Thursday, August 31, 2006

Out of the big tent; The "South Park Republicans" have had enough

The coming conservative crack-up. The New York Times' John Tierney sees the trend; libertarians (a.k.a South Park Republicans)are fed up with the Republican Party's marriage to the Religious Right and Rick Santorum's overreach. What will they do? Pray -- not for or to Jesus -- but for divided government!

Democrats had "The West Wing," but Republicans had a hip show with a younger audience. Michael Moore could churn out propaganda, but Stone and Parker could counter with "Team America," their movie in which Moore appears as a suicide bomber who can't stop eating hot dogs.

Stone and Parker were never thrilled to be G.O.P. poster boys and said they weren't sure what a South Park Republican was. They were generally reluctant to be pigeonholed ideologically, but last week they clarified it by headlining at a Reason magazine conference in Amsterdam, the libertarian version of Davos. Stone and Parker said that if you had to put a label on them, they were libertarian?and that didn't mean Republican to this crowd.

The G.O.P. used to have a sizable libertarian bloc, but I couldn't see any sign of it at the conference. Stone and Parker said they were rooting for Hillary Clinton in 2008 simply because it would be weird to have her as president. The prevailing sentiment among the rest of the libertarians was that the best outcome this November would be a Democratic majority in the House, because then at least there'd be gridlock.

"We're the long-suffering, battered spouse in a dysfunctional political marriage of convenience," said Nick Gillespie, the editor in chief of Reason. "Most of the libertarians I know have given up on the G.O.P. The odds that we'll stick around
for the midterm election are about as good as the odds that Rick Santorum will join the Village People."

Stone and Parker told me they'd previously seen the G.O.P. as a relief from the big-government liberals, particularly the ones preaching to America from Hollywood. We see these people lying, cheating, whoring," Stone said. "They're our friends, but seriously, they're not people you want to listen to."

The religious right used to be a better alternative, Parker said. "The Republicans didn't want the government to run your life, because Jesus should. That was really part of their thing: less government, more Jesus. Now it's like, how about more government and Jesus?"


Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Segue music; John Batchelor is going on hiatus

John Batchelor is leaving ABC Radio. He explains that he might be back somewhere. What will I do at 10 p.m. now?

Christopher Hitchens rips Joe Wilson yet another one

Palme was as much a covert agent as the man on the moon. The case was overblown and served nothing but political ends. It should have never come to this but it was useful for beating the Bush Administration. What was it about Rove and frogs anyway? It seemed that Saddam did more digging in Niger than Inspector Wilson. What a fraud!

I had a feeling that I might slightly regret the title ("Case Closed") of my July 25 column on the Niger uranium story. I have now presented thousands of words of evidence and argument to the effect that, yes, the Saddam Hussein regime did send an important Iraqi nuclear diplomat to Niger in early 1999. And I have not so far received any rebuttal from any source on this crucial point of contention. But there was always another layer to the Joseph Wilson fantasy. Easy enough as it was to prove that he had completely missed the West African evidence that was staring him in the face, there remained the charge that his nonreport on a real threat had led to a government-sponsored vendetta against him and his wife, Valerie Plame.

In his July 12 column in the Washington Post, Robert Novak had already partly exposed this paranoid myth by stating plainly that nobody had leaked anything, or outed anyone, to him. On the contrary, it was he who approached sources within the administration and the CIA and not the other way around. But now we have the final word on who did disclose the name and occupation of Valerie Plame, and it turns out to be someone whose opposition to the Bush policy in Iraq has like Robert Novak's?long been a byword in Washington. It is particularly satisfying that this admission comes from two of the journalists Michael Isikoff and David Corn who did the most to get the story wrong in the first place and the most to keep it going long beyond the span of its natural life.

The global warming inquisitors

A must read Alex Beam column. Some environmentalists are a threat to academic freedom and Al Gore is egging them on.

When Lindzen published similar views in The Wall Street Journal this spring, environmentalist Laurie David, the wife of comedian Larry David, immediately branded him a ``shill." She resurrected a shopworn slur first directed against Lindzen by former Globe writer Ross Gelbspan, who called Lindzen a ``hood ornament" for the fossil fuels industry in a 1995 article in Harper's Magazine.

I decided to check out Lindzen for myself. He wasn't hard to find on the 16th floor of MIT's I.M. Pei-designed Building 54, and he answered as many questions as I had time to ask. He's no big fan of Gore's, having suffered through what he calls a ``Star Chamber" Congressional inquisition by the then senator . He said he accepted $10,000 in expenses and expert witness fees from fossil- fuel types in the 1990s, and has taken none of their money since.

He's smart. He's an effective debater. No wonder the Steve Schneiders and Al Gores of the world don't want you to hear from him. It's easier to call someone a shill and accuse him of corruption than to debate him on the merits.

While vacationing in Canada, I spotted a newspaper story that I hadn't seen in the United States. For no apparent reason, the state of California, Environmental Defense, and the Natural Resources Defense Council have dragged Lindzen and about 15 other global- warming skeptics into a lawsuit over auto- emissions standards. California et al . have asked the auto companies to cough up any and all communications they have had with Lindzen and his colleagues, whose research has been cited in court documents.

"We know that General Motors has been paying for this fake science exactly as the tobacco companies did," says ED attorney Jim Marston. If Marston has a scintilla of
evidence that Lindzen has been trafficking in fake science, he should present it to the MIT provost's office. Otherwise, he should shut up.

"This is the criminalization of opposition to global warming," says Lindzen, who adds he has never communicated with the auto companies involved in the lawsuit. Of course Lindzen isn't a fake scientist, he's an inconvenient scientist. No wonder you're
not supposed to listen to him.

Monday, August 28, 2006

This quip says it all

The ever-essential Squaring the Globe sums it up nicely.

"I do not read Globe editorials unless I need a free substitute for syrup of Ipecac."

I wonder what Renee must think. Meanwhile, here's what Chris Lydon thinks of the Boston Globe editorial page as of late.
"The Globe editorial page may be the most predictable rectangle in print, and the least remarked. "

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Someday coffee drinkers will understand

I don't stop everything for tea at 4 p.m. but I do know that tea is good for you.

Drinking three or more cups of tea a day is as good for you as drinking plenty of water and may even have extra health benefits, say researchers.

The work in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition dispels the common belief that tea dehydrates. Tea not only rehydrates as well as water does, but it can also protect against heart disease and some cancers, UK nutritionists found.

These polyphenol antioxidants are found in many foods and plants, including tea leaves, and have been shown to help prevent cell damage.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The raging debate on charter schools

If charter schools underperform traditional ones, why is it then that they are waiting lists to get into them?

WASHINGTON, Aug. 22 - Fourth graders in traditional public schools did significantly better in reading and math than comparable children attending charter schools, according to a report released on Tuesday by the Federal Education Department.

The report, based on 2003 test scores, thrust the Education Department into the center of the heated national debate over school choice. It also drew a barrage of criticism from supporters of charter schools, the fastest-growing sector in public education, who sent out press statements casting doubt on the report?s methodology and findings even before they were announced...

The study found that in 2003, fourth graders in traditional public schools scored an average of 4.2 points better in reading than comparable students in charter schools on the National Assessment of Educational Progress test, often called the nation?s report card. Students in traditional schools scored an average of 4.7 points better in math than comparable students in charter schools.

Students in charter schools that said they were affiliated with local school districts did better than those in schools largely independent from local systems, scoring on par with children in regular public schools in reading and math.

The study also compared traditional public schools with charter schools in central cities serving mostly minority students and found no significant difference in reading achievement at the different schools. However, math scores at such urban charter schools still lagged those at traditional schools, except when those charters were affiliated with local districts.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Besides hitting the high hat, there was a time when Carl Palmer hit high marginal tax rates.

Carl Palmer didn't need much of a financial planner. Unlike most musicians, he knew the deleterious effects of high marginal tax rates.

Bankrate: What were some of the things you invested in?

Carl Palmer: I invested in what I considered to be very easy investment --
government bonds, unit trusts, played the stock market to a certain extent,
AT&T, Exxon, those types of things. My main interests were rental properties, beachfront properties and buying offshore properties when the legal side in Europe allowed you to do that. Laws changed, so to have anything that was in an offshore company would make you automatically subject to X amount of tax. I also recorded in places like Switzerland, Germany, Montreal and even America, because then the tax wouldn't have been as high. If you consider that to be an investment, then long term it turns into a very good investment, because it was taxed at a much lower rate.

Bankrate: What was the tax situation in the UK?

Carl Palmer: During the early '70s, the tax here was 98 percent. During that time, you could work and record outside of the country, because the product was recorded where it wasn't subject to full-on UK tax. This is a very old law, since changed a thousand times.

Bankrate: So which albums did you record outside the UK to avoid that excessive rate of tax?

Carl Palmer: The biggest one would have been "Works," which was a double album and which we toured with an orchestra. We recorded an orchestra in Montreux,
Switzerland, and then we went to America and toured for three weeks with a 64-piece orchestra. The only way to do that was to use the tax savings we had to reinvest back into our business.

Bankrate: Have the laws changed to the point where it now makes financial sense to do projects like that in England?

Carl Palmer: Yes. If you record outside of England now, the savings are very
little.

A great American has died


"In that moment, Rosenthal's camera recorded the soul of a nation." . . .Editors of US Camera Magazine.

R.I.P. Joseph Rosenthal

A 1995 AP profile is here. More of Mr. Rosenthal's work can be found here.

Hat tip: Powerline.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Friday, August 18, 2006

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

This real man will certainly sleep with one eye open

This certainly can be called sticking one's chest out. But then this writer certainly doesn't know what he's in for.

[The] backfiring feminist conspiracy has, of course, developed hand in hand with the march of raging political correctness in Britain. The two have combined like some potent chemical reaction to explode in the faces of a generation of women who thought that a 'moulded' man would make for a desirable one.

In recent years, men have been trained like circus seals to be inoffensive to women, and no longer know how to entice them and turn them on.

But women secretly long for a man with swagger, who is cocky and self-assured and has the cheek to stand up them and make fun of their feminine foibles.

They long for the rakish charm of a man who knows there's a whole ocean of fish out there, who isn't afraid of being himself in case he is rejected.

The truth is, a real man doesn't care what any woman thinks of him. He doesn't care what anyone thinks of him: he answers solely to his spirit.

Real men don't pretend or even try to understand women. They simply love them for being the mysterious, capricious creatures that they are. And they don't take them too seriously, either.

They know the vicissitudes of the female mind, its constant insecurities and the fluctuations in mood.

Rather than pander to them, they simply watch them drift by like so many clouds on the horizon. They don't get entangled in a woman's feelings and listen to her prattling on and on until she's talked herself out. Such strong and stoic men are exactly what women need to anchor themselves amid the chaos of their emotions.

Sometimes my wife bemoans my detachment and laissez-faire attitude to our marriage and wishes I were more wrapped up in her. I tell her she would soon get bored of it, because men who put women on a pedestal can't make love to them in the way that women want.

A man who is too in awe of his woman isn't going to tear her blouse open and ravish her on the couch; he isn't going to pull her hair and whisper profanities in her ear.

Whenever my marriage is at a crisis point, and my wife's ego and mine are jostling for a position of supremacy, we inevitably have strenuous, battling sex.

My wife is older and more successful than I am, but the bedroom has always been the arena in which I have brought her down to earth.

The female orgasm is the natural mechanism by which men assert dominion over women: a man who appreciates this can negotiate whatever difficulties arise in his relationships with them.

Last Christmas, my wife threw me out after discovering I'd been cheating on her. On the night we got back together, I made strong, passionate love to her. Unfaithful as I'd been, I was not going to let her have me over a barrel for the rest of our marriage.

I needed to keep a sense of self and not allow her to mire me in guilt and a desperate quest of forgiveness.

I needed to let her know what she would be missing if we broke up for ever. I gave her a manful bravura performance that night, and at the height of her passion, I asked her: 'Who's the boss?'

We've got too many bohemians

Another strike against the emphasis of developing a creative class to rejuvenate cities.

Such striving for creativity can actually reduce innovation. Vying for creative credit, people routinely neglect good ideas "not invented here." And they often join the crowd behind a new idea just to declare their creativity, which distracts them from really trying to make that new idea work.

To succeed in academia, my graduate students and I had to learn to be less creative than we were initially inclined to be. Critics complain that schools squelch creativity, but most people are inclined to be more creative on the job than would be truly productive. So schooling is mostly about selecting the smarter and more diligent, and learning to show up day after day to somewhat boring jobs with ambiguous instructions.

What society needs is not more creativity or suggestions for change but better ways to encourage people to focus on important issues, identify the most promising ideas, and tell the right people about them. But our deification of creativity gets in the way.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Did this machine change the world?

It was 25 years ago that a clunky box of electronics made its appearance. It's hard to believe that anyone could doubt its utility! Was Ken Olsen's remark taken out of context?

Friday, August 11, 2006

Something useful you should know

Update: I should have trusted my instincts about chain letters. Apparently the 9-0-# scam is a hoax. So suggests Snopes.com. Econopundit posts a mea culpa.

I usually distrust chain letters or notices. But this one seems to be very useful. Not only that it's from Econopundit whom I find reliable on economic matters. The advice herein can head off a growing scam involving long distance calling on your telephone. Be aware.

PASS ON TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW -- I received a telephone call last evening from an individual identifying himself as an AT&T Service technician who was
conducting a test on the telephone lines.
He stated that to complete the test I should touch nine( 9 ), zero( 0 ), the
pound sign ( # ), and then hang up. Luckily, I was suspicious and refused. Upon
contacting the telephone company, I was informed that by pushing 90#, you give
the requesting individual full access to your telephone line, which enables them
to place long distance calls billed to your home phone number.I was further
informed that this scam has been originating from many local jails/prisons.
DO NOT press 90# for ANYONE!

The GTE Security Department requested that I share this information with EVERYONE I KNOW. After checking with Verizon they said it was true, so do not dial 90# for anyone!!!!!

PLEASE PASS THIS ON TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW.

A family sends off another


A sign of the times from Old Bridge, NJ near Laurence Harbor. (photo credit: me)

Meanwhile the U.S. Army is meeting its recruiting goals. There is no shortage of brave men and women ready to protect our way of life.

Come home safely indeed. And thank you Shawn for your service!

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The next big one foiled; Five conspirators still at large!

Tyler Cowan at Marginal Revolution has a few questions about the viability of the Islamo-fascist conspiracy to blow up about 10 American airlines. How could 21 to 24 men pulled off bomb-making on each of the plans. If successful the disaster would have outstripped 9/11.

I guess in theory you can trigger a liquid explosive with a flash camera. The Internet certainly says you can. How much mid-air assembly of the procedure is required, and at what point do the scheming Pakistanis start to look suspicious? Do the passengers just stand around and watch? Of course if only one of the plots had succeeded it would have been terrible terrible terrible. But, um, was this really a well-developed idea for a terror attack? Just askin', as they say...

How many airline passengers would react and say frantically "Let's roll?"

There's a lot of follow on this story. James Taranto has more.

Meanwhile fewer people might be less wary of electronic surveillance. The feds picked up chatter.

Was this event a precursor to the bust?

A brief reprise from the work world


A sunset on a boardwalk from Laurence Harbor in Old Bridge, New Jersey. Photograph made possible by Sony DSC-W50 Cybershot 6.0 megapixels camera. Nice photograph if I do say so myself.

The false promise of vitamins

More bad news for vitamin poppers like me. Dr. Jerome Groopman takes on the multibillion dollar supplement industry.

Some 60 million Americans use supplements, megavitamins, herbs and other so-called "alternative" treatments. Their out-of-pocket costs approach $40 billion a year. Their therapies are promoted by a vast number of self-help books, Web sites and talk shows that feature thrilling testimonials of benefits for maladies that mainstream medicine cannot remedy. But we are now learning what happens when the testimonials are subjected to objective testing. In February, the results of a large clinical trial of the supplements glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate for osteoarthritis were released. These data came on the heels of a rigorous assessment of the herb saw palmetto for symptoms of an enlarged prostate gland. Both studies failed to show clinical efficacy. All this should mark a sea change in how the public views such treatments.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Oh no we're pissing away millions!

More evidence that vitamins are a waste of money. What will become of all those health food stores? This is one story you hope isn't true. Why? I'm not sure. For years, I assumed that taking vitamins was a virtue. Now we are doomed say the scientists.

Vitamin supplements do not work and may do more harm than good, experts have warned.

The tablets taken by millions of health-conscious Britons each day do nothing to stave off illness, they said.

In fact, Vitamins C and E - compounds known as anti-oxidants - may actually cause some illnesses. While vitamins may ward off disease in the test-tube, they do little to protect in everyday life, this week's New Scientist reports.

The magazine says: 'Cranberry capsules. Effervescent vitamin C. Pomegranate concentrate. Beta carotene. Selenium. Grape seed extract. High-dose vitamin E. Pine bark extract. Bee spit. 'You name it, if it's an anti-oxidant, we'll swallow it by the bucket-load. We have become anti-oxidant devotees. But are they doing us any good?

'Evidence gathered over the last few years shows that, at best, antioxidant supplements do little or nothing to benefit our health. 'True, they knock the wind out of free-radicals in a test tube. But once inside the human body, they seem strangely powerless.

'Many scientists are concluding they are a waste of time and money. At worst they could be harmful.' The report follows a warning from American scientists that multivitamins could be of little benefit and there is danger of overdosing on some. Anti-oxidants, which occur naturally in plants, mop up free-radicals - toxins produced by the body that damage cells and are linked to a host of illnesses.

Their supposed benefits are so great that much of the £300million spent by Britons on vitamin and mineral pills each year goes on anti-oxidants.

While taking the compounds naturally in fruit and vegetables may be beneficial, pills and other supplements appear to do little good.

One of the most high-profile offenders is vitamin E. It became popular in the early 1990s, when two studies involving more than 127,000 participants found those with a diet high in the vitamin were at less risk of heart attacks and strokes.
However, most studies since then have failed to make the link. One concluded that the vitamin increased the risk of heart failure.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Which consensus will prevail? We link, you decide!

Has the U.S. and Israel pushed 'free' Lebanon into the Syria-Iran axis.
Or is the Party of God crushed?

Who will adopt one view over the other -- and for what purpose?

Walid Jumblatt, leader of the most powerful clan in Lebanon?s Druze community, said on Tuesday the conflict between Israel and Hizbollah guerrillas had dealt a fatal blow to Lebanese hopes of a strong independent state, free of Iranian and Syrian influence.

Speaking from his family?s palatial 18th century redoubt high in the Shouf mountains above Beirut, Mr Jumblatt said the Shia Hizbollah movement already sensed victory.

He accused the movement of working to an Iranian and Syrian timetable when it kidnapped two Israeli soldiers on July 12, triggering a devastating Israeli retaliation. In the process Hizbollah had ?stolen the hopes? of young Lebanese whose protests last year helped force Syria to withdraw its troops after 22 years in Lebanon.

But he said that like many Lebanese he had to support the Shia movement in its resistance against ?brutal Israeli aggression?. They were ?a well entrenched guerrilla army, not afraid to die, plus they are fighting Vietcong style?, he said. Israel?s widening offensive would only cause more destruction and weaken further the Lebanese state.

?After the 12 July, Lebanon is now unfortunately being entrenched solidly into the Syrian-Iranian axis,? he said. ?The hopes of a stable, prosperous Lebanon where we could attract investments is over for now. It is a fatal blow for confidence.?

Mr Jumblatt has shrewdly navigated the ups and downs of Lebanon?s treacherous politics, gaining influence beyond the weight of his Druze community, a breakaway sect from Shia Islam that makes up around 10 per cent of the population.

As a militia leader during Lebanon?s civil war he accommodated Syria?s expansionary aims. But last year he emerged as one of the Syrian regime?s fiercest opponents in an alliance of groups that came together following the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri and led a coalition government following elections.

Or it is the view from ThreatsWatch -- Hezbelloh is crushed -- that will prevail?

Israel is providing a lesson on fighting the war on terror.

The mighty Hizballah, rightfully feared as the most lethally armed terrorist organization on the planet, is now on the ropes. Only their lifeline from Syria sustains them in the midst of devastating strikes from the Israeli Air Force. From the hundreds of rocket launchers in southern Lebanon to weapons depots and infrastructure all the way up the Bekaa Valley in Baalbek, Hizballah?s operational headquarters city, the IAF has exacted a heavy toll from Hizballah since the attack in Israel in which Hizballah terrorists killed eight IDF soldiers and abducted the two surviving.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Castro the coward, sounds about right

In Cambridge they are probably holding vigils for Castro, who handed over power to his brother. For the hard left, this is an opportunity to praise the glory that is their hero, Fidel. But the hand-off is not only an opportunity to plan a transition, whatever that might mean beyond the partying in Little Havana. It's also an opportunity to call out the Fidelistas and Chavezites.

For all his anti-American posturing over the years, Castro is really a coward. At least Hugo intimidated his opponents in a farcical election.

I agree with Andres Oppenheimer. Why fear something like an election, Fidel.? And hey you lefties don't give me crap about the U.S. embargo or literacy for the poor or "free" health care for the people. The poor prefer American dollars, a testament to the failure of socialism.

MADRID -- Watching Cuban President-for-life Fidel Castro's visit to Argentina while on vacation here recently, I couldn't help thinking about one of the greatest ironies of our time: The 79-year-old leader is still regarded by many as an icon of courage, when in fact he is the biggest coward among Latin American leaders.Fidel Castro a coward? You bet! Consider:

Unlike every other Latin American and Caribbean leader, Castro has not had the guts to allow a free election in 47 years.Unlike all other Latin American and Caribbean leaders, Castro is the only leader in the region who doesn't have the courage to allow independent political parties. In his island, only one party -- his -- is allowed, and whoever doesn't join it is suspected of being an "anti-social" element. According to the latest Amnesty International report, there are nearly 70 prisoners of conscience in Cuban prisons, while Human Rights Watch puts the figure at 306.Unlike all other regional leaders, Castro doesn't have the confidence to allow a single independent newspaper, radio or television station, or to allow people with different ideas to even appear on Cuban media. Cuba's laws specifically bar anybody in Cuba from publishing "non-authorized news" abroad, making those who do it liable to "enemy propaganda" charges that carry several years in prison.Unlike all other leaders in the region, Castro is afraid of allowing most of his people greater access to
the Internet. According to the World Bank's 2006 World Development Indicators, only 13 of every 1,000 Cubans have access to the Internet, compared with 267 of every 1,000 people in Chile, and 59 of every 1,000 people in Haiti. Regarding what Cubans can read on the Web, Reporters Without Borders, the Paris-based advocacy group, says Cuba's Internet censorship is worse than China's.

You don't want Bechtel on this job

Even a broken clock is right twice a day. Senator Henry Reid's worried about Yucca Mountain and a contract with Bechtel. Can you blame him? Do you really want Bechtel handling a project that will deal with nuclear waste? I wouldn't.