Monday, October 29, 2007

Lies that feel good

John Hinderaker writes:
It is the luxury of knowing they are bullshitting that allows American liberals to claim that their freedoms are going up in smoke and that dissent is being suppressed, when in fact, "dissent" is socially mandated in polite society from Manhattan to Marin County.

I would add this parallel: any survey of Europeans you look at will say that they think the United States is the biggest danger to world peace, worse than North Korea or the Islamofascists. But they don't mean it. If they did, they would be clamoring for their own countries to re-arm. But the very people who claim to believe that the U.S. is bent on world domination are the same ones who don't want their own governments to spend a dollar on defense. They are entirely content to let us keep the peace. Which means that what they tell pollsters about threats to world peace, like what liberals say about threats to their civil liberties, is, to put it politely, disingenuous.

2007: Lowest hurricane activity in 30 years

According to the Center for Ocean-Atmospheric Prediction Studies at Florida State University:
Unless a dramatic and perhaps historical flurry of activity occurs in the next 9 weeks, 2007 will rank as a historically inactive TC year for the Northern Hemisphere as a whole. During the past 30 years, only 1977, 1981, and 1983 have had less activity to date (January-TODAY, Accumulated Cyclone Energy). However, the year is not over...
In An inconvenient Truth, Al Gore blamed Hurricane Katrina on global warming which was supposed to cause ever increasing hurricane activity. How long do you think it will be before the media is promoting a new story about lack of hurricances being proof of global warming? Or will they simply switch to global warming causing Santa Ana wind induced fires instead?

Sunday, October 28, 2007

In government we trust

HillaryCare update from the UK Telegraph:
Record numbers of Britons are flying abroad for medical treatment to escape NHS waiting lists and the rising threat of hospital superbugs.

Thousands of "health tourists" are going as far as India, Malaysia and South Africa for major operations – such is their despair over the quality of health services.

The first survey of Britons opting for treatment overseas shows that fears of hospital infections and frustration with NHS waiting lists are fuelling the increasing trend.

More than 70,000 Britons will have treatment abroad this year – a figure that is forecast to rise to almost 200,000 by the end of the decade.

Hat tip Bookworm Room.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The possibilities are endless

On Air America, Randi Rhodes proposes that maybe Blackwater is behind the San Diego arson. She is not alone in this belief.

Why do we pay taxes?

According to the Washington Post, some environmentalists are upset at some of the cost of fighting fires in southern California:
Some of the areas hit hardest by this week's fires are near Lake Arrowhead in San Bernardino County. The area is thick with vacation homes, a sore spot for environmentalists who complain that federal taxpayers foot the bill for protecting houses near national forests.

"These smoke jumpers drop out of the sky miraculously to fight the fire for you, so there's incentive for county commissioners and land use departments to withhold the permitting of homes," said Ray Rasker of Headwaters Economics. He was reached in Washington, where he was presenting a study showing that 50 to 95 percent of Forest Service firefighting costs went to protect private property. [emphasis added]

Taxes should be raised, Democrats say, because the government "needs" the money to provide us with services such as police and fire. It turns out, though, that, while Democrats are always enthusiastic about higher taxes, they resent the fact, here anyway, that a portion of the money is spent providing services for taxpayers.

They might be happy, however, if more money were spent preventing either the government or private homeowners from building firebreaks or otherwise managing the fire risk around their homes.

Liberal racism

Democrats just can't help themselves but to see everything in racial terms as Sen. Biden does here as reported by the Washington Post:
After a lengthy critique of Bush administration education policies, Biden attempted to explain why some schools perform better than others -- in Iowa, for instance, compared with the District. "There's less than 1 percent of the population of Iowa that is African American. There is probably less than 4 or 5 percent that are minorities. What is in Washington? So look, it goes back to what you start off with, what you're dealing with," Biden said.
The Biden campaign clarified this saying that by "what you're dealing with," the good senator meant "nutrition" and "pre-K," not race.

Is BDS worth paying for?

Don Surber speculates on whether the New York Times might be up for sale. One of his commenters, "Yorick," captures what I think it the problem with the current MSM business model:
I usually bought a NYT Sunday edition, which would supply bathroom reads for the week. I did this even though I was quite aware of the bias and seldom read the editorial page. Then I needed to know the dynamics behind the sub prime thing and real estate bubble on account of I own a property and need to make an informed decision. I went to buy the Times and then realized that whatever was written there would be slanted to game the ‘08 election and was therefore worthless. Haven’t even been tempted to buy a copy since.
Opinions, bias, and BDS are cheap. If newspapers are going to convince people to pay for subscriptions over the long run, they need, in my opinion, to provide news that is reliable enough to bank on.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The spin keeps turning

The New York Times' Healthy Living blog says that ketchup is a vegetable:
Switching to organic is tough for many families who don’t want to pay higher prices or give up their favorite foods. But by choosing organic versions of just a few foods that you eat often, you can increase the percentage of organic food in your diet without big changes to your shopping cart or your spending. ....

4. Ketchup: For some families, ketchup accounts for a large part of the household vegetable intake. About 75 percent of tomato consumption is in the form of processed tomatoes, including juice, tomato paste and ketchup. Notably, recent research has shown organic ketchup has about double the antioxidants of conventional ketchup.

25 years ago, the Times claimed that only evil Reagan-Republicans would think such "heartless foolishness."

Big brother wants to watch you

Italy's Council of Ministers approved a draft of the Levi-Prodi law which would require "anyone with a blog or a website has to register it with the ROC, a register of the Communications Authority, produce certificates, pay a tax, even if they[sic.] provide information without any intention to make money." The law will not take effect unless/until it is approved by Italy's parliament.

Risk assessment and the human mind

Bruce Schneier, a computer security consultant, finds that people do a poor job of assessing computer security risks. Rather than blaming the problem on poor training that computer users received from computer consultants, he blames it on human nature. He writes:
  • People exaggerate spectacular but rare risks and downplay common risks. They worry more about earthquakes than they do about slipping on the bathroom floor, even though the latter kills far more people than the former. ....
  • People have trouble estimating risks for anything not exactly like their normal situation. Americans worry more about the risk of mugging in a foreign city, no matter how much safer it might be than where they live back home. ....
  • Personified risks are perceived to be greater than anonymous risks. Joseph Stalin said, “A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic.” ....
  • People underestimate risks they willingly take and overestimate risks in situations they can’t control. When people voluntarily take a risk, they tend to underestimate it. When they have no choice but to take the risk, they tend to overestimate it. Terrorists are scary because they attack arbitrarily, and from nowhere. Commercial airplanes are perceived as riskier than automobiles, because the controls are in someone else’s hands -- even though they’re much safer per passenger mile. ....
  • Last, people overestimate risks that are being talked about and remain an object of public scrutiny. News, by definition, is about anomalies. Endless numbers of automobile crashes hardly make news like one airplane crash does. The West Nile virus outbreak in 2002 killed very few people, but it worried many more because it was in the news day after day.
He has some valid points. I think that he misses a subtlety on personified threats: Conservatives tend to focus on personified threats (Hitler, Stalin, bin Laden, Pol Pot) which liberals tend to minimize. On the other hand, liberals focus on unseen/anonymous threats (global warming, the coming ice age, acid rain) of which conservatives tend to be skeptical.

On some points, he appears to miss the boat. For example, he writes:

The final death toll from 9/11 was less than half of the initial estimates, but that didn’t make people feel less at risk.
The reason to take the terrorist threat seriously is not the death toll of 9-11. Rather, it is the possibility that similarly determined terrorists may sneak a nuclear bomb across our borders.

Friday, October 19, 2007

It's 6pm: Do you know where your talk show host is?

Air America host Randi Rhodes explains (hat tip: MM; story background here.) what happened to her last Sunday at 6pm:
I was watching football at an Irish Pub and I went out to smoke a cigarette and the next thing I knew I was on the cement face-down.... I hadn't eaten anything all day.
Drinking on an empty stomach and she ends up face down? That may be painful but it is not necessarily mysterious or surprising. (Aside: why is she still smoking? The Surgeon General's report came out four decades ago.) Why did she initially claim that she was mugged? She had to e-mail her employer that she wouldn't be at work Monday:
I didn't know how to explain finding myself in this position after a beautiful day in NYC so went I wrote what I thought was the best explanation
So she decided to blame someone else, a "mugger." How liberal not to take responsibility. One thing about this episode and the media coverage bothered her:
The saddest part to me was no one ask me if I was alright.
A strange complaint coming from someone who has done her part to coarsen public discourse: she is the recipient of a complaint from the Anti-Defamation League that she belittled the holocaust. She is also the one who claimed that Pres. Bush "gets joy out of the [Hurricane Katrina victims] dying, because they are Democrat voters." Her complaints about the media continue:
The fact that some of you were so rude to my building staff who loves me is just disgraceful.
Yes, Ms. Rhodes' building staff loves her. To her credit, her claim is much more modest than Evita Peron's or Hillary Clinton's more all encompassing claims to be "grateful for the love of the people."

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Unintended consequences

According to the Wall Street Journal, the passage of McCain-Feingold somehow didn't remove money from politics:
WASHINGTON -- The bundling of political donations once was an innocuous play in the game book of Washington political operatives. Now, the fund-raising practice has grown so widespread, and some of its practitioners so brazen, that bundling has become the chief source of abuse in the American campaign-finance system.

The strange case of Norman Hsu, the textile-importer-turned-fugitive who cobbled together $800,000 in contributions for Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's presidential campaign, is the tip of the iceberg. Candidates for offices from county commissioner to U.S. president are increasingly turning to bundlers -- individuals who ask friends, family and business associates for contributions to their candidate of choice -- to help bring in the tremendous amounts of cash now needed to wage political campaigns.....

In this high-pressure, low-disclosure environment, the practice has increasingly evolved into a method for disguising illegal donations. In several cases already this year, campaign bundlers have admitted to making contributions in the names of others to get around caps, or coercing employees to give.

The natural result of passing a complex new law is the creation of complex new ways to get around that law.

Is the environment is only harmed by things that are 'scary'?

The LA Times writes that, according to the UN, livestock contribute more to global warming than all transportation put together:
A report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization identified livestock as one of the two or three top contributors to the world's most serious environmental problems, including water pollution and species loss. In terms of climate change, livestock are a threat not only because of the gases coming from their stomachs and manure but because of deforestation, as land is cleared to make way for pastures, and the amount of energy needed to produce the crops that feed the animals.

All told, livestock are responsible for 18% of greenhouse-gas emissions worldwide, according to the U.N. -- more than all the planes, trains and automobiles on the planet. And it's going to get a lot worse. As living standards rise in the developing world, so does its fondness for meat and dairy.

Will world governments take action? I doubt it. Enviro-disaster scenarios that excite the popular imagination are usually related to industrial machinery and particularly power conversion machinery. Examples include nuclear power, acid rain, fluorocarbon-ozone and, most recently, global warming. Food-scares usually involve the food as poison with the poison part usually due to industrialization, such as "fast food" or the use of alar on apples. Scare mongers are unlikely to get excited about cow effluents, no matter how real or important, as long as the out-gassing is "natural." If cow-belching could be blamed, say, on an industrial chemical additive to their feed, then the scare mongers just might take it seriously.

Those who love to hate, II

Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) comments on Pres. Bush's support of funding for the military:
But you’re going to spend it to blow up innocent people if he can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the President’s amusement....

The truth is that Bush just likes to blow things up in Iraq, ....

The idea that US soldiers are killed in Iraq "for the President’s amusement" is pure fantasy. The psychology of it seems strikingly similar to Tuesday's outburst by Air America host Jon Elliott who invented a fantasy about his co-host being attacked and injured by "right-wing, hate machine" muggers. I submit that imagining/fantasizing that their political opponents to be pure evil makes liberals, such as Stark and Elliott, feel better about themselves. In such a fantasy world, the liberal's cause is just and he need have no self-doubts. This makes him free to ignore all the complicated issues and nagging questions that occur when issues are addressed in a serious adult manner.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Some answers are best left unknown

James Taranto notes "the liberal war on science" (scroll down) both in the opposition to academic research on the effects of affirmative action and in its treatment of global warming.

Nationalized dentistry

The Guardian (UK) reports on the state of socialized dentistry in Britain:
Large numbers of people are going without dental treatment and some even report extracting their own teeth because they cannot find an NHS dentist in their area, a survey reveals today.
The survey found some innovative self-treatments:
6% of the respondents said they were self-treating, which often included pulling out their own troublesome teeth. "Fourteen teeth have had to be removed by myself using pliers," said one Lancashire respondent. ....

Some of the respondents show considerable ingenuity. "Filled own teeth - clove oil and Polyfilla," said one in Essex. Another fixed a crown with Superglue and a third used a screwdriver to scrape off plaque.

When will Sen. Clinton expand her plan to include dentistry like our betters have across the Atlantic?

Those who love to hate

Air America host Randi Rhodes didn't show up for work today:
Fellow host Jon Elliott claimed on the liberal radio network that Rhodes had been mugged while walking her dog, Simon, on Sunday night. Elliot, who said Rhodes lost several teeth in the attack, waxed about a possible conspiracy.

"Is this an attempt by the right-wing, hate machine to silence one of our own?" he asked on the air, according to Talking Radio, a blog. "Are we threatening them? Are they afraid that we’re winning? Are they trying to silence intimidate us?"

The problem with Elliott's story is that Ms. Rhodes was not mugged: she fell:
Rhodes' lawyer told the Daily News she was injured in a fall while walking her dog. He said she's not sure what happened, and only knows that she fell down and is in a lot of pain. The lawyer said Rhodes expects to be back on the air Thursday. He stressed there is no indication she was targeted or that she was the victim of a "hate crime."
So what explains Mr. Elliott's outburst? He was not alone in his paranoid fantasies of persecution. Liberals across the internet had the same reaction.

One explanation is projection. Throwing pies at conservative speakers is a popular way for liberals to express themselves. Just last Thursday, Barnes and Noble reportedly had to call security because the intellectuals on New York's Upper West Side couldn't handle listening to a neo-conservative talk. It is natural for them to imagine (`project') that conservatives would express themselves the same way.

Having watched the faces of people who express such fantasies, an additional factor appears to me to be more important. When they imagine their opponents as pure evil, they feel better about themselves. It improves their self-esteem to believe that the other half of America is filled with hate.

PREVIOUSLY, we have discussed psychological projection in relation to Islamism, The New Republic, Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), and Alec Baldwin. The comfort that liberals derive from imagining the worst in those who disagree with them was discussed previously here.

UPDATE: Reportedly, Randi Rhodes, initially uncertain about what happened, told Air America that she was mugged. Elliott still appears to be the author of the fantasy about the right-wing hate-machine attack. Ms. Rhodes statement is quite interesting, worth a listen.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Domestic spying revealed

Don Van Natta Jr and Jeff Gerth, both veteran New York Times reporters, claim that Hillary Clinton was monitoring domestic phone calls without a warrant:
Hillary’s defense activities ranged from the inspirational to the microscopic to the down and dirty. She received memos about the status of various press inquiries; she vetted senior campaign aides; and she listened to a secretly recorded audiotape of a phone conversation of Clinton critics plotting their next attack.

The tape contained discussions of another woman who might surface with allegations about an affair with Bill. Bill’s supporters monitored frequencies used by cell phones, and the tape was made during one of those monitoring sessions.”

Van Natta and Gerth are hawking a book, an activity that tends to lead to questionable assertions. It will be interesting to see if they have any facts or on-the-record sources to support their claims.

TNR's Projector-in-chief

Marty Peretz of Editor-in-Chief of The New Republic comments on Al Gore's Nobel:
Yes, the prize is rightly his. No one has devoted himself with such dedication and intellectual probity to a cause as important as this one. No one. So he deserves the Nobel. And the country deserves Al Gore to make another run at the presidency, he having lost his last try through chicanery and the arrogance of a party for which lying is second nature. Or maybe first.
It was The New Republic which published dishonest stories by Stephen Glass and Scott Beauchamp. When Editor-in-Chief Peretz talks of parties for whom lying is second or first nature, it appears to be a case of psychological projection.

Special prosecutors have the law on their side

Prof. Tim Wu of the Columbia Law School explains the arbitrary nature of the US's ossified legal system:
At the federal prosecutor's office in the Southern District of New York, the staff, over beer and pretzels, used to play a darkly humorous game. Junior and senior prosecutors would sit around, and someone would name a random celebrity—say, Mother Theresa or John Lennon.

It would then be up to the junior prosecutors to figure out a plausible crime for which to indict him or her. The crimes were not usually rape, murder, or other crimes you'd see on Law & Order but rather the incredibly broad yet obscure crimes that populate the U.S. Code like a kind of jurisprudential minefield: Crimes like "false statements" (a felony, up to five years), "obstructing the mails" (five years), or "false pretenses on the high seas" (also five years). The trick and the skill lay in finding the more obscure offenses that fit the character of the celebrity and carried the toughest sentences. The, result, however, was inevitable: "prison time."

We have seen this played out practice when special prosecutors have been appointed.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Poster child hypocrisy

There are many politicians or policy experts that the Democrats could have selected to reply to Pres. Geo. Bush's radio address on the SCHIP government health care program. Instead, the Democrat party chose as their spokesperson as 12-year boy named Graeme Frost from a family with a tragic story. They chose this boy and the Frost family agreed to have him speak so that, as E. J. Dionne wrote, "the public would know that real people lie behind the [SCHIPS] acronym." This might have been good politics except that they apparently did not check out the family's story. With a 3,000 square foot house, four children in private school, and substantial real estate investments, the family does not meet a normal person's idea of an impoverished family in need of government welfare. Instead, the Frost family appears to support Pres. Bush's claim that too much of SCHIPS money is being diverted to the middle class rather than the poor who are in genuine need.

Rather than admitting that the Democrats didn't do their homework on this one, Speaker Pelosi claims that anyone who questions the Democrats's story is "attack[ing] a 12-year-old." E. J. Dionne charges that "the right" is "attacking the Frost family." The Democrats act as if their use of Graeme is their shield against any questioning of their policy recommendations. There is some hypocrisy in this because many prominent Democratic blogs did make personal attacks a kid that the Republicans had used as a poster child.

The attacks lack any semblance of logic. Consider E. J. Dionne:
Most conservatives favor government-supported vouchers that would help Graeme attend his private school, but here they turn around and criticize him for . . . attending a private school.
No one is criticizing the boy for attending private school. They are critizing the Maryand SCHIPs program for providing welfare to a family that has the resources to send their children to private schools. E. J. Dionne goes on to claim:
[C]onservatives tell us how much they love homeownership, and then assail the Frosts for having the nerve to own a home. I suppose they should have to sell that, too.
Again, no one is "assail[ing] the Frosts" for having the resources to have multiple real-estate investments with an 'assessed' value of $460,000. (Depending on local rules, market values are often much larger than 'assessed' values.) Conservatives question whether the government should be giving such people welfare.

The consistent feature in these arguments is self-delusion: the response to an honest argument is create an alternate world in which those arguments don't exist. Rather than defend welfare for the middle-class, they claim that "meanies" are "attacking" a child. This may provide E. J. Dionne and others with comfort but it is not the response expected of mature adults.

MSM v. Iraq: update

The MSM is not yet discussing the main point of Gov. Sanchez' recent speech but the Washington Post is admitting that the good news from Iraq is becoming "hard to dispute." More here.

Candidates for a genuine peace prize are ignored while a politicizer of science is honored

From today's Wall Street Journal:
In Olso Friday, the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize was not awarded to the Burmese monks whose defiance against, and brutalization at the hands of, the country's military junta in recent weeks captured the attention of the Free World.

The prize was also not awarded to Morgan Tsvangirai, Arthur Mutambara and other Zimbabwe opposition leaders who were arrested and in some cases beaten by police earlier this year while protesting peacefully against dictator Robert Mugabe.

Or to Father Nguyen Van Ly, a Catholic priest in Vietnam arrested this year and sentenced to eight years in prison for helping the pro-democracy group Block 8406.

Or to Wajeha al-Huwaider and Fawzia al-Uyyouni, co-founders of the League of Demanders of Women's Right to Drive Cars in Saudi Arabia, who are waging a modest struggle with grand ambitions to secure basic rights for women in that Muslim country.

Or to Colombian President Àlvaro Uribe, who has fought tirelessly to end the violence wrought by left-wing terrorists and drug lords in his country.

Or to Garry Kasparov and the several hundred Russians who were arrested in April, and are continually harassed, for resisting President Vladimir Putin's slide toward authoritarian rule.

Or to the people of Iraq, who bravely work to rebuild and reunite their country amid constant threats to themselves and their families from terrorists who deliberately target civilians.

Or to Presidents Viktor Yushchenko and Mikheil Saakashvili who, despite the efforts of the Kremlin to undermine their young states, stayed true to the spirit of the peaceful "color" revolutions they led in Ukraine and Georgia and showed that democracy can put down deep roots in Russia's backyard.

Or to Britain's Tony Blair, Ireland's Bertie Ahern and the voters of Northern Ireland, who in March were able to set aside decades of hatred to establish joint Catholic-Protestant rule in Northern Ireland.

Or to thousands of Chinese bloggers who run the risk of arrest by trying to bring uncensored information to their countrymen.

Or to scholar and activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim, jailed presidential candidate Ayman Nour and other democracy campaigners in Egypt.

Or, posthumously, to lawmakers Walid Eido, Pierre Gemayel, Antoine Ghanem, Rafik Hariri, George Hawi and Gibran Tueni; journalist Samir Kassir; and other Lebanese citizens who've been assassinated since 2005 for their efforts to free their country from Syrian control.

Or to the Reverend Phillip Buck; Pastor Chun Ki Won and his organization, Durihana; Tim Peters and his Helping Hands Korea; and Liberty in North Korea, who help North Korean refugees escape to safety in free nations.

Instead the Norwegian politicians awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize to a politician, Al Gore, for his views on science, views which many genuine scientists doubt and which Prof. William Gray, the father of hurricane forecasting, considers "foolish":
"We'll look back on all of this in 10 or 15 years and realise how foolish it was," Dr Gray said.

During his speech to a crowd of about 300 that included meteorology students and a host of professional meteorologists, Dr Gray also said those who had linked global warming to the increased number of hurricanes in recent years were in error.

He cited statistics showing there were 101 hurricanes from 1900 to 1949, in a period of cooler global temperatures, compared to 83 from 1957 to 2006 when the earth warmed.

"The human impact on the atmosphere is simply too small to have a major effect on global temperatures," Dr Gray said.

He said his beliefs had made him an outsider in popular science.

"It bothers me that my fellow scientists are not speaking out against something they know is wrong," he said. "But they also know that they'd never get any grants if they spoke out. I don't care about grants."

By the way, the power of government grants to buy silence from genuine scientists is echoed by Dr. Richard Lindzen who is the Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT. As Prof. Lindzen writes, the number of dollars involved is quite large:
Ambiguous scientific statements about climate are hyped by those with a vested interest in alarm, thus raising the political stakes for policy makers who provide funds for more science research to feed more alarm to increase the political stakes. After all, who puts money into science--whether for AIDS, or space, or climate--where there is nothing really alarming? Indeed, the success of climate alarmism can be counted in the increased federal spending on climate research from a few hundred million dollars pre-1990 to $1.7 billion today.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Nobel prize for best politics

Jeff Jacoby explains the Nobel peace prizes are often so foolishly awarded:
[I]t is worth nothing an important difference between the peace prize and the other Nobel prizes. The Swedish scholars and scientists who make up the committees that award the science, literature, and economics prizes routinely choose honorees whose greatest work was done years, even decades, earlier. ....

By contrast, the Norwegian committee entrusted with awarding the peace prize comprises politicians, not scholars. Like politicians everywhere, the peace prize committee tends to be more interested in what the headlines will say today than in what historians will believe 20 -- or 100 -- years from now. [emphasis added]

For more on the Nobel "peace" prize , see Jesse Walker and James Taranto.

Words that the unbiased press is unlikely to report

Today, General Ricardo Sanchez told a conference of reporters and editors what he thought of them:
The death knell of your ethics has been enabled by your parent organizations who have chosen to align themselves with political agendas. What is clear to me is that you are perpetuating the corrosive partisan politics that is destroying our country and killing our service members who are at war. [emphasis added]

More than one way to legislate defeat

During World War I, 1.5 million Armenians died in Turkey while being relocated. Turkey says that the tragedy was due to war-time shortages. Turkey adamantly rejects claims that the deaths were deliberate. In fact, anyone in Turkey making such claims is prosecuted. Now, the Democrats in the House are debating a resolution that declares the deaths to be "genocide." Why bring this up now, almost a century later? CNN provides the answer:
The Pentagon says 70 percent of the military's cargo heading into Iraq either flies into or over Turkey.
Turkey's cooperation is also necessary for resolving border issues between Turkey and Iraq's Kurdish population.

Be kind to your inmates

In the LA County Jail, inmates have been sleeping on a mattress on the floor. The courts have declared this to be "cruel and unusual punishment," not because of discomfort or hygiene, but because of the indignity:
That many individuals, for cultural or health reasons, choose to sleep on the floor in no way detracts from this point. A predilection for camping under the stars or the soothing touch a hard futon may have on a sore back is entirely different in kind from stripping an individual of the option of using a bed. Quite simply, that a custom of leaving inmates nowhere to sleep but the floor constitutes cruel and unusual punishment is nothing short of self-evident.
If George Bush had put the mattresses on the floor, it wouldn't be "cruel and unusual." It would be "torture."

Fairness Doctrine as campaign tool

An unusual bit of honesty from Democrats:
Bill Ruder, an Assistant Secretary of Commerce in the Kennedy years and an acknowledged leader in public relations, says frankly, "Our massive strategy [in the early 1960s] was to use the Fairness Doctrine to challenge and harass right-wing broadcasters and hope that the challenges would be so costly to them that they would be inhibited and decide it was too expensive to continue." ...
More at The Volokh Conspiracy.

Another National Health Care System Horror Story

See Ed Morrissey's Captain's Quarters.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Al Qaeda and its Taliban-style oppression

The UK Telegraph reports that Iraq's Sunnis have found out what al Qaeda is really like and have decided to switch their allegiance to the US. Omar Fadhil, of Iraq The Model, has more on Al Qaeda's latest tactics.

Early reports say UK High Court found eleven inaccuracies in Gore film

The Daily Mail (UK) reports:
Schools will have to issue a warning before they show pupils Al Gore's controversial film about global warming, a judge indicated yesterday.

The move follows a High Court action by a father who accused the Government of 'brainwashing' children with propaganda by showing it in the classroom.

Stewart Dimmock said the former U.S. Vice-President's documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, is unfit for schools because it is politically biased and contains serious scientific inaccuracies and 'sentimental mush'.

The High Court's Justice Burton decided that the film promoted “partisan political views.” According to the plaintiffs, the full decision has not been released but the court has determined:

In order for the film to be shown, the Government must first amend their Guidance Notes to Teachers to make clear that 1.) The Film is a political work and promotes only one side of the argument. 2.) If teachers present the Film without making this plain they may be in breach of section 406 of the Education Act 1996 and guilty of political indoctrination. 3.) Eleven inaccuracies have to be specifically drawn to the attention of school children.

The inaccuracies are:

  • The film claims that melting snows on Mount Kilimanjaro evidence global warming. The Government’s expert was forced to concede that this is not correct.
  • The film suggests that evidence from ice cores proves that rising CO2 causes temperature increases over 650,000 years. The Court found that the film was misleading: over that period the rises in CO2 lagged behind the temperature rises by 800-2000 years.
  • The film uses emotive images of Hurricane Katrina and suggests that this has been caused by global warming. The Government’s expert had to accept that it was “not possible” to attribute one-off events to global warming.
  • The film shows the drying up of Lake Chad and claims that this was caused by global warming. The Government’s expert had to accept that this was not the case.
  • The film claims that a study showed that polar bears had drowned due to disappearing arctic ice. It turned out that Mr Gore had misread the study: in fact four polar bears drowned and this was because of a particularly violent storm.
  • The film threatens that global warming could stop the Gulf Stream throwing Europe into an ice age: the Claimant’s evidence was that this was a scientific impossibility.
  • The film blames global warming for species losses including coral reef bleaching. The Government could not find any evidence to support this claim.
  • The film suggests that the Greenland ice covering could melt causing sea levels to rise dangerously. The evidence is that Greenland will not melt for millennia.
  • The film suggests that the Antarctic ice covering is melting, the evidence was that it is in fact increasing.
  • The film suggests that sea levels could rise by 7m causing the displacement of millions of people. In fact the evidence is that sea levels are expected to rise by about 40cm over the next hundred years and that there is no such threat of massive migration.
  • The film claims that rising sea levels has caused the evacuation of certain Pacific islands to New Zealand. The Government are unable to substantiate this and the Court observed that this appears to be a false claim.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Working for the greater good

The Democrat strategy on Iraq is shifting again, according to Martin Kady at the Politico:
Congressional Democrats rode anti-war sentiment to victory last fall — but they are staking their success in the final months of this year’s calendar on more traditional domestic issues amid concern that the war may not be the potent political issue it once was by Election Day 2008.

With few Iraq votes expected in the next several weeks — a marked
departure from the first nine months of the new Democratic-controlled
Congress — Democrats are trying to build an agenda that’s heavy on
health care, community policing, housing, tax reform and other issues
In 1998, Democrats led the Senate to declare that overthrowing Saddam was US policy. When time came to vote on the war, many prominent Democrats, including Senators Edwards and Kerry, voted for the War. After the war started, they decided to oppose it loudly. This summer, they were concerned (that "would be a real problem for us") that the US might achieve victory in Iraq before the Democrats could legislate defeat. Now, after with their poll numbers have continued to drop, they are going to give the war the silent treatment. The one consistent point throughout all these maneuvers on matters of war and peace seems to that their aim is mere short-term political gain, very short-term.

Free speech and its enemies

The American Spectator reports:
Rep. Henry Waxman has asked his investigative staff to begin compiling reports on Limbaugh, and fellow radio hosts Sean Hannity and Mark Levin based on transcripts from their shows, and to call in Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin to discuss the so-called "Fairness Doctrine."

"Limbaugh isn't the only one who needs to be made uncomfortable about what he says on the radio," says a House leadership source. "We don't have as big a megaphone as these guys, but this all political, and we'll do what we can to gain the advantage. If we can take them off their game for a while, it will help our folks out there on the campaign trail."

Previously in this series on opposition to free speech in the US:
University upset at free speech
The selective right of free speech
The Right of Free Speech, Selectively Applied
Tolerating free speech, IV
Tolerating free speech, III
More on tolerating free speech
Those who cannot tolerate free speech

How reporters rationalize their bias

On Sunday on Howard Kurtz's "Reliable Sources" (CNN), Robin Wright of the Washington Post and Barbara Starr of CNN explain that good news from Iraq should not be reported because one must be "skeptical" an recognize it might not represent a "trend" or it might be inaccurate. However, bad news should "certainly" be reported, apparently without asking about whether it is accurate or represents a "trend." See the transcript.

"Kingdom right here on Earth"

According to CNN's Political Ticker:
Obama told an evangelical church in South Carolina: "I am confident we can create a Kingdom right here on Earth."
The idea that human society is perfectible ("Kingdom right here on Earth") is common among liberals. This failure to understand human nature is why their policies usually suffer from 'unintended' and sometimes quite disastrous 'side-effects' despite liberalism's loudly proclaimed 'good intentions.'

Separately, and in the same speech, Sen. Obama claims: "At least in politics, the perception was that the Democrats were fearful of talking about faith." This is delusional: Democrats have not been "fearful" of talking about faith. They have talked much about it, mostly about how they despise such superstitions and how Christians, as they see them, are intolerant. Intolerance was in fact the claim that Obama used next in his speech talking about "Republicans who had a particular brand of faith that oftentimes seemed intolerant or pushed people away."

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Will he be looking for a new job soon?

CNN meteorologist Rob Marciano talks about "political bias" and "scientific inaccuracies" in Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth."

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The state of science in the Islamic world

A Pakistani physics professors explains the state of science, as he sees it, in the countries of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). To begin, there is very little science:
A study by academics at the International Islamic University Malaysia2 showed that OIC countries have 8.5 scientists, engineers, and technicians per 1000 population, compared with a world average of 40.7, and 139.3 for countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. (For more on the OECD, see Forty-six Muslim countries contributed 1.17% of the world's science literature, whereas 1.66% came from India alone and 1.48% from Spain. Twenty Arab countries contributed 0.55%, compared with 0.89% by Israel alone. The US NSF records that of the 28 lowest producers of scientific articles in 2003, half belong to the OIC.3
He places the blame for this sad state of science on the rise of Islamic fundamentalism:
Science is fundamentally an idea-system that has grown around a sort of skeleton wire frame—the scientific method. The deliberately cultivated scientific habit of mind is mandatory for successful work in all science and related fields where critical judgment is essential. Scientific progress constantly demands that facts and hypotheses be checked and rechecked, and is unmindful of authority. But there lies the problem: The scientific method is alien to traditional, unreformed religious thought. Only the exceptional individual is able to exercise such a mindset in a society in which absolute authority comes from above, questions are asked only with difficulty, the penalties for disbelief are severe, the intellect is denigrated, and a certainty exists that all answers are already known and must only be discovered.

Science finds every soil barren in which miracles are taken literally and seriously and revelation is considered to provide authentic knowledge of the physical world. If the scientific method is trashed, no amount of resources or loud declarations of intent to develop science can compensate. In those circumstances, scientific research becomes, at best, a kind of cataloging or "butterfly-collecting" activity. It cannot be a creative process of genuine inquiry in which bold hypotheses are made and checked.
He, in turn, blames the rise of Islamic fundamentalism on the West:
In the mid-1950s all Muslim leaders were secular, and secularism in Islam was growing. What changed? Here the West must accept its share of responsibility for reversing the trend. Iran under Mohammed Mossadeq, Indonesia under Ahmed Sukarno, and Egypt under Gamal Abdel Nasser are examples of secular but nationalist governments that wanted to protect their national wealth. Western imperial greed, however, subverted and overthrew them.

HillaryCare will stop this

Belinda Stronach, a Canadian MP and a supporter of Canada's socialized medicine, flew to the US for treatment.
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