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Wednesday, August 31, 2005


The devastation wrought by Katrina is just hard to believe. This CNN story tallies the dead and the damages but what really depresses me is the near total flooding of New Orleans. How long will it take the city to recover from this?

I've donated $250 to Mercy Corps. It's a drop in the bucket, but at least I'll feel slightly less depressed.

goodbye mr. wanniski, you will be missed

This is old news by now, but I wanted to note the passing of Jude Wanniski. As a supply-sider his economic beliefs were somewhat warped im my opinion, but I agreed with many of his foreign policy articles. He was consistently antiwar. Long before the Iraq war, he strongly opposed the economic sanctions against Iraq, and he opposed the first Iraq war as well. Notice how this lengthy obit in the New York Times completely avoids mentioning his many writings on foreign policy; I guess that isn't news fit to print. To its credit, the obit does mention that Wanniski called President Bush "an imperialist".

As a side note, I apologize for not posting much this past week. Both work and home life have been busier than normal and I hope to get back to my regular blogging this weekend. In the meantime, my thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of Katrina.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

who took the initiative to create the internet?

Over at Marginal Revolution, Tyler Cowen points to an old article by Brian Carnell on who is really responsible for the age of communication:
Back in the mid-1980s the Internet was the sole province of universities and government institutions. Private individuals who just wanted to send e-mail over the Internet would have had a hard time doing so.

But that doesn't mean there weren't vibrant computer networks. In fact there were tens of thousands of Bulletin Board Systems around the country that were relatively cheap to join and offered e-mail, files, discussion forums and a whole host of things that are now largely on the web; although some remnants of this BBS culture still exist.
And when did the internet really start to take off? Guess:
The floodgates of the Internet came open only after key resources became privatized and companies and individuals could operate on the Internet. For much of its existence, commercial activity on the Internet had been forbidden. The removal of that barrier is primarily responsible for the Internet we have today, where both anarchists and Abercrombie and Fitch use the web to broadcast their respective messages.
But the contrast is even starker than either Cowen or Carnell suggest. The Federal government has been impeding communications technology for many, many decades. Early in the twentieth century, the Feds granted a monopoly to Ma Bell and seized control of the airwaves, stifling innovation and efficient use of the electromagnetic spectrum for decades to come. It's only recently that unused portions of the airwaves have been free and the explosion in wireless technology has been the result. Praise the Feds for creating the internet after doing so much damage? I think not.

Monday, August 29, 2005

getting out of iraq asap

Ivan Eland has a great piece today called, "Top Ten Reasons to "Undo" Iraq in Due Haste". Eland makes the case for a partitioned Iraq and a quick exit. Here's reason no. 10:
Getting out of Iraq now while the United States still has some credibility and honor is better than doing so later with its tail between its legs. In Vietnam, the United States stayed the course in an attempt to maintain its “credibility,” but ended up losing much of that credibility over time. Like an investor who invests in a poorly performing stock, the best course is to admit a mistake, cut probable losses, and reinvest the resources in more productive endeavors—not to ride the stock to the bottom hoping it will turn around. Besides, at this late date, only a controlled partition of Iraq that allows the Sunnis to both rule themselves and share the oil wealth has any chance of preventing the descent into civil war.
It's tempting to stay the course, sometimes even I think it might be a disaster to leave too early, but what's the evidence that staying the course will work? Eland's analogy is right on, but instead of losing share value, we're losing the lives of American soldiers.

i wish i had written this post last week

I wish I could have been the first blogger to predict that the usual talking heads on TV and in print will mouth the same idiocy that they do whenever a natural catastrophe happens, that it will be good for the economy. Honestly, how many times does that have to be refuted? Phil Miller briefly discusses this and price gouging over at Market Power.

Sunday, August 28, 2005


I've only been to New Orleans once, many years ago, for the jazz festival and since I was half-sick the whole time, I didn't get to enjoy it much. I did get plastered one night drinking hurricanes at Pat O'Brien's but now it looks like NO will get plastered by a real hurricane. Today, Mayor Ray Nagin ordered a mandatory evacuation as hurricane Katrina heads towards the city. I've seen some pretty wild estimates of possible death tolls. I hope it's just the typical exageration by government bureaucrats but even if no one dies, NO's below sea level elevation make it especially vulnerable to storm surges. Keep your fingers crossed, everyone!

Saturday, August 27, 2005

the myth of the honest reporter

Over at, Jack Shafer has an excellent piece on the latest hysteria over methamphetamine. Shafer has a great bit about the quality of reporting in general
As long as we're knocking down myths, let's take a swing at the myth of the reporter who, if his mother says she loves him, checks it out by 1) getting an affidavit from the old lady attesting to the fact; 2) finding an independent source to verify the alleged love bond; and 3) unearthing material evidence of her devotion for her offspring. The reality is that too many reporters just want to go home and will phone anybody who will give them a good quotation to tie up all those loose ends.
Indeed. Everyone would do well to remember this when reading anything in the mainstream media.

Spotted via The Agitator.

coming out of the closet

There's a nice short interview with Jacob Sullum over at Suicide Girls (NSFW!). Sullum puts forward an interesting thought on how the drug war might end or at least be scaled back:
It’s also important to make responsible drug users feel like they are not alone but also my hope is that people who can afford to will start talking about it. Many people can’t talk about their drug use because they will get fired from their jobs. I can talk about it because my employer won’t fire me over it. I hope that if more people talk about this then something similar will happen to when gay people started coming out of the closet. People started to recognize that they do know gay people and they even like them. It becomes more personal and concrete to them. They can see that decent people are drug users. It’s not conclusive proof or anything but it makes a big impact.
I've often despaired that the War on (some) Drugs will never end and I wonder how it can be stopped. I hope Sullum is right that having normal users come out of the closet will help. I wish I could help but the only drugs I take are caffeine and alcohol.

Friday, August 26, 2005

just grinding a political axe

Apparently, people who go to Crawford to protest (or counter-protest) the war in Iraq and who aren't "grieving family members" of the war dead just have a political axe to grind. At least, that's what Todd Zywicki is saying over at The Volokh Conspiracy.
My impression is that the overwhelming number of those down there are primarily professional activists rather than grieving family members suggested by the media. Nonetheless, the story I see coming from most of the media focuses on family members, thereby suggesting that most of the protestors are related to service members. I don't know that it changes the story that much, but to my mind, it would change my impression of the degree to which the various protestor sides actually speak for service members in any meaningful way as opposed to just grinding political axes.
Speaking as someone who's been against this war since before it started (and who did not go to join the Crawford protesters), I truly feel bad for the troops being sent off to die. To me, supporting the troops means using them for legitimate defense or these United States, not expending their precious lives so that some Iraqi woman can cast a ballot for the first time in her life. But none of my motivations matter; since I am not related to a war casuality, I guess my words don't speak for service members in any "meaningful way" and I simply have an axe to grind. Or does it become axe-grinding only if I take time off to go down to Crawford to protest?

It is also important to keep in mind that our armed services are a collection of individuals. As such, their political views and their feelings about this war vary across the political spectrum just like any other group of people. Nobody, prowar or antiwar, related to casualties or not, has the right to speak for their opinions; but everybody has the right to be concerned about their welfare, and the right to argue about what consitutes a legitimate reason to put them in harm's way.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

same old story

Over at Hit & Run, Nick Gillespie points to an op-ed in the Washington Times by Terry Michael, a former Democratic National Committee press flack. Michael writes:
Arguably, in the run-up to the war, the press could be given a pass for not allowing the case against attacking Iraq to be vigorously presented. Timid congressional Democrats held their fingers to the wind and engaged no real debate. It's hard to cover a conversation not taking place.
This is just nuts. For all his criticism of the Democrats, Michael is just pushing the notion that there are only two possible sides, the GOP and the Dems. But there were plenty of people writing critiques of the pro-war position in the run-up to the invasion. Columnists Justin Raimondo, Alan Bock, Ivan Eland, Ted Galen Carpenter, Robert Higgs and more were making the principled case against war, but who in the mainstream media wanted to report that? No one does, for the simple reason that none of those writers "fit" into the story that reporters inevitably want to tell, that it's Republicans vs. Democrats and other voices are irrelevant, especially ones that make a strong case against war and the State.

grand illusions

I love optical illusions like these. Looking at these makes one realize just how much is going on in the human brain that our conscious minds are completely unaware of.

Spotted via Boing Boing.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

doc in trouble for telling fat lady to lose weight

As reported here.
Dr. Terry Bennett says he tells obese patients their weight is bad for their health and their love lives, but the lecture drove one patient to complain to the state.

"I told a fat woman she was obese," Bennett says. "I tried to get her attention. I told her, 'You need to get on a program, join a group of like-minded people and peel off the weight that is going to kill you.' "
The article goes on to say that Dr. Bennett faces sanctions from the New Hampshire Board of Medicine, ranging from a reprimand to the revocation of all rights to practice in the state.

Who does Dr. Bennett think he is, dispensing advice on how patients can help to control their own health? Doesn't he realize he's just supposed to order some costly diagnostic procedures and write out a prescription or two?

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

all oil, all the time

Lotsa of people are writing about oil these days. "The Oil Price Mirage", by Pierre Lemieux, has some good background (and a chart!):
Now look at the last couple of years. Starting in 2003, crude prices climbed from $30 to around $45 by the end of 2004. Since the beginning of 2005, they have gained another 50%. This may be related to the second war in Iraq and the general political situation in the Middle East. But note that even after the recent run-up, a barrel of oil costs about the same as in mid-1982, when prices were going down.
Spotted via Mises Economics Blog.

the police lie

Here's three incidents involving abuse by the police that all got caught on tape. First, from Reason's daily Brickbats (8/23):
Pierce County, Washington, sheriff's deputies were looking for a suspect in a car break-in when they found Aaron Otto Hansen passed out in a sleeping bag outside a relative's home. The deputies, who were being filmed by the TV show "Cops", tried to wake Hansen and shouted at him to show them his hands. "You're gonna get tased, due," said one. When the deputy tried to pull the sleeping bag open, a disoriented Hansen pulled it back over his head and tried to push the deputy away. That's when that deputy and another knelt on Hansen and tased him repeatedly. As Hansen began to thrash about, one deputy called for a police dog that repeatedly bit at Hansen's leg, "leaving his pants shredded and his ankle bloodied," according to local media. The confrontation ended with Hansen begging the deputies to tell him what he did wrong. He was charged with two counts of assault for resisting the officers. Those charges were dropped the day his lawyer received the "Cops videotape. Hansen is now suing the deputies, the county and the cities of Lakewood and Tacoma.
Next up, via The Agitator, "Ten Bucks", wherein an underage girl gets peppersprayed because a cop can't remember whether he gave her a ten or a twenty and finally, over at Hit & Run, "This Is Your Utah Law Enforcement on Drugs", some video of ravers being set upon by the local constables.

Thank God for digital cameras that can record this crap and upload it to the net so police lies can be seen by all.

I'll bet on it

In 1980, Julian Simon proposed a bet to anyone who would take him up on it. He proposed betting that the price of any natural resource would go down over the long term. Doomsayer Paul Ehrlich eagerly accepted the bet and picked a bundle of five metals and a period of 10 years was agreed to as the length of the bet. Simon won handily ten years later, with the prices of all the metals dropping dramatically.

In today's column, John Tierney discusses a bet he's made with Matthew Simmons, author of Twilight in the Desert: The Coming Saudi Oil Shock and the World Economy. Simmons agrees to bet that the price of oil per barrel will triple in five years.

On the one hand, I admire Simmons for putting his money where his mouth is, but on the other hand, I feel sorry for him because there is almost no doubt that he's going to lose. As long as the Feds don't enact some truly stupid policies, there is no way that prices will triple over the long run.

Monday, August 22, 2005

catfish terrorism

William Anderson has taken up the Vietnamese catfish issue I blogged on a few days ago, in this very interesting article over at It contains an unbelievable quote from a fisheries specialist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System on how the Vietnamese catfish bans may be protecting us from terrorism! I believe Professor Anderson has made one small but erroneous point, though, which I discuss in the comments section to the article.

contradicting oneself

Over at Freakonomics, Steven Levitt notes the contradiction in a recent story about "peak oil" in the New York Times. The author, Peter Maass writes:
The consequences of an actual shortfall of supply would be immense. If consumption begins to exceed production by even a small amount, the price of a barrel of oil could soar to triple-digit levels. This, in turn, could bring on a global recession, a result of exorbitant prices for transport fuels and for products that rely on petrochemicals -- which is to say, almost every product on the market.
Scary, eh? But then he writes:
So after a brief windfall for producers, oil prices would slide as recession sets in and once-voracious economies slow down, using less oil. Prices have collapsed before, and not so long ago: in 1998, oil fell to $10 a barrel after an untimely increase in OPEC production and a reduction in demand from Asia, which was suffering through a financial crash.
$10 a barrel oil doesn't sound so traumatic, does it? Does Maass even read what he writes? As Levitt points out:
Oops, there goes the whole peak oil argument. When the price rises, demand falls, and oil prices slide. What happened to the "end of the world as we know it?" Now we are back to $10 a barrel oil. Without realizing it, the author just invoked basic economics to invalidate the entire premise of the article!
Be sure and read the comments to Levitt's post as well. It's full of the usual doom and gloom that can only be averted by massive intervention by the State, or so we've been told.

on misunderstanding the first amendment

Michael Graham displays his ignorance of the first amendment in this piece on today:
The First Amendment and I have been evicted from ABC Radio in Washington, DC.

On July 25th, the Council on American-Islamic Relations demanded that I be punished for my on-air statements regarding Islam and its tragic connections to terrorism. Three days later, 630 WMAL and ABC Radio suspended me without pay for comments deemed hate radio by CAIR.
Hey buddy, why don't you READ the first amendment, then tell me what law Congress passed abridging your freedom of speech? No, the fact that a private company fires you because they disagree with your opinion does not violate your first amendment freedom of speech. I am certainly no friend of the mainstream media, but if you expect them to pay for you to spout your opinions you have to play by their rules.

Most modern day conservatives, who always go on and on about protecting the constitution, don't even understand the basic language of the Bill of Rights. Perhaps that's why they more often go about violating the Bill of Rights rather than defending it. It's funny how these alleged conservatives have no problem with big government and its corporate accomplices, as long as they are in control.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

trouble in tonga: pirates, sunken treasure, and restless natives

No matter how powerful it be, a government can ultimately only remain in power with the consent of the governed. The king of Tonga is quickly losing that consent. His subjects are rioting in the streets for 70% pay raises. Why? That's where the pirates and the sunken treasure come in:
Civil servants in Tonga are entering the fifth week of a strike for better pay.

They want a better deal - a share of the wealth their royal family enjoys.

But what if the king's wealth were far greater than the average Tongan suspects? What if his majesty's fortune extended to bank accounts containing hundreds of millions of dollars and the source was a pirate ship?

According to official documents belonging to the king and obtained by TVNZ's Sunday programme, which have been secret until now, there may be truth to those stories.The documents say the king of Tonga searched for gold bullion in the seas off the islands of Ha'apai.

Some say he found the treasure and seized the gold for himself.

British archives from 1806 show the crew of a pirate ship called the Port au Prince set out to hunt whales and plunder Spanish shipping in the South Pacific and The Americas.

It anchored for the last time half a mile off the beach at Faka'amumei on Ha'apai.

The locals say their ancestors attacked the Port au Prince, burned her to the water line and looted the ship.

The wreck has vanished. The contents of the hold are gone, but the story of the gold is alive and well and causing trouble in the kingdom of Tonga.
The whole article can be found in this TVNZ story; link spotted on the forums via a post by Jeff Dudas.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

wars, markets, and shameless weasels

Don Boudreaux, commenting on the same Arnold Kling post that I did below, says it best:
I’m amazed that anyone, especially thoughtful people on the left, continue to trust these shameless weasels to ‘regulate’ the market and otherwise attempt various schemes of social engineering. I’m equally amazed that people on the right trust these weasels to declare and oversee the conduct of wars.
I think the reason the left and the right "trust the weasels" is a deep belief that there is simply no alternative. I imagine that if one could peel away the beliefs of those on the left and the right, one would find a quasi-Hobbesian core, an unshakeable foundation that there is simply no alternative to the State and it's just a question of who will run it. Thus, no matter how badly the State behaves, it is simply nonsense to a statist to suggest that it be seriously limited because the alternative is either anarchy or rule by unaccountable corporations.

sar11: 1.3 million base pairs and no junk

The smallest known free-living organism, the bacterium known as SAR11, also has the smallest known genome at 1.3 million base pairs, researchers published in the current issue of Science, as reported in this story, which also contains an interview with the lead author. SAR11 may be a small fry, but it's ubiquitous and plays an important role in the Earth's carbon cycle:
In a publication today in the journal Science, scientists outlined the growing knowledge about SAR11, a group of bacteria so dominant that their combined weight exceeds that of all the fish in the world's oceans. In a marine environment that's low in nutrients and other resources, they are able to survive and replicate in extraordinary numbers – a milliliter of sea water off the Oregon coast might contain 500,000 of these cells.

"The ocean is a very competitive environment, and these bacteria apparently won the race," said Stephen Giovannoni, an OSU professor of microbiology. "Our analysis of the SAR11 genome indicates that they became the dominant life form in the oceans largely by being the simplest."

The new study outlines how SAR11 has one of the most compact, streamlined genomes ever discovered, with only 1.3 million base pairs – the smallest ever found in a free living organism and a number that's literally tiny compared to something like the human genome.

"SAR11 has almost no wasted DNA," Giovannoni said. "This organism is extremely small and efficient. Every genetic part serves a purpose, more so than any other genome we've studied."

The organism is able to survive as an unattached cell in a hostile environment, has a complete set of biosynthetic pathways, and can reproduce efficiently by consuming dissolved organic matter.

"By comparison, humans are mostly junk DNA, with large parts of the human genome having no important function," Giovannoni said.
I think Professor Giovannoni might be overstating the case, though; junk DNA may have no known function, and it certainly doesn't encode for proteins, but we may find out in the future that it plays very important roles none the less. I believe the verdict is still out on that. As for SAR11's role:
Researchers are particularly interested in SAR11, Giovannoni said, because of the critical role it plays in geochemistry. Photosynthesis is a process used by plants to convert sunlight energy into organic molecules, creating the foundation of the food chain and producing oxygen. About half of photosynthesis and the resulting oxygen on Earth are produced by algae in the ocean, and microbes like SAR11 recycle organic carbon - producing the nutrients needed for algal growth.

"Ultimately, SAR11 through its sheer abundance plays a major role in the Earth's carbon cycle," Giovannoni said. "Quite simply, this is something we need to know more about. SAR11 is a major consumer of the organic carbon in the oceans, which nearly equals the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. The carbon cycle affects all forms of plant and animal life, not to mention the atmosphere and fossil fuel formation."

the senator from the kkk, dumping and prostitutes

Via Econlog, we see that Senator Byrd has introduced an bill that would award money from tariffs to American businesses that successfully file "anti-dumping" lawsuits against foreign companies. As Arnold Kling notes:
It is easy to see why anti-dumping is, as Mankiw calls it, a "third rail" that no politician wants to touch. Asking a politician to come out against rent-seeking is like asking a prostitute to come out against exchanging money for sex.
International trade is such a depressing subject. The theoretical and empirical case for free trade is virtually unassailable but big business conspires with politicians to ensure that consumers in the U.S. and foreign producers are screwed and this bill will make it even worse. The practical result is that poor people in America and poor people abroad suffer the most to help politically connected businesses here.

Friday, August 19, 2005

krugman's fantasy

Near the end of today's column discussing the alleged shenanigans of the 2000 and 2004 Presidential elections, Paul Krugman writes:
Our current political leaders would suffer greatly if either house of Congress changed hands in 2006, or if the presidency changed hands in 2008. The lids would come off all the simmering scandals, from the selling of the Iraq war to profiteering by politically connected companies.
I used to have this fantasy, too. Back in 2000, I had this idea that maybe some of the real scandals under the Clinton administration, like Waco, would be investigated and we would find out what really happened. Of course, nothing happened at all. Since then, I've come to believe that the Republicans and Democrats share one very important trait: that the most important thing in the world is to maintain the authority of the State and that no investigation of the previous administration is worth the risk that the people might lose faith in the State in general because of a scandal. Think about how leftists must have felt in late 1992. No doubt they had the same fantasy I would have eight years later. Oh, how they must have spent many a night dreaming of the Clinton administration exposing the depredations of the Reagan and Bush I.

Didn't happen, did it?

That's one of the main reasons that, as much as I loathe the current administration, I don't imagine for a second that President Hillary (ha ha) will do a damn thing to look into the messes and real scandals of Bush II.

a weasel congressman, the fda, and protection of the catfish industry

Read about the latest pathetic attempt by the catfish protectionists to prevent us from buying Vietnamese catfish (er, excuse me, I mean "basa fish"), this time claiming that it's for our own good. Apparently the Vietnamese catfish have trace amounts of a harmless although non-FDA approved antibioitic (fluoroquinolone) in them. U.S. Congressman from Arkansas Mike Ross is asking the FDA to halt the importation of the "contaminated" fish.

A couple of years ago, Lew Rockwell wrote in this article about the many blatant attempts by the U.S. catfish industry, starting in the early 90's, to force U.S. consumers to pay more for catfish than necessary. As you can see, this antiobiotic angle is just the latest attack on consumers from the catfish mercantilists.

UPDATE: It is being reported in this Sun Herald story that the FDA should have a ruling next week.
FDA spokesman Mike Herndon said Thursday a decision could come next week on how the agency will rule on the multimillion-dollar catfish imports. The agency is under pressure from an Arkansas congressman for a nationwide ban.

"Right now it's a state issue," Herndon said in a telephone interview from FDA's office in Rockville, Md.

Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana banned Vietnam basa catfish after officials detected antibiotics given to prevent disease in Vietnamese fish.

Herndon said FDA has the option of issuing an import alert or seizing the product "or a combination of both."
Seizing the product!? I can just picture some jackbooted FDA thugs knocking down doors at some fishmarket in Arkansas in the middle of the night, scrambling through the aisles to seize the contraband Vietnamese catfish, all because the fish might contain traces of a harmless antibiotic which is approved in the U.S. for use in humans, but not in food.
Catfish exports to the United States were badly affected after the U.S. imposed a tariff of up to 64 percent two years ago following a lawsuit filed against Vietnamese catfish farmers, claiming they had dumped the fish on the American market at lower than market price.

(President of the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers Ho Quoc) Luc said Vietnam has expanded its catfish markets to Europe and the Middle East since then.

Alabama Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks said he's concerned that a consumer might be allergic to the antibiotic. Alabama's ban affected about 25 tons of imported farmed seafood, Sparks said earlier this month.
Well, let's see...if you find that you are for some reason allergic to Vietnamese catfish...then...don't buy them next time!
Infinity Seafoods Inc. CEO Andrew Forman of Boston, Mass., who imports basa catfish from Vietnam, said, "The problem is the benchmark price of domestic catfish is high. Basa has proven to be a viable alternative. It is a price war."
And in a price war, of course, inefficient industries look to the coercive power of the state for assistance, rather than actually competing on price or quality.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

the government murders and then covers it up

I'm pretty much outraged out. There just seems to be so much bad crap out there and I've exhausted my ability to be outraged. Go read Jim Henley who, discussing the death-by-state of Charles de Menezes, says it best:
The same institution whose agents missed a proper handoff of Charles de Menezes’ surveillance because the peeper was off taking a piss is the one you’ve sent to divide the sheep from the goats in a country they know even less about than their own. The same institution whose agents knocked an already subdued civilian subway passenger to the floor and blasted his head off you’ve trusted to man traffic control points in cities where we speak little if any of the language, to search the homes of people whose lives are locked doors to us.
Will anyone on the left or right learn the right lesson from this death? No, the right will still worship the police and will either ignore this or somehow continue to blame de Menezes for his own death. Conservatives will never lead the charge to investigate the State. The left won't figure it out either. They will always respond with something like, "oh, put US in charge! We won't kill innocents like those mean conservatives. Just promise never to question our power and we'll treat you good, just like we did at Waco".

Words fail me.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

blessing the bombs

If you are a Christian, or if you are at all curious about the relationship between war and Christianity, please read this speech given Father George Zabelka in 1985. That was the 40th anniversary of the year they dropped the Boxcar and the Enola Gay on Japan, back when Zabelka was an air force chaplain who blessed the airmen and never thought twice about it...until many years later, when he grew to completely regret it and speak out against civilian slaughter and war in general. Here are a few excerpts, but do yourself a favor and read the whole apology by this witness for peace.
War is now, always has been, and always will be bad, bad news. I was there. I saw real war. Those who have seen real war will bear me out. I assure you, it is not of Christ. It is not Christ's way. There is no way to conduct real war in conformity with the teachings of Jesus. There is no way to train people for real war in conformity with the teachings of Jesus.

The morality of the balance of terrorism is a morality that Christ never taught. The ethics of mass butchery cannot be found in the teachings of Jesus. In Just War ethics, Jesus Christ, who is supposed to be all in the Christian life, is irrelevant. He might as well never have existed. In Just War ethics, no appeal is made to him or his teaching, because no appeal can be made to him or his teaching, for neither he nor his teaching gives standards for Christians to follow in order to determine what level of slaughter is acceptable.

good enough for me

Hey, if this group endorses the war in Iraq, that's all I need to know to convince me to join up.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

still not so clear cut

Jim Lindgren has updated his original post, "Protestant Denominations and Israel", with a response to my criticism. Basically, Professor Lindgren is probably correct as it applies to the ELCA, but I still disagree with his attempt to make a general rule. Lindgren says, "Hinderaker's point, which seems sound to me, is that one can't possibly discuss the merits, morality, or effects on peace of the fence without addressing why it was built". But of course one can do so. If I think that some action is intrinsically wrong, then I don't need to look at why it was initiated to discuss its merits, morality or other effects. For example, if I think that a death penalty law is intrinsically wrong, then it's irrelevent that it might have been passed as the result of some specific set of horrific murders or other crimes.

Just to be clear, I don't have strong feelings one way or another about Israel's security fence and I think Israel gets more criticism than it deserves and I would prefer that the ELCA keep its mouth shut in general about political issues, especially ones as far removed from Lutheranism as the security fence is.

P.S., like Hinderaker, I, too, am an ELCA Lutheran, in case anyone is wondering.

Monday, August 15, 2005

christopher hitchens' sinister smear

The British bad-boy neocon apologist really seems to have his knickers in a twist about Cindy Sheehan's camping trip, as you can read in his latest rant entitled Cindy Sheehan's Sinister Piffle. He's also upset with Maureen Dowd for recently stating in a column "The moral authority of parents who bury children killed in Iraq is absolute." Doesn't Cindy know that opinions on U.S. foreign policy should be left to the enlightened ones who work for the almighty mainstream media outlets, even if they are British-born Trotskyites who never served and never had any children who served (and died)? And that uppity Maureen, how dare she betray her corporate media masters and grant credence to a mere U.S. citizen!

Contained within the column are these baffling sentences:
Most irritating is the snide idea that the president is "on vacation" and thus idly ignoring his suffering subjects, when the truth is that the members of the media—not known for their immunity to the charm of Martha's Vineyard or Cape Cod in the month of August—are themselves lazing away the season with a soft-centered nonstory that practically, as we like to say in the trade, "writes itself." Anyway, Sheehan now says that if need be she will "follow" the president "to Washington," so I don't think the holiday sneer has much life left in it.
So let me see...first, despite everything we've read about how the president is on vacation at his ranch, it apparently irritates Hitchens when a journalist reports that he is "on vacation". What else are they supposed to call it? And my gosh, you mean that members of the media actually go on vacation themselves at Martha's Vineyard or Cape Cod? Those self-serving bastards, how dare they! And then, he seems equally upset that Sheehan has stated she will "follow" the president "to Washington", so upset in fact that he had to put quotes around those words. I guess when Mrs. Sheehan goes to Washington immediately after Bush returns there, it is somehow not really "following", and not really "to Washington".

In the final paragraph we find the following:
Finally, I think one must deny to anyone the right to ventriloquize the dead. Casey Sheehan joined up as a responsible adult volunteer. Are we so sure that he would have wanted to see his mother acquiring "a knack for P.R." and announcing that he was killed in a war for a Jewish cabal?
Chris: I know you have difficulty with this concept, so repeat after me: ISRAEL is a COUNTRY! JUDAISM is a RELIGION! Criticizing the government of Israel, as Cindy Sheehan has done, is quite a different thing than placing the blame on a "Jewish cabal".

I actually feel quite sorry for old Hitch; he no longer has Mother Teresa to beat up on, so he has to find some other females who are still living, preferably Catholics like Dowd and Sheehan, to take her place.

the urine-powered battery

That's right folks, scientists in Singapore have developed a paper battery powered by urine:
Led by Dr Ki Bang Lee, a research team at Singapore’s Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (IBN) have developed a paper battery that is small, cheap to fabricate, and which ingeniously uses the fluid being tested (urine) as the power source for the device doing the testing.

The chemical composition of urine is widely used as a way of testing for tell-tale signs of various diseases and also as an indicator of a person’s general state of health. The concentration of glucose in urine is a useful diagnostic tool for diabetics. The lead researcher, Dr Lee, envisions a world where people will easily be able to monitor their health at home using disposable test-kits that don’t need lithium batteries or external power sources.
You can read the entire article here.

not so clear cut

Jim Lindgren points to this article in the Weekly Standard about a recent proclamation by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America regarding the "security fence" that Israel is building to protect itself from terrorists. On the one hand, I agree that too many people look at the Israel/Palestinian problem and see all evil on one side and none on the other. On the other hand, maybe the wall isn't such a great idea after all. As Sheldon Richman points out over at Liberty and Power:
Since Jewish settlements exist throughout the occupied territory, the wall snakes all around, taking up formerly Arab-owned land and cutting Palestinian towns off from the groves and farms where many residents work. The people living in those towns will need permission from the Israeli authorities to go anywhere.
Lindgren concludes, "It seems as if elites are more prone to certain kinds of moral blindness and excusing of evil." Is it moral blindess and excusing evil to see that the wall affects the innocent as well as the guilty? Israel is in a rough spot, to say the least, and I don't really know enough about the situation to comment one way or the other, but surely it's not an unreasonable position to be skeptical of the desirability of the "security fence".

UPDATE: Jim Lindgren responds with a thoughtful update to his original post. Check it out and check back here later today when I, too, will have a thoughtful response.

UPDATE 2: Response to Lindgren is here.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

have we reached the turning point?

When a mainstream propaganda mouthpiece like the Chicago Tribune runs a story titled Doubt on war grows in U.S, I cannot help but to get my hopes up. Over the last week or so I have felt a vague sense of an immense change brewing, not yet visible but percolating just beneath the surface; a change, that is, in the tide of public opinion on the Iraq war. This is due in no small part to the focus on Cindy Sheehan and the pathetic attempts of the establishment to demonize her. But this article is not about Sheehan, it is about folks across the country, many who initially supported Bush and his war on Iraq but are now having doubts. From the article:
CRANBERRY TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- As surely as sweet-corn stands and rolling farmland give way to the boxlike tract housing of new suburbs here, President Bush is losing ground on the battlefield of public opinion when it comes to the war in Iraq.

Even among Republicans who cheered the invasion of Iraq two years ago, and some who supported Bush's re-election and his exhortation to "stay the course," the ongoing loss of American life without a clear course for withdrawal is taking a toll.

Growing opposition to the conflict, as well as a diminishing sense that it is making Americans safer from terrorism at home, is reflected in an array of recent opinion polls...
The article goes on with quotes about the Iraq war from various folks around the country, some pro but mostly con.
Ruth Carlson of Aliquippa, a Navy veteran, voted for Bush in 2000. So did her husband, an Air Force veteran. But neither voted for Bush in 2004.

"We usually vote Republican," Carlson said. "Come around this time, we couldn't vote for [Bush]. . . . If they came after my son, I'd have to get him out of the country. We don't want our child going over there and dying for nothing."
"Dying for nothing" pretty much sums it up.
...Across the country, it's the absence of the threat that Iraq was supposed to pose that most troubles Dale Blake, 42, a Los Angeles construction worker.

"When it all started, we were hearing about nuclear weapons, gas, biological weapons, all sorts of stuff," Blake says. "Of course I thought we should get rid of stuff like that. But now we know that was all bull, and so I now believe I was wrong. But maybe wrong because I was lied to from the start. How are we going to get out? That's what I want to know."
I want to know that too, Dale. But I and many other people, who bothered to look into the issue instead of just blindly believing the President and Colin Powell, never believed it in the first place and voiced our negative opinions about this thing from the beginning. That's OK, all that matters is where we are right now. And I have a growing feeling that where we are right now is a place where Bush and his neocons are going to collapse under the sheer weight of their own lies and stupidity.

just another government program

One of the things that conservatives seem to forget when it comes to foreign intervention is that wars are just another government program, no more likely to succeed or be well-managed than any other tax-payer financed, bureaucratically controlled project. So who should be surprised to read something like this:
"What we expected to achieve was never realistic given the timetable or what unfolded on the ground," said a senior official involved in policy since the 2003 invasion. "We are in a process of absorbing the factors of the situation we're in and shedding the unreality that dominated at the beginning."
It was never realistic. Thanks, senior official, for admitting what so many of us knew all along.

Imagine if the Bushies had tried to sell this war by saying that we would replace a brutal, but secular, dictator with an Islamic republic:
The goal now is to ensure a constitution that can be easily amended later so Iraq can grow into a democracy, U.S. officials say.
Yeah, I feel confident that whoever gets into power as a result of this mess will gladly turn it into a democracy. That is how it always happens, isn't it? The State freely relinquishes power back to the people. Uh-huh.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

politics vs. compassion

I get an occasional kick out of reading the latest examples of liberal bias over at the conservative Media Research Center, but after reading yesterday's loathsome column by MRC head Brent Bozell, I won't be able to visit the site without feeling a little bit ashamed. Brent is outraged that Cindy Sheehan's protest at Dubya's Crawford ranch is getting coverage in the mainstream media.  Sheehan is the founder of Gold Star Families for Peace, created after her son died in Iraq. How does Bozell suggest that this woman be treated? Compassionately, perhaps, given that she suffered an incalculable loss?  Nope, in his words, "this woman deserves a padded cell". It's a particularly odious comment, given how States, like the old USSR, have often claimed that dissidents are mentally ill and locked them up for it.  It's nice to see the right lower itself to the level of the left once again.  Of course, what really gets Bozell's goat is that there was no equivalent coverage of protestors in the late nineties who demanded Clinton's resignation for perjury! 

OK, let's recap.  A protest by a mother who lost her son in an unncessary war is less newsworthy than a protest by generic conservatives mad at a President who got caught in a perjury trap.  Nearly two thousand dead soldiers sent by the current president vs. millions of dead sperm on a blue dress.  Now, I bow to no man in my disdain for Slick Willie, but somehow the dead soldiers make me more angry than the alleged perjury about sex. Go figure.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

the state on steroids

There's an interesting article on steroids over at LA Weekly, "Sympathy for the Devil". The author gives a fascinating overview of the history of steroids and their regulation and, how the Feds are "protecting" sick people from life saving drugs:
In the early days of HIV research, doctors used the immune cell CD4 as a marker. Healthy, HIV-negative people have a 1,000-to-1,500 CD4 count. When doctors talk about AIDS early intervention, they usually mean beginning treatment when someone’s CD4 count hovers between 400 and 600, while the syndrome itself is defined by a CD4 count below 200. Dullnig had a CD4 count of four. He should have been dead within weeks. Instead, he started taking steroids, regained 40 pounds and lived. That was the story published in Muscle Media — for a limited audience, this information started saving lives. Unfortunately there were a lot of lives to save.
All those stories you've heard about the damage steroids can do? Some of it's true, at the levels used by competitive bodybuiders. But at much lower levels, steroids can have all sorts of beneficial effects without harm:
“Steroids aren’t the wonder drug of tomorrow,” says Mark Gordon, a Los Angeles–based anti-aging doctor with more than 3,700 patients, including movie stars, studio heads and network executives. “Steroids are the wonder drug of right now. Just look at the diseases they treat. Patients with MS on steroids exhibit no symptoms [according to several studies done in Europe, where research is more advanced]. A full turnaround in AIDS wasting syndrome. I know athletes who had injuries that normally take nine months to heal after surgery — with an anabolic-steroid protocol, that time shrinks to two months. Do you wear glasses? Do you know there’s a muscle surrounding the eye that wears out as we age and steroids can keep it healthy?”
Thank goodness the Feds are on the case:
The Steroid Control Act of 2004 was essentially an update of the 1990 version. Twenty-six new substances were added to the list, and slightly less clunky and slightly less confusing language in the new bill replaced some clunky and confusing language from the old bill. The point, according to politicians, like California Congressman Henry Waxman, who were championing the bill, was to save our children and protect our sports. All of which raises some peculiar questions, since the point of the 1990 act was also to save our children and our sports, and that first bill did such a good job that we needed a new version some 15 years later.
Waxman, a Democrat, is one of the most horrid statists out there. There's no area of life that he doesn't believe should be under total control of the State. OK, maybe he thinks sodomy and abortion should be legal, but that's about it.

Spotted via

re: atomic sowell

My co-blogger A.W. View, discussing Thomas Sowell's attack on those questioning the necessity of dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, quite rightly points out that at least Mr. Sowell brings up a new line of reasoning, namely, that the unconditional surrender of Japan led to, in Sowell's words, "the relief of hundreds of millions of their neighbors, who had suffered horribly at the hands of their Japanese conquerors". My only disagreement is with A.W.'s final comment, where he suggests that still, a negotiated surrender might have been better than a total surrender, if only because it might have somehow left Japan strong enough to prevent the rise of a communist China:
It's tough to really know what might have happened under a negotiated surrender, but if there was any chance that the Japanese could have prevented the rise of the communists in China, that would have been an enormous plus, one that Sowell does not address.
I'm not convinced that a Japanese-dominated China would have been an enormous plus. The Chinese people at the time certainly didn't see it that way. China suffered immensely at the hands of the unbelievably brutal Japanese army, the Rape of Nanjing being the most famous of the atrocities. The Japanese wanted not to annex China but mainly to set up friendly puppets to dominate business and trade. However, if they really wanted to win the hearts and minds of the Chinese people, they could have started by not bayoneting pregnant women in the belly, throwing babies in the air and catching them on bayonets, gang raping and then mutilating young girls, slicing off women's breasts, hanging men by their tongues, and otherwise raping, murdering and pillaging Chinese villagers. See this Wikipedia entry on the Rape of Nanjing.

Between the CCP, the KMT, and the Japanese, the CCP treated the commoners with the most respect. As Joseph Stromberg points out: "The outbreak of war between the US and Japan in late 1941 added to Japanese overstretch. The KMT pretended to fight the Japanese, absorbed large quantities of US aid and money, and occasionally fought the communists. The communists fought the Japanese and the KMT, while building up good will with mild rule and hard money at a time when the KMT landlord regime set off hyperinflation and looted and abused everyone in its path." See link.

I too would have preferred a non-Communist China, and I don't believe the mass death of civilians caused by the atomic bombs dropping on Hiroshima and Nagasaki was justified, but a swift end to the mass death and suffering caused by the barbaric Japanese invaders can only be considered a good thing, even though it sprang from an evil thing.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

atomic sowell

In "Trashing our history; Hiroshima", Thomas Sowell attacks those who question the decision to drop the atom bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki:
The guilt-mongers have twisted the facts of history beyond recognition in order to say that it was unnecessary to drop those atomic bombs. Japan was going to lose the war anyway, they say. What they don't say is -- at what price in American lives? Or even in Japanese lives?
I like Sowell a lot, so it's unfortunate that he buys into the tired old argument that it was a choice between the atomic bombs and even greater death on both sides from a conventional invasion. Fortunately, he does get to a better argument near the end:
We might have gotten a negotiated peace if we had dropped the "unconditional surrender" demand. But at what cost? Seeing a militaristic Japan arise again in a few years, this time armed with nuclear weapons that they would not have hesitated for one minute to drop on Americans.

As it was, the unconditional surrender of Japan enabled General Douglas MacArthur to engineer one of the great historic transformations of a nation from militarism to pacifism, to the relief of hundreds of millions of their neighbors, who had suffered horribly at the hands of their Japanese conquerors.
I wish Sowell had spent the entire column supporting that argument, but that's as far as he goes. Obviously, I disgree. It's tough to really know what might have happened under a negotiated surrender, but if there was any chance that the Japanese could have prevented the rise of the communists in China, that would have been an enormous plus, one that Sowell does not address.

the war on some drugs

In "Debunking the Drug War", John Tierney points out that its the "war on drugs" itself that is the cause of the problem:
Amphetamine pills were easily available, sold over the counter until the 1950's, then routinely prescribed by doctors to patients who wanted to lose weight or stay awake. It was only after the authorities cracked down in the 1970's that many people turned to home labs, criminal gangs and more dangerous ways of ingesting the drug.
Not everyone is pleased, though. Mark Kleiman fires back with "Meth gets a coat of Tierney whitewash". Although Kleiman makes some good points about Tierney's use of statistics, he basically concedes Tierney's main point above:
As a snorted/smoked/injected drug, meth is highly addictive (which means a conversion rate of somewhere between a fifth and a third of those who try it more than casually) and highly toxic to lots of organs, including the brain. A couple of years' steady use of meth leaves marked and lasting cognitive deficits, which is not true for any other recreational drug, including even alcohol.

That's entirely consistent with the fact that oral methamphetamine, used under medical supervision, is a reasonably safe and highly useful drug for nacolepsy, ADHD, and increased alertness for people who absolutely must stay alert for long hours, such as combat pilots.
So what's Kleiman's real beef? Apparently, if only dummies like Tierney would shut up, dedicated drug warriors like Bill Bennett would listen to smart people like Kleiman who would lead us to a wise and compassionate drug policy.

Yeah, I'm sure that's what would happen.

overstating the case

In "Zero Tolerance Makes Zero Sense", Radley Balko writes about some questionable prosecutions:
A couple in Virginia was recently sentenced to 27 months in jail for throwing a supervised party for their son's 16th birthday, at which beer was made available. That was reduced on appeal from the eight-year sentenced imposed by the trial judge. The local MADD president said she was "pleasantly surprised" at the original eight-year verdict, and "applauded" the judge's efforts.
I agree that it's overkill and that the parents are trying to do what they think is right, but supplying kids with alcohol? I can understand looking they other way when the kids are drinking, rather than a strict rule that might cause one's kids to go to a party and then drive home drunk, but maybe the parents were just a bit too permissive in these cases? On the other hand, it's stuff like this:
The Post reported a while back on a party in Bethesda in which there was no underage drinking at all. Police approached the parents at a backyard graduation party and asked if they could administer breath tests to underage guests. The mother refused. So the cops cordoned off the block and administered breath tests to each kid as he or she left the party. Not a single underage guest had been drinking. The police then began writing traffic tickets for all of the cars around the house hosting the party. The mother told The Post, "It almost seemed like they were angry that they didn't find anything."
that makes me wonder if we should just repeal every freaking law on the books.

Monday, August 08, 2005

hearing aids for everyone

There's a great article over at Wired News about new devices for enhancing hearing for people with normal hearing. It's a concept so obvious, it's a wonder people are only starting to think about it. As the article points out:
"Today, every second person seems to be listening to music on an iPod, chatting on a mobile phone or scribbling on a PDA," she said. "What if you could really control and play with the way you hear? There are so many possibilities."
Indeed, people weart sunglasses even when they don't need them. The article mentions several possibilities for hearing enhancing devices. I hate noisy situations like bars and loud parties so I can hardly wait for a cool looking earpiece that allows me to concentrate on the conversation right in front of me.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

space program blues

Over at Idle Words, Maciej Ceglowski has harsh words for NASA:
[...] the great explorers of the 1500's did not sail endlessly back and forth a hundred miles off the coast of Portugal, nor did they construct a massive artificial island they could repair to if their boat sprang a leak. And we must remember that space is called space for a reason - there is nothing in it, at least not where the Shuttle goes, save for a few fast-moving pieces of junk from the last few times we went up there, forty years ago. The interesting bits in space are all much further away, and we have not paid them a visit since 1972. In fact, despite an ambitious "Vision for Space Exploration", there seems to be no mandate or interest in pursuing this kind of exploration, and all the significant deadlines are pushed comfortably past the tenure of incumbent politicians.
I have a fondness for NASA that is rather in conflict with my political philosophy, but there is little in the above essay that I can argue with. NASA has gotten so bad that there is little doubt that we would be better off if we zeroed out its budget and sold off its assets to the highest bidder.

Ceglowski suggests that the manned space program has actually been harmful to advances in technology for such exploration:
But this attitude is actually doing damage to the prospects of real manned space exploration. Sinking half the NASA budget into the Shuttle and ISS precludes the possibility of doing truly groundbreaking work on space flight. As the orbiters age, their upkeep and safety requirements are becoming an expensive antiquarian exercise, forcing engineers to spend their ingenuity repairing obsolete components and devising expensive maintenance techniques for sclerotic spacecraft, rather than applying their lessons to a new generation of rockets. The retardant effect the Shuttle has had on technology (like the two decades long freeze in expendable rocket development) outweighs any of its modest initial benefits to materials science, aerodynamics, and rocket design.
This is where Ceglowski's analysis starts to fall short. He imagines a NASA free from the foolish decisions of the past, concentrating on real science and technology. But surely, it is the very nature of NASA, a government bureaucracy, the prevents it from behaving in an rational manner. There are more problems with NASA that can't be covered in a blog post. Ceglowski doesn't even mention that NASA underbid private launchers during the early days of the shuttle program, thus crippling the unmanned launch industry.

Ceglowski does praise NASA's unmanned space efforts, but these are questionable efforts as well. I'm as fascinated as anyone by cool pictures from Mars and Titan, but are these truly worth the millions (or billions in the case of Cassini) that we are spending on them? And even if the science is objectively good, there's no reason that we have to do them right now, as opposed to twenty years from now, when even better technology will be available, perhaps even a privately funded space elevator, that would allow a far more capable, but cheaper mission to be done. If the cost is sufficiently low in the future, then there is no reason that such efforts could not be entirely funded by private groups, just as observatories are often funded privately today.

Sorry, NASA, but I just can't think of a justification for taking money from the taxpayers at gunpoint to fund your missions, even if I personally think some of them are cool.

Spotted via Brad DeLong.

Saturday, August 06, 2005


It was sixty years ago today that the first atomic bomb was used on Hiroshima. Yesterday, Victor Davis Hanson concludes in "60 Years Later" that:
The truth, as we are reminded so often in this present conflict, is that usually in war there are no good alternatives, and leaders must select between a very bad and even worse choice. Hiroshima was the most awful option imaginable, but the other scenarios would have probably turned out even worse.
But Hanson inadvertantly hints at another option earlier in the piece:
Truman’s supporters countered that, in fact, a blockade and negotiations had not forced the Japanese generals to surrender unconditionally. In their view, a million American casualties and countless Japanese dead were adverted by not storming the Japanese mainland over the next year in the planned two-pronged assault on the mainland, dubbed Operation Coronet and Olympic.
Why was "unconditional surrender" our goal? What would have been wrong with a negotiated surrender, that might have led to an even earlier end to the war in the Pacific, thus sparing us not only the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but much of the bombing campaign that resulted in far more deaths, sometimes in a single night, than either of those two atomic bombings?

Indeed, as Ralph Raico points out in "Hiroshima and Nagasaki":
By early summer 1945, the Japanese fully realized that they were beaten. Why did they nonetheless fight on? As Anscombe wrote: "It was the insistence on unconditional surrender that was the root of all evil."
Hanson struggles mightily in his own essay to justify the mass murder of civilians, even claiming that the Japanese population basically deserved what they got:
Americans of the time hardly thought the Japanese populace to be entirely innocent. The Imperial Japanese army routinely butchered civilians abroad — some 10-15 million Chinese were eventually to perish — throughout the Pacific from the Philippines to Korea and Manchuria. Even by August 1945, the Japanese army was killing thousands of Asians each month. When earlier high-level bombing attacks with traditional explosives failed to cut off the fuel for this murderous military — industries were increasingly dispersed in smaller shops throughout civilian centers — Curtis LeMay unleashed napalm on the Japanese cities and eventually may have incinerated 500,000.
To me, this is just another instance of right-wingers employing the logic of the left. It's a collective mentality that justifies the killing of innocents as long as, in theory, they are saving more lives than they kill somewhere else. It's not just a reprehensible moral calculus, it's turns out to be a false choice. A negotiated surrender would have saved enormous amounts of life, on both sides.

Friday, August 05, 2005

bitter and resentful

Today's New York Times has an editorial, "Measuring the Blogosphere", that mostly reveals their own bitterness over the rise of independent voices. Writing anonymously, the editorial says:
The conventional media - this very newspaper, for instance - have often discussed the growing impact of blogging on the coverage of news. Perhaps the strongest indicator of the importance of blogdom isn't those discussions themselves, but the extent to which media outlets are creating blogs - or bloglike manifestations - of their own.

That is the serious side of the blogosphere.
Right. The serious side is the lame attempts by the MSM to do their own blogs. Blogs independent of the MSM are just attempts to say, "look at me! Look at me!":
But blogs are often just a way of making oneself appear on the Internet. It's like a closed-circuit video camera that catches a glimpse of you walking by an electronics store window filled with televisions. There you are in all your glory, suddenly, if not forever, mediated. Starting your own blog used to require a certain amount of technical expertise. Now you can do it from within popular Web portals like MSN and AOL, using tools that make it almost as easy as sending e-mail. These days, a surprising number of people write home by posting to their blogs - that is, by writing to everyone on earth.
The resentment goes so deep that the NYT can't even bear to mention the company that was one of the innovators in weblogs, Blogger. Why mention MSN and AOL when they are the latecomers and is the real starter of the revolution? Simple, the MSM don't like innovation, period. To mention a startup instead of a powerhouse like AOL is just nonsense in the mind of the Times. Only the biggies are really important and the little guy must forever be dismissed.

Don't mistake my words for blogosphere triumphalism. I just find it fascinating to read the MSM and see how differently they see the world. To them, Instapundit, Powerline, Atrios and Daily Kos don't enter into the picture at all. To the Times there are two types of blogs. Serious ones, run by the MSM and "Hello, mom!" blogs and that's it. Does anyone really think that's the way it is?

Thursday, August 04, 2005

the surveillance state, pro and con

Surprize, surprize, the FBI is spying on non-violent antiwar groups here in the U.S. Anthony Gregory is rightfully appalled:
After 9/11, the FBI was awarded new surveillance powers and larger budgets—even though inter-bureaucracy squabbling and the FBI’s misunderstanding of its own guidelines, not a lack of resources, accounted for its failures leading up to 9/11. Now this same agency professes to protect us by amassing thousands of documents on non-violent political organizations. Does the FBI suspect that the ACLU is planning a terrorist attack? If not, why is the FBI wasting time and resources monitoring such groups when it admits it cannot process the information it already has?
It's nothing new. Mr. Gregory goes on to note that the FBI and its predecessors have been engaged in this for many, many decades.

Not everyone is appalled. Neocon lapdog Michelle Malkin defends the FBI:
The FBI's job is to take threats to our domestic security seriously and act on them before catastrophe strikes. Given the suspect words and actions of left-wing groups over the last several years, "dissent is patriotic" is a bromide no responsible agent can swallow blindly. Tolerating the unfettered free speech of saboteurs has threatened enough lives already.
Glad to see MM come out against free speech, at least for those she disagrees with. It would almost be worth electing Senator Clinton president just so we can see the neocons completely reverse position when President Hillary goes after right wing groups with the same gusto that MM wants for the lefties.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

more bad stuff about cafta

It's being used as a vehicle to force other countries to abide by our ever more ludicrous copyright laws.

Spotted via Blog.


The odometer turned 100,000 miles on my 1998 Acura Integra on the way to work today. I love it, so I can see why it's the third most stolen car!

Spotted via Newmark's Door.

william hope hodgson

William Hope Hodgson is one of my favorite writers. A purveyor of eerie and supernatural stories, this British author is often compared with H.P. Lovecraft, though most science fiction and fantasy fans today have never heard of Hodgson. Many of his tales revolve around strange horrors from the sea. Hodgson himself was an experienced seaman, sailing around the world three times. Though he loved the sea as a youth, he eventually grew to loathe it. He was killed at the age of 41 (my current age) in that colossal waste of human lives now known as World War I.

I just noticed this review of his works, which tackles the author from a rather high-brow literary perspective. In fact, check out the whole site for reviews of other science fiction and fantasy authors, though your favorites might not be there because they aren't considered worthy from a literary standpoint. For more on Hodgson's life, check out this short biography too.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

ten most harmful government programs

Via Think Progress, we see that conservative paper Human Events has put together a panel of 36 distinguished public policy experts and scholars to compile a list of the ten most harmful government programs. Amazingly, neither the war in Iraq nor the war on drugs made the list but the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and bilingual education grants (!) did. Now, I bow to no man in my disdain for CPB and bilingual education, but come on! The war on drugs has had a hand in destroying so much of what conservatives supposedly hold dear (federalism, property rights, etc.) that it takes quite an act of denial to put teaching hispanics in their native tongue as a greater threat. Sheesh!

wal-mart, bankrupt and murderous?

In "Wal-Mart's P.R. war", Liza Featherstone lays out a laundry list of alleged sins and then says:
The largest and most profitable retailer in the world -- and in the United States, with 1.3 million workers, the largest private employer -- is becoming nearly as infamous as Enron or the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory.
Infamous in the minds of left-wingers, no doubt, but such infamy tells us nothing about Wal-Mart and much about the internal mental processes of those on the left. To them, a successful, profitable company is comparable to a sweatshop that locks in its employees and allows them to burn to death.

At least the article admits that the store has low prices that are beneficial to consumers:
When you're struggling to make ends meet, a $2.50 bra and a $30 microwave look pretty good.
I'm not an expert on Wal-Mart, but there is an excellent, fair and balanced blog dedicated to all things WM, Always Low Prices, run by Kevin Brancato. Be sure and check it out.

Monday, August 01, 2005

krugman on cafta

I'm obviously not a big fan of Paul Krugman, but he is smart and his specialty is international trade, so I hope he devotes some time to looking at CAFTA in detail. Until then, we have this tidbit from today's column:
[...]Cafta contains "free trade" in its title, but that's misleading. The administration rammed the bill through the House by, among other things, promising to limit imports of clothing from China; over all, the effect may well be to reduce, not increase, international trade. But pharmaceutical companies got measures that protect and extend their monopoly rights in Central America.
Krugman's quite right. CAFTA is not merely corporate welfare, not just managed trade instead of free trade, but it may well reduce international trade. Surprise, surprise, "free trade" is just another area where the Bush administration has decided to reward its backers rather than push for a truly beneficial policy.