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.