Thursday, December 30, 2004

I love stories like this XV

From comes this story of terrorism in our government-funded public schools. A school suspension administered to a 10-year-old girl, Kelli Ilyankoff, for drawing silly pictures. The ultimate giggle from this story is this paragraph:
The [zero tolerance] policy defines terrorism as "a threat to commit violence communicated with the intent to terrorize another". In order to arrive at their conclusion that Kelli terrorized her friend you would have to define laughing together as communicating an intent to terrorize.

Kyoto won't work

I'm sorry that I missed this the first time around:
Despite the fact that green groups at the U.N. climate summit in Buenos Aires called President George Bush "immoral" and "illegitimate" for not supporting the Kyoto Protocol, the groups themselves concede the Protocol will only have "symbolic" effect on climate because they believe it is too weak. Kyoto is an international treaty that seeks to limit greenhouse gases of the developed countries by 2012.
So even though the Senate has to ratify any treaties (and it rejected Kyoto by something like 95-5) it's all right for these enivironmental ministers to insult the President on their way to admitting that the Kyoto Protocols will have no effect, a "symbolic" effect.

Heinlein said that there are only two kinds of people in the world: "those that want people to be controlled and those that have no such desire." The well-fed ministers at these global environment meetings are the first sort...and rude to boot.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

I love stories like this XIV

Walter Williams often has some very trenchant things to say about education. This time he's produced two columns (1 and 2) on the state of college education. My favorite part of his second column comes from a reader:
An English professor wrote, "One of the items that I assigned was a two-page essay that described a favorite vacation or holiday. One student turned in two pictures drawn with crayon depicting the beach. When I gave her a failing grade, she was indignant and said that she put a great deal of work into the pictures. When I told her that she did not do the assignment and that she was supposed to write an essay, she said, ‘But I don't know what an essay is!'"
Half of all college students now take Bonehead English and Bonehead Math. You have to wonder about the value attached to college degrees if so many students have to make up so much ground lost in high school. Williams says:
Colleges should not admit students requiring remedial education. That's not to say youngsters shouldn't receive remedial education, but let them get it elsewhere -- maybe at the high school that awarded them a fraudulent diploma.

Why Rumsfeld should NOT go

Victor Davis Hanson posted a fine piece on National Review on-line last week. It's another reminder that the modern media mavens have a perspective about as broad as a sidewalk and as deep as a puddle:
A thousand brave Americans gave their lives in combat to ensure that the most wicked nation in the Middle East might soon be the best, and the odds are that those remarkable dead, not the columnists in New York, will be proven right — no thanks to post-facto harping from thousands of American academics and insiders in chorus with that continent of appeasement Europe.
Please give it a read.

Recent commentary: Bush's resolution

What would you suggest as a New Year's resolution for President Bush?

(published 27-Dec-2004, Appleton Post-Crescent)

To have compassion for those Democrats who want so badly to reverse the election result in Ohio. Those poor, benighted and clueless Dems still believe that those dastardly Republicans could simultaneously, pervasively and secretly prevent paper ballots from being used; prevent sufficient voting machines from being distributed; keep Democrats waiting in long lines and then not allow them to vote; throw out only Democrats’ provisional ballots; reprogram electronic voting machines to change Kerry votes to Bush; do all these things in every state that should by rights be blue; and steal the election by 3.5 million votes. They are in need of a lot of sympathy and hugs, and the president is just the guy for the job. The rest of us know that the Electoral College voted a couple of weeks ago already, but those Dems still feel victimized. The hamster is dead but the wheel still spins. Sad.

I love stories like this XIII

Apparently the Brits have determined that historical dates are a "good thing" after all. That is, that teaching history to schoolchildren should include when historical events occured as well as what occured. I particularly enjoyed this recommendation by England's Qualifications and Curriculum Authority:
Among the classroom activities suggested in the QCA's new guidance are "timelines with attitude", requiring pupils to place events on a timeline which acts as the horizontal axis of a graph while the vertical axis is used to describe feelings.So they might imagine being peasants between 1348 and 1381, veering in mood from ecstatic to despairing, it says.
This emphasis on the feelings of the schoolchildren is most gratifying. I would hope that the children recognize that this period -- which encompassed the outbreak of the Black Death -- was one to engender feelings of some unpleasantness and deconvenience.

Maybe this revolutionary idea will jump the pond and be incorporated into our own government-funded public schools. On second thought, perhaps not. The teachers' unions might not like it.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Just how big of an LOTR geek am I?

This big: when I came to the end of the actor commentary on the extended edition of "The Return of the King," I heard Sean Astin remark that the little girl playing Sam Gamgee's daughter at the end of the film was Astin's own daughter. One of the others asked him what the hobbit child's name was and Astin said, "Goldilocks." I happen to know that that is incorrect. Sam Gamgee's first-born daughter was named Elanor. I wondered how many other Tolkien freaks groaned when they heard "Goldilocks?"

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Oh, gawd! V

Now, really! How many of you feel as this guy does?
I had a Thought. What if we really lost?? I don't think for a minute we did. But imagine how low and how hopeless America would be if Bush actually did win in Ohio? I mean really, would there be any hope whatsoever if over 50% of American has grown this evil and stupid? Im quite certain that the recounts will unveal much to the world and maybe even correct the situation, and give Kerry the inauguration that he deserves. But still. The only thing worse than having the election stolen....would be if we actually lost.
I guess there's no helping these people.

I love stories like this XII

Does it sound reasonable to you to arrest and handcuff a 10-year-old girl and take her to the police station and suspend her from school for five days because a pair of scissors was found in her bookbag? Not only that but the school district still has to decide whether "to expel her to a disciplinary school." This is the so-called "zero tolerance" policy at work in our publicly-funded government schools.

This contrasts with what my 18-year-old son reports from his high school. He claims to see fights between girls in which the combatants roll around on the floor doing various hurtful things to one another. He claims that when male teachers see this activity they walk on by. It's the female teachers that intervene. He also claims that if he were to step in and try to break up the fight he, himself, would be subject to disciplinary action by the school.

Friday, December 10, 2004

It seems obvious to me's "Best of the Web Today" featured a review of the liberal reaction to the conservative reaction to Sen. Harry Reid's disparagement of Justice Clarence Thomas. James Taranto concludes his review with this very interesting paragraph:
Perhaps in due course black voters will drift away from the Democrats too; after all, what do they really get for holding their noses and voting for someone like Kerry? If that happens, it will spell disaster for the Democrats, who (as Josh Marshall hates to be reminded) simply cannot win elections without overwhelming black support.

Inducing katzenjammers

Can anybody figure out what this means?
A recent view displays that it requires usually of only 3.2 drinkings to induce a katzenjammer. But my lozenges supports you evade hangovers and wake up sensitive magnificent from caput to stomach and everywhere additional.
I find that it usually takes me 4.7 drinkings to induce a katzenjammer.

This was one of the spam messages that snuck through my spam filter, but it makes no sense! The only other thing in this message was a link that said "Click to buy." Do these things actually draw enough response to make it worthwhile? What am I saying? How could this take any effort at all to write? The only effort, I suppose, lies in automating the mailing list so that 15 million people receive it in one day. Sheesh!

I'm now girding my loins to change my main e-mail address that I've had since I've had a cable modem. That should slow down the spam somewhat for a while. I guess I don't get a huge amount but it's averaged 1,085 per month since June.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

So, you think Hillary will be nominated in '08?

Peggy Noonan has some perceptive things to say today about Mrs. Clinton. Notwithstanding Ms. Noonan's insights, I'm no longer convinced that Mrs. Clinton will win the Democrat nomination in '08, although I went out on a limb and predicted in '00 that she'd be the nominee this year. Read what Noonan has to say and then tell me whether Mrs. Clinton's got what it takes to head the Democrat ticket in four years.

Oh, gawd! IV

I guess it isn't over until Jesse Jackson sings. Some Democratic members of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee plus some of the usual suspects gathered at the Rayburn House Office Building in D.C. to whine, complain, bleat, and blather about the results of the Ohio election:
"It ain't over," Rainbow PUSH Coalition founder Jesse Jackson declared. "This race is not over until it is certified -- every vote is counted and honored."
The (media) event was called "Preserving Democracy: What Went Wrong in Ohio," and was emceed by U.S. Rep. John Conyers from Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee. More from the Reverend Jackson:
"I urge Congress to act before Michael Moore comes and exposes the violation and the capitulation again," Jackson said to applause...Ralph Neas, the president of the liberal group People for the American Way, said he had come to the meeting with "anger and sadness at the travesty, the injustice, the hypocrisy that we have seen, especially in Ohio." Neas also indicated that Blackwell should face criminal charges for his role in voter fraud.
Sheesh! And what's this all about?
Hilary Shelton, the director of the NAACP's Washington bureau, described what he called deception techniques targeting minorities on Election Day. Flyers were sent to black voters telling them the election was two days after the actual date, Shelton charged. "We were told that if you were for one party, you would vote on one day, on November 2, but if you were the member of another party -- a party that over 88 percent of African Americans supported in this last election -- your day to vote was two days later," Shelton said. "And indeed people came out to vote two days later and found out they could not cast that vote because of the kind of trickery that [they] were still experiencing," he added. "The trickery has become much more insidious than ever before."
Whaaa? Is this supported by any physical evidence? Or is this more of the old, "It isn't the preponderance of the evidence, it's the seriousness of the charge?"

And there were other moonbats:
David Cobb, the Green Party's 2004 presidential candidate, said "ballot access is easier in most states of the former Soviet Union than in many states in this country."
My God, give it a rest!

Astute piece on Roe v. Wade

James Taranto, the man who writes much of the Wall Street Journal's "Best of the Web Today" column, said yesterday that if the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade the Democrats would be the benficiaries:
If the Supreme Court overturned Roe, legislators would have to consider the legality of abortion itself. Antiabortion absolutists would demand action from Republicans--but the GOP would be unable to comply without putting off moderate voters, who are much more numerous. Thus the battle would shift to terrain far more favorable to the Democrats.

About the coolest college prank ever

Yale University students tricked Harvard students and alumni into displaying a huge 'WE SUCK' sign during Nov. 20th football game. See the official site for details and video.

Euphemism and Dysphemism

Opinion Journal points out that the Democrats' excitement over Berkeley Linguistics Professor George Lakoff's new book, "Don't Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate," is sure to increase sales of the book but is nothing to get worked up about:
OK, we think we see how this might work. "Abortion," for example, is such a harsh word; maybe Democrats could start calling it "choice" instead. Instead of saying they're for "racial discrimination" in favor of minorities, why not use a positive-sounding term like "affirmative action"? To try to make Republican judges seem menacing, the Dems could call them "extremist" or "out of the mainstream" (and if the judges happen to be black, add that their opinions are "poorly written").

You see the problem: It's not as if the Dems don't already do what Lakoff is recommending. Indeed, the supposedly groundbreaking insight this professor of linguistics and cognitive sciences is offering is nothing more than a commonplace of political rhetoric: Generally, it is good to describe things you're for in favorable-sounding terms and things you're against in unfavorable-sounding ones.

So Lakoff is advising the Democrats to do something they're already doing (and indeed that every politician does as a matter of course), and in ways that would be especially ineffective. And the Dems seem to be eating it up. One might say they've been taken in by a merchant of serpentine petroleum products.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

I love stories like this XI

Remember that teacher who sued his school district because he was barred from using the Declaration of Independence in his 5th grade classroom? Well, he's gotten a fair amount of attention nationally. It appears that there aren't a lot of supporters for the teacher in the school district, however. Very interesting. Here the teacher, Stephen Williams, is a practicing and "out-of-the-closet" Christian. A number of the parents complain that he wears a cross and talks with his students about his bible study classes. I just wonder what their reaction would be if, instead of being Christian, Mr. Williams were gay and talked about his lifestyle with his students.

Well, finally! Somebody actually said it!

Flunking. It helps. Here's the story:
...students who are held back get more out of school and do better on standardized tests than they would if they were promoted.
Whaddaya know 'bout that, eh?

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

I'll take two!

I don't know about you, but seeing McDonalds obssess about salads makes me want to gag. Hardees has the right idea: the Monster Thickburger. This is what a fast food joint should be doing: making huge hamburgers with everything. The best fast food sandwich available, in my humble yet deadly accurate opinion.

Computers make school kids dumberer

I've always felt that PCs aren't needed in the public schools at all. Never mind the cost (oy! the cost!). I believe they reduce a student's ability and desire to study things in depth, and lead to a reliance on Google for research. No research or critical thinking skills are learned when the Internet is relied on for everything.

Now comes a study that confirms my long-held convictions about computer use in schools in the areas of math and reading:
"those who used school computers several times a week performed 'sizeably and statistically significantly worse' in both maths and reading."

Are you a believer?

That is, a believer in global warming? If so, then you've probably abdicated your ability to be skeptical about the "science" said to support the theory. A couple recent news stories ( 1 and 2 ) are refreshing.

What puzzles me about global warming enthusiasts is that they are also NOT nuclear power enthusiasts. Nuclear power contributes NO greenhouse gases to the atmosphere whatsoever; and as to the issue of nuclear waste, see my November 8th piece. I mean, they want it both ways. I'm willing to cut back on pollutants pumped into the air from burning coal, oil, and natural gas in power generation plants, but I'd like to see the energy shortfall made up by nuclear power.

Thomas is dumb because he's black

This is the conclusion reached on Best of the Web Today and by others commenting on the remarks of the new Senate Minority Leader, Harry Reid of Nevada. When asked by Tim Russert on Sunday's 'Meet the Press' whether Reid could support Justice Clarence Thomas as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Reid said:
I think that he has been an embarrassment to the Supreme Court. I think that his opinions are poorly written. I don't--I just don't think that he's done a good job as a Supreme Court justice.
"An embarrassment?" "His opinions are poorly written?" What else can we conclude from this?

Monday, December 06, 2004

9 months of nail-biting pays off

Three eastern European gamblers got to keep their ill-gotten gains after all. They used a laser-equipped cell phone linked wirelessly to a personal computer to calculate where the ball would drop on a roulette wheel, allowing them to "fait vos jeux" before the third spin of the wheel was complete. They were caught and had all their winnings confiscated and their bank accounts frozen for nine months; but no law had been broken and no casino rule had been violated. I'll bet the casino changes its rules!

Now there's something you don't see every day

All right, time for a roundup of things that are universally regarded as weird. First check out Jones Soda Co. and its popular lineup of sodas: Turkey and Gravy, Green Bean Casserole, and Mashed Potato and Butter. Next the annual Vegetarian Festival at the Chinese shrine of Jui Tui in Phuket, Thailand, features a parade of vegans with, shall we say, unusual body piercings. The one that caught my eye was of the man who had pierced his face with...wait for it!...a bicycle. Don't visit this sight if you're squeamish, though. Some of the piercings are weirder than that. Finally, a fascinating new personal defense weapon: the credit card shotgun. It actually fires several steel BBs (two rounds, even) from a gun the size of a credit card and about ½" thick.

Recent commentary: Government control?

What limits should the government put on broadcast content?

(published 6-Dec-2004, Appleton Post-Crescent)

Twenty-five years ago I was a radio "poisonality", as we called ourselves. I blurted a four-letter word once. We "cleaned up" a Rodney Dangerfield record for a contest. We also did our best to be slightly suggestive. There were no songs describing sexual acts, murdering police, or beating up one's girlfriend. Nowadays we frighten ourselves about the "dangers" of free speech to community standards, the public interest, and our children. Are Little Chute's community standards the same as in Paris where bare-breasted women appear on billboards? As Adam Thierer at the Cato Institute observed, asking the Federal Communications Commission to define the public interest is like creating a "Federal Automobile Commission" to define what cars consumers will demand next year and which companies may supply them. And we've forgotten that responsibility for protecting our children lies with our families, not the government. Broadcast media should receive the same First Amendment protections given to newspapers and magazines.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

An engaging letter on nuclear fusion

Jerry Pournelle's site this week features a letter from Ken Burnside who has some cogent and readable things to say about nuclear fusion power generation. A sample:
The same Luddites who screech about fission power plants will screech about D-T (Deuterium - Tritium; heavy hydrogen) fusion plants...and will have fairly reasonable cause to, to be honest. They will be more expensive to build, and for the lifetime of the plant, will probably produce more radioactive waste per unit of energy released to the grid. This is, in the words of some of the fusion researchers I've talked to, one of the reasons why they're "in a funk". Even if they can make a D-T reactor produce economically viable and significant amounts of power, the environmental regulations will probably keep one from being built for commercial development.
Pournelle's site is full of intelligent commentary on space technology, nuclear power, computers, and politics. Do give it a try.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Maybe I'm missing out!

I've had a Gmail account for about a month-and-a-half. For whatever reason, between Nov. 24th and Nov. 29th, I received a bunch of financial scam letters -- so-called 419 scams -- and then they dried up. Here are the offers I got:

Dr. Adams TiwoNigeria$20,500,000
Dr. Emmanuel HarrimannEngland$26,500,000
Dr. Peter AdamsBenin$24,100,000
Albert M. JohnsonLiberia$7,000,000
Smith BowaniSouth Africa$18,600,000
David AnsahGhana$15,000,000
Nelson AbibiPhillipines$18,000,000
Dr. Hassan BubaSenegal$18,500,000

If you haven't checked out Brad Christensen's page on Nigeria scams on the Quatloos web site, I recommend it to you.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

My letter to Congressman Tom Petri

Rep. Tom Petri
2462 Rayburn Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Congressman Petri,

My favorite author, Robert A. Heinlein, wrote a piece some years ago called “The Happy Days Ahead.” In it a black woman Vice President of the United States becomes Chief Executive when the President dies in a plane crash. The story is a fantasy, if you will, about restructuring the government of the United States into something that would be more recognizable to Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison.

I was reminded of that story when I read about the latest $380 billion omnibus spending bill passed by Congress. It was about 3,200 pages, or so I hear. I also heard that on page 1,112 of that bill was a provision that would have allowed appropriations committee chairmen, or their "agents," to examine the income tax returns of individual Americans.

No one seemed to know how that provision snuck in there. This, of course, suggests that not a single Congressman read the bill in its entirety.

This is rather poignantly ironic, since we plebeians are admonished, “Ignorance of the law is no excuse.” This episode suggests to me that it would be well for Congress to read its own legislation before foisting it on us.

But back to “Happy Days.” Heinlein’s black woman President has a meeting with an old family friend who happens to be a Senator. She asks him for a favor, and he asks for one in return. His favor was the far more interesting one. He asked that the President endorse the Senator’s Constitutional Amendment, “The Plain English Amendment.” From the story:

“It permits a citizen to challenge the Constitutionality of any law or regulation, Federal or any lesser authority, on the grounds that it is ambivalent, equivocal, or cannot be understood by a person of average intelligence...Paragraph three defines and limits the tests that may be used to test the challenged law. The fourth paragraph excludes law students, law school graduates, lawyers, judges, and uncertified j.p.’s from being test subjects.”

The Senator goes on to say that, “Lawyers are going to hate this...and the Congress and all state legislatures have a majority of lawyers.”

Here’s the connection: this Amendment could be used to challenge the Federal Budget or the IRS code. My most fervent wish for your next term in office is that you would introduce with Congressman Ron Paul a “Plain English Amendment” to the United States Constitution.

Sincerely yours,

Razom nas bahato

You may have read about the western Ukrainian group, Grin Dzholy, that had written a song using protest slogans from the disputed Ukrainian Presidential election, "Razom nas bahato" (Together We Are Many). I decided to look for it since it's being distributed on the GoreNet. Sure enough, about 10 minutes later I found it. You can download it here. You can also download it at this web log and read the lyrics translated into English. A nifty audio story about the song is here.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Recent UNpublished commentary: Social Security

From a letter published in the Appleton Post-Crescent, 22-Nov-2004:
Social Security needs tweak, not privatizing

Remember back in 1994 when Republican Newt Gingrich stood on the Capitol steps with the Contract With America? We had a Democrat in the White House and there were five balanced budgets in a row. The national debt was $3.5 trillion, with a projected surplus.

Now, with a Republican administration, we have a $400 billion deficit with a $7.5 trillion national debt. Where, oh where, is Gingrich now?

Our Medicare has been severely bruised and tilted toward drug companies. Social Security is next on the agenda. I have heard President Bush ridicule the one- to two-percent interest on the trust fund. Not true. The lowest paid from 1970 to 2000 was 5.63 percent. The high was 13.33 percent. There were only four years in which it was less than 6 percent.

Social Security is projected to run out in 2052. There are two ways to fix it. Put the lock box on it as Bush promised in 2000. Don’t spend it on the general fund. Raise the $83,400 cap on taxing it. Replace the IOUs in it. Don’t spend trillions to privatize it.

Edward LaSage
Here is my (unpublished) commentary:

Mr. Edward LaSage wrote on Monday that Social Security's pay out was never less than 5.63%. This is true...for TODAY'S retirees. The 1-2% return scorned by the President is projected for TODAY'S workers when they retire. Sure, Social Security has a nice return for those receiving it now, but before long it won't be, not with fewer and fewer workers supporting more and more retirees.

I agree that Social Security receipts should not be available for the general fund as they have been ever since the program was inititated in the 30s. But the Supreme Court has already settled that question: Social Security receipts may be treated as general tax revenue to be used for any purpose; and Congress may raise, lower, or eliminate SS benefits at its discretion. There goes the "lock box."

Mr. LaSage suggests that we "replace the IOUs" in the Social Security trust fund. Sounds so simple, doesn't it? Redeem the government bonds that are in the "Trust Fund" with actual money that can be paid to SS recipients. The Clinton administration's fiscal year 2000 budget explained that the Trust Fund balances "do not consist of real economic assets that can be drawn down in the future to fund benefits. Instead, they are claims on the Treasury that, when redeemed, will have to be financed by raising taxes, borrowing from the public, or reducing benefits."

In other words, our retirement account savings have been spent already on weapons for al Qaeda to fight the Russians, for Saddam Hussein to fight the Iranians, and on research into fur-bearing trout farms for all we know. But there's all o' them government bonds in there! Yessir! That's money, isn't it? Well, no, we have to pay for our own retirement AGAIN plus interest to redeem those bonds.

Do you know what that would be called if a business did that with its employee pension fund? Fraud. And lots of people would go to jail.

Now do you see why Mark Twain called Congress our only native criminal class?

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

I love stories like this X

How delicious this story is, and just before Thanksgiving, too! On the insistence of the principal of Stevens Creek School in Cupertino, CA, 5th grade teacher, Steven Williams, has been required to submit all of his lesson plans and handouts to be censored.
Among the materials [the principal] has rejected, according to Williams, are excerpts from the Declaration of Independence, George Washington's journal, John Adams' diary, Samuel Adams' "The Rights of the Colonists" and William Penn's "The Frame of Government of Pennsylvania."
Williams has filed a discrimination suit in U.S. District court in San Jose.

The Declaration of Independence, my friends, has been declared unfit to be taught to 5th graders because it contains references to God. I wonder what would happen if teachers taught that the Pilgrims said prayers of Thanksgiving to God on the first Thanksgiving? Does the principal, perhaps, think that the Pilgrims were praying to the Indians? Incredible.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

A Sophomoric Question from a Sophomore!

Andy Rooney, the curmudgeonly CBS '60 Minutes' commentator, spoke at Tufts University last week. In the Q&A that followed his speech, Rooney revealed that the forged documents story was pushed on-air because of the political agenda of the CBS News staff. No surprise there.

During his speech Rooney listed the greatest moments in American history, including its discovery by Christopher Columbus. Tufts sophomore, Spencer Hickok, took Rooney to task for this saying that Columbus' discovery resulted in the "genocide of native Americans." Rooney was caught off guard and could only say, "I can't answer your question."

This little exchange immediately got me to thinking. First, I asked myself, is human death the worst thing that can happen? It is apparent -- to Mr. Hickok, anyway -- that the destruction of native American cultures is the absolute nadir in American history. A heck of a first step to take in the New World. To him nothing else makes up for it.

I then wondered about the rest of the American experience. Why does this indictment of genocide seem to cast a pall over the rise of Western civilization? I then came to my senses.

This student's argument is fallacious. He assumes that the only significant result of Columbus' discovery was that American Indians were killed. Since that's a horribly immoral thing, how could Rooney have elevated it to one of the most important events in American history? This is called the fallacy of interrogation; in other words, a leading question, similar to, "Have you stopped beating your wife?" The sophomore used a clever logical fallacy to throw Rooney a curve ball. I then decided to have some fun with it.

There were no college sophomores majoring in anthropology in 1492. There were no campus activists, no Greenpeace; no anti-war protesters, feminists, nor tree-huggers; no PETA, OPEC,, nor international election monitors. There were none of the terribly self-important and more-compassionate-than-thou groups that modern civilization has blessed us with. Columbus was discovering a new world. He wasn't attempting to circumvent existing land use restrictions.

As Walter E. Williams has graciously granted white folks amnesty for the institution of slavery on his web site, I think that Christopher Columbus (and Andy Rooney) should be granted amnesty for the genocide of American Indians.

The Left Will Wither Away

This is why. A speech given by New York Times reporter Chris Hedges at the annual conference of the Association of Opinion Page Editors, quoted here from the American Spectator story:
"We're absolutely reviled around the world, as we should be," Hedges said. "Our only friends are war criminals"--a reference, he explained, to Ariel Sharon and Vladimir Putin.
I'm happy for him. He obviously derives a great deal of personal satisfaction from saying things like this. Please, please give us more. In time more and more Americans will see that Mr. Hedges and his friends are simply digging their hole deeper and deeper. A serious case of PEST (Post Election Selection Trauma).

Sunday, November 21, 2004

I love stories like this IX

This article goes into boring analysis of the lack of effectiveness of the 'Zero Tolerance' policy in force in 75% of America's schools. The analysis follows a story about a couple of kids suspended for inhaling helium from a balloon. had an appropriate horse laugh to counter the 10,000 syllogisms:
We have a confession to make: Back when we were in high school, we used to inhale a gaseous cocktail that was about four parts nitrogen to one part oxygen, with smaller quantities of carbon dioxide and argon (an inert gas, like helium). It produced a feeling of well-being and enhanced both academic and athletic performance, but it was also highly addictive. Deprive us of it for more than a minute or so, and we'd experience intense withdrawal symptoms. Good thing today's schools keep kids safe from such things.

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Sports doesn't build character...

...sports reveals character (Vince Lombardi). Basketball players charging into the bleachers to brawl with fans? Yikes!

I love stories like this VIII

Some are furious. Lots more think it's a good idea. Poplar Bluff, MO, High School now requires all students to wear IDs in the halls for security reasons. This story makes me squirm but I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because of my general distaste for institutional public schooling. This high school has 1300 students and the town has just 17,000 people. One of the fathers pulled his two girls out because of the IDs. But so many think it's a good idea. All I know is that there's a weird dynamic of sheep-like behavior combined with raging hormones, poor manners, stultifying politically-correct regimentation, and monumental boredom in schools today. Our own high school in Neenah, WI, has 2400 kids in a town of a little over 25,000. Counting the teachers and administrative staff, that's 10% of the population in one building. Admitedly it's a large building: 3/10 of a mile long...I'm not kidding, it's three city blocks long. I know that if I were in high school today I would be driven stark raving bonkers. My ideal solution -- if we're going to insist on dumping so much money into government-funded public schooling -- is to break up that monster school into a couple dozen "theme" schools or "magnet" schools.

But IDs? I suppose it gets the kids used to wearing them in the modern corporation. Lots more security in those places these days, too.

Friday, November 19, 2004

More from Pournelle

I highly recommend Jerry Pournelle's web site (he calls it "the original blog"). Today a couple of essays on the military Principle of Pursuit -- which we didn't follow in Iraq -- and on the Lure of Jacobinism. Pournelle prefers that term to "neocon" to describe the foreign policy wonks in Washington. He has some very thoughtful things to say about the situation we find ourselves in with respect to the occupation of Iraq. Please give it a read.

Multiculturalism? What's that?

I found this very interesting. It's an AP story about a couple of EU ministers that want immigrants to "be required to learn local languages, and to adhere to general 'European values' that will guide them toward better integration." Isn't that just precious?

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Oh, gawd! III

The past-president of the Left-Leaning Has-Been Chanteuses' guild, Linda Ronstadt, has been at it again. This one is particularly good:
Don't get her started on the recent presidential election. "People don't realize that by voting Republican, they voted against themselves," she says. Of Iraq in particular, she adds, "I worry that some people are entertained by the idea of this war. They don't know anything about the Iraqis, but they're angry and frustrated in their own lives. It's like Germany, before Hitler took over. The economy was bad and people felt kicked around. They looked for a scapegoat. Now we've got a new bunch of Hitlers."
Moral equivalence in full bloom, all right. "Like Germany before Hitler took over." Whew! This one goes to 11!

Just one of those GoreNet videos

I thought this was charming and funny. It's about a 2MB Windows Media clip. I can't believe it's a real DUI bust, though.

A nifty electoral map

This map shows the 2004 Presidential election broken down by county, with shades of red and blue showing the margin of victory in each county. (I presume you know the difference between red and blue in this context, right?) It also represents the population of each county by its size on the map. Makes it hard to distinguish some of the rural Plains states counties when compared with Los Angeles county, for example. There are more electoral maps here.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

People Enjoying Tasty Animals

That's how I define PETA. But it looks like we're going to be annoyed by them yet again. This time it's on the theme of Fish Have Feelings, Too, Ya Know:
"No one would ever put a hook through a dog's or cat's mouth," said Bruce Friedrich, PETA's director of vegan outreach. "Once people start to understand that fish, although they come in different packaging, are just as intelligent, they'll stop eating them."
They will have to wrench my beloved Fido and Spot sandwich from my cold dead fingers.

Speaking of hard to beat...

If your religious faith gets a boost from the miraculous appearance of the face and figure of the Virgin Mary appearing in, say, grilled cheese sandwiches, then this is the story for you.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Hard to beat Pournelle

Please read this: it's a trenchant analysis of the troubles we have and will continue to have in occupying Iraq.

Oh, gawd! II

Rush Limbaugh catches flak for lampooning Post Election Selection Trauma:

'Douglas Schooler, the Boca Raton trauma specialist who treated 20 people with hypnotherapy following Kerry’s loss, said he believes many people suffering from election-related symptoms are still afraid to step forward.“The Republicans want Kerry voters to shut up and pretend they’re not feeling anything,” Schooler said. “But many people have serious emotional pain over this election and it’s unhealthy to stuff it down inside of you. Therapy is the best way.”'

Oh, gawd!

All that needs to be said

Was it really "moral values" that swung the election? Not! See this cartoon on the Foundation for Defense of Democracies web site.

I love stories like this VII

Benedict College in Columbia, SC, has a new way to grade its students. At least one professor has been fired for refusing to go along with the so-called "Success Equals Effort" grading policy. As freshmen the students are supposed to be graded 60% on attendance and class participation and 40% on traditional performance and test scores. As sophomores the ratio flips the other way, with 60% of the grade based on performance. Juniors and Seniors don't get any breaks: their grades are based 100% on performance only.

One of the fired professors, Milwood Motley, a professor of biology, had a very good point: "If I allowed a student to go to the advanced class knowing that the student would struggle in that other class, probably fail the class, I think I did that student a disservice." Motley and another professor are pursuing court challenges to their firings.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Recent commentary: What are moral values?

What is your definition of "moral values?"

(published 15-Nov-2004, Appleton Post-Crescent)

Lots of things over the last few years demonstrate what moral values are not: Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” and her subsequent whining; using the courts, not our elected representatives, to invent rights; using SWAT teams to settle child custody disputes (remember Elian Gonzalez?); thinking that we brought 9-11 on ourselves; Alec Baldwin saying he’d leave the country if Bush won and then not leaving; bad economic news being good news for Democrats; admiring socialism; thinking that France or Germany occupy the moral high ground; thinking that Roe v. Wade determines the nation’s moral compass; Dan Rather pouncing on those forged documents; believing that voters in the red states are “idiots”; and loathing of religion. What moral values are: George Bush comforting Ashley Faulkner away from the press cameras; the charity of the red states v. the stinginess of the blue states; and what Sen. Zell Miller said: “It is the soldier who salutes the flag, serves beneath the flag, whose coffin is draped by the flag, who gives that protester the freedom he abuses to burn that flag.” These are American moral values.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

What does WalMart know about YOU?

Before Hurrican Frances hit Florida WalMart shipped truckloads of Strawberry PopTarts to stores in Frances' path. They knew sales would be high because data from Charley told them so.

I love stories like this VI

A special needs teacher turns out to be a bit rough with her autistic students.

Can You Imagine?

Remember that nifty image of Marine Lance Cpl. James Blake Miller with the Marlboro dangling from his lip after 12 hours of fighting in Fallujah? Well, there are some of your fellow Americans who think that that picture was highly insensitive to today's youth. Can you imagine these letters to the editor being published during World War II? From the Houston Chronicle:
"I was shocked to see the large photograph on Nov. 10. A tired, dirty and brave Marine rests after a battle--but with a cigarette dangling from his mouth! Lots of children, particularly boys, play "army" and like to imitate this young man. The clear message of the photo is that the way to relax after a battle is with a cigarette.

"The truth is very different from that message. Most of our troops don't smoke. And most importantly, this young man is far more likely to die a horrible death from his tobacco addiction than from his tour of duty in Iraq."

The Woodlands

"I opened the Chronicle this morning and got slapped in the face by a huge picture of a "battle weary" Marine with a fine looking cigarette hanging out of his mouth.

"I respect everyone's rights, but do we really need to encourage our young people to think that this is part of required military gear?"

League City

And from the New York Post:
"How much did Phillip Morris pay for the front cover advertisement? Thank you for continuing to encourage the development of cancer."

Mark Leininger

"The Post's cover was horrible and crude. How could you compare our soldiers to the Marlboro Man? We are not 'kicking butt' in Iraq. We are in an unjustified war with a people who will never allow democracy to come to their country."

Janna Passuntino

"I was shocked to see the front page of your newspaper. Showing a GI smoking and portraying it as being cool is disgusting, to say the least.

"First of all, you are promoting smoking, even though it is a health hazard. Secondly, our brave men and women are fighting a tough war in Iraq, and to show them as you did does not do them justice.

"Maybe showing a Marine in a tank, helping another GI or drinking water would have had a more positive impact on your readers. Smoking should be outlawed, not endorsed."

Ali Mahdi
North Brunswick, N.J.

Fortunately not all views on the "Marlboro Man" are so parochial. One more letter from the NY Post:
"Thank God New York isn't occupied by terrorists. Mayor Bloomberg wouldn't allow a Marine who smokes to enter the city. He would probably rather be a prisoner than see someone smoke."

Hank Sbordone
Middletown, N.J.

A Hat Tip to

A fitting tribute to Yasser Arafat from Hillaire Belloc, "Epitaph on the Politician":
Here richly, with ridiculous display,
The Politician's corpse was laid away.
While all of his acquaintance sneered and slanged
I wept: for I had longed to see him hanged.

Friday, November 12, 2004

I love stories like this V

Police stop a 6-year-old boy with a taser...that's 50,000 volts, friends. And look! It was in a public school!

I love stories like this IV

Warned to stop doing gymnastics during lunchtime, an 11-year-old girl was dismissed from school.

Avoid this if you like the French

From an e-mail list friend:

"AP and UPI reported that the French Government announced yesterday that it has raised its terror alert level from 'Run' to 'Hide.' The only two higher levels in France are 'Surrender' and 'Collaborate'. The raise was precipitated by the recent fire which destroyed one of France's white flag factories, disabling their military."

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Recent commentary: Reaching out

(published 11-Nov-2004, Appleton Post-Crescent)

Someone [Mina Bose, associate professor of political science at West Point] pointed out that Thomas Jefferson “reached out” to the rival Federalists during his 1801 inauguration speech. He said, “We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists.” But he began immediately to implement his own vision for the course of the nation.

The Alien and Sedition Act was allowed to expire; the Louisiana Purchase was effected over the constitutional objections of the Federalists; the Judiciary Act of 1801 was repealed (having been signed just three weeks before the end of John Adams’ term); and the judges named by Adams to fill the new judicial posts created by the Act were eliminated by Congress. Jefferson didn’t “reach out;” he exercised his prerogatives as president even though there was an even split in the Electoral College.

So, why is George Bush supposed to “reach out” to Democrats again? Seems to me that the Republicans have built their base of support over the last few decades; the Democrats can’t seem to understand that their platform is kind of shaky now. Though one can only hope that they continue to sic Barbra Streisand, Michael Moore, Alec Baldwin, Terry McAuliffe and Bill Clinton on us for the next four years, they may be better advised to examine the electorate more closely — that majority that voted for Bush — and move themselves closer to American issues and values.

Pournelle on Iraq

Jerry Pournelle's web site is full of fascinating stuff. Today he posted an essay on Iraq that I think is very much worth your time to read: "I will still make the case that we ought not be in Iraq in the first place, but I think it is clear that, given we are there, we must not leave until we have thoroughly demonstrated to any nation thinking about harboring our enemies that this is not a good idea."

I love stories like this III

A 33-year-old female teacher is jailed for paying for sex with three of her students. The killer is this: the teacher "has been suspended with pay from her post as a special-education teacher at Robeson High School." Boy, it's great to be a teacher. What bennies!

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Oh, gawd!

Post-election selection trauma? Is that what this is? Sheesh! Maybe they should have voted for the other guy!

Ashcroft opponents: wish granted

Announcement coming today, apparently, for the new Attorney General. Read.

Microsoft attempts to out-search Google

So what will this do to Google's stock price? Here's more about the new Microsoft search engine.


This entire article from the Washington Times is fascinating and amusing and incredible. From the article: "one top Democrat says, 'The segment of the country that pays for the federal government is now being governed by the people who don't pay for the federal government.'" So...Democrats are now in favor of tax cuts and Social Security reform? Is that it?

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Canadian Deconstruction

My brother-in-law sent this to my wife who then passed it along to me. I thought it might be interesting to get your comments. First, the "open letter" from Canada:

Americans Re-Elect George W. Bush

George Bush, the most unpopular American President in history outside of the United States, has been re-elected. His re-election says something about the intelligence of the majority of Americans, about American arrogance, about American insularity, and America's obvious desire to openly claim it's place in the pantheon of imperial powers.

(Hey! We are not intelligent! I, wait! We are so intelligent! Just who does he think he is?)

How are those of us outside of the United States supposed to react to this news? Prior to 9/11, numerous American administrations were responsible for the murder of hundreds of thousands of people in various regions of the world for a variety of pro-American reasons. Freedom was often claimed as the primary reason, which was, of course, one of the justifications given for the invasion of Iraq. It is, I might add, the only justification left of those initially given, as no weapons of mass destruction were found and no connection between Iraq and 9/11 ever existed. Of course, the majority of Americans are completely unfamiliar with the history of their own foreign policy actions, so one can see why they tend to be comfortable living with lies and the liars who tell them.

(He might react as he reacted to any other re-election of an incumbent President in the past. As far as freedom being "the only justification left," I would invite him to read something I've found useful as a reminder of just why we're there. As to "living with lies and the liars who tell them," c'est la vie, n'est-ce pas? Although it's pretty clear that he means that there are some pretty spectacular liars in the U.S., perhaps more spectacular than anywhere else ever in all of recorded human history.)

Never the less, nearly 3,000 Americans died on September 11th, an event that allowed a group of individuals to implement one of the most dangerous foreign policy platforms in US history. It also solidified a place in history for a President who has the deaths of 3,000 Americans to thank for rescuing him from historical obscurity. 9/11 outraged Americans, who simply couldn't believe that anyone in their right mind would attack such a peaceful, freedom loving country. This led to the blind stereotyping of an entire segment of the world's population, an entire religion, and influenced the American public to back a series of reckless military campaigns which have since cost the lives of 1000+ Americans, and will most likely result in the first military draft since the Vietnam era. (It matters little what President Bush said during stump speeches or the debates prior to the election).

(He has a point about the foreign policy being dangerous. But is it bad for the U.S.? That's the question. But that crack about the 3,000 deaths rescuing Bush from obscurity, hey! That's right out of the Clinton talking points!)

(I'm beginning to think that this guy is leading up to some spectacular conclusion.)

As a direct result of America's knee jerk reaction to lash out after 9/11, thousands of innocent Afghanis have lost their lives. Afghanistan remains in turmoil, governed by a man that was once an advisor to one of the largest oil companies in the US (and has his nose so far up the White House's ass that he might as well be a West Wing janitor). Of course, such realities don't deter idiotic American conservatives from blabbering on about how Afghanistan is now free.

(According to this guy, everything that the U.S. did after 9/11 is reprehensible, to say the least. I wonder if this guy would have gone to the U.N. and begged for help. And, gosh! He must not like conservatives very much.)

So is El Salvador, supposedly. Where did 60,000 Salvadorans go before that conclusion was reached? For that matter, how many Guatemalans died after the United States paid for and supported a coup so that they could oust a leader that had the audacity to place the needs of his people before those of an American company?

(I believe he's referring to the situations in Central America during the late 70s. He doesn't mention Nicaragua or Panama. I wonder why?)

Since the invasion of Iraq, some 16,000+ innocent Iraqis have been killed, (some 100,000 excess Iraqi deaths have occurred since the war began). Is the rest of the world therefore to believe that Iraqi lives are worth less than American lives?

(Um, I'm missing the connection between the 16,000 and the 100,000. Is he talking about heart disease? Traffic accidents? He sure sounds like he believes our efforts to put the clamps on terrorism world-wide after 9/11 were unjustified. What do you think? Does he really believe that we should have done nothing?)

If so, then what are Canadian lives worth?

The majority of the world believes the United States to be a greater threat to world security than terrorism. What does that say about the re-election of the man that is responsible for producing that opinion? I'm afraid, in the years to come, that Osama Bin Laden will be the least of America's worries.

(Now I know I'm dealing with someone a bit unhinged. I guess this guy feels that America should submit to terrorist attacks around the world and in our own country as, what? The price of doing business? I suppose he feels the same way about Israel's response to terrorism as he does about ours.)

What purpose does the US constitution serve when it protects the liberties of a nation that blindly supports the strong-arming of other people? What point is there in keeping up the illusion that the United States is a land that consists of people that love real freedom? If anything , it's a land in which self- interest rules. Indeed, the re-election of George Bush speaks volumes about the American character.

(Yep, he's not tracking here. If a country has no self-interests, it has no existence. And I suppose that the rights of people to kill 3,000 of our citizens in one fell swoop should be protected, too.)

Prior to this moment I held the American people apart from the actions of their government, believing that if they had the chance to reverse what has been done that they would. Unfortunately, I now find that difficult to do. My children will inherit a more dangerous world because of the outcome of this election. What am I to tell them when they ask why anyone would willingly support such a reckless, tepid, and bigoted man?

(He sure sounds like he believes that the deaths on 9/11 were our fault, as if we ourselves flew those planes into the towers and the Pentagon. "Reverse what has been done?" A very passive-voice kind of way to put it all.)

("Tepid?" Perhaps he should have said, "bloodless," or "calculating." "Tepid?")

The outcome of this election has made clear where the majority of the people of the United States stand. Arm in arm with conquest, greed, and selfish insularity. The rest of the world will pay the price for it. So how, exactly, should the rest of the world be feeling today? Like a target? Either you're with us or against us. Mr. Bush would do well to remember that it works both ways.

(When Bush said, "You're either with us or against us," he was clearly referring to countries that harbor terrorists or sponsor them. This guy clearly believes, as Kerry apparently did, that terrorism is a "nuisance.")

A Disenchanted Neighbour from the North

Da Vinci's robot?

While I think this is a fascinating story, I do believe that somebody had too much time on his hands.

I love stories like this II

Another story from the government-funded compulsory schools.

Weird Hollywood news

Got to have the occasional tabloid story now and then.

Interesting commentary on blogs by CBS

Perhaps this story is representative of how CBS and the rest of the mainstream media must be feeling right about now: hemmed in by the blogosphere.

Dog eats phone

What more needs to be said? Read and wonder.

11-year-old sues mother for not buying him a PC

From China comes this story of how computers can trump family ties.

Monday, November 08, 2004

The terrorism-poverty connection

In the current issue of the Harvard Gazette, an article by Alvin Powell makes this assertion:
A John F. Kennedy School of Government researcher has cast doubt on the widely held belief that terrorism stems from poverty, finding instead that terrorist violence is related to a nation's level of political freedom.

Ms. Streisand

Barbra Streisand posted an interesting quotation of Thomas Jefferson's on her web site today. In her introduction to the quote she mentions the "strong sentiments of frustration and disappointment 48% of the country feel. [sic]" It must be me: I simply do not have the deep wells of emotion and feeling that people like Ms. Streisand must have. When Clinton won re-election in '96 I was disappointed, but I wasn't "strongly" disappointed. Is it true that the depth of feeling for those who voted for ... ah ... hmmm ... what was his name again? Oh! Right. Senator Kerry. Where was I? Ah! The depth of feeling amongst those who voted for, um, Kerry ... Kerry ... was that the President's opponent? Yes, I'm sure it was. OK. Lets see, now. Feelings, right ... How do you feel? I mean, if you voted for, um, Bush's opponent. Do you feel as Ms. Streisand does that "we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to its true principles?" Well, that was Thomas Jefferson saying that. I'm simply curious that Ms. Streisand uses Jefferson as the exemplar of her emotions. Jefferson, who also said, "I like a little rebellion now and then." My feeling is that the Republican "Revolution" in '94 was more along the lines of what Jefferson meant rather than the election of Senator, uh, what's-his-name.

How much waste is there, really?

A nuclear protester in France got his leg severed by the train carrying the wastes against which he was protesting. He was in the process of chaining himself to those very same tracks when he and his protest group were "surprised" by the train. The protester later died.

The protesters complain that the nuclear waste is "unsafe." It's a measure of how fortunate the protesters are that the physical amount of the waste produced in nuclear power plants is so small. Nuclear nations can afford to dither for decades about what to do with the wastes, wringing their hands over how "dangerous" it is, sounding concerned over the number of protesters there are.

I've found it to be a refreshing mathematical exercise to calculate just how much nuclear waste there really is. Based on the most believable numbers I could find, the total amount of high-level radioactive waste (spent fuel rods) produced in the United States over the last 50 years is about 49,000 metric tons. To give you an idea of how much waste that really is, imagine that all of those fuel rods could be melted together to form a single mass. Now think of a city block. It's 1/10 of a mile on each side, 6.4 acres. Lets now add some transparent walls around that block to form a big vat. Now pour that 49,000 metric tons of molten fuel rods into our fantasy vat forming a pool of the most horrible and poisonous substance known to mankind. How deep would it be? I'll wait.

All right, I'll make it easy for you:

(49,000 metric tons)
x (1000 kilograms/metric ton)
x (1000 grams/kilogram)
x (1 cubic centimeter/5.5 grams)
x (1 liter/1000 cubic centimeters)
x (0.0353147 cubic foot/liter)
x (1 acre/43,560 square feet)
x (1 city block/6.4 acres)
x (12 inches/foot)
= 13.5425 inches over the area of a city block.

Friends, it would be approximately 13 ½ inches deep. That's inches, not feet, not miles. I calculated that depth using the assumption that the fuel rods have about the density of the earth as a whole, 5.5 grams per cc. Just over a foot deep...spread over a single city fifty years.

If you notice in the story, the train that killed the protester was carrying twelve containers of processed waste. Not a thousand, not a hundred: twelve.

It reminds me of the anti-climax in "This is Spinal Tap," when the band begins their big number "Stonehenge," and the stage crew lowers a foam mockup of a massive Stonehenge arch onto the stage behind the lead singer...and it turns out to be 18 inches high, not 18 feet.

You know what? I've got a solution for those people who are concerned about terrorists stealing our nuclear wastes. Simply let the tracks be lined with protesters and the terrorists wouldn't have any room to maneuver.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

A Tet offensive in Iraq?

My friend, William, was hoping for something like this. From the article:
Sgt. Maj. Carlton W. Kent, the top enlisted Marine in Iraq, told troops the coming battle of Fallujah would be "no different" than the historic fights at Inchon in Korea, the flag-raising victory at Iwo Jima, or the bloody assault to dislodge North Vietnamese from the ancient citadel of Hue they seized in the 1968 Tet Offensive.

"You're all in the process of making history," Kent told a crowd of some 2,500 Marines. "This is another Hue city in the making. I have no doubt, if we do get the word, that each and every one of you is going to do what you have always done - kick some butt."

For my friend, Don

From an article in the BBCNews World edition:

Shoppers rush to pyramid Wal-Mart
A happy shopper enters the new Wal-Mart store
Shoppers flocked to the opening of the new store

Bargain-hungry Mexican shoppers have flocked to a new Wal-Mart supermarket that environmentalists claim will threaten one of the nation's treasures.

Around 200 shoppers queued for hours to be the first to enter the store, which is half a mile from the ancient Mexican pyramids at Teotihuacan.

"People need the well-being of their families more than culture," said one.

Environmental groups had argued that the store was too close to the ruins and would erode the local way of life.

While the Wal-Mart store was overflowing with shoppers on its opening day, a handful of local opponents kept a vigil outside the 2,000-year-old Teotihuacan pyramids.

They pledged to continue a protest that has drawn international attention and prompted a national debate.

Sorry, Don. Bargains trump culture.

World's best computer support story!

Make me one with everything.

I'm just saying...

To those despondent individuals who claim that Bush has no "mandate" with only 51% of the vote, I ask you: What if Senator Kerry had won in Ohio by a few thousand votes, or even by as many as 136,000 as Bush did? That would have given Kerry an electoral college win but a popular vote deficit of a hefty 3 million or so. Bush would still have won a majority of the vote. Would that have been enough of a "mandate" for Kerry?

I love stories like this

Home schoolers must be thankful today that there's no chance they'll run afoul of Bush's stance on public school accountability. Read this.

State IQ - It's Still a Hoax

The Democrats-are-smarter State IQ chart is making the rounds of the GoreNet again. See Steve Sailer's debunkings here and here.

Bush's Domestic Challenges

Jacob Sullum, in this Reason On-Line piece, lists three domestic agenda items he says President Bush needs to address: spending restraint, Social Security reform, and tax reform. Thankfully, he says nothing about "reaching out" or "reconciliation" or "toning down his agenda."

Human ingenuity

This Reason On-Line article might brighten your day.

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Picture of the Future

This is a link to an old article in City Journal, "a quarterly magazine of urban affairs, published by The Manhattan Institute ." I found the link to it on Jerry Pournelle's web site, which I highly recommend, by the way. The article looks at the characteristics of modern poverty. Let me know what you think.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Recent commentary: Proudest achievement

What is America's proudest achievement?

(published 25-Oct-2004, Appleton Post-Crescent)

Simply this: "We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights; that among these are Life, Libery and the pursuit of Happiness; that to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." Certainly we have made terrible mistakes through hubris; but the notion that America is to blame for the trouble in the world is arrant nonsense. What country virtually rebuilt the world after World War II? What country is living proof that Marxism was a complete and utter failure? What country is, as P. J. O'Rourke put it, "pig Satan devil," but still the place where people want to go to dental school as soon as they get their green cards? If you didn't answer "The United States of America" to the last three questions then I suggest that you up your medication level.

Recent commentary: Party communication

Which of the two national party conventions was more effective in communicating what the party has to offer?

(published 13-Sep-2004, Appleton Post-Crescent)

Is that what you think conventions are for? Nah! It's Teresa Heinz Kerry vs. Laura Bush and Bill Clinton vs. Arnold Schwarzenegger. You gotta admit that the Terminator had the best one-liner: "Don't be economic girlie-men!" Will it be "Anybody but Bush" or "Jean Francois Kerry?" – you're paying for the show. Might as well enjoy it. H. L. Mencken had it right: "Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule - and both commonly succeed, and are right." Some people can't stand Bush: they don't like his little smirk, or they still believe his election was rigged. Others can't stand Kerry: he's as dull as Al Gore, and they wish he'd shut up about Vietnam. The real question is this: If Clinton REALLY wanted Kerry to be President, why wait until AFTER the Republican convention for bypass surgery, eh?

Recent commentary: Issues

"What's the No. 1 issue in the presidential campaign?"

(published 23-Aug-2004, Appleton Post-Crescent)

1a) The War On Terror: The terrorists of today are like the anarchists of the Victorian era. They will go to any lengths to destroy us. They are implacable. There is no truce. They were our enemies long before 9/11. Appeasement isn't an option: they spit on our peace offerings. Withdrawing isn't an option: they will pursue us into our homes. Our only option is to do our best to defeat them utterly. 1b) The Economy: Some -- mostly Democrats -- insist it's still awful. That puts them in the uncomfortable position of having to downplay every positive thing that's happened as a result of our economic recovery after the Clinton years and 9/11. Bad economic news is good political news for them. 1c) Energy Policy: If there's any way to get OPEC to drink its oil then we go for it.

Recent commentary: Linda Ronstadt

Linda Ronstadt incited near-riot in Las Vegas July 17 by praising Michael Moore during a concert. Who was the biggest loser?

(published 2-Aug-2004, Appleton Post-Crescent)

Some would call this a "violation of freedom of speech." It isn't. She was a paid performer. I rather doubt that any complaint Ms. Rondstadt might have would get very far if she decided to sue. She would just be made to look silly. Certainly if she had said something like, "Lets not forget to support our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and wherever they may be out there guarding democracy," the reaction would have been quite different. She might have had her membership card in the Left-Leaning Has-Been Chanteuses' guild revoked, but how important is that? As for Moore, every bit of controversy and fuss that's kicked up about his movie means more seats filled in the theatres. He couldn't care less; it's simply yet another opportunity for him to declaim against the President. Capitalism has served him well: about $105 million so far. That ain't chump change.

Recent commentary: Political midpoint

Where is the political midpoint in America?

(published 12-Jul-2004, Appleton Post-Crescent)

Right where it's always been: "Shut yer yap, leave me alone, and stop raising my blankety-blank taxes!" "Political midpoint" implies some sort of political average; but there are simply too many issues: from Iraq to milk subsidies, from Social Security to global warming, and from endangered species to gay marriage...there's no end. These political pendulums all swing at once in different directions. There's no such thing as a viewpoint that encompasses the middle of each swing. You can try to deny it but politics surrounds us, like The Force in Star Wars (think of Yoda lecturing Luke Skywalker): the streets, the air, the water, the parks, the farms, the hospitals, the paraphrase Robert Heinlein, politics is nearly as important as your own heartbeat. If you're one of those who think that other people should be controlled for their own good, these are the salad days for you.

Recent commentary: Reading list

What are you reading right now?

(published 8-May-2004, Appleton Post-Crescent)

"The Second World War" - John Keegan. An excellent writer but in the passive-voice-is-king academic style. No direct punch to the narrative but powerful withal. "Eight Skilled Gentlemen" - Barry Hughart. The third volume in the woefully short Master Li and Number Ten Ox series of fantasy novels. Think Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson having the adventures of Indiana Jones in ancient China. Wonderfully sophisticated comedy, too. "The Great Books" - David Denby. The pushing-50 author, a movie critic for 'New York' magazine, went back to his alma mater, Columbia University, to re-take the 'Great Books' course. Denby lived a fantasy I've had for some time; and he writes beautifully about those incredible books. "Hacking Exposed" - McClure, Scambray, and Kurtz. Hair-raising exposé of what breaking into computer systems is all about -- and why no computer is safe. "Farmer Giles of Ham" - Tolkien. Marvelous medieval fairy tale complete with dragons and giants. "The Skeptic" - Terry Teachout. The definitive biography of America's most trenchant, acerbic, and iconoclastic critic, H. L. Mencken. And, yes, I have bookmarks in them all.

Recent commentary: Fallujah

Should the news media have broadcast and published images of the mutilated corpses of U.S. contractors killed in Iraq?

(published 12-Apr-2004, Appleton Post-Crescent)

If the networks don't broadcast these sorts of images (remember the decapitation of Daniel Pearl? The people in the World Trade Center choosing to jump to their deaths?) then we become too complacent; it becomes too easy to say that the murderers have a reasonable point of view. If we censor the images then we can anesthetize ourselves. The fanatics in Iraq are counting on our squeamishness. They take heart from the ignoble events in Mogadishu and think that Americans have no moral toughness. They see our high-tech weapons and sneer, believing that we would never risk our precious skins, and that if we see our noses being punched often enough that we'll cut and run. Maybe they're right. Maybe we are cowards. But George Bush isn't like Bill Clinton, thank God. I see American soldiers driving tanks into Fallujah and honoring those men by blowing the town to pieces.

Recent commentary: Constitutional Amendment

If you could add an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, what would it be?

(published 25-Mar-2004, Appleton Post-Crescent)

With a tip of the hat to Robert Heinlein, I'd add a "Plain English" Amendment. It would allow a citizen to challenge the constitutionality of any law or regulation -- federal, state, or local -- "on the grounds that it cannot be understood by a person of average intelligence." So, for example, you could challenge the federal budget on the grounds that no one ever reads the whole thing. Or challenge the income tax laws on the grounds that you have to hire an accountant to make heads or tails out of it. Either that or add an Amendment to repeal the 16th Amendment which, of course, authorized the federal income tax in the first place. Or at least pass Representative Ron Paul's bill, HR 1364, requiring every income earner to send monthly income tax checks to Uncle Sam. The federal budget would get cut in a big hurry after that!

Recent commentary: Turnout

What can be done to increase voter turnout?

(published 14-Mar-2004, Appleton Post-Crescent)

Well, we here in Wisconsin could do what California might do: give the vote to 14-year-olds. (California will be its own country by 2050 -- mark my words!) Place a controversial initiative on every ballot: same-sex marriages, money for renovating the Hadzi sculpture, requiring free beer at council meetings, stuff like that. Require mud wrestling during candidate debates. Replace the nice ladies from the League of Women Voters with dancers from BeanSnappers. Allege wide-spread vote fraud and hire a Jimmy Carter look-alike to monitor each polling place. Have a nice tear-off pizza coupon at the bottom of the ballot. Instead of an "I voted" sticker, give away an ice cream cone. A sucker. A dog biscuit. Something. Have a brat fry outside every polling place. Before each election repeal all the laws in a random category -- yeah! Like taxes -- and start fresh afterwards. Or we could require more interesting candidates.