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Thursday, June 30, 2005

happy birthday, thomas sowell!

The good professor turns 75 today and although he is quite a bit more hawkish than I am, he's still my favorite author. Read some reflections on the past three quarters of a century here.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

first tigger, now piglet!

John Fiedler, voice of Piglet, has succumbed to cancer at the age of 80. Of course, I'll always think of him as Mr. Peterson from The Bob Newhart Show. The Suntimes obit is here.

federal funding for mental health screening of kids: one more reason to homeschool!

The heroic Ron Paul introduced an amendment to prevent federally mandated mental health screening of kids in schools, but Congress shot it down.
On Friday Congress defeated an amendment I introduced that would have prevented the federal government from moving forward with an Orwellian program to mandate mental health screening of kids in schools. This program, recommended by a presidential commission, has not yet been established at the federal level. However, your tax dollars are being given to states that apply for grants to establish their own programs – and a full-fledged program run by the Department of Health and Human Services is on the way.
Nearly 100 members of Congress supported my amendment. Many of these members represent Texas and Illinois, two states that already have mental health screening programs in place. They have heard from their constituents, who believe intimate mental health problems should be addressed by parents, kids, and their doctors – not the government. These parents do not appreciate yet another government program that undermines their parental authority.

The psychiatric establishment and the pharmaceutical industry of course support government mental health screening programs in schools, because they both stand to benefit from millions of new customers. But we should not allow self-interested industries to use a government program to create a captive audience for their products. We should be especially careful about medicating children with psychotropic drugs when their brains are still developing. Far too many children are being stigmatized by dubious diagnoses like Attention Deficit Disorder, and placed on drugs simply because they exhibit behavior that we used to understand as restlessness or rambunctious horseplay. This is especially true of young boys, who cannot thrive in our increasingly feminized government schools. Sadly, many parents and teachers find it easier to drug energetic boys than discipline them.
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

ship of fools heading for africa

Sabine Barnhart looks at the good intentions but bad policy of Bob Geldof and others who want to "forgive" the debt of African nations.
...Even Bono of U2 was quoted in an AP report as having exclaimed that the focus over the past 20 years since Live Aid has changed. "It’s the journey from charity to justice," he said. These are big words that have the all too familiar ring of good intentions. The overall belief held by many people with good intentions for poorer countries is the idea of injustice being caused by wealthier nations during colonial times. However, evidence shows that most poverty in Africa and other poorer countries is created by Marxist ideology and oppressive actions of reigning governments. Among the African nations that currently suffer from poverty are countries like Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, and Sudan...

...Africa lacks many important factors that we take for granted in the West. As Professor (Walter) Williams points out, it lacks the rule of law, private property rights, and independent judiciary and limited government. The visible evidence is in the poverty of the population and its continual warring of dictators, rebels and tyrants.

Africa is one of the richest continents with most of its treasures still unearthed. It holds natural resources of iron ore, copper, coal, uranium, tin, phosphate, diamonds and gold. It can produce cotton, coffee, tea, cocoa and fruit with plenty of livestock. The possibilities are unlimited. Only, little can be done when resources are controlled by oppressive governments with no intentions to promote the well-being of their people by allowing them to accumulate wealth through private ownership...

...Geldof has good intentions in raising awareness of poverty, but his focus is on the wrong issue. Re-distributing wealth to keep the balance is as unnatural as trying to stop the Sahara desert wind from blowing sand into sand dunes. It is not possible. His energy would be better served if he can bring awareness of the danger of big government, controlling trade (he supports fair trade) and the danger of socialism; a more democratic offspring of communism. These are all contributing factors to poverty and starvation...
There's much more so check out the whole column. Also, this excellent piece by Pat Buchanan from a couple of weeks ago covers the same issue, but focuses on the corruption and incompetence of the international lending agencies, namely the IMF, World Bank and African Development Bank, and how the whole ugly process of debt relief really amounts to fleecing the taxpayers of the wealthier nations to bail out these bankers so they can continue, ever unaccountable, to make more bad loans. But that's OK, don't worry, we'll all sit back and watch the stars perform at Live 8, feeling good about ourselves because we care so much.

cassini reveals lake-like feature on titan

The Cassini orbiter recently took the above photograph, which may be a current or past lake of methane. From this article at
"I'd say this is definitely the best candidate we've seen so far for a liquid hydrocarbon lake on Titan," said Dr. Alfred McEwen, Cassini imaging team member and a professor at the University of Arizona, Tucson. The suspected lake area measures 145 miles long by 45 miles wide, about the size of Lake Ontario, on the U.S. Canadian border.

"This feature is unique in our exploration of Titan so far," said Dr. Elizabeth Turtle, Cassini imaging team associate at the University of Arizona. "Its perimeter is intriguingly reminiscent of the shorelines of lakes on Earth that are smoothed by water erosion and deposition," she added.

The feature lies in Titan's cloudiest region, which is presumably the most likely site of recent methane rainfall. This, coupled with the shore-like smoothness of the feature's perimeter makes it hard for scientists to resist speculation about what might be filling the lake, if it indeed is one.

"It's possible that some of the storms in this region are strong enough to make methane rain that reaches the surface," said Cassini imaging team member Dr. Tony DelGenio of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York.

Monday, June 27, 2005

batman begins again

I just got back from seeing “Batman Begins” for the second time, along with jmc and his lovely wife. It’s definitely the best of all the Batman movies so far, and even one of the best superhero movies ever, with excellent actors, a fine plot and script and great direction.

I’m a big comic book fan from way back so my review is from the fan boy perspective. The movie spends a lot of time on Batman’s origin and it pays off later, both in believability and plot turns. By the time Bruce Wayne first appears in costume, the background story has you believing as much as possible that maybe, just maybe, a billionaire orphan might be motivated and capable of pulling off a stunt like that.

After the costumes come out, believability is always tough to maintain, but the only other costumed character is the Scarecrow and his outfit (only a mask, really) is given a plausible background (basically a gas mask). The director also makes a wise choice in how he shows Batman in the movie. Very rarely do we see him in full. Instead, Batman is shot as if he were a monster in a horror movie, so that audience gets a feel for how he might be perceived by the criminals he fights.

I’ve seen reviews of the movie from conservatives and leftists, both trying to make the case that it supports their point of view, but as far as I can tell, the politics of the movie is somewhere between muddled and non-existent. Bruce Wayne’s father is clearly a limosine leftist, but that’s the only explicit attempt at politics. There is also a minor character named after a libertarian writer, but that is so obscure that I wonder if the filmmakers were even aware of his origin when they pulled that villain from the comic books.

All in all, a big thumbs up!

the supreme court's jackboot liberals

Alexander Cockburn comments on the supremes' recent decisions regarding medical marijuana:
On June 6, by a vote of 6-3, the Court ruled that Federal authorities may prosecute sick people who smoke pot on doctors' orders. The court’s apex liberal, Stevens, wrote the majority decision. The conservative Sandra Day O’Connor who wrote the dissent, saying that the court was overreaching to endorse "making it a federal crime to grow small amounts of marijuana in one's own home for one's own medicinal use”.

Ranged with Stevens in the majority were Ginsburg and Breyer, along with Kennedy (regarded as more conservative than this first trio), plus the supposed libertarian, Souter and Scalia, the most conceited judge in America. Of course Scalia had to file his own opinion proffering a "more nuanced" analysis, to the general effect that Congress had the right to pass “necessary and proper laws”.
and eminent domain:
Then, on June 23, the Court’s liberals, plus Souter and Kennedy decreed that between private property rights on the one side, and big-time developers with the city council in their pockets on the other, the latter wins every time...

Liberals love eminent domain, as much as conservatives love the death penalty, and like many liberal passions it destroys far more lives than the gas chamber or the lethal needle.
Read the whole thing.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

renaissance man paul winchell, voice of tigger, dies at 82

From a report at
He won a Grammy in 1974 for Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too, including the movie's signature song The Wonderful Thing about Tiggers.
On the award-winning soundtrack, Winchell gives a throaty, bouncy rendition to the memorable lyric: "The wonderful thing about tiggers, is tiggers are wonderful things! Their tops are made out of rubber, their bottoms are made out of springs!"

Born in New York City in 1922, Winchell devoted energy in his later years to pursuits like publishing on Christian theology and promoting fish farming in Africa, said Johnny Blue Star, who collaborated in a screenplay based on the autobiography Winch.

Winchell was also an inventor with a patent for a prototype artificial heart he built in the 1960s in the same workshop in which he created his ventriloquist dummies, Blue Star said. He also created an "invisible" garter belt, a flameless cigarette lighter and an early version of the disposable razor.

"He was more or less a self-taught renaissance man," he said.
I'll say! The whole article can be found here.

those evil libertarians

Over at The Agitator, Radley Balko opines:
You know, the next time some thick-headed liberal spouts off about how I or my employer, the Cato Institute, shouldn't be taken seriously because we're "funded by corporations," (a vacant charge, but that's beside the point) I think I'll point to Kelo.
No, no, no! Don't you get it? The fact that libertarians were on the side of the sick and defenseless AGAINST the evil corporations is just more proof that libertarians are masters of deception. Matt Yglesis has it figured out already, unfortunately:
It speaks well of the intelligence of the libertarian legal community that when they try and establish precedents that will make it much harder to regulate large corporations and wealthy individuals in the public interest that they don't choose the case of Mega Corp v. Cute Deer or Sick Child v. Giant Drug Company. Instead, they pick cases like Raich and Kelo, where liberal egalitarians may sympathize with plaintiffs ostensibly beseiged by Big Government. But the purpose of picking the cases is to establish broad principles and the important question is about the principles, not the specific cases.
Indeed! That's why it's NEVER OK to to rule against the government. Uh, unless it's computer-simulated child porn, sodomy or the right to stick a scissors into the head of a baby (oops, sorry, I meant "fetus") as it's heading down the birth canal.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

gene expression and the search for the fountain of youth

Interesting article on the use of microarray technology at several research labs to elucidate the mechanism of aging, from nematodes to humans.

Kenyon is determined to find out how much a 959-cell worm can really tell us about cell death, and, by extension, aging in humans. "People said to me, 'Why study the worm? You won't learn anything about people from studying the worm.' They were all totally wrong. Turns out there is a whole set of genes whose only job in the world is to determine the pattern of an animal. The reason a dog looks different than a cat is that some of those genes are turned up or down, but they're the same genes."

Another common misconception, says Kenyon, is that people just get old, and nothing can be done about it. "I thought that there must be some kind of machinery, like a clock, that controls the rate at which the animal ages," she says. "The clock can be set to go fast in a mouse, which has a two-year life span, or it can be set to go slowly in a human, which has an 80-year life span. We began to change genes at random to see which ones influence life span, and we found [the] daf-2 [gene]."

By adding copies of daf-2 to C. elegans, Kenyon and others were able to expand the worm's life span sixfold. "Everybody who sees our long-lived worms thinks they're magic," she says. "What we find in these model organisms is [when we] change gene activitives, we don't just increase life span, we also postpone the time of onset of a lot of different age-related diseases. The goal is to do both. There are worms that are long-lived and don't appear to be healthy. That, to me, is the nightmare."
See the full article from Genomics & Proteomics magazine.

wtc janitor: controlled demolition of north tower

I don't know if he's lying or not, but he has an interesting story that should be heard and considered along with all the other evidence.
What happened to William Rodriguez the morning of 9/11 is a miracle. What happened to his story after-the-fact is a tragedy.

But with miracles and tragedies comes truth. And truth is exactly what Rodriguez brings to the whole mystery surrounding 9/11.

Declared a hero for saving numerous lives at Ground Zero, he was the janitor on duty the morning of 9/11 who heard and felt explosions rock the basement sub-levels of the north tower just seconds before the jetliner struck the top floors.

He not only claims he felt explosions coming from below the first sub-level while working in the basement, he says the walls were cracking around him and he pulled a man to safety by the name of Felipe David, who was severely burned from the basement explosions.
Read the full story here.

Friday, June 24, 2005

shiny new lg vx8000

Yep, that's the cell phone I picked up today, after losing the old LG VX4400 on the Metra train last night. It's a little on the large size, but it has a bunch of cool features including a 1.3 MP camera (still and video), 128 MB storage, an mp3 player, and Vcast capability for downloading news and information videos via the EV-DO interface, all of which I will very rarely use once the novelty has worn off. But at least, for a few weeks, I have the latest and greatest from LG! Woo hoo!

shroud of turin conference in dallas sept. 8-11, 2005

The conference, which is held every few years, will be open to the public this time.
DALLAS, June 22 /PRNewswire/ -- The Dallas International Shroud of Turin Conference, a scientific conclave for presenting peer-reviewed research papers on what is thought to be the 2,000-year-old burial cloth of the historic Jesus, will be held in Dallas, September 8-11, at the Adolphus Hotel.
The Dallas conclave of scientists and scholars are expected to shed new light on the age-old question of whether the image on the Shroud is a visible projection of Christ's resurrection as some believers claim, or a clever medieval fake that has long hoaxed believers.

The conference, which is held every few years and features about 30 presenters in many disciplines, is sponsored by three internationally known Shroud organizations. They include: the 400-year-old CENTRO shroud organization headquartered in Turin, Italy; the 50-year-old Holy Shroud Guild based in Esopus, New York; and the American Shroud of Turin Association for Research (AMSTAR), a scientific organization located in Dallas, which is also the local coordinating organization for the conference.

"The Turin Catholic Church authorities, who are the papal custodians of the Shroud, will for the first time attend and participate in an international conference outside of Turin," says Michael Minor, AMSTAR vice-president and Dallas conference coordinator.

Monsignor Gieuseppe Ghiberti, advisor and spokesperson for Shroud matters to His Eminence Severino Cardinal Poletto, Papal Custodian of the Holy Shroud at Turin, will head the delegation of Turin officials who will attend and participate in the conference. Among the other Turin authorities who will attend and present papers are Professor Bruno Barberis, Professor Baima Bollone, Dr. Gian-Maria Zaccone, Professor Nello Ballossino and Susie Phillips. Other members of the Cardinal's Commission on the Shroud who will participate include Professor Karlheinz Dietz of Germany and Dr. Mechthild Flury-Lemberg of Austria. Another speaker of note is U.S. presenter Dame Isabel Piczek, particle physicist and monumental artist.

"It's important to note that papers will not only be presented in the hard sciences of chemistry, physics and medicine," explains D'Muhala, "but also in other fields including art history, theology, biblical history, archaeology, Byzantine histry, and textile history. It will be a broad scientific and historical look at the Shroud, appealing to both the scientific community and the general public."
The rest of the article, which includes contact information, can be found here.

working around leviathan

Lew Rockwell has a lengthy and interesting column at on how private enterprise continues to flourish as best it can by ignoring, or "working around" leviathan.
If I can present the following metaphor of how I imagine the relationship of the productive matrix of human voluntarism to exist alongside the leviathan state. Imagine a vigorous game of football with fast and effective players, cooperating with their teams and competing with the other team. These, we might say, constitute the activities of the market economy: consumers, producers, savers, investors, innovators, workers, and all institutions associated with the voluntary sector of society such as houses of worship, educational institutions, charitable endeavors, families, and artistic and literary associations of every sort. They are the players in this game.

However, right on the 50 yard line sits a huge and overgrown elephant, enormously strong but also swelled up, slow, and completely unsuited to being a player in this game. Everyone knows that this monstrous animal is there, and they wish it were not. But rather than attempt to slay it and drag it away, the game proceeds apace, with runners, kickers, and throwers zipping around it. The elephant is powerful and authoritative, more so than ever, but it can hardly move. It can bat its trunk at players that prove especially annoying but it cannot finally stop the game from taking place. And the longer these players confront this strange obstacle, the better they become at working around it, and growing stronger and faster despite it.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

damn cell phone!

I lost my cell phone today; I'm pretty sure it slipped out of my pocket and dropped between the seat cushions when I got up to exit the train on my way home from work. I was planning on getting a new one anyway, but now I'll have to find all those phone numbers again. I called the phone a few times hoping somebody had found it and would answer it, but nothing. Probably because I always leave it in courtesy mode. Dammit!

I spent much of the evening trying to track it down, to no avail, and shopping for a new phone online at the Verizon Wireless site. I'll have to check them out in the store because none of them jumped out at me. Anyways, this will be my only post today I'm afraid.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

shroud of turin "a fake", claims french magazine

The full story can be found here.
Drawing on a method previously used by skeptics to attack authenticity claims about the Shroud, Science & Vie got an artist to do a bas-relief - a sculpture that stands out from the surrounding background - of a Christ-like face.

A scientist then laid out a damp linen sheet over the bas-relief and let it dry, so that the thin cloth was moulded onto the face.

Using cotton wool, he then carefully dabbed ferric oxide, mixed with gelatine, onto the cloth to make blood-like marks. When the cloth was turned inside-out, the reversed marks resulted in the famous image of the crucified Christ.

Gelatine, an animal by-product rich in collagen, was frequently used by Middle Age painters as a fixative to bind pigments to canvas or wood.

The imprinted image turned out to be wash-resistant, impervious to temperatures of 250°C and was undamaged by exposure to a range of harsh chemicals, including bisulphite which, without the help of the gelatine, would normally have degraded ferric oxide to the compound ferrous oxide.

Ahem. "Moment, please", as Harry Hoo (the infamous "Get Smart" detective) would say. Simply creating a reasonable looking fake does not make an original non-existent. There were many cases of an artist's work being faked and sold to unsuspecting buyers; does that make the original any less real? In any event, this new report does nothing to explain the recent research by the late chemist Raymond Rogers that showed the original carbon dating experiments (which claimed the cloth originated in medievall times) to be false and that shroud was actually between 1300 and 3000 years old. I'm sure we'll continue to get news reports going back and forth on the authenticity of this relic, so stay tuned.

author of "the anarchist cookbook" wants it out of print

Well, here's something you don't see every day - a book's author writing a review for explaining why he regrets writing the book and would like to see it out of print. Unfortunately for William Powell, author of The Anarchist Cookbook, he doesn't hold the copyright and the publishers aren't listening to him. In this day and age, it seems to me that trying to cease people from a reading a publication that was once popular is like trying to put toothpaste back in a tube. Here is a link to the review, which I found via, and here are a few excerpts from the review:
During the years that followed its publication, I went to university, married, became a father and a teacher of adolescents. These developments had a profound moral and spiritual effect on me. I found that I no longer agreed with what I had written earlier and I was becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the ideas that I had put my name to. In 1976 I became a confirmed Anglican Christian and shortly thereafter I wrote to Lyle Stuart Inc. explaining that I no longer held the views that were expressed in the book and requested that The Anarchist Cookbook be taken out of print. The response from the publisher was that the copyright was in his name and therefore such a decision was his to make \226 not the author's. In the early 1980's, the rights for the book were sold to another publisher. I have had no contact with that publisher (other than to request that the book be taken out of print) and I receive no royalties.

Unfortunately, the book continues to be in print and with the advent of the Internet several websites dealing with it have emerged. I want to state categorically that I am not in agreement with the contents of The Anarchist Cookbook and I would be very pleased (and relieved) to see its publication discontinued. I consider it to be a misguided and potentially dangerous publication which should be taken out of print.

nanomech: the next wave in memory technology?

"Nanomech is a new non-volatile memory technology which is completely different to the existing one," explains Dr Mike Beunder, CEO of Cavendish Kinetics. "The existing technology involves storing charge whereas ours operates mechanically like a switch."
Cavendish Kinetics develops nanotechnology-based non-volatile memory. To support this activity, Cavendish Kinetics has developed its own patent-protected range of Nanomech embedded non-volatile memory products.

Nanomech, using standard CMOS process technology, enables the implementation of unique memory storage devices with ultra low-power, high speed read/write characteristics that function fully up to 200°C and are completely insensitive to radiation. Compared to current technology, Nanomech storage devices offer 200 times better write performance while consuming 50 to 100 times less power.
See the full story here, at

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

leftists' favorite quote

Leftists love to repeat Mussolini's famous saying: "Fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power." Over at the Volokh Conspiracy, Juan Non-Volokh points out that this doesn't quite mean what the left-wing moonbats think it does. Quoting VC reader Steven Hamori:
The problem is that a 'corporate' in Italian of the period is not a business organization. A corporate is a production planning board made up of workers, owners, and others involved in production advocated by the syndicalist school of socialism. Their beloved quote is actually Mussolini ... making a connection between fascism and socialism.

still bitter after all these years, right-wing edition

Also via Hit and Run, we find the obit for John Vance, the CIA IG employee who blew the whistle on that agency's LSD experiments. Vance's revelations were brought to light during the Church Commission hearings. Neocons are still bitter at the notion that the CIA is given any scrutiny at all. After all, the bureaucrats at the CIA just have our best interests at heart, right? Why can't the little people understand that?

still bitter after all these years

Via Hit and Run, Cathy Young's latest column, "Bolshywood Revisited", examines Red Star Over Hollywood: The Film Colony's Long Romance with the Left, a book by Ronald and Allis Radosh that looks at the Communist Party in Hollywood way back when. Young notes that:
But the iniquities of McCarthyism are well known and much deplored; those of the Hollywood Left still tend to be shrouded in a veil of romanticized respect for rebels. Responding to an excerpt from the Radoshes' book in The Los Angeles Times, screenwriter Michael Sloane, whose 2001 movie The Majestic dealt with the blacklist, waxed poetic about artists who were simply "having opinions and expressing ideas" (in support of a state that allowed none). In 2003, writing about the death of film director Elia Kazan, who agreed—primarily out of conviction—to testify before Congress about communism in Hollywood, once-blacklisted screenwriter Bernard Gordon fulminated that Kazan "helped to support an oppressive regime." As a heroic contrast, Gordon held up playwright Lillian Hellman—a lifelong champion of a regime that murdered millions.
Left-wingers, please, give it a rest! Communism was a murderous ideology, got it?

sequencing the biosphere in 30 years

Freeman Dyson envisions a world in the not too distant future where cheap single molecule DNA sequencers allow us to complete the sequencing of the whole biosphere.
What biology now needs is a single-molecule sequencer that can handle one molecule at a time and sequence it by physical rather than chemical methods. A single-molecule machine could be much cheaper as well as faster than existing machines. It might be as small and convenient as a lap-top computer, zipping along a molecule of DNA as quickly as a polymerase enzyme, reading out base-pairs into computer memory at a rate 1,000 per second. At that speed, a single machine could read out a complete human genome in a month.

I now venture to make another prediction. With plenty of hard work and a little luck, we shall evolve single-molecule sequencers that extend Moore’s Law into the future, increasing the speed of sequencing and decreasing the unit cost by a factor of a hundred every decade. If this prediction turns out to be as accurate as the original Moore’s Law, we shall have in 30 years a portable sequencer that costs a few hundred dollars and sits on an office desk next to the personal computer and the printer and the DNA synthesizer.

What will this mean for biology? Up to now we have sequenced genomes of about a hundred species, most of them microbes, with a total of about 10 billion base-pairs. The biosphere of our planet contains about 10 million species, and their genomes contain altogether about 10 quadrillion base-pairs.

If Moore’s Law remains valid for sequencing DNA, we can sequence the entire biosphere in about 30 years, at a cost not much greater than the cost of the human genome. In the language of computer science, the genomes of all the species on Earth add up to a few petabytes of data. This would be a data-base comparable in size with other data-bases that already exist. It would be about as big as the information contained in all books in all languages.

Perhaps it is a coincidence, or perhaps it is evidence of some deeper connection, that the sum total of our cultural heritage stored in literature is about equal to the sum total of our biological heritage stored in genomes...

See this link to Science & Theology News for the full article, which is based on remarks delivered at the "Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and Evolution" conference.

Monday, June 20, 2005

the great awakening to the iraq deception

Justin Raimondo is IMO the most important writer on anti-war issues today. His articles are always extensively fact-checked, heavily laden with links and references, and written in an engaging and often humorous style. No mere opinion pieces, he expends much effort gathering facts from diverse sources and attempting to piece the various puzzle pieces together.

His website has likewise become the first and most essential source for anti-war news and opinion, thanks to not only Raimondo but his small plucky crew of writers and editors. I believe that a key reason for their success is their willingness to join forces with writers of widely divergent political stripes, even if their only common interest lies in reigning in our country's disastrous foreign adventures.

Yet to this day, since starting this blog, I have yet to link to one of Raimondo's columns. Looking back, I think the main reason for this is that to me his thrice weekly "Behind the Headlines" column is essential reading. I don't always have time to digest every column word for word, but they are always worth at least a quick overview. With this blog I usually try to find news and opinion items that might be overlooked by the general reader, and I just assume that you are reading Raimondo, or at least that you should be!

With all that preamble, I now provide this link to his latest and rather long column, which covers the Conyers hearings on the Iraq war and the attempts of one elite press buffoon (Dana Milbank) and several democrats in Congress, including Howard Dean, Barney Frank and Nancy Pelosi, to downplay some of the facts being revealed, especially regarding any role that Israel may have played in the drive to war. Even Conyers himself, who to his credit is at least holding the hearings, is not above cowardly attempts to ridicule any ideas that come out of these hearings that might offend the powers that be.

This column once again reminds us of how worthless the majority of the democrats are, who could have capitalized on the country's growing suspicion of the war and the motives for war, but who give us instead empty posturing and no real substance.

Rather than excerpting bits from this column, which wouldn't do it justice, I simply encourage you to read the whole thing.

impeach clinton

Juan Non-Volokh responds to Brian Leiter's overview of a "symposium" on impeaching President Bush based on the Downing Street Memos. I'm all in favor of impeaching Dubya, but I wonder if leftists like Leiter would have also been keen on impeaching President Clinton for his illegal war in the Balkans.

blast from the past

"A Nagasaki Report" is a real bit of journalistic archaeology. Written by George Weller in September 1945, it is just now seeing the light of day thanks to his son, Anthony. Way back when, George Weller snuck past the military and became the first reporter to view the devastation at Nagasaki, the site of the second atomic bomb drop in Japan:
The atomic bomb's peculiar "disease," uncured because it is untreated and untreated because it is not diagnosed, is still snatching away lives here.

Men, woman and children with no outward marks of injury are dying daily in hospitals, some after having walked around three or four weeks thinking they have escaped.

The doctors here have every modern medicament, but candidly confessed in talking to the writer - the first Allied observer to Nagasaki since the surrender - that the answer to the malady is beyond them. Their patients, though their skin is whole, are all passing away under their eyes.
The original report was censored by the military.

is the war in iraq welfare?

Neocon warmongers warn that having an explicit time table would just encourage Iraqi insurgents by giving them a definite goal: if you can hang on until the pullout date, you win! However, in "Endgame, Anyone?", Jeff A. Taylor makes an extremely cogent point:
the certitude that Uncle Sam is going to pull the plug sooner or later, be it on food stamps or paratroopers, pushes you to shape up. Baghdad, get your shit together; we're leaving next Tuesday.
Will Iraq descend into anarchy when we leave? I don't know, but there is a good case to be made that our leaving could improve the situation.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

did humans evolve in fits and starts?

Associate Professor Evan Eichler at the University of Washington in Seattle thinks so.
Humans may have evolved during a few rapid bursts of genetic change, according to a new study of the human genome, which challenges the popular theory that evolution is a gradual process.

Researchers studying human chromosome 2 have discovered that the bulk of its DNA changes occurred in a relatively short period of time and, since then, only minor alterations have occurred.

This backs a theory called “punctuated equilibrium” which suggests that evolution actually occurred as a series of jumps with long static periods between them.
Read the whole New Scientist article here.

take that, you clear skinned heart attack waiting to happen!

Finally some good news for anyone who, like me, suffered bad acne as a teenager. A long-term study of men in England found that those who had bad acne in their younger years were 33% less likely to die from coronary heart disease later in life. See this New Scientist article for the story.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

perpetuating war by exalting its sacrifices or: screw you, tom brokaw

I just finished watching a great movie that just came out on DVD, "The Americanization of Emily" (1964) directed by Arthur Hiller from a screenplay by Paddy Chayefsky.


This is a terrific movie, with great anti-war themes running through it, including inter-service rivalry, critiques of the causes of European wars and the real price of bravery. There is a terrific exchange between James Garner's character and Emily's mother, where Garner's character trashes bravery and war in general, pointing out (a la the title of this post) that it is the people who praise warriors who are really to blame (are you listening, neocons?):
[m]aybe ministers and generals blunder us into war...the least the rest of us can do is to resist honoring the institution
What is so wonderful about the movie is that it is done in the context of a "good" war, fought by the "Greatest Generation".

Andrews has a great line after Garner's character is believed to have died and everyone tries to make a hero out of him:
Dear me, we should be celebrating cancer and automobile smashups next.
A prophetic line presaging the modern tendency of turning of every death into an act of heroism. What an un-PC movie! The only real flaw in the film was the dramatic change in attitude of James Coburn's character about halfway through. It was so rapid and inexplicable that it really stood out.

more from townes on science and religion

Bonnie Azab Powell interviewed Charles Townes and published it here, in the UCBerkeley News. Here's an excerpt:
You've described your inspiration for the maser as a moment of revelation, more spiritual than what we think of as inspiration. Do you believe that God takes such an active interest in humankind?

[The maser] was a new idea, a sudden visualization I had of what might be done to produce electromagnetic waves, so it's somewhat parallel to what we normally call revelation in religion. Whether the inspiration for the maser and the laser was God's gift to me is something one can argue about. The real question should be, where do brand-new human ideas come from anyway? To what extent does God help us? I think he's been helping me all along. I think he helps all of us — that there's a direction in our universe and it has been determined and is being determined. How? We don't know these things. There are many questions in both science and religion and we have to make our best judgment. But I think spirituality has a continuous effect on me and on other people.

The whole interview is worth a read.

Friday, June 17, 2005

the road to reality

Mathematical physicist Roger Penrose has a new book entitled "The Road To Reality: A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe". Here's a review by V.V. Raman at Science & Theology News. At 1136 pages, and written for those with knowledge of advanced mathematics, you probably won't see too many copies being read at the beach this summer.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

logic and mystery in science and religion

That's the title of a talk given by Nobel laureate Charles H. Townes to a packed Science Center lecture hall at Harvard, as reported by Alvin Powell in the current issue of the Harvard University Gazette. Townes, who won the 1964 Nobel Prize in Physics, is the inventor of the laser. From the article:
In describing religion and science as parallel, Townes rejected the often hostile relationship between the two, evidenced today in the ongoing battle over teaching evolution in schools and by religious objections to certain scientific procedures, such as stem cell research.

Instead, Townes said, science and religion are both efforts to understand the universe. Science seeks to understand how the universe works and how humans work, while religion is an attempt to understand the meaning and purpose of the universe and of humankind, which requires an understanding of their workings.

Both deal with large, unproved mysteries, and operate on the best knowledge available today. Faith is a central tenet of religion, but Townes said a certain amount of faith is also shown by scientists, applying theories that they know have shortcomings in an effort to understand the vast amount of the universe that remains unknown.

"Scientists, especially physicists, recognize that this is a very special world. Things have to be almost exactly as they are in order for us to exist," Townes said. "It's a fantastically specialized universe, but how in the world did it happen?"

the high cost of nuances

Thomas Sowell chimes in on the supreme's medical marijuana decision in his latest Townhall column. (Yes, it's from a couple days ago; I'm a little behind.)
Back in 1942, the Supreme Court authorized the vastly expanded powers of the federal government under Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration by declaring that a man who grew food for himself on his own land was somehow "affecting" prices of goods in interstate commerce and so the federal government had a right to regulate him.

Stretching and straining the law this way means that anything the federal government wants to do can be given the magic label "interstate commerce" -- and the limits on federal power under the 10th Amendment vanish into thin air.

Judicial activists love to believe that they can apply the law in a "nuanced" way, allowing the federal government to regulate some activities that do not cross state lines but not others. The problem is that Justice Sandra Day O'Connor's nuances are different from Justice Antonin Scalia's nuances -- not only in the medical marijuana case but in numerous other cases.
Sowell also notes the irony in the timing of this decision:
Ironically, this decision was announced during the same week when Janice Rogers Brown was confirmed to the Circuit Court of Appeals. One of the complaints against her was that she had criticized the 1942 decision expanding the meaning of "interstate commerce." In other words, her position on this was the same as that of Clarence Thomas -- and both are anathema to liberals.

limericks at lunchtime: the man who controls the reserves

The man who controls the reserves,
Has hoodwinked the people he serves.
But his real estate bubble
Could get him in trouble
And hand him the fate he deserves.

woman kept alive to save unborn baby

Via Drudge, this USA Today story is a sad one regarding the beginning of life, the end of life, and all of the resulting philosophical and theological questions faced by those involved. Hopefully the story will yet end on a positive note, both in terms of new life and reaffirmed faith.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

junk dna can conquer shyness least if you're a prarie vole, according to studies reported here on The research, which was carried out at Emory University, showed that voles with longer strands of junk DNA tended to be more socially outgoing than their short-stranded counterparts.
It was found that prairie voles with long strands of junk DNA had higher receptor levels than those with shorter strands of junk DNA, and more likely to establish social bonds with their mates and offspring.

Dr. Larry Young believes that the actions of the microsatellite DNA show that there is sufficient proof that the DNA strands are related to one's social makeup.

"Because a significant portion of the human [genetic makeup] consists of junk DNA and due to the way microsatellite DNA expands and contracts over time, microsatellites may represent a previously unknown factor in social diversity."

The research team believes that their findings will not only lend insight into why certain people are shy, but also to help comprehend various social disorders, such as autism.

some christians just don't get it

Eric Scheske at The Daily Eudemon has this to say about the lawsuit launched by James Patterson and Lisa Coffey, ex-staffers at The Indianapolis Star, against their former employer and its owner Gannett Co., whom they claim "consistently and repeatedly demonstrated ... a negative hostility toward Christianity.":
We don't know all the facts of this case and we're not saying Christians can't defend themselves, but the use of a civil rights lawsuit by professed Christians against a private employer bothers us.
I agree. I can easily believe that the newspaper does hold an anti-Christian bias, but the owners of a private company should have the right, however foolishly or shamefully it is exercised, to decide who they want working for them, just as employees have the right to "fire" their employer by leaving and going somewhere else. To claim to be a Christian and then employ the power of the courts to force somebody to hire you seems very unchristian (and just plain wrong) to me. For the record, Patterson was fired, and Coffey resigned after being demoted to the copy desk. (See the source article at Editor & Publisher). From the article:
The two are asking to be reinstated at the paper, and be compensated for lost income, benefits, emotional distress and unspecified punitive damages.

"Lisa and I aren't the only employees that have been driven away from this company and we thought it was time for someone to say, 'Goodness gracious. This isn't right,'" Patterson said.
I agree; what you are doing, Mr. Patterson, is definitely not right.

perils of privatization

A lot of libertarians favor privatization of government functions. Alex Tabarrok makes an extremely important point in this post about privatizing prisons:
If the reason for contracting out is that public prisons are run poorly, why should we expect government to do a better job at writing contracts?
Does that mean we shouldn't have private companies run prisons, that the government should continue to do it? There is another, imperfect althernative and that is to minimize the number of prisons, no matter who is running them, by having as few crimes on the books as possible. Repealing the War on Drugs and all the other unnecessary laws would do more to improve prisons than anything else.

a libertarian leaves washington, d. c.

Via Hit & Run, Bradley Smith has turned in his resignation. I don't know how much Mr. Smith accomplished while he was there, but seeing leftists go crazy over the fact that a true free speech advocate was on the FEC was a nice benefit.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

beating a political stake into your black heart...

As reported in this Lexington Herald-Leader article, president of the Gold Star Families For Peace Cindy Sheehan, whose son was killed in Iraq, gives Bush hell at an interfaith antiwar rally in Lexington, KY.
Sheehan ridiculed Bush for saying that it's "hard work" comforting the widow of a soldier who's been killed in Iraq.

"Hard work is seeing your son's murder on CNN one Sunday evening while you're enjoying the last supper you'll ever truly enjoy again. Hard work is having three military officers come to your house a few hours later to confirm the aforementioned murder of your son, your first-born, your kind and gentle sweet baby. Hard work is burying your child 46 days before his 25th birthday. Hard work is holding your other three children as they lower the body of their big (brother) into the ground. Hard work is not jumping in the grave with him and having the earth cover you both," she said.

Since her son's death, Sheehan has made opposition to the Bush administration a full-time job.

"We're watching you very carefully and we're going to do everything in our power to have you impeached for misleading the American people," she said, quoting a letter she sent to the White House. "Beating a political stake in your black heart will be the fulfillment of my life ... ," she said, as the audience of 200 people cheered.

Godspeed to you, Cindy.

Monday, June 13, 2005

innovation and healthcare

In "One Nation, Uninsured", Paul Krugman tells us that they only intellectually serious debate in healthcare is over what kind of single payer system we should have. Here's what catches my eye, though:
Some people, not all of them right-wingers, fear that a single-payer system would hurt innovation.
This is a well-founded fear. During the debate over Hillary-care back in the early nineties, investment in healthcare industries dropped. That's just during the discussion over it, how much would it drop during an even more draconian system like single payer?

truly free speech

Daily Kos points to an interview with Bradley Smith, a Republican-appointed member of the Federal Election Commission. Kos comments:
Given Smith's comments, it truly is ironic that we have Republican commissioners on the FEC talking about equity between the corporate media and citizen media on the Internet, while so-called "Democrats" like Darr argue on behalf of corporate supremacy in the media sphere.
It's not ironic at all. Smith has always described himself as a Classic Liberal and has always been in favor of free speech. It's leftists like Kos who favor highly regulated speech and it's only when they are threatened by regulation themselves that leftists see the light and start favoring free speech.

steve jobs tells graduates the virtues of dropping out

I love this story from the Washington Post. As Stanford University's commencement speaker, Jobs spoke of opportunities that opened up for him when he dropped out of college after only eight months.
Jobs, 50, said he attended Reed College in Portland, Ore., but dropped out after only eight months because it was too expensive for his working-class family. He said his real education started when he "dropped in" on whatever classes interested him _ including calligraphy.

Jobs said he lived off 5-cent soda recycling deposits and free food offered by Hare Krishnas while taking classes.

He told the graduates that few friends could see the value of learning calligraphy at the time but that painstaking attention to detail _ including mastering different "fonts" _ was what set Macintosh apart from its competitors.

"If I had never dropped out I might never have dropped in on that calligraphy," Jobs said.
I find it very interesting that neither Jobs nor Bill Gates ever completed college. I do believe there is way too much emphasis placed on the necessity of obtaining a college degree for success. The problem arises when the degree becomes your focus instead of learning. I am not generalizing here - I know there are many young people these days who utilize all the resources available in their quest for knowledge, many of these resources outside of the classroom. The educational establishment, which in many ways gets in the way of learning, stands a lot to lose from the success stories of people who bucked the system. But Kudos to Stanford for inviting Jobs!

Sunday, June 12, 2005

what has 4 brains, 24 eyes, and can kill you in a minute flat?

The deadly Chironex fleckeri jellyfish, of course, as reported in the June issue of the Smithsonian Magazine.
Most jellyfish are passive; they drift up and down in the water column, or are pulled to and fro by the tides and winds. They float through the oceans devouring tiny fish and microscopic creatures that bumble into their tentacles, and are no threat to humans. But those known as box jellyfish, for the shape of their bell, or body, are a breed apart. Also called cubozoans, they're voracious hunters, able to chase prey by moving forward—as well as up and down—at speeds of up to two knots. They range in size from the various irukandji species to their big brother, the brutish Chironex fleckeri, which has a bell the size of a man's head and up to 180 yards of tentacles, each lined with billions of cells bursting with deadly venom.

"A Chironex fleckeri can kill a human in one minute flat," says Jamie Seymour, widely considered the world's foremost box jellyfish researcher. The most recent victim was a 7-year-old boy who died two years ago at a beach south of Cairns, becoming one of about a hundred people believed to have been killed over the past century by Chironex in Australia alone. "Chironex is by far the world's most venomous creature," says Seymour. "It makes venomous snakes look like amateurs."

war and motives

Lew Rockwell, guest-blogging over at the Huffington Post, makes an important point:
For years people will debate the real reasons the US invaded Iraq. Was it an honest mistake, based on the belief that the Hussein regime was hiding weapons? Was it revenge for political disobedience? Was it about oil or regional control, Bush’s place in history, or bolstering the US military budget? Maybe it was only to satisfy the post-9-11 blood lust.

Given the mixed-up world of half truths, lies, and duplicity that inhere in all war ambitions, these tantalizing questions may never be finally resolved, even by the most objective observers, of which there are few.

But this much we do know with apodictic certainty: virtually nothing in Iraq has gone as the US envisioned it. It is a calamity that might not quantitatively equal Vietnam in terms of the loss of life, but it is qualitatively equal to any of the great war failures in world history.
It's irrelevent why Bush invaded Iraq, what matters is the actual death and destruction. It's wrong to bomb people who haven't attacked us, no matter what one's motives are.

This is something that is difficult for leftists to understand, as can be seen from some of the comments to Rockwell's post.

fluoridated water causes cancer

Bob Woffinden reports in this article from today's issue of The Observer that fluoridated water causes bone cancer in boys.
Dr Vyvyan Howard, senior lecturer in toxico-pathology at the University of Liverpool, has studied the new material.

'At these ages the bones of boys are developing rapidly,' he said, 'so if the bones are being put together abnormally because fluoride is altering the bone structure, they're more likely to get cancer. It's biologically plausible, and the epidemiological evidence seems pretty strong - it looks as if there's a definite effect.'
The data which shows the link is found in Dr. Elise Bassin's doctoral dissertation on research done at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine. Bassin says in the article that her work is currently going through the peer-review process and that she hopes it will be published soon.

our feline government

Liberty magazine has had a blog-like feature called "Reflections" since its inception in the late '80's. In the July 2005 issue, A. J. Ferguson makes an amusing analogy that libertarian cat owners might appreciate:
Ponder, for a moment, our feline government. In the light of day, it does nothing but consume resources and produce waste, which it buries and leaves for someone else to clean up. In the dark, it works diligently to get into things forbidden to it when people are watching; when it is caught, it hides and waits for the outcry to stop so it can try again later. On the rare occasions that it gives something back to those who make its existence possible, it does so as ostentatiously as it can manage, expecting praise for its skill and cunning.
Personally, I think it would vastly improve government press conferences if the President would arrive with a dead rodent in his mouth and spit it at reporters prior to beginning.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

lew rockwell and justin raimondo on huffington post

In case you weren't aware, in the past couple of days both Lew Rockwell and Justin Raimondo were invited By Arianna Huffington to post on her blog; Lew's archives can be found here and Justin's can be found here.

great service

On June 2nd, I sent in my renewal application for my concealed carry license, and guess what I got in the mail today? I'd much prefer that we had Vermont-style carry in my state but at least I don't live in a gun rights hellhole like Illinois. Check out this article, "States to Avoid", by Al Doyle for more bad gun rights states.

Friday, June 10, 2005

tucker: the man and his dream

I finally watched this Francis Coppola directed and George Lucas produced biopic from 1989, on DVD. Great movie making, and a great message to boot. The story centers on Preston Thomas Tucker and his attempts to bring his innovative concept for a passenger car to market in the 1940s, a car which featured many unheard of features such as seat belts, safety glass, a rear engine and disc brakes. A man of incredible optimism but no political or financial connections, he goes up against the Big 3 automakers, who only want to see him fail. The important element of this story is the fact that the Big 3 use the coercive power of the state to crush the competition. It is a story of laissez-faire capitalism against corporatism. A corrupt senator, a partial judge, and the federal executive branch which ultimately seizes Tucker's factory, all side with the Big 3. Not the usual "big business is bad because it is big" line, but an illustration of how big business often colludes with the government and each other to keep any innovative upstarts off the playing field.

The movie itself is a true work of art, with excellent performances from the cast, including Jeff Bridges in the title role, Joan Allen as his wife, Christian Slater as his son, Mako as his friend and mechanic, Martin Landau as his financial manager, and an uncreditted performance by Lloyd Bridges as the corrupt senator. A very effective cameo by Dean Stockwell as a mysterious Howard Hughes who contacts Tucker to advise him on a closing aircraft factory ripe for the picking is one of the highlights of the film. Frederick Forest, Don Novello and Nina Siemaszko also star. The 1940s sets and music, including compositions by Joe Jackson, and the bold, vividly colored cinematography all add to the atmosphere. The anamorphic widescreen DVD itself is of high quality. If you've never seen it, or haven't seen it in a while, you might want to check it out.

friday fun link

Over in the comments section of Crooked Timber, there is a link to a hilarious imagining of what a right-wing fundamentalist might conjure up in his worst nightmares come true in the year 2019:
We were maxed on super cocaine, wigged out of our head on Benzedrine shots, and red-lining on adrenaline thanks to the spidery shocks of our cortical stimulator implants. I was primed to smash a cat or throw a baby against a wall. I have never been a particularly violent man: I'm more into reading books or oiling up and diving into a good old family sex pit. Just then I would have crushed the larynx of Gloria Steinem.
The only false note is the reference to genetically engineered foods. That's a bugbear of the left, not the right.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

hands-free = no help

As many of you know, the Chicago city council passed legislation in May that will ban the use of cell phones while driving in Chicago, unless a hands-free device is used, starting on July 8. Now comes information, as many of us have suspected, that hands-free devices may not be any safer than hand-held cell phones, as reported here, spotted via Drudge.
Using a cell phone behind the wheel is a key cause of traffic accidents and hands-free devices provide little safety benefit, the Detroit News reported, citing federal officials.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration researchers said devices like head sets or voice-activated dialing led to longer dialing times than for hand-held phones. The delays offset the potential benefit of keeping both hands on the wheel, the report said.
The article goes on to say that auto companies are conducting their own studies:
Jeff Greenberg, director of Ford Motor Co.'s (Research) driving simulator, conducted several studies trying to break down which parts of cell- phone conversations impair drivers. It is too soon to know what to do, he said.
But of course, the Chicago city council doesn't have time to wait for things like results! There's accidents a-happenin'! They've gotta do SOMEthing! The article continues:
"The preponderance of evidence suggests that long conversations while driving impair your ability to react to events," Greenberg said, according to the paper. "But it would be difficult to make rules about conversations in vehicles."
Indeed. In general, I would rather punish people who violate other people's rights (e.g. by causing collisions) rather then legislate against behaviors which could cause collisions. On the other hand, if the roads were all privately owned (as they should be) I would grant that the owner has a right to ban whatever behaviors he feels are not in his interest and not in the interest of his paying customers, just as life insurance companies rightly charge higher rates for smokers. And from personal experience, it does seem to me that almost every time I see somebody driving like an idiot, I notice that the driver is talking on a cell phone. Therefore I think there may be room for some sort of legislation here, but not the hands-free ban, which will end up generating a lot of traffic tickets for good drivers, while doing nothing to prevent accidents caused by morons who are yapping on their hands-free cell phones. It will, of course, help to line the pockets of hands-free device manufacturers.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

omelet making, "star wars"-style

Professor Bainbridge asks "Was the Alderaan Incident Consistent with Just War Theory?" Apparently so, according to the good professor, since, after all, we don't really know if Princess Leia was telling the truth that Alderaan was a peaceful planet with no weapons. Thus, it's okay to kill millions of innocent people as long as you're not sure if they have weapons or not. Guilty until proven innocent is the neoconservative standard, in fictional wars as well as real.

But rather than argue the minutia of just war theory, I just wonder what the point is. After all, if you're going to break some eggs, shouldn't we get an omelet out of it for our troubles? And if millions of fictional people are going to be murdered, shouldn't there be some good result, other than the fictional emperor gets to continue to rule?

work harder, slaves...

...because our masters in Washington need the tax revenue to keep us safe, ya know. According to this Xinhua Online article, which quotes a recent Swedish study, the U.S. defense budget is just about HALF of the world total. Link found on

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

the raich stuff

Browsing through the blogosphere, doing my own personal, informal (and unscientific) survey, I see a pattern. Libertarian blogs seem to have the most commentary on the recent medical marijuana decision by SCOTUS, then conservative blogs and finally left-wing blogs. Obviously, the war on drugs is a core issue for libertarians so it's not a surprise to see that they have the most commentary. Conservatives are conflicted, on the one hand supporting the war on drugs and on the other professing federalism as an important principle. But what about the left-wingers? Why so little from them? I suspect the odd 6-3 line up among the justices has them temporarily befuddled and reluctant to acknowledge what is happening.

Radley Balko has noticed the lack of left-wing commentary as well but has also spotted an potential explanation for lefty thought on this issue from Matt Yglesias. Yglesias says what is no doubt on the minds of many leftists:
...the important issue here was the federalism one, not the medical marijuana one. Sympathetic as one might be to the defendants in this case, a victory for their side could have led to very bad consequences down the road. Advocates of marijuana law reform are welcome to press their point of view in congress [sic].
Balko says:
And there it is. The prominent writer for the "moderately liberal" American Prospect would rather let sick people suffer and die and side with giving ever more power to the Bush administration than give an inch toward letting states of localities govern themselves. Because, apparently, should his side ever get power again, Yglesias wants to be sure he can impose his policies on the rest of us. And siding with sick people now might hamper his ability to slap high taxes, heavy regulations, and liberal utopia on red staters later.
But I would say it's even worse. Yglesias is truly terrified of the notion that Federal power might be lessened even slightly. Does anyone in their wildest dreams think that, short of four Clarence Thomas clones being added to the court, there would be even the slightest chance that something like the Civil Rights Act of 1964 would be deemed unconstitutional? No, for the left, it is unbearable that "progress" be slowed, stopped or, horror of horrors, scaled back even the teensiest bit. Better to screw over the sick and the dying.

Monday, June 06, 2005

our nine robed masters

David Bernstein breaks his blogging hiatus over at the Volokh Conspiracy to make some of the best comments I've seen so far on the horrendous decision today from the Supreme Court regarding medical marijuana:
I was both amused and angered by Justice Stevens's paean to the democratic process as the appropriate avenue of relief for advocates of medical marijuana at the end of his opinion. Every Justice who joined Stevens's opinion voted to prohibit states from regulating homosexual sex in Lawrence and [if they were on the Court at the time] voted to limit the government's power to regulate abortion in Casey. Why was the democratic process not the appropriate avenue of relief for the victims of overzealous government regulation in those cases? It seems we do to some extent live under a system where the personal preferences of the Justices, having nothing to do with the history, text, or logic of the Constitution, dictate when the Supreme Court will or will not intervene to overturn particular regulations.

cafta: more bureaucracy, less free trade

The Honorable Ron Paul takes on CAFTA, the so-called "Central American Free Trade Agreement" which will be hotly debated in the halls of Congress this summer.

For one thing, it's unconstitutional:
I oppose CAFTA for a very simple reason: it is unconstitutional. The Constitution clearly grants Congress alone the authority to regulate international trade. The plain text of Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 is incontrovertible. Neither Congress nor the President can give this authority away by treaty, any more than they can repeal the First Amendment by treaty. This fundamental point, based on the plain meaning of the Constitution, cannot be overstated. Every member of Congress who votes for CAFTA is voting to abdicate power to an international body in direct violation of the Constitution.
And for another, it's not about free trade:
CAFTA and other international trade agreements do not represent free trade. Free trade occurs in the absence of government interference in the flow of goods, while CAFTA represents more government in the form of an international body. It is incompatible with our Constitution and national sovereignty, and we don’t need it to benefit from international trade.

Read the whole article.

a future of hope vs. the eternal return

Bill Walker wants us to Take Back the Future.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

more on star wars episode 3

In this post over at Hit and Run, Julian Sanchez asks, why weren't the separatists simply allowed to leave the Republic? I think this can be answered by looking at our own Civil War. As anyone familiar with the Civil War will recall, Lincoln masterfully maneuvered the Confederacy into striking first at Fort Sumter, thus giving the Union the rationale for attacking the South. Similarly, Darth Sidious maneuvers the Trade Federation into attacking an innocent planet, Naboo, thus giving the Republic an excuse to attack the separatists. I have no idea if this was an intentional parallel by George Lucas or not, but it is a possible explanation for some of the events in the movies.

revenge of the sith

OK, my wife and I finally went to see "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith" last night. I really enjoyed it - I would say slightly better than Episodes I and II, if only because of the satisfaction of seeing everything come together in this episode, as we knew it would. It wasn't the great masterpiece it could have been, or that I had hoped it would be, it being the last major motion picture to be released in the franchise.


First the good points:

-The story holds your interest, and it does a good job of bringing episodes I and II to a logical conclusion, and segues nicely into Episode IV. Overall, Anakin's turn to the dark side, although still a little rushed, was about as believable as you could make it in one movie. It was the old story of good against evil, but very creatively done (that goes for the whole series).

-Whether it was intentional or not, I do like the parallels between Palpatine and Bush, and that all the talk of defending the "republic" is to distract people from the fact that what they were fighting against is what they've now become.

-Some of the special effects were excellent, especially the sea of lava at the end of the film.

-Excellent acting performances by Ewan McGregor, Ian McDiarmid and Christopher Lee (all 2 minutes of it), as we have come to expect, and Hayden Christensen was not nearly as bad as he was in the previous installment - I would even say he did an adequate job. Portman was OK, perhaps would have been better with a better script (see below).

-Yoda. He brings much humor and charm to the story as usual; without this character (and Frank Oz's excellent voicing), I don't believe the whole series could have worked.

Now for the bad points:

-Some parts of the script were horrible, as if they were written by a junior high schooler. This is especially true for some of Natalie Portman's lines.

-A bad acting performance by Samuel L. Jackson, a sin he also committed in Episodes I and II. I've seen him act well, but in the Star Wars movies he always seems to be phoning it in. Perhaps the blame lies partially in the casting.

-The fact that Padme loses the will to live. I assume the point of all this is that she would have lived had Anakin not turned to the dark side to try to prevent his dream from coming true, and that once he turned, she was so upset that she lost the will to live. An interesting concept. The problem that I have is that she just gave birth to a twin son and daughter; new moms have an incredibly strong will to live and see their children grow up. It is completely unbelievable that Padme, being the decent woman that she was, would just give up. Maybe I have missed a point here; if so, somebody please correct me.

-I had trouble telling what was going on in some of the battle scenes; there was so much going at times that it really was hard to tell who was shooting/stabbing/crashing into whom.

-A very minor complaint, but I had a little trouble understanding some of the dialogue uttered by General Grievous; I look forward to watching the DVD with the subtitles on.

So there you have it. If I had the chance I'd go see it again on the big screen, but my next viewing will probably have to wait for the DVD release.

mystery man

Tyler Cowen, Gene Whitman and Will Wilkinson all have posts pondering Carly Simon's song, "You're So Vain". I think I agree with Will's interpretation of the lyrics, but I wonder how hard it is to really figure out who this guy is. After all, this line:
Then you flew your Lear jet up to Nova Scotia to see the total eclipse of the sun
gives pretty detailed clues. We know that the guy owned or rented a Lear Jet at one time and was in Nova Scotia for an eclipse of the sun. Doesn't that narrow it down a lot?

international capitalism day

According to this site, the first Sunday in June is International Capitalism Day. I haven't decided how to celebrate it yet.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

the failed plot for a united europe


Gary North traces the "85-year conspiracy" to create a European government, from the days of J.D. Rockefeller, Jr. and the League of Nations, to last week's votes in France and Holland in this article at He also points out the obvious, that the objections were not so much based on principled opposition to Eurocracy, but to fear of competition and free markets:
The great irony is that voters in France and Holland decided that they did not like free trade, because it imposes too much pressure on producers to meet the competition. They decided to sink the ship of state because they still refuse to believe in economic liberty. Given the threat to liberty of the looming political leviathan, I say, "Hooray for economic ignorance!" Europeans will be a lot better off with today’s relatively low tariffs and no Constitution. Better to have less bait and no final switch.

North seems to think that the EU Constitution suffered a permanent defeat, even if it squeaks by in a second vote, claiming it can never again gain legitimacy. I am not convinced of this. Common fear and loathing of Bush and his "War on Terror" may yet unite Europe in a decisive fashion; the next preemptive strike the neocons have in store, should it come to pass, might just be the catalyst.

richard nixon superstar

One of the more nauseating things to watch and read about over the last week is the number of conservatives who have decided that Mark "Deep Throat" Felt was the real villain of the Watergate scandal and that President Nixon was a victim. The condemnation of Felt reaches new lows in this article by Ben Stein:
Have you noticed how Mark Felt looks like one of those old Nazi war criminals they find in Bolivia or Paraguay? That same, haunted, hunted look combined with a glee at what he has managed to get away with so far?

And it gets worse: it's been reported that Mark Felt is at least part Jewish. The reason this is worse is that at the same time that Mark Felt was betraying Richard Nixon, Nixon was saving Eretz Israel. It is a terrifying chapter in betrayal and ingratitude. If he even knows what shame is, I wonder if he felt a moment's shame as he tortured the man who brought security and salvation to the land of so many of his and my fellow Jews. Somehow, as I look at his demented face, I doubt it.
and idolization of Nixon reaches new heights:
I think the hero was Richard Nixon, fighting for peace even as he was being horribly mistreated and crucified just for his fight for peace.
To sum up, Felt=Jewish traitor/Nazi war criminal, Nixon=Christ.

Friday, June 03, 2005

jaws unleashed

I recently purchased an Xbox, mainly for playing DDR and Karaoke Revolution (I'm not much of a "real" gamer). I'm now looking forward to trying this game which is coming out in August.

happy birthday, richard cobden

Mark Brady has a terrific post over at Liberty & Power regarding Richard Cobden:
Today Richard Cobden and his friend John Bright are principally remembered for their work on behalf of the Anti-Corn Law League between 1839 and 1846, when Sir Robert Peel announced the phased total repeal of the corn laws, the tariff on imported grain or ‘bread tax’ that worked to raise the price of bread for the laboring poor and the rents accruing to the landlords or ‘bread stealers’. The organization and success of the League is a fine example of how to organize uncompromisingly for liberty and a great inspiration for us today.
Stories like this give me hope that we might actually defeat some of the non-stop awfulness that Republicans and Democrats serve up on a daily basis.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

nhtsa killing people with airbags

Airbags associated with increased probability of death in accidents, study finds

This article at defies the NHTSA party line that airbags save lives, and it isn't just talking about the well known dangers of airbags to children. University of Georgia statistics professor Mary C. Meyer, who recently published the results of her studies in the magazine Chance, explains the main problem with the NHTSA studies:
By way of analogy, Meyer explained it this way: “If you look at people who have some types of cancer, you will see that those who get radiation treatment have a better chance of surviving than those who don’t. However, radiation is inherently dangerous and could actually cause cancer. If you give everyone radiation treatments, whether they have cancer or not, you will probably find an increased risk of death in the general population.

“Making everyone have airbags and then verifying the effectiveness using only fatal crashes in FARS is like making everyone get radiation and then estimating the lives saved by looking only at people who have cancer. Overall, there will be more deaths if everyone is given radiation, but in the cancer subset, radiation will be effective.”

Read the whole article.

teilhard's evolutionary spirituality

This commentary by Kathleen Duffy over at Science and Theology News discusses how Teilhard de Chardin's Catholicism embraced both evolution and the cosmos, and how his views were perceived.
Teilhard was quite concerned about the lack of interest that he experienced among Christians of his day regarding human progress. Instead of trying to build a better life here on Earth, they seemed content to await their heavenly reward. Teilhard hoped that a clearer understanding of the dynamics of evolution and God’s place in this process would encourage a zest for life and a desire to make conscious contributions to the ongoing evolution. Most of all, Teilhard wanted to share his profound experience of the divine presence that pervades every atom of the cosmos and his sense of a world saturated with God.

Unfortunately, many Christians of our current day share the same lack of interest in evolution, science and human progress that Teilhard observed in his fellow Christians.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

krugman lies

Tom Maguire over at Just One Minute takes on Paul Krugman and asks readers for "hits" so here's mine.

Now for some inexplicable reason, Krugman enjoys misrepresenting the mission of the Cato Institute, repeatedly calling it conservative or even ultra-conservative when in fact it is quite libertarian.  But Krugman decided to cross the line from misrepresentation to lying on November 7th, 2001.  In "A Cross of Dollars", Krugman stated:

As little as three years ago Argentina's "currency board" monetary system was the subject of extravagant praise in publications like Forbes and The Wall Street Journal, and economists at the Cato Institute established lucrative consulting practices advising other countries to mimic Argentina's approach.
Caught with his pants down, here's what Krugman said, parenthetically, in a later column, "Laissez Not Fair":
Contrary to what some may have inferred from a previous column, no staff members at the Cato Institute are in the currency-regime consulting business
No, Paul! No readers inferred that.  Inference is unnecessary when the writer is explicit, not implicit.  Are we clear on this? Krugman first lied about economists at the Cato Institute and when he is caught lying, he lies again to his readers.