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The Therapy Sessions
Sunday, October 31, 2004

Rough three years - eh Binny?

So bin Laden is alive. Hey, that surprised me.

But don't rely on the media to tell us everything he said. They've spliced the tape heavily so it won't play badly for Kerry and his approach:
Officials said that in the 18-minute long tape of which only six minutes were aired on the al-Jazeera Arab television network in the Middle East on Friday bin Laden bemoans the recent democratic elections in Afghanistan and the lack of violence involved with it.

On the tape, bin Laden also says his terror organization has been hurt by the U.S. military's unrelenting manhunt for him and his cohorts on the Afghan-Pakistani border.

A portion of the left-out footage includes a tirade aimed at President Bush and his father, former President George H.W. Bush, claiming the war in Iraq is purely over oil.

Wouldn't want Michael Moore to look bad either.

And apparently, translation accuracy is lacking as well:
The tape of Osama bin Laden that was aired on Al-Jazeera on Friday, October 29th included a specific threat to "each U.S. state," designed to influence the outcome of the upcoming election against George W. Bush. The U.S. media in general mistranslated the words "ay wilaya" (which means "each U.S. state") to mean a "country" or "nation" other than the U.S., while in fact the threat was directed specifically at each individual U.S. state. This suggests some knowledge by bin Laden of the U.S. electoral college system.

In a section of his speech in which he harshly criticized George W. Bush, bin Laden stated: "Any U.S. state that does not toy with our security automatically guarantees its own security."

The Islamist website Al-Qal'a explained what this sentence meant: "This message was a warning to every U.S. state separately. When he [Osama Bin Laden] said, 'Every state will be determining its own security, and will be responsible for its choice,' it means that any U.S. state that will choose to vote for the white thug Bush as president has chosen to fight us, and we will consider it our enemy, and any state that will vote against Bush has chosen to make peace with us, and we will not characterize it as an enemy. By this characterization, Sheikh Osama wants to drive a wedge in the American body, to weaken it, and he wants to divide the American people itself between enemies of Islam and the Muslims, and those who fight for us, so that he doesn't treat all American people as if they're the same. This letter will have great implications inside the American society, part of which are connected to the American elections, and part of which are connected to what will come after the elections.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

French silliness

Chirac Sparks Old-Age Taunt from Supermarket Chief:
PARIS (Reuters) - President Jacques Chirac was told by a French
supermarket magnate on Friday that he may be too old at 71 to
understand the hard-nosed retail business.

Michel-Edouard Leclerc, chief of the E. Leclerc supermarket empire,
riposted after Chirac voiced caution about his campaign to scrap rules
that strictly limit price discounting in France.

"Chirac is advocating a soft approach, which is normal at his age,"
Leclerc told i-TELE television...

"...As for those who do not want prices to go down -- no matter how soft
their rhetoric is, they're going to have to put it in their election
manifesto and justify it, whether they are president or candidate for
the presidency," Leclerc said.

A supermarket entrepreneur wants to sell things more cheaply than his competition and the government won't let him? This one of those things I will never understand about France: the French allergy to anything that smells of capitalism.

Of course, the French talk of protecting the little guy: the guy with the expensive local food stall. After all, he is part of French culture!

The French will, as a result of this short-sighted policy, spend even more on their food. A man free of competition will raise prices. That means consumers will have less money in their pockets to spend on other things. Less things being sold means less things being made.

Ultimately, this means less jobs for the French.

French unemployment is currently about 9.5%. The unemployment number for people under age 35% is much higher (nearly 20%). Unemployment numbers like that would cause riots in the US. But the French tolerate it, because of their enomorous welfare state.

But fewer workers (fewer taxpayers) and an aging population will put that very welfare state in jeopardy. And the French - believing that everything is the responsibility of the state - will learn a potent lesson in economic realism: L'etat, cest moi.

For Louis XIV, the government was his because he controlled everything. In a democracy, the state is under the control of the voters. The future of France depends on French voters waking up and deciding that their government is not some separate entity that solves problems cost-free. The welfare state will cost them dearly, and the money they will lose will be their own.

Maybe it is time to let consumers decide whether the little guy selling expensive food can justify his prices.

Not if France. Not yet.

If France was a stock, I'd be selling.

(Of course, I'd like to think I never would have bought that dog in the first place).


How comforting

Terrorists for Kerry:
Leaders and supporters of the anti-U.S. insurgency say their attacks in recent weeks have a clear objective: The greater the violence, the greater the chances that President Bush will be defeated on Tuesday and the Americans will go home.

'If the U.S. Army suffered numerous humiliating losses, [Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John] Kerry would emerge as the superman of the American people,' said Mohammad Amin Bashar, a leader of the Muslim Scholars Association, a hard-line clerical group that vocally supports the resistance.

This is all I need to know.

It ought to be a campaign ad.



Smart toys

The Problem With Some 'Smart' Toys: (Hint) Use Your Imagination:
Parents want their children to succeed. And these days, toy store shelves are filled with products with names like Baby Einstein and Brainy Baby.
The toy manufacturers do not come out and say it, but the clear implication is that babies who play with these toys may score some extra I.Q. points and get an early start on the road to an Ivy League college.

Attuned to the increasing awareness among parents that the first three years are critical developmentally, companies are increasingly positioning their products as vital to optimizing intellectual growth.

Child development experts, however, have their doubts.

No studies exist, they point out, to show that any of the toys or videos give children an intellectual edge over playmates who stick to old-fashioned building blocks and baby dolls.

While researchers have found that some babies who are deprived of certain stimuli during the first years of life never completely recover, they have yet to demonstrate that increasing stimulation makes babies smarter. And some experts believe that the toys may even be detrimental to development because they lead children to focus on memorization rather than imagination and problem-solving abilities.

A few years ago when we had our first son, my wife and I agreed that we wanted very few battery toys (a small number have slipped through). It was more than just the noise (though the aggravating bells and whistles were a factor - aren't kids loud enough?).

We had a sense that these toys took something away from children, blunting active imaginations with the idea that toys must sing and dance to keep children entertained. (It is interesting to wonder whether this leads to another great delusion: the idea that it is a teacher's responsibility to make learning fun, a quest that often dilutes educational quality. Don't these people understand that some tasks - say, memorizing multiplication tables - are at times bound to be boring? It is mastery that is fun.)

Some of our relatives rolled their eyes at this. But Sean, at least, can have fun with a worthless cardboard box (it is a cave or a tent). On weekends, he turns into a dinosaur and makes his bed into a cave where he hides his books.

Sure, he is still a brat at times. All kids are.

But given the choice between two boys playing educational video games and two boys playing army, I'll take the boys playing army every time.

They'll be plenty of time to learn to read later. And armed with active imaginations, reading is likely to be fulfilling and exciting. Not something their parents make them do before they get to watch TV.


An eternity of Baathism

From Andrew Sullivan:
It is quite right to worry whether the Americans are sincere about bringing democracy to Iraq given their record in the region, it would be insane not to be. But I don't agree at all that if the Iraqis get the chance of democracy they won't take it. If you look at all the opinion polls, they are absolutely unequivocal about this. They put tribe very low on their list of reason why they will vote for a candidate. The Ayatollah Sistani has emerged as a committed democrat - showing that democrats always emerge in the strangest of places. If Arabs are irredeemably tribal, then dictatorship is the only possible route for the region. I don't believe that, and far more importantly, the evidence doesn't show it. We shouldn't be naive about US power, but we also shouldn't be patronizing about the capacities of Arabs.
And please remember: if the invasion hadn't happened we wouldn't be talking about Iraqi democracy, ever. We would be talking about Saddam and Uday and Qusay forever. I say better a chance at democracy and trade unions and decency - even if you think it's slim - than an eternity of Ba'athism.

- Johann Hari, in an interesting debate with Robert Fisk, on his own website.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Oh great

There they go again. The Chicago machine rises again:
Republican challenges in Ohio have already begun. Yesterday, party
officials submitted a list of about 35,000 registered voters whose
mailing addresses, the Republicans said, were questionable. After
registering, they said, each of the voters was mailed a notice, and in
each case the notice was returned to election officials as

In Cuyahoga County alone, which includes the heavily Democratic
neighborhoods of Cleveland, the Republican Party submitted more than
14,000 names of voters for county election officials to scrutinize for
possible irregularities. The party said it had registered more than
1,400 people to challenge voters in that county.


Disease or excuse?

ADHD may or may not be a real disease, but there is no question in my mind that it is being massively over-diagnosed (psychiatrists, though - who have a huge financial stake in the promotion of the disease - beg to differ).

But can we all agree that people like this just deserve what happens to them?

It is accepted wisdom in A.D.D. circles that certain types of work are a nightmare for those with A.D.D. (accounting comes to mind) and that others are virtual magnets for those with the condition: sales, contracting, waitressing, hairdressing -- any job that involves chatting and moving around. Stock trading, acting, law enforcement, emergency medicine (very frightening! - Ed) -- any job that runs on adrenaline and deadline....

...Unfortunately for Vivienne Sales, librarian is not on the list. And yet, it is what she most wants to be.

Sales was not dismissed after her argument in the library last summer. Instead, she found an unexpected advocate in Cheryl Moreno. The h.r. manager said she believed that the rules would have permitted the library to dismiss Sales until the moment Sales declared that she had a disibility. At that point the rules change. ''The median cost of accommodations for impaired employees is $240,'' Moreno said, quoting a statistic in vogue at human-resource conferences. ''So we tried to help.''

In Sales's case, the help cost more than $240 and came in the form of a job coach whose $100-per-hour services were paid for by the university. Finding such a coach in Prescott, Ariz., took most of last autumn, and it was not until the end of last year that Sales began working with Evelyn Larriba, a vocational specialist from the West Yavapai Guidance Clinic who was not specifically trained to work with adults with A.D.D. but who brought up a grandson who has the condition.

A university, eh?

Only a university (or the government) would have tolerated this flightly nutcase.

The wideapread tolerance of such inefficiencies - flubbed jobs, lateness, unexplained absences, forgotten assigments - partially explains spiralling admissions costs.


The vanishing middle class

A Poverty Issue Left Untouched:
Let's examine the Census numbers. They certainly don't indicate that, over any reasonable period, middle-class living standards have stagnated. Mostly, the middle class is getting richer. Consider: In 2003, 44 percent of U.S. households had before-tax incomes exceeding $50,000; about 15 percent had incomes of more than $100,000 (they're included in the 44 percent). In 1990, the comparable figures were 40 percent and 10 percent. In 1980, they were 35 percent and 6 percent. All comparisons are adjusted for inflation.

If John Kerry says it enough, the media quickly accept it as truth.

Don't confront them with the facts! They are on a roll!



It is one of those unfortunate realities of being a politician that you must overcome your fear of public speaking.

Some people have never considered this:After 2 tries, Parra flees debate over stage fright
A case of stage fright sent Democrat Maria Parra off a TV stage Thursday, abruptly ending what would have been her only debate with Rep. Mark Souder, R-3rd.

“I’m not used to being in front of the camera. … I couldn’t get my words out. I was just overwhelmed,” she said after the aborted debate, which was being taped at WPTA and which would have been aired this weekend. The matchup has not been rescheduled and is not likely to be...

...In the first attempt to tape the debate, Parra did not make it through her opening statement before leaving the set. Observers were asked to leave the room, and the taping began again. Souder and Parra made their opening statements, and Souder responded to a question about health care from the moderator. When Parra was given a minute to respond, instead she left her seat, saying, “I can’t do this. I just can’t do this. I’m sorry.”

But she regained her composure and was able to lob a few insults out of the view of the crowd.
But Parra, before taking off her microphone and leaving the TV set, called Souder “an embarrassment” and said his performance in Congress was “do little, do nothing, do damage.”

And she promised to be an excellent congressperson - from the privacy of her own home.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Distant relatives

It is interesting to note that Bush and Kerry are distant relatives: Bush/Kerry family tree.

Oh, those interbreeding yankee bluebloods.

From Stop The Internet.


The difference

John Leo:
Many of the doubts that hover over Sullivan's case for Kerry are rooted in the value system widely shared among Democrats: Most people are basically good; wars are caused not by evil motives but by misunderstandings that can be talked out; conflict can be overcome by more tolerance and examining of our own faults or by taking disputes to the United Nations. As a personal creed, these benign and humble attitudes are admirable. As the foundation of a policy to confront terrorists who wish to blow up our cities, they are alarming.

Yes, they are.

It was the our final withdrawal from Viet Nam in 1975 that led the Soviets to believe that they could invade Afghanistan without consequence, and they were right, at least with Carter. Carter's response? The American Olympic team did not attend the summer games in Moscow. The perceived weakness of America led the Iranians to conclude that they could storm our embassy and take Americans hostage as a way of pressuring us.

If Kerry is elected, and if he keeps his withdrawl timetable from Iraq and abandons the 80% of Iraqis who wish to be governed democratically, 2004-2008 will look a lot like 1976-1980.

Except the enemies are more dangerous. China is eyeing Taiwan. North Korea is threatening everyone. Iran is building the bomb and threatening Israel with destruction. Nuclear-armed Pakistan is teetering.

And the age of nuclear terror may only a few years away.

Weakness now is no response.

Kerry likes to portray his "ideas" as a new hope.

But they are old and tired:

And dangerous.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

I'm thankful

My Thanksgiving post (and yes, I have plagiarized myself):

I gripe a lot on this blog. One would think that I am quite unhappy.

But in reality, things are pretty good in my life, and this blog is just a way of letting off steam.

When I think about it, I live like a king. Right now, a farmer somewhere is tending the calves that will make the milk for my refrigerator and the beef for my table. There are teams of doctors waiting to serve me should I fall sick, and engineers are ensuring that whenever I turn on a light, I will see light; others are working to make sure I will have the gas to heat my home this winter. I have workers in the fields picking my vegetables, fisherman out in the sea catching fish for me, and farmers are tending the hens that will give my meat and eggs. Whole factories of people built the car that carries me to work, and there are several mechanics around town who long to repair it. My clothes are stitched together by people laboring in foreign lands, using the best cotton - which all had to be picked, separated and woven. A group of baby sitters watch my children for me during the day, and with a few phone calls, I can have all manner of work done on my house. People are dying to know all kinds of things about me: what services I need or want, and what I think of them.

And for each one of these people, I have dozens of people who long to replace them in their servitude. They used to call me at home (but now they can’t – its illegal in PA – Ha! Ha!), so they fill my mailbox with crap trying to get me to buy their stuff, they invade my computer and jump out at me from my TV.

Ah, the annoyances of being royalty.

I’m one of the happiest people I know. I have a great wife – she is really my best friend and we laugh a lot together. My kids are happy and healthy. This house - though small -is in a great neighborhood with good schools. I can't imagine moving. I love my work and I can't see myself working in another field.

I’m not rich, but I sure feel like it. In reality, I’m pretty average – depressingly so. My house is kind of small and my car is kind of old. I wince at how much money I pay in taxes, day care and mortgage. In the supermarket, I can tell you that beef has been really expensive lately, so we have been eating more pork and chicken.

Yet I amuse myself by thinking about the thousands of people who make my boring average life the wonderful luxury that it is. After all, I’m richer than 99.99% of all the people who have ever lived – as are most Americans and Westerners.

I lived in West Africa for a time. I know for a fact that for a large portion of the world, most of these things - doctors, engineers, diverse food - are unattainable at any cost. It gives me sense of perspective, and a reason to be thankful for the things I take for granted.

This is no paean to materialism. Money doesn’t buy happiness! It’s true! (But it doesn’t hurt either.)

So why do I complain?

I complain because this country is full of people who can't see this wonderful system of capitalism for what it is.

For them, food, housing and medical care aren't things that you labor to procure.

They are rights and entitlements.

These spoiled children believe that they - and everyone - should get the best of all these things, merely because they were born.

I exist, therefore I get.....

They must be opposed, for the only thing that can truly be shared equally is misery.

You are entitled to nothing that you cannot earn, and you have no right to force others to labor on your behalf. This is the fallacy behind "economic rights," and it has become the ideological compass of the modern Democratic Party. For all the nice sounding rhetoric ("all we want to do is to give free healthcare to every American!), it is simply socialism. And it has never worked. Anywhere.

The framers of the Bill Of Rights had it right the first time. None of their rights cost anyone anything.

You have the right to say what you wish; the government doesn't buy you a printing press.

You have a right to a gun; the government doens't buy you one.

You have right to worship as you wish. Or not. The government doesn't build you a church.

Part of the problem in West Africa is that the governments decided that people had a "right" to cheap rice. These governments could not afford to buy rice for everyone, so they did the next best thing: they controlled its price, setting it very low. The farmers - knowing a bad deal when they saw it - kept their rice for themselves and no one wants to go into farming.

All of these countries - rich in water, soil and labor - import rice these days.

This is how a society of abundance can become a society of scarcity.

It could happen to us too. Some people are working toward that goal.

We should never forget that.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Stoners for Kerry

The Times has endorsed John Kerry.

No, not that Times.


Now, I think the Drug War is a waste of time, and I think we should allow highly-taxed pot to be sold to adult stoners. It would raise money so all our well-connected seniors can enjoy their golden years on the governmnet's tab.

But this is issue number 46 of great concern to our country.

The Philadelphia Inquirer stretches in its "21 Reasons To Elect John Kerry" series and comes up with number 47: Kerry is better for our national parks.

Get that man into the Oval Office! Now!


Iraq's bloggers

The real Iraq (?):
BAGHDAD, Iraq--Basking in the sun by the Al Hamra Hotel swimming pool, a Spanish journalist complained to me that â€all my editors want is blood, blood, blood. No context. No politics.

Such editors are cruising to be scooped by such local Iraqi blogs as Iraq the Model, which last summer debunked a Los Angeles Times story on the departure of Coalition Provisional Authority head L. Paul Bremer. The Times told its readers that Bremer had fled abruptly, â€afraid to look in the eye the people he had ruled for more than a year.†In fact, as Iraq the Model reported, Mr. Bremer before leaving delivered a television address that gave a moving account of his tenure and his hopes for the new all-Iraqi interim government.

The bloggers had heard it, the L.A. Times reporter had not. The paper ultimately had to correct its account, though never acknowledging the indignant Iraqis who caught its snide oversight.

Meet one of those bloggers, Ali Fadhil, a key author of Iraq the Model, perhaps the best known of the blogs, with 7,000 individual visitors a day. Thirty-four years old, a Sunni, Fadhil is a cheerful Baghdad doctor who contributes news and commentary.

Medical students in Iraq use English in their classrooms, so doctors are overrepresented among English-language bloggers, as they are among translators. All of the main contributors to Iraq the Model are young physicians who see a cross-section of Iraqi patients daily and have witnessed, Ali says, a steep improvement in medical services since Saddam was overthrown.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Apology accepted

Aging hippies continue to assert their mindless belief that Saddam's Iraq was a happy place of love and flowers, until the US got involved. The mass graves were just large gardens, the torture chambers were day care centers and all the WMD scientists were just working on cures for the world's most obscure diseases.

And they are so sorry:

Tim Blair, as usual, is all over it:

UPDATE: It continues:


Malaria vaccines

Malaria Vaccine Proves Effective
For the first time, researchers say, a vaccine against malaria has shown that it can save children from infection or death.

The vaccine, tested on thousands of children in Mozambique, was hardly perfect: It protected them from catching the disease only about 30 percent of the time and prevented it from becoming life-threatening only about 58 percent of the time.

This is good news because it proves that it is theoretically possible to make a malaria vaccine.

It is terrible news for GSK, because they will be expected now to provide this vaccine at a loss.

I once listened to a very rich woman prattling on about the importance of ending the scourge of river blindness in the Third World. I agreed with her, and told her that for $10,000, she make a practical difference: working through established charities, she could buy enough Ivermectin to cure thousands of people infected with river blindness.

Of course, that wasn't what she wanted to hear. She wanted a political solution, and credit for getting other people to pay for it.

Soon legions of the similarly clueless people will descend on GSK. They will say that GSK must must labor for them so that they can take credit for saving lives.

The Gates Foundation - which understands how useless these people are - is the reason that the vaccine has even gotten this far. It would be wonderful if they will pay for all the needed doses - year after year - but that is up to them.

If the UN, WHO, and various NGO's get involved, I feel sorry for GSK.


Iwo Jima today

Iwo Jima, if covered by media today
With the aid of satellite technology, Cutie Cudley interviews Marine Pfc. John Doe, who earlier came ashore with 30,000 other Marines.

Cutie: "John, we have been told by the administration that this island has great strategic importance because if you're successful, it could become a fueling stop for our bombers on the way to Japan. But, as you know, we can't be sure this is the truth. What do you think?"

Pfc. Doe: "Well, I've been pinned down by enemy fire almost ever since I got here and have had a couple of buddies killed right beside me. I'm a Marine and I go where they send me. One thing's for sure, they are putting up a fight not to give up this island."

Cutie: "Our military analysts tell us that the Japanese are holed up in caves and miles of connecting tunnels they've built over the years. How will you ever get them out?"

Pfc. Doe: "With flame throwers, ma'am."

Cutie (incredulously): "Flame throwers? You'll burn them alive?"

Pfc. Doe: "Yes ma'am, we'll fry their asses. Excuse me, I shouldn't have said that on TV."

Cutie (audible gasp): "How horrible!"

Pfc. Doe (obviously wanting to move on): "We're at war ma'am."

(A Marine sergeant watching nearby yells, "Ask her what does she want us to do — sing to them, 'Come out, come out, wherever you are. Pretty please.' "

Cutie: "Pfc. Doe, what's that mountain in the background? Is that the one they say is impregnable?"

Pfc. Doe: "I don't know what that word means, ma'am, but that's Mt. Suribachi, and we're going to put a flag right up on top of it just as soon as we can. I gotta go."

Cutie to camera: "No one has yet really confirmed why this particular battle in this particular place is even being waged. Already, on the first day, at least 500 Marines have been killed and a thousand wounded. For this? (Camera pans to a map with a speck of an island in the Pacific. Then a close up of nothing but black volcanic ash). For this? For this?" (Cutie's sweet voice becomes more strident as it fades out.)


Outside shot

In article about sky diving, is it absolutely necessary to tell EXACTLY how this poor fellow died?
On Sept. 3, Craig Kuske, 29, of Louisiana, was killed when his parachute failed to deploy correctly and he plummeted into a basketball hoop on the 100 block of Dahlia Avenue in Monroe. The accident occurred shortly after Kuske, a 10-year skydiving veteran, had boarded a small planed owned by Freefall.

You can almost hear the tacky reporter giggling behind his prose: nothin' but net.


Mural misspellings

Mural Misspellings Cost California City Big Bucks
LIVERMORE, Calif. -- You wouldn't expect to see a lot of misspelled words when you enter a public library.

That's why a California city is paying thousands of dollars to an artist so she'll correct the words she misspelled on a giant mural in the entryway of the new main library.

Eleven of the 175 words and names are misspelled, including Vincent Van Gogh, Michelangelo and Einstein.

Artist Maria Alquilar was initially paid $40,000 for the mosaic. Now, the city will pay another $6,000 plus her travel expenses from Miami for her to correct the work.

Alquilar blames city leaders for not catching what she calls "oversights."

I'm speechless.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Medicare: word of its doom has been widely ignored

Not content with a program that is slated to go bankrupt in the next ten years, people just can't seem to resist the urge to get Medicare to cover all drugs, even the most frivolous: Medicare might add impotence drugs.

When will these people admit that the reflexive habit of reverting to third party purchasers IS the problem?

Not until this horrible program has bankrupted a generation.


Another dumb political test

Yep, that's about right:

And this graphic fits me to a tee:


Battle of the bulge

There have been internet rumors about a bulge in the back of
Bush's jacket during the second debate. Some left wing nuts have
declared it as proof that Bush was wearing a wire...


Scrappleface has decided to get to the bottom of it:
Object Under Bush Jacket Identified: 'It's a Spine'

(2004-10-11) -- A forensic scientist studying photographic evidence has
identified an object which caused a bump on the back of a suit jacket
worn by President George Bush during his first debate with John Forbes

"It's a spine," said the unnamed scientist. "The president's backbone,
in a sense, was showing during his debate with Mr. Kerry."

Similar images of Mr. Kerry showed "no comparable spinal features."

When asked about the new evidence, Mr. Kerry said, "I had a spine when
I defended this country as a young man, and I will have one again when
I defend her as president of the United States.

Monday, October 11, 2004

The debates

I watched the debate on Friday night (eeww...what a mistake).

My main question during the whole proceeding was to wonder how we - as a nation - got stuck having to choose between these two numbnuts.

In the blue corner, we have Senator Kerry, droning (in pointless soundbitten cliches) things that he absolutely must know are not true (France and Germany will help us! Social Security is fine! We can steal from the rich and give to the poor; Healthcare is a right! I'll cut the deficit, I have a plan....).

And in the red corner, you have Bush - who understands a lot of things that are true, provided that they've been explained to him at a sixth grade reading level or below. He struggled to explain the things he was supposed to have learned by now, stumbling over any word with more than two syllables.

Who won? I have no clue. I agreed with Bush most of time (when he actually had a point instead of a soundbite), and Kerry was almost all style (and unlikeable style at that), amorphous "plans" and attempts to buy voters (vote for me and I'll give you....).

It doesn't really matter who I thought won; the important thing is what America thought.

We will have to wait a few weeks to know that.


Toying with idiocy

Oh my, what an interesting letter:
Bush's closed campaign

As an American, I deeply resent that I can't attend a Bush campaign rally and ask a few questions just because I'm not of the conservative political stripe.

Anyone can attend a Kerry campaign event and ask questions.

Democracy must remain an open door to different opinions and freedom of expression if it is to survive.

Richard Whiteford

Ummmm, let's see....last I checked, there were no political allegiance requirements to attend a political rally and listen to a speech. I assume Mr. Whiteford feels he has a right to go to politician's speech and interrupt the speech with his questions.

And he has point: he does not have that right.

No one does.

The people who attend both Bush and Kerry rallies cames to hear the respective leaders speak - not some inflamed jackass.

An analogy is apt: if you went to a symphony with your trumpet and started playing in the middle of the performance, you would also be arrested. The concert goers came to hear the professionals play - not you.

You can't steal someone else's crowd for your own purposes.

It's a violation of the free speech!

Well, maybe it is (if you are a moron).

Freedom of speech is not an absolute; it only survives within certain controls.

For example, you can't incite a riot, phone in death threats, commit libel or create a disturbance to prevent others from being heard. This is a case of simple (painfully simple)law in action, and Whiteford's attempt to portray Bush supporters as brownshirt thugs doesn't stand up under scrutiny.

The only question is how he managed to write the entire letter and send it off without thinking this out for himself.


Dumb prediction time

Stand back. I'm going to make a prediction.....(so that's what that smell was...)

If terrorists are going to attack the US to influence our election (a dumb idea, from their perspective), the attack will come today.

First, it is the eleventh (they like 11)...

Second, it is about three weeks before the election...

Third, terrorists hate Columbus...OK, maybe that last one doesn't work.

UPDATE: Nothing happened. Oh wait, Philly was attacked by elves:Suspicious box closes Schuylkill Expressway


The pitiful Palestinians

If only this was a common opinion among Palestinians, there might be some hope for the "Peace Process:"
The Jordanian daily newspaper Al-Rai recently published an interview with former PA Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen). [1] The following are excerpts from the interview:

'We Need to Put Our House in Order'
Question: "Why did you not conclude the negotiations before [Netanyahu's election], when it was known that Netanyahu had a fair chance of winning?"

Abbas: "… Oslo was stalled due to the actions of the various Israeli governments; afterwards there was Camp David and after that the Intifada. Sharon's visit [to the Temple Mount] was a bad beginning after which came the Intifada, and the continuation [of the Intifada ] was the worst thing. I think now that that the Intifada in its entirety was a mistake and it should not have continued, and in particular what is called 'the militarization of the Intifada '…"

No wonder Arafat hated this man.

It is hard to pity people who dance in the streets whenever Israeli children are killed going to school.

But I feel a tinge of pity whenever I look at the Palestinians: they are living in a world made for screwdrivers, but they only know how to use hammers. They are so addicted to the unlikely idea that they will one day destroy the Israeli state that they can only think to hammer harder.

Of course, this sense of pity is quickly overcome by disgust.

The Palestinians, after all, are a people who are so brutish and stubborn that the prospect of slaughtering eight million Jews is more pleasing to them than the idea of peace. So they continue to harbor some of the world's most malignant terrorists, and send their children on suicide missions aimed at Israeli buses.

They are a people crying out for war. Someday, the Israelis are going to give it to them, and they aren't going to like it.

The sad fact of the Palestinian struggle is this:
The Palestians would kill all the Israelis if only they had the weapons; the Israelis have long had the weapons to lay waste to Gaza and the West Bank, but they are far too decent to do such a thing.

But this war (and the poorly named "War on Terror") is becoming an existential war.

In an existential war, there comes a point where decency is pointless: you kill your enemy wherever he is, killing as many people - innocents included - in his society until your enemy decides to give up. You do it because you know your enemy would do the same to you.

The Palestinians - and Islamic fundamentalists in general - have been fighting this way for decades, and daring us to join them.

I don't want to, but it may be inevitable.

Burning down a house is a terrible way to kill the roaches, but it does kill the roaches.

Friday, October 08, 2004


Hopeful things to hear:
Indeed, the Dems have declared defeat so loudly and insistently that they've convinced much of the world that freedom's cause is lost in the Middle East.

But let me tell you who isn't convinced: Our soldiers. Last week, I was privileged to speak to and listen to hundreds of U.S. Army officers and enlisted soldiers at the Land Combat Exposition in Heidelberg, Germany, the headquarters of our ground troops in Europe. Even I was surprised by the complete absence of griping. I did not hear a single criticism of our engagement in Iraq.

Now, soldiers complain. It's a hallowed tradition. Yet, not one of the troops with whom I spoke suggested we were losing in Iraq. Those soldiers, from generals down to the junior enlisted ranks, are the ones who pay the bills that come due in blood. And they were proud to have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many were getting ready to go back. They believed in what their country asked them to do.

Shocked! Fans of Michael Moore will be shocked!

And it only gets worse: Troops in survey back Bush 4-to-1 over Kerry

I'm not really all that surprised. I read blogs - and I pay special attention to blogs by Iraqis and our soldiers in Iraq.

Make no mistake, we could lose this thing. But we will lose it here, by giving up.

And all of the Iraqis who have worked with us - hundreds of thousands of them - will be massacred (as our friends were in Vietnam).

Then - only then - will I be ashamed of what my country has done in Iraq.

After all, brutal terrorist groups are usually defeated. Their brutality repels the people of the countries that they would lead:
WHILE kidnappings and head-choppings in the Sunni Triangle dominate the news from Iraq, the real battle for that nation's future is fought in diplomatic, political and media arenas outside that country.

The terrorist movement in Iraq, at times graced with the label of "insurgency," is in no position to impose its will on the nation. With the help of its outside backers, it could, to be sure, continue kidnappings and killings for years.

More than a dozen countries (Colombia, Peru, Malaysia, the Philippines, Algeria, Egypt, etc.) have experienced similar terrorist movements in recent decades. In every case, the terrorists, having pushed the limits of brutality as far as they could, were ultimately defeated.

When the leaders of the Shining Path in Peru and the PKK in Turkey were captured or killed, the people of those nations rejoiced. Their bombings, kidnappings and assasinations earned them few friends.

Iraqis - like common people everywhere - have no desire to be ruled by thugs.

We can prevent that from happening.


Health mess starts with the voters

In 2003, 45 million Americans lacked health insurance, and medical spending spiraled furiously upward. Since 2000 private insurance premiums have increased 59 percent, reports the Kaiser Family Foundation. Both George Bush and John Kerry say they'll 'fix' the health care system, but their campaign proposals suggest that neither is serious.

To be serious would require admitting that the basic problem does not lie with insurance companies, trial lawyers, hospitals or any of the usual suspects. It lies with public opinion. We Americans want the impossible. We want our health care system to provide everyone with good care covered by comprehensive insurance, prevent insurance companies or government bureaucrats from dictating our choice of doctors, hospitals or treatments, and hold down costs. Well, we can have any two of these goals -- but not all three. If everyone has coverage and choice, costs will skyrocket. No one is empowered to control them. But controlling costs involves limits on insurance or choice.

Well said.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

Denmark seizes North Pole; Elves, the Klaus family incensed

The Danes make their move:
Denmark aims to claim the North Pole and hunt for oil in high Arctic regions that may become more accessible because of global warming, the Science Ministry said on October 4, 2004. It said Denmark would send an expedition to try to prove the seabed beneath the Pole was a natural continuation of Greenland, the world's biggest island and a Danish territory whose northern tip is just 450 miles from the Pole.

Way to go Denmark!


Saddam's French connection

I never saw this coming:Saddam paid off French leaders
Saddam Hussein used a U.N. humanitarian program to pay $1.78 billion to French government officials, businessmen and journalists in a bid to have sanctions removed and U.S. policies opposed, according to a CIA report made public yesterday.

The cash was part of $10.9 billion secretly skimmed from the U.N. oil-for-food program, which was used by Iraq to buy military goods, according to a 1,000-page report by the CIA-led Iraqi Survey Group.

The French - selling their Security Council veto to the highest bidder?



A football player knows something you don't, and you'll never guess what it is

Here's a question: how many drugs do you have to take, and how much alcohol must you consume, to get to the point where you think breaking into a random student's dorm room and taking a shit in her closet is a good idea?

Don't know?

Neither did I.

The unlikely man who does know the answer is none other than Green Bay Packer fullback Najeh Davenport.

Next time, Najeh, you might just want to find a gas station, a McDonald's or - if you are really desperate - a large bush.


Nader will quit

Every election needs some suprise event that changes the dynamics of the race. Such events usually come late and they can turn voters one way or another.

I predict that one is coming: Nader will bail out in two weeks, and throw his support to Kerry. I don't think it'll will work and Bush will still win.

You heard it here first.


Good Muslims

Yes, thank goodness, we finally have some Muslims who are good, unfraid to condemn the perversion of their religion by the Islamic fundamentalists:

Thanks to Bunker Mulligan.


Tribal societies

Robert Guest, Africa editor for The Economist, speaks the truth...very un-PC, but absolutely true:
Nigeria, like much of Africa, ought to be rich but is miserably poor. The main reason is that rather than striving to create an environment in which their people can freely seek prosperity and happiness, most African governments have chosen instead to rob them. This culture of criminality has spread throughout the ruling class, down to the Nigerian border guard who threatened to beat up my driver last month if I didn't give him a dollar, to the bribe-hungry Cameroonian police officers who stopped a truck I was riding in 47 times in 300 miles.

This corruption makes it hard to do business in Africa. Manufacturers need smooth roads, reliable electricity and efficient ports. But too often in Africa, the roads are craterous because someone has looted the maintenance budget, the power fails because the state monopoly utility company is staffed with politicians' idiot cousins, and the customs officers hang onto your goods for weeks in the hope that you will bribe them to hurry up. In only two African countries - South Africa and Botswana - is it relatively easy to do business, a recent World Bank study found. For bright, energetic Africans, it is often easier to get rich by joining the government than by creating honest wealth.

That is why the debt relief proposal debated over the weekend in Washington by officials from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Group of 7 nations would be not be a panacea for Africa. Faster debt relief is a good idea for countries with relatively clean, pragmatic governments that pursue sensible economic policies, like Mozambique and Uganda. But debt relief cannot help the worst-governed countries like Zimbabwe and Angola because their leaders are likely to squander the money it frees up. In those places, extra cash props up despots.

This is a more complex picture than many debt-relief campaigners will admit. It may be, as Oxfam complains, that Zambia cannot hire enough teachers because the monetary fund has told its government not to run too large a budget deficit. But that is not the whole story. The main reason Zambia is bankrupt is that it has been ruled with startling incompetence and venality; for example, its previous president, Frederick Chiluba, is facing multiple charges of embezzlement.

Outsiders cannot fundamentally change the way Africa is governed. That is a task for Africans themselves, and some are rising to the challenge. In Nigeria, President Obasanjo has hired a team of technocrats to curb corruption by making the public accounts more transparent. They are doing their best, but one of them told me that probably no more than one powerful Nigerian in 20 supports the clean-up. That in a nutshell is why Africans are poor: their leaders keep them that way.

When I was a Peace Corps teacher in Sierra Leone, my principal surprised me one day with a gift: several cans of fish from Norway. My diet was low in protein and I enjoyed eating them very much.

A few days later, I saw him and thanked him. He replied that I could thank him by helping him. He wanted to get a US government grant to build a pig farm for his school, and I could help.

The principal was a wealthy man, and he probably could have afforded to finance the pig farm with his own resources. The more I heard about his little project, the more it repelled me. The pig farm, which he said would be “for the students,” would be located behind his house, out of sight, behind a wall. It would be managed by several of his twenty or so children.

But nothing raised my suspicion as much as this: I soon learned that the cans of fish I had eaten were part of a shipment that had been given to him by the World Food Program. They were intended to relieve the malnutrition of his students, and the principal was giving them away to make friends. Later, he started selling them to vendors in the market and pocketing the money.

Food that was intended to feed children was being used to make the principal into a “big man,” a wealthy power broker in Africa.

Aid in Africa is often the story of unintended consequences.

"Debt relief" - as nice and as fair as it sounds - will be no different.

I saw the beautiful side to Africa when I was there: wonderful caring people who embraced me and looked after me. There is - apparently - very little selfishness in the African character: they share willingly, and do favors for everyone, trying to make friends:

But this habit turns sinister when they get into power. A wealthy man is expected to give big gifts to his friends, and his friends - now enriched - are fiercely loyal to him. They help maintain his power.

This is how tribal societies work. It explains Iraq, as well as most of Africa.

Leaders are supposed to use whatever means they can to support those who helped them along the way. Anyone who does not play by these rules will have few friends (and thus no power). The cardinal sin in West African society is to refuse to play, and to be thought stingy (or as Sierra Leonians delightfully called it: "krabbitz.")

We see it as corruption, and when leaders do it, it is.

They don't, and that is part of the problem.

It is why any government we set up in Iraq is likely to be corrupt.

It might not be cruel. It might not be a threat to the world.

But it will be corrupt.


Where Africa excels

The story above doesn't have much hope for Africa.

But there is one field of endeavor in which Africa excels: srange stories involving genital mutilation and castration.

No other continent even comes close.

Consider the latest: "That politician stole my penis"

Monday, October 04, 2004

Robert Reich (?) gets one right

Robert Reich, Clinton's squirrelly Secretary of Labor, has finally written something I agree with:
Fannie and her smaller cousin, Freddie Mac, help finance about half the home mortgages in the United States. Their combined debt is now more than $2 trillion -- and on the way to exceeding the debt of the entire federal government. We're not talking peanuts here. Last year, Freddie got in trouble for accounting manipulations. Now, it's Fannie's turn.

Federal regulators say Fannie manipulated its earnings partly to allow its top executives huge bonuses. Sounds like the same tune we've been hearing on Wall Street for several years. But here's the difference -- and why we won't hear much about it in the presidential campaign. Fannie is a creature of Washington, not Wall Street. Its top executives and board members come from the highest rungs of both parties. It's one of the most generous campaign contributors in Washington, and its lobbyists are among the most powerful.

Fannie is a Washington power house in order to maintain its privileged position -- acting as if its debt is backed by the federal government, when in fact it isn't; borrowing money at a discount because financial markets assume that the feds will bail it out if it ever gets in trouble; using the cash pretty much as it wants; while at the same time avoiding tough federal oversight. Who could want anything more?

Yes, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are hopelessly corrupt, and they should be privatized.

There is a lesson here about absolute power.

Democracy works because it disperses power. There are different spheres of power: there are our politicians, surely, but there also our business leaders and religious leaders. There are the people in our media and entertainment industries, and people who run our charities, our civic institutions and our activist groups.

In a democracy, all function independently and power remains dispersed. It is unthinkable that Cardinal O'Hara or the head of Greenpeace would become a Senator, for example.

Sure, sometimes they work together and sometimes their interests overlap. But in general, these leadership positions are kept separate.

In other (less free) societies, the types of power are combined. This concentration of power leads to usually to corruption, and often to tyranny. Power corrupts, and concentration of power leads toward absolute power, which corrupts absolutely.

For example, the combination of religious and political power leads to theocracy - which is never a good thing in terms of human rights.

Likewise, when the interests of business and politics are joined, you have socialism and its inherent corruption: if your business is serving the people, who could possibly stand in your way? Anyone who would dare certainly needs to be re-educated, and if the people would question the government that serves them, they must be repressed. Socialism always evolves toward tyranny.

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are examples of a kind of pre-socialist collusion between the political and the business worlds. Their purpose, supposedly, is too altruistic to be left to cruel market forces alone, so they are managed tightly by the government.

Therefore, thay have all the inefficiency and lack of oversight common in government agencies. Their executives have the greed common in the business world, without having to submit to the accounting oversight that most investors - that is, investors in companies that the government won't bail out if it gets into trouble - would demand.

Fannie Mae cloaks itself in the righteous pursuit of the people's good, and no one can stand in its way. They are assured - supposedly - of a federal help if they screw up, and this has made them sloppy and careless.

Its part business; part government. The worst of both worlds.

Absolute power. Corrupting absolutely.

Just like always.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Arab hatred

People who think that the Palestinian "peace process" will make the Arab world rational again would do well to read the following. This is a "man on the street" interview where the TV interviewer asks Arabs a fairly innocuous question: would you shake hands with a Jew?

It is a glimpse into a terrible world, where reason takes a back seat to the most vile hatred seen since Hitler's Germany:
Interviewer: 'Would You, as a Human Being, be Willing to Shake Hands with a Jew?'

Respondent 1:

"Of course I wouldn't be willing to shake hands with a Jew, for religious reasons and because of what is happening now in Palestine, and for many reasons that don't allow me to shake a Jew's hand."

Respondent 2:

"No. Because the Jews are eternal enemies. The murderous Jews violate all agreements. I can't shake hands with someone who I know is full of hatred towards me."

Respondent 3:

"No, the Jew is an enemy. How can I shake my enemy's hand?"

Interviewer: "Would you refuse to shake hands with a Jew?"

Respondent 4:

"Of course, so I wouldn't have to consider amputating my hand afterwards."

Interviewer: 'If a Child Asks You Who 'Who are the Jews,' What Would You Answer?'

Respondent 5:

"The enemies of Allah and His Prophet."

Respondent 6:

"The Jew is the occupier of our lands."

Respondent 7:

"The murderers of prophets. Our eternal enemies, of course."

Respondent 2:

"The murderers of prophets, that's it."

Respondent 8:

"Allah's wrath is upon them, as the Koran says. Allah's wrath is upon them and they all stray from the path of righteousness. They are the filthiest people on the face of this earth because they care only about themselves - not the Christians, not the Muslims, nor any other religion.

"The solution is clear, not only to me but to everyone. If only [the Muslims] declared Jihad, we would see who stays home. We have a few countries… There is one country with a population of over 60-70 million people. If we let them only march, with no weapons even, they would completely trample the Jews, they would turn them into rotten carcasses under their feet. There is another country that donated money, saying, 'I am behind you, I'll support you with weapons, just wage [ Jihad ].'

"But the cowardice inside us, deep within our hearts, was instilled by the Arab leaders, may Allah forgive them. They breast-fed us with it from the day we were born to this very day it has grown with us."

It is people like this who make me wonder whether democratic institutions will ever have a future with the Arabs.

When the Germans expressed similar hatreds in the 30's and 40's, we fought them. They did not begin to rethink these silly ideas until they had lost millions of men, women and children. We fought their armies, but in the end, it was massive strategic bombing of their cities that made them quit.

My greatest fear is that we will once again be forced to commit that kind of genocide.

I'd love nothing more than to be wrong about that.

But such hatred is the sound of the sick patient, calling out for harsh medicine. We may have the unhappy job of adminstering it.


The racial profiling non-issue

The Harvard Crimson Online:
In a freewheeling question-and-answer session following the justice?s prepared remarks, an African-American graduate student challenged Scalia to defend the constitutionality of racial profiling.

The Kennedy School student, Larry Harris Jr., said that his Fourth and 14th Amendment rights had been violated when he was pulled over in Cambridge for, as he put it, driving while black.

Scalia was less convinced.

"What the Fourth Amendment prohibits is 'unnecessary search and seizure,'" the justice said. "Is it racial profiling prohibited by the Fourth Amendment for the police to go looking for a white man with blue eyes? Do you want to stop little old ladies with tennis shoes??"

The eccentric justice launched into a parody of a police radio dispatch under a scenario in which profiling were prohibited. "The suspect is 5'10", we know what he looks like, but we can't tell you," Scalia quipped, drawing laughter from the audience.

Harris was less amused. He said afterwards that "the flippancy with which [Scalia] dealt with the question was insensitive. It shows that on issues like this, he might be a little out of touch.?"

He's out of touch?

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