Friday, April 29, 2005


Iowahawk surfaces... sort of

I found this message-thing over at Iowahawk. Hopefully it is a portent-thing meaning he will soon be back at his blogging-activity-thing.

I have had many things happen recently. I expect the intensity and frequency of my thing-happenings to stop soon. Hopefully this means I will put new things on my blog-thing very soon.

I have no idea what thing-happenings may be preventing Iowahwk from putting new things on his blog-thing, and it's none of my freakin' business anyway, but I hope it all works out soon. His brand of slightly warped humor is sorely missed.

In the meantime, if you need a laugh, go read this piece from R. Emmitt Tyrrell, Jr. in the Washington times:

As conscientious followers of politics are doubtless aware, the better sort of American liberal is troubled by the unprecedented vituperation that has entered the public discourse. The Clintons refer to it as "The Politics of Personal Destruction" -- well said, Bill and Hillary. They, and concerned citizens like them, recognize this inflammatory rhetoric comes, mainly, from the right -- or as they put it, "the extreme right."

Dr. Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, likewise is alarmed by the abusiveness from the right or more generally from Republicans whom he has recently identified as "evil," "corrupt," and "brain-dead."

There's more, and it's funny.


Exploding toads explained?

Common Sense & Wonder has a post and a link to a possible explanation for the mysterious German exploding toads. While the exploding toad phenomenon has spread to Denmark, a veterinarian studying the German remains thinks the explanation is crows eating the livers of live toads, which "puff up" as a defense mechanism and then explode. And, if he's right, it seems to be a singularly ineffective defense mechanism!


"Happy Slapping" latest craze for British kids

Everybody has a camera phone now, right? Well, everybody but me, anyway. British teens, and even pre-teens, have found a fun new use for the popular gizmos. It’s known as “Happy Slapping”:

But now there's a disturbing new trend emerging with the way some teens overseas are using these phones to videotape themselves slapping innocent bystanders.

Indications that "happy-slapping" may be spreading. British transport police investigating 200 incidents in the last six months.

Most, they say, go unreported.

The attackers then upload the video straight from the phone and onto the web, where there are dozens of images of slap-hapless victims.

Authorities say the craze was born in the club music scene, before catching on in school playgrounds.

I can see only one way to deal with this strange craze. I’m going to start a fund to send British kids to France for their summer vacation.


Social Security - back to the top of the pile

One of the regular readers and active commenters on this blog, Scriptor of Historium, asked me a few days back “what happened to Social Security”, about which I was blogging extensively through March and into April.

I haven’t consciously dropped the topic, but for the love of humanity, how many different ways can you state the few basic facts involved: 1) the $2 trillion dollar surplus is not a surplus, it is not cash, it is $2 trillion in government IOU’s and therefore actually a $2 trillion dollar chunk of the federal debt; 2) As the baby boom generation retires, there will be more benefits paid out than taxes collected, and those benefits will be paid for longer periods of time as more people live longer; 3) Within the next few years, NOT in 2040 or whatever, the Social Security mess will begin to strangle our economy in the form of higher interest rates; 4) There is NO GUARANTEE associated with receiving social security benefits, and the government is not required to spend social security taxes on social security benefits, and there are two Supreme Court decisions that say so; 5) unless action is taken now it is inevitable that either social security taxes will double or even triple, and/or benefits will be cut from present levels by about 1/3. (This is not, by the way, the elimination of increases the President is calling for, which are of course being called “cuts” by the MSM, this is ACTUAL cuts in present benefit levels. In other words, despite having paid in vastly more than your father ever did, you are going to receive benefits about 1/3 less than he got…if you ever get even that much!) Oh, and you’ll start collecting these benefits later in life, because the retirement age will begin to rise.

I will try to come back later and update this post with links to the original posts which discuss the points above, but in the meantime, regulars know that I believe what the President is proposing is a half-measure, and I’m for all-out privatization of the whole system.

One of the real experts on Social Security is Donald Luskin, a contributor at NRO (among other things). I’m delighted to find (and can’t understand how I didn’t find before this) that Luskin has a BLOG: The Conspiracy to Keep You Poor and Stupid. If you are interested in Social Security, that site is a must-read-regularly. Now I know this is like the little mom-and-pop neighborhood store sending shoppers to the mall for a better selection…but it’s the information that’s important, dang it, so read Luskin’s blog. And start with
this item, which discusses the discoveries of NY Times op-ed writer John Tierney, who went to Chile to investigate for himself the reality of the Chilean privatized system, a system which I have previously suggested as a model:

After comparing our relative payments to our pension systems (since salaries are higher in America, I had contributed more), we extrapolated what would have happened if I'd put my money into Pablo's mutual fund instead of the Social Security trust fund. We came up with three projections for my old age, each one offering a pension that, like Social Security's, would be indexed to compensate for inflation:

(1) Retire in 10 years, at age 62, with an annual pension of $55,000. That would be more than triple the $18,000 I can expect from Social Security at that age.

(2) Retire at age 65 with an annual pension of $70,000. That would be almost triple the $25,000 pension promised by Social Security starting a year later, at age 66.

(3)Retire at age 65 with an annual pension of $53,000 and a one-time cash payment of $223,000.

You may suspect that Pablo has prospered only because he's a sophisticated investor, but he simply put his money into one of the most popular mutual funds.

I have some polls I'm looking at that, when looked at closely, provide a surprising glimpse of what the public is thinking on Social Security. I'll get to those later.

Thursday, April 28, 2005


Finally, bi-partisan action in Washington!

Democrats and Republicans are stampeding in an effort to get on the same side of something: "correcting" their travel and expense records before they get caught in the same kind of mess as Tom DeLay. In an article written by Mike Allen for the Washington Post and carried on MSNBC, it becomes clear that there is no shortage of congressional representatives with questionable memories, incredibly bad reord-keeping, and, apparently, downright incompetent staffers in charge of their records.

Members of Congress are rushing to amend their travel and campaign records, fearing that the controversy over House Majority Leader Tom DeLay will trigger an ethics war that will bring greater scrutiny to their own travel and official activities.


Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) wrote to the Federal Election Commission on April 15 to report that he had discovered that the Washington restaurant Signatures had not charged his credit card -- as he said he had directed -- for a 2003 fundraiser for 16 people that cost $1,846.

In another case, an aide to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) had not reported a 2004 trip to South Korea until a Washington Post reporter asked her office about it. Eddie Charmaine Manansala, Pelosi's special assistant on East Asian affairs, filed a disclosure form for the $9,087 trip a few hours after the newspaper's inquiry and sent a note to the ethics committee saying, "I did not know I was supposed to file these forms and I apologize for its lateness."

Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) even asked the ethics committee to investigate him after a reporter for the newspaper Roll Call pointed out that a travel disclosure form from 2001 listed the lobbying firm Rooney Group International as paying for a $1,782 trip to Boston, which would be a violation of House rules.

Abercrombie's aides said they have since determined that the lobbying firm's expenses were reimbursed by the nonprofit group that Abercrombie addressed on the trip, the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts. House rules state that the prohibition against lobbyists paying for members' travel applies "even where the lobbyist . . . will later be reimbursed for those expenses by a non-lobbyist client.

In other words, Abercrombie’s trip is a plain violation of the ethics rules…even after he explains it away. And Nancy Pelosi’s staff doesn’t know they’re supposed to file travel expense reports?

The list goes on:

Yesterday, an aide to Rep. Ruben Hinojosa (D-Tex.) filed a report saying she had not reported an $800 trip to Austin in January "due to pressing House business."

Two Republican freshmen -- Reps. Patrick T. McHenry (N.C.) and Lynn A. Westmoreland (Ga.) -- addressed a letter to Pelosi saying she "may have violated House Rules regarding privately sponsored travel" with a trip to Puerto Rico in 2001. Pelosi's aides supplied canceled checks that they said showed the trip was paid for by a nonprofit group, not a lobbyist.

The brouhaha arose because Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio), who had accompanied Pelosi on the trip, had listed the lobbyist as the sponsor -- in error, she said.


"Every time we go down there to check on something or refile something, we have noticed someone is going through our file," said Jason C. Roe, chief of staff to Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.). "Some people are just resigned that everyone is going to get kicked in the teeth while this goes on."

Feeney had listed a lobbying firm as the sponsor of a 2003 trip to Florida. But his staff said that a nonprofit group had paid, after the Washington Times asked about the filing. Roe apologized for the "clerical error."

Cleveland local media, by the way, have reported on the travels of Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones, Pelosi’s travel buddy on the trip to Puerto Rico:

Democratic Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones, of Cleveland, ranks first in Ohio in the number of congressional trips paid for by outside groups.

Since 2000, Jones has taken 47 trips for which outside groups paid more than $75,000.
The destinations included Taiwan, Malaysia, Egypt and Antigua.

Her travel ranked seventh overall among 598 current and former members of Congress in terms of outside-paid travel since 2000. The study was done by the watchdog group "PoliticalMoneyLine."

Her spokeswoman said Jones typically travels to address groups interested in legislation that come before committees on which Jones serves.

Yeah, I’m sure there are interested groups in Taiwan, Malaysia, Egypt and Antigua just clamoring to hear Stephanie Tubbs Jones’ views on legislation pending in the US House of representatives.

Now I know this is a dumb question, but I have to ask: if all these old reports are floating around, listing lobbyists as paying for trips, how come nobody noticed any of this before? Of course, they’re all just mistakes, and now they’ll all be cleaned up and “corrected”, but doesn’t anybody look at these reports they’re filing…or not filing? Why are there reports which clearly state violations of the House ethics rules sitting around waiting, unnoticed, for someone to “correct” them years later?

One final note from the original article:

Today [April 25], the House ethics committee plans to hold an hour-long "ethics briefing" for members and staff as a primer on ethics rules, including rules on gifts, travel, campaign activity and outside employment.

A day late and a dollar short, I’d say. A “primer on ethics rules”…some of these people have been in congress for years. Should they really need a “primer” on ethics rules? And one whole hour ever will they find the time to attend?

What a bunch of sloppy, sleazy, hypocritical jackasses.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005



O.K., so this isn't the kind of socially significant, politically important, or startlingly(?) thought-provoking type stuff you're accustomed to finding on this blog, but the ICK factor on this one is just so high I had to post it. The title of this post links to the original ABC News article.

Doctors found around 50 maggots in the ears of an 84-year-old Thai man after he went to hospital complaining of an itch.

Wednesday's Nation newspaper said Anan Temtan, who lives in the tsunami-hit southern resort island of Phuket, had used cotton buds to relieve the itching, but had scratched so hard his eardrums ruptured and started bleeding.

"We believe flies might have gone inside his ears to lay eggs, which hatched into larvae and caused the itching," said Somsak Nonthasri, the doctor who treated him. Somsak, who used tweezers and a small suction device to remove the maggots, said Anan would be kept in for observation for a while to make sure no more eggs hatched.


More Townsel plagiarism revealed

As usual, Little Green Footballs has got the goods:

Melody Townsel, the one-time George Soros employee and head of “Mothers Against Bush” who has “come forward” to accuse Michael Bolton of yelling at her and chasing her around a hotel, is a “serial plagiarizer”. Yesterday she posted a webfession that she had been tossed off her college paper for plagiarism, and a similar incident at another school paper resulted in the mutual decision that she should leave the paper. The similar incident was described by her as a “review of a play” that was similar to someone else’s review, but was not stolen.

Now a former editor, who discovered her plagiarism at the second school, has come forward to recount that she plagiarized a Newsweek article on famine in Africa. Is this a THIRD instance? Or did the one about the “play review” never happen? Or she got away with that one at the time and forgot it was the OTHER one, about the famine, she got caught on?

Tuesday, April 26, 2005


Stuff worth looking at

Here's some stuff I found while poking around tonight, in no particular order and for no particular reason:

Audrey at
BLOGCETRA is pondering the mysterious workings of Google Ads (who isn't?) and while we're pondering life's imponderables, does anyone out there understand how (or if) Technorati actually works? Some links apparently stay on your permanent record forever (like that ugly lunchbox incident in first grade) and some disappear almost immediately. Is it a page-related thing?

STEVE'S BLOG has an analysis of the "Buy Blue" concept - let me get this straight...I can buy goods made at a red company from a blue store, but not blue-made goods from a red store? And I can't buy gasoline at all?!

MAD TECH has a long and detailed post about the fact that illegal immigration is a national, not a regional, problem. Who knew Connecticut had an illegal immigrant problem? I mean, other than people from New York and Massachusetts.

Scriptor at
HISTORIUM has been keeping occupied with such diverse topics as Genghis Khan, the U.S. Constitution, and the Ottoman Empire.

CAO'S BLOG revisits the question of John Kerry and the incredible invisible form S-180, and has links to join the weekly blogburst on that topic. Hey, would you want someone looking at your records if they showed you got a medal for shooting yourself in the butt with flying dried rice?

CUANAS has a post on the Armenian genocide (about which most Americans are abysmally ignorant) as a Turkish jihad.

Finally, Harvey at
IMAO has a list of "Totally True Tidbits About Saudi Arabia". If you're not already familiar with that site, be warned: set down the coffee cup before you enter. And for this last listing, we award a hat tip to Tom at HAMSTERMOTOR, which site I will make no effort to describe, and which you should visit regularly because it is one fast-moving site.


Idiot gets jail time for french fry temper tantrum

From DuBois, Pennsylvania, comes this AP report on the case of a jerk who is getting some jail time after throwing a temper tantrum over french fries:

Call it a case of french fry rage. A Burger King customer who insisted on having it his way has been sentenced to 45 days in jail.

Gregg Luttman is in jail after throwing a fit in the drive-through lane of a Burger King.
Authorities said the Pennsylvania man blew his top when told the fast-food joint was out of fries. According to police, Luttman made an obscene gesture at a drive-through clerk, berated Burger King workers and nearly hit an employee with his truck.

When police tried to arrest him, Luttman allegedly scuffled with an officer and kicked out the back window of a cruiser.

Luttman pleaded guilty to a number of charges stemming from the New Year's Day fry affair, including assault and resisting arrest and institutional vandalism. Luttman was also fined $150 and ordered to serve two years' probation for the confrontation on New Year's Day.

Parents getting in fistfights at little league games, high school refs attacked by fans, fans attacked by NBA players, shoppers fighting over pre-Christmas specials, road rage … doesn’t ANYBODY in this country have any self-control anymore?

Sunday, April 24, 2005


"Minutemen" threaten to kill "founding fathers"

For those who believe the Iraqi "insurgency" is some kind of unified, patriotic nationalistic movement, this Reuters report might clue you in to the reality of the situation:

Al Qaeda's Iraqi wing threatened Sunday to kill fellow Sunni Muslims who join the country's new government, saying they would be considered infidels.

"We warn all those who want to join the politics of infidels and apostates that the steel sword will be their only fate," the group, led by Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, said in a statement posted on a Web site used by Islamic militants.

So whence the title of this post? Well, surely you remember when Michael Moore, propaganda minister of the extreme left, described the Iraqi “resistance” as the equivalent of the minutemen of the American Revolution? These “minutemen” have turned on the Iraqis who seek to form a self-governing Iraqi state, the would be “founding fathers” of a democratic Iraq. Now, not satisfied with killing Kurds and Shiites and anyone else they can kill, they are apparently ready to turn on this last group with which they may have had some common interest.

There is a tendency to view historical events as the natural course of things. “Of course the thirteen colonies united in their bid for independence, it was the natural course of events. Of course the thirteen American colonies united to form a single nation, it was the natural course of events.” But actually it is usually only with the benefit of hindsight that the historical progression of events becomes obvious. History buffs, and the occasional “serious” historian, love to play “what if?” What if Grant had been killed, instead of injured, when thrown from his horse? What if McClellan, and not Meade, had been in command of the Union forces at Gettysburg? What if John Hancock, and not Washington, had been selected as the commander of the rebel armies? What if Washington had given in to the demands of Virginia Governor Thomas Jefferson and brought his army south, abandoning his strategically critical lines in the north?

The course of events that lay before them was not quite so obvious to the Americans who made the Revolution and formed the United States. Maryland was largely Catholic, with no particular love for the Puritans of the New England colonies, who had no real use for the “papists”, or for the Quakers, for that matter, and many a Pennsylvanian had memories of a relative (or himself) having been run out of towns in New England. The merchants and seamen of the north were distrusted by the planters of the south, who felt the shipping interests gouged them at every opportunity. The farmers and planters, north and south, felt they had little in common with the “big” cities like Boston and Philadelphia, or Savannah either.

And if it was so obvious that revolution was the proper course of events, why didn’t Canada rebel? Most American rebellionists surely assumed that Canada would join the rebellion. Remember, Canada had been wrested from France so recently that Benjamin Franklin himself had been involved in a plan to establish new English settlements in Canada. Many Americans assumed the British subjects in Canada felt the same grievances as in the thirteen colonies.

When Franklin warned that “we had better all hang together or we will all hang separately” he wasn’t just being witty. It was a warning that the thirteen colonies had better act in unison, despite the temptation to do otherwise. Remember, Spain held Florida and France still had vast holdings centered on the Mississippi Valley, and both had agents active throughout what is now the southeastern United States. Georgia, for example, could have reasonably made a separate treaty and placed itself under the protection of one of those nations. Any one or more of the colonies could have abandoned the revolution and made a separate peace with Britain at any time.

We view the Revolution and the founding of the United States as one seamless process. It was not. Take a look at the list of signers of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and realize that these events are separated by more than a decade, and the confederacy formed under the Articles of Confederation. Some of the names, obviously, are the same. Washington, Franklin, and Roger Sherman, for example. Others are pointedly not present at the Constitutional convention: Jefferson, Hancock, and the Adams cousins, Samuel and John.

We tend to think of the “Founding Fathers”, the war-time Continental Congress, and the rebellionists as being loosely the same group, but they weren’t. Samuel Adams did more than any other single individual to bring about the Revolution, but he played no role in the formation of the Constitution, or, really, the conduct of the war. Patrick “give me liberty or give me death” Henry was said to be outraged when he saw the draft of the Constitution, grasping at once the significance of the phrasing “We, the people” of the “United States”.

The group who constructed – and secured ratification of – the Constitution - was on the whole a much more conservative and politically sophisticated group than the group that brought about the revolution. In fact, many vocal opponents of the Constitution had been some of the most vocal supporters of rebellion and independence. But while Patrick Henry may have opposed the Constitution, he did not organize a group to go out and kidnap and behead fellow Virginian James Madison. Samuel Adams was willing to organize the Sons of Liberty, put on Indian costumes and toss the King’s tea off of the King’s ships into the harbor, and he was willing to argue all day and all night against the ratification of the Constitution, but he did not organize a gang to put kegs of gunpowder in the cellar and blow up the ratification convention.

In Michael Moore’s world, there is no difference between murderous gangs of Baathist thugs, common criminals and ideological fanatics, and a group of patriots with disparate interests, and different viewpoints, working their way, via a series of compromises, to an independent and democratic society, a republic where the rights of each are guaranteed, to the extent possible, against the demands of all. Apparently, Michael Moore’s view of history, and of the course of events in Iraq, bears no more relationship to reality than do any of his scripted, acted, cut-and-pasted celluloid works of fiction.


Mice forced into hibernation by scientists

Every once in a while you run across something that makes you do a double-take, a kind of “HUH?” based on what you’ve always thought was science fiction. Generally, this reaction is to the sudden realization that something that has in fact been science fiction all your life is suddenly maybe more science than fiction.

The original article is from

Scientists for the first time have induced a state of hibernation in mice, a technique that could lead to new treatments for diseases in humans.

Lead researcher, Mark Roth, from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center said the achievement, is the first demonstration of "hibernation on demand" in a mammal.

In order to force the mice into hibernation, researchers exposed the creatures to high levels of hydrogen sulfide gas. By allowing the mice to breathe fresh air the condition was reversed without any signs of harm to the animals.

The team reports that within minutes of breathing the hydrogen sulfide, the mice stopped moving and lost consciousness. Their breathing dropped from a normal 120 breaths per minute to fewer than 10. Their body temperature fell from the normal 37 degrees Celsius to 11 degrees Celsius.

If the technique can be replicated in humans, Roth and colleagues believe it could first be used to treat people suffering from severe fevers of unknown origin.

Now, it’s a long way from gassing mice into unconsciousness to astronauts waking up dead because HAL shut off the life support systems to their “suspended animation” pods, but from the scant information provided, this also appears to be a long way from inducing a coma and all the risk that accompanies that procedure.

It will be interesting to follow where, if anywhere, this procedure leads in the future.


Bad karma, or something like that

Last week I was poking fun at springtime in Northeast Ohio. Today we have an inch of snow on the ground and more coming down. Serves me right, I guess. But I refuse to admit that it's my fault.

Friday, April 22, 2005


Considering global climate change on Earth Day

Today is Earth Day. Consider that fact, and then consider the following, concerning the effects of the changing climate on the world’s food supply:

There are ominous signs that the earth’s weather patterns have begun to change dramatically and that these changes may portend a drastic decline in food production – with serious political implications for just about every nation on earth.


The evidence in support of these predictions has now begun to accumulate so massively that meteorologists are hard-pressed to keep up with it. In England, farmers have seen their growing season decline by about two weeks since 1950, with a resultant over-all loss in grain production estimated at up to 100,000 tons annually. During the same time, the average temperature around the equator has risen by a fraction of a degree – a fraction that in some areas can mean drought and desolation. Last April, in the most devastating outbreak of tornadoes ever recorded, 148 twisters killed more than 300 people and caused half a billion dollars’ worth of damage in thirteen U.S. states.

To scientists, these seemingly disparate incidents represent the advance signs of fundamental changes in the world’s weather.

I’m no alarmist, no tree-hugging, whale-saving, bike-pedaling, candle-using environmentalist whack job, but those are sobering thoughts.

Those words are from the April 28, 1975 issue of NEWSWEEK magazine. You can view a PDF of the article
here, as reproduced at Junk Science.

Incidentally, the next sentence after the spot where I left off the quote above reads as follows:

The central fact is that after three-quarters of a century of extraordinarily mild conditions, the earth’s climate seems to be cooling down.

Yessirree Bob, just thirty years ago it was a scientific “fact” that the earth’s climate was cooling down, and global cooling was going to cause mass famine and storms and floods and tornadoes and maybe another ice age and OH MY GOD THE GOVERNMENTS OF THE WORLD JUST AREN’T DOING ANYTHING ABOUT IT!

Is any of this getting through to you “global warming” advocates out there?


Where has the Blogging Airman gone?

Anybody out there know anything about the whereabouts of The Blogging Airman? His site seems to have disappeared completely. I know he was set to be deployed, but I wouldn't have expected his site to vanish as a result.

Thursday, April 21, 2005


France endorses China's "right" to attack Taiwan

France, our erstwhile “ally”, now not only favors ending the arms embargo and enabling the open sale of sophisticated weapons to China – weapons for which the principal use to China would be to attack U.S. carrier groups defending Taiwan – but also endorses China’s “right” to attack Taiwan, as reported in this article from a German source:

During a state visit to China, French Premier Raffarin threw support behind a law allowing China to attack Taiwan and continued to push for a lift of the EU arms embargo.

Appearing to put his government at odds with the European Union, [French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre] Raffarin said at the outset of the three day visit that Paris had no objections to the anti-secession law.

"The anti-secession law is completely compatible with the position of France," he said in a joint press conference with his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao.

The “anti-secession law” is essentially a Chinese law that authorizes the invasion of Taiwan. Following the communist victory in the Chinese civil war after WWII, nationalist leaders fled the mainland to the Island of Taiwan. The Chinese government there was long recognized as the legitimate government of China, and seated in the United Nations, until the realpolitik thinking of the 70’s shoved Taiwan aside and embraced the communist government in Peking (now known as “Beijing”). The U.S. has always guranteed the security of Taiwan against Chinese invasion, as we guarantee South Korea against invasion from the North. As, for fifty years, we guaranteed the safety of France against invasion by the Soviet Union.

If China’s assertion that it has a right to attack Taiwan is “completely compatible” with the position of France, then that make’s France’s position completely incompatible with the U.S. position on Taiwan. France is neither a friend nor an ally, and France is not to be trusted.

At the same time, he vowed that his government would continue to push for the lifting of what he called the "anachronistic" and "discriminatory" arms embargo against China. The embargo contradicts the current "strategic partnership" between the EU and China, he added.

So Europe and China have a “strategic partnership” that will benefit from the sale of high tech weapons systems to China, weapons systems for which the only reasonable use is to strike at U.S. forces defending Taiwan? Wake up boys and girls! The friend of your enemy is not your friend! The country that sells arms the purpose of which are to threaten or kill your countrymen is not your ally!
What motivates France? A high moral value? A sense of international justice? How about profiteering as a motive for cozying up to the last great totalitarian state:

Raffarin also signed or finalized major business deals with Beijing valued at around $3.2 billion (2.4 billion euros).

Some 20 other previously announced contracts were also finalized during the ceremony. Taken together, the value of the deals comes to around $3.2 billion, Delmas said.
"This is a very big market ... in the first four months of the year it grew by 40 percent over the same period last year," Delmas told news agencies.

After all, this is France we’re talking about. The country that didn’t want to give up its cash cow in Iraq…and secretly sold weapons and provided intelligence to Saddam Hussein until the very minute those weapons they sold were fired at American troops…the country that has blocked U.N. sanctions against slaughter in Darfur because of its oil contracts with the genocidal government whose cash flow would be interrupted by those sanctions.
At least the bastards are consistent.
UPDATE: OOPS!...forgot to link Little Green Footballs as the source for this post!

Wednesday, April 20, 2005


Is the "Big Bang" just so much hot air?

An atom-smashing fireball experiment has physicists puzzling over existing theories about the moments after the "Big Bang" that scientists say created the universe. Researchers conducted the experiment over the past three years at the Energy Department's Brookhaven National Laboratory in Long Island, New York.

Thousands of collisions of gold atoms took place in the laboratory's Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider facility. The goal was to create a charged gas that was more than 1 trillion degrees, up to 150,000 times hotter than the sun's core. This was the climate scientists believe followed the Big Bang.

Instead, the collisions created pinprick-size fireballs with matter that behaved like a high-temperature liquid, rather than a gas, for its infinitesimally brief existence, the team reported Monday.

"It's a big puzzle and a big surprise," Brookhaven's Dmitri Kharzeev says. The results were reported at the American Physical Society meeting in Tampa and are scheduled for publication in the journal Nuclear Physics A.

Read between the lines here, folks. What is not being said is that IF the experimental model is valid – and that’s a big IF – then the universe did not come about in the way that science has assured us for years is the case. No superheated expanding gas cloud. In other words, the “Big Bang”, which we have been assured explains the formation of the universe, didn’t happen the way scientists have described it…if it happened at all. The experimental results are at odds with previous research, and theoretically constructed models of the formation of the universe:

Their earlier findings suggested that the atomic collisions created a primordial concoction known as "quark-gluon" plasma. But rather than behaving like a charged gas, or plasma, and moving about on independent paths, subatomic particles inside the collisions moved collectively in response to pressure variations, like liquids.

Trying to duplicate the moments that followed the Big Bang, the scientists used the high-powered collisions between heavy gold atoms to separate quarks and gluons from their proton and neutron containers. The scientists expected them to mingle as a continuous, charged gas, but that does not appear to have happened.

Instead, the team is left with an intriguing discovery that they say will affect how physicists consider the first moments of the Big Bang. Kharzeev said physicists are still pondering how the early universe really developed if matter behaved as a liquid rather than a gas.

In other words, the scientific explanation for the formation of the universe – big bang, plasma, gas cloud, gradual formation of solid particles – is wrong on virtually all the details. Which leaves one to ponder, is that theory right about anything?

There has been a disturbing trend, as America has pushed toward a European-style “secular only” public face, to place “science” on a pedestal, and accept as scientifically established fact any theory which has gained wide acceptance. “Global Warming” is one of these theories. The Big Bang is another. When I was a kid, it was always referred to as “the Big Bang theory”. Somewhere over the course of the years, the “theory” got dropped and the “Big Bang” became the “official true version of the formation of the universe.”

So now we have an experiment, intended to validate and elucidate the “Big Bang Theory”, which instead seems to indicate that the theory has serious flaws. Hey, can we get a refund on those new textbooks we just ordered for our school district?

But it’s not always a bad thing for scientists to be wrong. Prior to the collider experiments dire warnings had been issued about the potential theoretical results:

A few observers had expressed fears that the colliding atoms would create miniature versions of collapsed stars — tiny black holes that would consume Long Island, says Brookhaven's Sam Aronson. "But it's pretty clear that didn't happen."

WHEW! I'm relieved that these guys did not in fact create tiny black holes and that Long Island was not consumed. Now, if they could create a tiny black hole that would swallow up Pittsburgh, they would be on to something.

(The title to this post links to the original news article.)

Tuesday, April 19, 2005


Hypocrisy from Kerry: "Don't vote blind, unless you're voting for me!"

John Kerry's hypocrisy is apparently every bit as vast as his ego.

In commenting on the Bolton nomination, John Kerry said the following:

"Is the chairman saying it doesn't matter what we know about John Bolton?" asked Kerry. "If you don't know some of the allegations that have come across the transom then you are voting in the blind. Maybe you want to vote in the blind."

This from the man who gave us the fictional "Christmas in Cambodia", which even the supporters on his own boat said never happened, which story has since morphed into "Sometime around Cristmas in Cambodia", which even his supporters have said never happened, which story has most recently morphed into "Running guns to the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia", which even his supporters say never happened (and no one can figure out why Lt. Kerry would have been seceretly running guns to the communists).

This from the man whose campaign finally admitted that his first "war wound" resulted from somehow shooting himself with shrapnel from a grenade launcher, who has never provided one shred of evidence to refute allegations that one of his other "wounds" occurred when he was hit in the butt by flying dried rice when he heroically tossed a grenade into a rice storage bin; who has never provided one shred of evidence to refute allegations that there were no Viet Cong guerillas on the boat with the family he machine-gunned.

This from the man whose version of how he got one of his medals was disproved by the after-action report which showed that there were no "overwhelming numbers" of Viet Cong, just one wounded fleeing teenager he chased down and shot dead.

This from the man who repeatedly claimed "all his records were posted" when it was obviously not the truth.

This from the man who still has not signed the S-180 and released his military records.

Apparently, you should only vote "blind" if you're going to vote for John Kerry.


Excuses for my erratic posting of late

I apologize for the erratic posting of late. I've always tried - with varying degrees of success - to post something I think will be interesting to readers at least once a day. Lately I haven't done so well. So what's my excuse?

Well, really it's a few things. First, February-March is one of my real busy times at work. Darndest thing about employers, they write you a check, they expect you to actually do work from time to time. I have books that I edit that ship in April, and another group that ships in the fall. So twice a year for about two months I am swamped meeting publication deadlines. And I always make my deadlines. While I occasionally post an already written piece from work, I don't blog at work... but busier at work translates into less time and energy for the reading and writing that goes into blogging.

Second, spring has arrived in Northeast Ohio. Well, sort of. For those of us who've lived in these parts for many years, spring doesn't officially arrive until ceratin events occur.

First, there's the 80/60 rule. It isn't spring until 80% of the roads you want to use are 60% obstructed by orange construction barrels, or 60% of the roads you want to use are 80% obstructed. Notice I said construction barrels, not construction work. It is not unusual in Ohio for a stretch of highway to be home to miles of barrels for months without ever seeing an actual construction worker doing actual construction work. Route 76 between Akron and Youngstown has, at times, had miles of barrels for months, which then disappeared without any discernible work ever having been done. My father's theory is that the state is to cheap to pay for a warehouse, and just rotates the barrels around on the highways for storage purposes. He may be on to something.

Second, dandelions. Anywhere in Ohio where a soil molecule exists, a dandelion will appear, with a root which stretches down beyond the depth to which human technology is able to penetrate the surface of the earth. I have dug up dandelions with roots larger than carrots. I have seen dandelions packed so densely that they had to be dug up with a shovel because those forked "weed diggers" were absolutely useless. And if you spray most weed killers on them they will actually still go to seed before they die, thereby spawning hundreds, or thousands, of new dandelions. Someone who knows something about it told me that's how most of the weed killers work...they accelerate the weeds' life cycles and they die of old age. AFTER they go to seed. Any Weed-B-Gone conspiracy theorists out there? After all, if you market a weed killer that kills weeds, but also accelerates the production of weed seed crops, that's pretty effective marketing. A few years ago somebody ran a tv commercial that showed a guy trying to pull up a weed, while a guy in china pulled on the other end of the same weed. That weed is in my yard. And it has friends and relatives.

Third, it isn't really spring until the Cleveland Indians are mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. Actually, I'm a life long Indians fan. And, beginning in the mid-nineties, we were treated to several years of some of the best baseball anybody ever got to see anywhere. When they won the pennant in '95, I declared that I could die a happy man, having seen something I never believed I would live to see. I think John Hart, as GM, got a lot more credit than he deserved, and I think Dick Jacobs, as owner, didn't get near the credit he deserved. I also think Mike Hargrove was a much better manager than most people realize, because quite honestly those teams weren't as loaded with talent as they appeared, and Hart was constantly tinkering with the roster, which makes the manager's job much tougher.

But spring is mostly here, and what's spring got to do with the dearth of fresh material on this blog anyway? Well, and we own a couple of acres which, when we acquired it two years ago, hadn't been real well tended for the last 15 years or so. Which makes for a heck of a lot of yard work just catching up, let alone trying to work on any new projects. I used to collect books. Now I am collecting machinery: a chipper-shredder here, a tiller there, tractors, chainsaws...all of which have been purchased as necessities. I either buy machinery, or I hire a crew of five laborers. And of course, there is then the using of all that machinery, which results in a lot less time and a heck of a lot less energy for blogging.

I told the wife last weekend, I may as well just post a "Back next fall" notice on the ol' blog. But then, fall will be leaf season, and firewood cutting...

I promise I'll try to keep up with my posting a little better.

Saturday, April 16, 2005


Sometimes "science" isn't very scientific

Among the scientific papers scheduled for presentation at the World Multiconference on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics (WMSCI), scheduled to be held July 10-13 in Orlando, Florida, is "Rooter: A Methodology for the Typical Unification of Access Points and Redundancy".

"Rooter" describes in detail the researchers’ methodology: "the model for our heuristic consists of four independent components: simulated annealing, active networks, flexible modalities, and the study of reinforcement learning" and "We implemented our scatter/gather I/O server in Simula-67, augmented with opportunistically pipelined extensions."

WOW! That is so technical I have no idea what they’re talking about! I’ll bet you don’t understand it, either. But don’t feel bad. Nobody on earth can understand it. It is computer-generated nonsense, as reported here:

A bunch of computer-generated gibberish masquerading as an academic paper has been accepted at a scientific conference in a victory for pranksters at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Jeremy Stribling said on Thursday that he and two fellow MIT graduate students questioned the standards of some academic conferences, so they wrote a computer program to generate research papers complete with nonsensical text, charts and diagrams.

The trio submitted two of the randomly assembled papers to the World Multiconference on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics (WMSCI), scheduled to be held July 10-13 in Orlando, Florida.

To their surprise, one of the papers -- "Rooter: A Methodology for the Typical Unification of Access Points and Redundancy" -- was accepted for presentation.

So how in the world does a “scientific” conference schedule for presentation a paper which amounts to random gobbledygook? Well, for one thing, apparently nobody connected with the conference ever even read it:

Nagib Callaos, a conference organizer, said the paper was one of a small number accepted on a "non-reviewed" basis -- meaning that reviewers had not yet given their feedback by the acceptance deadline.

"We thought that it might be unfair to refuse a paper that was not refused by any of its three selected reviewers," Callaos wrote in an e-mail. "The author of a non-reviewed paper has complete responsibility of the content of their paper."

In other words, as long as it was submitted close enough to the deadline, and looked like a “scientific” research paper, a collection of material from the back of cereal boxes could get on the agenda at this particular “scientific” conference. Because it might be “unfair” to refuse it. When did “science” get to be about whether it is or isn’t “fair” to reject a submission made too late for even a cursory review? Isn’t science supposed to be all about review and careful investigation? Is this a case of the “self-esteem” approach to education making its way into the scientific community?

And what about accountability and responsibility? Oh, wait, they've got that covered: So what if we schedule the presentation of randomly-generated nonsense as "scientific" research at our "scientific" conference? "The author of a non-reviewed paper has complete responsibility of the content of their paper." Hey, we're not responsible for what gets presented at our conference.

“We accepted this paper without ever reading it because it might be “unfair” to reject it for the reason that it was too late to be properly reviewed.”

Would you conduct your business this way? “I signed the mortgage contract because it wasn’t ready in time for me to actually read the terms.” “I bought the car because it might be unfair to make the salesman actually explain the features he was talking about.”

How many more “scientists” are out there doing business this way?

Incidentally, this isn’t the first time something like this has happened:

The prank recalled a 1996 hoax in which New York University physicist Alan Sokal succeeded in getting an entire paper with a mix of truths, falsehoods, non sequiturs and otherwise meaningless mumbo-jumbo published in the journal Social Text.

Sometimes “science” just isn’t very scientific. And sometimes, “science” just isn’t very smart.

Friday, April 15, 2005


Happy Tax Day!

6.6 BILLION hours just to do the paperwork!

AP) - People scurrying to meet Friday's tax deadline might consider this: It's taking you and your fellow Americans 6.6 billion hours to do all that paperwork. The basic tax return -- the Form 1040 filed by most people every year -- accounts for 1.6 billion hours. The Internal Revenue Service furnished those statistics to the White House budget office, which keeps tabs on the government's bureaucratic demands.

And when you're done contributing your chunk of that 6.6 BILLION hours and looking at how much of YOUR paycheck government takes and spends for you, go visit
Citizens Against Government Waste and spend a few minutes looking into what government does with YOUR money.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005


Does silica in French tap water prevent Alzheimer's?

A French study seems to suggest that higher levels of silica contained in the tap water of some French cities may operate to reduce the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. This is potentially big news … really big news. But how accurate can this be? Is this another “cold fusion” report? Or a “saccharin causes cancer” study?

As regular readers know, I’m something of a skeptic when it comes to “research” that concludes that statistics “prove” something. Whether scientific research or public opinion polling, most statistical correlations are that and nothing more. Most statistical research tries to make claims way beyond what the data actually shows, and quite frankly, an awful lot of what passes for “research” is sloppy, filled with unproven assumptions, questionable methodology, and conclusions that require a real leap of faith in order to get from the data to the conclusion.

Supposedly scientific research, in particular, is often completely misrepresented, with a mere statistical correlation being pushed as a cause and effect relationship. A philosophy professor who hailed from the Boston area once explained the distinction to me this way: “Every time I lay on my couch and drink Narragansett beer while watching the Red Sox on t.v., they win. But no matter how many times this happens, 100, 1,000, 1,000,000, it’s still nothing but a statistical correlation. It can never establish that my laying on the couch drinking beer causes the Sox to win.”

Much of what passes for “scientific research” falls into just this error, and makes the unsupported leap from statistical relationship to causation. One of the most common ways this error creeps in is the failure to follow subjects over long periods of time, and the failure to account for other possible variables. “Snapshot” research, where a group of people or a particular phenomenon is statistically compared or analyzed at a particular point in time, is inherently unreliable, and the fewer other variables the researchers account for, the more unreliable it becomes. It is like checking the weather this afternoon, and concluding based on that observation that the climate in the area is generally sunny and warm.

This French study, though, on its face seems to be more than the usual slop job pawned off as “research”. First, the study followed the same group of people over a period of several years, apparently ten years or more per participant. It involved about 7,500 subjects, a rather large number for a long term study by today’s standards. And a real effort was made to account for other variables which might effect the data.

And – this is important – the study didn’t start out to find a relationship between silica in drinking water and Alzheimer’s. The principal focus of this long and apparently pretty thorough epidemiological study was apparently osteoporosis – bone loss experienced (most commonly by women) as humans age.

Why is this important? I’m always just a little bit suspicious when researchers “find” what they told the financial sponsors of the study they were looking for!

The Irish Brigade has a discussion of the study, and links to both the Reuters report and the actual published study.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005


Kerry alleges voter intimidation, trickery

Reproduced in toto from the Washinton Post (link provided above):

Associated PressMonday, April 11, 2005; Page A05

BOSTON, April 10 -- Many would-be voters in last year's presidential election were denied access to the polls through trickery and intimidation, former Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry told the Massachusetts League of Women Voters on Sunday.

Kerry cited examples of how people were duped into not voting. "Leaflets are handed out saying Democrats vote on Wednesday, Republicans vote on Tuesday. People are told in telephone calls that if you've ever had a parking ticket, you're not allowed to vote," he said.

Kerry has never disputed the outcome of the election, saying voting irregularities did not involve enough votes to change the result. President Bush won the pivotal state of Ohio by 118,000 votes, giving him enough electoral votes to win reelection.

Now, excuse me for being an insensitive elitist snob, but if you can't figure out when election day is, or some stranger calls on the phone and tells you you can't vote if you've ever had a parking ticket, and you then don't vote, well, you probably shouldn't be voting anyway. Or crossing the street all by yourself, either.

Throughout the election cycle, including the primaries, I viewed Kerry as an empty suit. I was wrong. He is much worse than that. He is a serial exaggerator (if not out-and-out liar) with a real need for self-aggrandizement, an ego the size of Alaska and Texas combined, and a complete and utter disdain for the common man. He really thinks the "little" people are idiots.

Does he really believe this nonsense? Does he really believe those who would have potentially voted for him could be that stupid?

Oh, by the way, I'm still waiting to hear him repudiate the numerous and well-documented incidents of union goon platoons threatening, damaging, and even causing injuries to workers at, Bush-Cheney offices in the run-up to the election. Voter intimidation and voter fraud were rampant in 2004. Not all, but the vast majority, perpetrated by Kerry supporters. Heard the guy say anything about any of that?

And one last thing: seen that signed S-180 yet?

Friday, April 08, 2005


Yushchenko visit receives scant coverage

Speaking before congress on Wednesday, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko thanked the U.S. for its support of the democratic process in the Ukraine, and asked not only for economic development aid, but for help in gaining access for his country to mainstream world society:

Yushchenko thanked the United States for backing his candidacy and the ouster of the pro-Russian government, saying the U.S. support was "clear and unambiguous. The U.S. condemned fraud and upheld Ukrainian's right to freely elect their government."

The Ukrainian president also sought U.S. lawmakers' support for his country's entrance into the European Union, the World Trade Organization and NATO, which he said would give his country new opportunities and help it continue on the path of democracy.

Yushchenko was elected after a tumultuous series of events which saw the incumbent pro-Russian government try to steal the election, only to be rebuffed by the Ukrainian equivalent of the Supreme Court amid massive street demonstrations.

At times, it seemed the electoral crisis in Ukraine might spill over into U.S.-Russian relations, as the U.S. openly preferred Yushchenko while Putin and the Kremlin backed Leonid Kuchma, his predecessor. And a still-pending investigation is pursuing a possible attempt to assassinate Yuschenko by means of dioxin poisoning.

In the course of his three-day visit to the U.S., Yushchenko received the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award, an annual honor given to public servants who have made courageous decisions of conscience without regard for the consequences.

In addressing congress, Yushchenko envisioned a new era in U.S.-Ukrainian relations, as well as the new role for the Ukraine in the international community for which he sought U.S. support:

"Our goal is to place Ukraine among prosperous democracies," Yushchenko said, speaking through an interpreter. Addressing a joint meeting of Congress, he said his three-day visit was meant to ring in a new era of relations between Ukraine and the United States.

"We do not seek only a thaw in the frosty relations of the past. We seek a new atmosphere of trust, frankness and partnership," Yushchenko said.

Apparently, here in the U.S., Yushchenko’s fifteen minutes of fame are used up. While the street demonstrations in the course of the Ukrainian election drama dominated the news at the time, his visit to this country and appearance before congress has gone all but unnoticed. Coverage by Newsmax is the basis of this post.


Karol Wojtyla - a young man of character

Before he was Pope John Paul II, or even a priest, he was Karol Wojtyla, a young Polish Catholic caught up in the inhumanity and devastation that was World War II. For a revealing look at the kind of man he was before he became famous as a great man, read this, the very personal story of a seminarian who helped a young jewish girl alone and desperate in the waning days of the war.

Hat tip to Common Sense and Wonder, where I found the link to this article.

Thursday, April 07, 2005


World Health Organization - worse than Oil-for-Food?

James K. Glassman, writing in the New Hampshire Union Leader, raises some intriguing questions about the U.N.-operated World Health Organization, suggesting that the world’s poor, and especially those in Africa, are being victimized by its agenda.

With AIDS, the WHO got a black eye for placing 18 Indian-made rip-off medicines on its list of approved drugs. Those medicines turned out to be uncertified copies of the patented HIV drugs from which they were copied.

With malaria, the WHO has refused to encourage the use of DDT and other proven insecticides and has engaged in what a group of scientists, writing in The Lancet, called “medical malpractice” in its use of a poor regime of anti-malarial drugs.

While the U.N. was foisting off what turned out to be untested counterfeit AIDS drugs on Africa, it was criticizing the Bush administration for insisting that the U.S. would pay only for drugs specifically approved by the FDA. This outrageous insistence on name-brand American drugs, rather than cheaper, generic copies from other countries, was argued to be evidence of some discriminatory intent on the part of the U.S., evidence of the on-going refusal of the U.S. to whole-heartedly support the “war on AIDS” in Africa, despite the fact that AIDS spending by the U.S. in Africa has increased dramatically since 2000.

And as for malaria, the environmentalists can scream all day long, but the fact is that no scientific evidence, anywhere, ever, has linked DDT to the death of anything but insects, and particularly mosquitoes by the millions. All that stuff about DDT entering the food chain and causing thin-shelled Bald Eagle eggs, thereby reducing the population of eagles, was nothing more than speculation. An anti-chemical EPA chief seized upon the popularity of the ecology tome “Silent Spring” and got DDT banned in the U.S. without any scientific evidence. Just media-driven hysterics.

Those of you who are interested in what science DOES NOT in fact establish should check out Steve Milloy’s
Junk Science. You may find it a real eye-opener.

And for those of you who believe "science" is always true, do you remember the “saccharin causes cancer” episode? The artificial sweetener was virtually driven off the market when some " scientists" announced that it caused cancer in mice. Only later did cooler heads prevail, demonstrating that the original study had been so severely flawed as to be useless, and that saccharin had no discernible link to cancer whatsoever. Those little pink sweetener packets in restaurants are saccharin. And they don’t cause cancer.

Glassman, pointing to the AIDS drugs and malaria policy as two examples, argues that

A U.N. agency that was set up in 1948, the WHO, more and more, has come under the influence of radical health and environmental activists who push a bitterly anti-enterprise ideology.

And now, having failed to effectively address either malaria or AIDS, which directly cause tens of thousands of deaths in the world’s poor countries annually, despite the expenditure of tens of millions of dollars, the WHO is turning its attention to that great and deadly scourge, baby formula!

In January, the WHO recommended the adoption of an extreme anti-bottle-feeding resolution at the 57th World Health Assembly — the WHO’s annual meeting, set for mid-May in Geneva. The immediate objective of the resolution is to force infant-formula packages to carry warning labels akin to those on cigarettes or liquor. The ultimate goal is to scare mothers into abandoning bottle-feeding.

There’s a deep irony here. The WHO wants to discourage the use of baby formula, whose efficacy and safety have been established over many decades — while at the same time, the WHO has been approving untested anti-AIDS drugs.

While breast-feeding infants may be preferable, there is certainly no scientific reason to believe that bottle-feeding represents any danger to anyone, least of all the infant. Rather, this policy is clearly an ideological agenda being pushed by an organization which is supposed to be concerned with improving the health of the world’s poor. It’s a little difficult to see how this can become a priority in any sort of medically or health-driven scheme of things.

But then, that’s Glassman’s point: the decisions at the WHO aren’t being made based on sound medicine or science. The decision-making is being driven by extremists with a political agenda.

A few years back, the WHO completed a lengthy (several years) study of the effects of second-hand smoke. What they found was…nothing. No link between second-hand smoke and cancer. Or asthma. Or bronchitis, or sinusitis. Or low birth weight, or the price of tea in China. Nothing. So what did they do? Well, they announced that even though their study found no such links, such links must exist because the old EPA study found them. Then they quickly buried the scientific evidence that didn’t match their preconceived conclusion.

Unfortunately, it isn’t scientific evidence that’s being buried as a result of their stubborn ideological insistence on their preconceived conclusions about AIDS and malaria.

Monday, April 04, 2005


Some ads have more sense than others

Over at Chimps At Work, we posted some Irish jokes for St. Patrick's Day, being Irish ourselves and appreciating a good joke even if we are the butt of it. Quickly the Google Adsense bots crawled through the new post, and up came ads for beer steins, home brewing kits, bar glasses, the Guinness Web Store, and such. A pretty impressive demonstration of a practical application of "artificial intelligence", if you consider the general substance of most Irish jokes.

In response to the "Displaced Bloggers - A Growing Epidemic?" post below, we got ads for stuff like substance abuse help, drug test your teen, death records research, disease and death statistics, and a site explaining how President Bush personally caused the flu vaccine shortage.

I guess it was that word "epidemic" that got all the attention.

Some bots just have no sense of humor.

If, on the other hand, if you DO have a sense of humor, O'Neil at The Irish Brigade posted for St. Patrick's day with one of the better Irish jokes I've heard in the last few years. And perhaps a wee bit more authentically Irish in that it goes rather the long way about in gettin' to the point, don't you know.


With friends like France, who needs enemies?

Jerry Scharf at Commonsense and Wonder has posted a link to a Reuters report containing this delightful information:

French President Jacques Chirac has reiterated his support to China's president for the lifting of an arms embargo imposed by the European Union over a decade ago, the official Xinhua news agency has said.

Chirac, a leading supporter of relaxing the embargo imposed after China's bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in 1989, told Hu Jintao by telephone that the embargo was outdated and should be revoked, Xinhua said late on Friday.

Hu said the embargo had become increasingly inappropriate and that lifting it would help promote relations between China and the European Union, Xinhua said, following a conversation that also touched on the possibility of visits by the Chinese and French premiers this year.

Isn’t that special? Jacques is working overtime to snuggle up to China, but it’s nothing to worry about. After all, he doesn’t plan to actually sell any weapons to China, he just thinks that lifting the embargo would make the world a more pleasant place:

Last month, Chirac said that EU countries would not start selling weapons to China if they lifted the embargo and that his support for lifting the ban was aimed at normalising relations with China.

Let’s think about this for a minute. China’s motivation for obtaining the most modern western weapons systems it can lay its hands on is most likely:
a) to defend itself from invasion by powerful, threatening neighbors like Nepal
b) to suppress the fierce resistance movement among Tibetan monks
c) to counter the growing menace posed by UFO’s
d) to have them available for use against US carrier task forces protecting Taiwan

But not to worry. Jacques doesn’t want to actually sell China weapons. He just wants to improve relations between the EU and China by lifting the embargo. Because lifting the embargo and then telling them that you will NOT sell them what they want is a sure-fire way to improve relations.

Sunday, April 03, 2005


EU Constitution threatened ... by France

A couple of days ago, The Captain’s Quarters took note of a series of public opinion polls in France that seem to indicate that the EU Constitution is in serious danger of being rejected in the upcoming public referendum. As is usual, the Capn’s commentary is to the point and on the mark:

The French seemed perfectly pleased with the concept of a united Europe -- as long as an EU meant basically Greater France, complete with its highly socialized nanny state, severe limitations on economic competition, and control from Paris. The French people wanted a new French empire handed to them by a voice vote, or at the least a Continental sphere of influence not seen since the days of Louis XIV. As long as the EU consisted of France, Germany, Spain, the Scandinavian countries, and Ireland, the French got exactly what they wanted.

Now, however, most of Europe has joined in, and the 25 states currently in the EU have very different ideas about the economic structure of the union and the amount of influence they will tolerate from the French. Especially the Eastern Europeans, who famously were told by Jacques Chirac to "shut up" about Saddam Hussein and the liberation of Iraq; their sovereignty and self-determination have been hard-won and they do not see the need to willingly place themselves under the thumb of another foreign government, no matter how benign.

Go read the whole piece, including the comments, and watch for fascinating details, like the fact that the German government managed to simply by-pass the whole messy let-the-people-be-heard-referendum thingy, and the fact that at least some members, or maybe one of the 3 trillion subcommittees, or something or other, of the Grand Council of High and Mighty Euro Poobahs, or whoever, has already decreed that it doesn’t really matter if the referendum fails in a country, if the government has signed on, it’s not like the people of that country have any authority to cancel out.

I wish I had something intelligent and insightful to add, but I don’t. I can’t. All I keep thinking of is that goofy French knight up on the battlements in Monty Python’s Holy Grail, shouting down something like “Now go away, you filthy uncultured capitalistic eastern European troglodytes, and take your economic competition and your 40 hour work weeks with you! If you will not play by our rules, then we will not come out to play at all!” And then, turning to the other French knights crouched, snickering, behind the walls, “Eh, anybody know where I can exchange this Euroweenie monopoly money for some dollars?”


Displaced Bloggers: A growing epidemic?

Pooklekufr: The Kafir Constitutionalist, has become a displaced person. Well, sort of. Tormented by Blogger’s apparently expanding and increasingly malicious gremlin squad, he has pulled up stakes and relocated at Hamstermotor. Well, sort of. He actually seems to be maintaining both spots for the time being. Truthfully, I feel for the guy. He is one of the truly active and involved characters out there blogging, and trying to fully relocate his spot, with its many connections around the web, has got to be no fun at all. But he seems to be enjoying his new home, so stop by and visit.

Incidentally, he is also one of the most generous bloggers around, dropping links to other folks' sites everywhere he goes, kind of like a bloggy Santa Claus passing out presents at Christmas...I can still say "Christmas" on the web, right?

Saturday, April 02, 2005


Rest in Peace, Pope John Paul II

I will not discuss questions of theology or dogma in this post. John Paul II was a conservative Polish Cardinal, and that religious conservatism rubbed some Americans the wrong way.

But in terms of the world at large, this was probably the most influential and important Pope of modern times. Long ago, kings and emperors answered to Popes; the Vatican maintained armies and controlled the fate of nations. Those days have long since faded into history.

This Pope never commanded an army, never crowned an emperor, never ordered kings and princes to do his bidding.

And yet it was with this Pope that the Reagan White House shared intelligence, revealing the Soviet troops poised to invade Poland and crush the freedom movement led by Solidarity. It was this Pope who announced his intention to go to Poland, and it was of this Pope that the communist tyrant Jaruzelski reported to the Kremlin, "We can not stop him." Armed with his faith and his moral courage, it was this Pope who journeyed to Poland, in open support of freedom, in the face of the threat of Soviet invasion. And in the end it was to this Pope that Jaruzelski admitted, "We have lost."

John Paul II was a champion of freedom, a fearless opponent of oppression, and a powerful defender of the faith and leader of the faithful. He sought rapproachment with groups long alienated from the Vatican, searched for common ground among adversaries, and always, with his simple faith to guide and sustain him, urged all men to work for peace and justice.

His shoes will not easily be filled. They are big shoes.

Friday, April 01, 2005


Bioethics and babies

A provocative piece in the National Review Online begins with this startling pronouncement:

"Killing a defective infant is not morally equivalent to killing a person. Sometimes it is not wrong at all."

Peter Singer, a bioethics professor at Princeton University, penned this chillingly cold line in his book Practical Ethics.

In case you're not freezing yet: Singer explains that, "Newborn human babies have no sense of their own existence over time."

Therefore, they are not “persons”. This is not some theoretical debate being carried out by nutjobs on the fringe of the academic world. This is mainstream thinking in the field of “bioethics”. And the practice of “euthanizing” babies who are “damaged” is actually already underway.

Where's it happening? In Europe and the Netherlands, specifically — although word of it is slowly spreading. In Holland, the Associated Press reports that "at least five newborn mercy killings occur for every one reported."

This is not an abortion debate. This is one of the foremost “Bioethics experts” expounding upon why it is OK to kill infants who have been born and are alive. As I explained in my previous post on “bioethics”, it’s really a very simple matter of defining “person” as excluding certain living human beings, and then concluding that only “persons”, as you have defined the term, can have any claim to a “right” to life.

In other words, as Christine Rosen, the author of
Preaching Eugenics, ... says, "The Netherlands' embrace of euthanasia has been a gradual process aided by the growing acceptance (in a much more secular Europe) that some life is 'unworthy of life.'"

And who will determine which life is a “worthy” life and which life is “unworthy” and should be terminated? Apparently, doctors and, of course, “bioethics experts” are the members of society qualified to make this judgment.

Writing in The New England Journal of Medicine, two doctors from the University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands confessed that "it is difficult to define" who, among infants, can or should be eliminated. Babies, obviously, can't tell you their pain is unbearable, so it becomes incumbent on "parents and medical experts" to determine what "hopeless" means.

At the moment, the "mercy killing" of infants isn't officially legal — even in the Netherlands. It's just happening. But the Groningen doctors seem to believe that if they can present guidelines by which doctors can break the law uniformly — the presumption being that they be professional about their killing — that a law allowing such killing will follow.

The larger framework is already there in Holland: "Adult" euthanasia is legal in the Netherlands, including for some teenagers without parental consent. Voluntary euthanasia there is not restricted to the terminally ill; if your desire to die is "rational," you've got a green light.

“Voluntary euthanasia” is a fancy euphemism for suicide. And who determines whether your desire to commit suicide is rational? Why, doctors and “bioethical experts”, of course.

So here we are again, at that slippery slope the American law professors deride as the non-existent fantasy of those who think the courts have extended their reach far enough. We go from abortion (because a fetus isn’t a “person”) to killing “defective” infants (because the defective infant isn’t a person) to …what? Deciding that no infant, defective or not, is a “person”…and that therefore ANY infant can be killed? Actually, “bioethics experts” have already reached that conclusion. See my previous post (link above) for information on “potential persons”.

Am I the only one hearing echoes of the insane policies of Nazi Germany?

I know, I know, that’s crazy, this is nothing like Nazi Germany. Really? The Germans didn’t start out to send six million Jews to gas chambers, or murder millions of others in forced labor and concentration camps. They started out to segregate the Jews…and "mental defectives"…and criminals, yeah, that’s a good thing…and then to sterilize "mental defectives"…and criminals...and then to lock up everybody who wasn’t defined as a “good German”. And from there it’s a hop, skip and a jump to experiments on human subjects (also already endorsed by “bioethics experts”, see previous post) lampshades and belts made from human flesh and six million “non-persons” having their “unworthy” lives snuffed out in gas chambers.

And the Germany where all this happened was a modern, educated, sophisticated nation. But don’t worry… nothing like that could ever happen here. After all, the slippery slope doesn’t exist, and it’s absolutely not true that the cheapening of one life cheapens all lives, that the determination that one life is worthless makes all lives worth less.

(Please feel free to use the Technorati Searchlet in the sidebar to search for “Groningen Protocol”. If you haven’t been following these issues, you will be in for a surprise.)

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