Monday, May 31, 2004

By all accounts, US support for corrupt Arab governments was a major factor in September 11 and in the general rage against the US in Arab countries. Bush and the neo-conservatives have been trying to address this by pushing for democracy in countries such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

How will Kerry address this? By continuing to support the corrupt Arab governments.

Sen. John F. Kerry indicated that as president he would play down the promotion of democracy as a leading goal in dealing with Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, China and Russia.

In many ways, Kerry laid out a foreign policy agenda that appeared less idealistic about U.S. aims than those of President Bush or even fellow Democrat Bill Clinton. Although Kerry said it is important to sell democracy and "market it" around the world, he demurred when questioned about a number of important countries that suppress human rights and freedoms.


Wednesday, May 26, 2004

How about a documentary where Michael, a young film maker tries to see a powerful multi-millionare? In this case, the film maker is Michael Wilson and the rich guy dodging his calls in Michael Moore.
For more, go here

For more fun, go to Moore Watch

Good luck, though. I keep timing out on the site.

It turns out that the plot
in The Day After Tomorrow is as bad as the science.

A publicist for Fox — who bragged about my expulsion later to paparazzi — actually said to me, "It sounds like you're going to blackmail us. If you don't get into the party, you'll say the movie was bad.

Ah, well: No amount of edible swag could save "The Day After Tomorrow," a $200 million disaster film that is quite the disaster, indeed. (Although, let's face it, a shrimp and a diet Coke couldn't have hurt at that point.)

But that's just one reviewer. What do others say?

Will environmentalists seize their "teachable moment", harness a fearful and outraged public, and strongarm Congress into "seeing the light" and resuscitating the Kyoto Protocol?

In other words, will liberals get their fairy tale ending?

In a word: Nope.


Are stupendous special effects and a solid scenario enough to carry a film, when the narrative and dialogue are weak? In the case of Roland Emmerich's The Day After Tomorrow, the answer is yes. But only just.

Then there is this review of the premier and Gore's Town Hall Meeting.

We saw Mr. Gore speak, accompanied by a slide show of charts and graphs.

How exciting was it?

Next to us, a man with an American flag on his lapel was dead asleep despite the Starbucks cup near his feet. Mr. Gore and a slide show - not even a supershot of espresso is going to keep you awake.

But is there more to the movie
than just a Summer special effects blockbuster? Is it part election campaign? Here is what the director says:

The film's director Roland Emmerich doesn't hide his political motivation. "My secret dream is that this film will move politicians to act," he says.

This is part of a wider Hollywood attack on Bush. Thomas Bray of the Detroit News has this to say.

Hollywood, the spear carrier for the left, is doing its usual election-year thing. Propagandist Michael Moore got cheers last week at a film festival in France about President George W. Bush’s “lies” about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. And later this month Hollywood jumps aboard the global warming bandwagon with an ideologically loaded flick titled “The Day After Tomorrow,” which hypothesizes the flash-freezing of New York City after those nasty oil-besotted Republicans refuse to take action to stabilize the climate.

Fortunately, Hollywood’s predictive capacities aren’t great. The day after the screening of the Moore film at the Cannes Film Festival, a sarin-laced artillery shell exploded near Baghdad, raising the possibility that Bush has been right all along.

And just to make sure that you act, there is a small bribe involved:

Visitors who visit and send an online letter to their senator or representative urging them to support the bipartisan Climate Stewardship Act will receive a coupon redeemable for a free scoop of Ben & Jerry's ice cream.

If a helpful volunteer from hands you a flyer about global change, you can print this off and give it to them.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Pew Survey Finds Moderates, Liberals Dominate News Outlets

What a surprise.

At national organizations (which includes print, TV and radio), the numbers break down like this: 34% liberal, 7% conservative. At local outlets: 23% liberal, 12% conservative. At Web sites: 27% call themselves liberals, 13% conservatives.

This contrasts with the self-assessment of the general public: 20% liberal, 33% conservative.

Hidden in there is that even the moderates are not all that moderate.

The survey also revealed what some are sure to label a "values" gap. According to Pew, about 60% of the general public believes it is necessary to believe in God to be a truly moral person. The new survey finds that less than 15% of those who work at news outlets believe that. About half the general public believes homosexuality should be accepted by society -- but about 80% of journalists feel that way.

This has been a sore point about the media for years - they think that they are moderate but that is only within their own select circle. Compared with the outside world, most of them are pretty liberal.

BTW, I do not disagree with the majority of journalists about these subjects but I do not fool myself into thinking that this is the moderate position either.

Can we get a little perspective

Andy Rooney is putting this as one of our nations' darkest days.

Our darkest days up until now have been things like presidential assassinations, the stock market crash in 1929, Pearl Harbor, and 9-11, of course.

The day the world learned that American soldiers had tortured Iraqi prisoners belongs high on the list of worst things that ever happened to our country. It's a black mark that will be in the history books in a hundred languages for as long as there are history books. I hate to think of it.

There are a lot of things that could be added to the list. Slavery, the policy of genocide against American Indians in the late 19th century, the Civil War and its attendant suffering, the Galviston Flood which killed more Americans in one day than any other event.

People's memories seem to be pretty short and all of these events happened before Rooney's lifetime. How about something that happened just over 30 years ago:

They told the stories at times they had personally raped, cut off ears, cut off heads, taped wires from portable telephones to human genitals and turned up the power, cut off limbs, blown up bodies, randomly shot at civilians, razed villages in fashion reminiscent of Genghis Khan, shot cattle and dogs for fun, poisoned food stocks, and generally ravaged the countryside of South Vietnam in addition to the normal ravage of war, and the normal and very particular ravaging which is done by the applied bombing power of this country.

How did this miss Rooney's list of worst things?

There are lots of other things that could be added - the burning of the Branch Davidian compound while fire trucks were stopped from helping, all of the faces of racism including the Klan, lynchings, and segragationist laws that persisted until the 1960s. Rooney purpously slanted his list - everything on it was caused by lone crazies (assasinations), was beyond control (stock market crash), or was caused by foriegners (Perl Harbor, 9/11). He skipped over the many examples of mistakes that Americans have made.

The point here is that Americans are people. Americans make mistakes. The government makes mistakes. Many of these mistakes have been as bad or worse than anything that happened in prisons in Iraq.

The difference is that Abu Ghraib was acknowledged as a mistake. People are being punished for it. The President appologized for it on Arab TV.

There is not an Arab government that does not do similar acts against its own people as a matter of policy, even the "good" Arab governments. None of these governments are going to appologize and no one will be punished.

We made a mistake. It happens. Get over it. We are still better than most of the rest of the world.

If you believe in human-induced Global Warming, which I don't then there is only one solution - nukes.

Global warming is now advancing so swiftly that only a massive expansion of nuclear power as the world's main energy source can prevent it overwhelming civilisation, the scientist and celebrated Green guru, James Lovelock, says.

You probably already know that Kerry
is considering some slight of hand so that he does not accept the nomination at the Democratic convention.

Campaign finance reform is not working at all.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Why did we go to war with Iraq? Fritz Hollings thinks it was to capture the Jewish vote.

I have my own opinions which have not changed since before the war started:

1) The sanctions and the no-fly zone were unsustainable. France and others were already calling for ending the sanctions. At the time we assumed that French contractors wanted a share of rebuilding Iraq. We now know that they were being bribed through the oil-for-food program.

2) In order to contain Iraq, we had to keep a large, unwelcome, military presence in Saudi Arabia.

3) Iraq was re-arming. For those who paid attention to Kay's report, Saddam was designing missles and trying to buy them from North Korea. This is well-documented. He had other WMD programs going but they were still small-scale.

4) Saddam had invaded two of his neighbors. There is no reason to think that he would not have invaded a third had he re-armed.

5) Saddam had a direct link with terrorists. He was publicly offering cash to families of suicide bombers. Members of al Qadaida had links with Iraq.

6) He had tried to assasinate both the President of the United States and the Pope.

7) We never really ended hostilities with Iraq. They were firing on planes enforcing the no-fly zone on a regular basis and we were firing on anti-aircraft batteries once or twice a week.

Given all of this, chances are very good that, had Gore been elected, the sanctions would have been lifted and Saddam would be re-arming in earnest right now. He would have eventually moved against one of his neighbors and we would have had to fight him on his terms instead of our own.

Add to this Thomas Friedman's statement that we needed to show the world that we can still take a punch. We were getting a reputation as a country that cannot tolerate any casualties.

Listen to our enemies (or Ted Kennedy). They keep saying that Iraq is turning into another Viet Nam and that we will eventually run away.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

During WWII, we had a policy of relocating Americans of Japanese descent living on the West Coast to relocation camps inland. This ensured that they could not signal submarines off-shore. It also protected them from mob violence.

According to the first-hand accounts I have read about these camps, the inmates were well-treated. They had sufficient food, clothing, shelter, and medical treatment. They even had movies on Friday nights. It was possible to get a weekend pass to leave the camp (I think that part of the family had to remain).

You could get out of the camps if you signed an oath of loyalty or if you had a close relative in the armed services. The inmates felt that, as American citizens, they should nto have to sign an oath.

It was not pleasant. Many lost their homes and businesses.

In retrospect, it was unnessesary. The US was never in danger of invasion from the Japanese but the people at the time did not know this and they acted in what seemed like a prudent manner.

Similarly, many German and Italian citizens in the US at the outbreak of the war were put into internment camps.

Contrast this with Germany's treatment of the Jews, Gypsies, and others. Not only were they rounded up and locked in camps, they were not given sufficient food. They had to sell the clothes off of their back in order to buy food from people living nearby (at inflated prices). When the camps got too crowded, they started gassing the inmates by the thousands.

In many current US textbooks the two acts are given as equivalent even though the Holocost killed tens of millions and the Japanese relocation arguably did not kill anyone.

Some people want to believe that Americans are as bad as the worst people in the world.

The same is true for the Iraqi prison tortures. I lost count of how many columnists have said that we lost the moral high ground and that we are as bad as Sadam Hussin.

For the third week in a row we see the same pictures of prisoners being humiliated on the nightly news. It was barely covered when we found that Sadam's death count was higher than expected.

One possible factor - support for Viet Nam dropped after reports of My Lai and similar attrocities. Could the media be hoping that non-stop coverage for this will sour support for the war? The two are already being used in the same sentence.

Dumb quote about the whole thing from a lawyer representing one of the accused women reservists:

"How do these idiots think [the reservists] got [the hoods and electric wires and women’s underpants]? Iraq is a Muslim country."

Well, let's see... the hoods and ponchos look like they were made from tarps, electrical wire can be ripped from the wall, and his client is a woman who presumably wears underpants.

SNL and The Daily Show like to say that things in Iraq are "worse... much, much worse". Is it so?

A poll taken in Iraq by USAToday/CNN/Gallop was released three weeks ago. At the time the only part that was covered was the number of people who regarded the US as occupiers instead of liberators. There are a lot of other entries. Some of them are bad for the US, many are good. Naturally the news media took the worst indicator they could find.

A few interesting points - the people of Iraq do not like French president Jacques Chirac any better than they like President Bush or Prime Minister Tony Blair. The numbers were:

Bush - favorable: 25%, unfavorable: 55%, no opinion: 4%
Blair - favorable: 17%, unfavorable: 46%, no opinion: 23%
Chirac - favorable 16%, unfavorable: 42%, no opinion: 22%

Thinking about any hardships you might have suffered since the US/British invasion, do you personally think that ousting Saddam Hussein was worth it or not?
Worth it: 61%
Not worth it: 28%

See the rest of the poll at

More analysis of this poll in Slate

Is offshoring a problem?

Michael Corbett doesn't think so

The simple truth is that offshoring is not the result of a few Benedict Arnolds. It's a result of the relentless pressure on businesses to take advantage of every opportunity available to them to reduce costs, increase quality and add to profits.

I drink a lot of Pepsi and Mountain Dew so I wondered when I saw the headline about "Too much soda may raise cancer risk".

I figured that there was more to it. Here is a response (copied from

Response To Esophageal Cancer Paper in New Orleans:

The paper presented by Professor Mohandas K. Mallath from Mumbai India in New Orleans, Louisiana this weekend temporally correlates the increase in adenocarcinoma of the esophagus in American white males with the increase in consumption of soft drinks from 1974 to 2000.

This is not a peer review publication; it is a correlation study that cannot even imply causality.
Any factor which is increasing in prevalence over time (use of video recorders, cell phones, various medications, consumption of pizza, etc.) would correlate with the rising incidence of adenocarcinoma of the esophagus.
Although the rate of adenocarcinoma of the esophagus is increasing in the U.S., the rates of this type of esophageal cancer are very low compared to the major cancers in the U.S. Thus, even a small increase in rates will be a large percentage increase. Better diagnostic procedures are also undoubtedly responsible for some of the increased incidence reported.
The known risk factors for adenocarcinoma of the esophagus are tobacco use, total fat intake, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and perhaps salty foods.
Dietary factors may be involved in esophageal cancer, but studies in areas of the world at exceptionally high-risk of esophageal cancer, such as in parts of North Central China, suggest that consumption of fluids (other than alcohol) tends to be associated with decreased rather than increased risk.
The explanation of acid in soft drinks associated with esophageal cancer defies logic as citrus beverages such as orange juice and grapefruit juice are also acidic and consumption of these beverages begins at an early age, and intake of fruits and fruit juices has been linked to decreased rather than increased risk of this cancer.
Per-capita soft drink consumption is known to be very high in Mexico and Mexican Americans, yet rates of esophageal adenocarcinoma are lower among Hispanic than non-Hispanic whites in California, New Mexico and other areas of the United States. (see e.g., Kubo A, Am J Gastroenterol 2004; 99: 582-8; Wu AH, Cancer Causes & Control 2001: 8: 721-32; Vega KJ, Am J Gastroenterol 2000: 95: 2352-6).
All ingredients in soft drinks are approved as safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

While on a trip I heard a clerk arguing with someone about 9/11. The clerk was convinced that the 4th plane, the one that crashed in Pennsylvania, was shot down by the US government. He was also convinced that Bush knew about the plot in advance and did nothing in order to get his war.

I have heard these statements before and I would like to address them.

I will take the easy one first - the airliner.

The clerk maintained that the terrorists would not have crashed the plane unless they could have run it into a city. He thinks that the passengers took the plane but were shot down anyway by the government.

Witnesses talking with people on the plane were told that some passengers were going to rush the hijackers and try to get the plane back. Very shortly after that the plane crashed. The most obvious explanation is that the terrorists crashed the plane before the passengers could regain control. The timing is perfect for this.

If the passengers had succeeded in taking the plane, one of the people on the other end of the cell phones should have heard more.

The terrorists planned to die and probably not have allowed themselves to be taken alive. It would have been very difficult to take control of a plane from someone who is suicidal. Think about the math. If a plane is flying at 300 miles per hour and is less than a mile high, it could hit the ground in as little as 12 seconds. Even assuming that the plane does not go straight down, it would be very difficult to pull both the terrorist pilot and co-pilot from their seats, have someone else take their place, and to pull the plane out of its dive before it broke up or hit the ground.

What about Bush? Did he know?

This is Bush hatred at its worst. It assumes that he was so fixated on Iraq that he deliberately sacrificed thousands of Americans.

Even if you have such a poor opinion of Bush, this falls apart when you look at it closely.

First, how would Bush have known? If intelligence had told him then there must have been dozens, maybe hundreds of others in the know. Let's start with Richard Clarke. He was in charge of all intelligence on al Qaida. If anyone in the US government knew then he should have. Was his book part of the conspiracy?

Was Bush warned by an other country? If so then why did they go straight to him instead of notifying the State Department (and going through Clarke). Even a head of state does not make a call to the President of the United States without making an appointment and letting people know why the call is being made.

And, would foreign countries have the same desire to see thousands die in order to start a war with Iraq? Or would they say something in public?

What about the 4th airplane, the one that was going to hit the White House or the Capitol. Bush's wife and Vice President Cheney were in the White House and Congress was in session when the planes started hitting. It was only luck that the 4th one was delayed. Given the number of airline delays, it could have been the first or second to strike.

As bad as Sept. 11 was, it would have been far worse if either the Capitol or the White House had been destroyed. In addition to the massive loss of life, the government would have been in chaos.

Was Bush willing to risk his wife and staff or all of Congress?

And even if you believe all of this there is one insurmountable problem with this theory - it started the wrong war.

Our first war was with Afghanistan. If it had gone badly there never would have been a war with Iraq. As last as October, 2001, if you had asked a dozen military experts about our chances of successfully invading Afghanistan, 11 would have told you that it could not be done. They would point to a long history of poorly equipped Afghans turning back invaders as recently as the 1980s when they expelled the USSR, the most powerful military force in the world at that time.

If we have waged a conventional war on Afghanistan we would still be fighting. Iraq would never have happened. Had Afghanistan turned into the quagmire that it was predicted to be then no war against Iraq could have possibly happened.

Given what was known in the Summer of 2001, allowing the terrorist strike might have made war with Iraq less likely. If you think that Bush was obsessed with Iraq then the last thing he needed was a distraction like that.

Glenn Reynolds has some interesting thoughts on Kerry in his May 14 entry.

I think it's fair to say that if Kerry wins, he'll win based on anti-Bush sentiment among Democrats and swing voters. But although the anybody-but-Bush vote might be good enough to get him into office, once he's elected it will evaporate: the dump-Bush voters will have gotten what they wanted, and they won't have any special reason to support any particular policy of Kerry's -- or even Kerry himself.

So Kerry might find himself elected, but with support that rapidly fades away, leaving him subject to Washington crosswinds and a slave to his party's interest groups. That's pretty much what happened to President Jimmy Carter. He owed his election to backlash over Gerald Ford's pardon of Richard Nixon, and the lingering residue of Watergate. But that turned out to be an insufficient base on which to govern.

A few comments on this.

The anti-Bush people will be really disappointed in Kerry, especially the anti-war wing. They want a pull-out. Kerry will add to the troops there but will add NATO armbands to give them credibility.

No matter what Kerry's domestic agenda is it will fail because the Republicans will still control the House and probably control the Senate. Clinton was able to outmanuver the Republican-controlled Congress but he infuriated the Democrats by doing so. If Kerry tries triangulation he will outrage whatever base he has left.

For the record, Watergate was a factor in the 1976 election as was Ford's pardon of Nixon but the real factor was the economy. The economy was bad in 1976 and Ford seemed to be unable to do anything about it except veto legislation.

Things never really improved during Carter's administration. By 1980 inflation was averaging 12% per year with spikes of 18%. Unemployment was up and Iran was holding the staff of the US embassy hostage. Had Carter given the appearance of being a competent leader his party would not have challenged him.

Bad news for Kerry - the first sign that Carter was in trouble was when Ted Kennedy ran against him in the primary and won 20% of the vote. No one bothered to run against Bush. For all of the talk about conservatives being down on Bush, they have not split ranks with him like this.

Russia's top scientists tell Putin to kill Kyoto

MOSCOW, May 17 (Reuters) - The Kyoto Protocol to limit greenhouse gases has no scientific basis and puts the Russian economy at risk, Russia's leading scientists said in official advice to President Vladimir Putin.

In the document, obtained by Reuters on Monday, the Russian Academy of Sciences said the global treaty would not stabilize greenhouse gases even if it came into force.

What did I tell you?

The director of research for George H.W. Bush's 1988 campaign has a few insights on the two elections.

And while not everyone liked the campaign, it worked with the voters; the elder Bush was 17 points down in April, but he won by eight points in November.

Today, George W. Bush is running roughly even with John Kerry. But political buzzsters are noting that Bush's approval rating has dipped below 50; according to Gallup, no president since World War II has won re-election after falling below 50 in an election year. That's an interesting iron law, but I learned firsthand in '88 that iron laws are absolutely predictive -- right up until the moment that they are broken.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

The British Government says abuse photographs are "categorically" fakes.

THE photographs of British troops abusing Iraqi detainees were "categorically" fake, the government said yesterday in what was denounced as a calculated strategy to divert attention from how much was known about claims of torture by UK soldiers in the country.

This doesn't help the US but it is still interesting.

The beheading incident does give us back the moral high ground..

"This action was bad because it makes Arabs look like barbarians but that's what the Americans think anyway. My fear is that now Americans will feel Iraqis deserve the torture," said Mamduh, an Egyptian pharmacy student who did not want to give his full name.

It seems like no matter what happens, someone sees a conspiracy in it.

Revolting millions around the world, the video footage of an American citizen's execution has also raised numerous questions concerning its authenticity.

Here's an interesting tidbit from last March. There are allegations that the government knew where Abu Musab Zarqawi was in 2002. This is the man identified as doing the beheading.

The spin on the story is that the Pentagon planned three cruise missile strikes but the National Security Council declined all three times in order to make a better case for invading Iraq.

But NBC News has learned that long before the war the Bush administration had several chances to wipe out his terrorist operation and perhaps kill Zarqawi himself — but never pulled the trigger.

Considering how successful Clinton'smissilee strikes were at killing Osama bin Ladin, I can understand why they might be reluctant to launch amissilee strike.

The big surprise is buried in the story:
In June 2002, U.S. officials say intelligence had revealed that Zarqawi and members of al-Qaida had set up a weapons lab at Kirma, in northern Iraq, producing deadly ricin and cyanide.

Four months later, intelligence showed Zarqawi was planning to use ricin in terrorist attacks in Europe.

In January 2003, the threat turned real. Police in London arrested six terror suspects and discovered a ricin lab connected to the camp in Iraq.

Is this true? A positive link to al Qaida, production of poison gas, plots to use it in Europe, a positive link between al Qaida terrorists in England and Iraq! This is why we invaded Iraq in he first place - to stop Iraq from helping al Qaida produce WMDs such as poison gas. Why wasn't this a front page story?

So Bush is justified but it is hidden in the middle of an anti-Bush story.

Oh, that liberal press.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Kerry's campaign is declaring victory.

Looking at the history of presidential races is one approach. No challenger has ever done as well against an elected incumbent at this point in the cycle. Every incumbent who won re-election had a double-digit lead over his challenger at this stage. Lyndon Johnson led Barry Goldwater by 59 points in the spring of ’64. Bill Clinton led Bob Dole by 14 points, Ronald Reagan led Walter Mondale by 17 and Richard Nixon was ahead of George McGovern by 11.

All of these are valid points but do they mean anything? There are several other factors.

With a sample group of five presidents running for re-election, this comes closer to trivia than established fact. Just ask Howard Dean who, as the candidate with the most money at the beginning of the year, was the inevitable nominee.

Just as important, the primaries were wrapped up months earlier than ever before.

And finally, Bush has had one bad break after another. He might recover, he might not, but there is little Kerry can do to influence this. Kerry only attracts tepid support. The deciding factor is Bush's approval rating. In the other campaigns, the economy was the factor weighing down the incumbent. It takes months or years to turn an economy around. The war is much more fluid. Bush's approval ratings are currently tied to Iraq. If things improve in the next six months and the economy continues to improve, Bush's approval ratings will surely follow. The election is still Bush's to win or lose.

Al Gore is already pushing The Day After Tomorrow.

The movie goes beyond science fiction into total fiction. The events shown are included in order to showcase cool special effects, not because there is any scientific basis. Never the less, Gore is using it as a weapon to blast President Bush.

"The Bush administration is in some ways more even more fictional than the movie in trying to convince people that there is no real problem, no degree of certainty from scientists about the issue," the former vice president said in a conference call organized by

Is Global Warming real and is the Greenhouse Effect real? These are two very different questions. The first asks if the world is getting warmer and the second asks if the world is getting warmer because of human activity. The answer to the first question is hotly (no pun intended) debated. Temperatures have been slightly warmer in the last decade than during most of the 20th century but there have been other warm periods. One major study shows temperature over the last several centuries as being almost a straight until it suddenly jumps during the 20th century. Other climatologists cite extensive evidence for previous global warming in the Roman and Medieval periods with cold periods in between. In fact, the period from 1400 to the mid-19th century is known as the Little Ice Age.

If these warming and cooling periods happened naturally prior to industrialization then this casts a lot of doubt on the Greenhouse Effect. All of the current climate models assume that global temperature.

There is a lot of controversy on Global Warming and the Greenhouse Effect, far more than activists let on.

For lots more information, see the CO2 Times.

Bottom line, Bush is right.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Fat is a big topic right now (and a horrible pun). Between reports of global obesity and the new film Supersize ME, it dominates the health news.

Here are some different takes on it.

Starting April 1, 2004 Whaley will eat only food available over the counter at McDonald’s for 30 days to prove that she can not only can maintain a healthy lifestyle, but even lose weight while doing it.

A super-size portion of half truths

The truth is that if you were to eat a diet of exclusively foie gras, caviar, and champagne for 30 days you would trash your health just as surely as Spurlock trashed his. But truth -- along with his sex life -- is the first casualty in Spurlock's movie. The biggest lie of all is Spurlock's repeated claim that McDonald's has changed its menu as a result of his crusading expose.

And one from the Weekly Standard

But between Spurlock's insane diet and Glassman's calorie-conscious menu, would it be possible to eat McDonald's under both caloric and dietetic restrictions--namely within the framework of the USDA's Food Guide Pyramid or the U.N.'s nutrition guidelines? According to James Myers, a graduate student of the Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina,
the answer is a qualified yes

PETA says Moore’s size a weighty issue
Michael Moore is a publicity machine. How fitting that PETA should use him. And I thought he was just a fat-head.

Here's the big headline.
'Globesity' gains ground as leading killer

Obesity is fast becoming one of the world’s leading reasons why people die

How true is this? Here are some contrasting opinions (mainly gleaned from

CU professor says cultural hysteria fuels war on obesity

The galloping anxiety is being fomented by faulty research, he says, often funded by those with a vested interest in the outcome — the ever-expanding weight-loss industry.

Foster acknowledges that scientists don't know if weight loss increases longevity, or decrease the risk of heart attack and stroke.

How dangerous is it really to be fat? Here is a recent article from Tech Central Station on the Center For Disease Control's announcement that fat was about to kill more people than tobacco.

The HHS had additional help exaggerating their dangerous increase in overweight and obesity from 1990 to 2000 because, as you'll remember, in 1998 the NIH changed the definition of overweight from BMIs over 27 to over 25, instantly making some 29 million more Americans overweight. The change wasn't made because being overweight increases mortality, though. In fact, recent data from Allison and colleagues themselves showed the lowest mortality among men at BMIs of 27.3 (fat by the government's definition).

To summarize this quickly, there was a study done in the early 1990s linking poor diet and lack of exercise to health risks. Over time, some decided that anyone who has a poor diet and doesn't get enough exercise must be a fat slob and the specific term were replaced with "obesity". There are fat people who have active lifestyles and thin people who are couch potatoes so this is not a valid substitution.

Personal observation, when I was in college I took fencing from a short, white-haired woman whose waist measurement was probably equal to her height. In addition to teaching fencing twice a day, she also taught women's field hocky and some other classes. I remember seeing her run across the field, outrunning women less than half her age and weight. Statistically, as a person with a very active lifestyle, she would have a high life expectancy but, by looking at her weight instead of her fitness level, she would be on the CDC's list of people at risk.

So, if you're a 6-foot man weighing 185 pounds or more, or an average 5-4 woman weighing 145 pounds -- the government says you're fat. Should you be hit by lightning while jogging, your death will become part of its "fat-kills" stats. And if you're fat you can never die of old age -- the government won't allow it.

And for all of the talk about obesity, there are still people starving.

Malnutrition, disease and starvation are stalking more than 16 million people in southern Africa. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, already have died, and if the world doesn't respond quickly enough, the World Health Organization says, 300,000 people could perish from hunger-related illnesses before March's harvest of corn, the region's staple food.

According to Wired

Hybred cars do not get anywhere near the milage you expect. It turns out that the EPA does not fill the tank, drive around, and see how much gas was burned. Instead the keep the car in a lab, measure exhaust, and figure gas consumption from that. As with any process that uses indirect measurments, this one has problems. That's why your car usually gets something like 80% of the EPA numbers. This process is particularly unsuited to hybrid cars so real milage in the city is less than 60% of the EPA figures. Instead of getting 47 mpg in the city, the Civic only gets 26.

The original Million Mom March didn't get anywhere near its attendance goal. Their most recent march was kind of pitiful.

Kerry can't convince anyone to vote for him.

After spending 3/4 of the column bashing Bush, the Weekly Standard has this to say:

FORTUNATELY FOR THE PRESIDENT, he remains our best bet to lead us to victory in the war, and to prosperity in the future. John Kerry is as eager to call it quits in Iraq as is Bush, the main difference being that the Democratic candidate would have our troops hand over their responsibilities to blue-helmet U.N. peacekeepers with an unblemished record of failure, while Bush would hand off power to some version of a sovereign Iraqi government cobbled together by the U.N.'s Israel-hating Lakhdar Brahimi, and at least hang around long enough to restore some semblance of order to the country.

Air America Radio chairman resigns. Also the vice chairman and the CEO.

Someday there will be a successful liberal radio show but it will happen because the host can generate an audience, not because some rich benefactors want to subsidize it.

Quote of the day

Back in 1965, when someone suggested to LBJ that he get the United Nations involved in Vietnam, the president said, "The U.N. couldn't pour piss from a boot if the instructions were written on the heel." Some things never change, particularly from the viewpoint of the boys from Texas

Monday, May 10, 2004

The New Republic has a column blasting The Day After Tomorrow's science.

Al Gore and are having an anti-global warming rally to coincide with the movie's release.

The intended message is that "We have to replace Bush or the world will end." Considering the quality of the science in this movie, the real message is "We will say anything to defeat Bush."

Tech Central Station has a few interesting articles on health.

First, does a 30 minute exposure to second hand smoke nearly double the rate of heart attacks?

Not really. The article points out that the sample group is too small to project from and the hospital changed the way they diagnose heart attacks, eliminating a test that gives false positives.

Next, does Supersize Me represent real life experiences?

Spurlock easily could have eaten three meals a day at McDonald's while staying below the 2,500 calories his doctor said he needed to maintain his starting weight of 185 pounds. For instance, an Egg McMuffin, orange juice, and coffee for breakfast; a grilled chicken bacon ranch salad and iced tea for lunch; and a double cheeseburger, medium fries, and diet Coke for dinner total fewer than 1,800 calories. By contrast, Spurlock says he consumed some 5,000 calories a day, while deliberately avoiding physical activity. In short, his experiment proves nothing but basic physics.

The author of this article is even quoted in the movie.

At one point I suggested that it may soon be socially acceptable to publicly hector fat people for their unhealthy habits, just as it is acceptable to hector smokers. The appropriate response in either case, I suggested, is: "Fuck you. Mind your own business." He ended up using that bit of the interview, mainly to establish the background of rising concern about rising weight.

While driving to work the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, I heard a radio report that a small airplane had struck one tower of the World Trade Center. A few minutes later there was a report of a second plane hitting the other tower. My immediate thoughts were that terrorists had done this, probably the group that had bombed the Cole.

The reaction of the Bush-hating left was very different. They universally blamed Bush. I saw this on every level from local crackpots to national columnists. They assumed that the terrorists were people who disagreed with some policy of Bush's and felt that an act of terrorism was the only response. Reasons given included the recent boycott of the African summit on racism or the withdrawal of the US from the Kyoto protocols.

The general sentiment was that 9/11 had been done by their own, that the perpetrators had gone too far, but that it was understandable considering how evil Bush was. I thought that it was strange at the time how few people remarked on this.

To put this in perspective, starting in 1999, activists protesting various aspects of globalization started adding the riot to their activities. Seattle was the first city to suffer major damage but during 2000 and the first half of 2001, any city that hosted a meeting of the World Bank, a G7 summit, or anything else remotely relating to global trade could expect a major protest and millions of dollars of property damage. Some protestors admitted that their goal was to trash any city that dared to hold one of these conferences in the hope that no one would hold them in the future.

Given this pleasant attitude, it is not surprising that the left could imagine their own killing thousands in order to make a point.

Michael Moore's take on Sept. 11 was posted on his web site. It has long-ago scrolled off (or was removed because it was so stupid) so I am relating this from memory.

On Sept. 12, Moore made a post on the tragedy. His assumption was that people felt so powerless in the wake of the presidential election recount that this was their response. To him, the worst part of it was that the states most affected by the hijackings, New York, Massachusetts, and California, were all blue states. These states had voted for Gore but their residents were disproportionately represented among the dead.

Presumably he would have felt better about the whole thing if the casualties had been mainly people from the red states.

By Sept. 13, Moore was in Columbus, Ohio. Any feelings he had about the sudden death of 3,000 Americans was overshadowed by the realization that his hotel was across the street from the statehouse where Jim Rhodes had ordered the National Guard to Kent State. He was nowhere near Kent State, mind you, this was 30 years later, and the bodies of 3,000 Americans still lay in smoking rubble in New York but all Moore could think about in Columbus was Kent State.

BTW, Moore is in fairly exclusive company, having his own entry in the urban legend site, Snopes.

This entry was written in response to claims in Moore's "Dude, Where's my Country". Since Moore's newest movie is trying to make some point about connections between the bin Laden family and Bush, this part is pretty relevant:

The term "bin Laden family member" is rather misleading, as it is often mistakenly assumed to indicate a person with close ties to Osama bin Laden. By most accounts, Osama bin Laden was one of more than fifty children fathered by the same man; the bin Laden family is huge, with hundreds (if not thousands) of members spread all over the globe. Many, many of these family members are only tangentially related to Osama bin Laden and never had much (if any) contact with Osama himself. Moreover, his family disowned him after he fled Saudi Arabia in 1991 and was stripped of his Saudi citizenship in 1994 for smuggling weapons from Yemen. According to another news account about Saudis leaving the U.S. in the wake of the September 11 attacks:

Most of Mr. bin Laden's relatives were attending high school and college. They are among the 4,000 Saudi students in the United States. King Fahd, the ailing Saudi ruler, sent an urgent message to his embassy here saying there were "bin Laden children all over America" and ordered, "Take measures to protect the innocents," the ambassador said
The fact that "most of Mr. bin Laden's relatives were attending high school and college" in 2001 means that most of them were somewhere between 4 and 12 years old when Osama bin Laden fled Saudi Arabia. Students who were mere children when Osama bin Laden left Saudi Arabia, and who had spent at least some of their intervening years living in the U.S., were not likely sources for information regarding his current whereabouts and operations

Saturday, May 08, 2004

The future is not as locked down as was originally planned

Microsoft's extravagant silver-bullet to cure piracy, rid the Internet of worms and viruses, and possibly bring about world peace won't now appear in Longhorn, the next version of Windows.

Originally named Palladium, Microsoft billed this as the solution for viruses. In smaller print they also talked about how it could stop confidential documents from ever being leaked by encrypting them. If you read between the lines, you found that it would also allow for total lock-down of all music and movies. A movie could only be played on a single PC for a limited length of time and there would be no way of ever ripping a CD.

The Washington Post has an article on the Dark Side of the Tune

Apple quietly reduced the number of CDs you can burn a playlist onto.

Sony launched their own music service which (surprise) requires their music player. They use a brand new format called Atrac which is incompatible witht he rest of the world.

Oh, *Those* WMDs!

According to FrontPage Magazine, poison gas from Iraq was about to be used by terrorists to kill tens of thousands in Jordan.

Granted this is a right-leaning source but the basics of the story checks out. The terrorist plot was real.

The Bush administration and even retired weapons inspector David Kay have never backed down from their assertions that WMDs were sent into Syria. Hans Blix admits that Iraq had tons of chemical weapons a decade ago and could never account for what happened to them. None of this is getting any press. The Jordan story lasted a day (long enough for the Daily Show to make fun of it). No one seems to care where the chemicals came from or how al-Qaeda got them.

More on Moore

It seems that Disney announced a year ago that it would not distribute Moore's new film. Eisner denies that Florida tax breaks were involved.

Disney, he said, had simply decided that it "did not want a film in the middle of the political process when we're such a non-partisan company."

In Florida, Jeb Bush asked:
"What tax break?". "We don't give tax breaks, that I'm aware of, to Disney," the governor said.

A slightly different take.

But in the CNN interview he said: "Almost a year ago, after we'd started making the film, the chairman of Disney, Michael Eisner, told my agent he was upset Miramax had made the film and he will not distribute it."

Nobody in Hollywood doubts Fahrenheit 911 will find a US distributor. His last documentary, Bowling for Columbine , made for $3m (£1.7m), pulled in $22m at the US box office.

So Moore made the movie after being told before hand that Disney would not distribute it and now he blames the Bush family? That is not censorship, that is a crass publicity stunt.

Moore supposedly had trouble getting his last book published and the surrounding publicity made the book a best-seller. The same thing happened with Al Franken's last book. Any connection here?

A lot of people are confused about free speech and freedom of the press. Freedom of the press means that the owners of the press is free to publish anything they want. They are also free to reject anything that someone else gives them to print.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Part of the current rage against Bush is the conviction that he actually lost the election. Some people believe that, since Gore won the popular vote then he should be in the White House no matter what the constitution says. Others are convinced that Gore won Florida. One reason they think so is Palm Beach County.

Even before the polls closed, there were reports of people voting for the wrong candidate. In a county with a high Jewish population, Pat Buchanan got more votes than anywhere in the country. Gore operatives charged that the unusual ballot design was the cause and that most of the Buchanan votes were really votes for Gore.

Palm Beach is mainly rich whites who retired to Florida or have a second (or third) home in Florida. Since many of these voters have poor eyesight, the ballots were printed with the candidates' names extra large. To make room for this, the names alternated with the top name on the left being assigned to the first punch, the top name on the right getting the second punch, the second name on the left getting the third punch, and so on. This assigned Gore the third punch and Buchanan the second one.

If a voter knew that Florida election law determined the order of the presidential candidates according to how the parties placed in the governor's race, remembered that the Democrats came in second, and counted down to the second box without looking at the ballot then Buchanan could have gotten votes that belonged to Gore.

This whole scenario only works for the president. What about the senator, house member, state, and local candidates? Did this hypothetical voter count holes for all of them? And assuming that he did count holes, was he so confident of his math that he didn't check any of the candidates names against the holes?

Does anyone vote that way? Not a chance. None of the Buchanan votes were Gore votes. The whole thing falls apart and the Democrats must have known this. They just wanted to convince people that Gore actually won when he didn't.

So where did the Buchanan votes come from? After all, he was a Nazi and no Jew would vote for a Nazi, right?

Two things here. First, Christians outnumber the Jews in Palm Beach County so there were lots of potential Buchanan voters separate from the Jews.

Second, Buchanan was not a Nazi by any stretch of the imagination. He was running on a strict isolationism platform. He is against immigrants and foreign wars.

Journalists love interviewing people like that. It's so easy to trip them up. You just ask, "You are against involvement in foreign wars but what about Hitler? Wasn't that war justified?"

From here the candidate has to walk a tightrope. If he agrees that WWII was justified then he has to explain why stopping genocide elsewhere is not. The candidate can point out that Hitler had already conquered most of Europe, the Middle East, and Northern Africa when we got involved and that not even the Soviet Union conquered so much land so fast. He can point out that even when faced with the real Hitler, we waited until he declared war on us. He can point out that Stalin's body count was as high as Hitler's but we didn't go after him in a shooting war, even when we had the nuclear advantage.

What Buchanan said was a lame, "Hitler wasn't so bad." He later tried to spin it but no matter what he said, it was reported that he was a Nazi sympathizer.

Who voted for him anyway? Let's see... Palm Beach is just north of Miami which has been taken over by Hispanics. With only three draw bridges connecting it to the mainland, Palm Beach is the world's largest gated community. If your bushes are overgrown, the county tickets your (Hispanic) gardener. Given all of that and a candidate running on an anti-immigrant platform, it is no wonder that Buchanan got a lot of votes.

So here's what happened. A voter decided to send the immigrants a message by voting for Buchanan. A second voter, let's say one who is Jewish, old and easily confused, comes in and votes for Gore. Hours, maybe days later, he hears on the radio that people were voting for the wrong candidate. Did our second voter look at the name or count punch holes? He can't remember and if he got it wrong he might have voted for a Nazi! In tears he goes to the radio station or the Democratic headquarters and they hook him up with the national press.

Record Industry Wants Still More

"Can you explain what planet the record labels are on?" asked Walt Mossberg, tech columnist for The Wall Street Journal and moderator of a one-on-one interview with Glaser at the conference.

Glaser smirked. "I guess I'd call it Planet Spreadsheet," he said. "The problem is that they don't look at it holistically."

One way of preventing illegal copies is to produce a copy-protected CD with a second copy of the tracks in a DRM-protected format. There is some movement to charge double royalties for these. Since each copy is locked down to specific types of players (one for the CD player, one for your PC) this seems greedy.

But according to this, DRM will never work anyway

Super Size Me a Super Sized Distortion of the Facts?

All foods can be part of a healthy diet just as over-consumption of any food can lead to extreme outcomes. While the film is satirical in nature, it's also important to note -- doubling calories, fat and cholesterol can lead to some extreme outcomes

Disney Blocks Distribution of Anti-Bush Documentary


I suppose I should feel bad about censorship but Moore lies a lot and I'm not sure how much protection the First Amendment should give to deliberate fabrication.

Moore insists that Disney is worried about tax breaks in Florida. I would guess it was more worried about pro-Bush backlash. Considering Disney's current problems, can they afford to release a feature-length campaign ad?

Speaking of censorship. My ABC affiliate is a Sinclair-owned station. I saw the program that they inserted instead of the Nightline listing of the dead. I also saw the spot they did the following Monday where they explained themselves.

The show that they did was good. They presented both sides of the war fairly.

Their list of concerns was also interesting. They pointed out that:

Nightline was inspired by an issue of Life which is credited with changing America's perception of Viet Nam.

Ted Koppel and his producer claimed to be surprised that the show aired on the first day of sweeps month (ratings were up but don't count because the show ran without advertising).

Koppel and his producer included every American soldier who died in Iraq including accidental and natural deaths.

Koppel and his producer did not include any deaths from Afghanistan.

Koppel and his producer brushed off the idea of using Memorial Day for the show saying that Memorial Day is for keggers (drinking).

Nightline is definitely biased. Is Sinclair afraid of the Bush administration as many critics claimed or are they just fed up with overt bias in a news show?
Cartoonist Ted Rall hates Bush and the war. No surprise there. His cartoon for May 3 went over the top and embarrassed MSNBC.

MSNBC picks up his syndicated cartoons. On Monday, Rall let loose his invective on football player Pat Tillman who enlisted and was killed in Afghanistan. Rall depicted Tillman as an idiot who signed up to kill Arabs but "actually we was a cog in a low-rent occupation army that shot more innocent civilians than terrorists to prop up puppet rulers and exploit gas and oil resources. So when Tillman got killed by the Afghan resistance, one word naturally came to mind:" "Uh- idiot?", "Sap?", "HERO!"

MSNBC pulled the cartoon. Their statement is here.

On Tuesday it was back for a while. Now it is gone again. Here is the original.

What does Rall have to say for himself?

Mr. Tillman served an evil president and an evil cause. Anyone with an open mind after 9/11 could easily have learned the truth, that the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq occurred instead of a war on terror, not as part of one.
Finally, it's time for troops who signed up post-9/11 to take a little personal responsibility. It's one thing for a career soldier to go where the politicians tell him or her to go, but quite another to join the military when the "president" is an illegal usurper occupying the White House, he's an out-of-control warmonger using the deaths in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania to promote a partisan political agenda and his wars are nothing more than grabs for control of oil and gas resources and pipeline routes.

The stupid thing here is that Tillman was in Afghanistan. It was well documented that Bin laden was in Afghanistan when the 9/11 plot was hatched and that Al Qaida was propping up the Taliban. The furthest of the far left has re-written this so that Bin laden was in Pakistan instead of Afghanistan

Rall may have swiped the idea for his column from here

However, in my neighborhood in Puerto Rico, Tillman would have been called a "pendejo," an idiot.

Kerry and others want to turn Iraq over to the UN. Are they up to it? Glenn Reynolds Casts doubt on this. Between the corruption in the oil for food program and the number of atrocities that were committed in areas under UN peacekeeper control, this would probably be the second worst thing that could happen to Iraq. The worst? Bringing in Arabs from surrounding countries to police Iraq which is the second most popular option among liberals.

During the 1990s some slaughters happened under the UN's noses plus hundreds of UN troops were taken hostage. None of the articles Glenn Reynolds references examine the lessons of the period but I have a good memory. What was said at the time was:

1) No one in a peacekeeper's uniform wants to die for the UN.
2) The UN has no troops of its own. Its peacekeepers are loaned from member nations. The members never want to send their best troops so they inevitably send inferior troops.
3) Few countries can afford to give their troops training similar to what the US gives.

Put it all together and you have poorly trained troops with no motivation to fight. No wonder they were taken hostage 500 at a time.

Sierra Leone "nearly became the UN's biggest peacekeeping debacle" when 500 peacekeepers there were taken hostage by rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF)

And that's not counting the sex and drug parties.

Funny thing, there are 100+ nations in the world. The ones that are open democracies free of (major) corruption can be counted on your fingers but people expect that a confederation of these countries will be responsible and honest.

Then there is this:

African nations have ensured that Sudan will keep its seat on the U.N. Human Rights Commission, a decision that angered the United States and human rights advocates who cited reports of widespread rights abuses by the Khartoum government.

Officially Kerry wants NATO to take over the military portions of Iraq. He has not made that very clear in speeches but that is what his web site says. There are of course, several problems with this:

1) Has NATO said that they would be willing to do this? They were pretty skittish about a short air war in Bosnia/Kosovo and they turned the peacekeeping over to the UN which is a disaster (see above).

2) This is a major expansion of NATO. It is one thing to stop a civil war, it is different to become an occupying force. Only one NATO country (Turkey) boarders Iraq and it is not threatened by any stretch.

3) If NATO does take over, will Turkey seize northern Iraq? We know that they want to.

4) Will the Kurds accept any occupying force that includes Turkey? The Kurds want their own state which includes the Kurdish population in Turkey.

5) Arabs already see Europeans as wanting to overrun them (again). If you want to fire up Arabs, refer to the occupiers as "crusaders". This would reinforce a negative image of Europe in general. Occupying French are not going to be any more popular than occupying Americans.

Assuming all of these concerns can be addressed and NATO agrees, what will happen? Will we be able to send our troops home and let the French and Germans get shot instead? Nah. We will end up with 100,000+ troops in Iraq plus a few thousand NATO troops. It will be just as much of a coalition as the current one with only minor help from other countries.

I am not going to make fun of the other countries in Iraq, though, not when their troops are taking fire, also. That's the Daily Show's territory.

More on Microsoft's Digital Rights announcement.

But granted, if from your perspective it's a good deal to pay a monthly fee in order to be able to listen to a big pile of music, then having the ability to listen to it on a portable player might be helpful. Otherwise, in the secure DRMed future you'll do well to keep questioning who exactly it is that 'your' hardware is working for.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Bad news for Kerry. Most of his fellow swift boat captains and everyone he ever served under feel that he is unfit to be president.

Plus Bush is more likeable

Think Kerry is going to keep corporations from moving jobs overseas? Think again.

Benedict Arnold does not refer to somebody who in the normal course of business is going to go overseas and take jobs overseas. That happens. I support that. I understand that.

Most overblown claim for the day - unless Bush acts now, kids will be taking assult weapons to school in September

Although this claim gives it a run for its money

Antarctica is likely to be the world's only habitable continent by the end of this century if global warming remains unchecked.

On the other hand
Environmental charities are exaggerating the threat of climate change in an attempt to raise more money from public donations, according to a report by Oxford University academics.

No kidding. I never would have guessed.

If Microsoft, the RIAA and the MPA have their way. you will no longer buy copies of movies or recordings, you will rent licenses. This might appeal to people when watching movies, after all, how many times can you watch the same movie? Music is different. It takes a different level of concentration to listen to music than to watch a movie.

The issue here is Digital Rights Management (DRM). This allows the retailer to lock movies or music to specific hardware. While teenagers might not mind throwing out their entire music collection with their PC, adults probably would. I have recordings that I still listen to that are several years old. Some are even on LPs from the 70s and 80s.

Of course, the record companies love this. CD sales were given a boost for years as people replaced vinyl and cassette with CD.

Portability is a big issue. iTunes is the biggest retailer of legal downloads but you cannot play a tune from iTunes on any personal device except for an iPod. At best, you can burn a CD (up to three from a play-list) then rip the CD and transfer the file to your MP3 player. That's a lot of work and you lose audio quality.

Heck, just to play an iTUnes song on my CD player I have to burn a CD.

Then there is Satelite radio where you have to pay for each receiver. There are some that you can take with you from home to car to office but why bother when there is free radio?

This is happening with TV and Tivo. With a VCR you can tape a program and give it to a friend or put it on the shelf. A Tivo doesn't let you do this. All it does is timeshift. You can save a show for a while but you have limited space.

If your Tivo or iPod dies then it can take everything on it, also. A dirty little secret of the iPod is that the batteries eventually wear out and die, sometime in al little as a year. Apple originally suggested that you buy a new i-Pod when this happens. After a lot of outcry, they will now install a new battery but it still costs something like a $100.

Disney tried switching to a licensing model last year with self-distructing DVDs. Once the seal was broken, a chemical reaction to air would turn them black after a couple of days.

Disney hates that you get nearly unlimited plays when you buy a video. In the 1990s they considered making VHS tapes that would self-erase after a dozen or so plays but they never marketed this. The limited-life DVDs were their first attempt but this was not successful in test markets.

Here's more on digital rights

Sunday, May 02, 2004

The campaign to save the Hubble just got silly today when the comic Stone Soup entered the fray.

A few days after Bush announced his plans for a return to the Moon and a venture to Mars, NASA announced that Shuttle flights to service the Hubble would be cancelled. Because of the timing it was widely reported that the two were connected. This is not true. The decision to abandon the Hubble had already been made based on several considerations. These include:

Other Commitments, With only three shuttles left and a possible delay of two years or more between the Columbia disaster and any future shuttle missions, NASA will need to devote every launch through 2010 to supplying the International Space Station. That assumes an aggressive launch schedule. If they fall behind then it will take until 2011 or 2012. There is no room for other missions. Even if there was, the earliest one could be launched would be 2007 which might be too late anyway.

Safety. The Shuttle cannot be safely launched. Some pieces of foam will always fall off. If the heat shielding is damaged on a flight to the International Space Station then the astronauts can take shelter until a rescue mission can collect them. Because the Hubble is in a different orbit, twice as far from the Earth, no such option is available on a Hubble mission. If the shuttle is damaged on lift-off the crew will die. This violates NASA's new safety standards.

NASA is exploring the possibility of using robots to do maintenance so the Hubble has not been completely written off.

The troubling thing about this is the anti-Bush overtones of the Save the Hubble campaign. Most remarks including the one in Stone Soup think of the Hubble and Mars as an either/or proposition with Hubble winning. After all, how could an idiot like Bush make the right decision about NASA?

Lost in all of this uproar are the lessons of the two shuttle disasters. Both were lost because safety considerations were ignored because of political pressure. Here we are again. We know that a mission to save the Hubble is risky, far riskier than we believed on previous missions. Never the less, NASA is being asked to ignore this and save the Hubble anyway so that we can continue to have pretty pictures from space with no interruption.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

How's this for a possibility:

Kerry's hero was Kennedy so when he reached the appropriate age, Kerry enlisted in the Navy, just like JFK (the first one). Kerry even volunteered for Swift Boat service since that's what replaced the PT boat.

Kerry soon found that a swift boat in Viet Nam wasn't as glamorous as a PT boat in WWII and got out of Viet Nam early on the basis of some minor wounds. This was no big deal, everyone did it.

Once back, he was so disillusioned about the war that he became a leader for an anti-war contingent.

This is pretty close to his official narrative except that it admits some mistakes on his part, the biggest ones being enlisting and volunteering for swift boat duty in Viet Nam.

I would think better if him if this was how he presented his service and subsequent actions.

The problem for Kerry is that it doesn't allow him to criticize Bush and Cheney for not going. If going to war was a mistake then Bush and Cheney did the right thing by avoiding service.

Too bad Kerry's primary reason for being president is that he is a vet.

What about Cheney? The Democrats say that he did everything he could not to go to war. What did that consist of? He went to college and his wife had a child.

That bastard.

Kerry runs a risk here. A lot of men went to college to escape the draft. College enrollment in the 1960s reached an all-time high because of this. There are tens of millions of men who did this. If the Democrats are not careful they risk calling these tens of millions of men cowards.

That's going to turn out the vote.

I was 18 when the draft ended so I was never at risk but people I knew were.

Several things should be kept in mind. The deferments were legal and everyone knew about them. The idea was to promote certain activities - sort of a tax break from the draft. Originally anyone in college was exempt. When college enrollment skyrocketed, they changed the rules so that only certain majors were exempted, mainly doctors and teachers. Even later, they eliminated most excepmtions unless you were married and had children. You also were exempted if you served in the National Guard or the Peace Corp.

Nixon changed things in 1969. Prior to that the Selective Service was looking for bottom-of-the-barrel types to press into service and you were reevaluated annually for years. Nixon changed that to a single lottery for 19-year-olds with very few exemptions.

The true draft-dodgers were not the ones who took legal exemptions, they were ones who took more extreme measures. Many went to Canada. A few resorted to self-mutilation by having their spleen removed or something similar.

Kerry has a Clinton moment

When asked about the Chevy suburban in his driveway, Kerry said that it is his wife's. "The family has it. I don't have it."

What does a former ambassador to the UN have to say about 9/11 and Iraq

Assuming that Bush is re-elected, who will be the next standard bearer? Vice Presidents usually have first shot at this but Cheney has said that he does not want the role and I doubt that anyone else wants him at the top of the ticket. This would be a good year for him to announce that his health will not allow a second term and let someone with positive charisma run as VP. Besides Rumsfeld, there are only two cabinet members who do well in front of a camera Colin Powell and Condolisa Rice. I don't think that the country is ready for a black president but a black conservative VP could be a winner.

There is also Ken Blackwell, Ohio Secretary of State, possible candidate for governor in 2006 and the only elected official in Ohio with solid Reagan Republican credentials.

There is also McCain but I doubt that he and Bush could stand to see each other on a regular basis. If Cheney continues as VP then expect McCain to run against Hillary in 2008.

The April 30 Nightline episode spent a lot of time on Cheney. They felt it was unlikely that Bush would drop him.