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Sunday, February 26, 2006

darren mcgavin dies

Darren McGavin has passed away. Kolchak: The Night Stalker was one of my absolute favorite TV shows growing up - too bad it only lasted one season. I can't believe I was only 10 years old when it had its run in '74.

That show had everything going for it - an unlikely and sarcastic hero, bizarre paranormal plots, a Chicago setting (even though I doubt any footage was actually filmed there), the humorous voiceovers, and some good noirish dialogue such as this exchange between Kolchak and his boss Tony Vincenzo, who was not Kolchak's biggest fan, to say the least:
Carl Kolchak: Exactly what don't you like about this hat?
Tony Vincenzo: What's under it.
I remember when McGavin appeared on an episode of the X-Files, a show which obviously owed a bit of gratitude to the pioneering Night Stalker series, and he seemed to have aged quite a bit, almost to the extent that he was unrecognizable to me. Still, he managed to keep on going to the age of 83. Goodbye, Mr. McGavin!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

hedonists with guns

That's the title of this post yesterday by Laurence Vance at the blog. Vance quotes an ex-marine describing the noble behavior of the few and the proud:
"The Marine Corps is like a frat party in between the hard work. For the most part, they are irresponsible, alcoholic, sex addicts. The married Marines that I served with didn't think twice about cheating on their spouses during deployments. And speaking of deployments, if the U.S. military ever gets disbanded, the worldwide brothel industry would shut down overnight. The behavior of my fellow Marines in Thailand I found to be utterly repulsive. What a shame it is to have de facto ambassadors of the United States—i.e., the people whom 'represent' America to foreigners—behaving in such a way. Hedonists with guns. That's the Marine Corps."

Saturday, February 18, 2006

the analytic paper series by robert l. kocher

In the mid to late 90's, there was an interesting website known as the Laissez Faire City Times, the official publication of the now-defunct Laissez Faire City corporation. There were many interesting articles posted there, along with some worthless ones. One of my favorite writers at the site was Robert L. Kocher.

I was wondering what happened to this site and all the articles, and after performing a few google searches it appears there is no archive of the whole site. However, some of the writers have fortunately created archives of their own writings, including Kocher, whose archive can be found here, and which he calls The Analytic Paper Series. It may have been here for years for all I know (a copyright notice on the site gives a date of 2002), but I just discovered it today. Presumably, from reading his introduction, not all of these articles are from the Laissez Faire City Times.

For a sample of his work, you might want to try this chapter from his Politics in America series entitled Part 10: Evolution of the Deteriorated Relationship Between Men and Women. Excerpt:
To say that there has been a transition in the relationship between men and women in the last 35 years is somewhat like calling the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima a form of urban renewal. The change in the relationship between men and women in American culture has been as devastating to Americans individually, socially, economically, and politically as a limited nuclear war. The damage will take longer to repair than the damage from a nuclear war.

In the last 35 years, a culturally dominant value system and behavioral system has evolved which should be making people edgy. This value system is supported by a highly-engineered system of language which has been evolved over the years to obscure important internal pathology, and which sounds good. While the words sound good, there is a sense something is very warped. Although many people know something's wrong, they are trapped or immobilized because they don't have a refutation and have never heard a refutation. Most people born after the very early 1940s do not know how the present system of American values, especially those values governing heterosexual relations, evolved. The best way, and probably the only way, to understand where we are and what we're facing is to understand how we got to where we are now. From that point a refutation can be built to begin repairing the culture.
Read the rest of the article, and also be sure to check out his own introduction to his archive here.

i gave a free loan to leviathan

I just did a rough cut of my taxes for 2005 and it looks like I gave a hefty loan to Leviathan last year, thanks to a big increase in mortgage taxes, mostly. Oh well, I can only hope that not too much of my money was used to fund bombs to kill innocent Iraqi children.

Friday, February 17, 2006

all hot air?

In "Ice Storm", Patrick Michaels argues against the dramatic melting of Greenland.

babylon 5 for me

All right, I finally took the quiz to see which starship crew I should join, and it turns out to be Babylon 5, a show which I've never seen. Second place was a tie between Serenity and Millennium Falcon. Below are my results.
You scored as Babylon 5 (Babylon 5). The universe is erupting into war and your government picks the wrong side. How much worse could things get? It doesn't matter, because no matter what you have your friends and you'll do the right thing. In the end that will be all that matters. Now if only the Psi Cops would leave you alone.

Babylon 5 (Babylon 5)


Serenity (Firefly)


Millennium Falcon (Star Wars)


Nebuchadnezzar (The Matrix)


Deep Space Nine (Star Trek)


Galactica (Battlestar: Galactica)


Moya (Farscape)


FBI's X-Files Division (The X-Files)


SG-1 (Stargate)


Andromeda Ascendant (Andromeda)


Enterprise D (Star Trek)


Bebop (Cowboy Bebop)


Your Ultimate Sci-Fi Profile II: which sci-fi crew would you best fit in? (pics)
created with

holocaust survivor votes for patriot act

Congressman Tom Lantos (D-CA) is the only Holocaust survivor in Congress. The other day, he berated internet companies testifying before Congress and compared them to companies that cooperated with the Nazis:
Lantos, to Microsoft: Is your company ashamed?

Microsoft: We comply with legally binding orders whether it's here in the U.S. or China.

Lantos: Well, IBM complied with legal orders when they cooperated with Nazi Germany. Those were legal orders under the Nazi German system...Do you think that IBM during that period had something to be ashamed of?

Microsoft: I can't speak to that. I'm not familiar in detail with IBM's activities in that period.
Tom Lantos, defender of human rights, also voted for the USA Patriot Act back in 2001. If one of those internet companies heroically refused to comply with the Patriot Act (or any number of anti-freedom laws passed by Lantos and his buddies) would Tommy come to their defense?

squirrels good, humans evil

Via a blogad over at This Modern World blog, I came across a book called Why Mommy is a Democrat. It's so goofy and so perfectly captures the notion that Democrats worship the nanny-state that it's hard to believe it's not a parody. Check out the sample pages, where each page shows the mommy squirrel taking care of her kids, while in the background, humans treat each other like crap.

I look forward to the day when Democrats introduce Federal legislation forcing us to share our toys.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

will the oceans rise?

As I write this, the headline on the Drudge Report, GAGGED NASA SCIENTIST WARNS: ICE CAPS 'MELTING FAST', links to this story from The Independent. Excerpt:
A satellite study of the Greenland ice cap shows that it is melting far faster than scientists had feared - twice as much ice is going into the sea as it was five years ago. The implications for rising sea levels - and climate change - could be dramatic.

Yet, a few weeks ago, when I - a Nasa climate scientist - tried to talk to the media about these issues following a lecture I had given calling for prompt reductions in the emission of greenhouse gases, the Nasa public affairs team - staffed by political appointees from the Bush administration - tried to stop me doing so. I was not happy with that, and I ignored the restrictions. The first line of Nasa's mission is to understand and protect the planet...

...How far can it go? The last time the world was three degrees warmer than today - which is what we expect later this century - sea levels were 25m higher. So that is what we can look forward to if we don't act soon. None of the current climate and ice models predict this. But I prefer the evidence from the Earth's history and my own eyes. I think sea-level rise is going to be the big issue soon, more even than warming itself.

It's hard to say what the world will be like if this happens. It would be another planet. You could imagine great armadas of icebergs breaking off Greenland and melting as they float south. And, of course, huge areas being flooded.
I've always been quite skeptical of the environmentalist alarmists...but what if they are right about this? At the very least, it makes me think twice about purchasing that ocean front property in Hawaii I've been looking at. Perhaps A.W. View, who follows NASA more closely than I do, can provide some needed perspective.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

adult stem cells to the rescue!

An Israeli-Thai company, Theravitae, is having great success using stem cells harvested from patients' own blood to heal their failing hearts, as reported in this article from This is fascinating stuff, and very hopeful for the future. All done quite painlessly, and without the need to destroy an unborn human being.
JERUSALEM – After 61 years of pumping blood, Marie Carty's heart was failing her.

Months earlier she had given up her two-mile walk on the boardwalk of her New Jersey hometown along the Atlantic Ocean. She could barely make it from the parking lot to the view of the water.

Although Carty knew she needed a new heart, she was afraid hers wouldn't last during the long wait for a transplant.

Desperate for an alternative, Carty found the Israeli-Thai company Theravitae, which has begun performing an experimental procedure that multiplies stem cells taken from a patient's own blood and injects them into the ailing heart in hopes of strengthening it...

After a two-week trip last fall to Thailand for the operation, Carty is once again walking two miles on the boardwalk in Little Silver, N.J. – and her strengthened heart led doctors to remove her from the transplant list.

“The change is like night and day,” said Carty, who works in property management. “I feel myself again, more energy, more stamina.”
The article mentions that another recipient of the procedure is Hawaiian singer Don Ho. The procedure has not gone unnoticed by the U.S. medical establishment:
Dr. Mark Zucker, director of heart failure and transplantation at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in New Jersey, said therapy using adult stem cells is the way of the future. His center is considering working with Theravitae.

Zucker said that if doctors at Theravitae have discovered how to make stem cells heal heart tissue, this could be a real solution for tens of thousands of Americans, since only 2,300 hearts become available for transplant in the United States each year.

“I believe Theravitae is on the right track,” Zucker said. “I think if the company has identified an efficient way to procure cells and expand them, the company's impact will be revolutionary.”
Too bad, as the article mentions, the FDA hasn't approved the procedure for use within the U.S. Read the whole article.

Monday, February 13, 2006

more on dresden

The bombing of Dresden was one of the most evil acts perpetrated by the Allies during World War II. As Simon Jenkins notes in "Time to Say We're Sorry":
Attitudes to the Dresden bombing, have undergone many shifts over time. Immediately after the attack there was widespread revulsion. Winston Churchill, who had ordered the raid to appease Stalin, was sufficiently shocked by the reaction to question the policy of "bombing German cities simply for the sake of increasing the terror." He referred to the bombings as "mere acts of terror and wanton destruction, however impressive." The Americans likewise distanced themselves from avowedly "terrorist" air attacks, after their own planes had gunned down people fleeing the burning city the morning after the British raid.
Great evil can be committed by the good guys even in a justified war, another reason to avoid wars in general.

61 years ago today: the bombing of dresden

Depending on the estimates you believe, between 25,000 and 140,000 civilians, mostly women and children, perished during the allied (mostly British) bombing raid of this German city on Feb. 13 and 14, 1945. (I'll consider the Nazi propaganda estimates of 400,000+ killed as unreliable). This shows warfare at its ugliest - deliberate killing of civilians located in a non-military target.

A new, supposedly "balanced" German film set during the Dresden bombing made its debut at the European Film Market at the Berlin Film Festival.

i've never watched farscape...

but maybe I should. According to this quiz, it scores as my most compatible sci-fi ship crew. Firefly did come up a close second, so I'll stick with that.

Spotted via Professor Bainbridge.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

the gang that couldn't shoot straight

I've always thought of Cheney and the rest of the neocon Bush Regime as "The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight", but little did I know just how accurate that was until now!

Saturday, February 11, 2006

welfare kings

Last night's 20/20 was a re-run of an earlier John Stossel special called "Myths, Lies and Nasty Behaviour". The best part was No. 5, "Welfare for Farmers":
Some subsidies do go to family farms, like one run by Fred and Larry Starrh. But does that entitle them to $3.5 million of your money? That's what they've received over seven years.

I called them welfare queens — and they objected. "Change it to king," Larry Starrh joked, "Welfare kings. Because 'queens' is bad in California, believe me."
Stossel later says, "Subsidies are a like a heroin fix". What a great line! And he clearly lays out how one intervention prompts another. It was amazing to hear the farmers laugh and exclaim, "Well I totally disagree with you John, and the legislature is with us at this point, so we're winning, and you're losing"!

That was one of the best Stossel pieces in a long time and it reminded me of the classic Farm Fiasco, by James Bovard. Bovard meticulously lays out the disaster that Federal farm programs have been. My favorite bit from that book is the story of how the Feds decided to raise milk prices by buying a bunch of dairy cows and killing them, thereby flooding the beef market and ruining the businesses and lives of countless cattle ranchers. How could they not foresee the obvious consequences of their actions? How stupid could they possibly be?

in defense of sowell

Over at the Lew Rockwell Blog, a number of posters have taken Thomas Sowell to task for quite a few columns that defend Bush, torture, the NSA program and the Iraq war in general. I'm a big fan of Sowell's but he has clearly gone off the deep end in his various defenses of war and foreign intervention. The kindest explanation I can think of is that Sowell had drifted away from being anti-state to being anti-left. Currently, in Sowell's mind, if the Left is against something, then it must be good.

Unfortunately, too many libertarians think that it's worse to be a heretic than a pagan. Thus, libertarians like Sowell are often condemned in the most shrill terms for leaving the libertarian reservation. Indeed, Thomas DiLorenzo has gone off the deep end himself in his condemnation of Sowell:
[Sowell] has just written an entire book about why he hates the south and southerners. Amateurish pop sociology at its worst. Sowell is a vintage neocon and just another GOP puppet. I used to use his economics writings in my classes, but I'm throwing all his books in the trash.
I assume that DiLorenzo is talking about Black Rednecks, White Liberals, which came out last year. I haven't read the book, but clearly Mr. DiLorenzo has not either, otherwise he would not claim that a book with chapters entitled "Are Jews Generic?" and "Germans and History" is "an entire book about why he hates the south and southerners". Indeed, as far as I can tell, only the title essay is about the south and has little to do with Professor Sowell's alleged hatred. Rather, the title essay is about how current black culture, idolized by white liberals, is in fact derived from white southern culture. I have no idea whether that's true or not, but I don't detect any hatred.

Rather than throw Sowell's books in the trash, I suggest that libertarians, when given the chance, use gentle persuasion to urge all "liberventionists" to see the error of their ways.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

silly britney

Norman Singleton had this to say on the Lew Rockwell blog, in a post entitled "Silly Britney":
She thought the father of her baby was her husband, when it is actually the state. Hopefully, the investigation of whether Britney violated the state's rules forbidding a mother to hold her child in her lap while driving will teach her that she only controls her child's upbringing as long as her parenting has government approval.
Singleton is an excellent writer and thinker, and I always enjoy reading reading what he has to say. However, I think he is a bit off base on this one, so I sent him the following email:
Dear Mr. Singleton:

With regards to Britney Spears and her rights to drive around with her baby on her lap, please consider these points:

1) If Mrs. Spears had been involved in any type of frontal collision, her baby would very likely have received serious injury by banging against the steering wheel. If it was of sufficient force to deploy the driver's side airbag, the baby would likely be dead. (Air bags shouldn't be federally mandated as they are, but even without federal mandates, it is likely they would still exist in some form as a marketable safety item).

2) If the roads were privately owned and operated (as they should be), it is highly unlikely that there would be no rules against endangering children's lives by letting them ride on your lap a couple of inches from a deadly airbag. The road industry, like any other, would want to avoid liability and to develop a marketable reputation for safety. Nor is it likely that insurance companies would tolerate such stupid, reckless and costly behavior in the absence of state laws.

3) In a free society, there is no right to not be ridiculed for acting foolish. I have long desired to live in a world completely free of government, where people govern themselves by self-control (and the fear of being embarrassed or sued, where necessary). The potential for a photographer to snap a picture of you doing something foolish and reckless on a public road is exactly the type of thing that might persuade people from engaging in such activity, all without the need for government control of any kind.



Tuesday, February 07, 2006

quick, get me a mathematician! get me a scientist!

On today, Lew Rockwell has this piece which takes on the ridiculous notion that there is a shortage of mathematicians and scientists in the U.S.
Why do we keep falling for this? Once in every second-term presidency, the chief executive lectures the country about the impending disaster of a shortage of mathematicians and scientists. People think: oh no, we'd better get on the stick and create some in a hurry!

Thus does the President want to spend $50 billion over 10 years — a figure these people made up out of whole cloth — and we are all supposed to submit, cough up, and turn our sons and daughters into natural-science brainiacs. And the President is just sure that his great job-training mission is not limited to Silicon Valley but extends to all cities, rural areas, and ghettos in America.

He is not only raising false hopes, diverting career paths, and wasting money, he is raising a non-problem and purporting to solve it with a non-solution. The central-planning approach to boosting science was tried and failed in every totalitarian country, and the same will be true in nominally free ones as well. Still, it seems that megalomaniacs just can't resist the urge to push the idea, which is why mathematicians and scientists leftover from Soviet days are driving cabs and tending bars in today's Russia.
The rest is well worth reading. As a Ph.D. chemist, this whole myth of the math and science shortage has always been one of my pet peeves. When I was in grad school in the late 80's and early 90's, and chemistry jobs were not that easy to come by, I couldn't understand why all these advocates who supposedly represented scientists were pushing for more people to enter the sciences. In fact, once I successfully found employment, I soon thereafter cancelled my membership in the American Chemical Society (ACS), a major reason being that they harped on and on about the alleged shortage of chemists, while recent Ph.D. grads who had no interest in acedemic careers were going on to do one and sometimes multiple postdocs because the industry jobs were just not there. (I was lucky and went straight into industry). In fact, I do believe that the only real beneficiaries of increased numbers of chemistry graduate students were the graduate schools, as it helped keep the stipend wages down and guaranteed a continuous supply of cheap labor in the labs.

I also was not a fan of the organization's self-righteous advocacy for ever-higher federal research budgets - no matter how fast the budget would increase, the ACS would bitch that it was not enough.

Only later I found out, while reading Antony Sutton, that the ACS was founded by a Skull & Bonesman. Make of that what you will. The ACS certainly peforms some useful functions and I don't mean to portray it as pure evil, but it has most definitely played a role in perpetuating the myth of the math and science shortage.

Friday, February 03, 2006

attack of the gray whale

I just got back from vacationing in Maui, which explains my extended absence from the blog. I hope to get back to regular posting soon. I saw a lot of humpback whales, both from shore and ship. Here's a fascinating story about a gray whale that attacked a boat off the Santa Barbara coast.
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - A gray whale smashed into a 27-foot boat on an evening cruise, damaging the vessel and injuring one person, the boat's owner said.

The Bayliner was cruising off Leadbetter Beach shortly before 6 p.m. Wednesday when the whale came up from under its right bow, belly-flopped onto the boat and crushed its cabin, said boat owner Jerry Gormley.

"It pushed the boat down kind of sideways, then it came down on top," said Gormley, 55, who had taken his friends Bob and Vicki Thornburgh onto the water to watch the sunset.

The whale emerged from the water again and ran it's tail along the boat's flank, knocking over Bob Thornburgh, 50, and tearing down the vessel's railing, Gormley said.

The whale approached the boat a third time, settled beside it, and stared at Gormley, he said.

"You can look into most animals' eyes and see nothing," said Gormley, who estimated the whale was 30 feet long. "But not this one."

Gormley said his steering equipment and radar apparatus were destroyed, so he radioed for help. Larry Nufer, the Santa Barbara Harbor Patrol officer who responded, said he found a badly damaged vessel.

"The cabin top had broken totally off, and was floating away to the side," said Nufer. "There was whale skin and blubber embedded in the sides."

Bob Thornburgh was treated for cracked ribs at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, said his wife, Vicki, 45. She said it seemed like the whale had consciously collided with the boat.

"It wasn't like the whale didn't know we were there," she said.
But of course, humans are always evil and whales can do no wrong in the eyes of today's environmentalists, and researcher Wayne Perryman will have none of this talk about consciously colliding with the boat:
However, Wayne Perryman, a researcher with the National Marine Fisheries Service in San Diego, said that was unlikely.

He said the boaters probably encountered a gray whale, which are common off California this time of year, and rarely show aggressive behavior. The whale may have picked a spot to breach where the boat coincidentally happened to be, he said.

Gray whales are also known to approach boaters out of curiosity, which researchers call "friendly behavior," Perryman said.

"So when you're a great big animal, sometimes being 'friendly' can be damaging to something a lot smaller," he said.
Gimme a break. This whale attacked the boat TWICE, man, and then approached it again to stare down the passengers! Maybe most gray whales are friendly, but can't there be some meanies out there? And what's this nonsense that the whale "may have picked a spot to breach where the boat coincidentally happened to be"? Yeah, right, a whale is going to pick a spot to breach and have no freakin' idea that a large boat just happens to be in the same spot - Mr. Perryman must think whales are pretty damn stupid.