Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Anthro-centric global scare-mongering, XV

And here I thought this was just going to be another boring column about how the Dems may be a little too cocky about the Nov. 7th elections...

Little did I know that in paragraph two would come the knockout punch for the Democrat party: no hurricanes!
The more fatalistic among [Democrats] point out that in the year since the Katrina disaster the US has received many warnings about other hurricanes heading towards it. All of these, without exception, have fizzled out into nothing more severe than storms.

Lets examine that amazing statement a bit, shall we? I've reminded you that, since the end of September, there hasn't been a single named tropical storm in the North Atlantic. There have been only nine storms this whole hurricane season when, if the global warmists were to be believed, we should have had a tsunami's worth of hurricanes this year. Granted, the global warmists who predicted huge and devastating hurricanes from now on were decidedly leftist.

But now the Times of London says that some Democrats fear that this year's non-disastrous hurricane season will be bad for Democrats at the ballot box next month! Need I say more?

What else is in this article. Oh, yes! This choice quote from Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee executive director, Karin Johanson:
“The Republicans have convinced everyone, not least themselves, that the reason they did so well in 2004 was because of their turnout operation,” she said. “They think they’re smarter than us, and, the truth is, some of us think they’re smarter than us.”

Talk about demoralization, depression, and despondency! And this:
But Charles Schumer, the campaign chief of the Senate Democrats, said that in his party’s best-case scenario it would ride “a huge tsunami” on election day, winning eight seats, including even the seemingly untouchable Arizona.

Democrats have become so used to losing that most feel deeply uncomfortable about any such display of bravado. Ms Johanson said: “I worry — I'm paid to worry.”

The hurricane season is coming to an end. Instead, families are preparing for Halloween tomorrow night. And the Democrats are spooked.

Trite tag line, but cute. I can just see the post-election interviews with the lady-on-the-street:
New York Times: Ma'am, what party did you vote for and why?

Lady in the street: Oh, Republican, definitely. There weren't any hurricanes this year. Not one! We've got George W. Bush to thank for that!

Monday, October 30, 2006

I love stories like this, LXXIV

"Some of these kids were so scared, they just about wet their pants." That's what the parent of four children in the Godfrey-Lee School District said about the "realistic" school safety drill conducted last Thursday at Lee Middle and High School in Wyoming, MI:
A school safety drill that included police officers in riot gear with weapons has caused concern among some parents who say it was too realistic and frightened some students.

Police in the western Michigan community of Wyoming entered two classrooms at Lee Middle and High School on Thursday and announced there was a threat to the school, The Grand Rapids Press reported.

Students, who were unaware police were conducting a drill, were taken from the classroom into the halls, patted down by officers and asked what they had in their pockets, the newspaper said.

"Some of these kids were so scared, they just about wet their pants," said Marge Bradshaw, a parent with four children in Godfrey-Lee Schools. "I think it's pure wrong that the students and parents were not informed of this."

Officers wore protective gear, including vests and helmets, and carried rifles that were unloaded and marked with colored tape to indicate they were not live weapons, the newspaper said.

Diana Silva, a parent of an eighth-grade student, said the drill went too far.

"My child was with his face to the wall in the hallway of the high school," Silva said. "I certainly don't want anything like this happening to my child."

Principal David Britten said students weren't told ahead of time to make the drill as realistic as possible. Teachers were informed moments before it took place, he said.

"I think this is the best way to do it," Britten said. "We're not looking to scare anyone, but we want a sense of urgency."

But Wyoming Police Chief James Carmody said his officers were not aware students and parents were not told. He said his department will mandate that parents be notified ahead of time in the future.

"The purpose was to show how we will evacuate the classroom, not to assault the classroom," Carmody said.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Gosh! I wonder what happened?

Do you know that it's been over a month since the last tropical storm (Hurricane Isaac) formed over the Atlantic ocean? My word! I was sure that Florida would be scraped off the map and New Orleans would submerge completely because of an incredible hurricane season this year. After all, weren't we told that last year's hurricanes were only a taste of things to come?

Boy! With all of those scientists, celebrities (including Barbra Streisand and Leonardo DiCaprio), and politicians (including erstwhile Vice President Gore and Rep. Robert Kennedy) making such categorical, unequivocal claims about the increase in the intensity and destructive power of hurricanes ... why, it must come as quite a shock when their predictions simply don't come true!

Golly! There've only been 9 named Atlantic storms this season with only a little over a month to go. That puts 2006 squarely on the curve of an average storm season. And even if another storm were to form in November, that would still make for fewer storms than even the lowest of the National Hurricane Center predictions.

Maybe the global warmists can turn their attention, with heads held high and beliefs unshaken, to the upcoming winter storm season.

I normally wouldn't give two figs...

...but this was a bit more over-the-top than the usual. According to The Daily Mail:
Americans snub invitation to pay $500,000 for Clinton birthday party

By SHARON CHURCHER, Mail on Sunday
Last updated at 22:00pm on 28th October 2006

When America's liberal elite were offered the chance to pay up to $500,000 each (about £260,000) to attend Bill Clinton's 60th birthday extravaganza tonight - with the added promise of a private Rolling Stones concert - a packed house was expected.

Wife Hillary and daughter Chelsea sent out about 10,000 invitations to Hollywood tycoons, movie stars, captains of industry and Wall Street - with all proceeds to go to the former President's charitable foundation.

Those who pledged the top price were promised the 'Birthday Chair Package', with the best seating for the concert as well as a chance to have photographs taken with Mr Clinton during a round of golf and a three-day series of cocktail, brunch and dinner parties.

The minimum price, with inferior concert seats and no brunch, was set at $60,000 (£31,000). But with many rich Democrats sending their regrets, The Mail on Sunday can reveal that last Wednesday the Clintons drastically slashed prices to $12,500 (£6,500) for one reception and the concert, or $5,000 (£2,600) for just the Stones.

With the looming possibility of Bill and his long-suffering wife and daughter finding themselves amid a sea of empty chairs at the 2,900-seat Manhattan venue, tickets then went on sale to the public for as little as $1,710 (£900).

And there is a danger that the Clintons' plans may end in a total fiasco, after the Stones cancelled Friday's show in Atlantic City when Mick Jagger complained of a sore throat and was ordered to rest by a doctor.

So this isn't a political fund-raiser. Perhaps that's where their mistake was made. If this had been a party and concert to support Democrat candidates for national office, I think the house would have been packed. As it is, since it's only for charity...

I was sympathetic to one of the people that left a comment ("Hc Pitts" of Tallahassee, FL):
Please just make these people go away!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

I love stories like this, LXXIII

"It's racist! You're going to get done by the police!" That is what the teacher shouted at 14-year-old British school girl, Codie Stott. Why the intemperance? From the TCS Daily story:
14-year old British schoolgirl Codie Stott was arrested for trying to get a good grade in her group science project. She had been placed with a group of students only one of whom spoke any English. When they began talking what she deduced was Urdu among themselves, she realized she had no hope of completing the project. She went to her teacher, and prefacing her request with a diplomatic, "I'm not trying to be funny, but ..." she asked to be moved to an English-speaking team.

That's when the teacher exploded.
The 14-year old was reported to a police officer on the school premises and the next day she was arrested, taken to the police station and told to take the laces out of her shoes and take off her jewelry. She then had her fingerprints taken and she was formally questioned. "It was awful," she said later, when she'd been released, the police having shown more sense than her teacher.

There's more from Britain along these lines:
Aishah Azmi, a teacher's assistant in an Episcopalian school who was tasked with helping recently arrived Urdu-speaking children to learn English, was asked to remove her niqab (full facial veil) in the classroom. She refused. She was told that the children needed to see her lips and mouth as she pronounced the English words they were supposed to be learning. She refused on religious grounds. The school, conciliatory for fear of being accused of racism, told her she was free to wear the veil in corridors and the staff room, but she should remove it when teaching foreign children English. She refused again, saying that as there was a male colleague in the classroom, she could not remove her veil in his presence.

These are two of the three examples given in the TCS Daily article of very recent incidents causing a reassessment of multi-culturalism in England. That is, the Romans are finally remembering that it's others who should be doing as they do.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Recent commentary: does Iraq affect my voting?

How much will the war in Iraq affect your vote in November?

(published 30-Oct-2006, Appleton Post-Crescent)

Very little. On the Neenah ballot, anyway, there's only one contested national office: U.S. Senator. Kohl voted with the Senate majority in 2002 to authorize the use of military force. Should he be punished for getting us into the war? But wait, he's a Democrat! That means he's against the war, doesn't it? Congressman Petri has held his House seat for a couple of decades, now, and is, once again, running uncontested. I generally don't vote for candidates who run without opponents, though this year I might darken the ovals next to the blank lines. I certainly haven't thought about Iraq with respect to the 55th Assembly District imbroglio. No, wait! It isn't an imbroglio at all! Kaufert and Westphal have called for an end to partisan politics. As if that will ever happen! Should we kick Kaufert out of office because he's tarred with the Republican brush? I'm SO confused!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

I'm certain Julian Simon is spinning in his grave

Come back, Julian! We need you to refute in your inimitable way the ridiculous assertions made by the World Wildlife Federation. The WWF is meeting in Beijing and they're coming out with statements like this:
"For more than 20 years we have exceeded the earth's ability to support a consumptive lifestyle that is unsustainable and we cannot afford to continue down this path," WWF Director-General James Leape said, launching the WWF's 2006 Living Planet Report.

"If everyone around the world lived as those in America, we would need five planets to support us," Leape, an American, said in Beijing.

Well! It's a good thing that those third world johnnies aren't as advanced as us, eh?

At least we're not the worst ones:
People in the United Arab Emirates were placing most stress per capita on the planet ahead of those in the United States, Finland and Canada, the report said.

No mention is made of the amazing increase in agricultural output around the world so that the increased population can be sustained with ease. Nor the discoveries and development of new sources of raw materials and the technological advances in resource utilization and recovery. Nor the increase in longevity world-wide. Nor the increase in wealth world-wide.

Julian Simon was an optomist for very good reason. These WWF sad sacks are trying to raise a ruckus but, fortunately, the world has passed them by.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Third world eminent domain

I was cleaning up some links I'd left on my PC's desktop this morning when I ran across an article published in August telling the story of Robert Mugabe, the leader of Zimbabwe, and the progress of his vaunted, yet much-criticized land reform program. Mugabe began to take land away from white farmers and give it to blacks native to Zimbabwe:
Around 4000 white farmers have lost their land, often violently, since Mugabe launched his ... programme ... to redress the imbalances in land ownership from the colonial era.

A noble idea, what? But here's what's happened. Mugabe has found out that taking land from one group and giving it to another doesn't produce the results one was hoping for:
...Mugabe on Monday warned new black farmers to either produce food on farms taken from whites or have the land seized by the government.

"Those with land should use it to prove they were indeed interested in farming in the first place,"

Mugabe said at a Heroes' Day celebration."Those who can't produce, be warned, we will take the land back. We now need to distinguish capable and committed farmers from holders of land who are mere chancers and who should be made to seek opportunities elsewhere," he said.

Why does he say such threatening things to the people whom the program benefitted. Aside from the fact that it's in his nature to say and do threatening things, there's this:
Fewer than 600 farmers remain on their properties in Zimbabwe, once called a regional breadbasket, and the programme has been widely criticised as a failure.

"If farming is not in your blood, switch to what you are good at. We want those with land to use it. We don't want to keep begging for food," Mugabe told thousands who gathered to celebrate Zimbabwe's fallen liberation struggle heroes.

Critics blame the land reform programme in part for the country's economic woes, saying the majority of its beneficiaries lacked the skills and means to farm and relied instead on state handouts.

The octogenarian leader also warned [about] stiff punishments for cash hoarders and black market currency changers following the a series of currency reforms aimed at fighting world-record inflation.

"On this day, let it be known that wrongful self-enrichment will not be allowed to go unpunished.

"Whoever is caught on the wrong side of the law in the ongoing currency reforms will be charged according to their crime," he said.

Zimbabwe's Reserve Bank slashed three zeroes from its currency two weeks ago and introduced new bank notes in an effort to reduce inflation and snuff out a burgeoning parallel foreign currency market.

Police say at least 3 000 people have been arrested and billions of dollars in local currency seized in a blitz on cash hoarders and those dealing illegally in foreign currency.

Mugabe called on the crowd to compare "the patriotism and sacrifice" of the country's heroes "to the character of our people who have chosen to worship the god of wealth and who have shown unbridled greed, corruption and self-aggrandisement."

"These economic saboteurs should take heed that we are determined to fight the scourge of corruption and do honour to the dignity and integrity of our nation," he said.

Zimbabwe's annual inflation declined to 993.6 % in July from 1184.6%, while reeling under spiralling unemployment and severe fuel and food shortages.

So, yet again, a country run according to communist/socialist principles has turned a "regional breadbasket" into a country that has been reduced to "begging for food".

Why does this matter to us? Well, there's another example of "land reform" going on closer to home: Venezuela. President Hugo Chavez has undertaken a program to take land from the latifundistas, the big, cattle raising land-owners, and give it to landless peasants.

One of the interesting features of the Venezuelan land reform is that President Chavez has demanded that the latifundistas provide proof of ownership going back to 1821, the year that Venezuela was liberated from Spain. It's a Catch-22: there are no land titles going back that far. The fledgling Venezuelan government didn't get around to issuing titles until much later.

However, the government is going to grant permanent title to those it chooses to own the land. I simply have to wonder what will happen down the road when there's a new Venezuelan strongman who, upon seeing the dismal agricultural output from these redistributed lands, will yank the titles and give them to somebody else. I'm not saying that the people given the lands that Chavez has confiscated and redistributed have yet had a chance to prove themselves; I'm merely prophesying what will happen.

Venezuela currently imports 75% of its food. Chavez is proclaiming that the huge tracts of cattle grazing land being confiscated for redistribution will be worked by "those who want to work it", and they will produce enough to make the country self-sustaining in food products. Sounds good, dosen't it? My guess is that these new farmers will need – there's no other word for it – massive government subsidies to succeed even at a subsistence level for many, many years.

There may be more resources in Venezuela than in Zimbabwe to do this. Oil revenues make for a nice cushion. Chavez (or his strongman successor) won't be making speeches like Mugabe any time soon; but since these new farmers will be launched into their new careers with government handouts, I predict that they won't be able to break their dependence on them and that their output will be much less than Chavez thinks.

The amount of fawning coverage of Chavez' reforms is staggering. Not a one of these johnnies seems to have watched what has happened in Zimbabwe or in any of the other nations that have tried to control the ownership, distribution, and use of farm land from a central authority. Here are a few links from the pro-land reform side:

Land Reform in Venezuela
Venezuela: Land Reform Battle Deepens
President Chavez and Venezuela's Land Reform

And a couple that are more cautious:

BBC News
National Geographic (37 MB download)

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Anthro-centric global scare-mongering, XIV

I was alerted to this article by James Taranto writing in Best of the Web Today yesterday. In it, the San Francisco Chronicle "science" writer takes a very flippant look at the ozone hole above Antarctica. Carl T. Hall begins his article ("Extended South Pole cold spell blamed for bigger hole in ozone: Changes seasonal, scientists expect long-term shrinking") this way:
That hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica is back -- and bigger than ever, scientists said Wednesday.

Not to worry.

The environmental nightmare of the '80s, which once seemed intent on killing every living thing on the planet, has become a toothless blowhard these days...

I'm a fancier of persiflage, but here it seems out of place. I mean, the writer seems positively miffed that the ozone hole is not going to contribute to the general mayhem coming soon to a global climate near you. Why do I say this? Because of the way he ends the article:
Scientists said they expect the ozone layer will have fully recovered sometime around 2065-2075 -- just in time for global warming to have a shot at destroying all life on Earth.

See what I mean? I'm supposed to take this guy seriously?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

First it's fish, now it's cockroaches...

People Enjoying Tasty Animals ... oops! I mean, "People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals", are not just grossed out, they're up in arms about the contest sponsored by Six Flags Great America:
TORONTO (Reuters) - An animal rights group called Tuesday for a North American theme park operator to cancel a competition in which people will try to break the world cockroach-eating record.

Theme park operator Six Flags Inc, based in New York, is staging the contest as part of a promotion leading up to Halloween in which it is also offering customers free entry or line-jumping advantages if they eat a live Madagascar hissing cockroach.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) said it had been flooded with calls from children, adults and even anonymous employees of Six Flags opposing the record-breaking contest and the overall promotion.

"Insects do not deserve to be eaten alive especially for a gratuitous marketing gimmick," PETA spokeswoman Jackie Vergerio told Reuters.

Oh, gawd! Fish have feelings and bugs have rights. Cockroaches don't "deserve to be eaten alive!" Oh! The humanity!

I'd participate in this contest myself if it were, say, a steak-eating contest. Cockroaches? Maybe deep-fried and smothered in dark chocolate...

I love stories like this, LXXII

An oldie but goodie, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), spawned a recent analysis by the Brookings Institution's Brown Center on Education Policy that makes an interesting point:
The nations with the best scores have the least happy, least confident math students.

Countries reporting higher levels of enjoyment and confidence among math students don't do as well in the subject, the study suggests. The results for the United States hover around the middle of the pack, both in terms of enjoyment and in test scores.

In essence, happiness is overrated, says study author Tom Loveless.

"We might want to focus on the math that kids are learning and just be a little less obsessed with the fact that they have to enjoy every minute of it," said Loveless, who directs the Brown center and serves on a presidential advisory panel on math.

"The implication is not 'Let's go make kids unhappy,"' he said. "It's 'Let's give kids better signals as to how they're performing, relative to the rest of the world."'

Other countries do better than the United States because they seem to expect more from students, he said. That could also explain why high performers in other nations express less confidence and enjoyment in math. They consider their peer group to be star achievers.

I say that this is an oldie but goodie because the TIMSS was done in 2003, with components of the study done in 1995 and 1999. One of those components looked at teaching methods in 8th grade science courses in schools around the world. Here's one of the conclusions:
The data suggest that compared to the U.S., the four relatively higher-achieving countries (based on the TIMSS 1995 assessments and consistent with the 1999 assessments) in eighth-grade science participating in this study—Australia, the Czech Republic, Japan, and the Netherlands—shared two commonalities. First, eighth-grade science lessons in these four countries appeared to focus on high content standards and expectations for student learning. However, there were varying definitions across these four countries for what counts as high content standards. Second, instead of exposing students to a variety of pedagogical approaches and content, the science lessons within each of the four relatively higher-achieving countries appeared to reflect a common instructional approach that was content-focused.

In other words, the high-achieving countries teach science as science, not as entertainment. Fancy that!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

What it means to be a liberal

A centrist friend of mine posted a link to an article written by Geoffrey R. Stone called "What it Means to be a Liberal". I responded to the article in this way:
Part of the problem is that liberals have failed to define themselves and to state clearly what they believe.

Shades of Barack Obama looking for Democrat core values.

OK, time for the pot shots -- but you knew they were coming, didn't you?

1. Liberals are skeptical of censorship and celebrate free and open debate.

He might want to check with David Horowitz and Students for Academic Freedom on that one.

2. Liberals believe individuals should be tolerant and respectful of difference. It is liberals who have supported and continue to support the civil rights movement, affirmative action, the Equal Rights Amendment and the rights of gays and lesbians. (Note that a conflict between propositions 1 and 2 leads to divisions among liberals on issues like pornography and hate speech.)

I'll say this for liberals: they have succeeded admirably in convincing people that affirmative action is the natural outgrowth of being "tolerant and respectful of difference."

I would have liked to have seen a bit more explanation for the parenthetical comment. If all he's saying is that liberals aren't all of the same mind in their beliefs, well, gee!

3. Liberals believe individuals have a right and a responsibility to participate in public debate. It is liberals who have championed and continue to champion expansion of the franchise; the elimination of obstacles to voting; "one person, one vote;" limits on partisan gerrymandering; campaign-finance reform; and a more vibrant freedom of speech.

He wanders all over the map on this one. I can swallow the "right and responsibility" part, but to suggest that campaign finance reform and "a more vibrant freedom of speech" belong in the same ballpark, much less the same sentence, is getting to the swallowing a camel stage. "More vibrant"... is this guy a fashion consultant on the side?

4. It is liberals who have defended and continue to defend the freedom of the press to investigate and challenge the government, the protection of individual privacy from overbearing government monitoring, and the right of individuals to reproductive freedom. (Note that libertarians, often thought of as "conservatives," share this value with liberals.)

The libertarian position is that "reproductive freedom" is a matter that should be left to the individual states, certainly not something that liberals share with libertarians.

As far as freedom of the press, he's being awfully vague.

5. Liberals believe government must respect and affirmatively safeguard the liberty, equality and dignity of each individual.

Interesting way to encapsulate the function of government. He has transmogrified "form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity", into "affirmatively safeguard the liberty, equality, and dignity of each individual." Breathtaking.

6. It is liberals who maintain that a national community is like a family and that government exists in part to 'promote the general welfare.'

Again, breathtaking. Those programs he mentions that do all of this promoting take up roughly 25% of the national income. I wonder what he thinks the ideal proportion of the national income would finally allow us to say that our "responsibility" has been carried out fully.

7. Liberals believe government should never act on the basis of sectarian faith.

No, indeed! They have all sorts of non-sectarian faiths upon which to act! Environmentalism, socialism, massively centralized government, campaign finance reform, socialized health care...quite a vat of Koolaid, there.

Sorry, I'm going to skip #8 because #9 is so interesting.

9. Liberals believe government must protect the safety and security of the people, for without such protection liberalism is impossible. This, of course, is less a tenet of liberalism than a reply to those who attack liberalism. The accusation that liberals are unwilling to protect the nation from internal and external dangers is false. Because liberals respect competing values, such as procedural fairness and individual dignity, they weigh more carefully particular exercises of government power (such as the use of secret evidence, hearsay and torture), but they are no less willing to use government authority in other forms (such as expanded police forces and international diplomacy) to protect the nation and its citizens.

This sounds more like apologetics than a firm commitment to national security. The "fairness and individual dignity" trope just sounds so bizarre when we see beheadings on video and planes crashing into buildings. This sounds like an answer Kerry would have given to a debate question on "What would you do as President to defend this country from further terrorist attacks?"

10. Liberals adhere to the view expressed by Brandeis some 80 years ago: 'Those who won our independence ... did not exalt order at the cost of liberty.'

Again, more apologetics, and using a quote from Brandeis is particularly cheeky. Those who won our independence gave up life, liberty, and property. Mr. Stone does his best to make it seem that a liberal does not consider anything worth giving up those things anymore. "Our country right or wrong" isn't good enough for him, not unless we respectfully consider the issue of fairness towards those that hold alternative world views and who seem to be somewhat fervent in their adherence to courses of action that, well, result in unpleasantness.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Climate Change Deniers Anonymous?

Perhaps those of us Climate Change Deniers (CCD's) who refuse to acknowledge that the recent 1-degree rise in global average temperatures is due in any substantial part to anthro-centric factors should form a support group á là Alcoholics Anonymous. We most definitely need to be re-educated for our anti-social stands on this vital issue. Through caring and a twelve-step program we, too, can come to believe everything Al Gore says!

My thoughts on this matter were prompted by an article on Spiked.com by Brendan O'Neill, "Global Warming: the chilling effect on free speech". Quite a good piece. Here's an excerpt:
Whoever thought that serious commentators would want it made illegal to have a row about the weather? One Australian columnist has proposed outlawing ‘climate change denial’. ‘David Irving is under arrest in Austria for Holocaust denial’, she wrote. ‘Perhaps there is a case for making climate change denial an offence. It is a crime against humanity, after all.’ (1) Others have suggested that climate change deniers should be put on trial in the future, Nuremberg-style, and made to account for their attempts to cover up the ‘global warming…Holocaust’ (2).

The message is clear: climate change deniers are scum. Their words are so wicked and dangerous that they must be silenced, or criminalised, or forced beyond the pale alongside those other crackpots who claim there was no Nazi Holocaust against the Jews. Perhaps climate change deniers should even be killed off, hanged like those evil men who were tried Nuremberg-style the first time around.

Whatever the truth about our warming planet, it is clear there is a tidal wave of intolerance in the debate about climate change which is eroding free speech and melting rational debate. There has been no decree from on high or piece of legislation outlawing climate change denial, and indeed there is no need to criminalise it, as the Australian columnist suggests. Because in recent months it has been turned into a taboo, chased out of polite society by a wink and a nod, letters of complaint, newspaper articles continually comparing climate change denial to Holocaust denial. An attitude of ‘You can’t say that!’ now surrounds debates about climate change, which in many ways is more powerful and pernicious than an outright ban. I am not a scientist or an expert on climate change, but I know what I don’t like - and this demonisation of certain words and ideas is an affront to freedom of speech and open, rational debate.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Does this matter?

According to Robert Cox of The Examiner, more and more web content is controlled by organizations that have leftist sympathies, if not tendencies. What would seem to be a non-issue became much more interesting last week when Michelle Malkin, blogress and commentator for Fox News, was notifed by
YouTube, the world’s most popular video sharing service, that her video had been deemed “offensive.” The result? Her account was terminated and her videos deleted.

Cox goes on to say that
according to USA Today, 98 percent of the money donated to political parties by Google employees — “Google Millionaires” — went to Democrats.

Google now owns YouTube.com.

I went to Malkin's site and first found her post about the video deemed so "offensive" by YouTube members. You can download it here. It's a Windows Media file about 2.2 MB in size.

Then I found her post about the removal of the video from YouTube:
Back in February, you may remember, I cobbled together a little mini-movie called "First, They Came" inspired by the Mohammed Cartoon riots. It's a simple slideshow highlighting the victims of Islamic violence over the years. We posted it at YouTube a while ago. No problems. Until last week, when I received this e-mail:
Your video "First, they came" has been rejected due to its inappropriate nature. Please refer to our terms of use for more information on what video material is not permitted on YouTube.

Strangely, my conservative YouTube group (now nearly 1,000 members strong) has also now been "flagged" for containing "content that is inappropriate for some users."

Yeah, inappropriate for members of the Religion of Perpetual Outrage.

Watch the video and tell me if it's "offensive".

North Korea at night

You've probably seen that great composite picture of the earth at night. The lights across the globe give a pretty good indicator of the most prosperous areas.

Well, here's a recent shot of the Korean peninsula at night. National boundaries are conveniently drawn in.

That one bright spot in North Korea is the capital, Pyongyang. Here's the story:
As the world grapples with how to rein in the "axis of evil" state which this week conducted a nuclear test, this spectacular satellite photo unveiled yesterday by US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld shows in stark detail the haves and have-nots of the Korean peninsula.

The regime in the north is so short of electricity that the whole country is switched off at 9 p.m. - apart from the capital of Pyongyang where dictator Kim Jong-il and his cohorts live in relative luxury. But even there, lighting is drastically reduced.

The result, as shown in this picture taken one night earlier this week, is a startling contrast between the blacked-out north and the south, which is ablaze with light, particularly around major cities and the capital, Seoul, in the north-west of the country.

Mr Rumsfeld showed the picture to illustrate how backward the northern regime really is - and how oppressed its people are. Without electricity there can be none of the appliances that make life easy and that we take for granted, he said.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Monday, October 09, 2006

Second best laugh of the week so far

James Taranto, writing in today's Best of the Web Today, devoted space to l'affaire Foley. Near the end he compared the Foley scandal with the Lewinsky scandal and offered up a transcript of an interview by Tim Russert on Meet the Press. Russert interviewed Missouri Senate candidate, Claire McCaskill:
Russert: You're having Bill Clinton come in to raise money for you. Do you think Bill Clinton was a great president?

McCaskill: I do. I think--I have a lot of problems with some of his, his, his personal issues. I said at--

Russert: But do you--

McCaskill: I said at the time, "I think he's been a great leader, but I don't want my daughter near him."

And now for Taranto's bon mot:
What a ringing endorsement! And hey, say what you will about Mark Foley, at least you can trust him with your daughter!

Best laugh of the week so far

These images are from a little web ad for the Republican Party. You ought to be able to recognize these characters. The tag line was marvelous: "You won't wake up from this...by tapping your heels together!"

Latest victim of the E Coli outbreak

Sunday, October 08, 2006

A libertarian Iraqi comic?

It's the most popular show in Iraq right now, and it will only last during Ramadan. It's called "Hurry Up, He's Dead," and it's a one-man show that spoofs the news a-la Jon Stewart's "The Daily Show".

I suggest that the star of the show, Talib al-Sudani, is libertarian at heart because of this quote from the article in The Seattle Times:
"I don't support this government. I don't support any government," he said.

The "newsman's" name is Saaeed and he's got a knack for topical humor:
In the next day's episode, Saaed joyfully announces that the Americans are finally leaving Iraq. Referring to the U.S. secretary of defense, Saaed, sitting behind his news desk, says: "Rums bin Feld said the American forces are leaving on 1-1," referring to Jan. 1.

He's giddy, raising his arms in the air. Then he realizes he's made a mistake. The soldiers are leaving one by one, not on 1-1. He computes in his head what leaving one by one means and announces that the soldiers will be gone in 694 years. He starts to cry; Iraqis watching the show howl.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Man! Now it's college kids!

I noted the study that showed that movie stars were narcissistic a few weeks ago. Now, in another landmark study, college students love themselves:
College students today are more narcissistic than any previously studied generation according to trends W. Keith Campbell, a University psychology professor, has observed in his ongoing study on narcissism among young adults.

And here's the explanation:
Holly Carrico, a senior from Honolulu, Hawaii, said she thinks her generation definitely places a higher importance on looks.

“From a female perspective, people didn’t just work out (in the past),” Carrico said.

The influence that entertainment has on how young people value their appearance is an indication of how our society is more self-absorbed, she said.

Life imitates the movies, in other words. Now you know.

I love stories like this, LXXI

How should a public school discourage tardiness? By making the parents serve detention right along with the kids, that's how!
NEW YORK – A public school in New York City is blaming parents for the tardiness of their children and is making the moms and dads serve detention.

Under the new rule at the Manhattan School for Children, parents who do not drop off their children by 8:25 a.m. have to pick up late slips from the principal's office and go to the auditorium to serve 20 minutes of detention with them.

Better than tardiness sensitivity training or friendly-yet-concerned notes on brightly colored paper, says I!

Monday, October 02, 2006

An intelligent summary of the NIE

James Joyner of TCS Daily has written a trenchant summary of the findings of the National Intelligence Estimate, a part of which — the 'Key Judgements' — was declassified and published (with unseemly glee) by the major news outlets. In my quick reaction to that document was an appeal to "stick to our guns" and finish the job. Mr. Joyner has much more to say:
The invasion of Iraq simultaneously created a killing zone so that jihadists could be dealt with in a centralized location away from the United States (the so-called "Flypaper Strategy") and became a rallying cry that generated more terrorists. We've killed or captured hundreds upon hundreds of al Qaeda terrorists, including scores of their senior leaders around the world, yet they have thus far, unfortunately, responded in hydra-like fashion.

Michael Scheuer argued in Imperial Hubris that fomenting an American-led invasion of an Arab Muslim country was beyond Osama bin Laden's wildest dreams when he launched the 9/11 attacks. Al Qaeda was hoping for a second rallying event like the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan to gin up enthusiasm for the cause and turn latent anti-Western hostility into more troops for the cause. Others made similar arguments and few doubted that as a likely effect. Still, as I argued here in January, al Qaeda is 0-for-6 in achieving its strategic objectives.

While Osama and company managed to attract large numbers of troops to fight the atheist Soviets in Afghanistan, they gained far more out of the fact that the Soviets left Afghanistan in defeat. Similarly, it's quite likely that an American withdrawal from Iraq without accomplishing the barest part of our mission - a reasonably stable, democratic society - would embolden the jihadists. Afghanistan. Lebanon. Somalia. Each of those displays of weakness convinced the jihadists that the infidel was weak and could be defeated. Forcing the Americans to leave Iraq would be a far, far bigger prize.

Here, for completeness, is part of Mr. Joyner's article from January detailing the six al Qaeda objectives and what they've actually accomplished:
[W]ars are fought for strategic goals. Al Qaeda announced theirs in a 1998 declaration of Jihad. As summarized by Michael Scheuer, they were:
  • The end of U.S. aid to Israel and the ultimate elimination of that state;
  • The removal of U.S. and Western forces from the Arabian peninsula;
  • The removal of U.S. and Western military forces from Iraq, Afghanistan, and other Muslim lands;
  • The end of U.S. support for the oppression of Muslims by Russia, China, and India;
  • The end of U.S. protection for repressive, apostate Muslim regimes in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, Jordan, et cetera;
  • The conservation of the Muslim world's energy resource and their sale at higher prices.

How is it going for the Jihadists? The reality:
  • Israel is stronger than ever and U.S. support could hardly be stronger. The 9/11 attacks, if anything, solidified U.S.-Israeli relations, since it brought home the everyday fear of terrorist attacks Israelis endure on a daily basis.
  • Western forces have indeed left Saudi Arabia, only to be mobilized and reinforced in Arab lands.
  • Western forces are deeply entrenched in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other Muslim lands and have toppled the first two regimes and strongly influenced the direction of others, notably Pakistan.
  • The U.S. still does not support oppression of Muslims in Russia, China, or India but is certainly less sympathetic to the Chechnyan cause than before 9/11.
  • The U.S. has drawn closer to the governments in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt, and Jordan, although it is pushing for serious democratization.
  • Oil prices have gone up rather dramatically, although owing more to economic growth in China and India than events in the Middle East.

Bin Laden might think he is winning. The facts, however, do not bear him out.

I love stories like this, LXX

Among the recent stories of shootings at schools (in Colorado, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, which are way too horrible to make light of) comes this bright spot. A popular art teacher led her fifth-graders on a field trip to the Dallas Museum of Art:
One of her students saw nude art in the museum, and after the child’s parent complained, the teacher was suspended.

Although the tour had been approved by the principal, and the 89 students were accompanied by 4 other teachers, at least 12 parents and a museum docent, Ms. McGee said, she was called to the principal the next day and “bashed.”

She later received a memorandum in which the principal, Nancy Lawson, wrote: “During a study trip that you planned for fifth graders, students were exposed to nude statues and other nude art representations.” It cited additional complaints, which Ms. McGee has challenged.

Now, I agree that the teacher was harshly treated; but these stories of suspensions always come accompanied with a silver lining in the dark cloud:
The school board suspended her with pay on Sept. 22.

Out here in the real world a guy gets in trouble at work and he's fired. I suppose with the high-level executives there's a severance package as part of the contract; but for the rest of us poor slobs, "suspension with pay" isn't an option.