Anne Wilson

 

 

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Friday, January 31, 2003

 
New Agers in Asheville ask: Why are French boys so much less aggressive than American boys? Answer: they have more sex and aren't pressured to be manly. Guess that's why we had to pull their sorry chestnuts out of the fire on June 6, 1944. Visit Silflay Hraka's blog for more examples of French manly prowess.
 
Are educators waking up? The good news just keeps rolling in. First it was the pro-abort lay teacher fired from a Catholic high school. Now the Collier County School Board in Naples, Florida has fired a public high school teacher for demonstrating how to put a condom on a banana after some students complained to their parents about the demonstration (which also involved mood lighting and students role-playing as sex therapists.) Bouquets all around to the board and to district superintendent Dan White. No word if the ex-teacher has lawyered up yet or not.
 
How did they miss 1.5 million people? The INS did a recount and has decided that there are 8 million illegal immigrants in the US, rather than 6.5 million. The US Census Bureau thought there were 8 million illegals in 2000, which would make the number even higher now.

President Bush, Republican Party, are you listening? Another interesting factoid: 32% of all the illegals in the country live in California (2.2 million, probably more in reality), and are concentrated mainly in a few other states: Texas, New York, Illinois, Florida, Arizona and Georgia.

Also interesting: about 70% of the illegals are from Mexico. Wonder where the rest are from, majority-Muslim countries?
 
AIDS programs in Africa: President Bush has asked Congress to appropriate money for AIDS programs in Africa. Rod Dreher of National Review complains that the programs focus too much on "high-technology" medical approaches, and have too little emphasis on sexual abstinence / sexual-morality-based programs. He cites Uganda as an example of a country that in 1991 began to turn its AIDS rates around by emphasizing abstinence outside of marriage, fidelity within marriage, and condoms if all else failed.

A few points about AIDS in Africa occurred to me. We in the US should be concerned about AIDs in Africa, if only for self-preservation. If, God forbid, AIDs is going to mutate so that it jumps from person to person (like the flu) without body fluid mixture, such a mutation will probably develop there. Other diseases in Africa that are generally only sexually transmissible in the colder climes are found in forms that don't require sexual contact; for instance, yaws. Kids get it walking around with bare feet, through cuts. Getting the AIDS bug OUT of the population is of major importance - unless we want to throw up a huge quarantine wall around the entire sub-Saharan section of that continent and come back in 100 years later.

Africans still standing after fifty or so years of AIDs are going to be mostly *genetically* resistant (just as most European-ancestry people aren't killed by influenza, measles, etc.) Sooner or later the disease is going to be less devastating, simply because those with little or no genetic resistance will have died off. This effect is not noticed as much in the US because it's been limited to largely non-reproducing populations. The resistant ones don't pass their resistance genes on, because they're not passing *any* genes on, like gay men in the US. Genetic resistance is indeed going to come out of Africa, because it is only there that it's truly widespread through the whole population, instead of limited to a small subgroup like gay men, hemophiliacs, prostitutes, or IV drug users.

My gut feeling is that more anti-AIDs drugs for Africa are going to produce more drug-resistant strains. To use an analogy, think of tuberculosis in England in the 18th and 19th centuries. Huge numbers of people got TB, but by the mid-20th century it had largely fallen off - NOT because of drugs, but because of better sanitation & general health, and because so many young people susceptible to TB died before they had children.

We have TB-fighting drugs now, but they're not really for wide use, because they're complicated to administer & must be taken for a LONG time, and any break in the regimen leads to rapid evolution of drug-resistant strains. They only work, in other words, because we *don't* have widespread TB. It would have been a nightmare of the worst magnitude if, during the great TB outbreaks in England in the 18th century, for instance, TB drugs had been available to those who would or could not take them properly. There would have been more drug resistant TB now than you could believe. The sad fact is, drugs like AZT, or antibiotics, or the anti-TB drugs only "work when you don't have to use them" on a wide population basis. Yaws in Africa still responds to a single shot of penicillin most likely because yaws in Africa is still largely untreated, and few countries can afford even the single shot.

Unless anti-AIDS drugs can be delivered in the same way they are in the US medical system (which *still* produces drug resistant strains), it makes no sense to send them to Africa.

Africa is not only plagued by sexual misbehavior, but by widespread bloodletting practices. My personal view is that a lot of "heterosexual AIDs" in Africa probably comes from practices other than sexual. There is ritual scarification, genital mutilation (of boys *and* girls), ratifying contracts by sharing blood (the "blood oath"), and little sanitation for general wound care. Any anthropologists out there correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm not aware of substantial taboos against blood in Africa. Cultures which have blood taboos, like Japan or traditional Judaism, tend to emphasize cleanliness and both common and ritualized bathing.

One bizarre method of AIDS transmission in Africa involves the Anne 1:11 PM

Thursday, January 30, 2003

 
Thanks to Useful Fools for the blogroll link, and for remarking on my insurance comments. There is an interesting article there from November 2002 on health insurance reform; some comments I found especially relevant were these:
"Health insurance" in the US is not insurance... it is prepaid health care that expires under unreasonable conditions ...

The American people must decide: If we want universal coverage, we must recognize that the current system only works by historical accident (insurance is mandatory for most employees), and that it excludes a large number of people (about 15% of the population). We must also recognize that achieving universal coverage will not be achieved by market forces alone, so this political goal is one which requires government intervention.

Conservatives need to recognize the strong political demand for health care security. This demand can only grow as boomers age. Without adequate and realistic conservative programs, Hillarycare will ultimate win the political battle..

 
Thanks, too, to Captain Yips for putting me on the blogroll, and for writing:
You are right about the heating oil issue. The neat thing about fuel cells is that they work just as well-maybe better-to provide domestic power. Since the waste product is water, a house powered by fuel cells can also use the waste water for heating-I'm not sure how potable the water byproduct is, but it could certainly be used in a closed hot water radiant heat system. As of the last time I looked (about 3 years ago) retrofitting an existing home was about $5000.00; that cost will drop. The only difference between a car-powering fuel cell and one for the home is size. Scientific American had a worthwhile article about fuel cells two or three years ago, and I am sure there is more information out there now. This is a most promising technology.
Go visit him.


 
The "New Europe" rises up against the old: England, Ireland, Spain, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Holland, and Poland are apparently all tired of being pushed around by Germany and France. Another splendid offering from the Telegraph's Ambrose Evans-Pritchard.
 
Not all calories are created equal: I've been fascinated by the low-carbohydrate diet wars that have been raging since Gary Taubes wrote his What if It's All Been a Big Fat Lie? essay in the Sunday NY Times back in July of 2002. There's a bit of a personal stake here too, as I've lost about 30 lbs since putting the theory to the test.

Of course Food Pyramiders everywhere have been shrieking bloody murder, even though there's a good chance that rigidly adhering to 6-11 servings of carbohydrates per day (no, that does NOT mean you get to eat 3 bagels, 1 Supersize fries, a giant baked potato, and six chocolate eclairs per diem) leads to obesity in some genetically-predisposed people.


The biggest offenders seem to be high-glycemic carbohydrates. Processed or refined flours, sugars, grains, or starchy vegetables like potatoes and corn spur the body into eating more, because they stimulate the body to produce more insulin more rapidly (thus more hunger.) Other offenders are sweeteners added to food, especially high-fructose corn syrup (which is in just about anything packaged.)


Now it seems there's actually some scientific research coming down the pike to test the theory. Researchers divided obese boys into three groups. All got breakfast and lunch with the *same* number of calories per meal. The difference was, meals were either high-, middle-, or low-glycemic carbohydrates. For instance, a low-glycemic breakfast would be a vegetable omelet with fruit; medium-glycemic would be steel-cut "natural" oatmeal, and the high-glycemic choice would be instant oatmeal.


Not surprisingly,

The boys who ate the moderately glycemic meals ate 53 percent more calories [the rest of the day] than the boys on the low-glycemic meals. The boys on the high-glycemic regimen ate 81 percent more calories than the low-glycemic meal group.

Ludwig's conclusion: All calories are not created equal.

''We think foods that rapidly raise blood sugar lead to a sequence of metabolic events that cause blood sugar to fall below fasting levels a few hours later, and that can trigger excessive hunger and overeating in susceptible people,'' he said.

Ludwig's study isn't the first to demonstrate that high-glycemic foods do not satisfy for long. Of 16 other studies asking a similar question, Ludwig found that 15 concluded that high-glycemic foods cause people to feel hungry sooner and/or to eat more soon afterward.
What's worked for me: moderate-glycemic carbohydrates in the morning, balanced with protein & citrus fruit; protein and lots of low-glycemic veggies for one meal; a salad (with no croutons, but balanced with protein) for the other, and no eating whatever after 6 PM or so. Apparently there's some scientific basis to it.

Still no answer yet as to why certain groups (like Japanese & Chinese) can eat large amounts of rice, starchy vegetables, and noodles, and usually only become obese when they eat Western food. Perhaps there are genetic differences between groups, with Asians tolerating a high-carb diet better than some Europeans, who seem to tolerate the low- to moderate-carb diet.


 
Catholic readers: Need a little cheering up? A Delaware Catholic school teacher is fired for putting her name in a Planned Parenthood pro-abortion ad. She's already lawyered up, for all the good it will probably do her. Good for the Wilmington Ursuline Academy officials for possessing a spine.
 
"If hydrogen cars are so great, why hasn't the free market already produced them?" This question is raised by an article in today's Wall Street Journal. (You can read it here on Free Republic.)

What the writer forgets is that this isn't entirely a "free market" issue - it's a *military* and *national-security* concern.

We didn't do nuclear energy research during World War II for "free market" reasons. We did it because we thought we seriously might have to use a nuclear weapon against Germany or Japan. Even the nuclear power plant industry after WW II was deeply controlled by the Atomic Energy Commission, a federal agency, because some reactors that produced power also produced the material for nuclear weapons. Yes, the free market might have eventually produced nuclear power plants, but not in the crucial time frame needed to build atomic weapons during World War II.

Similarly, we didn't build highways just to help the trucking industry. President Eisenhower pushed for interstates because he saw how quickly tanks, men, and supplies could be conveyed on the Nazi-built Autobahn. The enormous expenditure for an interstate highway system was a matter of *national defense.*

What's unspoken in this article is the need for a hydrogen-auto-fuel and nuclear power industry synthesis. It takes energy to generate the hydrogen fuel in the form usable by future automobile engines. Nuclear power is the best answer in the long run for the country - but cars can't run off nuclear energy (or stored electrical energy in batteries) alone. With nuclear power providing heat and electrical energy, hydrogen or hydrogen/electric hybrid cars providing for transportation and agricultural equipment, and US- and non-Middle-Eastern oil sources providing for other petroleum-based products (like asphalt, plastics, nylon, etc.) independence from Middle-Eastern oil is attainable.

President Bush seems to see independence from Middle-Eastern (and Venezuelan Communist, too, probably) oil as a *national security* issue for not only our country, but for the security of the world as well. Jihadis without their oil money to fund them are just losers with loud mouths. With oil money, they are a deadly asymmetric army spread throughout the world. It's really not a "free market" issue. It's a matter of cutting off the oxygen to the raging fire of jihad.

Wednesday, January 29, 2003

 
Islamic Family Values: We are supposed to beat ourselves over the head about Brittney Spears, when this kind of nonsense is going on in majority-Muslim countries under sha'ria law.

Writer Nonie Darwish in her FrontPage article exposes the hell that is Muslim marriage. The multiple marriages, ridiculously easy divorce and arranged marriages are well known. Darwish points out a few things that aren't as well known in the West, such as the skewed emphasis in Islamic marriages upon the mother-son relationship, rather than the husband-wife one. Traditionalist Muslim women may call themselves "Mother of (son's name)" rather than "Wife of (husband)," because it is only through her relationship with her grown son that her life can have any stability at all.

Darwish also points out that the peculiar Islamic family structure makes it very difficult for women to form close bonds and alliances with each other.

I was aware that a former Muslim is considered a heinous criminal and deserving of a death sentence; news to me was that while Muslim men can marry non-Muslim women (which really, really stinks for the non-Muslim woman), a Muslim woman who marries a non-Muslim man is also considered to be under a death sentence.

As they say, the family that preys together stays together...
 
Why We Fight: Take a look at this photo of a young Afghan woman exiting her car. She's just passed her driving test. (This AP article has a bit more to say about Afghan women getting their licenses.)

This girl is enjoying a freedom not enjoyed by her Saudi Arabian sisters. In the land of our Best Allies in the Middle East, she'd be arrested and beaten, or worse, by the religious police. When are these women going to enjoy their Afghan sisters' freedoms?
 
Kartoffelkriminalen in Germany: First they banned guns, now they're proposing to ban Kartoffelkanone, made ofpotatoes, drainage pipe, and masking tape. A shotgun and some two liter bottles filled with water would be safer in the hands of high-spirited target-practicing youth, but no...
 
Go, Russia! The Russkis have deported an American woman whom they claim has had contacts with Islamic terrorists from Al-Qaeda and the Islamic Brotherhood.

She was an alleged visa criminal as well, which makes the action even more commendable. I wonder, when are *we* going to start deporting foreign nationals who are here illegally and have had contact with jihadi groups?
 
Where will Los Angeles put another six million? That's what regional planners want to know. They admit that without a "drop in birth rates" or immigration rates, it will be difficult to avoid adding another six million people to the region's roughly 17 million population.

Birth rates? Look at immigration, oh wise experts. The state of California has fifty-some representatives in Congress - have they done their part to force the federal government to get serious about stopping illegal immigration? The People's Republic is about to become a third-world one if they don't recognize their real problem.
 
Is Shania Twain human? asks the San Francisco Chronicle. Why are they disturbed by a plasticized, robotic pop star indistinguishable from a blowup doll? After all, you'd think they'd be used to that out there in SF, with all the androgynes, she-males and drag queens running around. Or is it only offensive when a *woman* does it?
 
State of the Union address scorecard: Read the full text of President Bush's speech here. Grade-A domestic policy proposals excerpted therefrom:

I am proposing that all the income tax reductions set for 2004 and 2006 be made permanent and effective this year...

Instead of gradually reducing the marriage penalty, we should do it now...

Instead of slowly raising the child credit to $1,000, we should send the checks to American families now...

I ask you to end the unfair double taxation of dividends...

[Give] seniors access to preventive medicine and new drugs ... all seniors should have the choice of a health care plan that provides prescription drugs...

I urge the Congress to pass medical liability reform...

I'm proposing $1.2 billion in research funding so that America can lead the world in developing clean, hydrogen-powered automobiles...


All very nice, except the energy proposal doesn't go far enough. I'm personally looking forward to the day when a sitting President can reanimate our nuclear engineering program. Hydrogen-gas hybrid vehicles are a good start, but too much of our heating oil comes from crude obtained from Saudi Arabia and the Middle East. There should be no reason whatever to depend on Middle-Eastern oil in those regions of the US not dependent upon coal.

 
Go buy your own soapbox... A group that wanted to air anti-war ads during President Bush's State of the Union address last night got turned down by Comcast Cable television network. The anti-war group whined that Comcast's action was "an outrageous infringement on our First Amendment rights, in the center of our democracy, Washington, D.C."

The First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees them the *freedom* to make any ads they want. It does not compel a cable television business to provide the "soapbox" for them, and give those ads airtime. The freedom to publish doesn't mean you force someone else to provide the soapbox for you.

Monday, January 27, 2003

 
Mixed-sex basic training in our military: It's "inefficient." It injures women soldiers far more than men. It causes morale problems. So we should scrap it, right?

Noooo - says the Army: we need it to "increase the acceptance of women." Since when is "acceptance of women" a reasonable military goal when the US has been at war since October 7, 2001, and is mobilizing for yet another front in Iraq? Who cares whether "women are accepted?" We need the best fighting forces available to us, not the most politically correct. I am sure the wahoobi hordes we fight are quite concerned about "accepting our women." We've already seen how they treat theirs.

At least some disagree:
Elaine Donnelly, who heads the Center for Military Readiness, viewed the [Army] slide show [on women recruits] and said the presentation ignores problems with coed training documented by independent commissions and government investigators ...

Mrs. Donnelly submitted a document to the Army that lists all the problems with mixed-sex training documented by commissions and other groups.

"Apparently the Army decided to ignore all that," she said. "There was no way they could justify coed training because the benefits were virtually nil and the costs are extremely high."

She said many of the benefits cited by the Army "relate to emotional feelings of females. Since when is basic training a charm school?"
Having some women as soldiers is good for psychological warfare purposes against the Islamic jihadi. For them to be defeated by women, surrender to them, and encounter them as military police probably drives them crazy, and that's good. So there might be some reasonable military goal in selecting and training some tiny percent of women who can truly function under the "average male recruit" standard for physical endurance and performance.

But catering to the feminists who would undermine military preparedness in favor of social engineering is ludicrous.
 
A teacher writes: Regarding the "Every Child Left Behind" federal education law:

I've taught for the past nine years in the public schools, and know what a ridiculous joke the whole No Child Left Behind concept is. The simple fact is, if a company demonstrated a curriculum that guaranteed increasing standardized test scores for 90% of students, every school in America would buy it, and the hell with the other 10%. There are numerous instances at all levels of education where removing one or two criminally disruptive punks from the classroom increases the academic performance of numerous other children.

This week I had to administer our state writing test to a student who has been in this country less than 30 days, and speaks not one word of English. He had to take the test in English. His blank page will be part of the government's evaluation of how well I teach writing skills -- great!

The education lobby and liberal social engineers use the medical model for education -- stupidity is a disease. We need to treat the symptoms (poverty, discrimination, racism, low self esteem) and find a cure or some magic pill (computers, new curriculum, more money, more money, more money..). The fact is, the medical model for education is that of the Emergency Room -- we're not curing a disease, we're doing triage for casualties. We "treat'em and street'em" -- cover basic skills for standardized testing. Some are just "goners" -- waste no more resources than you have to on them, try and save the ones you can.

Because schools only reflect what we have to work with. Imagine this -- the ER calls a parent and says their child needs a transfusion. Can we imagine the parent refusing to take the call, or saying they'll come in when it's convenient for them to discuss the situation, or denying that their child needs a transfusion, or saying that their child has only been recommended for a transfusion because of their race, or making phone calls to the hospital board of directors before they talked to the ER doc, or demanding their child be transferred to a different ER, or simply denying the existence of the situation and doing nothing? But this is what schools face constantly with
"let's get the parents involved."


The only comment I'd make here is that included among the root causes of lack of educational performance is the disintegration of the family in many neighborhoods, and our failure to deal with immigration issues.

The lack of a stable family and a good father is not something the public schools can "treat." The Washington Times told us in a January 26, 2003 editorial that
Indeed, according to the data published last month by the National Center for Health Statistics, 68.4 percent of black births in 2001 were to unmarried women. And among the births in 2001 to black women who themselves were born in the United States, 72 percent were out of wedlock.
Children of single parents (both out-of-wedlock and divorced) bring with them to school substantial disadvantages which the school is expected to "fix."

The failure of the Immigration and Naturalization Service is not something schools can "treat," either, nor can the schools "fix" the courts that rule that school districts *must* accept illegal immigrant children. Nor can school districts correct for the US Congress's continued willingness to allow enormous numbers of legal immigrants into the country, whose numerous children further strain already struggling school districts.

Sunday, January 26, 2003

 
Tommy Thompson: just another passenger on the Ship of Fools.

If there's this big inevitable threat against the United States from wahoobi bioterror weapons, one little question remains. Why are there still Islamic jihadists in the United States to provide such a threat? It's not like we don't know where they are.

If our government took this seriously, our borders would be closed to any Muslim ingress; those from Muslim countries here on visas would be deported; the illegals would be hunted down like the criminals they are, and any jihadi-supporting states' assets in the US would be summarily frozen. Yes, that would leave the fifth column, but without money they would quickly lose their enthusiasm.

This administration is ripping through its political capital when its members run around like Chicken Little and yet do nothing about the *source* of these purported threats.
 
PETA is never around when you need them. But the question remains: does the donkey get the 72 virgins?

Friday, January 24, 2003

 
Somebody's been reading this blog in South Carolina: Last month a S. Carolina judge ruled that the state's "Choose Life" vanity plate was "discriminatory" because it focused on only one side of the abortion question. So State representative John Graham Altman helpfully proposed that an alternative for the abortion-inclined be provided: a state tag that says "Choose Death." Logical and semantically consistent.
 
"Every Child Left Behind" revolt continues apace, this time in the sovereign state of Oregon, which has just announced that they will craft *separate* norms for black and Hispanic students.

The federal No Child Left Behind act requires that one uniform standard be applied to all students (including those for whom English is their second language, and blacks and Hispanic students, who tend to fall behind white students.)

Oregon, however, disagrees, and puts off requiring a uniform standard until 2014. State education official Bill Auty, one of the plan's authors, said that
schools would miss their achievement targets simply by having enough special education or second-language or Latino students to be graded on their performance, singling out schools based on who they serve rather than how well they teach.
Oregon also complains that it is impossible for them to raise their minority students' test scores sufficiently in the time alloted by No Child Left Behind.

Special education students, which include those severely retarded, autistic, with multiple handicaps, and so on, must eventually meet the mastery guidelines as well.
Jorie Weinberg, a Gresham special education teacher, said it would be inappropriate to hold her students -- most of whom read and do math about five years below grade level -- to the same standard as other middle school students.

Special education students have the lowest passing rates on Oregon math tests of any group. So schools would face the lowest target for special education students' passing rates. It would be 2011 before Oregon schools would need to demonstrate a passing rate for special education students, second-language students and Latino students that is as high as Oregon's standard for all students in 2003.
While NCLB is supposed to give states flexibility in setting their own standards, in reality those standards have to be approved by the federal Department of Education, and according to this article those interpretations have been strict.

Leaving aside the innate wrongness of a Republican administration drafting, passing, and signing into law a plan that exponentially increases the power of the federal government to influence state education (which is rightfully controlled by state constitutions), there's another issue. The federal government is going to have to take into account that there are different, innate levels of ability between students, and not penalize schools which have a higher proportion of students who even when carefully taught cannot master the standards.
 
He didn't even bother to shave... Israel Defense Forces arrested a terrorist disguised as a Bedouin woman in full traditional garb, who opened fire on an Israeli settlement. Of course he didn't need to shave: Muslim women's garb often covers the face entirely, making it easy for someone to disguise his (or her) identity. Check out his haute couteur here.

This is why we need to oppose Muslim women in the US who claim a "right" to have their identity or driver's license photos taken while in full hijab. It's a major security risk.
 
A good idea: let's implement it here: Ireland's highest court has ruled that children born of illegal immigrants do *not*have an automatic right to Irish citizenship and can be deported along with their parents. The consequences to Ireland have been fairly similar to the US situation:
While asylum applications frequently take years to complete, until now the birth of a child has resolved matters conclusively - with Irish citizenship for the infant and residency rights for the mother, usually followed by arrivals of more relatives.
It's something we should implement here in the USA: we need to amend the Constitution so that children of *illegal immigrant* mothers do not automatically become US citizens just because they're born on US soil. We should also deny citizenship to those born to parents on student, H-1B, or tourist visas. They should have the citizenship of their parents' countries. Only permanent residents and naturalized citizens should obtain citizenship for their children.

The provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment granting citizenship to all born in the US was a way to override any Reconstruction-era attempts to deny citizenship to freed black slaves and their children. It's not a problem anymore. Time to change the Constitution to reflect it.



 
Tired of all those "Not in Our Name" signs in your neighborhood? Check these out.
 
Was Scott Ritter's arrest story deliberately squelched? Scott Ritter is a former weapons inspector who's turned into a useful idiot for Saddam Hussein. He was recently arrested for allegedly agreeing to hook up with a teenage girl whom he met on the Internet, for some kind of perverted illicit sex. CNN admits to sitting on the story of his arrest. However, it wasn't politically motivated, they claim - they were just trying to do a good journalistic job.

Of course they were. It's the Clinton effect all over again - when liberals do it, it's "not really sex" and unworthy of notice, especially if you mouth the right anti-war-with-Iraq platitudes. Or, to paraphrase George Orwell, all sexual offenses are equal, but some are more equal than others.

Which raises an interesting question: if Scott Ritter had been a Catholic or Anglican priest as well, would his media karma points be net positive or negative? He'd get negative ones for being a priest, but positive ones for being pro-Iraq. Of course, you have to figure in the positive media karma points from the anti-war-with-Iraq declarations from both Catholic and Anglican churchmen. This is all so confusing... no wonder CNN sat on it. They were probably like deer in the headlights, brains overblown trying to figure out the political correctness index which would yield a go or no-go verdict.

Thursday, January 23, 2003

 
Manhattan under attack by ... architects? So says blogger Alan K. Henderson in If The WTC Is Replaced With Ugly Buildings, The Terrorists Will Have Won.

Check out the proposed replacements for the WTC. Personally, I think the big beams of light should be kept on permanently at night.
 
Palm Beach doctors walk off and protest high malpractice insurance rates by going to a symposium on the crisis. The article mentions that some surgeons have chosen to "go bare" - in other words, to carry no malpractice insurance at all.

I think this is an excellent idea. I knew a family practice doctor who delivered babies at home, and he did just that. He told his patients straight out that he wasn't insured. If they didn't like it, they were perfectly free to switch to a "mainstream" obstetrician. Yes, there was a risk that a patient couldn't recover damages. But there was a far greater risk that had he carried insurance, the premiums would have driven him out of business entirely. Why should that matter? Because he was a doctor with heart, who practiced in a poor neighborhood, ran a weekly walk-in clinic, and never to my knowledge turned anyone away who couldn't pay.

Since then I've met other doctors who in their own quiet ways have bucked the system and helped their patients at the same time. I know a specialist who absolutely refuses to submit anything to insurance. If the patient wants to, that's fine, but he won't do it. His charges are lower than his competitors. I've met family practitioners who also have gone bare and won't deal with insurance companies or Medicare.


 
I was *wondering* what Rod Dreher would say about Al Sharpton's presidential bid, and it didn't take very long. The rallying cry for conservatives, Dreher says, should be "Let Sharpton be Sharpton!"
He's going to say hilarious, outrageous things, to which the Stuffy White Guy candidates — Kerry, Lieberman, Gephardt — will be forced to respond. Yet they are going to go to extreme lengths to keep from antagonizing Sharpton. They'll be like the Episcopal bishop before Rev. Bacon in Bonfire of the Vanities. He's going to mau-mau them. From a conservative point of view, their torture will be exquisite.
And richly deserved. I think I'll even watch the Democratic Party convention on TV this year. It'll be worth every minute.
 
Don't go to church, but send him money anyway: Radio preacher Harold Camping's theory is that "the age of churches" is past. Naturally, his competitors in the evangelical world are nonplussed. People sent Camping $12,000,000 in 2000, so I guess we haven't yet moved out of the "age of donations."
 
A Democratic health care plan was proposed by Senator John Breaux of Louisiana, and mentioned in today's Wall Street Journal's editorial page. You can read the text here. I'm not going to bother critiquing it, because all these plans avoid the fundamental problem: health insurance.

People won't be convinced that health insurance is the root problem until health insurance becomes too expensive for middle-class Americans to afford: and that time is now.

The implosion of the telecom and technology markets (Worldcom and the dotbomb) have resulted in many formerly middle-class and/or upper-middle class people with severe health insurance problems.

Those fortunate enough to have been simply laid off can purchase insurance from their former employer (COBRA.) The premiums are phenomenally high for an unemployed person with a family: around $1000 a month is not uncommon. COBRA coverage can be purchased for up to 18 months. The problem is that if an engineer or tech worker is laid off for a year (NOT unusual, especially if he's over 35), that's $12,000 A YEAR.

If the former tech company goes bankrupt, then COBRA isn't an option, and the 35 year old (or older) is in the market for his own plan. One little difficulty - purchasing private individual policies is probably more expensive than the COBRA, and then there's the issue of pre-existing conditions. Many readers are probably too young to worry about this, but when you get over 35 or 40, it's rare to not have something wrong with you, and over 50 it's almost certain. So even if the money *is* there to buy insurance, which is decreasingly likely the longer unemployment lasts, the chances increase that the person will be uninsurable, or insurable only at very high cost.

I'm beginning to think the way to get around this is to simply END medical insurance. Let people set up tax-free Medical Savings Accounts. Let them deduct medical expenses OFF the top of their gross income. Continue to provide Medicaid for poor *children* but not past age 18. End Medicare entirely. This will cause some pain up-front, but prices will come down to reasonable levels eventually.

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

 
Paul Craig Roberts preaches the truth in this week's TownHall column. Nothing else to say about it; I agree entirely.
 
Miller beer commercial controversy? Blogger Guy Montag alerted me. (He sent a snippy letter to O'Reilly about it.) Being neither a beer drinker nor aficiondo of babes in bikinis, it passed under my radar.

The only question I have is, what possible excuse did the original complainer (middle-aged lady, apparently) have for actually sitting and watching a beer commercial during a sporting event? Didn't her mama ever tell her that Sunday afternoon during football season is when you go out shopping and spend all his money? (Ducking and running for cover...)
 
Go visit Admiral Quixote at Solport.

He says some nice things about this humble real estate and poses an interesting question: why is it that some conservatives get so impatient with President Bush seemingly "failing to act" until the "last minute?" The Admiral thinks President Bush is patient and a practitioner of the "give 'em enough rope..." strategy. He also opines that some conservatives (like me) see him as acting "correctly, but late" because
Perhaps they are used to politicians running as conservatives and then moving to the left? Call this a betrayal bias – so anytime President Bush doesn’t immediately come down on the conservative side, these people start waiting for the hammer to fall.
That's a good insight. Certainly in Missouri we saw it with our soon-to-be-former Congressman Richard Gephardt, who started out pro-life and switched to pro-abortion, and he's part of a cast of what seems like thousands.

Admiral Quixote hypothesizes that "independents" should be unbiased about President Bush's actions. He wants to keep track, so I'll drop in periodically to see how he's doing with it.

My fundamental view of President Bush is this: he is a good man, a good President who has proved time and again that "character is what you are alone in the dark." I'm sure when he was assessing the situation in a bunker somewhere in the Midwest on the afternoon of September 11, 2001, he was simply awash in the kind of self-discovery that one only obtains in wartime or some other life-threatening crisis. How many of us can say the same, that we've been tried in the crucible of circumstances and found to be true?

From what I see otherwise (especially on domestic policies), I see a man obsessed with following his father's fate as a one-termer. He does not want to do it. I wonder if it plagues him when considers how close the 2000 election really was. That's the rationale I see behind keeping the "compassionate conservatism;" the "faith-based initiatives;" the cozying up to Vincente Fox; the push for massive federal interference in education; the continual pandering for Hispanic and black votes by trying to "outcompassion the Democrats," even though to me this strategy seems flawed and guaranteed only to erode the Republican base further.
 
A good question: Edward Blum of Jewish World Review asks: "Can race be one factor among others in college admissions?"

Simply, *no.* As Blum points out, if race *can* be "one factor of many," as our Secretary of Defense Condi Rice would have it, why can't race be a factor in a criminal trial? Why not a factor when imposing a sentence on a convicted criminal? Why not "one factor of many" in giving (or denying) someone a job?

You can butter your bread on both sides if you want, but it makes a mess. Admission to public colleges needs to be entirely race-blind with regards to admission criteria in the case of public colleges. The only allowance permitted should be for in-state vs. out-of-state students, with in-state students given a preference because their parents have paid taxes to support the public institutions.

Private colleges that accept federal funds should be treated like state colleges when it comes to racial discrimination. The only solution is to make them race-blind too, unless they wish to give up their federal funds and their federal income tax exemptions. You take the queen's shilling, you dance to the queen's tune. Private colleges that want racial quotas can put their money where their mouth is.

But you can't have it both ways. Racism is reprehensible. After the end of slavery, we had a system of legal apartheid in this country for almost a century, and it badly needed to be dismantled. Yes, its residual effects still plague us but you don't cure a disease by doing more of what caused the disease in the first place.

One pernicious effect of the old slavery system and the forced segregation which followed was this notion of the "tainting" quality of "black blood," so that a person with one black and one white parent was deemed "black," and so on up to one black grandparent (the "octaroon" of slave days.) We found Hitler to be a monster for considering those with one Jewish grandparent worthy of persecution as Jews; we do the same when we *define* someone to be "black" if he has one black parent.

If someone has one black parent, are they considered "black" and thus deserving of consideration under a system of reverse racism? Why? Should we have tests for genetic "purity" to determine whether someone is "black enough" to qualify? This gets more loathsome the more you carry it out to its logical conclusion.

One final question occurred to me. The media have focused heavily on Colin Powell and Condi Rice's positions (presumably because they were seen as beneficiaries of "affirmative action.") Where are the comments from prominent Asians, who are discriminated *against* when race is "one of the factors" used in admission? There is no reason why a large Asian student population should be seen as somehow bad, when Asian students obviously score so much higher, and often have stellar qualifications in larger numbers.

 
Federal "McLawsuit" thrown out: The suit filed by a 4' 10'', 170-lb 14-year old could be re-filed in Manhattan court, but as far as this federal judge is concerned, customers already know the score on fast food, and
"... they cannot blame McDonald's if they, nonetheless, choose to satiate their appetite with a surfeit of supersized McDonald's products."
A judge with sense. Hopefully any other courts faced with these kinds of nuisance lawsuits will do the same.
 
Someone else doesn't like the Rohan women: A lady reader writes in an e-mail entitled "Rohan and Earth Tones":
I was disturbed too about the old-hippie, granola munching look of the Rohan women. Couldn't one of them chopped off her hair and picked up a sword? And did they all have to look like former 60s peace marching grannies? They were so wussie--not one of them seemed to even help her menfolk strap on swords or even cheer them on. I don't care what Tolkein wrote or what tribe they were modeled on--the women in the movie looked like lily-livered cowards, ready to appease the forces of evil. You know, like folks who live in Berkeley.
Now that you mention hair, for that matter, why is it that the hobbits in Jackson's LOTR manage to keep their hair all nice and shiny and groomed, while Aragorn looks like he fell into a grease pit and never climbed out?

 
The good news and the bad: First, the good news. The number of abortionists is dwindling. They're aging. They don't like the "security issues." And younger doctors don't seem to work in abortion clinics, which remain confined to large cities and their surrounding areas.

The bad news?
In places like Oregon and Montana, where it's legal, the group is also encouraging more nurse practitioners, nurse midwives and physician assistants to provide abortions. "That's one of the ways they were able to increase access in New England," [Massachusetts abortion activist] VanDerhei said.


Dental hygienists aren't even allowed to give injections or fill teeth, and nurse-midwives are discouraged from attending home births, but now non-physicians are doing abortions in some states.

This is something to keep in mind when home birth or midwifery bills make their way through state legislatures. It's essential that these bills liberalizing access to home birth do *not* open a back door for midwives in the state to do abortions or prescribe abortion-causing drugs. Look carefully at who's sponsoring and supporting such bills; if Planned Parenthood or other abortion-rights groups are involved, that's a warning bell. Any midwifery legalization bill needs to have strict and explicit language forbidding midwife or non-physician abortions.


 
US Congressman Todd Akin (R, MO) does Missouri proud: He signed on to a letter addressed to Secretary of State Colin Powell, complaining about the Mexican government issuing matricula "identity cards" to Mexicans immigrating illegally into the US. The twelve congressmen said in part:
"While the issuance of national identification cards is nothing new, providing them with the express purpose of evading U.S. law is something entirely different... The active lobbying of local and state governments by consuls of foreign countries is, at least, a breach of international protocol deserving of a serious response by our government."
The General Services Administration has also suspended the use of the matricula cards for admission to federal facilities. Perhaps the better question is *why* illegal immigrants need access to federal buildings in the first place.

Perhaps we need to go in and finish the job started in the Mexican War. We had an opportunity to make Mexico a state in 1848, but passed on it.

Mexico has already mounted a slow but steady invasion into the US, not just in the floods of millions of illegal immigrants, but in actual border incursions and attacks on US citizens at the border. Why go to war with Iraq? Better yet, invade Mexico, take over the government, occupy the country, and put it under martial law for a decade or so, to put down the banditos and drug lords. During this decade of military occupation they could be moulded into a state.

Since states' rights are almost entirely a dead letter anyway, its governor would have very little power. Yes, we would have 20 or so more Democratic representatives in the House and two more Democrat Senators, but there are worse things - like the breakdown of law and our borders. Anyway, they'd all have to pay federal income taxes then.

Further, Mexico has oil and undeveloped resources, and probably could pull in fantastic tourist revenues after the infrastructure was improved and the banditos put down. Why not? If we are tolerating millions of illegal immigrants, why not put Mexico under our control instead of theirs? The message should be, you want to be part of our country so bad, well, you can *really* become part of it.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

 
Revive this musical! In the wake of the dot-bomb, on the eve of possible war with Iraq, and in the middle of what for many *feels* like a recession even though the "official statistics" deny it, it seems an appropriate time for a revival of the Joseph Brooks musical Metropolis, and that's just what the Pentacle Theater in Salem, Oregon did last month.

Metropolis ran for a short time on the London stage, around the same time as Cats, Miss Saigon, and other shows that have moved into the canons of musical theater. But Metropolis apparently had a bad run and closed in debt.

The original Metropolis story was a 1927 film by German master Fritz Lang. It's seen by many as the definitive science fiction movie of its era, especially because of its stylish Art Deco design, and because of the numerous tributes and homages paid to it by many sci-fi filmmakers. (R2D2 of Star Wars was rumored to have been designed as a male counterpart for the robot Futura.)

Japanese manga master Osamu Tezuka did a comic book version, which was after his death adapted for the screen and directed by Taro Rin (who also worked on the original Astroboy.) Interestingly, Tezuka apparently never saw the Lang film, but saw only a few movie posters and read a synopsis of the story - enough, even so, to inspire his interpretation.

The libretto seems hauntingly topical. Surely laid-off telecom and technology workers can relate to "The Machines Are Beautiful," while reminiscing about 80-hour workweeks

Day after day we work on these machines
This is what they call life
Every hour is strife
Every morning every night
Give me reason give me light
If this is life
I've never seen this life before
If this is life
A man has got to want more
Push... Push!

Pressure's falling
Keep on pushing
Pressure's falling
Keep on pushing
Keep on pushing...


You can hear the Elites (think Enron and WorldCom executives) smiling like Cheshire cats and singing:

We're the cream, we're the crust
We're for pleasure, we're for lust
All the fun has just begun
We are the children of the sun


How about it, St. Louis or Chicago? Light fare like The Producers is fine, but once in awhile theatergoers need something with a little meat to chew on.

 
Look at this building! Rod Dreher points out a possible replacement for the Twin Towers: an unbuilt structure designed by the late wild man of Spanish art-deco, Antoni Gaudi. I don't know how long this picture will remain up, but you must see it. Don't get me wrong ... I like Gaudi and think he is lots of fun ... but this structure looks like one of those devices at ridiculous prices Rod was complaining about recently. I can just see some practical joker trying to drop a very large parachute over the top.
 
Best news all week: The Reverend Al Sharpton has announced his candidacy for President in 2004. Excellent idea! Even better: he should have a hissy fit when the Dems refuse to pick him at convention, walk out, and start his own political party. Please, please, please - make 2004 a really special year for all of us.

I can't wait to read Rod Dreher's comments about this on The Corner: Sharpton just *has* to be his favorite preacher ... right?
 
The best medical system in the world: I probably sound like a nagging liberal, sounding off about medical insurance, the greedy insurance companies, loss of medical benefits, etc. It's worth it, however, because I really do not want to see our country adopt some form of socialized medicine. Why? This story is a prime example. Only under a system of innovation and economic freedom could medical miracles like this be pulled off. Under socialism this young man would have been stabilized and left to die.

That's why the medical insurance system has to be reformed - because without serious reform, a good measure of Republicans hitting their 50s and 60s may listen to the Democrat siren song of collectivized medical "utopia," unaware of or unconcerned about the surrounding rocks.

 
There's a *reason* you secretly crave those chocolate-covered ants: DNA analysis of placental mammals (ones that carry their babies inside in wombs, rather than laying eggs like the platypus or carrying them in pouches like kangaroos) shows that the aardvark is probably most closely related to our primitive placental mammalian ancestor. Sometimes doing all that geneaology can be a mixed blessing ... who knows what kinds of ancestors will turn up.
 
Mexican ID cards are "proof positive" that someone is a Mexican citizen (and not a US citizen of Mexican descent), yet the pressure is on to allow US and state governments to permit illegal Mexicans to use these cards for illegal immigrant "identification."

For instance, "House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, has endorsed a pilot program allowing a federal building in San Francisco to accept cards as a legitimate form of identification for visitors." Pelosi's immigration record is mixed: she voted to end the foreign nurses program and in 1996 voted against a plan that would have allowed more immigrant agricultural workers, but in that same year also voted to keep the law that allows family members of immigrants to come into the US as well.

If Mexican illegals have the matricula card and lack the proper visa for tourism or permanent residence, then they need to be summarily deported.
"The most important thing to understand about these Mexican matriculas is that they are almost absolute proof that the bearer is an illegal alien," said Dan Stein, executive director of the Washington-based Federation for American Immigration Reform.


 
Winston Smith, Call the RecDep at once... Paul McCartney is having his cigarette "surgically" removed by computer imaging in new reprints of the Abbey Road posters and CD covers. George Orwell is no doubt rotating like a top. What's next, Betty Davis's signature cigarette holder or Winston Churchill's cigars?

You notice this in Steven Spielberg's 1960s setpiece Catch Me If You Can as well. Where are the smokers? People smoked like chimneys in the 1960s, on airplanes, in waiting rooms, hospitals, etc. and especially at home or in bars. Without the blur of cigarette smoke, these stagings are fake, fake, fake.

Monday, January 20, 2003

 
Boston Globe whines about "sprawl" in this editorial.

The omissions glare like headlamps. First off, the editorial makes no mention whatever of the bitter Boston desegregation battle, where white students were forcibly bussed to achieve racial integration within the city schools. Sprawl today is largely the consequence of these racial battles of 25-30 years ago, as people moved outside the bounds of court-ordered bussing.

The editorial mentions that "As recently as 1969, 69 percent of all children walked to school. The figure is now 10 percent..." but seems entirely oblivious to how crime and traffic congestion have made it remarkably difficult for many children to walk or bike to school. Further, if people moved out to the far suburbs to escape forced bussing, it stands to reason that their new(er) schools are more consolidated and thus farther from where people live.

As far as "childhood obesity" goes, you can't have it both ways. If children are close enough to school to walk (especially in areas like Massachusetts, where winters are cold and snowy), it's difficult to believe that those same children were getting that much aerobic exercise from their brief walks to and from school. The more likely culprits are high-carbohydrate junk foods and snacks. Blame government indoctrination about the "food pyramid" which has as its base high-glycemic carbohydrates like bread, corn, rice, potatoes, etc. Also blame enviro-wackos who've made it seem like eating meat is both a "sin" and "crime against the environment."
 
Can President Bush *please* fire him now? Before he does any more damage? Before we consider going to war with this man as Secretary of State?

Colin Powell thinks the University of Michigan's racial discrimination admission plan is just fine and dandy.

Saturday, January 18, 2003

 
Avoiding Poverty 101: From the National Center for Policy Analysis:

1. Graduate from high school, or better yet, get a bachelors' degree.

2. Get and keep a full-time job, even if it's lower-paying.

3. Get married. (I will add: *stay* married. Divorce is phenomenally expensive in the long run.)

4. Don't have children out of wedlock.

These simple statistical correlations are why we see so many legal immigrants who succeed - even while living in the same "failing neighborhoods" and going to the same "failing schools" everyone decries. They take classes, stay in school, have stable families, and work not one job but often two, and *everyone* in the family has a job.

Friday, January 17, 2003

 
More fun fashion for men: These "utilikilts" are for real men, and priced to eliminate all but the most dedicated. Click here for a slideshow. To avoid confusion, just don't wear them with falsies...
 
Military recruiters chased off San Francisco high school campuses: So says the San Francisco Chronicle. Ironically, Northern California overall seems to be a specially fertile recruiting ground for new high school grad recruits.
In 1991, the San Francisco school system banned military recruiters from campuses and barred schools from giving names, addresses, phone numbers or other information about students to recruiters.

[Marine Captain Tuan] Pham said recruiters have been escorted off high school campuses in San Francisco and at three high schools in South San Francisco, which has a similar policy.

"I was told to leave George Washington High School (in San Francisco)," Pham said. He was especially put out, he said, because he is a graduate of the school. "It's my own school, but we were told we were not welcome."

However, Johnson, the top Marine recruiter in Northern California, has written a letter to San Francisco schools Superintendent Arlene Ackerman, pointing out that the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 2001 provides that each district receiving federal money under the act provide the military with the same access to students as is given to other prospective employers.
In other words, it looks like the San Francisco School district may be running afoul of the federal law.

I'm getting mighty sick of taxpayer-funded high schools insulting our armed services by denying them equal opportunities to contact potentially interested students. If the districts are spitting in the eye of the US Congress by avoiding the law, get the Department of Education to do something useful for a change and cut off the oxygen of federal funding if they won't comply.

Thursday, January 16, 2003

 
Scholastic times HP V release date to coincide with Bloomsbury's, so that the new JK Rowling novel will hit the stands June 21 on both sides of the pond. According to today's Wall Street Journal, the dates were chosen to coincide so that Scholastic's sales wouldn't be undermined by online customers thinking they were getting a jump by ordering the British edition.

The question is, will the new Scholastic edition of Harry Potter: Order of the Phoenix have genuine *English* English in it? Will the texts be altered?

The Harry Potter Lexicon summarizes the changes made by Scholastic in the first four volumes. Some changes involved substituting Americanisms for British usages, like "at weekends" to "on weekends;" "jumper" to "sweater," "puddings" to "desserts," but others were more substantive.

For instance, on page 91 of the Bloomsbury edition, during the Sorting Hat sequence, the passage is:
"And now there were only three people left to be sorted. 'Turpin, Lisa' became a Ravenclaw and then it was Ron's turn."


But in the Scholastic edition on page 122, an additional sentence is added so that the passage reads:
"And now there were only three people left to be sorted. "Thomas, Dean," a Black boy even taller than Ron, joined Harry at the Gryffindor table. "Turpin, Lisa" became a Ravenclaw and then it was Ron's turn."


Obviously JK Rowling herself approved the changes in the previous four volumes; as the 900-lb. gorilla of publishing she can no doubt get whatever she wants. However, a lot has changed in the three years since the publication of Goblet of Fire, not the least being general disgust with political correctness, and readers informed by more online resources than one can read. In other words, caveat emptor.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

 
President Bush goes for fairness: It took long enough, but better late than never. The Bush administration will weigh in with the white students suing the University of Michigan's affirmative action policy, which gives black and Hispanic students advantages over whites with equal admission qualifications.

The President said the Michigan policy was:
"... divisive, unfair and impossible to square with the Constitution."

"We must be vigilant in responding to prejudice wherever we find it ... As we work to address the wrongs of racial prejudice, we must not use means that create another wrong, and thus perpetuate our divisions..."

"At their core the Michigan policies amount to a quota system that unfairly rewards or penalizes prospective students based solely on their race."
Thank you, Mr. President. Now hopefully the Supreme Court of the United States will decide accordingly.
 
Who's the mad one? John Le Carre in the January 15, 2002 London Times thinks that "America has gone mad."
America has entered one of its periods of historical madness, but this is the worst I can remember: worse than McCarthyism, worse than the Bay of Pigs and in the long term potentially more disastrous than the Vietnam War.
No, Mr. Le Carre, there really *were* communists under the bed; the US wasn't the one who stuck the Soviet missiles in Cuba, and we learned from Vietnam how *not* to do it. We applied that knowledge in Afghanistan from October 2001 to the early months of 2002 to great effect.
The reaction to 9/11 is beyond anything Osama bin Laden could have hoped for in his nastiest dreams. As in McCarthy times, the freedoms that have made America the envy of the world are being systematically eroded.
For people who don't even have a Constitution with a Bill of Rights, and who are still technically considered "subjects of the Queen," I don't think they have much call to talk. Besides, how many wahhabi wannabes are roaming around Liverpool and Birmingham? Pound for pound, I'd say far more in than in US cities.
The imminent war was planned years before bin Laden struck, but it was he who
made it possible. Without bin Laden, the Bush junta would still be trying to explain such tricky matters as how it came to be elected in the first place...

It's the Constitution, stupid. The US Supreme Court ruled that the sovereign state of Florida got to do what both the US Constitution and Florida Constitution specified all along. Florida cast its electoral votes for George Bush. We know how it works, even if Le Carre doesn't.
They might also have to be telling us why
they support Israel in its continuing disregard for UN resolutions.
Rub enough of the patina off, and underneath it's always the same: "It's the Jooooozzz!"
How Bush and his junta succeeded in deflecting America's anger from bin Laden to Saddam Hussein is one of the great public relations conjuring tricks of history.
Occasionally there is indeed a nugget in the steaming pile, and this is one point with which I must agree. The switch of American righteous indignation from Saudi Arabia to Saddam is indeed worthy of a conjuror.
To be a member of the team you must also believe in Absolute Good and Absolute Evil, and Bush, with a lot of help from his friends, family and God, is there to tell us which is which.
Maybe staring at the still-gaping hole in lower Manhattan helps us focus a bit more closely on "absolute evil." Does some Saudi-financed terrorist have to attack a major London landmark before self-righteous Brits "get it?"
If Saddam didn't have the oil, he could torture his citizens to his heart's content. Other leaders do it every day — think Saudi Arabia, think Pakistan, think Turkey, think Syria, think Egypt.
Perhaps Mr. LeCarre is just ignorant of how much oil we get from Saudi Arabia (17%) versus how much from Iraq (11% in early 2002 and downhill from there.) Saudi Arabia does indeed supply us with oil but still manages to torture its citizens with impunity, as well as any Britons or Canadians it can get its hands on.

Speaking of jihadi abuse of British citizens, has Mr. Le Carre forgotten that Salman Rushdie, victim of numerous fatwahs, death threats, and general Islamic "two-minute-hates" throughout the world, happens to be a subject of the same Queen as himself? Where's Mr. Le Carre's outrage about jihadi murderousness directed at his own fellow countrymen, much less Americans?

It's about oil, alright - *British* purchase of Iraqi oil. Great Britain and the continent are worried about having to buy oil from a US-sponsored Iraqi government; they think Saddam is giving them a sweeter deal.
Baghdad represents no clear and present danger to its neighbours, and none to the US or Britain.
From his lofty perch he knows more than the senior senator from California, who saw the evidence of Saddam's intentions toward the US and was summarily convinced that war was indeed necessary.
Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, if he's still got them, will be peanuts by comparison with the stuff Israel or America could hurl at him at five minutes' notice.
And should he start anything against the US or its allies, he roundly deserves it.
There is a middle way, but it's a tough one: Bush dives in without UN approval and Blair stays on the bank. Goodbye to the special relationship.
I guess it takes one to know one when ingratitude is in question. He twits the Kuwaitis for their treacherous behavior (if they're our allies, what are our enemies like?) but seems to forget little words like "lend-lease" and "arms for Britain." Without the "special relationship," it would be "Sprechen sie Deutch?" and "Spaetzle, bitte" for England.

 
It's coming!!
"The hottest day of the summer so far was drawing to a close and a drowsy silence lay over the large, square houses of Privet Drive ... The only person left outside was a teenage boy who was lying flat on his back in a flowerbed outside number four."
Get the genuine Queen's English Bloomsbury Press version from amazon.co.uk. (Pay with a credit card & they will convert pounds to dollars for you.) The English edition has better paper (creamy and nice to the touch, rather than smeary, thin newsprint), and cover art.

Or you can buy the so-called plain brown wrapper edition (also called the "adult edition") if you're embarrassed, as so many London Tube-goers apparently are, to ride around on public transportation reading a "children's book..."
 
Do Hummer 2s fund terrorism? This hysterical palpitation from the San Francisco Chronicle is as easy to dismiss as something you wipe off the bottom of your shoe, but there is unfortunately a nugget of truth concealed in the steaming mass.

Urban Legends crunches Department of Energy figures for January 2002 to show where we get our oil: (figures are rounded)

31% - Arab OPEC countries (Algeria, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia)
15% - Mexico
15% - Canada
14% - Venezuela
6% - Nigeria

I'm assuming the remaining 19% comes from domestic sources and some sundry others.

Of the Arab OPEC oil, 17% alone comes from Saudi Arabia, yet *all* of our "finished motor gas" that comes from Arab sources comes from Saudi Arabia. So while Saudi Arabian oil may not be a large percentage of the whole, it is indeed a larger percentage of our gasoline used in cars and trucks.

Nothing would make me happier than to see Russian and Icky-stani oil replace Arab oil on the list, but that's not going to happen overnight. In the meantime, the more gasoline and other petroleum products we use (nylon, plastic, etc.) the more money flows into the pockets of countries which make the Communists and South Africa look like utopias. The more money flowing into those countries means the more funding for terrorism. We have a choice, and I would be the first to protest the "banning" of big cars & trucks, but let's let our choice be an informed one.
 
Sandra Miesel writes:

Sorry you didn't like the way Jackson did Rohan, but they're loosely modeled on Anglo-Saxons, not the Teutonic tribes described by Tacitus in terms that may not be accurate anyway.

First millenium Anglo-Saxon women are not recorded as fighting or standing by and urging men to fight. In BEOWULF they're called "peaceweavers." (Ethelfleda, the Lady of the Mercians is an exception.)Viking shieldmaidens were far more fantasy than reality. The only case I can think of in the sagas of a historic woman involved in combat is a woman who refused to toss her husband an extra bowstring when their house was under attack. Women didn't personally fight even in that extreme situation in Iceland.

Tolkien definitely doesn't have the Edoras refugee women fight. In fact they're not even at Helms' Deep but a different stronghold, Dunharrow, the two being conflated to simplify the film.

Eowyn is explicitly forbidden to fight with the men in the books also. They did film a sequence of Eowyn killing an orc who's gotten back in the women's refuge. That may be in the extended form of the DVD.

Philippa Boyens addressed why Faramir needs to be tempted in several interviews and his character as written in the script is not quite as different from the book as it seems. It's Wenham's acting that's the problem. If Aragorn and Gandalf can be tempted, why should Faramir miss the fun?

 
Remember men in skirts? A reader writes:
Remember back in the 80's when New York fashion designers tried to push skirts for men? That had about as much success as a kosher deli in Tehran. This will too, of course, so in the meantime we can enjoy mocking the fools.

One question: How could anyone think such an idea could succeed? Perhaps the designer mostly knows only men who are gay or transsexual, and falsely generalizes from their opinions. And perhaps the few straight males she knows are all so far to the left that they can only utter politically correct platitudes of approval....
Yes, I do remember the "men in skirts" phase. Occasionally you do find a confused high school boy in a skirt, although it's hard to distinguish the perverse from the fashion-challenged sometimes.

 
Every Child Left Behind (*) Update: Chicago hosts the latest skirmish in the implementation of No Child Left Behind. One part of the federal law requires that schools provide tutorial services to students in academic trouble. The tutorial services can be given by a wide range of private providers, *including* public schools.

The Chicago school district had a tutorial plan approved by the IL State Board of Higher Education, where struggling students would be tutored by teachers from within Chicago's own schools, and teachers would be paid tutorial rates.

Now the Feds are trying to say that Chicago's implementation is "against federal law." I really do wonder whether the Federal DOE (headed by ex-Texas educator Ronald Paige, who doesn't strike me as the sharpest knife in the drawer) even *knows* the law.

The DOE is trying to say that Chicago is a "failing school district" under IL law, and by the NCLB law, districts already deemed to be "failures" can't provide tutorial services for their own students. (It's the not putting the fox in charge of the henhouse philosophy.) Unfortunately for the Federal DOE, it appears not to be true in the case of IL. A 1994 federal law that allowed the states to test and define "failing schools" was never enforced in IL, and thus Chicago's district was not defined as "failing" by the state. (Bad Clinton DOE for failing to enforce the federal law, right?)

Thus the DOE's threat to "decertify" the Chicago school district for providing tutorial services is a little disingenuous. But it does point out that it's in someone's interest (not the interest of the children in the schools, necessarily) to have as many schools defined as "failing" as possible - even when their states haven't labelled them so.

The Bush administration should look very carefully at how hard it wants to push the states on the implementation of NCLB. Most states are faced with record budget deficits and can barely pay their own bills. Sooner or later, the endless piling of unfunded federal mandates upon the states, and quibbling over every implementation detail (even if it appears to be appropriate under state law) is going to bite the Bush administration where it doesn't need to be bitten: in the ballot box.

(*) Credit goes to my lawyer friend Boleslaus, who coined this apt turn of phrase.

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

 
So perverse and stupid it goes without comment. Click here for the pic, and if you have a strong stomach, read the article. (Don't worry, it's not even rated PG-13, but still...)
 
Can we call them "terrorists" *now?* George Orwell would have been proud of the double-speakers at CNN, who stubbornly refuse to call the Chechen "fighters" what they really are - terrorists. The Russians bagged one of these "fighters" with recipes for nasty agents, including ricin (which has no antidote.) CNN won't even call ricin a chemical weapon, preferring instead to refer to it as a "poison."
 
Why the Rohan Women Weren't Wimps: Very likely, Tolkien modelled the people of Rohan after the early Germanic tribes of Europe. The whining, whimpering, puling women of Rohan in Peter Jackson's movie are like neither the women in Tolkien's book nor the Germanic women as described by first-century Roman historian Tacitus:
"...What most stimulates [the warriors'] courage is, that their squadrons or battalions, instead of being formed by chance or by a fortuitous gathering, are composed of families and clans. Close by them, too, are those dearest to them [their wives], so that they hear the shrieks of women, the cries of infants. They are to every man the most sacred witnesses of his bravery - they are his most generous applauders. The soldier brings his wounds to mother and wife, who shrink not from counting or even demanding them and who administer food and encouragement to the combatants.



Tradition says that armies already wavering and giving way have been rallied by women who, with earnest entreaties and bosoms laid bare, have vividly represented the horrors of captivity, which the Germans fear with such extreme dread on behalf of their women, that the strongest tie by which a state can be bound is the being required to give, among the number of hostages, maidens of noble birth. They even believe that the sex has a certain sanctity and prescience, and they do not despise their counsels, or make light of their answers. In Vespasian's days we saw Veleda, long regarded by many as a divinity. In former times, too, they venerated Aurinia, and many other women, but not with servile flatteries, or with sham deification.




 
General Electric union workers strike for health care: The union workers begin the first day of a two-day strike against General Electric. Workers already pay about $1000 a year for their health-care, and increases levied by the company will increase that amount by a union estimate of $300 or so yearly.

The company claims that health care costs have risen 45% in three years, and that the average cost increase per worker over that time period has been $2,350.

It's easy to pigeonhole this strike and its issues as "a blue-collar worker problem" and thus irrelevant. Those who've been sheltered from health insurance costs by professional employment often find it a shock when unemployment requires paying for health insurance under COBRA. It is not unusual for a family of four to pay $1000 a month for medical insurance - which if the unemployment is extended can amount to $6,000 to $12,000 over 6-12 months.

So the next time you read some media prating about "deflation," realize that it certainly doesn't apply to medical or insurance premiums costs.

When the professional / middle-classes experience the sticker shock of medical insurance, socialized medicine is going to look far more politically feasible. Meanwhile, the Republican Party ditzes with more educational testing, while ignoring plans for medical savings accounts, tax deductions for non-self-employed workers' medical insurance premiums, and other free-enterprise-oriented solutions to containing these surging prices.

Monday, January 13, 2003

 
NRO's A.J. Bostom looks for flies on Sufi Stephen Schwartz: Bostom is a well-regarded Muslim scholar who should know that wahhabi Islam didn't spring like Athena from the head of Zeus in the late 18th century. So what if Islamic persecution is found from the very beginning of that religion? We already know this.

His biggest objection to Sufi Islam is that Sufis persecuted Hindu Indians back when? In the reign of a 16th century Moghul emperor like Babur? Throw us a bone here, fella.

A better question is, what are Sufis doing *today?* I am sure Sufis were persecuting non-Muslims right, left, and center *back in the 16th century* in India and elsewhere. So were Christians persecuting Jews and each other in those days. We don't judge Christians by that history today, and it's not fair to judge Sufi Muslims.

My understanding is that Sufi Islam is the dominant form in the Balkans, the "Icky-stans," Georgia, the Chechen regions of Russia, etc. Sufi Muslims are fighting *against* wahhabists in those regions. From what I've read, there's no indication that Sufi Muslims have persecuted anybody in these regions, and that many of these regions have Christians and Muslims living interspersed.

Of course, if there is *present-day* Sufi religious bigotry and unjustified violence, it's incumbent upon Schwartz to point that out, and if he is aware of it and doesn't, that's another story. But going back to the Middle Ages is rhetorically dubious - because there's a lot of mud to sling from that era.

If we do have an ally in some faction of US Muslims, let's encourage them, not beat them over the head with their less civilized past. It's one thing to have "allies" whose hands are so ostensibly filthy, like the wahhabist Saudis. It's another to take pot-shots at those who despite their small numbers could be forged into useful allies.
 
Incoherent nature-nurture sludge from Sunday's New York Times about "why girls don't study computer programming." A third of programming & IT grads are women, and they're whining?

Why girls don't take CS classes in high school is easy to explain. Answer: it's not required for college entrance. It doesn't count as part of the math OR science track, is considered an "elective," and there are precious few of those in the rigorous college-prep / Ivy League entrance program. Of *course* the girls are all in AP Calculus. That's what gets them into the kinds of college to which they apply.

Amazingly, if you read this article you'd think the dot-bomb had never gone off. There are boatloads of unemployed engineers and programmers out there, largely because so many engineering jobs have been outsourced to Bangalore and Beijing, or filled by H-1B immigrants at a cut rate. (Perhaps not in salary, but when you can force someone to work 80 hours a week instead of 40, because he can't just up and quit without getting deported, that's a cost savings.)

The unspoken question should be, why should *anyone* be encouraged to go into computer science or programming, male or female? The preparation for engineering school begins in junior high school. Not only is the high school math preparation more rigorous, but the student also takes as many science courses as he can through high school, including at least one or two "advanced" sections.

To go through the work, and then the expense of an engineering or CS program only to be eventually displaced by foreign workers is obviously not seen as cost-effective by many Americans, even with relatively higher starting salaries commanded by programmers or computer engineers. But as engineers find out, those starting salaries are not matched by comparable raises unless one job-hops and moves to very expensive parts of the country (San Jose, San Francisco, Boston.)

At some point around age 40 or so, the experienced computer programmer discovers that the salary gap between him and the new hires grows uncomfortably small. After 50 he's lucky to have a job at all, unless he works in defense or some other area immune (for now) to outsourcing and H-1B incursion.

Were I dispensing advice today, I'd advise any prospective engineering or computer programming students out there to lay in the foundations of a "second career" early on, and get active in any professional organizations working to limit H-1B and foreign student visas.

So maybe the girls aren't so stupid or "oppressed by sexism" - they'd rather marry the engineers than be one, perhaps.
 
The Two Towers kvetches that I promised. You've all had time to see the movie, so no spoiler alerts.

I cannot stand Arwen. Mercifully, she barely appeared in the written work. Actually giving her a part in these three movies steals time from other story elements (like no Tom Bombadil and Goldberry in Movie One.) Why was Arwen was wearing a negligee in the Aragorn post-warg battle dream sequence? I want to know where she found the horse. Is this some spooky "Woman Who Runs With the Wolves" mysticism? Spare me.

Eowyn tells us that it's common for Rohan women to wield the sword and fight alongside the men (true if they're culturally "Teutonic," but the women all hide in the caves. After that lead-up, I would have liked to see at least a few Rohan Xenas get out there and carve up some orc. Not only that, the women disgrace themselves by weeping and sobbing when their sons and husbands leave. I would have thought it would be far more in keeping with their culture & character to have more of a "return with your shield or on it" demeanor.

The Ents did not need Merry and Pippin to urge them on to war. It was a parallelism that fit with in with Aragorn having to plant a couple of boots in Theoden's rear, but a parallelism achieved at the expense of the Ents. Nor are we ever told who the Ents are. In Tolkien's universe, they are second-oldest created beings in the world (after the dwarves and before the elves), but instead they're made to look slow, stupid, and clueless, rather than elemental and dignified.

Did Brad Dourif really need all that makeup as Grima Wormtongue? After having seen him in the X-Files episode "Beyond the Sea" as mass murderer Luther Lee Boggs, I'm convinced he does not need all that goop to scare us out of our seats.

Worst, Jackson dug himself into a hole for Movie Three when he showed Faramir experiencing the same weakness as the late brother Boromir. As I recall from the book, Faramir was a sort of "Galahad"-like figure precisely *because* he wasn't tempted by the Ring. This is *very* important when the part of the story comes where Eowyn fights the Nazgul, gets wounded, and then pines away because Aragorn doesn't love her (boo, hoo...) She transfers her affection to Faramir, but as I see it, it's *critical* that Faramir be pure and worthy of it, which is the sense I got from the book. He's "second-choice" but still, he has to be worthy of her. Of course, Jackson could cut that scene entirely and let Arwen fight the Nazgul instead, Xena-warrior-style, which would show a puking lack of respect for the story but would be characteristic of how he's developed Arwen so far.
 
Michael Frayn's play Copenhagen was derided back in 2000 by The Village Voice and other reviewers for being "dated" in its concern with nuclear annihilation and for being too sympathetic to the Nazis. (Writer Michael Frayn responded to some of these criticisms in 2002 here.) It seemed fresh and topical enough when I saw it this weekend.

First appearing on the London stage in 1998 and then in New York in 2000, the play concerns itself with the 1941 meeting of Danish physicist (and persecuted half-Jew) Niels Bohr, and German physicist Werner Heisenberg. Bohr has been "benched" by the Nazi occupation of Denmark, and Heisenberg in 1941 is in charge of the Nazi atomic weapons research project. Heisenberg visits his old teacher in Copenhagen to tell him ... what? It obviously has to do with the bomb research, but what? The three characters - Bohr, Heisenberg, and Bohr's wife - from the vantage of the afterlife, where no more wrong decisions are possible, try to sort out and reconstruct the events of that meeting, and their implications not only for the outcome of World War II but for the time afterwards.

Copenhagen until recently was a play in limbo. It couldn't have been written or produced during the Cold War era. Every play or film I can recall from those years which touched on nuclear physicists or nuclear war dealt either with high-flying philosophical universals (Friedrich Durrenmatt's The Physicists, where three nuclear scientists who have discovered the secret to an ultimate "super-weapon" pretend to be mad so that their discovery can't be used), were absurdist farces (The Bed-Sitting Room, Dr. Strangelove), or maudlin anti-American rants (The Day After) which let the Soviets off the hook entirely.

The events of September 11, the threat of Iraqi "suitcase nukes," and North Korean threats both to Seoul and Japan give this play new life, and so in that sense the St. Louis Repertory Theater is ahead of the coasts for once.
 
Science museums from hell: Amy Welborn takes on modern science museums and their uncanny and unpleasant resemblance to video arcades, with about the same effect on children.

Welborn is totally spot on here. Many of the older museums have in the past 25 years become "modernized" to the point where they're a torment to the eye, ear, and peace of mind, and as Welborn points out, very little science learning is probably going on.

One museum we found especially charming, calming, and highly informative was the University of Nebraska State Museum at Morrill Hall on the campus of the same name. We were there several years ago and unless it's been modernized too, it reminded me of the *old* Museum of Natural History in New York City, on a smaller scale of course. What struck me in comparison to the St. Louis Science Center and other similar halls of torture was how *quiet* it was, and how contemplative.

Sunday, January 12, 2003

 
Alert the media: Prominent Muslim cleric denounces "extremism:" Sheikh Hisham Kabbani, a California Sufi Muslim, denounced "extremism" and urged Yuba City, CA Muslims and guests at a recent talk to keep their mosques from being influenced by jihadis.

The Islamic Center of Yuba City:
has taken measures to protect itself from the influences of outside groups, said Abdul Kabir Krambo, a member of the center's board of directors.

For example, signs posted outside the center state that it forbids anyone from handing out religious literature unless it is approved by the board of directors. Speakers also must be approved by the board before they take to the podium, Krambo said.

Since it opened, the center has refused donations from outside the organization to prevent influence peddling, Krambo said.

Outside groups seeking to influence the Islamic Center have been turned away, Krambo said.

"These guys and their ideology don't reflect what people believe here," Krambo said.
Kabbani IS the genuine article: a Muslim who sincerely gets along with both Jews and Christians; supports the right of Israel to exist; ratted to the State Department in 1999 on his wahhabi terrorist co-religionists, and has been forthright since 9/11/01 against jihadist terrorism.

Leaders like Kabbani, and groups like the Yuba City Islamic Center, are the more noteworthy because of their rarity. Even so, through tiny accomplishments like theirs can jihadi Islam be defused in the United States. We are practically the only country where Sufis and other non-jihadi Muslims can freely speak out without fear of attack or even murder. Without this freedom, any Islamic "reformation" will be strangled in its cradle.