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Recent UNpublished commentary: Social Security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Here is my (unpublished) commentary: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.