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Tuesday, May 31, 2005

what, no harry potter books?

Spotted via Hit and Run, Human Events has compiled a list of the 10 most harmful books of the 19th and 20th centuries. Number 10 is Keynes' General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money and HE ends its summary of it with "FDR adopted the idea as U.S. policy, and the U.S. government now has a $2.6-trillion annual budget and an $8-trillion dollar debt." I'm no fan of Keynes or FDR, but I'm pretty sure that our current President and his party have more to do with our current fiscal predicament than two men who died more than half a century ago did.

in defense of simon cowell

I've never watched American Idol, but Radley Balko's defense of Mr. Cowell almost tempts me to do so:
Cowell's only a real bastard when it's clear to him that a would-be idol is auditioning just to be on television, knowing full-well they don't have a prayer. That is, they're wasting his time. With the others—the people who genuinely believe they can sing (when they can't), likely because their parents, their pastor, or grandma has always said so—Cowell's usually abrupt, but fair. He'll occasionally tell someone in no uncertain terms that they're dreadful, but but many times that's really the only way to hammer home that it's time to give up.
Read the whole thing.

Monday, May 30, 2005

happy memorial day

Orin Kerr points out the Civil War origins of Memorial day over at The Volokh Conspiracy.

honor our children's sacrifices

An interview with Cindy Sheehan of Gold Star Families for Peace by Kevin B. Zeese at


Do you ever find yourself attempting to pull a matching pair of socks from your drawer, and the best you can do is find an almost-matching pair? For example, I have many of those ankle-length white athletic socks; on one brand, the elastic band is maybe 2mm wider than on another brand. In a case like this, will you wear these pretenders to pair-hood? I can’t do it. Even though nobody will know the difference, and even though my feet won’t be able to physically detect the difference, I just can’t do it. I’ll know in my mind that I am wearing an unbalanced pair, and it will bother me. I’ll empty the drawer to search for a bona fide pair, continuing my quest into the laundry basket if necessary.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

the neocons' second front

The Neocons' Second Front by Anne Williamson

Thanks to Lew Rockwell for posting this link over at Sanders Research Associates. Williamson sheds some light on the nominations of Bolton and Wolfowitz for their UN ambassador and World Bank positions, as part of a grand plan to create a "second front" as the next stage in Bush's War for U.S. Global Domination:
Bolton and Wolfowitz are part of the Bush administration’s initial redeployment of neo-con assets in the building of the American empire’s second front. John Bolton is being put in place to militarize the UN. As for Paul Wolfowitz, he is not leaving the Pentagon so much as he is bringing the Pentagon to the World Bank.

Williamson wrote some excellent articles several years ago connecting Russia "reformers", the IMF, World Bank, the looting of American taxpayers, and the rise of the Russian Mafia; it's worth googling for. I'm glad to see her name again.

my new dream woman

Via Newmark's Door, French newswoman Melissa Theuriau.

good news on the education front

Via A Constrained Vision, we learn that teachers' unions are losing market share:
Without much fanfare, teachers have been resisting pressures to join or stick with the dominant labor unions such as the National Education Association. Non-union professional associations now command a 10 percent market share, with more than 265,000 teacher members.

This increasingly independent streak among K-12 teachers has fueled a growth of statewide independent associations. Eight years ago, only 10 states had such associations; now, 20 states do. In at least three states - Georgia, Missouri and Texas - the non-union associations have more members than either the NEA or the American Federation of Teachers, the nation's second- largest teacher union.
In the past, many teachers thought they had no choice but to join the NEA simply because they needed the liability insurance. However, the AAE now offers teachers $2 million worth of liability coverage, twice what the NEA provides and it does so while assessing its members dues about one-third those of the teacher unions. The independents can charge far less because they do not spend members' money for political purposes....

The NEA supports Democratic candidates approximately 95 percent of the time. In addition, the NEA backs such causes as gay marriage, gun control and abortion on demand, even though such positions don't always square with those of its members. By contrast, the [Association of American Educators] does not take stands on political issues and weighs in on education issues only when 75 percent of its members are in support.

paul krugman: crypto-austrian?

Via Marginal Revolution, we find that Brad Delong thinks that Krugman has been making some Hayekian remarks on the economy recently.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

adult stem cells to the rescue

Doctors fight liver disease with body's own stem cells

Maybe I shouldn't be so concerned about saving my unborn daughter's cord blood stem cells. Martyn Halle reports in this article from The Telegraph that heroic British doctors at the Hammersmith Hospital have successfully used stem cells extracted from patients' blood to regrow their own liver tissue. No aborted babies required! Spotted at

the longest yard

While waiting to get XM Radio installed in my car today, I sat through a matinee showing of the remake, "The Longest Yard". I have never seen the original nor read the story it was based on, so I can't comment on that. The movie was an okay comedy, but I could never get past the unease of watching violent criminals engage in wacky hijinks. Prison is not a fun place from what I've heard and it's explicit in the movie that some of the "good" players are extremely violent felons. It's a pet peeve of mine that fiction often portrays criminals as just average joes with unusual skills or past occupations and this movie is no exception so big thumbs down despite the occasional laugh.

Friday, May 27, 2005

one more thing to worry about

My second child is due to be born in early July. Now I'm wondering if I should have her cord blood stem cells collected and cryogenically stored in case she ever needs them. I only very recently learned about this procedure; I had no idea about it when our first child was born. It does not seem to be very commonly done, and our obgyns never mentioned it to us as far as I can recall.

Cord blood stem cells have been useful in treating childhood cancers, blood diseases and immune system disorders. These blood stem cells, harvested from an infant's umbilical cord, can be used instead of bone marrow transplants, with the significant advantage that a donor match is not necessary.

Some believe that future research may pave the way for using cord blood stem cells to cure other serious conditions, such as Alzheimer's disease, heart disease, etc.

There are downsides to the procedure, including obviously the cost of collection and storage, as well as potential health concerns related to the collection process.

Introductory information on cord blood banking can be found here and here. And here is an article from today's Science Daily about a new study reporting the use of cord blood stem cells to save infants with Krabbe disease. My wife and I need to decide soon - you only get one chance for each child! If anyone else has grappled with this decision please post a comment.

great idea!

James D. Miller has an excellent column today over at called "Outsourcing Teaching":
Outsourcing hasn't gone far enough: the U.S. should start using Indian-based teachers. Smart, inexpensive, English-speaking Indians already help Americans with software design, computer support and tax preparation. Through satellites and the Internet workers in India can be connected, with mere millisecond delays, to Americans in need. Outsourcing jobs to India has saved Americans billions while actually increasing the quality and competitiveness of many of our industries. We should now apply outsourcing to education, the American industry most in need of improvement.
What really excites me about this idea is the possibility that it might lead to the complete collapse of government-run schools. Miller doesn't go that far in his column, but it's easy to see how this type of outsourcing could dramatically help private schools compete with their government-run competitors. Of course, government schools might use outsourcing as well, but that's fine with me, too. Private schools will be able to innovate faster and they may become competitive enough to lead to a wholesale abandonment of "public" schools.

Keep your fingers crossed, an education revolution could be just around the corner.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

benedict xvi, science and religion

Pope advocates conversation between scientists, Vatican

James A. Wiseman takes a look the new Pontiff's previous writings, and sees a spiritual leader who is clearly interested in promoting a dialogue between faith and science.

torture, murder and coverup in oklahoma city

The FBI, the Torture and Murder of Kenneth Trentadue and Advanced Knowledge of the Oklahoma City Bombing

Paul Craig Roberts writes in Counterpunch about the very suspicious "suicide" of Kenneth Trentadue in 1995, who was mistaken for Tim McVeigh's alleged accomplice, according to Trentadue's brother Jesse, an attorney. Furthermore, advance knowledge of the Oklahoma City bombing by the FBI is alleged.
Jesse Trentadue learned that the FBI had informants planted with two groups on which McVeigh may have relied: a white supremacist paramilitary training compound at Elohim City and the Mid-West Bank Robbery Gang. The implication is that the FBI had advance notice of McVeigh's plans and may have been conducting a sting operation that went awry.

The FBI has documents that name the informants. Teletypes from then FBI director Louis Freeh dated January 4, 1996, and August 23, 1996, confirm that the FBI had informants imbedded with the Mid-West Bank Robbery Gang and in Elohim City. In these documents, Freeh reports to various FBI field offices that the Elohim City informant (possibly explosives expert and German national Andreas Carl Strassmeir) "allegedly has had a lengthy relationship with Timothy McVeigh" and "that McVeigh had placed a telephone call to Elohim City on 4/5/95, a day that he was believed to have been attempting to recruit a second conspirator to assist in the OKBOMB attack."

This is certainly not the first time we've heard of the alleged foreknowledge by the FBI, and the "sting gone awry" theory; see, for example, "The Secret Life of Bill Clinton: The Unreported Stories" by Ambrose Evans-Pritchard. It is high time we got to the bottom of what really happened on April 19, 1995. One thing's for sure, though: Tim McVeigh ain't talking.

so that's how they work...

The pill may cause permanent sex drive loss

University of Boston researches are reporting that the birth control pill can cause permanent loss of sex drive:

It has been long known that oral contraceptives lower levels of testosterone, and thus sex drive, and increase levels of sex hormone binding globulin, or SHBG

While it was thought that the pill's adverse effects could be reversed, the University of Boston research shows they may be permanent, the London Daily Mail reported Thursday...

...Women taking the pill had SHBG levels that were seven times higher than women who had never taken oral contraceptives.

Women who quit taking the pill still registered SHBG levels that were four times as great as non-contraceptive users.

Yet another reason to think twice before disrupting natural and complex physiological systems.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

more news for illinois gun owners - both good and bad

Today the Illinois senate approved a bill that would close the "gun show loophole", requiring background checks for those who make purchases from private parties at gun shows, while also mandating that Illinois police destroy background check records within 90 days. The Chicago Tribune covers it here and the Chicago Sun-Times here.

The federal records retention period is 24 hours, but the Illinois gun grabbers are whining because they'll only have 90 days.

The Sun-Times article mentions that Blagojevich is planning to use his "amendatory veto" power to rewrite the bill. So, does this mean the guv can simply pass the gun show loophole closure as is, while vetoing the good part of the bill? The Illinois legislature will then have to override the veto in order for the records destruction section to pass? If he has that much power, then what was the point of coupling these two provisions together? Apparently the NRA pushed hard for this compromise bill, deliberately putting Blagojevich in a difficult position, but with "amendatory veto", I'm not sure what the point was. Maybe someone can explain this to me.

More background from this U.S. Newswire article from last week.

and more good news...illinois house rejects "assault-style weapons" ban

Assault gun ban loses by single vote

Here in Illinois, where a concealed carry law seems like a pipe dream, we are thrilled just to see further encroachments on our gun rights thwarted. Daley and Blagojevich both pushed hard for this one, and it lost by one vote. Note the pro-gun bias of the reporters; the Trib has never met a gun control proposal it didn't like.

good news: congress rejects proposed gun control laws

Gun grabber Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) failed in five attempts to pass more victim disarmament laws:
Five gun control measures, including one that would have banned gun sales to persons suspected of having links to terrorist groups, have been rejected by the powerful House Rules Committee, leaving their sponsor scratching her head over Congress' homeland security priorities. 'We're checking the shoes of 80-year-old grandmothers, but right now if you're on the no-fly list, you can still buy a gun.'
Scratching your head won't make you less of an idiot, lady. It's wrong to deprive people of a right without due process. Being put on a government watchlist isn't due process, OK?

Spotted via Freedom News Daily.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

team america: world police

I saw the subject movie last year and thought it was hilarious. I pre-ordered the DVD from, got it last week and watched it again for the first time. It was just as funny as I remember it. Trey Parker and Matt Stone seem to do their best work on full-length movies as opposed to the half-hour format they are normally stuck with on weekly episodes of "South Park".

The movie is first and foremost a parody of big budget action movies like "Pearl Harbor" and also slams the culture of celebrity pretty hard as well. Although film critic Roger Ebert gave it a thumbs down and accused the film makers of nihilism, I think he's quite wrong. Whether intentional or not, "Team America" does make some cogent points about American foreign policy.

First, the movie starts off with an action sequence set in Paris, where our heroes are protecting the French from WMD-armed Arabic terrorists. The heroes' actions however are so destructive that they end up destroying the Eiffel Tower and other famous French landmarks. The Parisians are clearly shown to be horrified at this result, even as Team America is patting itself on the back. It's not too much of a stretch to suggest that this is a critique of American interventionism, well-intentioned, but causing severe unintended damage.

Another interesting sequence occurs when Team America recruits an actor to infiltrate a terrorist group. The actor does so by convincing the terrorists that he too has suffered greatly at the hands of the US. I found this to be astonishing the first time I saw the movie. Perhaps this movie was too insignificant to take note of, but I wondered where was the conservative outrage that Hollywood would dare suggest that American foreign policy could create terrorists?

The last point is made near the end of the movie, when the aforementioned actor has to convince an audience of international diplomats that the now disgraced Team America is justified in its actions so that they can stop a tyrant. Although the obscenity-filled rant is hawkish, to say the least, it still manages to be more nuanced and restrained than current neoconservative warmongering.

So Ebert is wrong to make accusations of nihilism. Parker/Stone, perhaps inadvertantly, do a decent job of showing what might be wrong with America's actions abroad and why some of it might be defensible and manage to do so in a extremely funny, puppet-based spoof.

Monday, May 23, 2005

lost voyage

I will somewhat regularly post reviews of movies, especially film noirs and what I call "sea horror"; the following is a review of a film from the latter category.

"Lost Voyage"
year made: 2001
director: Christian McIntire

I really enjoyed this made-for-TV Bermuda Triangle movie. It draws you in, and keeps you interested for the duration. It is not an incredibly original plot by any means, it has a rather low-budget feel to it, and some of the dialogue is pretty stupid – for example, one of the characters actually utters the line “money talks…and bullshit walks”. Hey, can I write that down!? But despite these shortcomings, this movie delivers; the slow and methodical pace, the dreary atmosphere of constant rain, the underplayed performance by Judd Nelson as the protagonist, decent acting jobs by the rest of the cast, an effective musical score and an interesting storyline all combine to create the dread and suspense of this nautical nightmare. Anyone who sees this movie can’t help but compare it to "Ghost Ship", a much bigger budgeted movie from 2002. Despite the lower budget of the special effects and the cornier (at times) dialogue, Lost Voyage, with all its made-for-TV-ishness, is a vastly superior movie in my opinion.

Plot in a nutshell: Aaron Roberts (Judd Nelson) lost his father and stepmother on the SS Corona Queen when he was a young boy. The ship disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle without a trace. All grown up and now a scientist studying the paranormal, he is visited by a mysterious character in his home just as the ship reappears more than 25 years later, who points out the similarity between the fates of the Corona Queen and the Mary Celeste, one of Roberts’ research subjects. Invited aboard the ship by television investigative reporter Dana Elway (Janet Gunn) and her team, Roberts joins them to head out to the ship, along with seedy salvage operator David Shaw (Lance Henriksen) and his motley crew of workers. Naturally, things quickly get very weird and ugly on board…as the trespassers begin to die one by one. There are a couple of subplots involving the death of Elway’s mother when she was a child, and designs on Elway’s job by the much younger reporter Julie Largo (Scarlett Chorvat). For what it’s worth, the subplot revolving around Elway’s mother’s death didn’t seem to be fleshed out very well and I thought it was handled rather poorly. Despite that, the overall plot is reasonably interesting and this B movie was well worth the 96 minutes out of the life of this fan of paranormal sea horror.

too funny

It looks like there's been a compromise in the Senate to avoid the "nuclear" option. Three of the seven nominess will get votes, Brown, Owen and Pryor. What is truly hilarious is that bloggers on the left and right are screaming "sellout!" Talk Left whines, "Sell-Out Deal Made: - Bush's Judges In" and the neo-con lapdogs at Powerline lament, "Disappointing, I'm Afraid".

sith and empire

I went to see Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith over the weekend. It was the best movie of the three prequels, not that that is saying a lot, and I give it a definite thumbs up. It's a decent sci-fi movie with some good political commentary as well. Lucas, although clearly a left-leaning thinker, makes some good pro-freedom statements during the movie, as he tries to show how Anakin Skywalker becomes Darth Vader and how the Republic becomes an empire. My only problem with the way Lucas sees the transformation from republic to empire is that he portrays it as a conspiracy rather than a flaw in the institutions of the state. To Lucas, the problem is an evil man, Senator Palpatine, rather than an evil institution, the state.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

first post

Hello, all! My good friend jmc has invited me to be a co-blogger. I've blogged before, most recently at Brook Oberwetter's defunct Obernews, but I'm eager to get back in the game. Woo hoo!

saint john cantius parish

For the first time ever, I attended a Latin Mass today, at Saint John Cantius in Chicago. It was their 12:30 pm Tridentine High Mass. It is a beautiful church and I recommend a visit to any Catholics in the Chicago area. I was born during the Second Vatican Council, so although the ceremony is centuries old, it is all new to me.

savings is not about money

Frank Shostak looks at "personal savings rates" and what it means in our real world where monetary policy is dictated by central banks in his Mises Institute piece Have We Saved Enough?. He shows how real producers are looted by the loose monetary policies of central banks: "Consequently a holder of honest money, i.e., an individual who has produced real wealth, that wants to exercise his claim over goods discovers that he cannot get back all the goods he previously produced and exchanged for money." Nothing really groundbreaking here, but a clear and useful summary of principles to keep in mind while digesting the daily barrage of macroeconomic data and their faulty interpretation by mainstream economist mouthpieces.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

housing bubble watch

Bill Bonner at covers a plain-looking cottage on a "shy acre" for $2.4 million, and Japanese dollar-buying throughout 2004:
Incidentally, I recently purchased a used copy of "The Great Reckoning" by James Dale Davidson and Lord Rees-Mogg, their 1991 forecast of the coming 90's financial debacle (OK, their timing wasn't perfect) and noticed that Bonner was thanked in the acknowledgements. I know nothing of Mr. Bonner except his short but interesting tid-bits that appear regularly on