The only thing that can beat Bush in 2004 is a candidate who is more trustworthy. That can only happen if Bush has a moral lapse. They can't co-opt the war issue because most of them have been critical of Bush the whole way. So the pundits can spend the next 18 months talking about the economy, and since the economy is likely to improve, they will be certain Bush won because for reasons which I think are spurious. But if the economy doesn’t improve according to the media, just wait for the looks on their faces when Bush wins anyway.
Friday, December 31, 2004
Thursday, December 30, 2004
I generally read in three categories: spirituality, business, and practical helps, with particular books often straddling categories. This year I also read on politics. I rarely read fiction, and when I do, it’s timeless classics like FRANKENSTEIN or DR. JEKYLL AND MR. HYDE with masterful language and themes that probe the human condition. Following are capsule reviews of the books I read in 2004.
THE BIBLE CURE FOR ALLERGIES by Don Colbert and MANAGING YOUR ALLERGIES by David Hazad (3 stars of 5). I developed a full-blown allergy to soy in October 2002. The main takeaway was that if I treat my body well in general through good diet, exercise, and sleep, then my body will react less violently to allergens. What strikes me now, having consumed so many pies and cookies over the past five weeks, is how completely I forget that wise counsel. I stopped taking my daily allergy meds some months ago, feeling that I had the problem under control. Yesterday I had my first allergic reaction in quite some time and had to pop a pill. At about $3 per pill, I think I better revisit diet and exercise. Don Colbert is very supplement-happy and I am generally not a fan of his. I was struck by one nutritionist’s remark that supplements are the ultimate processed food, with all the actual food removed. He made the point that the natural balance of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, etc. in whole foods work in combination to bring health in a way that supplements can never replicate. Which made sense to me.
Self-study of THE BOOK OF JONAH. Dug up some interesting reading on how sperm whales have been sighted in the Mediterranean and how incidences of whales swallowing and then regurgitating live humans have been documented, and ultimately realized that a big fish (or aquatic mammal) is not what the book is about. I shared my testimony at church in February and used Jonah as a backdrop for my own life story.
GOD AND RONALD REAGAN by Paul Kengor (5 stars). Meticulously researched and effectively (if selectively) presented account of Reagan’s spiritual influences and how they shaped his perceptions and actions in office. This book made me appreciate the importance of who is President, made me take a very active interest in politics this year, and has me considering running for local office in the future.
A NATIONAL PARTY NO MORE by Sen. Zell Miller (2 stars). A couple of rousing chapters at the end which make an emotional case for war and explain his affinity with President Bush. Otherwise mostly disenchanted ranting on how corporate and special interests own both parties and especially the Dems. He longs for the days of conservative southern Democrats and proclaims the end of the Democratic Party’s national appeal in anything like its current form. Incidentally, I heard a few weeks ago that Zell Miller starts his new gig as a Fox News political analyst after the holidays.
THINK LIKE JESUS by George Barna (5 stars). An in-depth treatment of WWJD. The Barna Group polls Americans on cultural and moral issues. This book grew out of his findings that few Americans, and few churchgoers, operate from a worldview that reflects an internalization and outworking of core biblical principles. I taught some of this material with a friend to a group of 14 men at church over the summer. Barna is one of those authors (C.S. Lewis, Chuck Colson, and Lee Strobel would be others) who makes the case for Christianity as the thinking man’s religion. See www.barna.org.
GOOD TO GREAT by Jim Collins (5 stars). Superb business book that examines the common elements that caused 11 large public companies to track the market for 15 years and then substantially outperform the market for 15 years. The “hedgehog concept” and “economic denominator” are concepts that any manager can and should apply. Don’t skip the appendices which explain the author’s methodology – there’s gold there.
THE TRUSTED ADVISOR by David Maister (3 stars). I probably gave this book 4 stars on completion, but upon reflection I find that little of it has stuck, so I am downgrading it to 3. Practical advice and lists on how providers of professional services can serve clients in such a way that consultant and client become true partners with mutual trust, admiration, and respect. Maister is required reading among law firm managers and legal consultants. Much of this was intuitive or review.
THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS BUSINESS ETHICS by John Maxwell (2 stars). I like Maxwell – in fact, Nancy is teaching his MAKING YOUR MARRIAGE WORK video series in our Sunday school class right now. But this gift-size book didn’t offer anything new. I generally don’t like gift-size books because they can’t treat their subject matter with sufficient depth. But I received it as a gift so I read it. I find these books generally don’t require much and therefore don’t deliver much.
TEACHING TO CHANGE LIVES by Howard Hendricks (5 stars). A classic must-read for teachers. Tremendous.
THE VISION by David Wilkerson (5 stars). Social, political, cultural, weather, and other prophecies, written in 1973. Amazingly accurate and therefore highly disturbing.
THE HOLOGRAPHIC UNIVERSE (3 stars). Mind-bending content but weak conclusions. I finished this in July and still owe Dude a review, which I took notes for and will eventually post. Worse, I still owe Tom a review of THE TRUE BELIEVER from 2003. No promises there, Tom.
10 STUPID THINGS MEN DO TO MESS UP THEIR LIVES by Dr. Laura Schlessinger (1 star). Fortunately I am not doing any of them. Basic rehash of her radio show. To be fair to the author, Nancy read her PROPER CARE & FEEDING OF HUSBANDS and loved it.
BUSH COUNTRY by John Podhoretz (5 stars). Defends the arguments liberals use to demean President Bush. Logical, coherent, persuasive, and fun. His column in the NY Post is worth following.
UNFOUNDED LOYALTY by Wayne Perryman (1 star). Written by a black clergyman on blacks’ unfounded loyalty to the Democratic party. Rush job. A great book could be written under this premise, but this one wasn’t it.
SLANDER by Ann Coulter (4 stars). Replete with examples of liberal media bias and the irrational attack strategies liberals typically employ. Would be 5 stars except for the author’s pathological obsession with the New York Times. I enjoyed SLANDER and TREASON but Coulter’s shtick does grow a bit tiresome after two books and dozens of weekly columns. I think I’ll pass on HOW TO TALK TO A LIBERAL (IF YOU MUST) although I love the title.
THE BOOK OF ECCLESIASTES – audiocassette study by Tommy Nelson (5 stars). As a philosopher, Ecclesiastes is my favorite book of the Bible. This 12-volume audio series opens up each of the book’s 12 enigmatic chapters in an easy, personable style. I learned in many cases that wise guy Solomon wasn’t saying what I thought he was saying.
THE BOOK OF JOB – audiocassette study by Jim Richards (3 stars). Offered new insights into what is really going on between God and Satan with respect to Job, but on further study I had to conclude that the standard interpretations of biblical material probably became standard for good reasons.
KOUFAX: A LEFTY’S LEGACY by Jane Leavy (2 stars). Weak New York Times bestseller. Koufax is notoriously reclusive, so the author pieced together his biography from friends, family, teammates, and other published works, so it lacks the self-discovery insights that make a biography interesting, and it also lacks the kind of first-person insights into the game that make for a good baseball book. A friend gave me this book to read, presumably on his recommendation, so when I got halfway through and told him it really wasn’t clicking with me and he said he didn’t really like it either, that kind of chapped me. There were some interesting nuggets, however, like how Koufax saw pitching as a series of levers, an intuitive theory later validated by physicists.
CAN A SMART PERSON BELIEVE IN GOD? by Michael Guillen (3 stars). I know the answer because I am one who does, but this pithy gift-size book probably fails to make the case with its smartest readers – again, due to the inherent limitations of a gift-size book.
Those are just the books I read in full or large part. I also revisit previously read books from time to time as I get reminded of stuff or want a refresher. I mark up books as I read them, which helps the material to stick since I can remember it visually, and so that I can re-read them quickly.
I am currently enrolled in the Master of Arts in Bible program at Lancaster Bible College where I have completed two courses. I had forgotten how time-consuming graduate study is, but I am really enjoying being back in the classroom and studying under intellectual and spiritual giants. My other reading has fallen off since I enrolled in August. For my coursework I have read HANDBOOK OF EVANGELICAL THEOLOGY by Robert Lightner (and written a book critique on same), A SURVEY OF THE OLD TESTAMENT (580 pages), most of the Old Testament, and countless articles, book chapters, and course notes. In the spring I will be taking a New Testament survey course and a Biblical Hermeneutics course.
I also consumed a tremendous amount of political analysis this year as mentioned above. I have reclaimed that portion of my life since election day and am glad to have the next couple years off.
And I am leaving out hundreds of children’s books, some of which were extremely impressive.
I am frequently reminded of the old R.I.F. public-service spot where Ed Asner asks the kids, “You’re pretty smart! How’d you get so smart?” and they all shout in reply: “READING!!”
Monday, December 27, 2004
A celebrity interior decorator vacationing in Sri Lanka said Monday that all he could see was "utter devastation" in the wake of a deadly tsunami that slammed the island.
"We were completely devastated yesterday morning," Nate Berkus told CNN. "There was absolutely no warning."
Berkus, a regular contributor to "The Oprah Winfrey Show," said he and a friend were sleeping in a beachfront cottage at Arugam Bay on Sri Lanka's eastern coast when he heard a loud noise and the roof was ripped off.
Berkus, 33, said they were swept into the sea along with debris, animals and other people.
The two grabbed a telephone pole, he said, but lost their grips when a second large wave hit. Berkus told CNN that he climbed onto the roof of a home; his friend was missing.
I think it was philosopher Adam Smith that said if you woke up one morning and heard that a million Chinese had died overnight in a tragedy you might feel badly for them but your reaction would be nothing compared to the loss of the tip of your little finger.
The story above about Oprah's interior decorator reflects this pretty well. He's not just another schlub that was inconvenienced, but the guy on our TV that Oprah likes. The media found a way to personalize the storm. Now for many it has happened to a real person. I don't watch Oprah, but if Doyle Brunson or Hideki Matsui had been swept away it would have gotten my attention. We were shortly worried about Tricia's two friends who were vacationing in Vietnam, but the Tsunami seemed to leave that place alone.
You have to know someone to feel the impact because people for as selfless as they aspire or pretend to be are really self-interested. The world works in the manner of Adam Smith's invisible hand. When society is designed with human nature in mind things run much more smoothly. When planners try to design a system that ignores people's self-interest for the glory of the greater whole, they fail.
People aren't little angels. Half of Europe can oppose our fighting the war on terror because 9-11 didn't happen to them. Chirac and Shroeder's self-interest lies in secret oil deals and getting re-elected not, avenging our loss. Likewise, most Americans didn't lose sleep worrying about Asia's disaster. We're a philanthropic country and we'll send money, but it won't change our worldview.
Human actions are linked to human desires. When those desires hurt others in the forms of thefts or killings we punish the perpetrator because it acts as a disincentive. Disincentive is a very powerful tool among the sane, because it conflicts with our self-interest. That’s’ why those who favor rehabilitation instead of punishment for prisoners are the same people who think we can spend the poor out of poverty. But if people weren’t self-interested then why does the CEO of the United Way make $150,000 a year?
When the government denies self-interest it many times hurts it own self-interest. For instance, the disincentive of taxation keeps people from engaging in certain behavior that grows the economy. The government benefits from a growing economy, but the government’s desire to centrally plan more of our lives hurts their ability to collect the money to pay for it.
There is an interesting quirk in central planning. Central planners trumpet their important work, but usually hide or ignore the unintended results of their decisions. Though it would be good for the system as a whole to hear the central planner tell of the trade-offs, it’s in central planner’s self-interest to present their plan as a marvel and nothing less. Therefore, even by their own actions, Central Planners usually prove the self-interest is a more effective tool than central planning.
And the electric chair is a more effective disincentive to murder than college credit made easy.
Sunday, December 26, 2004
Here are some films I’ve seen recently:
+MAN ON A TRAIN (2002) Stylish French film with robber Johnny Halladay meeting and staying with college professor Jean Rochefort. Rochefort is fascinated by this rogue and through invstigations learns of his plans to rob a local bank. Both men come to envy the life of the other. The robber wishes he had a normal life and the professor wishes he had a more exciting one. The dual climax is Halladay risking his life to rob a bank as Rochfort risks his life in surgery.
BIRTHDAY GIRL (2002) is like a lot of films that begin with stylish promise become conventional at the first plot point and resolve in ways that are inconsistent with the movie in order to deliver a happy ending.
TAKING LIVES (2004) I saw it on the strength of an interesting trailer (I know, bad idea) and the fact that Ethan Hawke picks his projects more carefully than his contemporaries. Adhere’s to the Agatha Christie rule of mysteries – No matter how baffled the heroes are by the identity of the culprit, the person has already been introduced to the audience. Movies like SE7EV that ignore the device are usually better than the ones that don’t, therefore this movie is more of an academic exercise in deduction than unique entertainment.
+THE SLASHER (2004) Washed up director John Landis (Blues Brothers, Trading Places) moves to documentaries with this look at the car dealership industry. The Slasher is Michael Bennett the man car dealerships hire to fly in and move their dusty inventory. Bennett is the kind of guy that drinks beer for breakfast and gives speeches on how he doesn’t believe in high-pressure sales (Ya Ya). He and his team land in Memphis and help a local dealer in a depressed part of town with their troubles. Often funny and quite illuminating on how the car industry really works from a sales standpoint.
+MAYOR OF SUNSET STRIP (2004) Documentary by George Hickenlooper (Hearts of Darkness) about Rodney Bingenheimer a diminutive guy who was Davy Jones’ stand-in for the Monkees TV Show, owner of the first Hollywood Disco, discoverer of David Bowie, and currently an obscure figure by the general public that works as an LA DJ two hours a week from 12-2am on Sundays Nights. It’s both sad and funny.
RIVERS AND TIDES (2003) Documentary of Andy Goldsworthy, an artist who does his work almost exclusively in the outdoors. Though we meet his family briefly, we learn little of his life. The footage is of the man in action trying to create his vision before nature destroys it. I found portions of his work beautiful and other parts uninspired and pointless. The movie sways back and forth from dull to interesting depending on the current project.
+ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND (2004) (See Dude’s exhaustive review of this film and Charlie Kauffman) Eternal Sunshine is well-written, but directed in that Terry Gilliam style of mayhem that’s hard to sustain through an entire film. Jim Carrey continues to prove he’s a decent dramatic actor, Kate Winslet puts in another plus performance, and the supporting cast of Wilkenson, Wood and Dunst are also good. Once you buy into the science fiction premise, the characters’ actions seem pretty consistent with human behavior in that memory may be erased but attraction puts people back together. It’s unique, thoughtful and though provoking. I enjoyed it, but don’t imagine that I’d ever see it again.
+GHOSTS OF THE ABYSS (2003) James Cameron returns to the Titanic for real with submarine gadgets for filming and Bill Paxton to provide commentary. Cameron spent a ton to build mini-submarines and they often fail. The stuff they discover is educational though and we get to see what many of the intact artifacts looked like when the ship was launched. The film is mostly of interest to those who enjoy the history of the Titanic.
EASY RIDERS, RAGING BULLS (2003) Documentary of 70s films and filmmakers based on the Peter Biskind book I read recently. It explores a few areas not touched upon in the book, but it excludes some of the most damning items. It’s a good way to absorb that film history. A strong filmmaking effort though it seems to borrow a little from THE KID STAYS IN THE PICTURE. I probably would have liked it better had I not read the book.
George Washington (2000) David Gordon Green’s slice of life debut reminds me of a John Cassavettes film without all the shouting. Rather than a story arch per say, Green takes the characters through a bunch of random episodes to see them react to surprising challenges. The actors all seem like naturals living in real houses and eating real food. Add a narrator and you’d think documentary if you caught it flipping around. Still, if you’re waiting around for a point you’ll have to dig way between the lines. Otherwise you might get the idea that this film is about the randomness of human life and little more.
+All the Real Girls (2003) I saw David Gordon Green’s second film first and like it better. Paul Schneider who had a small part in the first film plays a small town playboy in this one. When the pure little sister (Zooey Deschanel ) of his best friend returns after years in boarding school they soon start an honorable flirtation that ruins his friendship with the brother. In the conventional indie classic TAO OF STEVE, the hero meets his match and falls for the girl. Green doesn’t make it so easy for his characters. Just when things are heading the conventional way here something unexpected happens and our hero has to struggle with himself. All in all it's a better use of Gordon's knack for realism than GW.
+SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER (1960) Francois Truffaut film about one-time big shot concert pianist that’s reduced to playing in a saloon. If that’s not bad enough his criminal brother drags him into the middle of his own drama. Our hero is tasked with fleeing the bad guys and reliving the experience that cost him his career as a virtuoso. Traffault’s influence from American film noir is evident and I liked it better than THE 400 BLOWS that gets so much ink.
Iranians complained about Unidentified Flying Objects at very low altitudes around its nuclear installations all around the country. United States has excellent satellite imagery and hence do not need low altitude spy planes to monitor the activities as the Iranian nuclear scientists and engineers as they assemble their nukes.
Sources in Iran say, the Iranian Air Force have admitted these sighting and assuming these are US spy crafts, directed Iranian Air Force to shoot them down at sight.
Sources also reveal that Iranian Air Force have failed shoot down even a single UFO and many in Iranian Air Force are complaining about lack of technical ability in shooting these UFOs down.
Psychological warfare by the U.S. or E.T?
Thursday, December 23, 2004
Monster cockroach and other species found in remote Borneo. U.S.-funded environmentalists rush to protect previously unknown and almost certainly unwanted species.
JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) - A team of international scientists have found new fish and insect species, including a monster cockroach, living in caves in Indonesia's remote East Kalimantan province, the group announced Wednesday.
Led by the U.S.-based organization The Nature Conservancy, the team said the area where the new species were discovered was threatened by environmental degradation, and called for the government to protect it immediately.
"In just five weeks, the expedition team discovered numerous new species previously unknown to science. Who knows what else is out there?" said Scott Stanley, the conservancy's program manager for East Kalimantan, on the Indonesian side of Borneo Island.
"If something is not done soon to protect these areas, dozens of species could disappear before anyone knew they ever existed."
And who would care? Had you not accidentally found them, who would miss them?
Are two neoconservative houses, both alike in dignity, feuding over the fate of Secretary Rumsfeld?
The conflict in question has been fought not with swords, as in Shakespeare, but with columns in the newspapers.
In the Washington Post on December 15, William Kristol, editor and founder of the Weekly Standard, raised eyebrows when he wrote that American troops "deserve a better defense secretary than the one we have."
In the New York Post on Tuesday, under the headline "Beltway Blunder: Why 'fire Rummy' crew failed," the columnist John Podhoretz responded with a spirited defense of Mr. Rumsfeld, which criticized "in-the-know" journalists who "say things in op-eds" and others who seek the defense secretary's ouster.
For some reason Bill Kristol loves John McCain despite the fact that he's not even a conservative anymore. McCain wants Rummy gone and now so does Bill. Should we next see Kristol columns defending McCain federal steriod search and boxing commission?
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
I was reading the Dynamist last week and she was talking about a game in which academics ask one another what book they are most ashamed of not having read.
Here's a game for the visual generation. What movies are you ashamed of not having seen? Netflix has given me a few years to catch up on Bergman and Kurosawa, but I still have gaps. Here are a few that I should have seen by now.
BIRTH OF A NATION (1915) - The first big event movie.
JAZZ SINGER (1927) - The first talkie may not be a great movie but it's such a part of film history that I am remiss.
Wuthering Heights (1939) - Olivier and the year of the movie. I read they tinkered with the book for a happy ending, but it's still classic Wyler.
The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) - I know I will love this, but the stars are against me. I have seen the first 15 minutes on TMC and have gotten interrupted 3 different times in the last 15 years. I once had it on VHS but it was a victim of the move. Not on DVD. The wait continues.
Bicycle Thieves (1949)- The postwar Italian Neo-realism exemplified here and I've made time for Cinema Paradiso and not this.
An American in Paris (1951) - Best picture and considered a classic by everyone. I don't watch a lot of musicals and I have never made the time for this one.
A Man for All Seasons (1966) - The excellent actor, Paul Scofield won as Oscar. Orson plays Cardinal Woolsey. Dude and I were in a stage play with roughly the same story, but I haven't seen this.
Barry Lyndon (1975) - I understand it to be as slow as it is long (3 Hours) but brother John said that he liked it quite a bit. I've seen all the Kubrick's save this and the Shining (1979).
Brazil (1985) - I'm not a big fan of Gilliam. I find his stuff too stylish and nuts. 12 Monkeys was alright at the time, but I don't even remember it. The Fisher King didn't do much for me either. Brazil is supposed to be his masterpiece, so I will eventually get to it.
Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-3)- Okay, I went to the first film and fell asleep three times. I remember a preponderance of monsters would attack our heroes and they'd fight them off only to be attacked all over again with a new set of worse monsters fifteen minutes later. There was very little bloodshed from our heroes, but just enough to make you think the fighting was tough like on the A-Team. I'm told that the Director's cuts are better and the series improves with each movie and yet I'm going to have to be in the right mood to see these things. Once every few years the critics and moviegoers agree on a movie and I still hate it, like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Maybe I'll like the Lord of the Rings better the second time around.
I'm sure there are others I'm ashamed of having not seen. What are yours?
I have generally sided with the critics who say Bush does not focus nearly enough on making his case, on currying public opinion, on conspicuous speechmaking. But it's also fair to say that he simply says what he's going to do, then immediately sets about doing it. And that is not a bad legacy to leave. In the final analysis, he will be characterized as a president who moved in bold strokes with little concern for how it would play with his critics. There is a lesson for all of us in there.
The mainstream media are carping and whining that the president’s recent economic conference in Washington was comprised of supporters rather than dissenters — as though this is some great surprise. The president, they said, was just preaching to the choir. They called the meeting an exercise in political propaganda that was just paying off big campaign donors. As usual, big media missed the big story: In a master stroke of message communication the president spoke directly to the nation in certain terms about his visionary economic plans for the next four years.
Over two days last week, George W. Bush gave three full-fledged statements on his economic intentions. Reading through his comments one is struck by the clarity of his message. Each of his key points is pro-growth, incentive-based, and investor- and owner-oriented. His economic message favors entrepreneurs, importuning for more saving and capital formation as well as a healthy dose of deregulation.
In short, Bush is prescribing market-oriented measures that will spur prosperity and wealth creation. He’s clearly rejecting government planning and entitlement. This is another dose of cowboy capitalism from the president. It is Schumpeterian capitalism. Entrepreneurial capitalism. Ownership capitalism.
One of the best barometers of the health of the political economy and the future outlook for business and economic growth is the U.S. stock market. Since the election, stock indexes have gained 6 percent. Since Bush took the lead in his reelection bid way back in August, the averages are up more than 12 percent.
Question: What does the stock market know that the mainstream media do not? Answer: almost everything.
It takes a special kind of man to represent guilty persons in a court of law. It takes an even more special kind of man to try to cash in from public donations less than a week after losing your high-profile case and having your client sentenced to death row. Not to mention milking your client's family of their life savings. But like Geragos always says (or should), you gotta make hay while the sun is shining.
Los Angeles defense lawyer Mark Geragos has set up a Web site seeking financial assistance in the continued search for the real killer.
"We believe Scott Peterson has been unjustly convicted. This site will continue to monitor the happenings in this case until justice is finally served," the site reads. "With your support, you can help us continue to investigate the murders of Laci and Conner Peterson so that we can free the man we know is innocent."
The site encourages donors to send money to "The Peterson Investigation Fund," care of Geragos' office.
Monday, December 20, 2004
DARWIN AWARD WINNER
Dude's vocabulary usage requirement has slowed traffic at this site. In my despair I remembered the Darwin Awards, which recognize individuals' contributions to the gene pool by removing themselves from it through acts of grand stupidity. In the following (edited) example, this fellow qualified as both ignoranus and protected by thick bozone.
(17 February 2003, New York) A 25-year-old man who had often annoyed neighbors by snowmobiling at high speeds through their quiet streets at night, died Friday when he drove headfirst into a tree.
Brian "The Brain" Sabinsky was driving an unregistered, uninsured snowmobile without a helmet while drunk. Mr. Sabinsky was a member of the same fire company dispatched to peel him off the tree.
With the fire company, Sabinsky responded to gruesome snowmobile accidents every year and preached snowmobile safetey to local residents. An illuminated "helmet safety" notice had been posted 700 feet from his home.
Friday, December 17, 2004
Booknotes began in 1989 but I didn't watch it religiously until 1992 when I had an all-night editing job on Sundays. I would alter editing and dubbing and the dubs would each take 60 minutes so I had a lot of free time. I don't know what it was about the show that captured my imagination, two guys sitting in a black studio discussing a single book. I think it intrigued me how knowledgeable each guest was about some obscure piece of history or contentious issue. It became my favorite show, the one in which TiVo gets the most miles, and it will be missed.
Luckily the transcipts are available online and the repeats will still air on C-SPAN 2. There were some great exchanges by great minds. Milton Friedman on the Lessons not learned from the fall of the Berlin Wall:
FRIEDMAN: Everybody agrees, as a result of the experience in the West, that socialism has been a failure. Everybody agrees that capitalism has been a success, that wherever you have had an improvement in the conditions of the ordinary people over any lengthy time, it's been in a capitalist society, and yet everybody is extending socialism. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, there were no summits in Washington about how we cut down government. The lesson from the fall of the Berlin Wall was that we have too extensive a government and we ought to cut it down. Everybody agrees, but yet wherever you go, we have to extend socialism. The summit in Washington was about how you enable government to get more revenue in order for government to be more important, which is exactly the opposite. So socialism guides our behavior in strict contrast to what we believe to be the facts of the world.
Friedman was on to discuss his introduction to the 50th Anniverary edition of Friedrich Hayek's THE ROAD TO SERFDOM. Hayek is such an important figure in free market economics that host Brian Lamb has asked several authors through the years about his influence. Lamb's last guest was a liberal college professor, Mark Edmunson, who wrote a book called "Why Read?" Lamb showed a clip of Friedman talking about Hayek and then this exchange:
LAMB: He`s talking about "Road to Serfdom" - Hayek - a bible for people on the conservative political side.
EDMUNDSON: I`m glad to know about it. Until this moment, I`ve heard nothing about it. But I will write it down and give it a look.
LAMB: So, you`ve never read "Road to Serfdom."
EDMUNDSON: Never. Nor heard of it, until this moment.
LAMB: Mark Edmundson, we`re out of time. Thank you for joining us.
Funny that I once mentioned this book to a liberal friend of mine when we were discussing economics and he had the same reaction. It came up because he said that there had never been an adequat intellectual argument for supply-side (he called it trickle down). You just don't get Hazlitt, von Mises, Hayek, Sowell, Friedman, or Rothbard on the college campus, I suppose.
Anyway, I'll miss the show and enjoy the repeats.
Has Hillary committed any "intimate transgressions"? We'll soon find out! Hasn't Bernard Kerik performed a huge service for journalism (and the Republican party)? Because of his sacrifice, we now have a dramatically lowered standard for when the New York Times will report the intimate details of public figures' private lives. Kerik was having "clandestine love affairs" in a Battery Park City apartment he apparently paid for. The Times first reported these "intimate transgressions"--and named one of Kerik's partners, Titian-tressed titan Judith Regan--even after Kerik had withdrawn from consideration as Homeland Security secretary citing an illegal-nanny problem. ... Somwhere, Jeffrey Toobin is turning over in his grave. Toobin argued absurdly that a politician's sex life is off limits to journalists' because it "tells you absolutely nothing about their performance in office". But Kerik wasn't even going to perform in office! He was out. ... The Times, a principled organization, will presumably apply the Kerik precedent in years to come when Democratic figures are involved. I especially look forward to the paper's multiple-reporter investigation of Hillary Clinton's erotic life when she runs for Senate in 2006. All of her housekeepers need to be produced, of course, and if she has any lovers other than her faithful husband we'll find that out too! ... P.S.: Plus, following the Kerik precedent, it will be enough if "someone who spoke to" Hillary about any relationship can vouch for it. Hearsay evidence about sex is good enough for the Times!
From Bruce Thornton's review:
Instead, Stone gives us the visionary Alexander, the great idealist who pursues his vision until he burns out, and whose excesses are the lamentable byproducts of such noble ambition. And here's the most illuminating point about this forgettable movie: once more we see the left's romantic admiration of any mass-murderer who cloaks his slaughter in idealism. Wasn't it Lenin who said you can't make an omelet without breaking eggs? The "omelet" of Communist idealism took, as we now know, 100 million dead human beings, and ended up inedible anyway. But that hasn't stopped the left from continuing to excuse murder on the grounds of "idealism," provided it comes from the left (after all, Nazis were idealists too). Thus Stalin, Ho Chi Min, Mao and Castro continue to be more popular on college campuses than Ronald Reagan, and ex-terrorists like Bill Ayres and Bernadette Dohrn are professors at taxpayer-funded universities.
Once more we see the bankruptcy of the left, the hollowness of its populist rhetoric and democratic idealism. Behind all that lofty rhetoric is the old lust for power and domination, contempt for the average person, and a burning confidence in the superiority of its ideas no matter how bloody their application or how often they are discarded in the trashcan of history. Stone's Alexander may not tell us much about the Macedonian killer, but it reveals a lot about the pathology of the left.
BREAKING NEWS: RICKY WILLIAMS SMOKED POT
The Dolphins are 2-11 this season. Williams, 27, stunned his team by retiring shortly before Miami opened training camp in July.
"I didn't know ahead of time or I would have given them a clue," he said.
Williams said a third failed drug test made him retire because he was "scared to death" that people would find out he smoked marijuana.
"The thing I had the most trouble with was that after you fail your third test, then it becomes public knowledge," said Williams in the interview, parts of which will also be shown on CBS' Sunday pregame show "The NFL Today." "That's one thing I couldn't deal with at the time -- people knowing that I smoke marijuana. That was my biggest fear in my whole entire life."
The Dolphins filed a lawsuit in federal court against the running back, seeking the $8.6 million an arbitrator ruled he owes the team for breaching his contract. Williams is fighting the decision.
He gave up the $5 million he would have earned this season, which would have been his sixth in the NFL. He is now enrolled in a 17-month course at the California College of Ayurveda in Grass Valley, Calif., studying holistic medicine.
"To a lot of people, I look very foolish in what I am doing and I understand that," Williams said. "(It doesn't bother me) because the only thing that matters is how I feel, and if I let what they feel affect me, then it changes how I feel."Yo Ricky, is there anyone who did NOT know you were smoking marijuana?
The only thing that matters is how he feels, right now, at this moment. Which is why he has been smoking pot every day since ever. And why he bailed on his teammates without thinking it through. And why he decided he'd play again, then not. The deplorable conditions of his luxury apartment in New Orleans during his time with the Saints were legendary. He didn't feel like cleaning up the pizza boxes and chicken bones. Some day he may feel like another $20m would have done him more good than another bag of weed, and what will he do that day to feel better? Correct: more weed.
He has a textbook substance abuse problem. Staying in the NFL meant "outing" and mandatory enrollment in a substance abuse program. That is why he quit, suddenly and illogically, but it made perfect sense in the parallel universe of the addict. He needs help and is determined not to get it.
A federal grand-jury investigation of pardoned financier Marc Rich's role in the U.N. oil-for-food scandal has focused on whether he helped Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein reward the families of Palestinian bombers who carried out suicide attacks in Israel, sources said yesterday.
Law-enforcement authorities and congressional investigators said the grand jury wants to know whether cash funneled to Saddam by oil traders — including Mr. Rich — to help arrange multimillion-dollar Iraqi oil deals for political leaders and well-heeled investors was used by the now-deposed dictator to pay the bombers' families.
"Can we legitimately speculate that some of the blood money Saddam paid to kill people in Israel may have originated or at least been touched by Marc Rich through the United Nations' dreadful oil-for-food program?" said a source close to the probe. "We know Saddam Hussein was getting a rake off from the U.N. program and Rich was in the middle of that."
The grand-jury probe centers on questions of whether Mr. Rich, pardoned by President Clinton on his last day in office in a pending $48 million income-tax-evasion case, brokered millions of dollars in deals between Saddam and other traders as part of the oil-for-food scandal, the sources said.
Did the same pool of money that killed Israelis also place bricks at the Clinton library?
Thursday, December 16, 2004
John Ellis suggests that
if someone went out and organized a "Recall Them All" campaign on the Internet — urging people to vote out of office every single incumbent, at every level of government — that that someone could raise about a billion dollars. And have a significant impact on the nation's politics.If this were to happen -- all the incumbents got tossed -- how long would it take for the system to get back to the equilibrium it has now? Isn't big money always going to control government, or am I missing something?
In June, 1963, Kennedy signed Executive Order 11110, which authorized the US Treasury to print its own money, unbeholden to the independent Federal Reserve Banking System. Most people don't realize that the Fed is not truly part of our government, but rather represents a syndicate of international banking interests, who were empowered by that doofus Woodrow Wilson in 1913 to establish a bank which would be able to print money on a whim and sell it to our government with interest. The government pays the interest on this debt by establishing a federal income tax, ensuring the consolidation of power with the elite and binding the rest of us to debt and servitude for the remainder of our days.
Nothing gets a country in debt to the bankers like war, so Oliver Stone was half-right when he appointed JFK's desire to withdraw troops from Vietnam as the reason for his assassination. Almost certainly, it was the combined prospect of a decrease in war debt combined with nullification of the Federal Reserve which hastened his demise in November. One of the first things the LBJ administration did was remove from circulation the Treasury notes that were already printed. This is reminiscent of the Andrew Johnson administration which took pains to make the Greenbacks worthless, as they also represented a threat to the European banking interests. Lincoln had done exactly what Kennedy would later do. He attempted to circulate fiat money backed by the government to help pay for the Civil War.
Otto von Bismarck, Chancellor of Germany, in 1876:
"It is not to be doubted, I know of absolute certainty, that the division of the United States into two federations of equal power was decided long before the Civil War by the high financial powers of Europe. These bankers were afraid that the United States, if they remained as one block and were to develop as one nation, would attain economic and financial independence, which would upset the capitalist domination of Europe over the world."Meanwhile in Britain a truly incredible editorial in the London Times explained the Bank of England's attitude towards Lincoln's Greenbacks:
"If this mischievous financial policy, which has its origin in North America, shall become indurate down to a fixture, then the Government will furnish its own money without cost. It will pay off debts and be without debt. It will have all the money necessary to carry on its commerce. It will become prosperous without precedent in the history of the world. The brains, and wealth of all countries will go to North America. That country must be destroyed or it will destroy every monarchy on the globe."Keep in mind, by this time the European monarchs were already chained to their private central banks, hence the bankers' concern to preserve their captive monarchs. Within four days of the passage of the law that allowed Greenbacks to be issued, bankers met in convention in Washington to discuss the situation. It was agreed that Greenbacks would surely be their ruin. Something had to be done. They devised a scheme gradually to undermine the value of the Greenbacks.
Okay, I digress, but I'm getting a pretty good grip on who "the man" is, and his name is Rothschilds, Rockefeller, Morgan, etc.
In reality, the movie proved not so much scandalous as boring. The problem with Stone's lurid sexual narrative is not his historical inaccuracies, but the movie's obsession with sexual intrigue, which causes much of Alexander's amazing story to be lost.Now I haven't seen the movie, so I am not a position to critique it. However, circa 1995, my gay mentor (who was helping me get sober, and only incidentally helping me love gays -- well, you know what I mean) gave me the book to read on which much of Stone's movie was probably based. It was historical fiction featuring a prominent storyline involving, if I remember right, Alexander's homosexual relationship with his servant boy. I forget the name of the book. I guess it was supposed to be a tender love story, the soft side of the bloodthirsty imperialist. What I remember most clearly is that the book sucked. As homosexual propaganda, maybe it worked, but as book, it sucked. Here's the thing: sure, the lewdness will stir up your helpful controversy and your advance press, but to get your $150m at the box office, the story needs to be interesting and the movie, as a movie, needs to be good. If the story is not interesting and the movie not good, the lewdness just comes across as all the more gratuitous.
This is why I still resent THE ENGLISH PATIENT. Everybody said Oh, such a beautiful movie, Oh, I was riveted, Oh, I can't wait to see it again. So I went to see it, and that was one of the sorriest movies I ever wasted what seemed like 5 hours on. Maybe it was great as visual art, but as a movie it sucked. I know my fellow juntoers are movie guys, and I'm sure you watch movies differently than I do, but for my part, I saw so many lame movies in a row that for years I have pretty much only gone to see James Bond installments and otherwise I watch the old black and white classics on video.
Alexander's legacy is agreed: he kicked a-- and took names. Make the movie he left you with or call it something else. It sounds to me like Stone has added nothing to the historical discourse and brings nothing new and interesting to the table except perhaps that you can always squeeze in a little more under an R rating.
Dude the born-again conspiracy theorist has been studying the UFO problem, which leads into a study of not only physics and the paranormal, but also has made me take a fresh look at the Cold War and the official history of the 20th century. What I have discovered is that some major changes in our country were effected by the defeat of Nazism. The Manhattan Project was the first instance of our government instituting a "black budget" by funneling funds into a project without direct Congressional oversight.
The crown jewel of WWII for the US, USSR, and UK was not the land acquired, but rather the intellectual capital, namely the military technology and by extension, the German scientists. Truman's National Security Act of 1947 created an incredibly powerful intelligence community. One of the CIA's first functions was "Operation Paperclip" which repatriated Nazi scientists to America. These scientists, lead by the esteemed Wernher Von Braun and Hermann Oberth, were the minds behind rocketry and jet propulsion. They were scientists first and foremost and happily moved on to America upon the collapse of the Reich, so that they could have fresh funding from a newly empowered regime. It was the fruits of Operation Paperclip that put Americans on the moon 25 years later.
So, beginning in the late forties, America's National Security State gained increasing power, and it could be fairly argued that the CIA became the true government for all intents and purposes. If this sounds like conspricay, then I invite you to listen to the farewell address of President Eisnehower in 1961. Ike held the highest elected office in the USA during the fifties, which coincided with the exponential empowerment of the military-industrial complex, which increasingly functioned "in the dark" without congressional interference or presidential oversight.
Excerpt from Eisenhower's farewell address:
A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction. Our military organization today bears little relation to that known by any of my predecessors in peacetime, or, indeed, by the fighting men of World War II or Korea.Now the really good stuff:
Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense. We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security alone more than the net income of all United States corporations.
Now this conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual --is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources, and livelihood are all involved. So is the very structure of our society.
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence by the military-industrial complex before public policy becomes captive of a scientific-technological elite - wow, these are strong words from the General! It is interesting to note that Ike's successor, JFK made a valient attempt to win back the country for the people. More conspiratorial ramblings in the next post...
Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades. In this revolution, research has become central, it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.
Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers. The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present -- and is gravely to be regarded.
Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.
PRO-AM, $100,000 PURSE
Let's see what the professional amateurs can do with this. The fun of it is that all of them will be at least partly wrong, and none of them certifiable, but think of the creativity this will unleash.
Or you could consider it a drain on the economy, depending on how much work time the conspiracy theorists consume.
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Jimmy Walter has spent more than $3 million promoting a conspiracy theory the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States were "an inside job" and he is offering more cash to anyone who proves him wrong.
The millionaire activist is so convinced of a government cover-up he is offering a $100,000 reward to any engineering student who can prove the World Trade Centre buildings crashed the way the government says.
Next month, he also launches a nationwide contest seeking alternative theories from college and high school students about why New York's World Trade Centre collapsed. The contest offers $10,000 to the best alternative theory, with 100 runner-up awards of $1,000. Winners will be chosen next June.
Walter insists there had to be explosives planted in the twin towers to cause them to fall as they did, and also rejects the official explanation for the damage done at the Pentagon.
Walter has spent millions of dollars to bolster support for his case, running full-page ads in The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, The New Yorker and Newsweek, as well as alternative newspapers and 30-second TV spots. He points to a Zogby poll he commissioned last summer that showed 66 percent of New Yorkers wanted the 9/11 investigation reopened.
Walter has spent about 30 percent of his net worth on his efforts.
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
Those who don't believe in slipper slope arguments need look no further than the Supreme Court's interpretation of the 1st Amendment's establishment clause.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof
The Supreme Court in the early 1960s held that the First Amendment's order that Congress make no law really meant separation of church and state. Wouldn't that be "prohibiting the free exercise therof"?
Their decision resulted with the outlawing of school prayer, and has mutated into the ban of Christmas on government property. Nay to Nativity scenes and forget using the word "Christmas" in public places. What's funny is that Christmas has become such a commercial holiday that the word hardly has religious connotations for the unbeliever. Still, the elite must adhere to the letter of the Supreme Court opinion, because someone somewhere is crying into their pillow over having seen the word in public.
The "play it safe" corporate culture has totally adopted this kind of political correctness re-labeling it "inclusiveness." Learning other people's culture is diversity, while expressing our own is bigotry.
We are absolutely the most guilt-ridden culture on the planet, convinced that our very existence is sending shivers down the backs of every helpless soul who just happens to be in the country at the time of our breathing.
No wonder so many people in America think the war in Iraq is unjust. How can you expect people to support killing enemies at a time when the high minded are camped in American classrooms pronouncing that we're the real problem?
But there are always groups Americans willing to fight anything.
So now a parent does not have the right to know what their own child is doing in their own house. Who gains from this? How is society better served?
In the fall of 2000, two young men knocked an elderly woman to the ground and stole her purse. That happened in the small town of Friday Harbor, Washington. Seventeen-year-old Oliver Christiansen was convicted of the crime because he called his 14-year-old girlfriend and bragged about it.
The girl's mother was listening in on the conversation and testified against Christensen. But the Washington State Supreme Court has now overturned that conviction, ruling that the two teenagers had a right to privacy when talking on the phone.
More than 2,000 new and revised word entries have been added to the online edition of The Oxford English Dictionary and a small contingent of them come from the P. Diddy and Eminem arena.
For example, the word "benjamin," meaning "a one-hundred dollar bill" and more generally, "large sums of money" made its way onto the list.
Other hip-hop words that were added:
-- "Hoochie," which means "a young woman who is promiscuous or who dresses or behaves in a sexually provocative or overtly seductive manner."
-- "Thugged out" is defined as "resembling a thug in dress or behavior, tough-looking."
-- And finally, the dictionary editors have added "crack ho," which is defined as "a prostitute addicted to crack cocaine."
Dictionary spokesman Jesse Shiedlowe says he expects a lot more hip-hop words to be added in future editions of the dictionary as long as the music genre continues to stay popular.
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
Clint Eastwood's "Million Dollar Baby" is the best movie released by a major Hollywood studio this year, and not because it is the grandest, the most ambitious or even the most original. On the contrary: it is a quiet, intimately scaled three-person drama directed in a patient, easygoing style, without any of the displays of allusive cleverness or formal gimmickry that so often masquerade as important filmmaking these days.
TOWARD RELENTLESSLY FREE TRADE
As the previous posts have pointed out, the Web enables the ultimate free trade of ideas and the market decides. And the Web also enables the ultimate free trade of goods and services, although governments will always try to find a way to hinder and regulate and control and tax it.
I read this article this morning but didn’t have any pithy comments to make it blogworthy. But now I post it in the context of remarks already posted. Critics lament that new markets are opening up and that other countries are partnering with each other, which will hurt the US. It won’t hurt the US. Good old American capitalists will always find a way to make money wherever there is money to be made. Nobody does that better than us. Critics see developing markets as a threat. Bush sees them as fertile ground for US investment and eventually US exports.
Tectonic Trends in Trade
Two political tremors in recent days reveal that the global trading system may be creaking and groaning into isolated blocs of countries - without the United States.
South America's leaders met last week to declare the founding of a "South American Community of Nations," modeled on the European Union. They pledged to wrap the continent's 12 nations and 360 million people into a free-trade area (known generically as an FTA).
Just days before, China and a 10-member bloc of Southeast nations promised to set up the world's largest common market by 2010, with 1.9 billion people in the Far East.
The US helped set up the latest set of talks to expand global free trade, known as the Doha Round. But the Bush administration, whose free-trade credentials have been suspect, met with so much resistance in Europe and developing countries that it began to use a dubious tactic. It aggressively pursued FTAs of its own, sending a signal to recalcitrant nations that they would miss out on greater access to the giant US market if they didn't concede points in the Doha talks. After four years in office, Mr. Bush proudly declares he has set up FTAs with 12 nations, and is pursuing agreements with 10 others.
Cutting global trade into a patchwork quilt of too many bilateral agreements can create confusion and barriers to expanding global trade, and might make for regional protectionism. They also can create political blocs that divide the world. The US, for instance, might eventually find itself on the sidelines as China and the EU each becomes the center of a giant hub of economic activity and political partnerships.
In his second term, Bush needs to commit the US to finishing the Doha talks, either by making further concessions or pressing other nations to acknowledge the better path of further opening global trade. The game of dividing up the world in order to unite it just doesn't make sense anymore.
Dude’s post below reveals some larger economic issues that can't be responded to in the comments section.
The Blockbuster situation is a good retort to those quasi-socialists that are more worried about capitalists than they are the growth of government. Here’s a mega corporation that is being made to change their whole business model due to an upstart business plan by a much smaller company.
Blockbuster was a real value when they began. Their prices were reasonable and their inventory was large. This was back when videocassette movies cost rental stores $80 per. Once they put the Mom and Pops out of business they got cocky and re-designed their business plan to raise prices and squeeze annoying late-fee money out of consumers that had no where else to go. They made sweetheart deals with the studios for cheaper videocassette copies for a split of the rental proceeds. It made it very difficult for the competition. Socialists would have used them as an example of every bad thing that happens when capitalism goes unchecked.
Only a funny thing happened, technology. Flat DVDs were invented and the costs were much less than the price for rental cassettes. Someone saw an opportunity to pick up market share by offering a better deal. Netflix brought back the value of the Mom and Pops by adding a larger supply than blockbuster and smaller per cost rental fee. The market solved the problem better than the government.
I started with Netflix in 1999 or 2000, but they were located in
Blockbuster is finally getting into the game of mail order rental and trying to use the 2 free store rentals per month to entice consumers back. I guess the late-fee drop is an indication that they have more ground to make up than they originally understood.
All of the
Contrast the video rental market with the shipping market. UPS and FedEx have ruined the Post Office’s business plan. The Post Office slowly adapted to the private sector model. Any real business at their speed wouldn’t have made it. These days we hear about how much better the Post Office is managed and that they actually make money with their short time package deliveries. What they don’t say is that their package deliveries were as unprofitable as first class mail before they had a private sector business model to copy. What’s further not said is that their monopoly on first class mail drives traffic into their locations and boosts their package delivery business. The monopolized first class mail is still just as unprofitable as the packages once were because they have no one’s business model to copy.
It’s the same with AmTrak that can only exist if the government pays them to exist. The airlines have long ago made most long train trips inefficient and yet here they are sucking up more than a billion tax dollars a year.
Consumers always benefit in a market full of people and companies competing to get their business. It results in lower prices and better services. If the government ran Blockbuster none of these changes would have been made. I suppose that would please our quasi-socialists just fine.
This kind of plays into the UFO angle that interested citizens are much more knowledgeable about the phenomenon than are our greatest scientists.
A new breed of demi-expert is evolving, collapsing the distinction between an expert and a tinkerer. Cheaper technology offers amateurs increasingly powerful tools; the Internet allows them to collaborate globally and train themselves more rapidly. The upshot is that amateurs are increasingly holding themselves to professional standards and producing significant innovations and discoveries.Skywatchers are discovering nebulae from their backyards by peering through telescopes they purchase from the internet. This is real scientific progress. The nebula was there waiting to be discovered and cannot discriminate whether it is Joe Amatuer or Joe Astronomer who first sees it.
The Linux computer system was created by geeks working without pay in their spare time, yet it now rivals Microsoft's best products. Patients arrive at hospitals sometimes better informed about their diseases than their doctors. And amateur lobbyists promoted the Jubilee 2000 campaign, which helped persuade Western nations to cancel more than $30 billion in third-world debt.
Pertaining to the UFO phenomenon in particular, it must be noted that since WWII, nearly all respected scientists are on the government payroll either directly, or indirectly with grant funding. They are not paid to look for UFOs, so there is little wonder that they are not seeing them. Undoubtedly, some scientists are paid to look for UFOs, but are not able to disclose what they find outside of government circles.
When Galileo looked to the skies and saw things that defied conventional wisdom, he was threatened with the stake, despite the fact that the pope was his good friend. Today, when citizens look to the skies and see things that defy conventional wisdom, they no longer fear the stake, risking only ridicule by coming forward. There is good data and debate on the UFO phenomenon in amateur societies far removed from official sanction.
In a way, pro-ams represent a return to our past: until the 20th century, much science was conducted by amateur societies. But the rise of pro-ams also reflects recent social changes. We're living longer, which gives us more time to grow bored with our cubicle jobs and to hunger for a richer life. You find people in their 40's and 50's going back to the things they always wanted to do in their youth.Thus, Dude, in leaving the workforce, becomes immune to public ridicule and takes up research which is interesting even if not culturally approved.
As many of you know, now that I no longer work for a living, I spend a great deal of my time playing poker and researching the UFO phenomenon and its kissing cousin, quantum physics. Here is an interesting article I discovered that was written in Pravda in 2002 about Chernobyl.
The explosion was very large, but, luckily, it was a thermal blast. The fourth power generating unit was basically destroyed by overheated steam. There was no nuclear explosion. Roughly 180 tons of enriched uranium were in the reactor. If a large blast had happened, half of Europe would not currently be depicted on any maps.Even if you don't buy into this sort of thing, it is interesting nonetheless that such a story ran in Pravda, of all places. Also interesting, and somewhat amusing is the last thought of the story, written by a citizen of an atheist state:
There are many theories to explain such luck. One of the theories is that there was help from an Unidentified Flying Object. When troublesome events started to occur, some people saw a spaceship hovering above the fourth generating unit of the Chernobyl plant. Eyewitnesses say that an UFO was there for six hours and that hundreds of people saw it. People started writing about it only two years after the catastrophe. Of course, such information appeared in magazines on ufology. As it is generally believed, serious people don't read such magazines and journals.
It seems that aliens are not worried with the fate of humanity. They are basically worried about the planets environment.
I was working for Blockbuster when I got married ten years ago, so in a parallel timeline, I could be toiling still for a fading enterprise. The rentals cost three bucks, best I remember, and the late fees were substantial. In fact, the late fees were a substantial percentage of Blockbuster's overall profit.
It estimated that late fees would have contributed about $250 million to $300 million to revenue next year.People used to bitch and moan about the fees, but I was in the business of collecting, so I could only point out that we make it very clear at checkout when the items are due. I had sympathy, but not much.
Every morning began with calls to customers on the list to remind them that their rentals are overdue and fees are accumulating. As manager, I spent time each day printing up and sending out letters to hint at the possibility of a collection agency getting involved. Sometimes, the late fees would add up to more than the price of purchase. There were always a percentage of patrons who were consistently late and happily settled upon their next visit. There were also customers who we never saw again after their first rental.
Michael Jackson came into the Orlando store one time when I wasn't working and rented a few titles which he never returned. The only one I remember was A VERY BRADY CHRISTMAS. He must have had a thing for Bobby Brady. I was the guy who had to phone his people and secure authorization to charge his Amex for the cost of the title. I wondered at the time what else I could get away with charging to Michael Jackson's Amex.
So, after I quit the job, I rarely rented movies from Blockbuster because their prices were so high. A couple of years ago, I rented a couple of titles, and returned them a day late, understanding that I would owe a late fee. Instead of the half-price penalty I was expecting, I was hit with the full-price cost of the rental. Seems their policy had changed over the years. Rather than tacking on a per-day late charge, they now simply re-rent the movie to you at full price, which gives you the full three days. I complained that I did not want to pay for three days, I simply wanted to settle for my one extra day. No luck, of course. I paid for the second rental period, but I took the movies with me so that I could return them at the end of the new rental period and the store would not be able to profit during that time by renting them to some other sucker. I have not been back to Blockbuster since.
I now enjoy my rentals via mail with Netflix. I pay a monthly fee to have three titles at any given time and I never pay a late charge, even if I keep a movie for two months, which I have done. This no-late-fee concept has really shaken the boys at Blockbuster the past few years. This year, they announced a Netflix-like mail order service, which had the delightful effect of driving down my Netflix subscription price. Now, I see that Blockbuster is doing away altogether with late fees. Of course, there is one catch...
The world's largest video rental company will still have due dates for their rental products -- one week for games and two days or one week for movies, depending on whether it's a new release. But customers will be given a one-week grace period after that to return the product. After that grace period ends, the chain will automatically sell them the product, less the rental fee. If the customers don't want to purchase the movie or game, they can return the product within 30 days for a credit, less a restocking fee.
Billionaire Marc Rich has emerged as a central figure in the U.N. oil-for-food scandal and is under investigation for brokering deals in which scores of international politicians and businessmen cashed in on sweetheart oil deals with Saddam Hussein. Rich, the fugitive Swiss-based commodities trader who received a controversial pardon from President Bill Clinton in January 2001, is a primary target of criminal probes under way in the U.S. attorney's office.This UN scandal is so much fun. Democrats think it is the provincial domain of Republicans to amorally pursue the greenback in backroom dealings with sovereign dictators. No doubt, Republicans are just as crooked as Dems, but generally, the GOP hypocrite is financing some sort of personal liberty for the oppressed masses whereas the lib is simply pursuing money, power, or extramarital sex.
The Rich connection is the latest wrinkle in a rapidly mushrooming scandal that has thrown the United Nations into its gravest crisis and has led to numerous calls for U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan to step down. Rich, who fled the country to Switzerland in 1983 to escape an indictment for racketeering and tax evasion as well as trading oil with Ayatollah Khomeini's Iran, has not set foot inside the United States since his pardon.
In January 2001, in the final hours his presidency, Clinton bypassed law-enforcement and intelligence agencies to wipe the books clean for Rich after being subjected to intense lobbying from former Israel Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Rich's jet-setting ex-wife, Denise, who donated more than $1 million to Democratic campaigns — including Sen. Hillary Rodham's first Senate race — along with an additional $450,000 to Clinton's library fund.
Liberals who see corruption only on the other side of the aisle have always amused me. Lately, the mainstream media has increasingly admitted its long-standing bias, which gives enjoyment to the more reasonable among us. And now the United Nations is wallowing in scandal, another source of quality entertainment. What's even better is that the corruption is bypassing W and heading straight for Teflon Bill.
Monday, December 13, 2004
Remember this feel-good story? It didn’t take long for tremendous wealth to send this guy down the path traveled by so many lottery winners.
Monday, December 13, 2004 • Last updated 12:01 p.m. PT
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The world's first glimpse of Jack Whittaker, winner of the richest undivided lottery jackpot in U.S. history, was of a boisterous, happy-go-lucky guy in a big cowboy hat who loved his family, work and God and promised to share his good fortune with the church and the poor. Two years later, the picture the public is seeing now is a mug shot of a haggard, somber Whittaker.
Although he was already a wealthy contractor, Whittaker became an instant celebrity on Christmas Day 2002 after winning a $314.9 million Powerball jackpot. He took his winnings in a lump sum of $113 million after taxes, and at a news conference in which he came across as a jolly saint, he promised to donate one-tenth to his church and contribute to other causes.
He soon created a charity to help people find jobs, buy food or get an education; he split $7 million among three churches; and he gave money to improve a Little League park and buy playground equipment and coloring books for children.
But in August 2003, a briefcase containing $545,000 in cash and cashier's checks was stolen from Whittaker's sport utility vehicle while it was parked at a strip club, and police disclosed that Whittaker not only frequented strip clubs but was also a high-stakes gambler - which is why he was carrying so much cash. The break-in was the first of several thefts involving Whittaker's vehicle, his office and his house.
One of the thefts occurred at his home on the same day an 18-year-old friend of Whittaker's granddaughter was found dead there. Also, last week Whittaker reported that his 17-year-old granddaughter was missing.
In May, two men sued Whittaker, claiming they were injured when they were tossed out of a nightclub at his request. In another lawsuit, three female employees of a racetrack claim Whittaker assaulted them last year. In January, he was accused of threatening and assaulting a bar manager; on Monday, he was fined $100 and ordered to attend weekly Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
In a December 2003 interview with The Associated Press, Whittaker said he had provided about $14 million to more than 900 families. Today, his charitable foundation is closed.
Whittaker has an unlisted number, and his lawyers did not respond to requests for an interview. He told the AP last year that he had been bombarded with requests for help, and the fame was taking a toll on his family.
Interesting John Fund article that looks back at the campaign.
South Dakota Republicans decided that the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, which dominates the state's media since it's the only paper with a statewide circulation, was hopelessly biased in favor of Mr. Daschle.
"South Dakotas have for the first time been hearing a few things about 'ole Tom' that have surprised," reported The Wall Street Journal's Kim Strassel from South Dakota last October. "Mr. Daschle has assured voters he supports a state law defining marriage as between a man and a woman. Yet in July he voted against a similar constitutional amendment that two-thirds of South Dakotans support. He was a free trader, but now he's not. He's for legal change, but blocked every tort bill. He beats up on drug companies, though his wife, Linda Daschle, lobbies for them."
Randell Beck, executive editor of the Argus Leader, called some of the bloggers work "crap" and said they represented an organized effort by conservatives to discredit his paper. In July, he explained to readers that "true believers of one stripe or another, no longer content to merely bore spouses and neighbors with their nutty opinions, can now spew forth on their own blogs, thereby playing a pivotal role in creating the polarized climate that dominates debate on nearly every national issue. If Hitler were alive today, he'd have his own blog."
But Hitler didn't need a blog, because he owned all the newspapers.
"Million Dollar Baby."
Scarlett Johansson, "A Love Song for Bobby Long";
Nicole Kidman, "Birth,"
Imelda Staunton, "Vera Drake";
Hilary Swank, "Million Dollar Baby";
Uma Thurman, "Kill Bill: Vol. 2."
Javier Bardem, "The Sea Inside";
Don Cheadle, "Hotel Rwanda";
Johnny Depp (news), "Finding Neverland";
Leonardo DiCaprio (news), "The Aviator";
Liam Neeson, "Kinsey."
Picture, Musical or Comedy:
"Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,"
"Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera,"
Actress, Musical or Comedy:
Annette Bening, "Being Julia";
Ashley Judd, "De-Lovely";
Emmy Rossum, "Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera,"
Kate Winslet, "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,"
Renee Zellweger, "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason."
Actor, Musical or Comedy:
Jim Carrey, "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind";
Jamie Foxx, "Ray";
Paul Giamatti, "Sideways";
Kevin Kline, "De-Lovely";
Kevin Spacey, "Beyond the Sea."
Clint Eastwood, "Million Dollar Baby";
Marc Forster, "Finding Neverland";
Mike Nichols, "Closer";
Alexander Payne, "Sideways";
Martin Scorsese, "The Aviator."
The absence of Mel Gibson's PASSION will certainly give some radio talk show fodder.
I see that the Boston Globe, in an article discussing the relatively light number of war wounds in Iraq that have led to death, did not just twist but actually reversed the slant of the article by applying the headline "Amputation rate for US troops twice that of past wars." But no media bias.
Improvements in battlefield medicine have saved many combatants who would have died in the past: Only 1 in 10 US troops injured in Iraq has died, the lowest rate of any war in US history.
Sunday, December 12, 2004
1. Sideways - Still waiting
2. Before Sunset - Very Good
3. Osama - Token exotic film on the list
4. Million Dollar Baby - The Eastwood movie that hasn't arrived here.
5. Bad Education - I've seen 3 of Almodovar's films and I'm usually disappointed.
6. The Aviator - Looks Good
7. Friday Night Lights - Looked pretty standard
8. The Manchurian Candidate - Why remake classics?
9. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - That Mexican director fresh from his soft porn movie.
10. Kinsey - Roger Simon said they shot the wrong script. He says another version of Kinsey's life has been floating around Hollywood for some years and it was much more tongue and cheek.
Saturday, December 11, 2004
In a surprise move, former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik abruptly withdrew his nomination as President Bush's choice to be homeland security secretary Friday night, saying questions have arisen about the immigration status of a housekeeper and nanny he employed.
The decision caught the White House off guard and sent Bush in search of a new candidate to run the sprawling bureaucracy of more than 180,000 employees melded together from 22 disparate federal agencies in 2003.
Kerik informed Bush of his decision to withdraw in a telephone call at 8:30 p.m. EST. "I am convinced that, for personal reasons, moving forward would not be in the best interests of your administration, the Department of Homeland Security or the American people," Kerik said in a letter to the president.
He's such a tough G. Gordon Liddy looking guy. We'll almost need to get Liddy himself to project such an image.
There were a lot of questions about whether he abused his power as Commish. The Times was running stories early in the week about him using his personal power in the wrong ways. Law enforcement is a job with too much professional courtesy and not enough everyone equal under the law.
I have had enough run ins with two-bit cops with an attitude that I'm not entirely upset that a cop is walking, but it would also be nice to have tough-as-nails guys leading this department. Are we destined to wind up with another career politician or bureaucrat?
Friday, December 10, 2004
I wanted to like this movie. It was written by witty Tina Fey and received tremendously positive reviews upon release. Marci and I were looking for some light fare and we both had an interest in seeing this high school satire. It was watchable, but all in all it seemed very amaeurish. The script was not as smart as we were hoping for, although there were a few laugh out loud moments.
Gym coach doubling as the sex education teacher:
"Abstinence is the only way! (beat) Now everybody get yourself some rubbers."
Principal at assembly:
"Let me hear you! (beat) Okay, settle down."
It must have been the delivery. Skip this flick unless you are interested in the astonishing growth of Lindsay Lohan's bosom since FREAKY FRIDAY.
Bill Moyers prepares to sign off at age 70.
"I'm going out telling the story that I think is the biggest story of our time: how the right-wing media has become a partisan propaganda arm of the Republican National Committee," says Moyers. "We have an ideological press that's interested in the election of Republicans, and a mainstream press that's interested in the bottom line. Therefore, we don't have a vigilant, independent press whose interest is the American people."Bill Moyers is a respected journalist. The goal of any respected journalist is to appear completely objective. Why he would choose to call this the biggest story of our time serves only to taint his supposed objectivity. An argument can definitely be made that an increasing number of American news outlets take a transparantly biased conservative point of view. This has filled a vacuum created by decades of liberal "Eastern think" which in Moyer's opinion represents the interest of the American people. Another dinosaur dies when Moyers joins Rather and Brokaw in retirement.
TRAVELLERS’ tales about being suddenly swallowed by the desert sands may not be so fantastic as they appear.
Dutch scientists have recreated conditions that may sometimes arise when very fine sand is blown by the wind and settles to form a mass so loosely packed that it behaves like a liquid, swallowing up travellers and even vehicles whole.
"Objects often make a splash as they hit sand,” the team reports in Nature. “In this case, there was no splash, as expected, but a straight jet of sand shot violently into the air after about 100 microseconds.”
Thursday, December 09, 2004
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - A naked man was bit in the genitals by a police dog while being arrested for running nude and entering homes in a Minneapolis neighborhood.
"The dog did what the dog is trained to do, and that is protect his handler," Reier said.
They came in the darkness and had bug-like faces. Stranger still, they left a weird egg-shaped object behind. Uri Geller recalls his friend John Lennon’s encounter with the unknown.I have about as much faith in the powers of Uri Geller as in mangetic bracelets, but here is an irrestible anecdote about his old pal who once declared himself in song The Eggman.
"About six months ago, I was asleep in my bed, with Yoko, at home, in the Dakota Building. And suddenly, I wasn’t asleep. Because there was this blazing light round the door. It was shining through the cracks and the keyhole, like someone was out there with searchlights, or the apartment was on fire.Sounds like the classic abduction experience. Of course, Geller knows that and he also knows that any good quality abduction anecdote must be from a reliable source (Lennon offers the double whammy of very famous and long dead), and only in the rarest of instances has a paranormal experience been complete with mysterious artifact. Curious that Geller sat on this info for nearly 15 years after Lennon's death, and curiouser still that anybody of this earth would give up an item of supposed extraterrestrial origin. I would be interested to hear from Yoko on this.
“That was what I thought — intruders, or fire. I leapt out of bed, and Yoko wasn’t awake at all, she was lying there like a stone, and I pulled open the door. There were these four people out there. Well they didn’t want my f---in’ autograph. They were, like, little. Bug-like. Big bug eyes and little bug mouths and they were scuttling at me like roaches.
I was straight that night. I wasn’t dreaming and I wasn’t tripping. There were these creatures, like people but not like people, in my apartment.”