Archive for July, 2008

God Bless President Bush

July 28, 2008

So, President Bush announces he’s rescinding the Executive Order banning offshore oil drilling.  The next day the price of oil starts dropping.  It’s now down ~$20, and has passed below $130 / barrel (which was labeled a “critical psychological barrier” in an article I read when the price was between $130 and $135).  Senate Republicans have decided to pretend for a while that they actually are Republicans, and have started stopping Senate business until Harry Reid lets the Republicans bring a bill reversing the Congressional ban on more offshore oil drilling.

Futures markets, like all other human markets, operate on psychology as much as data.  If the Republicans can defeat Democrat obstruction on drilling, and on turning oil shale and tar sands into gas, it will ahve an immediate effect on prices.

And if the Republicans can’t defeat the Democrat’s desire to force higher fuel prices on all of us, but can convince the public that Republicans, unlike Democrats, want lower gas prices, The Democrats will end up paying a big price for that in November.  (Given that it’s true, I think that even the Republicans can probably get that message out.)

Win – win.  “All” the Republicans have to do is show some balls.

The problem of Faith

July 27, 2008

There’s an interesting article on Atheism that Wired did in November 2006. I’ll be getting to more of the issues it raises later, but I thought this point was critical:

There’s good evidence from research by anthropologists such as Pascal Boyer and Scott Atran that a grab bag of cognitive predispositions makes us natural believers.

The problem is, that’s correct. And it’s true regardless of whether or not your “beliefs” are “super-natural”. The modern environmental movement is a constant refuge for those who want to believe, but no longer have a “God”. Consider “Anthropogenic Global Warming”. It doesn’t matter that the “warming” of the 20th Century all happened from 1900 – 1950 (when the “temperature of the Earth” went up 1.0 degrees C), and that the temperature actually dropped 0.2 degrees C from 1950 – 2000 (down 0.5 C from 1950 – 1970, up 0.3 from 1970 – 2000), it doesn’t matter that the Kyoto Accord wouldn’t accomplish a damn thing, even if all it’s signatories followed it rigorously, all that matters is that Mankind is Evil, and must Repent it’s ways.

Then there’s “nutrition”. The news hit last week that a study looked at ways to lose weight, and found (once again) that fat is fine, and carbs are bad. That it doesn’t matter whether the fats are saturated or unsaturated. That low carbs and don’t worry about the calories (or the fats) is better for losing weight, and better for your cholesterol, than low fats and calorie restriction. What’s the response: lots of religious zealotry about how meat is still bad, blah, blah, blah. The people who “study” nutrition “science” hav their beliefs, and nothing will change them. That’s not science, that’s religion.

IMHO, we’d be a lot better off if all those “natural believers” just picked a real religion to join, focused their need for belief on their religion, and stopped inflicting it on science and politics.

Megan McArdle misses the point

July 27, 2008

Megan has a series of posts up about use of the “n word” (in response to this post by Ta-Nehisi Coates). They both claim that it’s ok for blacks to use the word, and not ok for whites. I find this kind of funny, at least in Megan’s case, since her immediately following post is about symbols and their abuse.

It’s at least as wrong for a “good Catholic” to spit or piss on a consecrated host, as it is for an atheist to do it. Being a member of the group doesn’t give you special privileges in this case, it gives you extra responsibilities. The same goes for racial epithets. If it is wrong for white guy to call someone a n!gger, sp!c, or b!tch, then it is equally wrong for a black, hispanic, or female individual to call someone those things.

And, make no mistake about it, in our society it not merely “rude”, it is wrong to do those things. Consider the response among a random selection of onlookers to a white calling a black a “n!gger”. Now, consider the response of that same group to a black calling a white a “honky”. Or “white trash”. Compare the response to a man calling a woman a “b!tch”, vs. a woman calling a man a “dick”.

This is America. There are no privileged classes, there is no aristocracy. If it’s wrong for others to do it to you, it’s equally wrong for you to do it to others. If you wish for society to cast it’s opprobrium on people who engage in a behavior, then don’t do it yourself.

This is, in fact, a lot like the “Affirmative Action” debate. Once you decide it’s ok to judge people based on the color of their skin, you’ve forfeited all right to complain about others doing the same. Having a different skin color from the majority of Americans doesn’t give you special rights, thinking it does marks you as just as racist as the creators and enforcers of Jim Crow.

You can have issues of right and wrong, or you can have questions about “whose ox is getting gored?” Once you’ve switched over to the latter, you’ve forfeited any special claim on the rest of us, any claim to special consideration. Because when it comes down to “whose ox is getting gored?”, my ox is just as valuable is yours. Actually, it’s more valuable, because it’s mine.

Now, am I going to go out tomorrow and call a black guy a “n!gger” just because other black people do it? No.

But am I going to waste much care, concern, or consideration when some other person does that? No. Why should I? It’s merely a question of whose ox is getting gored, and I don’t have an ox in that fight.

Finally, would I like to live in a society where people don’t use racial epithets? Absolutely. But according to Megan and Ta-Nehisi, not only is that not going to happen, but I’m wrong for even wanting it to happen. So long as that remains the case, it’s not worth my time to care.  And that’s why it’s wrong for blacks to use the “n word”.  Because every time they do it, they tell the rest of us that using it is no big deal.

Taking Obama to the Woodshed

July 26, 2008

Army Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) Joe Repya (who is somehow connected to the McCain Campaign), had the following to say about Obama ditching the wounded US troops in Germany:

The most solemn duty of a commander in chief is to fulfill his responsibility to the men and women who serve this country in uniform. Barack Obama had scheduled a visit with wounded American troops who have served with honor and distinction in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but he broke that commitment, instead flitting from one European capital to the next. Several explanations were offered, none was convincing and each was at odds with the statements of American military leaders in Germany and Washington. For a young man so apt at playing president, Barack Obama badly misjudged the important demands of the office he seeks. Visits with world leaders and speeches to cheering Europeans shouldn’t be a substitute for comforting injured American heroes.

NCB has reported what I think was the real reason Obama blew off the troops:

According to Pentagon officials, the problem was that Obama’s request to visit Landstuhl included two members of his campaign staff — retired Major General Jonathan S. Gration and Jeff Kiernan. US military officials in Germany informed the campaign the two political operatives would not be permitted on base.

Pentagon officials say Gration was the campaign’s point of contact at Landstuhl in arranging Obama’s visit and “got torqued” when he was told he would not be permitted to join Obama. It was Gration who later suggested to reporters that the Pentagon short-circuited Obama’s visit.

Wah, wah, wah.  It’s the Obama campaign way: you tick us off, we’ll “get” you (see the exclusion of Ryan Lizza from the Obama campaign plane after The New Yorker ran that cartoon of Barack and Michelle on the cover of the issue that carried Lizza’s article about Obama).

What a jerk.

Why I’ll Never Vote for a Democrat

July 26, 2008

The Washington Post has an op-ed that shows why I’ll never vote for a Democrat. The editorial has the following sub-headline:

Speaker Pelosi won’t let the House debate the merits of offshore drilling.

Why won’t she let the House have that debate? Because if she does, she knows that enough Democrats will “defect” that the Republicans will win, and the offshore drilling ban will be defeated.

So, you might have a “sane” Democrat running for the House in your Congressional district. You might say “hey, Nancy Pelosi is far too liberal for me, but this guy is ok, he’s not a “San Francisco Democrat”, so I’m going to vote for him.” But if you say that to yourself, you are lying. Because any vote for any Democrat candidate for the House is a vote for Nancy Pelosi to be Speaker of the House. Any vote for any Democrat in the Senate is a vote for Harry “Energy makes me sick” Reid to be Senate Majority Leader. Giving them those positions gives them control of the agenda. And it doesn’t matter how your Representative would vote, if the matter comes to a vote. It matters what issues will come to a vote. And a vote for a Democrat is a vote that Nancy Pelosi or Harry Reid gets to decide those issues.

So long as the Left controls the Democrat Party, there is no such thing as a “good” Democrat. Unless, of course, you want to be ruled by the far Left.

Master of the Raised Eyebrow

July 26, 2008

When I was in college, being a bright lad with other bright friends, we would often engage in verbal play. And one thing I (eventually) learned was that, often, the wisest, snarkiest, most telling “comment” one could make was to say nothing at all. To very visibly say nothing at all. Because this let the listeners fill in their own snarky comment, or even two or three of them. Often the listeners came up with comments more clever than whatever it was that I would have said. 🙂

Eventually, I developed the tactic of simply raising my eyebrow when I knew that a smart comment was appropriate, but couldn’t come up with one that was good enough.

IMHO, Barak Obama is a master of using the “raised eyebrow. And I think it has greatly stunted his intellectual growth. I think he was afraid that he wasn’t good enough, afraid that his ideas were weak. And rather than entering into “battle”, exposing himself to challenges that would force him to get stronger, force him to refine his ideas, he simply used the raised eyebrow. he let everyone fill in their bright remarks for him. The New York Times did an article on Obama that I think shows him honing and displaying his ability:

He developed a leadership style based more on furthering consensus than on imposing his own ideas. Surrounded by students who enjoyed the sound of their own voices, Mr. Obama cast himself as an eager listener, sometimes giving warring classmates the impression that he agreed with all of them at once.

To “impose” his ideas, he would first have to have some. Lacking any ideas that he thought worthy of defense, he simply listened. And there’s nothing better than simply listening to other people, when it comes to convincing them how smart you are.

Friends say he did not want anyone to assume they knew his mind — and because of that, even those close to him did not always know exactly where he stood. It is a tendency that could prove perilous on the campaign trail, as voters, rivals and the news media try to fix the positions of a senator with only two years in office.

“He then and now is very hard to pin down,” said Kenneth Mack, a classmate and now a professor at the law school, referring to the senator’s on-the-one-hand, on-the-other-hand style.

Listen to everyone. Nod. Smile (in assumed agreement). Everyone thinks you’re a genius, because you haven’t said anything stupid. Take no risks, because they might backfire.

Mr. Obama spent much of his time alone, curtailing his dating life after his first summer, when he met his future wife, a Harvard Law graduate named Michelle Robinson who was working in Chicago. He often played pickup basketball, replacing his deliberative off-court style with sharp elbows and aggressive grabs for the ball.

Confident in his physical skills, he was combative on the basketball court. Not confident of his intellectual skills, he was quiet in discussions.

I think the aloneness is another telling point. It’s hard work, smiling and listening to others, never “getting” to put yourself forward (because you’re afraid of what will happen if you do). Especially when you’re a competitive individual. Much easier to go off by yourself.

The law review struggled to decide whether affirmative action should factor into the selection of editors, and how much voice to give to critical race theorists, who argued that the legal system was inherently biased against minorities. That drew the ridicule of conservative students.

And it left the new president with a difficult choice. If he failed to use his office to criticize Harvard, Mr. Obama would anger black and liberal students; by speaking out, he would risk dragging himself and the review into the center of shrill debates.

People had a way of hearing what they wanted in Mr. Obama’s words. Earlier, after a long, tortured discussion about whether it was better to be called “black” or “African-American,” Mr. Obama dismissed the question, saying semantics did not matter as much as real-life issues, recalled Cassandra Butts, still a close friend. According to Mr. Ogletree, students on each side of the debate thought he was endorsing their side. “Everyone was nodding, Oh, he agrees with me,” he said.

But mainly, Mr. Obama stayed away from the extremes of campus debate, often choosing safe topics for his speeches. At the black law students’ annual conference, he exhorted students to remember the obligations that came with their privileged education. His speeches, delivered in the oratorical manner of a Baptist minister, were more memorable for style than substance, Mr. Mack said.

“It’s the inspiration of the speech rather than the specific content,” he said.

Another of Mr. Obama’s techniques relied on his seemingly limitless appetite for hearing the opinions of others, no matter how redundant or extreme. That could lead to endless debates — a mouse infestation at the review office provoked a long exchange about rodent rights — as well as some uncertainty about what Mr. Obama himself thought about the issue at hand.

In dozens of interviews, his friends said they could not remember his specific views from that era, beyond a general emphasis on diversity and social and economic justice.

Beldar has an excellent post on Obama’s tenure as President of the Harvard Law Review. In it he points out that the normal course of affairs would be for Obama, as head editor, to write an article for the law review (this being a requirement, rather than a benefit of the position). Obama didn’t do that. Why? IMHO, because that would ahve forced him to put himself out there, where he could be judged and criticized.

Dean Barnett has written a lot of insightful things about Obama. He did it again Thursday, coming close to the point I’m making:

Professionally, Obama steadily declined to test himself and experience potential adversity. While most of his Harvard Law classmates entered the maw of big law firm life knowing they would either thrive or fail, Obama shrunk back in relative safety, organizing communities, teaching a con-law class, writing a book and generally living the life of a dilettante intellectual.

In the past, he’s commented on how hard it’s been to find any of Obama’s classmates, liberal or conservative, who had negative things to say about Obama. Dean has seen this as a positive thing. I, however, think it’s just a sign of how good Obama is at hiding himself, at using the raised eyebrow.

Others have commented on how Obama’s never really stuck to anything. He spend a couple of years doing something, then moves on, before he might have to actually deal with the consequences of his actions, before he might be judged on the quality of his choices. Raise the eyebrow, then move on.

And now we come to Election 2008. Obama’s campaign to become President of the United States (or is it President of the World?). The campaign of Hope and Change™. He’s been widely (and justifiably) mocked for this, often with the assumption that he’s acting this way because he’s a left-wing radical who knows that he has to hide his views from the voters if he wants to win the election.

But while I once thought that was the case, I no longer do.  Watching Obama over the last several months has led me to the conclusion that he has no clue what he actually believes in.  He needs to join a church to have credibility as a community organizer?  Fine, he joins a church.  Trinity seems to offer the best political bonus, so he joins Trinity.  Reverend Wright is a flaming nutcase?  Smile and nod.  Getting into politics, need to throw a fundraiser?  Well, who’s well known in the area?  William Ayers, former terrorist?  Well, everyone around him seems to think it’s no big deal.  Smile and nod.  US is going to invade Iraq?  What do the people around him think?  They don’t like it?  Smile and nod.  He’s in politics now, so he can’t just smile and nod, he has to make a speech.  So he makes a speech that his current friends will like.

Senator Obama has become a US Senator, and is about to be the Democrat Party Nominee for President, based on a lifetime of the raised eyebrow.  He smiles, nods, listens, and tells people what they want to hear, and they love him.  The problem for him is that will only get you so far.  His campaign speeches are nothing but fatuous generalities, because he doesn’t know how to actually hold and present a meaningful opinion.  He’s 46 years old, and doesn’t have the slightest clue about international affairs.  (See comments about Israel and Jerusalem.)  The one thing he knows is that he can’t admit to mistakes.  His resume is non-existent, he’s running on his “judgment”.  To admit that his judgment sucks is to destroy the fig leaf he’s offered to voters to explain why they’re voting for him.

I don’t think he’s going to be able to make it to election day just based on his ability to make everyone think he agrees with them.  I think he’s going to get pinned down, and shown up for the empty suit that he is.  because a raised eyebrow just isn’t enough to get yourself elected President.


July 15, 2008

Poor Senator Obama. He’s afraid to meet with Senator McCain at a nationally-televised town hall meeting next month organized by a coalition of support organizations.  Poor little Senator Obama.  He’s a great speaker, so long as he has a teleprompter to tell him what to say.

So, is he going to hide away for the next 4 months?

Execute him

July 15, 2008

This is disgusting.

AP photographer Rahmatullah Naikzad was a witness to a Taliban murder.

Not only ws he a witness, he took photos.  And video.  Of the murders.

And the AP published the photos.

He should be arrested, found guilty of being an accomplice to First Degree Murder with Special Circumstances (1: Two people murdered.  2: Done as part of a terrorist war against the US), and executed.

Whoever at the AP approved of running those pictures should be fired, and blacklisted.  Until that is done, teh US Military should consider the AP to be willing accessories to the Taliban, and refuse to give any person connected with the AP access to any information.  no press releases, not access to US troops.  Scratch that, it should not just be the DOD.  The entire US Government should blacklist the entire AP until everyone involved with publishing those photos is fired.

If you think that is too extreme, you need to go to Rusty’s site and read the whole thing.  Then you should watch the snuff film he recorded, and released, for the Taliban,

Barak Obama, idiot

July 15, 2008

Yes, that’s harsh. Unfortunately, it’s justified.

The New Yorker has an article about Obama that shows him, in his own words, to be a complete idiot. The following is from Obama’s response to the 9/11 attacks, published on September 19th in the Hyde Park Herald:

Even as I hope for some measure of peace and comfort to the bereaved families, I must also hope that we as a nation draw some measure of wisdom from this tragedy. Certain immediate lessons are clear, and we must act upon those lessons decisively. We need to step up security at our airports. We must reexamine the effectiveness of our intelligence networks. And we must be resolute in identifying the perpetrators of these heinous acts and dismantling their organizations of destruction.
We must also engage, however, in the more difficult task of understanding the sources of such madness. The essence of this tragedy, it seems to me, derives from a fundamental absence of empathy on the part of the attackers: an inability to imagine, or connect with, the humanity and suffering of others. Such a failure of empathy, such numbness to the pain of a child or the desperation of a parent, is not innate; nor, history tells us, is it unique to a particular culture, religion, or ethnicity. It may find expression in a particular brand of violence, and may be channeled by particular demagogues or fanatics. Most often, though, it grows out of a climate of poverty and ignorance, helplessness and despair.
We will have to make sure, despite our rage, that any U.S. military action takes into account the lives of innocent civilians abroad. We will have to be unwavering in opposing bigotry or discrimination directed against neighbors and friends of Middle Eastern descent. Finally, we will have to devote far more attention to the monumental task of raising the hopes and prospects of embittered children across the globe—children not just in the Middle East, but also in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe and within our own shores.

Read that bolded part again. No, Senator, terrorism does not come from “poverty and ignorance.” The 9/11 attackers were middle class, and college educated. As Alan Krueger points out in his article “What Makes a Terrorist”

the available evidence is nearly unanimous in rejecting either material deprivation or inadequate educa­tion as important causes of support for terrorism or participation in terrorist activities. Such explana­tions have been embraced almost entirely on faith, not scientific evidence.

The Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project conducted public opinion surveys in February 2004 in Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan, and Turkey, involving about 1,000 respondents in each country. One of the questions asked was, “What about suicide bombing carried out against Americans and other Westerners in Iraq? Do you personally believe that this is justifiable or not justifiable?” Pew kindly provided me with tab­ulations of these data by respondents’ personal characteristics.

The clear finding was that people with a higher level of education are in general more likely to say that suicide attacks against Westerners in Iraq are justified. I have also broken this pattern down by income level. There is no indication that people with higher incomes are less likely to say that sui­cide-bombing attacks are justified.

Marc Sageman, a forensic psychiatrist and former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) case officer, has written a book titled Understanding Terror Networks. He found that a high proportion of mem­bers of al-Qaeda were college educated (close to 35 percent) and drawn from skilled professions (almost 45 percent). Research on members of the Israeli extremist group, Gush Emunim, that Malecková and I conducted, also pointed in the same direc­tion. Perhaps most definitively, the Library of Congress produced a summary report for an advi­sory group to the CIA titled, “The Sociology and Psychology of Terrorism: Who Becomes a Terrorist and Why?” which also reached this conclusion—two years before 9/11.

One set of factors that I examined did consis­tently raise the likelihood that people from a given country will participate in terrorism—namely, the suppression of civil liberties and political rights, including freedom of the press, the freedom to assemble, and democratic rights. Using data from the Freedom House Index, for example, I found that countries with low levels of civil liberties are more likely to be the countries of origin of the perpetra­tors of terrorist attacks.

In short: living in a dictatorship makes you more likely to be a terrorist. Especially if you’re a Muslim.

Yes, Obama made these comments in 2001, and this article was published in 2007. However, we knew the backgrounds of the 9/11 attackers by then, and they weren’t backgrounds of poverty. Obama’s comments were the babbling of a left-wing zombie. “Someone attacked us, we must engage in global social work.”

If he’s retracted these claims, and since then admitted that the problem is “lack of freedom in the Middle East”, rather than “poverty”, I’ll take back my claim of him being an idiot.

But I’d bet I’m not going to have to take back that claim.
Hat Tip: Ace


I win that bet. Thanks to Geraghty, I found this talk by Obama at the Woodrow Wilson Institution, on August 1, 2007

Al Qaeda’s new recruits come from Africa and Asia, the Middle East and Europe. Many come from disaffected communities and disconnected corners of our interconnected world. And it makes you stop and wonder: when those faces look up at an American helicopter, do they feel hope, or do they feel hate?

We know where extremists thrive. In conflict zones that are incubators of resentment and anarchy. In weak states that cannot control their borders or territory, or meet the basic needs of their people. From Africa to central Asia to the Pacific Rim – nearly 60 countries stand on the brink of conflict or collapse. The extremists encourage the exploitation of these hopeless places on their hate-filled websites.

Freedom must also mean freedom from want, not freedom lost to an empty
stomach. So I will make poverty reduction a key part of helping other nations reduce

This is more of the same.  he’s just too dumb to be able to learn.  At least, not when learning would require him to grow up and give up a left-wing fantasy.

This guy needs to be fired

July 15, 2008

MBTA boss touts T but takes SUV

MBTA general manager Dan Grabauskas is spending tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars urging suburban commuters to “Dump the Pump,” brave the heat and take the T, yet the transit boss continues to drive to work from Ipswich to Boston in the cool comfort of his T-owned SUV.

Grabauskas was observed by a Herald reporter on several occasions over the past seven weeks, including yesterday, driving his agency-owned 2008 Ford Escape hybrid to his office at the state Transportation Building in Park Square – a roughly 60-mile-a-day commute round-trip.

The T chief also drove his roomy, air-conditioned ride to a June 19 event in Lowell promoting his new $52,000 “Dump the Pump” ad campaign aimed at getting people to take public transportation to conserve gas and help improve the environment.

In an interview yesterday, Grabauskas argued he needs the SUV, in part to respond to emergencies, such as the Green Line train crash last month in which a trolley driver was killed.

“I do try to set an example by using the T within the city, but my schedule tends to be erratic. I need to be able to go anywhere at all times,” he said.

As for driving to Lowell to promote his Dump the Pump campaign, Grabauskas said taking the commuter train there and back to Ipswich would have taken too long. The message of Dump the Pump, he added, is to encourage people with less demanding schedules to take the T.

IOW, the T is for you peasants, not members of the Elect, like him.

Grabauskas, who earns a salary of $255,000 a year, struck a deal this week with T workers that will give them a 13 percent pay raise over the next four years.

The $150 million agreement adds to mounting financial woes burdening the T, which is reeling from soaring fuel and electricity costs and stagnant state aid even as ridership has hit new highs.

This guy needs to be fired. He’s a lot like those Hollywood jerks who tell the rest of us to cut our “carbon footprint”, while they fly around in private planes. Or, you know, Al Gore, who lives in a house that uses up 20 times as much energy as does the average home.

Medical Heroes of the 21st Century

July 13, 2008

Beldar has a post morning the death of Dr. DeBakey, a man who revolutionized surgical treatment of heart problems. In his post Beldar says “I doubt any single physician or scientist is likely to have so phenomenal an impact on medical science in the 21st Century as he did in the 20th.” Which got me thinking: What will be the breakthrough medical technologies of the 21st Century? My thoughts:

  1. Safe genetic therapy: Gaining the ability to turn off existing genes in a human (including, but not limited to, adult humans), and adding new genes, with the same, or different, regulation as the existing gene (since sometimes it’s the regulation of the gene that’s the problem).
  2. The “real” “mapping” of the human genome: We currently have a set of DNA sequences of human genomes. But we have no real clue what they mean. Figuring out where the genetic components of height, weight, intelligence, athletic ability, etc. reside, as well as where to find all the genetic diseases, is going to be a big task, and a big help once it’s done.
  3. Functional medical nanotech: This one will be bigger than anything else, assuming we can do it. Machines in your body to hunt down rips and tears, and repair them. To find the places where plaque is accumulating in your arteries (or in your brain), and remove it. Find early stage cancerous cells, and kill them. Go into your joints, and build more cartilage when your body falls behind, and thus stop arthritis. Go into your bones, and build more bone when your body fails to keep up: no more osteoporosis. Hunt down, destroy, and cause to be excreted “excess” fat cells (goodbye dieting). Examine your food intake, and manufacture any amino acids, or other “vitamins” you need that aren’t merely trace elements, when you need them (goodbye malnutrition, so long as you can get calories).
  4. Superior medical prosthetics: We’re starting to get there (see the case of the double amputee runner who was told he couldn’t compete in the Olympics because his artificial legs were better for running than real ones. Happily, that decision was reversed), but we have a long way to go. Highly functional artificial ears, and eyes, will end up helping a lot of people.

That’s off the top of my head. What am I missing?

Update; Hmm, how about 5: Personal implants: I’m not sure if this qualifies as groundbreaking medical technology, but I’m certainly looking forward to the day when we have Oath of Fealty level computer impants to connect our brains directly to computers.

Obama: The gift that keeps on giving

July 9, 2008

This is going to be an amusing campaign season. Obama’s latest example of foot in mouth disease: Don’t worry about immigrants learning English, worry about making sure your kids learn Spanish.
I wonder how long it will take him to apologize for ignoring the Vietnamese, Chinese, and Indian immigrant communities?

Hmm, it appears I can’t embed YouTube video here. Oh well, the video is here. Besides, the comments are amusing, too.

Ha ha ha

July 9, 2008

Via Instapundit, we get the following good news

Bankruptcies are coming.

Newspapers routinely cover the financial troubles of airlines, car makers and sporting-goods stores. What they don’t often cover is the bankruptcies of newspapers. That’s because newspapers rarely go bankrupt.

That’s about to change. Across the United States, newspaper revenues are declining, along with circulation. As the American economy totters on the edge of recession, those declines are becoming precipitous and more pronounced than elsewhere. The Newspaper Association of America reports that classified newspaper advertising shrank by 16.5 per cent in 2007.

Thank you Craig’s List, EBay, and the rest of the web.

Circulation declines are also accelerating: Nationwide, newspaper circulation as of March 31 was down 3.6 per cent from the same time the year before; the year before that, it was down only 2.1 per cent. The Standard & Poor’s Publishing & Printing Index is declining at three times the rate of decline of the S&P 1500.

The Sunday edition of The New York Times is arguably the best newspaper in the world. Its circulation has declined almost 10 per cent in the past year alone, although part of the reason was management’s decision to cut back on discounted papers.

The problem is not across the board. National papers with well-educated readerships, such as the Wall Street Journal and The Globe and Mail, are doing quite well. But metropolitan dailies, especially in the ultra-competitive U.S. market, are suffering.

In the immortal words of Kos “screw them.” They’re not hurting because of the (“it keeps coming, we’re sure it will be here soon”) “recession”. They’re hurting because they’re dishonest partisans and the pretense that they aren’t has worn thin (thank you, long Democrat Primary. It was a lot of fun watching Democrats come to realize that, not only are the press dishonest partisans, but they’re not always on any individual’s side (there having been both pro-Clinton and pro-Obama partisans “reporting” the “news”)).

They’re also getting hurt because their obvious left-wing bias is driving away more than half of their potential readership. I love the attempt to explain why the Wall Street journal isn’t getting hurt: “National papers with well-educated readerships … are doing quite well.” Um, last I checked the New York Times was a “national papers with well-educated readership.” The difference is that the NYT is an agenda driven left wing rag, and the WSJ is a relatively honest newspaper.

They’re getting hammered because they are failures at the job they claim to be doing, which is reporting the news. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

A comment on “partisanship”

July 9, 2008

Over at the Volokh Conspiracy, Jim Lindgren has been posting about the shoddy “study” Professor Carl Bogus cited in a brief he filed in Heller, and has continued to use to support his anti-gun rights position. Professor Bogus “responded” with a “response” that ignored key flaws in the study. After pointing out what he ignored, I then wrote the following comment:

On Partisanship:

Note: I am a strongly partisan in favor of gun rights. I see nothing wrong with that. Other than the fact that I think they’re horribly wrong, I see nothing wrong “wrong” with being strongly partisan against gun rights.

But I do see something very wrong with being a dishonest partisan. And that’s why I have a problem with Professor Bogus. For example, when Professor Levinson posted his critique of Scalia’s opinion in Heller, criticizing him for ignoring “Saul Cornell’s fine book A Well-Regulated Militia: The Founding Fathers and the Origins of Gun Control,” I looked up the book (yeah Dogpile), and quickly found this article on Volokh that pointed me to “St. George Tucker’s Second Amendment: Deconstructing ‘The True Palladium of Liberty’,” by Stephen P. Halbrook, and article that appeared to pretty conclusively prove that Saul Cornell’s book was anything but “fine”. So I read the article, and wrote up a post criticizing Professor Levinson for supporting such a pathetic book, here.

However, before I published my post, I did another web search, looking for commentary on Stephen P. Halbrook’s article. I found several posts quoting it favorably, and nothing on the web saying that he had misused his sources. So I posted my comments.

Now, if I had found anything potentially credible that had trashed Halbrook’s article, I would have either read it, and judged for myself, or I would have refrained from commenting. Because my credibility matters, far more than any one cheap shot I might be able to take at those who disagree with me.

I find it sad that Professor Bogus has so little concern for his own credibility.

A failure, of either nerve or capability

July 9, 2008

It’s in the news that Iran claims to have tested 9 missiles, and that the US Military confirms at least 7 of the tests.

This is disappointing news.  Not because Iran tested the missiles, but because the US didn’t shoot them down.

I thought this back when North Korea was testing its missiles, and I think it now: whenever a rogue state puts together a missile test, the US should have Aegis cruisers nearby, and shoot down the missiles.

Consider it real-world testing for SDI.

Consider it the finest in diplomacy.  A chance to really hurt the reputations of our enemies, without hurting anyone.

Consider it a cold, hard threat.

Those missile tests are a threat.  They need to be countered.  Shoot them down.

Wow, I thought Saddam wasn’t making WMDs

July 5, 2008

Nice little bit of news via Yahoo

The last major remnant of Saddam Hussein‘s nuclear program — a huge stockpile of concentrated natural uranium — reached a Canadian port Saturday to complete a secret U.S. operation that included a two-week airlift from Baghdad and a ship voyage crossing two oceans.

The removal of 550 metric tons of “yellowcake” — the seed material for higher-grade nuclear enrichment — was a significant step toward closing the books on Saddam’s nuclear legacy. It also brought relief to U.S. and Iraqi authorities who had worried the cache would reach insurgents or smugglers crossing to Iran to aid its nuclear ambitions.

What’s now left is the final and complicated push to clean up the remaining radioactive debris at the former Tuwaitha nuclear complex about 12 miles south of Baghdad — using teams that include Iraqi experts recently trained in the Chernobyl fallout zone in Ukraine.

What?  You mean Saddam had a nuclear weapons program, and yellowcake that coudl have been turned into nuclear bombs if we hadn’t invaded?  I thought everyone “knew” that was just a Bush Administration lie?


Being more European

July 5, 2008

The next time someone telss you the US should be more like Europe, ask them if this is what they’re talking about

Schoolboys punished with detention for refusing to kneel in class and pray to Allah

By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 11:30 AM on 04th July 2008

Two schoolboys were given detention after refusing to kneel down and ‘pray to Allah’ during a religious education lesson.

Parents were outraged that the two boys from year seven (11 to 12-year-olds) were punished for not wanting to take part in the practical demonstration of how Allah is worshipped.

They said forcing their children to take part in the exercise at Alsager High School, near Stoke-on-Trent – which included wearing Muslim headgear – was a breach of their human rights.

Alsager School, near Stoke, has received furious complaints from parents after two Year 7 boys were punished for refusing to kneel to Allah during a religious studies class

One parent, Sharon Luinen, said: “This isn’t right, it’s taking things too far.

“I understand that they have to learn about other religions. I can live with that but it is taking it a step too far to be punished because they wouldn’t join in Muslim prayer.

“Making them pray to Allah, who isn’t who they worship, is wrong and what got me is that they were told they were being disrespectful.

So, I wonder, did the class do something similar for the Church of England?  How about Roman Catholicism?  I wonder if any atheists or Muslims were punished for not participating in Christian worship?

Actually, that’s not true.  I don’t wonder at all.  I’m entirely convinced that the ball-less wonders who ran this program would never even dream of forcing someone to engage in Christian worship.

There are two ways in which this can play out.  One is it turns out that the British people really are utterly emasculated.  In which case, eventually they’re become a Muslim nation, and the rest will become dhimis.

The other is that those who don’t want to be slaves of Islam will accept the rule that “those who are violent get pandered to”, and start being violent, too.  So teachers and principles who do things like this will end up getting mugged, and random Muslims will get mugged, and their whole society will get a nice little trip to hell.

How not to defend yourself

July 5, 2008

So, the Boston Globe has an article on Obama that basically says he’s a slum lord enabler. Obama has decided to “respond” with the following

RHETORIC: Antoin “Tony” Rezko, perhaps the most important fund-raiser for Obama’s early political campaigns…
Obama Said Rezko “Wasn’t My Largest Fundraiser But He Was A Significant Fundraiser.”

Um, no. Give us numbers, and names. How much did Rezko raise for Obama? How many other fundraisers raised more, who were they, and how much did they raise?

Obama has all that information. If he’s not willing to give it to clear himself, then he doesn’t get cleared.

RHETORIC: Rezko was “a friend who helped the Obamas buy a home in 2005.”
Politifact Ruled That The Claim That Obama Needed Rezko To Purchase His Home Was “False.”

Nice try, but no. Obama and his wife bought their house from someone who just happened to also be selling a large chunk of land adjacent to the lot of the house they bought. This was during the housing boom. Obama and his wife got a nice discount on the asking price of the house. The same day, Rezko bought the strip of land, for the asking price.

Can we prove that it was all part of a deal to help Obama? No.

Do I believe that it wasn’t part of such a deal? No. And I don’t believe in the tooth fairy, either.

RHETORIC: Obama translated that belief into legislative action as a state senator. In 2001, Obama and a Republican colleague, William Peterson, sponsored a successful bill that increased state subsidies for private developers. The law let developers designated by the state raise up to $26 million a year by selling tax credits to Illinois residents. For each $1 in credits purchased, the buyer was allowed to decrease his taxable income by 50 cents.

Um, so what? Yes, it was “bipartisan”. That would be the whole “Obama and a Republican colleague” part of the report. And it’s nice that “housing advocates” supported it. But so what? The question is: who did it help? The answer is: not the poor people they claimed it was going to help. They now live in crappy slums, provided to them by Obama’s supporters. If you can’t challenge that, then nothing else you say matters.

Abundant, Cheap, Clean, Reliable Electrons

July 5, 2008

This is a nice example of “not clear on the concept”

So I have arrived safely in Aspen. I’m listening to Thomas Friedman urging America to lead the way towards “abundant, cheap, clean, reliable electrons”. His approach sounds like the approach near and dear to my heart–can the talk of a “Green Manhattan Project” and use prices to signal inventors to get cracking on the problem.

Oh, says I, they want nuclear power!

Nope, because that would make sense, and require leftists to give you one of their religious jihads.

Repeat after me: Pebble Bed Nuclear Reactor.

I, by the way, have a handy-dandy, can’t fail test to tell you if someone actually believes in human caused global warming, and believes it’s a serious problem:

Every single such person is a huge fan of nuclear power. Because that’s the only power tech that can take over for all those dirty coal and gas fired power plants.

Gene engineering v. HIV

July 5, 2008

From Wired we get the following slightly over the top headline, and interesting story:

Gene Editing Could Make Anyone Immune to AIDS

By Aaron Rowe

Some people have a mutation that makes them amazingly resistant to HIV — and now, scientists may have found a way to give that immunity to anyone.

Here’s a hint: “amazingly resistant” does not equal “immune”.

Viruses enter cells and take them over, but to get inside, they need a handhold. HIV pulls itself in by grabbing onto a protein called CCR5, which decorates the surface of T-cells, which are one of the two major types of white blood cells and play an important role in helping the body fight infections. Back in the 1990’s, researchers took interest in a handful of promiscuous gay men who were able to engage in sexual relations with their HIV-positive partners with impunity. Most of them had a mutation that kept their cells from producing normal CCR5 protein.

Armed with that knowledge, scientists have developed several tactics to block the production of CCR5 or perturb its shape so that the HIV virus can’t grab onto it during the first step of its hijacking attempt. The strategy is much akin to cutting your hair before a wrestling match: It gives your opponent one less thing to grab onto.

Actually, it’s more akin to “bricking up all the doors and windows in your house to keep out burglars.” Which is to say that while it may work, it may also have interesting / unplanned / unwanted side effects. Because CCR5 is there for some purpose, and the odds are high that the mutation (negatively) affects that purpose, too.

In the latest version of this defense, Carl June and his colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania used a highly engineered protein, called a zinc finger nuclease, to clip the CCR5 gene out of some T-cells. Left without the recipe for that protein, the cells are nearly impenetrable. His report appeared on the Nature Biotechnology website yesterday.

June tested the procedure on cultured T-cells and mice — not humans — so it should be a source of guarded optimism, because it’s not certain the technique would work in humans. In theory, AIDS doctors could take some T-cells out of an infected person, edit their genomes, and stick them back into their patient. Once they have returned to the body, each resistant cell will thrive and multiply in spite of the disease. This trick would not eliminate the virus, but it might be able to permanently raise the T-cell counts of AIDS patients, increasing their ability to resist secondary infections and remain healthy.

Um, no.

You body makes billions of T-cells a week. So unless you’re doing this to patients on a regular basis, or you gene engineer their hematopoietic stem cells so that all new T-cells come out so modified, this isn’t going to do much good.

I’s going to be interesting to see how long it takes before we’ll get some researchers with the balls to do it the right way (gene engineering HSCs), and even more interesting to see how the anti-biotech nuts will react to the proposed studies.