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The Therapy Sessions
Thursday, September 30, 2004
 

Money for stupid drunks?


What is our society coming to?
Drunken man gets $850,000

RAMSEY, N.J. - A man who got drunk and passed out in a snowbank successfully sued police for not finding him sooner, but police plan to contest the $850,000 award.

Frederick Puglisi was 20 when he left a New Year's Eve party at a hotel early Jan. 1, 2001 to buy cigarettes and get something to eat.

Puglisi's lawyer said Bergen County police received a call from a passerby about 1 a.m. Attorney Samuel Denburg said the caller reported that a man had been struck by a car, although his client did not remember being hit. Puglisi did have a bump on his head, Denburg said.

Denburg argued that the police dispatcher did not get enough information from the caller and did not pass enough information to Ramsey police, and that the officers did not look thoroughly for Puglisi or get out of their cars during a short, unsuccessful search.

Puglisi was discovered late the next morning after spending nine hours outside. By that time, his temperature had fallen to 78 degrees, and he had severe frostbite, which ultimately disfigured his right hand, Denburg said.

A Superior Court jury ordered last week that Bergen County police pay Puglisi $450,000 and Ramsey police $400,000.

Lawyers for Ramsey and Bergen County police said the dispatcher and officers acted properly.

The Rogers solution? Fire the incompetent dispatcher and investigate the negligent cops.

But for the drunk loser? Not a stinking dime.


 

Spend spend


This is the first year (in recent memory) in which Social Security will take in less money than it pays out. Don't rely on the media to point out an important milestone like this (especially not in an election where Kerry insists that there is nothing wrong with Social Security), but history will record that federal money will be used to cover the 3.6% shortfall that Social Security funds could not pay for in 2004.

It will soon get a lot worse. By 2020, Social Security and Medicare are expected to cost the government more than a trillion dollars per year.

Using the standard accounting practices common in the corporate world, the US government is technically insolvent. The corporate executives...err politicians who got us into the mess should be behind bars.

Social Security is supposed to be financed entirely by the payroll tax. All Americans pay the payroll tax (a tax which is inexplicably only applied to the first $80,000 or so of income). The tax burden of the payroll tax is so large that most Americans pay much more payroll tax than they do in income tax.

In the fantasy world of Washington, they are paying for their retirement. In reality, they are paying for the current retirees. The financing of their own golden years will depend on whether they can convince today's young people to endure excessive taxes that the young never had the opportunity to vote on.

At the very least, it’s taxation without representation.

I just think of it as fraud.

There is plenty of that going around.

For example, everyone gets to vote on how today's income tax receipts are spent, despite the fact that 96% percent of government revenue - the money that runs everything except Social Security and Medicare - is paid by only half the people.

And it gets worse: 60% of our tax revenue is paid by only 10% of the people.

Those filthy rich.

Imagine a party where ten guys get together and decide to buy pizza. Instead of everyone chipping in, they vote to make their doctor friend pay for just about everything, and threaten him violence if he doesn't.

That is the American system.

A libertarian would argue that this is legalized theft. So would the Founding Fathers. They warned about such things when they made no provision for the income tax.

Liberal baby boomers, lacking spiritual compulsion to support charity on their own, have used this money to salve their guilty consciences: trying to “end” poverty, “provide healthcare and to all,” subsidize “affordable” housing and enable every retiree to live "worry free" in old age.

It doesn’t matter that most of the government programs have failed terribly. They weren’t meant to actually solve anything; they were meant to make voters feel better about themselves. The most affluent and self absorbed generation in American history takes from the rich and spends the money to relieve their guilt.

When the money collected from the rich isn’t enough, they hand my generation – and my children – the bill.

It’s the old maxim: nobody spends like somebody who is spending other people’s money.

How do you solve it?

Neal Boortz presents an interesting argument. He proposes treating votes in the same way corporations do with their shareholders; that is, the more shares you own, the more say you have:
If you paid $24,999.00 or less in income taxes in 2003, you get one vote in the 2004. Taxpayers forking over between $25,000 and $49,999 get two votes, and so on. A taxpayer who pays $200,000 in income taxes will be casting eight votes on election day. To keep Hillary from controlling an election the next time she gets a huge bonus to write a book we’ll go ahead and make eight the maximum number of votes any individual can cast.

Don’t you just love it? The people who actually fuel our economy with their hard work and attention to decisions will get a greater voice in the direction our country takes! What a concept!

People who live on government assistance do not get to vote on how tax money is spent, anymore than non-shareholders get to vote on the way Ford spends its profits.

The idea of using tax money to buy votes from retirees or welfare recipients goes out the window. Democrats - who have been doing this so long that they cannot see its perversity - would be aghast.

Boortz' idea is interesting. And it should - but won't - spark an important debate about the fairness of our tax system.

I admit it won't work, at least not when the lawyers get done with it. And the reason that it won't work tells us a lot about the welfare state that is modern America. We have been using tax money to buy the votes of Americans for so long that we would scarcely know what to do if we couldn’t do it anymore.

In reality, almost everyone is a recipient of some form of government help.

My company benefits from the fact that the government buys tons of medicine for poor people. Farmers get subsidies; factory workers have defense contracts. Insurance companies and airlines get government bailouts. People working for the government have their jobs.

Of course, you could just make it simple and say whoever pays actual taxes - not just chipping for retirement - gets to vote.

But whoever said anything the government did could be simple?

Wednesday, September 29, 2004
 

Kerry's lack of perspective


Kerry's looking for American failure -- and he's it:
Prime Minister Allawi told Congress today that democracy was taking hold in Iraq and that the terrorists there were on the defensive. Is he living in the same fantasyland as the president?''

It would be nice to think this was a somewhat crude attempt at irony, but given America's Ratherized media this seems unlikely. Just for the record, Allawi is not living in a fantasyland. He's living in Iraq, and he begins his day with a dangerous commute across Baghdad's ''Green Zone.'' John Kerry's regular commute, by contrast, is from his wife's beach compound at Nantucket to his wife's 15th century English barn reconstructed as a ski lodge in Idaho. Nonetheless, he's the expert on Iraq and the guy living there 24/7 is the fantasist, and he's happy to assure us the prime minister doesn't know what he's talking about. It's all going to hell, forget about those January elections, etc.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004
 

Carter seals Kerry's doom


It is odd that in a time when national security is again a priority, the Democrats are letting Jimmy Carter out of his cage. He is doing some kind of victory lap, like the events of the last few years vindicate him.

That is, recent events vindicate Jimmy Carter's roll-over-and-show-your-neck approach to terrorists.

Once your done laughing, though, consider: next to having Michael Moore and John Kerry sharing a podium, this is the best thing that could happen for Republicans.

If I were Terry McAulliff, I would put Carter under house arrest.

Here he goes again:Carter Predicts Florida Poll Will Again Be Flawed:
Former President Jimmy Carter, who has monitored elections throughout the developing world, predicted on Monday the U.S. presidential vote in Florida would be as flawed as the 2000 poll there.

In Jimmy's world, a leftist military thug like Hugo Chavez can take power and dismantle the machinery of a democracy. He can threaten his neighbors with invasion. He can beat his political opponents and prevent them from advertising. Chavez can "overwhelmingly win" an election that opinion polls and exit polls had him losing in double digits.

That's fair. In Carter's world.

Florida is tightly divided - voters separated by a fraction of a percent - and it's impossibly flawed and corrupt.

Of course, Carter says nothing about the 20,000 New York residents - mostly Democrats - who are registered to vote in New York AND Florida, many of whom are requesting absentee ballots. This is also an issue Carter should concern himself with.

But he won't, becuase this kind of cheating helps Democrats.

No, Florida is flawed because it is tilting toward Bush.

Of course, if Florida votes for Kerry, all this will change. Carter will do an immediate about face.

I hope Kerry wins Florida but loses Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Iowa and Minnesota.

That would be hilarious.

 

An old prediction comes to pass


Sometimes I think I might not be all that dumb.

I said this: back in September, 2003:
In the coming election, there will be a debate. George Bush and the Democratic candidate will each be asked about the War on Terror, which is (and will continue to be) the top issue on America's mind.

Bush's tone will be very similar to Churchill's, but the Texas drawl and tortured syntax will be all Dubya:
We shall defend our island whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches. We shall fight on the landing grounds.We shall fight in the fields and in the streets. We shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender.

He may trip over the words. He will have his vacant "Curious George" stare. But it won't matter, because the Democrat, trying to straddle a coalition of pacifists and terror hawks, is going to say something like this:
I was glad to see that we got rid of Saddam, but I wish we had gotten more countries involved. And it's all too expensive, and I think the president lied about the enormity of threat. Sure, Saddam was blaming all his problems on us, and directly funding terror, but he was more of a threat to Israel than he was to us. I want to get us out of Iraq quickly, but only when it is a clear victory. Then we can concentrate on health care and put the terrorists back courtrooms where they belong...

Some say Dukakis lost his election when the Willie Horton ads started running. Others credit his stumbling when asked whether he would support the death penalty for someone who killed his wife.

I think they are wrong.

Dukakis lost his election when he got in an M1A1 Battle tank and drove around a field. He looked bemused by a neat toy, and he didn't even look like he knew what it was (the government makes these things?).

He looked like snoopy, off to fight the Red Baron.

The world was still dangerous in 1988. And after a nice holiday from history (where terrorists were bumbling oafs), the world is again dangerous.

The Democrats need to realize this.

The problems plaguing Kerry right now are not all Kerry's fault. Any Democrat would be having the same problems.

When the issue is national security, Democrats generally lose.

Monday, September 27, 2004
 

Total war?


Well said. From the Belmont Club:
The reader may judge for himself how respectful Russia might be of 'international law'. But both Putin's warning and the Israeli carbomb attack in Damascus are a warning that Golda Meir may have been wrong. She once said, 'there will be no peace in the Middle East until the Palestinians love their children more than they hate the Jews'. She forgot the alternative which Putin may even now be thinking of. 'that there will be peace in the Middle East when every Arab school is as secure as Belslan; and the Kaaba as inviolate as any synagogue in Jersualem.' America must win this war before it is too late -- for Islam.

 

The coming ads


I thought the Inquirer would conveniently decide not to run this column this week, but I was wrong: Krauthammer, indispensible as always:
Americans Overseas for Kerry is the Kerry operation seeking the crucial votes of Americans living abroad (remember the Florida recount?), including more than 100,000 who live in Australia. Its leader was interviewed Sept. 16 by the Australian's Washington correspondent, Roy Eccleston. Asked whether she believed the terrorist threat to Australians was greater because of support for President Bush, she replied: "I would have to say that," noting that "the most recent attack was on the Australian embassy in Jakarta."

She said this of her country (and of the war that Australia is helping us with in Iraq): "We are endangering the Australians now by this wanton disregard for international law and multilateral channels." Mark Latham could not have said it better. Nor could Jemaah Islamiah, the al-Qaeda affiliate that killed 11 people in the Jakarta bombing.

This Kerry spokeswoman, undermining a key ally on the eve of a critical election, is no rogue political operative. The head of Americans Overseas for Kerry is Diana Kerry, sister of John. She is, of course, merely echoing her brother, who, at a time when American allies have shown great political courage in facing down both terrorists and domestic opposition for their assistance to the United States, calls these allies the "coalition of the coerced and the bribed."

This snide and reckless putdown not only undermines our best friends abroad, it also demonstrates the cynicism of Kerry's promise to broaden our coalition in Iraq. If this is how Kerry repays America's closest allies - ridiculing the likes of Tony Blair and John Howard - who does he think is going to step up tomorrow to be America's friend?

This is the kind of thing that - should it become widely known - will put Kerry away for good.

That is exactly why I believe it will become a Bush campaign ad in the next month. Perhaps they are waiting to see if Howard will lose the election or not before they make an issue of it (the election there is so close that it could turn on anything).

But imagine: Howard loses to Latham, Latham triumphiantly, as promised, withdraws from the coalition, just like Spain did.

It will be clear that Kerry doesn't even intend to hold onto the friends we already have, and that he has no desire to do anything in Iraq except get out.

Such silliness will embolden our enemies and completely demoralize our soldiers.

The quotes of Kerry and his sister will be pure poison in the heartland.

My prediction? Bush campign ads detailing this issue will start airing - particularly during football games in key blue collar Kerry states like Michigan - around mid to late October.

And if it happens, particularly if Howard loses, Kerry is toast.

He will never recover.

Sunday, September 26, 2004
 

The poor innocent dears


The international outcry for us to free the remaining Guantanamo inmates (you know, they are being held unjustly and they are no danger to anyone) will not be helped by stories like this: Former Gitmo Inmate Killed in Afghanistan.

Somehow, I don't think he'll be the last.

Friday, September 24, 2004
 

The real struggle


Andrew C. McCarthy:
Simply stated, this war is not a struggle to create stable democracies that, secondarily, might themselves keep our enemies at bay. It is a war to root out and destroy militant Islam, to vindicate the highest purpose of government: American national security. We should prosecute this war with the expectation that the accomplishment of our primary goal will produce conditions that make stability and, hopefully, democracy plausible if the indigenes are willing to do the hard work needed to make that happen. We are not, however, guarantors of their future; it is our own future that has caused our paths to cross.

Why do I say we are imperiling future as well as current success? Because eradicating militant Islam will be difficult, but not nearly as difficult as establishing democracies wherever hunting down militant Islam may take us. If, due to a failure to describe our mission correctly, we have allowed that mission to be contorted such that erecting democratic institutions is now an operating cost of self-defense, Iraq will almost certainly be the end of the line. That could be a catastrophe.

Thursday, September 23, 2004
 

Silly Swaggart


Oh Boy.

ABCNEWS.com : Evangelist Swaggart Apologizes for Remark
Evangelist Jimmy Swaggart apologized Wednesday for saying in a televised worship service that he would kill any gay man who looked at him romantically.

Has any gay man ever found Jimmy Swaggart attractive?

I doubt it.

What an asshole.


Monday, September 20, 2004
 

Kerry through the looking glass


Kerry Challenges Bush to End Iraq Violence:
NEW YORK - Sen. John Kerry said Monday that mistakes by President Bush in invading Iraq could lead to unending war and that no responsible commander in chief would have waged the war knowing Saddam Hussein didn't possess weapons of mass destruction and wasn't an imminent threat to the United States.

'Yet today, President Bush tells us that he would do everything all over again, the same way. How can he possibly be serious?' Kerry said at New York University.

Kerry, a fourth-term Massachusetts senator, voted to give Bush authority to wage the war and he said in August he still would have voted that way had he known there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

I can't believe I just read that.

Do you ever feel you are the only person in the world who is not tripping on acid?

 

Farenheit 9/11 goes down well in Tehran


Classic, via Little Green Footballs:
TEHRAN (AFP) - Cinemagoers in the Iranian capital were given their first glimpse of 'Fahrenheit 9/11' this week, but appeared to enjoy more the rare chance to watch an American movie than its assault on their regime's arch foe George W. Bush.

Michael Moore's Bush-bashing polemic may have cruised through Iran's unforgiving censors thanks to its indictment of US policy, but the premiere of the film also had the side effect of making some viewers relate the same questioning to their own state of affairs.

"The authorities obviously gave the film the green light for political reasons, in that anything against the United States must be good," quipped one of the hundreds of mainly young people who flocked to Tuesday night's opening screening.


The prize-winning documentary has been allowed out on release here to coincide with the third anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States -- which kicked off a chain of events that has seen Iran surrounded by US troops and lumped into an "axis of evil".

"They are showing this film to erase from our minds the idea that America is the great saviour," said Hirad Harandian, another cinemagoer at the uptown Farhang cinema.





Friday, September 17, 2004
 

Cochran, for the defense: "If it is typed in Word, your memo's absurd!"


Jonah Goldberg perfectly summarizes Dan Rather's thinking on his forged memos:
Indeed, Rather's thinking has become axiomatic: Good reporting offends conservatives. I am a good reporter. Therefore, anyone who objects to my work is a conservative. And, of course, conservative objections are, by definition, illegitimate objections. After all, liberal media bias is a myth.

Thursday, September 16, 2004
 

Zarqawi speaks, and he doesn't sound happy


The "beloved Iraqi resistance leader" (as Michale Moore concieves of him) has spoken - not to the Iraqi people he wishes to lead but to his own fighters - and he doesn't sound like a particularly confident man:Zarqawi's latest:
As for you, fighters who came from afar, by Allah, missions of da'wa [the propagation of Islam] have never been a road lined with roses and sweet basil; the price of da'wa missions is heavy, and the price of bringing principles to the land of reality is a lot of torn limbs and blood. The light of dawn shall not be lit in this darkness save by Jihad fighters and shahids."

Al-Zarqawi warns the Jihad fighters: "Beware of the disease of weariness, beware of preferring [your own] safety, because the consequence of such a regression is remorse, God forbid.

Read the whole thing.

My impression is that Zarqawi isn't fighting the war he wants to fight either.

Fighting to deny Iraqis the chance to vote for their own government proves, to me at least, that his "movement" - using car bombs to blow up Iraqis - has not really gained him any popular support.

Zarqawi is pure Al Qaeda, and he takes his popular support for granted.

Sadr is a little smarter that Zarqawi and he is trying to convert his movement into an Iraqi version of Hezbollah - part charitable organization, part political party and part terrorist outfit. That may work for a while.

But the elections are coming. They will be bloody and chaotic, but that will be only be because both sides will realize how important they are. When Iraqis make statements with votes instead of bullets, Zarqawi and Sadr know that their strategies are losers, and it is likely to lead to a brutal crackdown from a popularly-led government against them.

Iraq may yet look like Lebanon. Whatever it becomes, the media will call it a civil war, and they will blame it on Bush.

As much as I hate war, I call it a healthy development. The Arab world - finally confronting the repressive monsters that hold it back.

Sometimes, war is a necessary thing.

This war won't go away if we try to ignore it; it will just be fought in our cities instead of theirs.

The majority of Iraqis - who have consistently said that they wish to be governed democratically (a fact ignored by the media) - need to make their wishes known, and be prepared to fight for them.


Wednesday, September 15, 2004
 

The smell of desperation


You know that Kerry is in really deep trouble when you read stuff like this:Kennedy to Hit Campaign Trail for Kerry
WASHINGTON - Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (news, bio, voting record), often credited with giving a boost to John Kerry (news - web sites)'s presidential campaign, is launching a seven-week election drive for his Massachusetts colleague that will pair fund raising and travel with a barrage of speeches condemning President Bush (news - web sites)'s policies.

Kennedy, D-Mass., will make two campaign stops in Pennsylvania on Friday, in addition to appearances around the country nearly every weekend as a surrogate for Kerry. While the Senate remains in session, Kennedy plans almost daily rebukes of Bush's policies, ranging from the war in Iraq (news - web sites) to health care and education.

Wow. Kennedy in Scranton. That's kind of like the Republicans sending Jesse Helms in the New Engladn suburbs to drum up Republican voters.

I've got some news for these guys: Kennedy may fire up the democratic base, but to the swing voter, he is pure poison.

And there are an awful lot of swing voters in between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

Have they just given up hope?

 

Off track


The phenomenon may have already been noted, cataloged and filed away already, but in the off chance that it hasn't been, I would like to take this opportunity to stamp it with my big fat name.

I call it: Roger's Rule, and here it is, simply stated:
The more "time saving" superior technology you have, the more time you will spend making your project look "superior."

In my line of work, we have these annual symposia - events where we are supposed to showcase our work for our coworkers. We make these posters and we show them off, to anyone who might just give a damn.

And then - nine times out of ten - we throw them away.

A few years ao, preparing poster used to take an leisurely afternoon: me, a few documents, a cup of coffee and ChemDraw 1.01. Give me some some sticky spray and posterboard, and I'd be good to go in a half hour.

Nowadays, I have ChemDraw 12, Microsoft Word 12 and PowerPoint 160,000.Yeah, the posters look great - suitable for presentation to the company president and suitable for framing(they are so nice looking you'd feel as though they should be buried with you). An internal arms race has developed - with everyone trying to have a better looking poster - and anyone who presented one of the posters that were routine years ago would be laughed out the presentation room.

But they take a LONG time to do. I started working on mine about two days ago, and I'm not even close to be finished.

I know there are benefits: we have these nice posters that we can take our professional conferences, we get practice with the software, we get experience presenting our work....

But you know, there are benefits to burning big wads of money too: It creates lots of heat, for example, and it could be used to keep the house heated (for about twenty seconds).

(Please excuse the previous rant: my poster has taken MUCH longer than I expected, and the rest of my work (the work that I really like doing) has gathered dust...)

Monday, September 13, 2004
 

North Korean nuclear blast?


North Korea has said a large mushroom cloud seen over the nation in satellite images was the result of a deliberate demolition of a mountain for a power plant.

Uhhh huh.

Colin Powell says it wasn't nuclear test. I assume we have spy planes taking air samples for traces of radioactivity, and I hope he's right.

But I'm a little suspicious about the timing: the explosion took place at precisely 11:00 am on the day celebrating the founding of Kim Jong Il's silly government.

That doesn't sound like the day to be doing some routine demolition work for a hydroelectirc plant.

In order to prove that he is an idiot, John Kerry says that only if Bush had negiotiated with North Korea they would have given up their nuclear ambitions.

Jimmy Carter already tried that, and the North Koreans just cheated.

A clue to the liberals: there are evil people in the world. These people see the acquisition of nuclear weapons, with their ability to deter attack and inspire fear, as a more satisfying reward than thousands of tons of free grain and fuel oil.

North Korea, Iran and eventually terrorists are going to get nuclear weapons one day, and there is damn little we can do to prevent it.

Saturday, September 11, 2004
 

Friday, September 10, 2004
 

A huge score for the blogosphere


The Inquirer tries to paper over an uncomfortable fact: Authenticity of papers on Bush service at issue:
Documents unearthed by CBS News that raise doubts about whether President Bush fulfilled his obligations to the Texas Air National Guard include several features suggesting that they were generated by a computer or word processor rather than a Vietnam War-era typewriter, experts said yesterday.

Experts? Try amateurs. Amateur journalists known as bloggers. I first saw the story on the website of my fellow Homespun blogger Jeremy Chrysler. But I must say, the work done by Jeremy was expert in its thoroughness.

And a second point: there is no "might" about it: these "documents" ARE forgeries.

The people who created these documents are complete idiots.

 

Terrorists to celebrate 9/11 in London


This is the kinds of routine barbarity that the press generally ignores in the Arab world:
The London daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat reported that the extremist Islamic movement Al-Muhajiroun had announced a convention in London, titled "The Choice is in Your Hands: Either You're with the Muslims or with the Infidels," to mark the third anniversary of the September 11 attacks. The organization had planned a similar anniversary event a year ago, called "The Magnificent 19 [Suicide Attackers]," but had cancelled it at the last minute. The following is a summary of the report: [1]

Al-Muhajiroun leader Omar Bakri, a Syrian residing in London, told the paper by phone that the convention would feature Al-Qa'ida "surprises," with the screening of a never-before-shown video. He said that the convention will focus on "the anniversary of the division of the world into two great camps – the camp of faith and the camp of unbelief," and would take place September 11, 2004 from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Bakri added: "On this day, we will talk about the ramifications of these [9/11] operations for Afghanistan and Iraq… We want the world to remember this operation … that lifted the head of the [Muslim] nation." Bakri called 9/11 "a cry of Jihad against unbelief and oppression," and said that the aim of remembering it is to "revive the commandment of Jihad among the youth of the [Muslim] nation."

Bakri said that the convention will also feature a lecture about the Islamic religious roots of "slaughtering the infidels," that is, beheading foreigners in Iraq and Saudi Arabia, and that there will be films by Al-Qa'ida, the Tawhid and Jihad organization, and the Brigades of the Two Holy Places in the Arabian Peninsula, and that there will also be a film on the most recent operations in Chechnya. He added that one of the speeches, by Abu Mus'ab Al-Zarqawi, known to be Al-Qa'ida's military commander in Iraq, will be translated.

Isalm is the religion of a diseased culture. Unable to create, it can only destroy and glorify the process of destruction.

It has become a death cult.

I'm not usually a big Dennis Prager fan, but he got this right:They shoot children, don't they?
According to The New York Times, when the terrorists took over the Russian elementary school, they shouted 'Allahu akbar' ('Allah is the greatest').

Does this surprise you, dear reader? Does it shock you that the people who deliberately attacked a school and then systematically shot and blew up little children did so in the name of Islam?

Unfortunately, the question is rhetorical. Having targeted little children for death, there is no atrocity, no barbarity, no act of evil that the human race cannot imagine fanatical Muslims committing.

We have already become almost inured to:

The slaughtering of innocent human beings as if they were animals while chanting Muslim prayers.

The reintroduction of black slavery and genocide against blacks.

The murder of daughters and sisters for imagined or real sexual behavior.

The stoning of women accused of adultery.

The burning of Hindu temples and Christian churches, and the destruction of among the greatest Buddhist sculptures.

The ban on women driving cars or learning to read.

The idolization of young men who blow themselves up while murdering and maiming innocent non-Muslims -- and the theology of sexual rewards in heaven for doing so.

These are some of the atrocities being committed by Muslims in different parts of the world today.

It is, of course, only a minority of Muslims that engages in such horrors, but it is only Muslims who are doing all these things. Christians aren't -- even among Palestinians, there are no Christian terrorists. Jews aren't -- and when one Jew did deliberately kill innocent Palestinians in 1994, the rest of the Jewish world was horrified and demonstrated its revulsion in word and deed. Buddhists aren't -- despite the destruction of Tibet by the Chinese Communists, no Buddhists have murdered innocent Chinese, let alone non-Chinese who deal with China.

With the psychopathic cruelty at a Russian elementary school, have we reached the point where people of goodwill can ask serious questions about Muslims and Islam? Or are any challenging questions still to be dismissed as "Muslim bashing" or, even more absurdly, "racist," as if religion were a race?

The truth is that everyone with a conscience has questions about Muslims and Islam. But the most powerful religion in America, the religion of tolerance, has rendered it almost impossible to ask any such questions. Most people are so afraid of being branded intolerant that the most natural and goodhearted questions are only posed by the handful who have the courage to do so...

Yes, I too wonder why moderate Muslims do not more forcefully denounce and protests such a violent hijacking of their religion.

If a group of crazed Catholics hijacked planes and crashed them into Mecca, every Christian leader in the world would denounce it, seeking the forgiveness of every Muslim.

The silence of the Muslim world in the face of every atrocity has been deafening.

This is why our battle against terror has to be assymmetric.

We must change the nature of the debate from blaming the West for every Muslim failure to asking themselves why they can't create anything of value. Right now, huge numbers of Muslims in the Mideast believe - truly believe - that Israel engineered 9/11 to make Islam look bad. Only free debate can expose the silliness of such ideas.

That is what we are trying to do inIraq:
"Behind the two Iraqi camps one also finds rival external forces. Some anti-democratic forces are determined to do all they can to prevent the establishment of a mould-breaking new regime in Baghdad. The democratic countries, on the other hand, are deeply divided on Iraq's future.

"Some have not yet recovered from the effects of the bitter debates of last year. Others may be balking at the prospect of commitment to a difficult project for years to come.

"The big news, however, is that Iraq, for the first time since its existence as a country, has a choice. It is this big picture that is seldom noticed because of the media's fixation with events of passing importance."

And we not whether we have succeeded for decades. It is important to remind the media of this. for they are eager to do a post-mortem of Iraq at every opportunity.


Wednesday, September 08, 2004
 

Why this libertarian will


I recently recieved an e-mail from entitled "Why this Republican won't be voting for Bush."

It was heartbreaking story of the family of a reluctant soldier killed in Iraq.

Terrible stuff. I've seen a lot of such things lately.

But while reading it, I was reminded of Churchill:
"Many people think that the best way to escape war is to dwell upon its horror. They flaunt the grisly photographs before their eyes. They fill their ears with tales of carnage. They dilate upon the ineptitude of generals and admirals."

I am not indifferent to the suffering of war, and I would love nothing more than to live in a world where war was unneccesary and outdated. I have seen some of the suffering first hand. I witnessed a boy lose a finger when he picked up an artillery round he thought was a pen. I saw POWs being paraded through a town before they were executed, and it is a near certainty that many of my former students - the delightful children who I once joked and played with - were killed or mutilated in Sierra Leone's utterly pointless "civil war" in the '90's.

I would, given my experience, reject war altogether were it not for one uncomfortable thought: War works. It works when all other approaches fail. History screams it, though it is considered impolite to say it so bluntly. War works to end dictatorships, to repel invaders, to protect the innocent and secure the peace.

War is a tool without which there could be no freedom.

That last sentence is important because it cuts to the heart of our modern struggle: the struggle between the free world - which is creating the future - and a fanatical few traditionalists, larval dictators really - who would bomb the world back into enslavement, if only they could.

I take the threat they pose seriously. I read the papers:
"AFTER more than 24 hours in the sweltering heat of the school gymnasium in Beslan, one of the boys trapped inside could not take it any longer.

Summoning up his courage, he approached a hostage taker with a bayonet fixed to his assault rifle and asked him for a drink. It was probably the worst error that he could have made.

“Instead of giving him water, he drove his bayonet through the boy’s body,” said Stanislav Tsarakhov, 10, another captive standing nearby.

There is no force on Earth - no grievance or injustice - that could make me deliberately and so cruelly kill a child.

I wonder how such hatred can exist in a human soul.

And its worse than that: I know something that many Americans would rather forget. I dwell on it partly out of fear, and partly out of respect for the daunting task before us.It keeps me awake at night.

These people will one day possess nuclear weapons, possibly within the next ten years.

It is unavoidable.

The real problem in the War on Terror is simple:

Even if we captured bin Laden, killed his leadership, and got rid of the Taliban, al Qaeda and other terrorists would still prowl the Muslim world, signing up adherents who believe that killing Americans is a sacred oligation.

Fighting them directly is essential. But we also must fight them assymmetrically, by destroying support for their cause.

The most important question of our times is this: How do we defuse the hatred behind the terrorists?

I've given this a lot of thought. The Left is eager to save me the touble. A history of misdiagnosing problems in international relations has not deterred them from offering an answer that is so predictable and unsatisfying.

Terrorism, we are told, is the result of poverty - and anger at the world system which cultivates it. Their policy ideas call for more foreign aid, restrictions on trade (for some reason), increased fuel efficiency of our vehicles, less support for Israel and more US deference to the UN.

As with any policy prescription, there are kernals of truth in it (who could argue with increasing fuel efficiency?). But on balance, the Left's diagnosis is a sloppy postulate. It cannot withstand rigorous analysis, and it is unworthy of support.

And because it concerns national security, such nonsense is scandalous.

To begin with, let us discard the lightweight idea that poverty causes terrorism. Were this true, West Africa would be the world's prime incubator of terrorists, and we could end the scourge by attacking its poverty.

Moreover, the terrorists who carried out 9/11 were not poor; in fact, most came from wealth and privlege in moderately wealthy societies. Osama Bin Laden himself was heir to millions of dollars.

Because poverty doesn't cause terrorism, it is useless to attack poverty to alleviate terror (there may, however, be other reasons for attacking poverty). Foreign aid (which does little to end poverty anyway) won't do the trick. In fact, without regime changes in the Muslim world, foreign aid programs may actually make the threat more acute.

A case in point? Egypt.

No other country in the Arab world receives so much foreign aid ($2 billion a year) from the US, and few are as caustic in the hatred for the West. Its mosques laud the killings of Americans as divine will, its state media finances documentaries that inform the Arab world that Jews spill Arab blood for their religious rights, and its people seethe with hatred and repressed violence. They hate their government, and they hate America for giving it spending money. Egyptians like Mohammed Atta and Mohammed Atef readily join groups like Al Qaeda.

If increasing foreign aid is bad, increasing foreign trade may just be worse. In fact, in a Middle East where oil industries have been so thoroughly nationalized, any money that goes to the country goes to an unpopular - usually secular - government. (Still, the US deserves credit for paying the global price for this resource: Many countries today, and almost all countries historically, would have just pushed aside (or slaughtered) the locals to get at the resources they needed. The US, by contrast, has paid a fair price for every drop of crude it has taken.)

Could it be US policy toward Israel that really stokes the terrorists? The Arabs certainly hate the Jews, and a large part of this is just bigotry and can be ignored. I don't buy arguments about their empathy with displaced Palestinians. Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt all ran Palestianian refugee camps far worse than anything ever seen in Gaza or on the West Bank. In Arab eyes, the Palestinians are a trashy people, but serve as a means toward a pleasing end: the destruction of the Israeli state.

Israel biggest sin is that it is a success. All of the excuses for failure that Arabs have employed are present in Israel. Unforgiving land? They have plenty of it, but industrious Jews have turned the desert green. Poor, ethnically divided society? Israel is composed of the impoverished refugees of three dozen countries, sharing very different views of a (barely) common religion. Is dictatorship needed to keep things together? No, Israel is the region's only successful democracy and it is one of the world's freest societies. Hostile neighbors? Oh yeah, in spades. The first war Israel loses - really loses - will be the last the war it fights.

Despite this, Israel has become the dominant economic and military force in the region.

And the Arabs are furious. Instead of giving the Jews credit for Israel's success (and perhaps learning from it), they are eager to find someone to blame.

Should the US policy toward Israel change so that we show more favor to Yassir Arafat - a mafia chief gestating into an corrupt, old school Arab dictator?

Certainly not.

So where do we go? How can we defuse terrorism, before it starts?

As we look around the world, it is clear that there are several Muslim states where terrorism has simply refused to take firm root.

Turkey is one such case. It has long been viewed as wimp in Muslim circles because it does not produce terrorists like its neighbors do. Turkish imans tend to be more moderate, and very few of the CIA's most wanted terrorists are Turks. To make matters worse, Turkey works closely with the US military and seems eager to do whatever it takes to enter a secular caucasian club - the European Union.

It is an important question to ask: what makes Turkey different from its neighbors: Iraq, Syria and Iran? The answer is, I believe, a degree of openness not found in other Muslim countries.

I have no illusions about Turkish democracy: Turkey is a basket case, and its economy has been in the crapper for decades now.

But compared to Saddam's Iraq, Assad's Syria or the Iran of the Mullahs, Turkey might as well Sweden. You can buy international newspapers on the streets. You can watch international TV without having to worry that the government might throw you into prison. And you can vote for your own leadership, albeit via decrepit process.

For radical Islamists, the openness has served the same function for them as it has for "born again" Christian nuts in the US: it has made them look like the crackpots they are.

In the repressive societies on the Arab landscape, the mosque is one of the few places where people can go to speak their minds. And as long as they only criticise filthy Jews or imperialist Americans (but definitely not their own governments), they are free from prosecution. Such relative freedom of speech has made the mosque an attractive place for fiery Arab youth.

But what of the anger? Where does that come from?

The anger comes from the fact that in every measurable aspect of life - health statistics, lifespan, freedom indexes, academic achievement, health, living standards, diet, happiness - the Arab countries do very poorly.

It is not just that the Western score is 10 and the Arab score is 6. It is more like a blowout: the Western score is 10 and the Arab score is zero.

And for the proud Arabs, with a rich history of academic and technological achievement, believing themselves possessed of a superior religion that requires piety and delivers earthly and heavenly rewards - this is a terrible blow. It causes the young to question the religion ("Dad, if we are so good, why are we poor? And if they are so bad, why are they so rich?") It is especially grating for the proud Arab to send his children off to school in the US so that they can get educations and jobs.

The anger of the Arabs comes from humiliation: the humiliation of repeated and pronounced defeat, time after time. And countries in the West are getting further and further ahead.

What is the proud Arab to do? Well - particularly if he is God-fearing, pious man - he feels that this must be the result of some huge swindle: the US, Satan and Israel all working together to defeat the work of God's people on Earth.

It is in this mindset that he can strike at the vile infidels - with such vengence and fury that he can bayonet an innocent little boy asking for a drink of water.

This is the only way I can explain such hatred.

But the most important question is: how can we defuse it?

Only by opening up the Arab world and making these crackpots look like the ridiculous vermin they are.

Such a process will be costly and painful, and it may not work. It may very well be that democracy is completely imcompatible with the Arab world.

But we have to try it to find out. And we should hurry: the age of nuclear terror is just around the corner.

I believe we massively underestimate the threat to our way of life. Two well-timed and well-placed nuclear detonations, with warheads not much larger than the ones that were routinely placed on artillery shells in the Cold War, could easily kill the president and the six people in line to succeed him, all of Congress, the Supreme Court, and destroy the FBI and the Department of the Treasury. Unlike our experience in the Cold War days, this attack could come completely without warning. In the virtual absence of th eUS government, the dollar might well become worthless, as might everything denoted in dollars. The world's stock markets would plunge, and the value of everything in the world would plummet.

It would be a catastrophe, a new Dark Ages. Exactly the outcome that Al Qaeda desires and tells its followers it give them.

What would our response be? Americians would never give up their way of life.

I believe our outlook would change from trying to avoid civilian casualities to trying to inflict them.

Improbable?

We have done it before, in an event that most people regard as a "good" war: in World War II, we killed two million civilians - elderly, women and children -with deliberate intent and without remorse.

Imagine Bomber Harris and Curtis LeMay armed with thousands of nuclear weapons and you have an idea of the scale of absolute carnage we could inflict.

The Arab World is oblivious to the danger. Large number of Arabs believe that Allah will prevent us from harming them even as they destroy our cities.

They could not be more mistaken.

I would do anything to avoid a slaughter like that - except submit to any government that the Islamists find acceptable. I will not convert to a hostile religion, I will not treat women as chattel, and will stone aldulterers and homosexuals, and I will not keep my mouth shut - not for the sake of a bunch of Arab tyrants.

For that is what these scum are: larval tyrants.

And like dictators everywhere, they are eager to stir things up, using the chaos to impose their will:

It is useful to remember Winston Churchill again, speaking in 1934:

Dictators always find a reason to make trouble, he said. "They will say: you are rich; we are poor. You seem well-fed; we are hungry. You have the past; let us have the future." And soon the day comes when they say: "You are weak; we are strong."

Like Churchill, we are at the beginning of a long and costly global war, and the war in Iraq is not a "distraction" from it.

It is integral to it.

Trying to build an Iraqi democracy in the light of the threat seems to be a small price to pay to avoid this calamity.

In fact, an Iraqi democracy as flawed as Turkey's would - in my eyes - be a triumph. It would serve to take the air out of Islamist bluster and it would work to avoid a global cataclysm. This is a problem that we cannot kick into the future for our children to deal with. The weaponry our enemies possess will get more powerful as time goes on.

But we have a potent weapon, a weapon that will allow us to win: Freedom. The political freedom that is democracy; the economic freedom that we know as capitalism. Freedom allows disparate groups to work together in a common government, and capitalism is the wealth creation that allows societies to be built on the rubble of past repression.

Abu Musab Zarqawi, al Qaeda's leader in Iraq, put it quite well:
"Democracy is coming. There will be no excuse thereafter for terrorism in Iraq."

Yes, the crackpot terrorist got one right, for a change.

If we are lucky, so goes the world.

Maybe someday the college professors will tell us it was all unneccessary. The Arab world was never really hostile, was perfectly open to change and never meant us any harm! Just a wealthy, growing democracies, from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf!

What luck, to be misled in such a way.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004
 

The Bush bounce will fade


The polls are all over the place after the Republican Convention. Time and Newsweek have Bush up by 11 points, and they describe the despondency of the Democrats. CNN sees it as a 5% Bush lead and calls "the bounce" modest.

I didn't see the Zell Miller speech, but I read it online. The media is trying to compare it to Pat Buchanan's nasty, race baiting 1992 speech, calling Miller's attacks unfair and mean. But it was mainly a criticism of Kerry's Senate voting record, and that is where he is most vulnerable. People who think that is mean-spirited should ask themselves what kind of society (or campaign) would declare such attacks off limits.

No matter: coming soon will be a barrage of ads targeting Kerry's Senate voting record (please get us away from this Vietnam nonsense), and that is Kerry's Achille's Heel. I still see Bush as being on target for a fairly decisive November victory (as I have been saying now for several months). There are, of course, all kinds of unpredictables out there (assassinations, new candidates, terrorist attacks)but I think generally the winds are blowing Bush's way. I'm pretty sure that there will also be an escalation of violence in Iraq, as al Qaeda tries engineer a "Tet Offensive" to make Bush look bad. But I think that the Democrats have been paralyzed by the issue and they will be unable to take advantage of it (Is Kerry capable of seriously answering the question of how he would manage things differently?).

By late October, most people are going to be wondering why anyone thought Kerry had a chance.

Post convention bounces usually mean little. But I think the GOP Convention did a good job of highlighting the moderate side of a conservative party.

But the real Bush gains will come slowly over time.

This will be a nasty campaign, a grinding war of attrition. It has to be: while the Republican coalition is solidly behind their man (to the point of fanaticism), Kerry's people are united about nothing - except defeating Bush.

The election will be all about convincing them that Kerry is an empty suit.

Given his record, that should not be especially challenging.


 

The dreaded canard


Just when you think that Inquirer has caught on to its parochial, condescending attitude and is working on it, along comes an editorial that reminds you how far it has to go.

In this editorial, the editors call it a "canard" that the Philadelphia school system soaks up state money, and they attack, using the wrong statistics in the right way.

The Inquirer compares Philadelphia school spending per student to the spending of the some of the state's wealthiest counties:
Here are some new numbers to chew on: $2.37 billion, 176,000, $13,300.

The first number is how much public schools in two suburban counties - Montgomery and Chester - plan to spend this school year. The second is how many public school students the two counties have combined. The last is roughly how that works out in per-pupil spending.

More numbers (sorry about that): $1.9 billion, 210,000 and $9,050.

That's the similar rundown for the city schools.

Eewww numbers! They scared me with the numbers but I wasn't surprised that Philadelphia spending is less than these wealthy counties, who by the way, aren't asking the state to pay anything.

The Inquirer argues that state should increase school funding in Philadelphia to match these counties.

Not so fast.

According to the US census, the State of Pennsylvania spends $9,900 per student.

That is, Philadelphia spending (which is largely paid by the state) is comparable to the state average.

Do the editors of the Inquirer think the rest of the state is going to spend more on funding Philadelphia schools than it spends on its own kids?

I'm sure that the representatives of Carbon and Susquehanna counties, where per pupil spending is roughly $6,000 per student, will gladly find the needed money to raise Philadelphia's school funding to $13,000 per student.

There is no mention of Philadelphia's stifling bureaucracy, the political stubbornness of its teachers' unions, or the apathy of its (mostly single) parents.

As long as we are dreaming, why not raise Philly's funding to $16,000 per student, as Washington DC has done? We've all heard about the scholarship miracle going on in DC's schools, haven't we?

For the Inquirer, it is all about the money. And unfairly manipulating statistics to steal it.

Does the Inquirer think its readership is stupid? Does it truly believe that its cynical manipulation of statistics would be left unchallenged?

This is truly why blogs are essential.

Friday, September 03, 2004
 

A bear who knows his beer


Bear Passes Out After Only 36 Beers
SEATTLE (Reuters) - A black bear was found passed out at a campground in Washington state recently after guzzling down three dozen cans of a local beer, a campground worker said on Wednesday.

"We noticed a bear sleeping on the common lawn and wondered what was going on until we discovered that there were a lot of beer cans lying around," said Lisa Broxson, a worker at the Baker Lake Resort, 80 miles northeast of Seattle.

The hard-drinking bear, estimated to be about two years old, broke into campers' coolers and, using his claws and teeth to open the cans, swilled down the suds.

It turns out the bear was a bit of a beer sophisticate. He tried a mass-market Busch beer, but switched to Rainier Beer, a local ale, and stuck with it for his drinking binge.

Wildlife agents chased the bear away, but it returned the next day, said Broxson.

They set a trap using as bait some doughnuts, honey and two cans of Rainier Beer. It worked, and the bear was captured for relocation.


Thanks to the Radical Cowboys.

 

The discomforting truth


See! Even the poor hate vouchers! Many D.C. School Vouchers Go Unused:
More than one in five students who received vouchers to pay for private school tuition in the District are not using them, according to figures released yesterday on implementation of the nation's first federally funded voucher program.

After a lengthy application process, 1,359 low-income students were notified in June that they had won grants of as much as $7,500 a year to pay for private school tuition and fees, contingent on their acceptance by a participating school. Since then, the families of 290 students have dropped out or not responded to efforts by program administrators to reach them.

Nobody likes vouchers! Of course, this is how the Left will read this story.

No matter.

The Left has been deluding itself about vouchers for years. Fumbling an issue of such clear moral power, they stubbornly hold onto the status quo, just as their teacher's union masters order them to. Poor parent's wages are garnished to pay for the terrible schools their children attend. Even the uncommon poor parents who would dare dream of a better future for their children won't get the slightest nod from the government: by the time they are done paying their school taxes, they lack the money to pay a second tuition at a better school.

Liberals would never dream of sending their children to the ghetto schools that poor children attend. Because they have money, they have choices. They opt for nice suburban schools or private schools, while poor children are consigned to schools that prepare them for little more than prison.

When the abysmal educational outcomes of some schools are demonstrated, the Lefties argue that taxes should be further raised on everyone (including the poor parents). Throwing money at terrible schools will turn them into little Andovers, or so they've been hypnotized into believing.

As usual, liberals have misdiagnosed the problem. All the money in the world won't turn most of these students into scholars. It's been tried:
At 22, Jarmaine Ollivierre also is the meteor in another universe - the brightest academic light in a soon-to-conclude experiment called Say Yes to Education.

Eleven years ago, two Connecticut philanthropists set out to take him and 111 other inner-city sixth graders, all from Belmont Elementary School in West Philadelphia's hard-luck Mantua section, on an expense-paid trip to higher education. With the project's end looming in 2000, most have not made it.

Of the 26 who enrolled in four-year colleges, two graduated last year. Five more will get bachelor's degrees this month....

...George Weiss, who cofounded Say Yes with his then-wife Diane, has spent about $4 million to learn that lesson. The Weiss' gift - a rich package of tutoring, counseling, SAT-prep courses, summer programs and free tickets to continuing education - proved to be only part of the formula. In the absence of committed family, it did not necessarily add up to much.

I remember being very excited about what the Weiss's were doing in the eighties. Finally, we were going to see what copius amounts of money could do with a terrible school and the students who attended it!

The results were depressing, but enlightening.

But I would prefer to know a disappointing truth than be deluded by a comforting falsehood.

The experiment with the Belmont 112 culminated in nothing but disappointment. But the experience is what a scientist would call data, and the data here was something that the left would rather (and quickly did) forget: all the money in the world won't rescue these schools.

It is a lesson that is lost on Americans: the US spends more money educating its children than practically anywhere else in the world, yet their educational performance of our students is mediocre at best. (Of course, the averages improve when poor children, like the ones from Belmont, are subtracted).

The problem is not money; it's parental apathy. And most commonly, it's merely the apathy of a single parent. This apathy is depressingly common in the neighborhoods that culture the country's worst schools:
To comply with federal law, the Philadelphia School District has sent letters to 127,000 families, offering them a chance to transfer their children out of low-performing schools.

Under the federal No Child Left Behind law, districts are required to offer transfer options to parents with children in schools deemed "failing" for two consecutive years. In Philadelphia, 176 of the 264 schools fall into that category. The goal is to boost achievement of every student in the nation to proficient levels by 2014.

As of yesterday, only 637 families in the Philadelphia district - less than 1 percent - indicated they wanted to transfer their children in September. The deadline to respond is Friday.


Of course, if you are a liberal, stories like these mean that people are too stupid to know what's best for them and their children, and they need a large overbearing government to force them to do things.

People like me call that tyranny.

In truth, these parents are exercising their freedom. In this case, it's the freedom not to give a shit. They send their kids to school with this attitude, and - lo and behold! - they make for crappy students. These students swamp these schools and make them unmanageable day care centers.

But! Pay attention liberals! Even in those schools, there are students who want to be serious! These are the children who "ssshhh!" the loudmouths who disrupt the classes, and they get beat up for it. These are the children who are trying to learn, because their parents have told them that a better future awaits them if they are educated.

But it is a sad fact that the valedictorians (!)of these failing schools end up taking remedial courses if they go on to college; that is, straight-A students still aren't being prepared to tackle the coursework of higher education.

These are the children vouchers target.

Allow these children to pay their school taxes as tuition at a a private school where the competition is stiff, and they can (and do) excel.

Liberals recoil in horror. But that means less money for the terrible schools!

It might. It might.

But when something is clearly not working, do you keep doing it out of habit?

Among poor parents who care, vouchers are very popular. And they are very popular with people like me, people who believe that America should give everyone - and particularly the poor - the opportunity to do better.

And I don't give a crap if it scares the pants off the teacher's unions or the educational bureaucracy.

Thursday, September 02, 2004
 

Collapsing copyrights


About nine months ago, XM Satellite Radio came out with XMPCR (interesting that it shares part of its acronym with the Polymerase Chain Reaction), a little gadget that played satellite radio through a computer. The signals were received via the device's antenna, and the stations played through the computer's speakers (the internet was not involved).

I thought this device was a waste of time, and I did not think it was worth the fifty bucks or so one would have cost me.

Pity.

Those little devices have now been pulled from the market by XM, and the ones out there are being auctioned on E-Bay for $350.

It seems somebody invented a software program called TimeTraxx. TimeTraxx took each song that XM broadcast and converted it to a reasonable quality MP3, complete with song title and artist name. The software and XMPCR can work continuously: leave it playing for a few weeks, and a person could theoretically get many terabytes of free music in an MP3 format that could be easily traded or sold. The only limitation was the amount of memory you had to store such things.

The RIAA was apolectic. I think they put the screws to XM. Despite their denials, I think it's likely they told XM to pull XMPCR off the market, or the RIAA would stop licensing XM to play any music the RIAA controlled.

Heavy handed but very effective. The RIAA is on firm ground here: this device and software was the nuclear weapon of music piracy.

In the long term,though, the RIAA is fighting a losing battle.

People who are downloading music and sending it out to the world are stealing, pure and simple. The fact that this is even questioned by a large percentage of the populace is evidence of how far we have drifted from respecting the concept of intellectual property. We have allowed this important concept to become suspect, and our society may one day pay a terrible price because we do not understand the idea of a copyright.

Make no mistake: I am no friend of the RIAA. The industry they represent has become fat and lazy. It exploits most artists, and pays them a pittance so its executives and producers can live in splendor. They attempt to control music - promoting lameass shit while worthy bands struggle to get their music out (the internet is these bands' best friend). Their prices are ridiculous: $16.99 for twelve songs when you only want to buy three? Scandalous.

But that is their right, because that is their property. The person who claims he is entitled to someone else's work is, in my mind, no better than the Democrat who wants to steal from the rich so that he can "help" the poor (and take credit for it).

But as I said, the RIAA is dead. American teenagers believe that filling an MP3 player with music should cost nothing, and since they buy the most music, the industry will need a new business model. And it will be one that will make them a lot less money than they make currently.

This lack of respect for other's property will have serious ramifications outside the entertainment industry.

For example, I have supported the idea of reimporting medications from other countries for quite some time. I have, up until now, viewed this as a "free trade" issue. I also have a suspicion that it will torpedo many of tightly controlled pharmaceutical markets of our trading partners (a real plus for my libertarian side). Countries will be unable to set prices for drugs within their borders, and pharmaceuticals will assume a global price, just like any other commodity.

But what then?

Like music, many people feel they have a "right" to the latest and most expensive drugs, free of charge. These views are especially prevalent in Europe (where else?). I suppose they also believe money grows on trees.

Here's a nightmare scenario: the quasi-socialist countries of Europe begin cancelling patents and allowing generics to move in and start making drugs practically as soon as they hit the market. Sure, the WTO would go bananas. Sure, the US (where most pharmaceutical companies do their research) would impose sanctions. So?

Eventually, there would be pressure (from the truly clueless) for the US to begin importing these generic drugs as well. You think the principled opposition to this would stay united? I doubt it. A few 527 ads showing "Bill" suffering from AIDS, unable to afford domestic patent Crixivan, wanting only the "right" to buy incredibly cheap generic Crixivan from France, would do the trick in a heartbeat.

The whole pharmaceutical industry, which employs hundreds of thousands of people, would be in big trouble. The same could happen to software and other industries. Technology and development would stagnate worldwide.

This is a serious problem. Intellectual property is a serious issue that is not getting sufficient coverage in the press. It is the reason our world has wealth at all.

We ignore the rights of inventors - or musicians - at our peril.


Wednesday, September 01, 2004
 

A Media Meltdown


Glenn Reynolds at Tech Central Station:
And even after Kerry, the quality of the coverage was poor, often substituting hand-waving for facts. Last provides plenty of examples, but this piece by Jim Boyd of the Star-Tribune, attacking two bloggers from Power Line does an especially good job of capturing the tone -- lots of complaints about "smears," but few facts. The two bloggers, John Hinderaker and Scott Johnson, replied:

"We wrote that the Kerry campaign has retracted Kerry's oft-told tale of being in Cambodia on Christmas 1968. Boyd did not dispute this. We wrote that there is no record of John Kerry being in Cambodia in December 1968, or at any other time. Boyd did not dispute this. We wrote that Kerry's commanding officers have denied that he was ever sent into Cambodia. Boyd did not dispute this. We wrote that not a single crewman who ever served with Kerry has supported Kerry's claim to have been in Cambodia, and several crewmen have denied that their boat was ever in Cambodia. Boyd did not dispute this. We wrote that there is no record of Swift boats being used for clandestine missions as claimed by Kerry. Boyd did not dispute this. We wrote that Swift boats were unsuited for such secret missions, given their large size and noise. Boyd did not dispute this.

"Gosh, for fraudulent smear artists, we seem to be doing pretty well.

Why did Hinderaker and Johnson do so well? Perhaps because they have actual skills...

...Or as Hinderaker himself wrote:

"A bunch of amateurs, no matter how smart and enthusiastic, could never outperform professional neurosurgeons, because they lack the specialized training and experience necessary for that field. But what qualifications, exactly, does it take to be a journalist? What can they do that we can't? Nothing. Generally speaking, they don't know any more about primary data and raw sources of information than we do-- often less. Their general knowledge is often inadequate. Their superior resources should allow them to carry out investigations far beyond what we amateurs can do. But the reality is that the mainstream media rarely use those resources. Too many journalists are bored, biased and lazy.


When I was a young English major (It's true! It's true!), I was amazed at how uninformed about current events my peers were. Several were excellent students with detailed knowledge of poetry. Many were posers - these were the future coffeeshop Chomskys - eager to be seen as intellectual gods but never holding themselves to any standards in the pursuit of truth. Many were partiers - attempting to see how a few bong hits would give insight into Spencer. Just about everyone (including myself) was liberal.

I was practically the only one who had a career in mind (Print journalism! The foolishness of youth!), and I was looked down on because of it. I was told that in journalism you have no freedom of expression - you retyped press releases and gave them your own byline, you had to follow the rules of journalism (blah, blah), you had to write your editors wanted...

The ironic thing is that I became a scientist (praise the Lord!), and many of peers ended up in journalism. I guess, after a while, many of my English major friends got tired of being known only as the guy who could fix the latte machine.

The frightening thing about the print media is that anyone with basic skills can write. While the skills are easily learned - stringing sentences together, asking questions, meeting deadlines - the passion is not. The unbiased quest for the truth, the drive to pelt a clueless person with an uncomfortable questions, the tenacity that refuses to let someone wriggle away with a canned recititation of verbal flatulence - these are things that are found in scientists. They are not taught in English programs, where the emphasis is on the beauty and complexity of rhetoric, and there is no such thing as absolute truth.

Journalism is drawing from a bad pool.

To make matters worse, the news industry suffers from the worst kind of affirmative action. The desire to make the newsroom "look like America" has had a predictable effect on quality and bias. (But that is another story. )

The usefulness of blogs is that they have taken newsmaking out of the hands of the established media and put it in the hands of regular people. Stories that the media wishes to avoid (Kerry in Cambodia, Jayson Blair, overwhelming media bias, Trent Lott, Kerry's Senate record) can't simply be brushed away by disinterested journalists. Blogs keep these stories alive.

Reynolds is right in pointing out what this means:
But while the media's willingness to side with Kerry has been striking, it's also like the proverbial thirteenth chime of the clock -- not only wrong itself, but calling into question everything that came before. The loss of credibility that has come with that, coupled with the press's poor performance on all sorts of topics (don't these people know how to use Google? don't they realize that we do?) will be a long-lasting blow.



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