Reasonable Nuts

Sometimes nuts. Always reasonable. We are REASONABLE NUTS.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

WTWNNILSL Update for 2006.11.30

[note: cross-posted at TIFI]

As I posted a rather long current-events based conspiratorial screed yesterday (What The World Needs Now Is Love, Sweet Love - or abbreviated, WTWNNILSL), it occurred to me I could keep track of the development of the conclusions drawn by tracking events as they unfold. In this vein, here are (some of) today's events:

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The $ecret

Scott Adams recently said of Tom Cruise and Scientology "Tom had the supreme bad luck of picking the only religion in the world that isn’t true." I think I found another candidate:



Not to belittle the advice of the author, the philospher, the metaphysician, the visionary (and the other so-called gods of our legends, though gods they were . . .), but I already have an ask for anything and you'll get it system working for me.

What the world needs now is love, sweet love: Christopher

[note: cross-posted on TIFI]

It seems that the problems of the world are getting so great that only another Burt Bacharach song can save us. What the heck is going on? OK - that was way too big of a question. Let me break it down into more manageable bites, some, none, or all of which may or may not be connected (how's that for non-committal to a conspiracy?):

  1. Prominent Russians, many of them critics of the policies of Vladimir Putin, have been dropping like the prices on Kevin Federline CDs. Perhaps at a slower clip, these would together pass under the radar. However, the multitude is significantly challenging Occam's razor. Some have suggested Putin is being set up. This sounds conspicuously like the premise of the screenplay adaptation of a Tom Clancy novel. Here's the (growing) list:
    • Yegor Gaidar, Russia’s former prime minister and the architect of the country’s market reforms.
    • Polonium 210, has been found in the body of dead ex-Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko.
    • The business chief of Russian news agency Itar-Tass, Anatoly Voronin, killed in central Moscow.
    • President Vladimir Putin vowed on Tuesday to hunt down the killers of journalist Anna Politkovskaya.
    • Russian lawmaker and billionaire industrialist, Suleiman Kerimov crashes car in France.
  2. Russia's long-time tacit and now overt support of Iran's nuclear (and thus other) ambitions. Russian nuclear chief to visit Iran.
  3. The dollar has hit a 15 year low against the Pound Sterling - and is near an all-time low against the Euro. Gold markets have responded predictably. Thank God I have that one ounce of Gold in my portfolio! ;-) This is in some part due to weaknesses in the U.S. housing (and thus home equity) market, but mostly due to our gross trade imbalances and leviathan National Debt.
  4. The vying for commodities among established and emerging economies. Crude oil notably, but also Uranium, Copper, Wheat, and other staples (check out Orange Juice!). Commodities prices across the board are high and getting higher. This means things are more expensive to manufacture and transport, adding to inflation - which seems to me wholly underreported. Inflation for most is higher than the figures the gov't reports. In fact, the figures reported conveniently omit fuel and food costs (why, other than to present a softer, smoother inflation curve?), both of which are very large portions of most people's budgets. The rising price of Gold alone bears this out.
  5. Iraq. The sheer magnitude of the violence therein. The seeming inability of Iraqis or Americans to quell it. Iraqi leaders, who I do not fault in the least for doing so, are looking to Iran and Syria for "assistance" with the nascent state's woes. How does a leader look another in the eye and tactfully say to him, "I know you are doing many things to undermine my country. Please stop it." More likely to be on the agenda are questions such as "How best do we form a strong allegiance between Arabs and Persians?" The only thing working against unification of the region are the strong differences between Arabs and Persians, largely secular Sunnis and mostly radical Shiites.
  6. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is making all sorts of incredible statements about Israel, the United States, Iran's "rights" to unfettered nuclear development in any form, an apocalypse, etc. He says these things largely unchecked by major media outlets - and he reamins almost unknown to Americans. Back in January, I referenced a piece by Gerard Baker that considers the reasons for a possible open war with Iran. More pieces on Iran at Reasonable Nuts.
  7. North Korea's recent nuclear tests and missile launches. This angle I discount to some degree, as other than generally destabilizing, I don't see a possible connection at present. Still reasonable to keep it on the white board, however, since North Korea's continued functioning in its current capacity is inherently connected to support from China.
  8. China. Where to begin?

Have I summarized all the players? Who am I missing? It is important to note (again) I am not implying all of the above is connected. It simply helps sometimes to get it all out (or as much as one recalls, at least) and in one place, then step back for a more holistic view of the forest.

Looking at that forest, this is what I see in part (however dimly):
  1. As purely self-interested players, Russia, Iran, and China (RIC) are effectively engaging in an array of triangulations with one another and the United States. Western Europe is largely out of the picture, though the UK and France remain in focus on the periphery due to their nuclear arsenals.
  2. Though self-interested at root (due to no shared religion or ideology apart from the demise of the United States), there are strong motives for RIC to work collectively in varying regards. Just as the U.S. worked with Western Europe and Japan to promote containment of communist expansion during the Cold War, today RIC is working ever more overtly to contain (nay, to shrink) the influence and values of the once Western and now principally American ethos. Witness the 3 year "insurgence" following the 3 week Iraq war. On some level, the U.S. has been at war with elements of RIC for the past 3 years in this theatre. Simply examine whose weaponry is involved.
  3. The strategies being employed to destabilize American influence include, but are not limited to:
    • financial manipulations (leveraging U.S. debt, furthering trade imbalances, flooding monetary exchanges)
    • espionage
    • exchange of advanced weaponry, skills, and knowledge among one another and client states
    • building the infrastructure of said client states
    • funding terrorist groups wherever the adversary (U.S. influence) resides
    • controlling the internal news mechanisms and curtailing freedom in the exchange of information
    • silencing dissenters, challengers through increasingly brutal and overt means
    • enlisting the services of "useful idiots" in positions of influence in the U.N., U.S., U.K., and Europe
    • disseminating unceasing levels of propaganda, challenging well-established history (i.e. the Holocaust)
    • doing whatever to break alliances between U.S. and anyone
  4. Authoritarians in RIC are keeping and gaining control of their governments.
  5. Europe is dying as a Western entity, due at its simplest to the socially-normed personal choice of individual over family, leading to gradual depopulation. This, at the same time that principally Muslim immigrants are expanding their populations through large families.
  6. The fate of Israel is very much uncertain. If there is the slighest doubt (on the part of RIC) that Israel's nuclear deterrent is in good shape and ready to be used on a moment's notice, then offensive action is not only a possibility, but a probability.

I hope my wife doesn't read this. She doesn't like to be presented with such ruminations. It is the woman's duty to worry over her children, the man's to worry over everything else.

Chicago needs to get its religious understanding straight...

Um, last I checked, Christmas is the celebration of Christ's birth. If a person of another religion is offended by showing clips/ads from a movie about the birth of Jesus, then they don't need to attend the CHRISTMAS festival...

FAITH UNDER FIRE
Christians blast Chicago for 'Nativity' movie ban
'This is one of the most blatant forms of religious discrimination imaginable'
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Posted: November 28, 2006
5:37 p.m. Eastern
By Joe Kovacs
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
© 2006 WorldNetDaily.com

The so-called war on Christmas has been reignited with an ironic decision by the city of Chicago to ban advertisements for "The Nativity Story" movie from a local Christmas festival, fearing they might offend non-Christians.

"This is one of the most blatant forms of religious discrimination imaginable," said Jay Sekulow, a Christian who is chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice. "To suggest that a movie about the birth of Jesus Christ should not be included in a Christmas festival is absurd. This transcends political correctness and centers squarely on religious bigotry."

New Line Cinema had planned to play a loop of its film on TV monitors at the event, but the decision by government leaders has many shaking their heads.

Dr. Ted Baehr, chairman of the Christian Film and Television Commission and known for his MovieGuide recommendations, told WND the city's ban on the ads is "abhorrent" and he labeled Chicago officials as "corrupt."

"I'm absolutely shocked that at a Christmas festival, they would not allow commercials they could see tonight on TV," he said. "It is just more political correctness where everything is OK – except Christianity."

Chicago officials maintain the city doesn't wish to appear to endorse one religion over another.

Cindy Gatziolis, a spokeswoman for the Mayor's Office of Special Events, acknowledged to the Associated Press there is an actual nativity scene set up in Daley Plaza, but noted there will be representations of other faiths, including a Jewish menorah, all put up by private groups.

"Our guidance was that this very prominently placed advertisement would not only be insensitive to the many people of different faiths who come to enjoy the market for its food and unique gifts, but also it would be contrary to acceptable advertising standards suggested to the many festivals holding events on Daley Plaza," Jim Law, executive director of the office, said in a statement.

The ACLJ said it will send a letter to city officials and festival organizers urging them to end their discriminatory practices and to permit the movie to serve as a sponsor for the festival.

"The city of Chicago and festival organizers are exhibiting an intolerance that is offensive to Christians who celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ," Sekulow said. "The city and festival organizers must respect the First Amendment and put an end to the discriminatory practices. We call on the city of Chicago and festival organizers to reverse the decision and permit 'The Nativity Story' to serve as a sponsor of the Christmas festival."

~~For more information about "The Nativity Story," click here.~~

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Know your audience: Christopher

Michael Kinsley has a beef with the tenor of personal websites:

There is something about the Web that brings out the ego monster in everybody. It's not just the well-established tendency to be nasty. When you write for the Web, you open yourself up to breathtakingly vicious vitriol. People wish things on your mother, simply for bearing you, that you wouldn't wish on Hitler.

But even in their quieter modes, denizens of the Web seem to lug around huge egos and deeply questionable assumptions about how interesting they and their lives might be to others.

This is strange. Anonymity, for better or for worse, is supposed to be one of the signature qualities of the Web. As that dog in the New Yorker cartoon says, "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog." The Internet is a place where you can interact with other people and have complete control over how much they know about you. Or supposedly that is the case, and virtually everybody on the Internet is committed to achieving that goal.

He then goes on to note that while we speak of the supposed anonymity the web enables, many (most?) personal websites are anything but anonymous. In fact, the authors in many cases are almost begging to be exposed down to levels of detail often undesired by all but readers with the most prurient interests.

This is definitely a phenomenon, but I think it's ultimately explicable. The Internet enables a profound cognitive disconnect in many people - an abandonment of their public standards of conduct. While I might stop to ask myself whether you would be interested in hearing about my views on X before unloading those views to you in person, I do not necessarily do so when writing about X on my website. Why not? It is the concept of audience. When I speak with you in person, you are my audience and I am considerate of your sensitivities, interests, etc. When I write for my websites, I am still considerate of the concept of audience, but targeted differently. In my case, I have a personal site wherein the audience is primarily myself and anyone who would care to get inside my mind to some degree. I also have a couple more targeted websites, the WealthMotor and Reasonable Nuts, with different audiences. In fact, I've recently begun (restarted, more appropriately) the effort to segregate these to some degree based on the notions of audience and purpose.

I would argue that most people tend to set up a single site and don't give much consideration to audience, which by default tends toward self-interest.

Then there's a psychological element at play - that many of us have lingering issues from childhood or early adulthood - wherein our voice has not been exercised in a free manner that has been rewarded. So, coupled to the ease, low cost, and power of the Internet, some go seemingly overboard, exposing elements of persona that are questionable by some. Enter MySpace, YouTube, and the like.

These are new technologies and many are simply experimenting. Many have been slapped silly by such experimenting - take Dooce for example. She posted subject matter to her nascent blog that got her canned in her place of employ. I for one have attempted to learn from her example.

But common sense is a quality sorely lacking in our relativistic society, motivated by the exaltation of the Individual over more traditional concepts of Family, Legacy, and Social Continuity. Were I to sum my views on the subject, I'd counter the oft seen bumper sticker "Celebrate Diversity" with one I'd like to see: "Celebrate Universality".

I foresee a settling of sorts down the road a bit. As these new technologies mature and as many more get slapped silly through their experimenting, concepts such as audience and purpose may return to the fore. Maybe too common sense will enjoy a resurgence. It won't be a minute too soon.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Wikipedia Watchword of the Week--11/25/06

The Wikipedia Watchword of the Week is

Shelby Foote

Despite his Southern upbringing, Foote deliberately avoided Lost Cause mythologizing in his work. He considered Abraham Lincoln and Nathan Bedford Forrest to be the only two authentic geniuses of the war, a belief that raised the ire of Forrests' granddaughter. He also believed that the cause of the South was lost from the minute they declared war.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Answering Scarlett: Protagonist

Johansson Criticises Bush

Scarlett Johansson has slammed US president George Bush for his staunch conservative views on sex, criticising the Republican for being too unrealistic in his opinions on the topic.

The Lost in Translation star last month boasted about being so "socially aware" she gets tested for HIV twice a year.

A staunch Christian, Bush is vehemently anti-abortion and is seeking to have the operation made illegal in all US states.

During his time as Governor of Texas, Bush overhauled the state's sex education system and high school students were taught abstinence was the only way to protect themselves from sexually transmitted diseases.

Johansson says: "We are supposed to be liberated in America but if our president had his way, we wouldn't be educated about sex at all.

"Every woman would have six children and we wouldn't be able to have abortions."


Thanks for explaining that to me, Irish Examiner. Don't let your KISS method of insulting the reader's intelligence keep you from blatantly misrepresenting the facts. Did the editor let his 11-year old child write this article?

More on the crack reporting from the tabloids across the pond here.

Answering Scarlett: Christopher

Said actress Scarlett Johansson recently:
We are supposed to be liberated in America but if our president had his way, we wouldn't be educated about sex at all.
Liberated - from what? I think Johansson is conflating a perceived liberation from traditional morality with liberation from Great Britain - the only codified ("supposed to") liberation with which I am familiar. She seems to assert that the President of the United States sets - or controls in any way - how and on what subject matter a person is educated. To think that my or my children's enlightenment in matters of sex (or anything!) would come solely - or even principally - from the Federal Government send shudders up and down my spine. Johansson says further:
Every woman would have six children and we wouldn't be able to have abortions.
This is the President's desire, says Johansson, that "every woman would have six children"? Then why does he have but 2 himself? As for abortions - yes, well, I think Bush is pretty clear on that - that it is his desire for there to be no killing-of-the-beautiful-babies, popularly termed "abortion". Is it anyone's desire that abortions actually occur? I think that when the pro-life crowd begins to believe that those of the pro-choice crowd are on some level concerned with the lives of the aborted (more so than they are "choice"), then the discussion will rightly become one of the authority of the federal government.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Things I, but perhaps not all Reasonable Nuts find interesting

I have been posting here for some time (since October 2005) items that principally interest me - and not necessarily in-line with the original purpose of this blog. This was due to issues with the server installed at home on which my personal blog, TIFI, resided. The issues were actually quite simple, though myriad - and simply impossible to rectify in a timely matter with 1, a new marriage, 2, the birth of a child, and 3, a major home renovation all occurring in the same timespan.

That said, I spent some time getting the old server running well enough to migrate off of that system the contents of TIFI and onto a more stable platform. In the process, I migrated as well from a proprietary platform (MovableType 3.16) to an Open Source one (WordPress 2.05). It really could not have been easier. In fact, the documentation on the process was actually quite behind the curve and the built-in import functionality in WordPress worked flawlessly. The only things I had to do outside the typical were to convert the exported blog entries from ISO something or another to UTF-8 (the WordPress native text format), then divide the export file into 4 smaller files.

All this said, I am looking to return Reasonable Nuts to its original purpose, which I described here the other day. My more random musings will be posted again at TIFI: Things I Find Interesting.

You may notice that http://tifi.net actually points to http://wealthmotor.com/tifi (where I have more reliable external hosting). The WealthMotor is another project of mine, dedicated to learning & sharing in the process of growing financially unshackled from issues such as debt, consumerism, financial illiteracy, and flawed concepts related to the process of trading time for income (i.e. mainline interpretations of "work").

So, to recap:

http://tifi.net - personal blog
http://wealthmotor.com - financial blog
http://reasonablenuts.com - public discourse group blog

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Wikipedia Watchword of the Day - 11/18/2006

The Wikipedia Watchword of the Day is

Smurfs

It is now argued by some that Peyo meant to spread communist ideas through smurf cartoons. [2] S.M.U.R.F. is translated by supporters of this theory as "Socialist Men Under Red Father" or "Soviet Men Under Red Father", however both of these theories disregard the fact that the Smurfs' original name is "Schtroumpfs", "Smurf" being the international translation after the fact.

Friday, November 17, 2006

I'm still alive!

I hardly have time to remember what I'm soing, but that *should* be smoothing out soon. The biggest project in my career is now open to the public. Still little fixes and things things left to do, but we all survived! I'm still a bit stunned at the impact. Despite the rain on opening day there were reporters standing in front of cameras speaking languages I couldn't even identify. After being open one month today, googling "Asia Trail" yields 90,000+ hits; mostly good stuff.

Spoomonger

Thursday, November 16, 2006

On Atheism: Christopher

Dinesh D'Souza has an interesting piece at the San Francisco Chronicle, the subject of which is astonishment of prominent atheists at the continued growth of religion. He writes:
Biologist E.O. Wilson says there must be some evolutionary explanation for the universality and pervasiveness of religious belief.

Actually, there is. The Rev. Ron Carlson, a popular author and lecturer, sometimes presents his audience with two stories and asks them whether it matters which one is true.

In the secular account, "You are the descendant of a tiny cell of primordial protoplasm washed up on an empty beach 3 1/2 billion years ago. You are a mere grab bag of atomic particles, a conglomeration of genetic substance. You exist on a tiny planet in a minute solar system in an empty corner of a meaningless universe. You came from nothing and are going nowhere."

In the Christian view, by contrast, "You are the special creation of a good and all-powerful God. You are the climax of His creation. Not only is your kind unique, but you are unique among your kind. Your Creator loves you so much and so intensely desires your companionship and affection that He gave the life of His only son that you might spend eternity with him."

Now imagine two groups of people -- let's call them the Secular Tribe and the Religious Tribe -- who subscribe to one of these two views. Which of the two is more likely to survive, prosper and multiply? The religious tribe is made up of people who have an animating sense of purpose. The secular tribe is made up of people who are not sure why they exist at all. The religious tribe is composed of individuals who view their every thought and action as consequential. The secular tribe is made up of matter that cannot explain why it is able to think at all.

Should evolutionists like Dennett, Dawkins, Harris and Wilson be surprised, then, to see that religious tribes are flourishing around the world? Across the globe, religious faith is thriving and religious people are having more children. By contrast, atheist conventions only draw a handful of embittered souls, and the atheist lifestyle seems to produce listless tribes that cannot even reproduce themselves.
He then goes on to list a number of significantly atheist nations (Russia, Japan, most of Europe), noting that their populations are imploding for lack of procreation. To me, a person's desire to produce offspring is directly related to the hope he has for the future. While I may be concerned for the future due to the instability of sociopolitical circumstances, this does not dash my hope for my daughter and for any siblings she may have down the road. In fact, there has always been strife in the world. One could argue there was intensely more strife in the worlds of those of the past, as their worlds were so much smaller and the strife, so much more acute and concentrated. In fact, this theme of hopelessness for the future is endemic in the atheist's world - well, discounting the 3 remaining utopians... who tend to be of the "spiritual, but not religious" crowd far more so than the atheist secular humanist sort. This is my experience; prove me wrong. Side note: Christ spoke directly (from His eternal standpoint) about this sort of worrying about the future:
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Atheism, to me, runs counter to the human experience. I understand it on a philosophical level - the extreme frustration that one can harbor given the wonderfully big rational brain that God has gifted us with - that God's designs are not always apparent and explicable given pure rational processes. But I argue that God appreciates this frustration as it produces the possibility of action, the soul-wrenching seeking that can take place if one is frustrated enough. I further posit that atheists are often simply not frustrated enough to take such action. Thus, atheism to me seems largely a resignation, an admission of defeat: "I don't know, so I can't. Thus, I won't." In my experience, God honored my intellectual struggle with religious concepts by providing for me a way to reconcile those concepts without compromising my rational mind. Some would say I have subordinated my rational thinking. I would not argue with this, but I'd restate it more accurately that I have not only subordinated logic, but all elements of my life. Doing so provided the freedom to realize life is not all logic. Are atheists not also emotional creatures, motivated by emotions as well as logic? They may promote themselves as dispassionate, above emotion - but I think this is a flawed concept to place the rational above all else. Realizing my rational mind is a gift and that it's not in fact even a good thing for me to use logic in all cases has helped me immeasurably.

An invitation to the Reasonable Nuts

Hey guys - remember when we set this thing up as something of a group blog? Instead of that, we almost purely have written single post entries and the "we" has become something akin to 90% me, 8% Protagonist, and 2% others. I'm not even sure Spoomonger is alive, it's been so long since I've seen a post from him. ;-)

I was reading a little of the Becker-Posner blog today and it occurred to me this is what I thought we were going to try to do. They take a subject and each writes on it in a seperate post. Becker is a conservative economist (who studied under Milton Friedman), while Posner is a less-conservative, but still not typically liberal federal judge. The format of the title is "Issue: Author".

I think what we were trying initially to do was doomed to failure largely because of the format. One would post and then others would comment. Thus, only the original author's words ever appeared on the main page. Were we to follow the B-P blog's format, this would be fixed.

So, what do you say? I know that Queen Spoo and Protagonist are quite capable of offering up meaty morsels of public discussion. Daniel is more of a cut-n-paster and audioblogger, but he is 1, a busy man and 2, suffers from a repetitive stress situation with his wrists - so he likely won't be writing a lot. So, how about it Spoomonger? A 4-way debate might be better than a 3-way one. But then, do your and Queen Spoo's views differ enough to add differentiated content?

Correct me if I am misstating your views, but I see Protagonist as a traditional libertarian, Queen Spoo and Spoomonger as traditional conservatives and myself, as a hybrid of the two. That's perhaps oversimplified, but likely correct enough for discussion. Daniel is also fairly traditionally conservative, though his haircut tends to throw one off.

So what do you say?

Milton Friedman, 1912-2006

I was very sad to read that Nobel Prize winning economist Milton Friedman has died. He influenced me directly through a great book he wrote in the late 70s, Free to Choose: a Personal Statement. Reading it at age 23 began a process in me that caused me to internally challenge the orthodoxy of thought on public policy that I was exposed to as a DC area denizen and college student. I remember taking it with me to Cancun on spring break (!) and consuming it between bouts of binge drinking and talking to girls. The binge drinking is gone, as are the girls, but the lessons of the book linger with me today.

If you haven't read it, you need to. Were I in a position to do so, I'd have it taught as a textbook in public schools.

Only death will stop him

I see that President, uh er, I mean Senator John McCain has a Presidential exploratory committee website running.

"At what cost?"

Dr. Sowell has news for the unreasonable nuts who voted for Democrats principally to spite Republicans:
If the Republican leaders have learned nothing from their recent defeat, perhaps some Republican supporters will. Some of the most baffling e-mails received from conservative Republicans before the election were those which said that they were so disillusioned and/or disgusted with the Bush administration that they were going to vote for Democrats in order to send a message.

This is the kind of emotional self-indulgence common among liberals but apparently some conservatives have now also come to see elections as occasions to vent their feelings rather than to choose among existing options for the future of the country.

Sending a message may have its benefits but -- as with all benefits -- the question must be asked: "At what cost?"

Larry King, George Bush, John Kerry, and Jesus

Every so often, someone in the public eye leaves me simply dumbfounded. The latest example of this is Larry King's admission he's never used the Internet. Well, that's a bit of a misstatement, as regardless of whether we personally interact with a web browser or send e-mail, we all utilitze services provided through the Internet.

Part of me thinks Larry was just having fun with us, but that's a very small part. More likely, it was one of those moments where an elite unknowingly reveals how disconnected he is from the life most lead - such as when the former President Bush expressed amazement at the supermarket checkout barcode scanner. That said, maybe I should cut George some slack, suggests Mark Steyn:
In 1992, pictures of a baffled George Bush père marvelling as a supermarket clerk demonstrated a barcode scanner were seized on by the media as evidence of how out of touch he was. But barcode scanners were introduced to supermarkets during his 12 years at the White House, and a sitting president or vice-president doesn't get many opportunities to go grocery shopping. The difference between Bush Snr and Kerry is that Prince John of Gaunt seems far more isolated from the rhythms of American life and he hasn't even got to the White House yet.
As for John Kerry, mmm... no slack for that guy. What a gift to the American people was that "joke gone wrong", since it pretty much sealed his fate as a non-President.

BTW, it's interesting to note that for someone who's never use the Internet, the phrase "Larry King" generates 1.6 million hits in a google search. Then again, "Jesus" returns almost exactly 100 times as many hits as King, and I don't think he's used the Internet personally. And he certainly is not an elitist. ;-)

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Ahmadinejad.com

Isn't odd that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad registered his eponymous domain name with Tucows? Why not an Iranian registrar? Riiiiiight.
Domain Name: AHMADINEJAD.COM
Registrar: TUCOWS INC.
Whois Server: whois.opensrs.net
Referral URL: http://domainhelp.tucows.com
Name Server: NS2.NISN.IR
Name Server: NS1.NISN.IR
Status: REGISTRAR-LOCK
EPP Status: clientDeleteProhibited
EPP Status: clientTransferProhibited
EPP Status: clientUpdateProhibited
Updated Date: 20-Oct-2006
Creation Date: 30-Jul-2001
Expiration Date: 30-Jul-2007

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Rep. Paul

You really ought to read Congressman Paul's speeches. Here's sounding the clarion call to those who'd like their children to have a United States. This one's exemplar:
Demographic Reality and the Entitlement State
November 13, 2006

The Government Accountability Office, or GAO, is an investigative arm of Congress charged with the thankless task of accounting for the money received and spent by the federal government. As you might imagine, people who spend all day examining the nitty-gritty realities of federal spending and deficits might not share the voters' enthusiasm for grand campaign promises.

David Walker, Comptroller General at GAO, has been on a speaking tour of the U.S recently-- and he pulls no punches when explaining just how precarious our nation's entitlement system really is.

He explains that Social Security and Medicare are headed for a train wreck because of demographic trends and rising health care costs. The number of younger taxpayers for each older retiree will continue to decline. The demand for "free" prescription drugs under Medicare will explode. If present trends continue, by 2040 the entire federal budget will be consumed by Social Security and Medicare. The only options for balancing the budget would be cutting total federal spending by about 60%, or doubling federal taxes.

Furthermore, Walker asserts, we cannot grow our way out of this problem. Faster economic growth can only delay the inevitable hard choices. To close the long-term entitlement gap, the U.S. economy would have to grow by double digits every year for the next 75 years.

In short, Mr. Walker is telling the political class that the status quo cannot be maintained. He is to be commended for his refreshing honesty and unwillingness to provide excuses for the two political parties, the administration, or the even the entitlement-minded American public.

I urge everyone interested to visit the GAO website at www.gao.gov, where you can view a report entitled: "Our Nation's Fiscal Outlook: The Federal Government's Long-Term Budget Imbalance." This report should be required reading for every politician in Washington.

Are ever growing entitlement and military expenditures really consistent with a free country? Do these expenditures, and the resulting deficits, make us more free or less free? Should the government or the marketplace provide medical care? Should younger taxpayers be expected to provide retirement security and health care even for affluent retirees? Should the U.S. military be used to remake whole nations? Are the programs, agencies, and departments funded by Congress each year constitutional? Are they effective? Could they operate with a smaller budget? Would the public even notice if certain programs were eliminated altogether? These are the kinds of questions the American people must ask, even though Congress lacks the courage to do so.

If we hope to avoid a calamitous financial future for our nation, we must address the hardest question of all: What is the proper role for government in our society? The answer to this question will determine how prosperous and free we remain in the decades to come.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Grove City College - The Center for Vision and Values

Grove City College - The Center for Vision and Values

The Prez's blog

Quite by accident, I stumbled upon the personal blog of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President of Iran.

Most interesting were the reader comments on the right of the page - and this e-mail address in particular: fak...@ikillclowns.com.

I suppose "I kill clowns" doesn't mean much in Farsi.

I am forced to agree with this comment:
Mr President - it will be great if you can tell the person whos maintaining this website not to use ASPx (Windows Technologies - American dictators) There are far better Open Source projects PHP etc

Elton John is really gay. I mean, the way he thinks is gay. Really gay.

So many fallacies; where to begin?
Sir Elton said: "I think religion has always tried to turn hatred towards gay people. Religion promotes the hatred and spite against gays.
Of which religion do you speak, man? Be specific. You can't possibly be so ignorant as to be making a generalization - grouping all religions together in a grossly intolerant manner unbefitting a philosophical liberal. No way.
"But there are so many people I know who are gay and love their religion.
Love in part because of their religion, more likely.
From my point of view I would ban religion completely.
See above comments re: tolerance and liberalism. Hmmm. Perhaps liberals aren't quite liberals at all. Sound like authoritarians to me.
"Organised religion doesn't seem to work. It turns people into really hateful lemmings and it's not really compassionate."
"doesn't seem to work" - define "work". If I may, I believe Elton means that organized religion, in his view, does not render better people - those who are more loving, compassionate to others. I for one am offended by this assertion, as my life is living testament to the fact my religion has made me a better man. Concepts such as forgiveness and selflessness were completely foreign to my character before following Jesus.

"Hateful lemmings"? Note to Elton: take a look at a lemming and tell me where you see hate. In any event, your comment here displays, well, hate.
"The world is near escalating to World War Three and where are the leaders of each religion? Why aren't they having a conclave? Why aren't they coming together?
Yes, you are correct here - the world is getting close to global war (or is there already). Some of us (people who enjoy a good read of history now and again) have been noticing this for some time. You are making a mistake in your analysis, however. A religious conclave is precisely what is driving this freakin' war. If you, like so many of the anti-historians out there, would simply pay attention to what Islamists such as Ahmadinejad and Khamenei are saying, you would find the nearest pawn shop and trade at least half of your more fanciful costumes for guns and ammunition with which to defend the motherland.
"I said this after 9/11 and people thought I was nuts. Instead of more violence why isn't there a meeting of religious leaders?
Herein you show why you do not understand how religion "works". It does not "work" by a bunch of leaders getting together for a confab. It "works" by each man examining himself and doing his best to reconcile with his creator and his creator's ways through whatever means that creator has established. For the Christian, it is the person of Jesus Christ.

Elton, really. You have to know that liberal democracies such as the one in which you live allow you the luxury of your lifestyle. Ask the Islamists mentioned above for their views on your choices. Why are (liberal) gays so foolish as to overlook the fact that they will be some of the first to go if we lose against such adversaries? History, Elton. Read your history.

Nancy and Steny sittin' in a tree...

Well, they certainly aren't kissing:
Hoyer poses a competing power base to Pelosi, and they have not had warm relations. "She wants to purge the leadership of people who disagree with her," said a Democratic official with a front-row seat. "It's about people she can personally control. Hoyer is an excellent public face for the party. She's more a behind-the-scenes player."
I really can't fault Pelosi, as she merely wants to maximize her 2 short years as Speaker of the House. ;-)

Ahmadinejad: Israel’s destruction near

With as much expressed hatred of the Jews as has Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, someone really ought investigate his family tree for Jewish progenitors. Then the symbolic parallels with Hitler will be complete.

Meet Joe Payback

Meet Joe Lieberman, the most powerful U.S. Senator.
Asked on NBC's "Meet the Press" if he might follow the example of Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont, who left the Republicans in 2001 and became an independent, ending Republican control of the U.S. Senate, Lieberman refused to discount the possibility.

"I'm not ruling it out but I hope I don't get to that point," he said. "And I must say -- and with all respect to the Republicans who supported me in Connecticut -- nobody ever said, 'We're doing this because we want you to switch over. We want you to do what you think is right and good for our state and country,' and I appreciate that."

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Wikipedia Watchword of the Week--11/12/06

The Wikipedia Watchword of the Week is

Sychronicity

During production of the The Wizard of Oz, a coat purchased from a second-hand store for the costume of Professor Marvel was later discovered to have belonged to L. Frank Baum, author of the original children's book upon which the film is based.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Pretty much says it all.

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Friday called U.S. President George W. Bush's defeat in congressional elections a victory for Iran.

Diagnosis: Googlitis

Google saves lives. I've used the Internet search engine many times to diagnose non life threatening medical issues, before seeking professional treatment. But it is a bit of a reason to pause for contemplation upon learning that medical professionals are also using Google for diagnoses.

As a 2nd or 3rd opinion, fine. But to have Google as the first stop in a professional diagnosis is troubling, particularly given the veracity of content online.

Googlisms

Can't believe I'd not previously come across this: the Googlism.
Googlism for: christopher

christopher is 6 weeks old already
christopher is here
christopher is a great dancer
christopher is the original bigfoot
christopher is hanging on the monkey bars on our new playground
christopher is learning every day
christopher is a leader among moderates in the republican party
christopher is chairman of the national security subcommittee of the government reform committee
christopher is everything donald would have hoped for
christopher is also a world class fly fishing and casting champion who has won the international gold cup tarpon tournament
christopher is chubby and energetic
christopher is a partner in the trusts and estates practice group
christopher is admitted to practice in new york
christopher is still a saint
christopher is considered to be the patron saint of travelers
christopher is loved and honored in the churches both of the east and the west
christopher is the only child who has been involved in business operations
christopher is active and loves to play
christopher is also a very curious little frog
christopher is not safe to become a recipient
christopher is quite affable by nature
christopher is an member of the franklin county amateur radio emergency service
christopher is active and determined
christopher is no longer nursing
christopher is running in full strength for these wonderful men
christopher is chairman of the hospital chaplaincies council
christopher is his heir and a childhood friend to richard and brendan austhwaite
christopher is in kindergarten this year and is doing really well
christopher is the current united states secretary of state
christopher is on a college preparatory curriculum and has enrolled in the math
christopher is not a normal kid
christopher is fun loving and easy going
christopher is that rarest of washington personalities
christopher is greatly concerned about leaving the reservation to go to school
christopher is a practicing acupuncturist
christopher is an institution
christopher is credited with discovering the new world
christopher is sent to lord richard the lean to gain health and strength
christopher is very driven
christopher is my hero
christopher is a venture consultant with high tech rochester
christopher is the romantic
christopher is the home of a loving congregation
christopher is most proud that the company can be selective
christopher is putting the focus back on the art of songwriting
christopher is a handsome
christopher is one of england's greatest equestrians and dressage coach of the british eventing team
christopher is also living there
christopher is continually adding to his inventory
christopher is a healthy child although he has been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder
christopher is loving our new place and is having lots of fun exploring the house and the front yard
christopher is right
christopher is the best
christopher is the place to get it
christopher is one of the many children in africa orphaned by aids
christopher is doing really well
christopher is everything donald would have hoped for
christopher is also a world class fly fishing and casting champion who has won the international gold cup tarpon tournament
christopher is chubby and energetic
christopher is a partner in the trusts and estates practice group
christopher is admitted to practice in new york
christopher is a geek who can speak
christopher is still a saint
christopher is destined to follow in his footsteps
christopher is left there gasping for breath every ten to twelve seconds
christopher is loved and honored in the churches both of the east and the west
christopher is a nationally renowned consultant in the field of learning disabilities
christopher is not one to shy away from controversy
christopher is represented exclusively by bass/schuler entertainment for colleges and universities
christopher is our first child so we have no previous experience to go on
christopher is made of sterling and has a 24" stainless
christopher is credited with discovering the new world
christopher is greatly concerned about leaving the reservation to go to school
christopher is ideas' newest member
christopher is the current united states secretary of state
christopher is quoting from a surrealist poet or that he is citing tin
christopher is so devoted to tony
christopher is an associate professor of economics in the school of management at delaware state university
christopher is currently working on his most ambitious stone sculpture yet
christopher is embarking upon her 10th anniversary at the helm of south carolina volleyball
christopher is not a normal kid
christopher is quite affable by nature
christopher is a wildlife
christopher is a program that began in 1990 by the office of vocations for the diocese of metuchen
christopher is the home of a loving congregation
christopher is a practicing acupuncturist
christopher is very driven
christopher is truly a renaissance web developer
christopher is one of the most popular saints in the east and in the west
christopher is a very active performer of contemporary music
christopher is a frequent interview guest for both radio and television
christopher is an attractive and healthy boy
christopher is using a differential gps unit for
christopher is one of the original students that started when camp first opened
christopher is an institution

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Tell us what you really think.

So you think the media is partisan here? Check out this blurbette in the UK's Mirror:
9 November 2006
AMERICAN ZERO

At last, US wakes up and boots idiot Bush
Ryan Parry, US Correspondent In Washington

MILLIONS of Americans turned on President Bush yesterday as he suffered a crushing election defeat.

The Democrats swept to power in the House of Representatives and closed in on the Senate in a massive backlash against the war in Iraq.

US Defence Secretary and chief warmonger Donald Rumsfeld was forced to resign in the wake of the mid-term drubbing.

And lame-duck Bush showed all his usual political insight when he said of his humiliating defeat: "Actually, I thought we were going to do fine yesterday."

Neocon illusions

Victor Davis Hanson has an excellent review of Mark Steyn's America Alone: The End of the World As We Know It. I am reticent to buy the book, as I do not need convincing of the things of which Steyn writes. But perhaps I do need to be steeled in my resolve, commitments.

I'll put it on the Christmas wish list.

This reviewer at Amazon.com has, so far, the best anti-neocon (that is, conservative) argument couched in his review of Steyn's book:
This is vintage Mark Steyn: spit-in-yer eye straight talk; wit; and searing analysis of the problems created by our dumbed-down anti-culture and by the ennui of Westerners who've been too comfortable for too long, such that they can't even be bothered to defend the things that made for those comforts in the first place.

Unfortunately, his remedy for the ills of Westernity and the dangers of Islamic fecundity is the neoconservative one: that we should try to universalize the U.S. model around the globe, in short order. That's bad news. His neoconservatism is every bit as imperialistic as the liberalism touted by the oiks of the UN and EU technocracies and through the daily Hollywood assault upon morality and religion -- all things that Steyn rightly castigates. If the trouble with liberalism is that it's so bloomin' intolerant, the trouble with Steyn's (or Bush's) neoconservatism is that it doesn't conserve anything; it's bringing bloody warfare and revolution, and is trashing traditional societies that won't be ready for democracy until about the same stage that Britons and Americans were, i.e. several standards of living up from where they are right now (to make no mention of the cultural differences). Iraq's been a fiasco, NOT for the reasons Michael Moore would cite -- but because Iraq is not a 'nation'; its population has no notion of an impersonal state and no tradition of the rule of (abstract, impersonal) law. That's why, in the absence of those things, force will have to do for at least two generations to come -- maybe more.

Steyn has to get 5 stars, for his brilliant assault upon Western complacency and the idiocies and secular pieties of Europe, Canada and (much of) the U.S.. His analysis is spot-on. But it's a shame that his conclusions will reinforce the myopia and related prejudices of 'conservative' Americans who are already more than myopic enough.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Second Story Down

The Daily Mail from the UK reports "'Polish Borat' claims groping women is normal in Eastern Europe". The story discuss a Polish immigrant to the UK who engaged in groping and abusive behavior of women, but justifies his behavior on the grounds it is common in his home country. The "story" is basically a repeat of his defense in multiple ways and phrasings. No context or rebuttal is offered.

The real story is below in the comments section:



I have spent a lot of time in Poland, and never encountered the behaviour this man says takes place. As for the Russian interpreter, I have been to Moscow and St. Petersburg, and the same applies, they have the same morals as we have in this country.

- Bob Aubrey, Poole, Dorset

***

I am a female ex-pat living in Poland, having moved here 4 years ago with my husband and family. This guy's claims are absolutely ridiculous. No such behaviour is 'acceptable' in Poland and never has been. If anything, women are treated with far more respect than in the UK.

- Teresa, Krakow, Poland

***

If you believe his statement you'll believe anything.

- Alan, Sudbury, UK

***

I agree with Teresa in Krakow. I've travelled on business extensively through Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Russia. The respect accorded women generally exceeds that shown in the UK or the US. This man's claims are ludicrous.

- Sandi, Edinburgh

***

I've worked with many Polish gentlemen over the past ten years -
and have found them to be unfailingly respectful and courteous towards women.

I can't understand why his interpreter says this behavious is normal.
I've been to Poland and Russia - and don't recognise the societies she describes.

- Anon, Aberdeen UK

***

I am a Polish and we are a respectable nation with highly educated people. Such a claim by this idiot is completely untrue! What a load of rubbish! His interpreter is just another idiot! If this were to take place in Poland, this man would have been knocked and punched till kingdom come. He is a disgrace to my country and should be sent to looney bin forever!

- Andrzej, Lublin Poland

***

Etc.


Did the Daily Mail make any attempt to confirm the man's veracity? For that matter, did they get an independent translator of their own to confirm what they were told? Do they even care? Or were they framing a story they way they wanted: Eastern European immigrant who engages in misogynistic behavior (kinda like that popular movie that came out last week)?

In other words, we have a MSM outlet in the UK who engaged in shady, incompetent (and racist!) reporting, and the story was revealed to be a load of crap by ordinary people posting in the comment section. Score another one for the internet!

Free political advice to incoming Dems: don't do this.

Were I advising the Democrats, I'd suggest they do NOT follow this track. The American voter is not likely to reward 2 years of incessant shrill investigations brought about by 12 years of pent-up frustration at being the minority party after 40 years of majority. But that seems where the Dems are treading. It's been suggested that Pelosi will contain and restrain them, but I don't see it, not with most of the Dem leadership being old and cranky men. Were I an old man on the out for so long, I'd be thinking "what's my legacy?" or, failing that, "what can I get away with in the short time I have?" Pelosi doesn't have a chance against that sort of self-interest.

The upshot for the conservative is that 2 years may well see a shuffle back to the right for this very reason. Well, that, and the loss of several U.S. cities.

President McCain

If anyone has benefited from last night's election, it is Senator John McCain, who will be the next President of the United States.

What about Hillary Clinton? Not even a chance. Why? Two words: Speaker Pelosi.

Two years of Nancy Pelosi as the mouthpiece of the Congress will be more than enough to convince voters that Hillary Clinton should not be President.

A tale of two races, a tale of two philosophies

There was a striking lesson in comparison and contrast last night, amid the election results. Examine the outcomes of the Senate races in Connecticut and its neighbor, Rhode Island. Both featured relatively popular incumbents who were strident voices of dissent in their respective parties. Yet last night, one was heartily rewarded while the other was sent packing. Why?

Joseph Lieberman, several-term U.S. Senator from Connecticut and 2000 Vice-President nominee was defeated in the Democrat primary by the emotionally-driven unreasonable nuts in his party. He thus ran as an independent. And last night, he won with a plurality of votes (50%), besting the Democrat candidate Lamont (40%) and the Republican Schlesinger (10%). Examine that last figure - 10%. Why is it so low? Was Schlesinger that bad a candidate? No. He's been popularly elected before in other races. So why only 10%? Because the Republicans who otherwise would have voted for him and against the Democrat cast their votes in large measure for Lieberman, rewarding him for being a stand-up guy, a mensch, if you will. Conservatives will do this sort of thing. They understand what is at stake in our freakazoidal world and will cast their votes based on REASON rather than EMOTION. That said, I'm sure there was some schmaltz involved - warm feelings for a dissed Lieberman. He's a nice guy, after all.

Across the border in Rhode Island (which I'm told is neither a road nor an island), 2 term U.S. senator Lincoln Chafee was defeated by his Democrat challenger, Sheldon "this is the closest I'm ever going to get to the" Whitehouse. In the Republican primary, Chafee faced a challenge from a far more conservative Steve Laffey (though not surprising, as even many Democrats are more conservative than Chafee). But in the end, Republicans endorsed Chafee and took him to the polls as their candidate. You'd think Democrats would reward him for his outspoken opposition to the the policies of the Bush administration. People like a free thinker, a rebel - right? Well, it seems that Democrats are, after all, Democrats first, and everything else - if anything else - very far down the list.

I'm not disheartened to see Chafee leaving the Senate. As someone who voted consistently against my line of reasoning, I'd always considered him a liberal and unreasoning obstructionist more so than a Republican. It was often excrutiating to watch the Republican leadership contort itself to win a table scrap of accord from Chafee on whatever close vote was before the Senate. I wish him well in whatever is next for him. If he's like most politicians, he'll spend the remainder of his life living off the fruits of the connections he's made while a politician.

I wish Lieberman the best as well. If anyone has a mandate today, it is the Senator from Connecticut. If I may, Senator, I implore you to use that political capital to attract fellow Democrats to the philosophy we share concerning terrorism and terrorists. I am far more a Lieberman Democrat than I am a Chafee Republican, for this single, yet all-important reason.

Published at OpinionEditorials.com.

Democrats wrest control of Congress from the other Democrats

Regardless of how others may spin the results of yesterday's election, The Onion by far has the most astute observation:
WASHINGTON, DC — After months of aggressive campaigning and with nearly 99 percent of ballots counted, politicians were the big winners in Tuesday's midterm election, taking all 435 seats in the House of Representatives, retaining a majority with 100 out of 100 seats in the Senate, and pushing political candidates to victory in each of the 36 gubernatorial races up for grabs.
As I wrote the other day, the solution to our getting the usual lot of narcissists in Washington is to STOP ELECTING POLITICIANS.

(Should be) required viewing for all eligible voters: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and highlights of the ABSCAM tapes.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

In defense of unitasking

This is very bad news:
A new survey by Parks Associates shows that teenagers are less likely to communicate via e-mail than any other demographic.

According to the study, less than one-fifth of the 13-17-year-olds surveyed profess to using e-mail to communicate with friends, compared to 40 percent of adults aged 25-54.

The study shows that instant messaging is the dominant form of communication for teenagers, with one-third of teens relying on the messaging system, compared to only 11 percent of adults.
Why is this such bad news? Have you used instant messaging (IM)? Because of the real-time nature of the medium, the emphasis is placed on communicating the maximum information in the minimum time. Thus, IM-based communication is prone to misspelling, lack of proper punctuation, grammar errors, superficially reasoned logic, and cryptic code language that will not benefit the teen once he is in the real world (or the world as real as it gets).

Perhaps even worse is this factoid from the same piece:
"I think it is about multitasking," he said. "Younger kids are more likely to sit there and type on a computer while they're watching TV and talking on the phone. I think the younger generation is just adapting to this environment where they're doing 10 things at once."
Let me state this once and for all time: Men are positively *incapable* of effectively multitasking. Women, by and large due to their typically superior communication skills, are often able to process multiple streams of information simultaneously to a moderate degree of success. But the poor man - while he can handle one stream at 100% capacity, 2 streams drops efficiency to something like 80% (40% each stream) with a 20% loss in overhead, switching between streams. 3 streams is even worse, with a perhaps 33% loss. At 4 streams, the average man's brain simply shuts down and he is left with only enough focus to turn on SportsCenter.

Jared Sandberg has an excellent piece on the subject of multitasking at the WSJ's CareerJournal.com. He suggests:
Employers continue to seek out jugglers despite decades of research showing that humans aren't great multitaskers. (And in the case of distracted driving, we're downright dangerous.)

"Multitasking doesn't look to be one of the great strengths of human cognition," says James C. Johnston, a research psychologist at NASA's Ames Research Center. "It's almost inevitable that each individual task will be slower and of lower quality."

Researchers say analytical thinking can happen in parallel, as long as the tasks have been practiced. But the amount of practice is "too high for the practical world," says Dr. Johnston. And that wouldn't include, say, responding to emails, which requires "fantastically more cognition" than the much simpler tasks often included in multitasking research.

In the lab, researchers call it "multitasking" when subjects can recognize, for example, the colors of dots while also discerning high and low tones ... not exactly the skill set you need to win a vice presidency.
And in defense of good old unitasking:
Something else left out of the multitasking calculations -- beside the fact that we don't do it very well -- are "resumption costs." These are the seconds it takes your brain to say "Where was I?" when resuming an interrupted task. Depending on the tasks, those resumption costs can be high enough to make it faster to unitask, which researchers say produces better performance in the first place.
Don't you just feel better when you receive an e-mail, well thought-out, addressed solely to you - better, that is, than when you receive the usual cc'ed or bcc'ed forwarded schlock, misspellings no further embedded than the subject line? And in telephone conversations, don't you prefer a call from someone at home, doing nothing other than talking to you - prefer that to a call from someone simultaneously driving, eating, cursing at other drivers and listening to Justin Timberlake, interrupting your call to take another, then another? And when you actually speak with another human in person, don't you appreciate the sort of eye contact, closed mouth, and nodding assention that signals to you "I am important enough to deserve this fellow human's focus."?

What's old will be new again. In a world of multitaskers, the thoughtful unitasker can and shall stand apart.

Note: somewhat humorously, Sandberg's piece on multitasking sat on my desk for several weeks. I've seen, thought of it at least 10 times since I placed it there, each time trimming a little off my mental efficiency. Only when I saw the piece on teens' communication proclivities did I decide to comment on it.

Published at OpinionEditorials.com.

Not the only issue which matters, but the only issue being discussed...

Award winning sci-fi writer Orson Scott Card has written a profoundly good piece:
The Only Issue This Election Day
By Orson Scott Card

There is only one issue in this election that will matter five or ten years from now, and that's the War on Terror.

And the success of the War on Terror now teeters on the fulcrum of this election.

If control of the House passes into Democratic hands, there are enough withdraw-on-a-timetable Democrats in positions of prominence that it will not only seem to be a victory for our enemies, it will be one.

Unfortunately, the opposite is not the case -- if the Republican Party remains in control of both houses of Congress there is no guarantee that the outcome of the present war will be favorable for us or anyone else.

But at least there will be a chance.

I say this as a Democrat, for whom the Republican domination of government threatens many values that I hold to be important to America's role as a light among nations.
Read the rest.

I agree with him that this is the only issue in this election -- being discussed -- that will matter in 10 years. However, this is not the only issue that *will* matter. Should we survive as a nation 10 years into the future, the National Debt will most certainly matter significantly.

In any event, read Card's piece.

Real-time poll data?

I for one am going crazy looking for real-time information on the election - apart from the (often ridiculous) cries of "voting irregularities". It seems that exit polling is almost absent from reports. Is any occurring or is this the result of the exit polling fiascos of the last few elections?

Bueller?

"That the Republicans are still a viable party..."

As he typically does, Thomas Sowell says it better, with fewer words, than I can myself:
That the Republicans are still a viable party is one measure of how far the Democrats' policies and values differ from those of most Americans.
Truly the crux of the biscuit. He elaborates needlessly, but enlighteningly:
Nowhere is that difference greater than when it comes to defending the American people against crime at home and against military and terrorist threats from abroad. Liberal Democrats -- which is to say, most Democratic politicians and all of their leaders -- are ready to try almost any "alternatives to incarceration" of criminals and almost any alternative to maintaining military strength as a deterrent to enemy nations.

More is involved than an unwillingness to face unpleasant facts of life. There is a coherent ideology behind these positions. That ideology goes back more than two centuries -- and has failed in country after country over those centuries. But it is an ideology that sounds good and flatters the vanity of those who consider themselves part of a wise and compassionate elite.
The last bit is a consistent theme with Sowell; he despises elitists, but masks his derision in carefully exercised words (as well he should). A profoundly good book by Sowell on the subject is "The Vision of the Anointed: Self-Congratulation As a Basis for Social Policy". It's a seminal modern classic, IMO.

Monday, November 06, 2006

...in transition.

About Ted Haggard, I think his personal website about says it all:
November 5, 2006

Ted Haggard has resigned as president of the NAE and has been dismissed as Senior Pastor of New Life Church, therefore this website is in transition.
As is Ted, no doubt.

The facet of this story that strikes me most is not the salaciousness of it, nor the hypocrisy. It is rather the fact of the seeming hypocrisy that resonates. One can know what is right, what God wants for him, and yet do the very things he publicly wars against. The apostle Paul said as much:
14We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin. 15I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. 16And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. 17As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. 18I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature.[a] For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. 19For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. 20Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

21So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. 22For in my inner being I delight in God's law; 23but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. 24What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God's law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. Romans 7:14-25 (NIV)
So how to deal with the hypocrisy? Haggard has taken (or been forced to take) the first steps.

MLM: Multi Level Malfeasance

Amway. The name provokes fierce loyalty in some, equally fierce revulsion in others. I'll leave you to decide in which camp I reside.

Many of us are familiar with the multi-level marketer (MLM) of cleaning products and other household sundries - or perhaps its online variant, Quixtar. Many are also familiar with the solicitations of those seeking to "network" - to build their personal empires.

It is those solicitations - and the thrust behind them - that give me the heebie-jeebies (whoops - guess I gave away my position!). That someone is looking to expand his business, this I do not fault him. Simply be honest about it is all I ask. Don't couch the pitch in how much whatever MLM you represent can do for me, when you have yet to experience the very things you suggest will befall me. No, what really infuriates me is the mixing of the business with an implied superior spirituality - that your MLM is "God's way" of doing business (implying other ways are not). This happens many more times than you'd think.

Amway, like many other MLM systems, will not say as much on the surface, but once inside the organization, will reveal itself as "Christian":
“When you’re loyal to the upline, it’s being loyal to God. It’s being loyal to your husband and loyal to your children.” -Amway Double Diamond Linda Harteis, Quote from “Ladies Meeting- Tues. Afternoon-Part 1" GDL 96-35 (source)
This pisses me off to no end. Jesus Christ has perhaps one of the worst reputations in the world, due to his supposed followers, the things they associate with Him. It is only through His powerful message that this crap gets sidelined at all. Still, it pains me how many souls are driven away from belief by the misappropriation of His message.

I swear, if it isn't Madonna mixing things all up, or prominent evangelical leaders preaching one thing and doing another, it's foisters of MLM claiming to be "God's way". Jesus, how do you love us still?

One of the things I love most about Jesus is that though I might be grieved at His image in popular thought, he is not.

Full disclosure: my wife had a MLM business in operation in 2005 and part of 2006. We closed up shop due to the gift of our first child. I think we got out at a slight loss, $$-wise. Of course it was a much larger loss, if time is taken into account. With the actual business (end seller potential) of the enterprise, I don't really have many qualms; it is a good product. Even the overall stratification of MLM doesn't bother me much, as this is how it is in any capitalist enterprise (those who get in early generally make the most $$... 'cause generally they have taken the most risk... generally.). But this point I made above - about blending the business elements with Christianity - I saw this as well in my wife's org. It hadn't grown to where it was obtrusive and authoritarian, but it was definitely a fundamental.

Oh, and here's my take on MLM in general: a superior product sells itself.

If you have the time and really would like to read one man's Amway story, check out his site. He has a pdf book you can download as well. His assertions concerning prominent Republicans is exceedingly distressing, but not surprising. That the current Republican candidate for governor is the son of the founder of Amway is very interesting.

Neoconservatism: The Song Remains the Same

I posted an entry over the weekend (The Neocon is dead. Long live the Conservative!) which referenced a piece at Vanity Fair that has come under attack by the majority of those interviewed for that piece. I read many of their comments of frustration with the editorial staff at VF and I don't see where this compromises my earlier entry in any way. Neoconservatism is neither new nor conservative.

Rikki don't lose that (serial) number...

The NRA wants your donations, but this is still worth watching...

http://www.givethemback.com/ (note: click the tabs to the left on the website to see the various segments of the video.)

I'd like to think the gun confiscation in New Orleans is a special case, owing to the fact the "leadership" is obviously of limited mental capacities and as such prone to a fourth-grade interpretation of the Constitution. However, my guess is that the only reason we haven't seen this elsewhere is due to the relative lack of widespread and longstanding states of emergency in the United States. Such is why I prefer to live in a decidedly conservative county in a mostly conservative commonwealth. I can easier trust a police department that is run by those philosophically and politically attuned to interpretations of settled law that I share.

Re: New Orleans - I would sooner have been holed-up with one of those gun owners than otherwise unarmed. Memo to Mayor Nagin: criminals are the ones who don't obey laws. What percentage of those guns you confiscated do you think came from those who were going to use them for anything other than to protect themselves, hunt or shoot recreationally? The answer is 0.0%. Oh, I'm sure your reasoning (as it were) was that criminals would break into the homes of gun owners, steal their weapons and use them for untold numbers of other crimes. Um, no. Criminals breaking into the homes of gun owners in circumstances such as those post-Katrina would certainly have discovered whether the home contained a gun, probably in the form of a recommended lifetime allowance of lead.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Neocon is dead. Long live the Conservative!

I've never liked the neoconservative movement. It prescribes precisely what I do not support: a morals-based interventionist foreign policy and generally (if addressed) liberal domestic agenda. That it has found its home in the Republican Party is somewhat odd (read: annoying), given history. It really rings more like the Democrat Party of the first 2/3 of the twentieth century - the Scoop Jacksons, John F. Kennedys. Neoconservatism is a profound distraction from the goals of mainline conservatism, which I largely support. The neocons can thus be blamed in part for giving the American voter 2 Democrat parties (one international bully, one international pansy, both domestic whores) and no mainstream voice of true conservative values.

David Rose has an interesting piece in Vanity Fair, in which he interviews a number of prominent neocons, seeking their opinions on Iraq and the Bush administration. One of the interviewed, Kenneth Adelman goes even further, commenting on the health of neoconservatism itself:
Fearing that worse is still to come, Adelman believes that neoconservatism itself—what he defines as "the idea of a tough foreign policy on behalf of morality, the idea of using our power for moral good in the world"—is dead, at least for a generation. After Iraq, he says, "it's not going to sell." And if he, too, had his time over, Adelman says, "I would write an article that would be skeptical over whether there would be a performance that would be good enough to implement our policy. The policy can be absolutely right, and noble, beneficial, but if you can't execute it, it's useless, just useless. I guess that's what I would have said: that Bush's arguments are absolutely right, but you know what, you just have to put them in the drawer marked can't do. And that's very different from let's go."
This actually gives me hope, for if neoconservatism is "dead, at least for a generation" then there's hope for conservatives - that this grand distraction can be silenced, giving up precious energies for attending to vital domestic matters. Issues such as eliminating the ridiculous federal budget deficit and the ever more stultifying national debt will never garner any real focus until we are - this seems idiotic to have to write - free to focus on them. Conservative principles shine not in foreign affairs, but in domestic policies. That conservatism has somehow been stripped of this truth and, on the domestic front, turned into "if it moves, throw $$ at it" - this is so very disheartening.

If any disaffected conservatives within the Bush administration happen to be reading this, I have a plan for getting out of Iraq. Shoot me an e-mail and I'll write it up all nice and whatnot, so it sounds like you thought it up. ;-)

And on this note, good news analysis from Rich Tucker:
The tide is clearly moving to the right. A recent CNN poll found that 54 percent of Americans believe the government is trying “to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses.” That poll, incidentally, also “showed that an overwhelming majority of Americans perceive, correctly, that the size and cost of government have gone up in the past four years, when Republicans have had a grip on the House of Representatives, the Senate and the White House,” CNN wrote on its Web site.

Next week, newspapers may be writing the obituary of Republican leadership. There’s little doubt that Republicans, dragged down by their anti-conservative spending policies, are going to lose seats. But no matter how the election goes, it’ll be a victory for conservatives.


Published at OpinionEditorials.com.

Weekend levity: Xanadu


The strangest thing about this film is that I recall seeing it in the theatre upon first release with my 5th grade band classmates - on a sanctioned field trip, no less. I suppose that the band director must have thought it helpful for educational purposes as a musical.

It did turn me on to ELO... and Olivia Newton John... for different reasons.

Friday, November 03, 2006

The Wikipedia Watchword of the Week (11-3-06)

Since we haven't done one of these in a while. . .

The Wikipedia Watchword of the Week is

Fritz Haber

His wife opposed his work on poison gas and committed suicide with his service weapon at a dinner party in tribute to his having personally overseen the first successful use of chlorine at the Second Battle of Ypres. She shot herself in the heart, and died in the morning.

"The Girl in the Cafe" redux

I wrote a review of a film we recently watched, "The Girl in the Cafe". I posted that here as well as at Netflix. Returning to the Netflix site, I saw that only 3 of 10 people indicated my review was helpful, owing probably to a pronounced distinction in worldviews among the renters. I also noticed one particularly good review, very well thought out and written. He captures my sentiments precisely:
GA from Lopez Island, WA

This was a wonderful 4-star acting job, but zero stars for the phony battle between youthful idealism and middle-aged pragmatism in search of the same goals. Since the British bureaucrat never figured out how to explain his work to his beloved bomb-throwing babe, let me try this bit of Lost Dialogue, Pillow Talk on Night #2: "I understand your outrage, dear, and I share it, but the Americans have a point. China lifted over 300 million people out of absolute poverty in the 1980s without a dime of foreign aid. Deng XiaoPing merely allowed farmers to own and control their crops, and he allowed families and villages to start businesses without state control. The French and Germans also have a point -- about how Latin America is solving its problems through free trade, a growing middle class and an open press. Besides, these euro-zone zombies have no money to give. The continent is a broke welfare state. As for Africa, it truly is a special case, since it is the only remaining continent where thugs and kleptocrats still control the majority of nations. They steal our foreign aid and whisk it away to their Swiss bank accounts. The only Westerners helping Africa now are those in the Gates Foundation. The Greenies have killed millions of Africans by banning DDT and other life-saving chemicals. So... your heart is right, and I love you for that alone, but please bring your head into the game, dear. We're not venal idiots here. We just don't want to waste your tax dollars any more than we already have."

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Not your father's nuclear power

There is apparently quite a stir in some of the higher-thinking energy production groups regarding nuclear power utilizing not uranium, but thorium. This thorough piece lends probably the most quixotic factoid:
In fact, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the U.S. estimates the amount of exposure to radiation from living near a coal-fired power plant could be several times higher than living a comparable distance from a nuclear reactor.
The piece states some figures regarding coal's impact on human life that, if true, are reason enough to get serious about an alternative:
One of the main objections held against nuclear power is its potential to take lives in the event of a reactor meltdown, such as occurred at Chernobyl in 1986. While such threats are real for conventional reactors, the fact remains that nuclear power - over the 55 years since it first generated electricity in 1951 - has caused only a fraction of the deaths coal causes every week.

Take coal mining, which kills more than 10,000 people a year. Admittedly, a startling proportion of these deaths occur in mines in China and the developing world, where safety conditions are reminiscent of the preunionised days of the early 20th century in the United States. But it still kills in wealthy countries; witness the death of 18 miners in West Virginia, USA, earlier this year.

But coal deaths don't just come from mining; they come from burning it. The Earth Policy Institute in Washington DC - a nonprofit research group founded by influential environmental analyst Lester R. Brown - estimates that air pollution from coal-fired power plants causes 23,600 U.S. deaths per year. It's also responsible for 554,000 asthma attacks, 16,200 cases of chronic bronchitis, and 38,200 non-fatal heart attacks annually.

The U.S. health bill from coal use could be up to US$160 billion annually, says the institute.
The article then goes on to discuss coal's radioactive properties, lending the above quote about living near a coal plant.

Other prominent thorium energy related websites:

Energy from Thorium (a thorough weblog)
Th Solves Global Energy Shortage? (article at TreeHugger.com)