse for Brent Bozell and his gang of would-be media reformers. In addition to figuratively kissing Vince McMahon's ass, the group had to pay the WWE $3.5 million to settle a lawsuit the WWE had brought against them for defaming the company.
Swimming with Dolphins. Been on vacation, and busy trying to get a couple of government contracts nailed down (talk about frustrating). My wife (a biologist and science teacher) and I spent a week in the middle keys watching the rain. We spent a day at the Dolphin Research Center at Grassy Key, Florida (formerly "Flipper's Sea School") doing their dolphin encounter program, and got to swim with Merina and her daughter. Dolphins are amazing animals. They seemed as interested in us as we were in them. The DRC folks were nice, but a bit heavy handed on the conservation side at the expense of education. Needless to say, given our science background Vickie and I are a tough audience, but I've always had the attitude that if you honestly educate (in the non-propaganda sense) people, conservation takes care of itself without preaching. Next week we're taking a trip to St. Augustine and Marineland to do their "dolphin encounter" program. Will do a side-by-side review then if anybody is interested.
The reefs and grassy beds off Bahia Honda have changed a lot since we here last there, 8 years ago. And not for the better. Partly it was a weather thing, but there seemed far fewer fish and there was an awful lot of brown algae over large areas that I don't remember from last time.
Sonny Landham For Governor. Sonny is originally from Canton, Georgia. That's about a 1 hour 45 minutes drive from here. But now he's running for the Republican nomination for governor in Kentucky. He is also one of the few actors to move successfully from porn to mainstream films. Some of you may remember him from Predator, Southern Comfort and 48 HRS, and some of you (you know who your are) remember him from The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann and Defiance.
Wednesday, July 03, 2002 Move Along. Nothing To See Here. The Kagoshima prefectural assembly approved a petition by a local citizens' group to have the Nanjing Massacre Museum in China excluded from the itinerary of high school trips. The group filed the petition in December 1999 demanding that prefectural authorities not include visits to the museum as part of school trips, saying it is "a stronghold of anti-Japanese brainwashing."
Notable Quotables. The Media Research Center, Parents Television Council, Dr. Delores Tucker, Mark Honig and L. Brent Bozell 3 seem to be trying to save their asses. For several years, the group has warred against the WWE, formerly the WWF, because of its televised wrestling shows. Now the group has been forced to make a complete and abject retraction of many of its claims. The WWE sued, and, well, read for yourself.
By this retraction, I want to be clear that WWE was correct in pointing out that various statements made by MRC, PTC and me were inaccurate concerning the identity and number of WWE Smackdown! advertisers who withdrew support from the program. Many of the companies we stated had “withdrawn” or pulled their support had never, in fact, advertised on Smackdown! nor had any plan to advertise on Smackdown! Again, we regret this error and retract any such misleading statements.
It gets worse. Bozell must really hate groveling before Vince McMahon. Still, he doesn't explain why those companies were on the list to begin with or why they remained on the list for years when it was well known many were advertising on the shows.
Blog Bait! Blog Bait! The Guardian is obviously just trolling for hits. Can Lileks resist?
The states of the Confederacy remain the heartland of the distinct brand of American conservatism that combines Christian, market and America-first fundamentalism to a unique degree, reinforced in the South by a legacy of barely submerged racism. .... The new Right thinkers provided the intellectual cover, providing populist slogans calling for 'freedom', accusing all forms of government of being 'coercive' and deriding the social contract as a cause of 'dependency'..... Bit by bit, the edifice of Roosevelt's New Deal and Johnson's Great Society programme have been dismantled to make 'America great' again. .... The structures that support ordinary peoples' lives - free health care, quality education, guarantees of reasonable living standards in old age, sickness or unemployment, housing for the disadvantaged - that Europeans take for granted are conspicuous by their absence. .... Our 'sclerotic' European-ness may be what saves us. We should be relieved and proud - and build on it.
The article basically sez that American capitalism is corrupt and Southern American capitalism moreso because.... because .... southerners believe in Jesus and used to own slaves... or something. Read it yourself. Place your bets on how long Lileks, Protien Wisdom and Vodkapundit can ignore it.
(And what the 'hell' is the 'deal' with all the 'irony quotes?' )
More On Dual Citizenship. As many as 40 million Americans have dual citizenship. And that number will grow, as 90% of immigrants come from nations that permit dual citizenship.Two other countries that send large groups of immigrants to America -- the Philippines and India -- are weighing the pros and cons of dual citizenship.
Listen, people, when you become a U.S. citizen, you take an oath to "absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen." What part of that don't you understand?
As for native-born people who choose to become ciitzens of other nations. Fine. Go live there.
A nation isn't simply a political system or a physical place. If a nation is to be strong and to survive, it has to have a shared feeling of loyalty, history and kinship, and, yes, values. If you aren't willing to join that community or to remain a member of it, fine. But don't try to split your allegiances. Don't try to be an American when it's practical and an Israeli or Mexican or whatever when emotion dictates. Your emotional loyalties should be to the U.S. If they aren't, you weaken the community of shared values that makes America what it is, and you reduce the "practical" benefits of your citizenship. You hurt us all.
Tiger Woods' Girlfriend Nude? Is this Elin Nordegren? Compare to these photos that are definitely her. Maybe its her twin sister. (No, that's not a joke. She has an identical twin sister.)
Update: Here's an even better link to the nude photos.
Blame It On Johnny Reb. Enron and Worldcom were crooked because they were based in the South, according to The Guardian.
The states of the Confederacy remain the heartland of the distinct brand of American conservatism that combines Christian, market and America-first fundamentalism to a unique degree, reinforced in the South by a legacy of barely submerged racism.
I'll bet if they look hard enough they'll find that a lot of the officers of those two companies were married to their cousins as well. The author was sharp enough to find that we've rolled back all of the New Deal and Great Society social programs. Most reporters still labor under the false impression that Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc. are still around. So this guy is a cut above the rest.
Tuesday, July 02, 2002 Our Allies, The Israelis. Israel realizes it isn't the 51st state of the U.S. Why do Randians and neocons insist on treating it as such?
Israel in recent years has become a major supplier of weapons and weapons technology to China.
In 1992, the Pentagon investigated intelligence reports that Israel covertly exported U.S. Patriot missile technology to China. Israel and China denied the reports. U.S. intelligence officials were convinced the transfer took place.
Several weeks ago, a Chinese government technical journal stated in an article that it is possible to defeat the Patriot anti-missile systems by calculating the "optimum ejection altitude for the cargo projectile to avoid its being intercepted."
U.S. officials said the article, which contained detailed technical specifications for the Patriot, such as speed and intercept capabilities, is a sign that China has obtained technical details of the missile system.
There's more, much more. The Israelis have shown no reluctance to sell the U.S. out when their interests dictate and to cling to us when self-interest demands it. We should have the same attitude towards them.
Don't Tell Leon Kass. The first real study of surrogacy suggests not only that surrogate mothers have no problem handing over babies, but that the families who receive the child are warmer, happier and more caring than ordinary families.
Islam And Women. Since February, 20 women in Tehran have been charged with killing their husbands. Many Iranians see this as another sign that their society is dysfunctional, largely because of the sharia law imposed on the nation by Islamic extremists. They point to many problems provoking women to murder: forced marriages and divorce laws that favor men chief among them.
While Iranian men can divorce almost at will, a woman who wants a divorce must go through a legal battle that can take up to 20 years, said lawyer Sara Irani. Even then, she said, it might end with the woman failing to dissolve the marriage.
Under Iran's Islamic laws, a man is allowed to keep four wives at one time, a right not granted to women.
Even if a husband is having an affair, he can claim to have undertaken a "sigheh," or temporary marriage. It's a contract allowed under Iranian law that allows a man and woman to be "married" for any length of time they choose. Critics call it a form of legalized prostitution.
Nor does a wife trapped in a violent marriage have much recourse against her husband.
"A woman has to bring four men witnesses confirming violence against her by her husband," Irani said. "How is a woman in Iran expected to keep four men in her bedroom to witness her husband beating her?"
Now, tell me again how Islam doesn't discriminate against women.