Charles Oliver - Econ/Media-Boy
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Charles C. Watson - Science/Tech-Boy
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Ron Campbell - sushi-bait.
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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.




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Shoutin' across the Pacific
Chiizu taberu koufuku shiteiru saru ga kangei-saremasen.
 
Thursday, October 31, 2002
 
First National Bank Boulevard. In Georgia, the only thing politicians like as much as building roads is naming roads after other politicians. You can't drive anywhere in this state wihtout passing a sign telling you you're a driving a stretch of blacktop named after some person of dubious achievement.

I drive from Dalton to Rome each Thursday night to play trivia at Hooters. Most of the drive is along I-75. For those of you who've never drive 75, the stretch that passes through Gordon County is officially designated Bert Lance Highway. Those of you who remember Lance (and you know who you are) remember him as the small-town banker Jimmy Carter made head of the Office of Management and Budget. He got embroiled in some ethical problems in that post after news of some questionable banking practices at his bank came to light. Technically, he is Gordon County's most famous son, I guess. I wonder if Great Britain has named a highway after Peter Bourne.

Speaking of Hooters, we were in second place all night until the final question: What city is the largest, by land area, in the U.S.? We blew that. But I was one of just two people in the bar to know what movie ended with a ski-off between Lane Meyer and Roy Stalin.


posted by Charles at 10:25 PM
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King Roy in trouble?
The CW is that Roy Barnes is in pretty good shape for re-election as Governer of Georgia, with polls showing a 10 point lead. But this election, for the first time in history, the Georgia Association of Educators (the GA affiliate of the NEA ) did not endorse the Democratic candidiate for Gov. There is a great deal of bitterness in the educational community over his educational "reforms". Barnes reportedly said to a audience of secondary school teachers that "every teacher in Georgia should be fired. They are all incompetent.". In the last few days there has been a huge grass roots effort (however, I suspect NEA/GEA involvement) among teachers to stick it to King Roy. My wife (a high school science teacher, but not an NEA member) has received numerous emails urging her to vote for Purdue, the Republican. For a Democrat actually having the NEA hacked off at them, and possibly even working against them, is pretty unusual.

Another interesting Barnes misstep is his announcement that DaimlerChrysler is building a new van manufacturing plant in the Savannah area. Problem is, it now seems that there are a lot of "if's" coming out from the Daimler side, like "if demand warrents", "if the economy picks up", and "If the Daimler board decides to actually build the plant". The initial good feeling about the announcement is starting to evolve in to a suspicion that it was a political ploy by Barnes, and it will be years if ever before the plant is built.

I bet this election will be closer than many expect, and an upset isn't out of the question.


posted by Chuck at 8:31 AM
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Wednesday, October 30, 2002
 
Sorry About The Lack Of Posting Yesterday. I had to do some writing that paid. Among the stories I did was this one about a speaker at the local college. The publisher said the he liked it, so I guess I did good.

posted by Charles at 2:14 PM
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Monday, October 28, 2002
 
Help. I need a costume for Thursday night. Something inexpensive that I can put together out of things around the house or stuff that I can pick up on my lunch break tomorrow or Wednesday. It must also be something that I can easily change into after work Thursday.


It doesn't have to be particularly good or innovative.


Any ideas?


posted by Charles at 7:34 PM
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Big Brother. Thanks to reader Domenic Anghelone for bringing this eerie effort from this British government to my attention. No, it's no photoshoppeed. The good folks at Samizdata swear it's real.

posted by Charles at 7:32 PM
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Blowing My Horn. Brad De Long has one of the best blogs out there, but he's a couple of weeks behind the curve on this one. Shoutin' brought you this the night it happened. (You'll have to take my word for it, since Blogger seems to have eaten the last four weeks of archives.) I still say that #3 shows that some Late Show writer has a wicked sense of humor.

posted by Charles at 7:26 PM
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It's cold outside. And France is about to find out just how chilly it'll be once they succeed in emasculating the only body in which they still hold sway. As even the Independent notes: "Washington has been signalling with decreasing subtlety in recent days that it will soon give up on the UN and plan for military action alone, with support from Britain. Such an outcome, however, would embarrass the UN and could undermine its authority for many years." Really.

posted by Ron at 7:12 PM
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Sunday, October 27, 2002
 
Looks like you were right. As an update to Charles's post about that gas being something more than a knock-out gas is this UPI link. They're reporting that it was a neuro-toxin and may have been directly responsible for some of the deaths in the theatre.

Update: D Anghelone provides this link which states that only one (1) of the over 100 killed in the raid was killed by gunfire. Again, I agree with Chuck, this was probably the best outcome of a bad situation. After all these guys had detonators *in their hands* yet seemingly couldn't use them.


posted by Ron at 1:38 AM
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Putin gets it... we hope. This translation of Putin's speech following the raid is very moving.
"Dear compatriots! These days we have, together, gone through a terrible test. All our thoughts were with the hostages, in the hands of armed vermin. We hoped for the best outcome, but each of us understood, that it is necessary to be ready for the worst. Today the rescue operation of this morning is done. It was possible to do almost the impossible - to rescue the lives of hundreds, hundreds of people. We have proved that Russia cannot be put on her knees. But now I first of all want to address the families and relatives of those who were lost. We could not rescue them all. Forgive us. Let the memory of the victims unite us. I thank all the citizens of Russia for their endurance and unity. Special gratitude to everyone who participated in the rescue operation. Special thanks to the employees of the special divisions who, without hesitation, risking their own lives, struggled for the rescue of the hostages. We are grateful also to our friends all over the world, for their moral and practical support in our struggle against the same enemy. This enemy is strong and dangerous, brutal and severe. It is international terrorism. While it is not defeated, anywhere in the world, people can not feel safe. But it should be defeated. And it will be defeated. Today in the hospital I talked to one of victims. He said to me, 'It was not that terrible - there was a confidence among us, that the future of the terrorists is not enduring.' And this is the truth. They do not have a future. We do."
Now segue to this story. Russia is publicly linking the Chechen terrorists to al-Quaeda. Yet the Russians are still holding out support for dealing with one of the biggest supporters of international terrorism by fighting against the US's resolution in the security council. Why the seeming cognitive dissonance? The Sunday Herald offers this explanation:
With time running out, the US needs a decision. But it has been stymied again and again by France -- which now looks as if it will make concessions -- and Russia, which has been far more stubborn.

Now that Putin has emerged as a player in the war against terrorism -- he has made much of links between the Chechen terrorists and al-Qaeda -- the US will be looking for a change of heart, and seeking support for its resolution.

They may get it, but it will be on Putin's terms. Russia is owed $3 billion by Iraq, and any regime change could put that asset in jeopardy. If Iraq ends up being ruled by a US-backed military administration under General Tommy Franks, Putin will want firm guarantees about repayment of the debt.

Until now Putin has argued that inspections are the way to handle Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and that there is no link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. His firm action against the Chechens could change all that, but the deal will have to be right for the Russians.

Once again, the former KGB man will play it right up to the wire.
Stephen Den Beste agrees that it's about the money but argues that US has a moral duty and imperative to nullify France and Russia's contracts negotiated after 1991. I think we'll have to buy Russia's support -- some combination between oil contracts between the US and Siberia and a brokered agreement on just how much of Iraq's debt will be honored will be easy to negotiate with Putin. The issue of post-Gulf War contracts between Iraq and Russia are going to be more difficult. As Den Beste notes, the US has to decide how much they are willing to reward Russia for its bad-faith business practices vs. the value of a security council resolution. In the interest of international appearances the US will probably honor a good number of those post-war deals; sure, it'll be our war, and our blood but we need at least the tacit approval of another superpower (it's still a big country and it's got street cred). Probably spot price guarantees on Russian oil are going to be offered to cushion the humiliation at having to let Putin keep most of his Iraqi contracts.

It's interesting to speculate about what Russia may believe it can negotiate out of the US. But given this attack, the coming crackdown by Russia in Chechnya (which won't have Euro-sophisticates up in arms), and the well-documented links between these terrorists, al-Quaeda and Iraq... when will Russia stop playing realpolitik and start acting like there is a war on and they're part of it?

Update: Qsi at Dilacerator answers the central question "What does Russia want?" using stuff like research, historical antecedents and macroeconomics with just a pinch of visceral speculation... very well written and thought provoking.


posted by Ron at 1:18 AM
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Saturday, October 26, 2002
 
Why Did The Russians Reveal This? And just as important, why did the media report it? The group that takes hostages in a London or a New York theater won't make this mistake now.

posted by Charles at 11:38 PM
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Posting's light this weekend... sorry. Guess we're all catching up on stuff at home. Anyway here's something that should give nightmare form to Charles' free-floating fears of taxonomic abuse. Just keep in mind... it's the invisible hand that's going to sell this to the American public. They want it. Free minds and free markets opt for ID implants; didn't Kirk use some kind of logic game like this to make the Von Mises Computron 5 self-implode? (link via Drudge)

And secondly, When you point a finger you've got three more pointing back at you. It's the holy grail of extremity size prediction through relative samples... A group of Greek scientists, who obviously have been drafting their research proposals on the basis of bar bets and Ouzo, have determined that there is a way for women (or other interested parties) to predict a man's ...eh... full manliness (as in his "engorged manhood" not the "shriveled just got out of the shower on a cold morning" manhood) by observing the absolute length of.... his index finger.
Dr. Evangelos Spyropoulos and colleagues from the Naval and Veterans Hospital of Athens, Greece say they conducted their investigation to gather more information on the relationship between body measurements and male genitalia size. ... The "lack of standardized metric data and the absence of widely acceptable criteria on the proper size of the external genitalia poses major difficulties in the counseling and/or treatment of young adult men with worries of sexual inadequacy," the authors write.

In their study, Spyropoulos and colleagues measured penile length and testicular volume in 52 healthy young males between the ages of 19 and 38 and compared them with other body measurements including height, weight, body mass index, index finger length and waist/hip ratio.

In lieu of measuring a man's erect penis, the team measured the flaccid, gently stretched penis, which they note is statistically correlated to erect penis length.

"Age and (body measurements) were not associated with the size of the genitalia, excluding the index finger length, which correlated significantly with the dimensions of the flaccid, maximally stretched, penis," the report indicates. (emphasis mine)
Obviously hungry for more, the report concluded that yanking on 50 guys' wankers wasn't enough to pull a proper statistically correct sample from and that more data extraction is needed. And I can't let it go; Wouldn't "Maximally stretched, flaccid penis" be a great name for a rock band?

If you'll excuse me... I'll be spending the better part of the afternoon tying weights on my fingers. (This post brought to you courtesy Hit-Whoring Through Penile References)


posted by Ron at 10:48 PM
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Sleeping Gas, My Ass. It worked very quickly, and hours later many of the people exposed to it are still out of it. I think the Russians may have used something a bit stronger when they rescued those hostages. That's my only quibble with this CNN story.

posted by Charles at 6:49 PM
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Friday, October 25, 2002
 
The Conspiracy of Silence about the Religion of Peace
A quick look at articles in The Washington Times (AP) , other AP links on the WT site, UPI, and BBC, reveals an interesting point, especially when compared with the Russian press. Not one of the above articles noted that the Chechen terrorists are Islamic Fundamentalists, with ties to al Qaida. The words "Islam" or Muslim" did not appear at all in the Wash. Post article. In fact, the closest any of them came was the UPI article which noted that the 25 women with explosives strapped to themselves wore "islamic-style veils", and the Times article that mentioned that Chechnya is majority muslim.

Equally interesting is the reluctance to mention the fact that our own recent terrorist, John Allen Muhammad, converted to Islam and joined the Nation of Islam. The 1500 word profile of Mr. Muhammad in the Washington Post only mentions that fact briefly in a single sentence. No exploration of which mosques he attended, no exploration of the hate filled crap that group spews. Nothing.

Update: Daniel Pipes says it better.


posted by Chuck at 8:42 AM
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Thursday, October 24, 2002
 
Moscow
Amid all the media analyst "I told you so's" and overkill on the terrorist actions in the Washington DC area, let's not forget what's going on in Moscow. If there is a popular demand for it, I'll try to review some of the Russian language reports and post a summary. (My spoken and written syntax sucks, but I can still read the language fairly well. )

One day I hope there won't have to be a discussion about "who lost Russia". Had we fully tried to help out the former Soviet Union after the early 90's revolution, and it wouldn't have taken much, they could be a true ally by now (unlike Europe). Instead, in many way's we've treated the scumbag PRC leadership better than we have Russia.


posted by Chuck at 1:20 PM
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A Maryland Rest Stop? Police arrested Johnny Muhammad and his son at a Maryland rest stop at 1 a.m. What sort of lazy-ass, slowpoke terrorists are we dealing with? I would have been to Knoxville at least by 1 a.m. They were still in friggin Maryland.

posted by Charles at 9:15 AM
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Okay!! Who was the pervert who tried to rape Nick Nolte?

posted by Charles at 9:06 AM
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Can anyone tell me? Is Andrea Harris entertaining applications for suitors?

Update: Damn. Never mind; seems she's one of them.


posted by Ron at 8:28 AM
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Japanese Economic deathwatch continues. Well this came as a surprise to no one. Koizumi's wunderkid and bank reform fixer, Heizo Takenaka, was installed to his post just a couple of weeks ago to much fanfare and rising of hopes that Japan was really (... really.. we really mean it this time.. we promise... really) going to start acting seriously about writing off the nation's bad loans that are dragging down the health and equity of the entire banking system and keeping a crunch on new loans. Get rid of the non-performing loans, bite the bullet, eat the loss (choose your cliche)... the weaker banks wouldn't survive... there would be bankruptcies... but, in time, the system would right itself and the days of positive stock value would follow and pave the way for new business capitalization and kittens and bunnies would play in the sun.

Well as USA Today nails it:
Two weeks ago, the Bush administration hailed the appointment of Heizo Takenaka as Japan's economic czar, citing him as the best hope for a quick cleanup of the bad loans clogging the country's financial system. But Tuesday, Takenaka was forced to delay release of his banking blueprint amid furious criticism from bankers, bureaucrats and ruling-party lawmakers. He faces a no-confidence vote today in parliament, but is expected to survive.

Bank reform "is now a fantasy, and that's tragic," says Steve Clemons, a Japan expert at the New America Foundation, a Washington think tank. "This illustrates Japan's Keystone Kops approach to bank reform and the (Bush) administration's Keystone Kops approach to Japan."
This morning Takenaka was hauled before the Diet and made to listen to his wizened betters berate him for calling a spade a spade. "What's all this then? A panic? A banking crisis? I don't see no crisis, young man! This report you've written is scandalous... and dangerous. Why if we do what you propose the elderly will be starving in the streets! Children will disrespect their elders! Have you no sense of decency?" And so on.

The banks don't want to do this. The politicians don't want to do this because the banks (a primary source of cash) would be hurt and there would be a short-term (but drastic) rise in unemployment... all at a time when the typical LDP candidate is only slightly more popular than tainted sushi among the general public.

But a good portion of the blame this time around rests solely with the master politician, Junichiro "All hairstyle, no substance" Koizumi. Koizumi appointed Takenaka over the objection of the LDP, which was all fine and good. But then the PM made it into a battle of wills by bragging to the press, "Yep, I told them who I was appointing and then asked them, 'Kinda surprising aren't I?'" Since then the LDP has been hellbent to take Koizumi down a notch for disrespecting them.

Junichiro, pick your battles you dipwad. If you're expecting the nation to swallow a bitter pill you can't set it up as a me vs. them situation. And you have to show a little backbone when you do get challenged. This morning's visit to the principal's office was the result of Koizumi hemming and hawing for the past few days as he was questioned about details regarding Takenaka's plan. "You think there may be bankruptcies?? I didn't know anything about that. What will I do about expected unemployment resulting from these measures? Meesa say some people gonna luse dere jobs?"

Well the LDP has stolen your Big Mo and neutered your leading reformist. Let's all celebrate the politics of muddling through.


posted by Ron at 7:40 AM
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Wednesday, October 23, 2002
 
Great Minds ..or something. Drudge links to this story from CNN claiming that al Qaeda has been planning to hit SE Asian nightclubs popular with Westerners and US servicemen for some time. If the archives weren't screwed up (anyone know why or how Blogger has seemingly lost the last 4 weeks' worth of posts?), I could link to the article where I mentioned something like this might happen. Although to be honest, it wasn't that much of a challenge to see the obvious target. The trick is figuring out what you can do in open societies to prevent it.

posted by Ron at 9:20 AM
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C&W deathwatch continues Charles, I know this is your bailiwick (and I've never liked that word) so you might appreciate the irony. An Atlanta area country music DJ gets canned because... he has a discernible southern accent. According to the station's program director, "If you listened to (his) dialect, it didn't reflect the average Atlanta day."

"The Atlanta day?" What the hell kind of consultant-driven usage of the word 'day' is that?!

story via Croooow! Blog.


posted by Ron at 5:53 AM
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This hits a little close to home. The traffic numbers seem about right... and so does the name. Hey, it was the same sort of thing that made Matt Drudge.

posted by Ron at 5:01 AM
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Whoa! Tia Carrere?

posted by Charles at 12:28 AM
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Tuesday, October 22, 2002
 
Is It Possible To Laugh Your Ass Off And Be Depressed? I think tonight's episode of The Man Show did that to me. In one long bit, they sent Juggy dancer Vanessa into a store and had her ask men to buy her expensive clothes. (Men who didn't look as if they were swimming in cash.) They did. Time and again, strangers bought her hundreds of dollars in clothes. One guy literally spent every dollar in his wallet.

When that proved to be no challenge, she tried to get men to help her shoplift said clothes. Guess what? They did.

Actually, the buying of clothes was the smallest indignity the hidden camera picked up. I won't go into details. But I will say that when host Jimmy Kimmel claimed it was extremely easy for a pretty girl to rob a man of "his money and his dignity" he wasn't kidding.


posted by Charles at 10:43 PM
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Guess I can do some local color stuff Every culture has their harvest-time festivals. Here in Iyomishima I've learned it's called Taiko-matsuri (imaginatively menaing, drum festival) and consists of.. well, drumming. Lots of freaking drumming. Drumming in the morning, drumming during the day, and it goes on well into the night. The ritual drumming and chants are performed by large crowds of kids, adults, high-school kids, women, old men, and each decked out in happi coats, most of them fortified with beer (most of which is consumed during their parades through the city's narrow streets) and each small mob wielding, bulky, multistoried, multi-tonned portable shrines which are covered with lanterns, christmas lights and crawling drunken revelers.

You can find more photos and info (in Japanese, natch) here and here.

There is no purpose to these shriners mobbing about heaving tons of wood at buldings apart from the spectacle itself. Like most festivals, it's a chance for the locals to get drunk and make new friends. And it's good exercise.



posted by Ron at 10:14 PM
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Slow News Day Just sitting here in class while my ONE (one (1)) student is reading. Due to scheduling problems I have one student... from 8:30AM to 5PM. Sorta like a business slumber party / English education class plan of XTREEEME endurance! ... eh, it's 10:10.

Reason #458 life in a foreign country sometimes rocks: Mind you, I have never seen even one second of video of the Dell "Dude" guy. I only know him from FARK postings.

Reason #765: Time to think of innovative network programming ideas. Ya know, NBC could re-edit the Jack Webb swang song TV series Project Blue Book from the 70s and rebroadcast it as Law & Order: Alien Abductions Unit.

... great now it's 10:16.


posted by Ron at 9:19 PM
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Monday, October 21, 2002
 
To be a fly on the wall. Now, I am a religious reader of Den Beste's blog. The man is smart, persuasive and enjoyable to read. He also, obviously, has an enourmous ego and loves to hear himself type (but justifiably so). His posts never bore but they do tax, in terms of time. With many posts averaging between 4000 to 5000 words, if you miss his site for a couple of days, be prepared to give up a good hour and a half just to catch up. One blogger recently toyed with the idea of creating a seperate "USS Clueless Briefing" site that did nothing but repost Stephen's notes in Reader's Digest form, limiting each summation to 500 words.
Now Den Beste notes (in *gasp* only two paragraphs) that his output has been somewhat curtailed lately because he has been editing one of his posts so that it could be published on Tech Central Station. Can you imagine the pain and ego damaging contortions he had to put himself through to trim his own writing? Not that the same process wouldn't have helped James Joyce to a remarkable degree.... or David Foster Wallace for that matter.

Seriously, congratulations to the Captain.


posted by Ron at 10:21 PM
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A room of their own... Just got a nice letter from fellow blogger, qsi over at Dilacerator. He's another of those witty Netherlandians who seems to know not only how to write but can also do style sheets in HTML.
There was a program on domestic BBC television tonight about the Japanese teenage hermit problem. I know you've blogged about it in the past, but I could not find the link. Do you have a search function buried somewhere? Anyway, the program was absolutely astounding in the "You've gotta be kidding" sense, with parents dutifully suppying their hermit kids with food and drink for years. In one case, the hermit kid set up shop in the kitchen --- so they built A NEW KITCHEN.

I felt like screaming.
He gave me a link to the original BBC web page for the show as well as one to his own, very well written observations.

Actually, it was Charles who wrote about it before. Having been here for several years I suffer from the "oh, you don't do that too?" syndrome that keeps you from noticing how screwed up your host culture can be and have become inured to a lot of the weirdness.

This is frankly, a topic that I could write about at length (and may do so if I have some free time later tomorrow) because I understand their plight all too well; they're outsiders in a society that can't or won't accept them. I'm a borderline hikikomori myself. There but for the grace of my job and lack of a wife, go I.

There are multiple reasons why this situation exists. And the explanations are neither complete nor linear. I spent an hour going through the BBC site and related materials; the program mentions the societal pressures that contribute to the problem are the same ones that delay attempts to correct the behavior. For example, Japanese society shuns confrontation, we all know that. But what you may forget is one reason they shun it is because most homes lack any sort of privacy.

Let's assume you confront your holed-up adolescent and he goes bonkers. Even if you live in a free-standing home (which is atypical - most Japanese in the Kanto and Kansai regions live in condos or apartments) *everyone* in your neighborhood is going to know that there was an altercation. Between homes there's maybe a good 18 inches of space and the walls of every structure here are notorious for being as sound proof as paper... cause in some buildings that's what they are, compressed cardboard coated with sheetrock.

Japanese society exists as a series of insular yet inter-connected cliques. If there was any shouting or fighting your boss and everyone in your company, and all of your wife's friends and all of your PTA members will know about it by Thursday. In a land where privacy is so rare most Japanese don't even know the Japanese word for it (they use the Engrish "Puraibashii"), there are few things more humiliating (and frightening) than for their family matters to become town gossip.

And there are so many more elements. Take the stress of Japanese groups. The Japanese, at all stages in life, in all of their social groupings are just horrendously cruel to each other. This displaying and social ranking behavior can be either very direct or very indirect and uncommonly polite but the need to establish power, territory and control over others in every social encounter is a hallmark of this culture. Japanese society is fiercely hierarchical; no friendship can begin, no business can be discussed, nothing can happen until the roles of senpai and kouhai (senior / subordinate) are clearly defined.

The last part cannot be understated. Where you sit in a car, how you say good morning, what you can say to your neighbor, who you can look at in the eye, who you can speak to without an introduction, what your parents can expect of you... everything you do, right down to pecking order to using the toilet at night, come down to your ranking within the group. As a result, bullying is a fact of life; and it never ends. I've seen five year old boys taunt and tease their peers with the same glee that 40 year old salarymen show when trying to provoke and shame their co-workers. And women are certainly not immune. You may recall from last year the story of a mother who killed another woman's four year old child because the child had scored better on a kindergarten entrance exam (yes, they have them) than her daughter. Or the woman who kidnapped a child so she would no longer be shunned by the other women in the neighborhood for being childless. The examples are endless.

Another overlooked factor, Japan is boring. I've already gone on at some length but this is hard to appreciate. If you have no money and no transportation (most Japanese don't get a driver's license until they're between 21 to 24 years old) there is just nothing to do and nowhere to go. Do you remember Star Wars? The surface of the Death Star? The endless mazes and towers and piping and power conduits and exhaust ports and repeating cube formations and the grayness... the unrelenting grayness? Kansai looks pretty much like that only without the charm. Just add cracked. moldy concrete buildings and about 140,000 km of tangled power lines and telephone cables and some sushi bars and you're there.

So you have kids who don't want to lose face in social situations, a dead boring environment and parents who don't want to confront them and so, for many, the path of least resistance is to stay locked in their room.

There is a lot more that can be said but one thing I'd like to know. Has anyone considered if this situation is happening to children who would otherwise be diagnosed as borderline autistic? Look at the explosion in autism cases in high population centers like LA and NY. Could there be something about the urban environment itself that is contributing to this problem and Japan is not seeing the same symptoms as such a disease?

Thanks for the letter, qsi.

Update: Qsi responds and pretty much rips me a new "thanks for playing, junior; try again" one :>...
I have worked with colleagues from Japan before, and that too has been an interesting experience, not in the least because their English is so horribly bad. Even those who've lived in the UK or the US for years still have trouble maintaining a decent level of communication. (yea, ha ha ha, lived in another country all those years and never learned the language... ha ha imagine... -hangs head in shame- -ron)

There was no mention of autism in the program, and what little I know about it, I don't think it's very similar to hikikomori. As I understand it, autism has actual physiological causes. Brain structures of autistic people are demonstrably different from "normal" people. Moreover, autism tends to manifest itself early in life. A perfectly healthy and social child who at age 14 becomes a recluse is therefore unlikely to suffer from autism. The program suggested it's more a reaction to stress and growing up during puberty, which can result in for instance agoraphobia. The real problem seems to be that in Japan, these children are allowed to retreat, which leads the problem to feed on itself. Leave them alone long enough (days or weeks), and the problem will become very serious indeed. There has recently been research that shows that neural paths in the brain can and do rewire themselves based on the kinds of demands put on the brain. Violin players will see increased activity in the parts of the brain controlling dexterity, for instance. So I guess the initial psychological shock (stress, bullying, failing exams, etc) is left to fester, which then triggers over the course of the year physiological changes that entrench the dysfunction in the neural pathways.

As for the increase in autism, I read that it is primarily concentrated in Silicon Valley. Children born to "geek parents" (both working in tech) seem to have a much higher chance of being autistic than others.
Let me plug his site again and, on a completely different note, mention his latest two posts about the value of (or lack thereof) EU membership are biting. Qsi even serves up some fact-checked-your-ass-manship (a newly coined word that I think has no future) and calls the EU promo machine on seemingly reporting old for new
... a poll showing 76% of the Dutch to be happy with the euro. ... In the EMU zone as a whole, 6 out of 10 people are happy with the euro. The report also contains the information that 50% of the population supports enlargement (of the EU that is).

Since this appears to be a Europe-wide survey, I tried to find an English-language source to link to, but no other news outlets seemed to be carrying this story. Finally, I managed to track down the source at the EU's website, which contains the startling information that the data gathering took place in April. This is old news. In fact, highlights were originally published in June. The story I linked to in the Telegraaf contains no new information at all. Talk about sloppy reporting!


posted by Ron at 9:27 AM
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Sunday, October 20, 2002
 
Sniper Theory Update
As if anybody cares to read another stuipd assessment based on minimal facts, here's my latest take on this.

Probable Suspects:
1) Terrorist cell with direct al Qaeda connection (30%).
2) Some other terrorist group (20%).
3) Police sniper/marksman gone nuts (20%).
4) Military sniper/marksman gone nuts (5%).
5) Some other individual nut or group or something I haven't thought of (25%).

Based on the public information, it seems the investigation is a mess. This is an interstate, interagency investigation. Who's the lead agency? Who's in charge? So why are county sheriffs on TV? Too much of the wrong kind of information being released (who's idiotic idea was it to discuss aerial recon??), and not enough of the right kind (like even rough descriptions of the suspect(s).) If this is an al-Qaeda test before starting multi-site operations, as some have discussed, we're flunking.


posted by Chuck at 3:37 PM
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Am I An Objectivist? Arthur Silber, who has one of the best blogs out there, has a thoughtful question about my post on the loyalty oaths required by some Objectivist e-mail lists. I headlined that post “Why I’m Not An Objectivist.” Arthur asks “Why is this kind of behavior (which, as you probably know from my own post about Diana’s item, I deplore myself) a reason ‘not to be an Objectivist’? I think an important distinction must be kept in mind: between the philosophy itself (that is, the core ideas of the philosophy), and the way in which those ideas are implemented by particular individuals (an often misapplied or distorted in ways which do not truly represent the ideas). This is a very important issue, and I think the distinction is often blurred. But I believe that, to do so, is unfair to the ideas themselves – no set of ideas, and particularly very broad philosophical ideas can be judged by its self-identified ‘practitioners.’”


Arthur is absolutely right. I didn’t mean that the behavior of some Objectivists discredits the entire body of ideas. It could not. Ayn Rand’s own failure to apply her own ideas consistently or properly could not discredit those ideas. But the failure of Rand and some of her followers to apply those ideas correctly or consistently may be a good reason not to be an Objectivist.

Ayn Rand was once asked if she could present the essence of her philosophy standing on one foot:


Her answer was:

1. Metaphysics: Objective Reality
2. Epistemology: Reason
3. Ethics: Self-interest
4. Politics: Capitalism

That would be a good brief description of my own philosophy. And the reasoning I would give to support my philosophy is strongly flavored by Rand. She is the most important influence on my philosophy, though not the only one.

But there’s more to being an Objectivist than agreeing with the “core ideas” of Ayn Rand’s philosophy.

Several years ago, “Full Context” asked philosopher Eric Mack if he considered himself to be an Objectivist. His response was
If being an Objectivist only [!] meant being a strong realist in metaphysics, being an advocate of something like Rand’s perception-based rationalism in epistemology, being an opponent of the ethics of selflessness, being an advocate of individual rights as the fundamental political and legal norms, being an advocate of laissez-faire capitalism, being an advocate of minimal, highly constitutionally constrained government, and liking Rachmaninoff, then I’d be an Objectivist.

But being an Objectivist involves much more baggage than this. First of all, it involves much more specific positions and arguments in each of the areas I have just alluded to. In some cases, I think Rand’s arguments are just bad, such as her arguments about moral rights and their ethical foundation. In some cases, I think Rand’s stance is in the right ballpark; but I think that neither I nor she has the expertise to be confident about that conclusion. Moreover, Objectivism involves a certain intellectual style that I find very off-putting. Even at its best—for example, in David Kelley’s Unrugged Individualism—it is highly parochial. It addresses questions within itself, that are cast within and answered in terms of the preestablished vocabulary of the system. What is absent is an active engagement with and against all those good arguments out there in the real world. It’s left to apostates such as myself to confront those arguments and carry on the intellectual battle in that larger world.

Lastly, there is an awful word that the multiculturalists use, usually without any genuine denotation, but which does seem to apply to some manifestations of Objectivism. That word is "totalizing." What I have in mind is that, at least for many people who think of themselves as Objectivists, having Objectivist beliefs—and perhaps infrequently acting on them—constitutes all or almost all of their lives. I am, I gain my reality and worth, from my belief in these doctrines—that’s what certifies me and sustains my self-esteem.

It reminds me of the psychological strategy that Isaiah Berlin calls the retreat to the inner citadel. And this fits with the fact that so many Objectivists seem to live their lives as good believers in Objectivist doctrines and as not much of anything else. This is the way in which the question, "Are you an Objectivist?" is like the questions, "Are you a good member of the Party?" or "Have you been born again?"

I probably agree with Rand’s “specific positions and arguments” more often than Mack does. And I think he overstates, just slightly, Objectivism’s lack of engagement with the larger philosophical world. Nonetheless, I like his response.

But when I’m asked that question, when I’m asked if I’m an Objectivist, I say simply, “I don’t like to put labels on myself.”

I’ve read books by and learned from Objectivists from all the various factions of the movement. When I worked at Investor’s Business Daily, I used many Objectivist scholars as sources in the stories I wrote. At various times, I talked with people affiliated with the Ayn Rand Institute, as well as those affiliated with the Objectivist Center. I also spoke to those who don’t fit into either of the two main camps, such as George Reisman. I almost always found these individuals to be intelligent and insightful, great help with whatever story that I was working on.

But I haven’t joined any Objectivist e-mail lists nor attended any of the summer seminars sponsored by the Objectivist Center or Second Renaissance nor joined any Ayn Rand clubs. I haven’t gotten involved in such endeavors, in part, because I simply don’t want to get involved in the politics that seem to permeate the movement.

But I must also admit that I haven’t gotten involved because there is a limit to my interest in Objectivism. If I have a week or two of vacation in the summer, I’d much rather spend it at the beach or at Six Flags or visiting friends, just about anywhere except listening to Leonard Peikoff lecture on induction in physics and philosophy.

And as I noted, even apart from the “loyalty oath” issue, I just can’t see spending $100 on any Objectivist e-mail list.

I don’t consider myself an Objectivist, even though I am in substantial agreement with Ayn Rand’s basic ideas, because I’m not part of that movement, and it doesn’t have the central place in my life that it seems to have for others.

Ayn Rand’s influence seems to be growing. But I’m not sure that Objectivism is growing. Most of the people who buy Rand’s books or who cite her as influence, even the biggest influence, on their own philosophies don’t become Objectivists, as I understand the word. It will be interesting to see how the Objectivist movement deals with the larger world of people influence by Rand












posted by Charles at 1:59 PM
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Bowling For Columbine. Brian Doherty has an insightful review of Michael Moore's latest film

posted by Charles at 1:22 PM
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McCain on SNL. The show was pretty spotty, but it was worth it for the "McCain Sings Streisand" sketch. Basically it was a faux commercial for John McCain's latest album of Barbra Streisand covers. At one point, after mangling one of her tunes, McCain asks, "Can I sing? About as well as she could govern America."

posted by Charles at 1:20 PM
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"Michael, can we finish this chase soon? I have to be on the St. Elsewhere set by 3:00..." I don't know about the market viability of this, but given that nostalgia is enough to fuel the Game Show Network... This fall, Davilex will produce PS2 and PC versions of Knight Rider - The Game.

Included will be your avatar (Michael Knight) in his pre-Baywatch, tight-assed Jordache jeans, open collared, unbuttoned shirt and gold-chain days (with absolutely no homosexual subtext), your talking car (KITT) which whines and complains in a haughty, peevish elderly-Paul Lynde manner (with absolutely no homosexual subtext) your foppish, elderly-but-spry, possibly British, mentor/handler (Devon) who is the head of ... FLAG... you know... that 'secret organization' (with absolutely no homosexual subtext), your hot female ...mechanic (Bonnie) who... fixes the car and doesn't seem to be attracted to Michael or vice versa (with absolutely no homosexual subtext). Also included for pure campy fun... (with absolutely no homosexual subtext).. is your moustached arch-enemy and evil-twin, Garth and your prissy car's evil twin, KARR.

You can see all the characters here. And you can read Game Domain's preview article here.

I don't know how the game will play or how it'll look when released but


looks like they've modeled Hasselhoff's hair perfectly. Bitchin 80s white man's afro.


posted by Ron at 12:24 PM
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I'm still unbelievably sick and feverish... but I read through this Andrea Harris supplied link THREE times and I still can't figure out if this is parody or plaints of self-purposeful pedantry. Really. The SF Gate (guess that should be a clue right there) offers these 10 steps to help the US 'recover' from its war-mad hysteria.

The writing style is so chock full o' gooey, Richard Bach-ish feel goodism and earth-motherish love protestations that it (quite literally) made me puke (again). But that could have been from laughing at the inanity. I swear the first time your eyes hit this prose you're going to be left in maw-agape stupidification not knowing whether to laugh at this incredible spot-on jibe at aging flower-power attempts to deal with the harshness of world realities... or whether to cry at realizing that this is actually someone's best attempt to think deeply and work through the nature of man and the forces of history, while gagging on the bong water. Some of my favorites...
2. Choose, furthermore, not to believe the world is really full of these vile power-mad slugs and lizards and prevaricators and fools and Rumsfelds. Stop thinking this is all there is, war and suffering and apparently very pale and egomaniacal and spiritless men running the world into the ground.

Realize that for every ongoing war and religious outrage and environmental devastation and bogus Iraqi attack plan, there are a thousand counterbalancing acts of staggering generosity and humanity and art and beauty happening all over the world, right now, on a breathtaking scale, from flower box to cathedral.

4. Remember the world does not consist of simpleminded and reductive good/evil polarities, but, rather, is a living organism, interconnected and breathing and dying and renewing in constant flux, religions interflowing, beliefs inbreeding, crammed full of ecstatically bejeweled people who are just as contradictory and confused and gorgeous and kaleidoscopic and baffled and sleepy and horny and lost and desperately craving of juicy unfiltered spiritual nourishment as you are, in this very moment, as you read these words.

8. Realize that this is the perfect moment to change the energy of the world, to step right up and crank your personal volume, right when it all seems dark and bitter and offensive and acrimonious and conflicted and bilious, right when the snakes and pit vipers and squinting finger-pointing cowboy wanna-bes are all distracted -- there's your opening.


9. Remember magic.

Yes, when faced with evil, remember the soliliquy of Robert Plant. This is left-wing Deep-Thoughts? Please, before the chills or the mirth or the need to alliterate racks me again, veracious vapidity or clever concoction?

Update: Oh, it's Mark Morford. Never mind.


posted by Ron at 12:24 AM
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Saturday, October 19, 2002
 
Like a jack-booted ship of state... mixed metaphors, the "MAd-Libs" of weak homilies. Moria Breen nails the best part of the Woody Rumination (ha ha he said " woody"), "Dinosaur Tits."

posted by Ron at 11:54 PM
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Friday, October 18, 2002
 
Small Town News. Here's my latest story for The Daily Citizen. The use of the term "sci fi" wasn't mine but my editor's.

posted by Charles at 9:58 PM
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Am I Missing Something? Tapped complains about a Washington Post story saying the New Jersey Senate race between Doug Forrester and Frank Launtenberg is "virtually tied." Tapped defines "'virtually tied' as being within the margin of error." But the numbers it provides from a Fairleigh Dickinson University PublicMind poll show the race within the margin of error, i.e., virtually tied.

Tapped also cites a Zogby poll showing Lautenberg with a comfortable lead that doesn't diminish even considering the margin of error. But the post doesn't seem to be about which poll to believe. Tapped seems to think both surveys show Lautenberg out front. So I'm confused.


posted by Charles at 1:56 PM
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More Mundell. Here's the Top 10 list he read last night. Reading it in print isn't nearly as funny as Mundell's droll delivery. But I wonder how the people on the Wall Street Journal editorial page feel about #3.

posted by Charles at 11:23 AM
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The Big Smear. Glenn Reynolds points to this hatchet job in The Nation on critics of Michael Bellesiles work. It's full of innuendo, loaded words and general sneering at those who challenge Bellesiles. But my favorite part is this:

When historian Michael Bellesiles came to the University of California, Irvine, to give a talk on the controversy surrounding his book Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture--this was early in 2001, before he was charged with inventing evidence, and before he was awarded the prestigious Bancroft Prize for the book--people coming to the talk were greeted at the door of the Humanities Lecture Hall by four unusually large men passing out a brochure titled "The Lies of Michael Bellesiles."


I never knew that there was a direct relationship between one's concern for accuracy in scholarly work and one's size.

The unfortunate truth is that many people want to believe Bellesiles's numbers, so they will believe them. Even if Emory University sanctions him. Even if every scholar who gave "Arming America" a positive review retracts that review. They'll simply see those steps as part of an NRA-led conspiracy against a fine scholar.

Bad numbers have long lives when they seem to back up the passions of true believers. For instance, I still see many conservatives citing Paul Cameron's "research" on death rates among gays. So expect gun control proponents to continue to cite Bellesiles's "data."


posted by Charles at 11:20 AM
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Robert Mundell On Letterman. For those of you on the West Coast, Mundell reads tonight's Top 10 list. The list itself is pretty funny.

posted by Charles at 12:00 AM
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Thursday, October 17, 2002
 
Personal Update: Sorry I haven't posted at all in the last couple of days. I've got some kind of intestinal death virus and barely can finish typing this out. I've tried going to work but I'm not going to be able to finish today and'll have to take my first sick day (or sick afternoon). As if you didn't know, sick leave (byoukyu) uses the kanji for sickness and wage... in other words the semiotic intent of the word is "to be paid for being sick." Byoukyu is only for the weak... only for those who have no company loyalty... only for the spineless mass of quivering mamas' boys found in American organizations... Speaking of quivering masses I've got one to upchuck right now.

Hope to be back soon.


posted by Ron at 11:24 PM
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Crazed Or Homesick. Some of the Japanese abucted by North Korea met with families of those who died in captivity. The families were obviously hungry for any information about their loved ones. But the survivors seemed to know little, or at least they claimed not to.

Some did know Megumi Yokota.

The couple reportedly added that they had heard rumors that Yokota died after being hospitalized in around 1993 for mental illness. The North Korean government told a Japanese fact-finding team that visited North Korea late last month that Yokota committed suicide while hospitalized for mental illness.


Gee, I wonder why a girl who was kidnapped at 13 and held in a foreign land for 16 years against her will might want to kill herself.



posted by Charles at 1:26 AM
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Why I'm Not an Objectivist. Diana Hsieh has an interesting, if troubling, post about the loyalty oaths required on some Objectivist e-mail lists.

That fact that such oaths are required did not surprise me. The fact that Harry Binswanger is able to get people to pay $100 a year to get on his list did. I've read a couple of pamphlets the man has written. They were okay, but nothing in them suggested to me that he would provide any insights or wisdom worth $100 a year.


posted by Charles at 1:18 AM
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Wednesday, October 16, 2002
 
Not Quite. David Frum has a nice piece on the problems with J Schools. But he screws it up with a patently false lede.

Journalism school is a remarkable institution: the only form of professional education despised by its own profession.


Frum obviously has spent no time with teachers.


posted by Charles at 5:57 PM
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This'll Cheer You Up, Ron. Thirty-nine percent of Japanese trade travels through Southeast Asia, much of it passing through Indonesia's three key straits: the Strait of Malacca, the Sunda Strait and the Lombok Strait. As a part of that trade, Japan gets 75 percent to 80 percent of its oil supplies from the Middle East -- all of which travel past Indonesia.

And if Indonesia's troubles heat up, that trade could be jeopardized.

Other Japanese energy imports that could be affected by serious disruptions in Indonesia include coal shipments from Australia and liquefied natural gas imports, 36 percent of which come directly from Indonesia.

But Stratfor says there's nothing Japan can do to help matters there.

don't worry. I'm sure that uncertain access to energy won't have any negative impact on Japan's already-shaky economy.


posted by Charles at 4:42 PM
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The Suspect? Police investigating the D.C.-area sniper say several people have caught glimpses of the shooter, but their descriptions are too divergent to produce a sketch of the suspect. The only thing the witnesses agree on is that the man they saw was olive skinned.

Maybe the descriptions diverge so much because the witnesses didn't all see the same man. There may be two (or more) dark-skinned men involved.


posted by Charles at 3:07 PM
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King Roy On The Ropes? My latest story for The Daily Citizen looks at the governor's race and why it's tighter than many expected.

We've long talked about the Reagan Democrats, but in Georgia, there are at least two high-profile Bush Democrats. Max Cleland and Roy Barnes spend a great deal of time telling voters just how much they agree with George W.'s policies. Heck, one of the TV ads that Barnes had in heavy rotation this fall basically told voters he ripped off his education reforms from Bush's Texas policies.


posted by Charles at 2:09 PM
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Strange Women, lying in ponds, distributing Swords, is no basis for a system of Government!

But, then again, it may be better than what we're using:
South Dakota.
Pick a Florida scandal.
Minnesota's same day registration.
New Jersey.
and, of course, the last election cycle in Missouri, any election in Chicago, etc.


posted by Chuck at 10:27 AM
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DMCA Silliness. I'm not even going to try to summarize this article. But this sums up the central message:

The very act of explaining what has been fixed by a security patch could be construed as explaining how the security of a product could be breached, and hence could be viewed as a breach of the DMCA.


posted by Charles at 9:36 AM
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Tuesday, October 15, 2002
 
Small Town News. Here's my latest contribution to The Daily Citizen.

posted by Charles at 5:14 PM
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posted by Ron at 9:58 AM
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This is bittersweet. Five of the surviving Japanese abductees have just returned to their home country from North Korea. They were typical, ordinary people, captured by North Korean agents on Japanese soil in 1978, taken from their home, family and friends -- and forced to live in the PDRK. For 24 years North Korea has denied their existence. Why they were abducted is even more puzzling... they were chosen at random by the North Korean agents to either teach Japanese to other PDRK agents and/or as wives for members of the Red Army who had relocated to North Korea to escape extradition to Japan, depending on who you hear tell it.

Many of the original abductees, although young and healthy when taken, died within years of their detention. North Korea even admits that two of them died on the same day but lists the cause of their demise, along with several of the others, only as "disaster." Gee, how enigmatic.

Of course their return, which is being shown live on TV right now, is temporary. They're here for only a week or two. Because the North Korean government, the same damn government that finally admitted that these kidnappings actually took place, the same damn government that only admitted to this so as to grease the wheels of a normalization pact with Japan, the same damn fuckers who said, "Yes, it was wrong and we will punish those responsible," ..those policy makers are keeping the children of the detainees captive in Pyongyang. All the while the original abductees are supposed to come home, state how well they were treated by the North Koreans who took them there over twenty years ago on board cigarette boats while bound and gagged and stuffed in big canvas sacks, proclaim how the milk of human kindness flows from the mangy hedgehog, Kim Jong Il and how they only wish to help the Great Leader (II) bring peace and understanding to all...

And Junichiro Koizumi just stands with a contorted smile and proclaims a political victory. For who Juni-kun?! That fire of statesmanship in your belly is the roggering you're getting from the PDRK. With each news conference these people give their words will say one thing but their mere existence says something else.. and it's going to doom your administration. In these captives' faces is the proof of your impotence. For the sake of a "normalization" pact (which has no value to the typical Japanese) you allowed Kim to come half clean and screw Japan all over again and flaunt his country's power at the cost of yours.

By allowing North Korea to continue to hold these people and their families hostage you say to your own people, "Well, I guess there's nothing we can do and we just have to accept whatever crumbs Kim throws us." This is NOT a victory! And every time I see your stupid mug on TV stating through Clintonesque clinched jaw that, "we must be resolute and seek a resolution to this problem," I pray the Japanese people understand how you are tolerating, negotiating with, and encouraging evil. Kim has made you his tool and you're too fucking stupid to even realize it.



posted by Ron at 3:03 AM
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It Wasn't The Republicans. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution crunches the numbers and finds that white Democrats elected Denise Majette.

Of the 68,612 voters who cast ballots for Democratic challenger Denise Majette, no more than 3,118 of them were voters who can be clearly identified as Republicans, based on their voting histories in state primaries. Majette's margin of victory, in winning 58 percent of the votes cast in the primary, was six times that amount.




posted by Charles at 12:43 AM
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Monday, October 14, 2002
 
Sniper Watch Cont'd
I see from Drudge that the FBI is searching sniper school records for hints. My bet is that this isn't is a US Military trained sniper. US sniper teams use .308 cal rifles (either the M21, my favorite - essentially an accurized M14 with the legendary Leatherwood ART scope, or the newer M24 bolt action, which is based on the Reminton 700). The reasons are that the .308 has a flatter trajectory, is less sensitive to wind, and packs more of a punch at longer range than the standard issue .223 round used in the M-16. I won't get in to the religious war over the better round for infantry use, but I would guess that a US military trained sniper would use the .308. At close range (<200m) it wouldn't matter much, but to me it is an indication that this team is not a US military team.

In fact, if this is truly a sniper team and not simply a marksman (a distinction lost on the media), it is more of an indication that this is a Police trained sniper. Police snipers are about evenly split between the .308 and .223. A significant number of police snipers use the .223 because of fears that the .308 can overpenetrate (not generally a concern in military ops!). Also, since Police rarely fire at over 100m since they operate in urban environments, and for liability fears, so the trajectory and wind issue isn't as important. Consider too the ease with which the the sniper or team has evaded LE. Mostly common sense stuff, but it may indicate a knowledge of LE operations. Another semi-prediction: the Tarot card is a throw-away designed to mislead the investigation.

It makes some sense for Law Enforecement, especiallly at the state level and maybe for major cities like New York or LA, to have a sniper or counter-sniper capability. But the "sniper culture" that the media has talked about in reference to gun sales or groups isn't nearly as big of a problem as the "sniper culture" in LE. The local police department here wanted (and may have acquired) a .50 cal sniper rifle. That's insane. LE snipers at the local level generally don't get the training and experience they need to be safe and effective. My guess is that there are a lot more crazy ex-police "snipers" running around than military ones. But I bet if it does turn out to be an ex or current cop, we won't hear about it.


posted by Chuck at 8:26 AM
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Saturday, October 12, 2002
 
And the Taggart Comet She Rode In On. Maybe I've read too many of Ayn Rand's essays. Maybe I've listened to too many of Alan Greenspan's Humprhrey-Hawkins testimonies. But I found this to be excruciatingly funny. Thanks to Arthur Silber for bringing it to my attention. Warning: It has some strong language.

posted by Charles at 10:55 PM
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He's No Streisand. Henry Rollins is out promoting a new album of Black Flag covers by various artists. But he's also speaking out about the situation in Iraq:

"If he [Saddam Hussein] didn't have anything to hide, then why is he saying, 'Oh you can't go there.' I think a full 100-percent daylight, lights on, everything known, inspection needs to be had, if not, then it needs to be leveled. 'Let's just say, anywhere you don't allow us to check we just drop a bomb on it. How 'bout that?' I am so down with that. 'Well, I'll put women and children in it.' Well, then you can tell the world that you killed them because we told you what we're going to do. And now it's up to you to put the women and children in that mosque or take them out."

"We should promise, not threaten, we should promise. And if the women and children get killed the blood is not on our hands. That is a really harsh point of view, way harsher than I usually am and way more to the right than I usually am, but this guy is screwing up."

"I think that if Saddam Hussein wants to be in the world picture and have his sanctions lifted, he should put the entire world at ease and give unlimited access to U.N. weapons inspectors."


BTW, the new album is a benefit for the "West Memphis Three," three men accused of being "Satanists" who are serving life sentences for murders they claim they did not commit.



posted by Charles at 12:26 PM
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Islam And Women. Siham Qandah has gone into hiding after a Jordanian court ordered her to hand her children over to her brother. Qandah's problems began when her husband, a UN peacekepper, died in Kosovo. When she applied for his Army benefits, an Islamic court stepped in and said their children could receive their inheritance only through a Muslim guardian. The Qandahs are Christians who have raised their children as Christians.

Still, Qandah's brother -- who converted to Islam as a teen -- stepped in to act as their legal guardian so they could receive the benefits due them. But he has now applied for full custody, though he has met the children just once.

The court awarded him custody, and the ruling has been upheld by the Supreme court. The mother and her children are now in hiding, and they would like to leave the kingdom, but if caught, the children will be taken from her.

I keep cataloging these stories, and I'm always amazed at how brutally Muslim men can treat their mothers, sisters and daughters. It's one thing to treat anonymous women harshly. I even can sort of understand the twisted thinking that lies beneath their treatment of their wives. But how can anyone be so callous to their own flesh and blood?


posted by Charles at 12:16 PM
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Sniper Watch
A couple of observations:
1) Here's a quote from Major Howard Smith, Spotsylvania County Sheriff's Office:

With a uniformed trooper across the street, obviously we're dealing with an individual who is extremely violent and doesn't care.

Exactly, 100% wrong. In my view based on the very limited public information, we are dealing with at least TWO individuals who are calm enough and confident enough that it doesn't matter that LE is there. I say two persons because he just about has to have a spotter. The concept of a professional "lone sniper" is mostly a myth. In military and LE operations, snipers virtually always work in two man teams. The shooter, and the spotter. A spotter is critical. The view through rifle sites, or a scope (if he's shooting at 100 meters or so even a mediocre shooter could use the iron sights) is limited, and the concentration required for the shot limits your "area of awareness" even more. You have to have someone with you to watch your surroundings, both to avoid detection and to avoid (for example) a car driving through the line of fire at the last second.

2) The state trooper across the street from the latest hit apparently screwed up. If the reports are accurate, he ran to the victim - right in the field of fire. That was the wrong move in a counter-sniper situation. The sniper is firing from cover, and probably has a spotter. While normally military snipers are trained to take one shot then relocate, you sometimes make an exception when a high value target presents itself and your spotter clears a second shot. He should have carefully observed the situation and looked for the sniper. You can't do that when you are running, and chances are you can't do much for the victim anyway.

Assuming the report is true, it reinforces my second point: law enforecement, be it local police or the FBI, is not equipped to deal with terrorists or military style encounters. Their instincts are wrong - and should be. I don't want police officers trained to act like they are in a war zone.

This really smells like a terrorist situation to me. While it could be a single nut doing it, s/he's awfully lucky not to have been spotted if he didn't have a spotter/driver.


posted by Chuck at 8:06 AM
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Friday, October 11, 2002
 
Islam And Women. Angry over his new bride's admission that other men might have seen a photograph of her in a bathing suit, police say a 23-year-old Pakistani immigrant in Michigan repeatedly tortured her with a lit cigarette, hot wax and a knife.

He was also upset she watched men playing basketball on TV.


posted by Charles at 9:10 PM
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Sloganeering. My pal Virginia Postrel blasts attempts by the Dallas-Ft. Worth metroplex to "brand" itself with the slogan "DFW -- The Where, With All." Yeah, it's lame.

She asks readers to submit suggestions for a better idea.

Jeez, only four generations of Texas songwriters have said witty, pithy and interesting things about the cities. Maybe DFW could adapt a line from one of those songs.

My suggestion is from Jimmie Dale Gilmore's song "Dallas":

Dallas is a woman who will walk on you when you're down/But when you are up she's the kind you wanna take around

Change "Dallas" to "DFW" or "The Metroplex," and you've got yourself a nice little slogan there.


posted by Charles at 3:07 PM
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What Is This, High School? So the Nobel committee gave Jimmy Carter an award to spite George W. Bush.

You know, when I was younger I dated a girl I didn't give a flip about just to piss off an ex. Yeah, it was dumb. But at least I had the excuse that I was a teenager.

BTW, it didn't work for me, and I doubt it's gonna work for Gunnar Berge.


posted by Charles at 2:38 PM
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Happy Birthday. Today marks the 100th anniversary of Chattanooga Bakery, the maker of the MoonPie. The banana is the best, but all are good. The MoonPie itself dates back to 1917, and its inventor deserves the Nobel Prize much more than Jimmy Carter.

posted by Charles at 10:54 AM
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"And from the Where Are They Now? Dept..." Charles argued a few days ago that there is no more quantifiable proof that one is irrelevant in the world of music than induction into the Rock N Roll Hall O' Fame. Apart from finding your career being detailed on VH1's Behind The Music (or getting a live concert slot on network TV, on Friday night... on CBS), I'd have to agree. I think we can say the same for the Nobel Peace Prize.

For an active politician it should be regarded as a badge that gets you on the legislative short bus, a special gold star for Outstanding Effort. It practically screams, "Hey, I'm quaint!"

While the hard-side winners normally have to have some empirical research or external validation of their works' worth (like peer review or independent replication of results) the soft-siders seem to earn their awards based on political or cultural zeitgeist. To wit: past winners of the Peace Prize include Yassar Arafat, Kofi Annan, Doctors Without Borders, Mandela, Gorbachev, ...all who have managed to squander their limited legitimate moral and political capital either on genocidal campaigns, anti-American knee-jerk idiotarianism, pointless personal legacy revisionism, transnational progressivism or some combination of all four. But, in the end, find that the only ones who seriously heed their current political protestations are those searching for a hint of whimsy or cold-war nostalgia in their current events ruminations (like the faculty of Harvard).

The latest example to prove the rule: Jimmy Carter.


posted by Ron at 6:45 AM
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Thursday, October 10, 2002
 
Red Rag Top. USA Today is on to the radio programmers who refuse to play Tim McGraw's new song. If you want to know why country radio's listenership is in freefall, check out this line from the aptly nicknamed Coyote Calhoun, program director at WAMZ-FM in Louisville:

My only hope is the song peaks before anybody really pays attention to it, so I can get rid of it forever.


posted by Charles at 10:51 PM
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No Comment
For Ron and those in Japan , or anyone interested in bathroom humor.


posted by Chuck at 7:59 PM
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Okay, I'll Be The First To Say It. But not the first to think it, I'm sure. When you look like Miss America Erika Harold, chastity is probably pretty easy. Not as easy as it is for me, but that's another story.

posted by Charles at 3:56 PM
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Wednesday, October 09, 2002
 
I Hope Jann Wenner Will Remember, A Southern Man Don't Need Him Around Anyhow. Thanks to LewRockwell.Com for pointing out this article about Lynyrd Skynyrd's failure to make it into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

But Skynryd's omission isn't the slight Lew or the article's author seem to think. Short of doing a song with Rob Thomas, there's nothing that sceams "I'm no longer relevant" more than induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Please. Rockers are supposed to be rebels, dangers to society, not museum pieces that parents drag their bored children to see. A hall of fame for rock and roll? Jeez, next they'll start knighting toothless aging rockers.

I'd rather remember Ronnie and the boys getting drunk, knocking each other's teeth out, wrecking hotel rooms, and still having the chops to blow the Rolling Stones and The Who off the stage.

The Hall of Fame considers Skynyrd to be a regional act. They might want to take a look at "Freebird...The Movie." That film showcases the band's performance at the 1976 Knebworth Fair in England. (Where Skynyrd upstaged Mick and Keith.) I saw an awful lot of Southern Crosses in that audience and a whole bunch of people wowed by the show. I'm not too good at British geography. Maybe that concert was held in southern England.

Skynyrd isn't politically correct? Listen again to "Sweet Home Alabama." Ronnie Van Zant had his tongue just slightly in his cheek when he wrote those lyrics. That's something that many fans don't understand either. Like Merle Haggard's "Okie From Muskogee," "Sweet Home" is both intensely loved and intensely hated by people who don't understand that it's not quite serious.

In fact, the band were major fans of Neil Young, who returned the respect. (Again, check out "Freebird...The Movie." You can see Ronnie wearing a Neil Young t-shirt.) At a concert in California, Young actually performed the song with them. Skynyrd had planned to record a couple of songs Young had written for them -- "Powderfinger" and "Captain Kennedy" -- before the plane crash that killed Ronnie Van Zant. A couple of weeks after that crash, Neil was performing in Miami, when he played "Alabama" he segued into "Sweet Home Alabama." And on his HyperRust tour last year, Young was spotted wearing a Skynyrd t-shirt in a few concerts. He, clearly, got the joke.

Maybe Skynyrd will be inducted this year. Maybe AC/DC (the greatest Southern Rock band to emerge from Australia) will, too. But don't weep if they aren't.



posted by Charles at 8:12 PM
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Front Page News. I was above the fold on page one today.

Looking at the story today, I should have gone into a little more depth on Max Cleland's contortions. If you read his speech, up until the last couple of paragraphs, you'd think he opposed authorizing the use of force against Iraq. I didn't adequately convey just how wishy-washy his support truly is.

I'm still debating with myself if I should have gone into more detail on Bush's speech. Basically, I was trying to localize the story, give our readers some added value, something they wouldn't get elsewhere. I assumed that if they wanted a lot of detail on the speech itself, they could turn on the evening news or read the Atlanta Journal-Constitution or the Chattanooga Times Free Press. But maybe another quote or two wouldn't have been too much. I don't know. I'm new to this local news stuff.


posted by Charles at 6:37 PM
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Tuesday, October 08, 2002
 
Affirmative Action For Conservatives? Several bloggers have linked to this Christian Science Monitor piece calling for more intellectual diversity at American colleges and universities.

To some, this may sound like a needed call for change. But I fear that if universities do embrace the idea, it will just lead to a bunch of Floyd R. Turbos in the classroom teaching kids. I don't see that as much of an improvement.


posted by Charles at 1:46 PM
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Mentioning the Unmentionable
I've started hearing hints that the OK City bombing is a possible reason for an attack on Iraq (Including an interview on BBC America with Frank Gaffney).

Wow. I thought it was just a couple of right wing neo-Nazi militia types. I really don't think Iraq or UBL's folks were involved in the OKC thing. However, there is probably some exchange of info between the various groups. Iraq probably gave UBL some indirect support; likewise, UBL's fun loving crowd will probably give bomb making advice to anybody who wants to blow something up in America or Israel. Interestingly enough, the fundamentalist Islamic types and the neo-Nazi types have similar goals. Kill the Jews, and create racially/religiously pure enclaves.


posted by Chuck at 7:43 AM
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Monday, October 07, 2002
 
The Iron Triangle. Forbes explains why Japan can't do the sort of housecleaning it needs to do to get its economy back on track.

posted by Charles at 9:46 PM
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Terror attack?
Anybody else wondering why the words "terror" or "terrorist" are not being used on the evening news to describe the sniper attacks in the DC area? Especially given the Al Queda's plans in this area. According to Fox News, which did actually mention the possibility, Tom "blockhead" Ridge said the homeland security agency doesn't even have any plans on dealing with this type of attack. Great - /11 all over again - "It never occured to us terrorists could insert latest attack option here".

Update I'm not sure this is part of an organized attack, but I've heard several LE types say it doesn't fit past patterns of serial shooters. One critical point to consider: there seem to be at least two people working as a team. If there are two people working as a team, it's almost certainly not a deranged serial killer event. This makes the homeland security situation mentioned earlier even more serious. Even if it's not an external terrorist attack, it looks like one on the surface. It really points out how it is essentially impossible for government to defend against this type of attack. The only real defense is an armed populace. Not everybody, but if you want to keep an AR15 in your car and learn to use it properly, wny not? (Well, in my case it's an HK91, but it's the principle that counts.)

JPFO has some interesting points.


posted by Chuck at 7:47 PM
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Wussy. That's the most polite thing to call Ron Brooks, operations manager and program director at WCOS radio in Columbia, S.C. People like him are the reason country radio sucks today.

"Red Rag Top" isn't a good song. Though by the standards of what Tim McGraw usually records, it's decent. But this idea that we can't offend suburban soccer moms who were born north of the Ohio River has made country radio playlists dull and repetitive.

A lot of great and near-great country songs have offended a lot of people. Remember the tempests over Tammy Wynette's "Stand By Your Man" and "D-I-V-O-R-C-E?" Or the furors over Loretta Lynn's "Rated X" and "The Pill."

You wined me and dined me
When I was your girl
Promised if I´d be your wife
You´d show me the world
But all I´ve seen of this old world
Is a bed and a doctor bill
I´m tearin´ down your brooder house
´Cause now I´ve got the pill


There were a lot of people truly outraged by those lyrics back in 1975. But Loretta and Tammy went on to become, arguably, the two most important women in country music history. Could they have done so if today's program directors were the gatekeepers to mainstream success?


posted by Charles at 12:53 PM
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Uh, Oh! Benny Morris was perhaps the most prominent of a handful of Israeli scholars who challenged the nation´s prevailing "patriotic history" in the 1980s, according to which the Palestinians had left of their own free will. They were bitterly criticized by many on the Israeli right who accused them of offering intellectual aid to the enemy.

But in The Guardian this weekend, Morris argued that the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians didn't go far enough, or perhaps the problem is that Arab nations just weren't ruthless enough.

Perhaps, had he (David Ben-Gurion) gone the whole hog, today's Middle East would be a healthier, less violent place, with a Jewish state between Jordan and the Mediterranean and a Palestinian Arab state in Transjordan. Alternatively, Arab success in the 1948 war, with the Jews driven into the sea, would have obtained the same, historically calming result. Perhaps it was the very indecisiveness of the geographical and demographic outcome of 1948 that underlies the persisting tragedy of Palestine.


Morris has been blasted by his revisionist colleagues who seem to think he has lost his moral bearings or joined the hard right.

But if you read his statement in context, it appears that Morris is making a different argument: A house divided against itself cannot stand. Palestine, Israel, whatever you want to call it, cannot endure permanently part Jew and part Arab. It will become all one thing, or all the other. Either the Jews must force the Palestinians from the area or the Arabs will drive the Jews from the region. No other solution is possible.

He may be right.


posted by Charles at 9:38 AM
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Islam and Women. Tribal elders in Pakistan's Khyber Agency, near the border city of Peshawar, said it was un-Islamic for women to vote in upcoming elections. They said families that allow women to vote will be fined about $16,650 and have their homes destroyed, and warned candidates that if they attempted to court women voters, they would be fined double that amount. The elders said they will post observers at poling place to enforce the ban.


posted by Charles at 8:32 AM
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Bummer. Arts & Letters Daily is Kaput.

posted by Charles at 8:28 AM
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Sunday, October 06, 2002
 
Otis He Ain't. San Francisco police have picked up Paul Sanchez 128 times, at last count, for public drunkeness.

Sanchez is a legend among the city's beat cops and paramedics -- and he's become Exhibit A for the growing problems caused by the city's street people.

His latest arrest, while hair-raising, was also typical for Sanchez.

It all started Sept. 25 when the cops got a call about a drunk passed out in a store doorway where Sanchez has repeatedly been picked up in the past.

Officers showed up and found Sanchez, sleeping in his own excrement. They woke him up and told him he was violating the stay-away order imposed on him five arrests ago.

"F-- the judge! I can stay here if I want to!" Sanchez screamed, according to the police report. Then he picked up the empty vodka bottle and threw it at the cop.

More police were called -- and so was an ambulance. Sanchez tried to spit on the cops.

When they got there, medics had to wrap Sanchez in a biohazard bag and a blanket, then tie him down with restraints before putting him in the ambulance.

From there, he was taken to San Francisco General Hospital, where medical crews cut off his clothing -- and burned it -- sponged him off, checked him out and sent him off to jail.

The ambulance that brought him in had to be deloused.

All in all, it took up a good part of two cops' day, plus the ER staff at San Francisco General, plus the ambulance ride, which alone cost the city about $1,000.


I'm against so-called victimless crimes laws. If you want to get hammered each night in your own home, fine with me. But loitering and public drunkeness are another matter.

Yet I also want to reserve prison for people who are truly a menace to society. So what to do with habitual non-violent offenders? Bring back floggings and the stocks. Would that violate the Constitution? I don't see how. Both forms of punishment were legal when it was adopted and for a long time after, so the Framers clearly didn't consider them cruel and unusual punishment. (I believe the last legal flogging in America happened in the 1950s.)

A day in the stocks or 40 lashes with a whip would cost taxpyers less than putting someone in jail for six months. And it couldn't be any less of a deterrent.

But if the San Francisco courts can't sentence Sanchez to serious prison time, they likely aren't going to have him stuck in the stocks.



posted by Charles at 6:49 PM
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Thank You, Maine. I went over to FreeRepublic.Com to check on the status of the Rimensnyder/Coulter tempest and found some interesting facts about Somalis in America.

At the start of 2001, not a single Somali immigrant lived in Lewiston, Maine. Today, more than 1,000 live there. Many have moved from Georgia. Why? The Somalis make no secret of their reason.

"Maine is crazy cold," says Abdullahi Abdullahi, president of the new Somali Community Development Organization in Clarkston. But, he says, "the welfare system is much better."

Indeed, in moving from Georgia to Maine, Somalis are trading one of the nation's least generous welfare systems for one of its most generous.

Lewiston provides general assistance to anyone in need, splitting the cost with the state. Such relief was unavailable in Clarkston. In Georgia, there is a four-year time limit for receiving Temporary Assistance to Needy Families. In Maine it's five, but even that can be extended. About a quarter of Lewiston's Somali families receive that form of welfare, according to the state. And in Maine, a state-funded program assists single parents while they attend college.

There is a waiting list for public housing in Lewiston, but not nearly as long as in Georgia. About a third of the more than 90 apartments at Hillview, Lewiston's largest public housing project, have Somali tenants, and about 35 more Somali families have received Section 8 vouchers, which subsidize the rent on private apartments.


Indeed, the welfare is so generous, the immigrants have little reason to work.

(Renee) Bernier, who has a security business, says that when she tried to hire 30 Somalis at $8 an hour to hold signs at road construction sites, the few who showed interest wanted to work only from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.


David Friedman has argued that the existence of easy migration actually makes the welfare state less attractive. If a state or nation offers a more generous package of government subisidies than other states or nations, people will have an incentive to move to that nation or state, driving up costs and making those programs less popular. The migration of immigrants from Georgia to Maine proves the first part of Friedman's argument. We shall see if the second part of his argument proves true, as well.

My old boss Robert Poole once observed that governments usually have to be pushed to the point of crisis before they embrace reforms such as tax cuts, privatization and deregulation. Friedman's argument seems to be a variation on that theme.

There's likely some truth to the observation. Without the stagflation of the 1970s, would we have gotten the Reagan tax cuts of the 1908s?

But that still doesn't mean we should embrace policies that take us to the crisis point in order to spur reform.




posted by Charles at 12:15 AM
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Saturday, October 05, 2002
 
What's good fer da goose is good fer da ganda. "Irony can be pretty ironic sometimes." Saw this story on FARK this morning and it reminded me of something I was talking to Charles about yesterday. If you follow the link you'll read about how the Simpsons is corrupting the Italian family:
Parents Homer and Marge and children Bart, Lisa, and Maggie from the cult American series have become real-life role models for Italians, say Dr. Loris Moroni and colleagues. The trend is so widespread that linguists, nutritionists, psychologists and sociologists have set up a "City of Simpsons" conference to look at similarities.

"We are more and more similar to the Simpsons. We are putting aside the best aspects of Italian traditions and culture to turn into a country of under-educated, cynical, snack-munching couch potatoes," Moroni, director of Empoli's operational unit of health education, told Reuters Health.
Some of those best aspects being perpetual mama's boys who don't work and won't leave home even after the age of 35 and then successfully sue to have their parents continue taking care of them if the parents threaten to throw them out? (can't find the link to this story ... please, someone help so I know it's not an urban legend)

Anyway, as I was telling Charles, recently I've had a lot of luck using The Sopranos for classroom study. My students love the stories and the characters; I can find transcripts on the internet so they can practice reading and conversational (and confrontational) English, and because it's a running series they can predict what will happen to the characters and how they will react to various developments. However, in their zeal for the show and willingness to role play scenes from it in the classroom (I've really got to get video of that), my Japanese students are also demonstrating their skill at mimicing the dialect.

"One more sing. Youse reabu comrey truckingu, ando evebry uda fuckin item on dis pranet dat berongsu to my uncuru junya, incurudingu his hemorrhoid donut, da fuck arone. Got it?"

One student during class discussion about Iraq asked with genuine feeling, "Whadda dose guys tinkin?" And he did it in an almost perfect, high-pitched, nasally Tony Soprano voice.

I feel I'm doing my job pureing and perpetuating cultural stereotypes in an effort to bring the world together.


posted by Ron at 11:16 PM
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Japan fills labor shortage with white-collar child labor. And is paying them in company script. The declining child population in Japan has left a number of schools with empty classrooms or just closed altogether. Now the Tokyo central bureaucracy has come up with a... cunning plan. Move some of the government offices and quasi-public businesses into those spaces... and fill out the needed staff with students. Pay them in mock cash which can only be used in the same stores... and do it all under the name of a training program. (PJ O'Rourke reported on similar "rug making schools" in Cairo which trains 5 and 6 year olds to operate the looms ... 14 hours a day... here).
In addition to private firms including banks and electronics manufacturers, ward offices and other administrative organizations will open branches at the schools. The cost for remodeling the schools will be covered by American financial organization Citigroup, while the firms opening the stores will pay for decorating costs.

Children will be allowed to purchase goods at the stores using mock currency and bankcards. Training for teachers and locals participating in the programs will be provided by Junior Achievement and participating companies.
Yes, I'm sure the elcetronics manufacturers will allow the kids to take home a tape deck or two for their services.


posted by Ron at 10:28 PM
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New Orleans lucked out again. And good for them. I personally would miss the free boobies of Mardi Gras, sweating at Tipitina's, 5 AM beignets and a healthy 3PM breakfast at the Camilla Grill. But Japan had a rougher week of it. The last typhoon that brushed past the island hit the east coast areas north of Tokyo pretty bad. 5 people were killed and several remote, stand-up weather reporters ceased to do so (stand-up that is). This hurricane shot up from the south at around 85 kph (that's the speed of the storm across the map, not wind speed) and wrecked a lot of damage on the Tohoku area. But a few idiot TV stations sent their lightweight (in mass not substance), lithesome lil weather cuties out into the middle of the gale to file live reports. Today the network showed a roundup of at least three of these girls getting knocked down or hunkering for cover (while squeling like a stuck pig) during their on-air remotes. Mind you, I'm all for tort reform but someone should introduce the concept of personal injury law to these stations.

posted by Ron at 10:12 PM
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Still here. Sorry, but to the regular reader of this blog (hi, Mom!), let me apologize for being absent for the last few days. I've been dizzy with some personal stuff... I'll explain more later.

posted by Ron at 9:31 PM
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