A display of the calm, dispassionate discourse appropriate to scientific inquiry:
Point: "Colorado State University's William Gray, one of the nation's preeminent hurricane forecasters, called noted Boulder climate researcher Kevin Trenberth an opportunist and a Svengali who 'sold his soul to the devil to get (global warming) research funding.'"
Counterpoint: "Trenberth countered that Gray is not a credible scientist. 'Not any more. He was at one time, but he's not any more,' Trenberth said of Gray, one of a handful of prominent U.S. scientists who question whether humans play a significant role in warming the planet by burning fossil fuels that release heat-trapping gases.
'He's one of the contrarians, some of whom get money to spread lies about global warming,' Trenberth said during a break following his presentation at the 31st annual Climate Diagnostics & Prediction Workshop.
Ah, the wonders of the analytical approach. More here.
This week's sports report can at least start on a high note: Victor's team won a very hard-fought indoor soccer match 5-4, with Victor scoring one goal. That was all the good news for the teams I support. The other results were less good: both Middlesbrough and Minnesota went down in games yesterday (oddly enough, I saw almost exactly half of each game).
Middlesbrough, playing at Manchester City, had a very sloppy first half (the half I did get to see), with far too many missed passes and what appeared to be an almost Italian national team level of injury (every five minutes, there seemed to be another Boro player down on the turf). Boro were handing out corner kicks like Halloween candies, and eventually City made them pay the price, going up 1-0 directly from a corner. The BBC match report is here.
Meanwhile, back in Minnesota, the Vikings were stinking up the Metrodome. I got home to find them down 10-0 near the end of the first half. Minnesota has the best rushing defence in the league right now, so you'd expect that teams would try to throw on them instead. Apparently that strategy never occurred to the Vikings coaching staff . . . because Patriot QB Tom Brady's relentless passing seemed to take them completely by surprise.
While the Vikings defence was being schooled in passing, the Vikings offence was doing everything they could to keep the ball in Brady's hands: Brad Johnson threw a season high three picks, and backup QB Brooks Bollinger added another. Bollinger had a tough entry to the game . . . he was sacked on three consecutive snaps, losing 20 yards.
About the only bright spot in the entire game for the Vikings was Mewelde Moore. He returned a punt 71 yards for Minnesota's only touchdown, and did some excellent work in the second half, including four receptions for 91 yards and one nice long run that was nullified by a penalty back at the line of scrimmage. The rest of the grim reading (unless you're a Patriots fan) is here.
If you started using web browsers with one of the modern tools (Firefox, Opera, etc.), you may find this link to be an eye-opener. It's an emulator, showing what web browsing was like in the early days . . . try opening a page you visit regularly with some of the early browsers. You'll quickly discover a much less interesting, less colourful, less easy-to-navigate web experience!
Parents know: Nothing undercuts your moral authority like Halloween. Don't eat so much candy. Don't take candy from strangers. Except today. Today it's fine. In fact, I insist. I'll drive you to strangers' houses. It's like having a day where adults give each other packs of cigarettes.
The actual collection of treats may be the least important part of Halloween. The costume comes first. Alas, many schools have banned costumes in favor of Fall Harvest Celebration — but not in my day, no sir. We called it Hail Satan Day. Ah, the memories — the smell of apple cider in the classroom, the crisp autumn breeze, the plaintive bleating of the goat as we led it to the altar . . . no more, of course. It's not "politically correct." But even then you had parents objecting about the whole Satan thing. Some wanted to hail Baal; the fundamentalists wanted to honor Samhein. Can't please everyone.
James Lileks, "What do kids want for Halloween? More", Star Tribune, 2006-10-26
This post at Samizdata persuaded me to order a couple of books:
I first encountered Tom Holland by reading his previous non-fiction work, Rubicon, about the rise and fall of the Roman Republic, which I wrote about here enthusiastically in June of this year. About Persian Fire — which is about the titanic struggle between the Greeks and the Persian Empire of Darius and then of his son Xerxes (Thermopylae, Marathon, Salamis etc.) — I am, if possible, even more enthusiastic. The same virtues are present in this book as in Rubicon: narrative grip, convincing analysis, and a story of overwhelming importance to anyone who wants to understand the world he lives in and how it got to be that way. This is a story I desperately wanted to learn about much more thoroughly than my patchy reading in ancient history had previously told me, and Persian Fire made it extremely easy for me to do just that.
A standard rave review meme is that this superb book screwed up the reviewer's everyday life, sleep patterns, holiday plans, etc., and if my experience is anything to go by Persian Fire triumphantly passes this test. I had all kinds of plans for this autumn, and they were severely deranged, given what a slow reader I am. The reading of other very good books was set aside. Big writing plans were postponed yet again. My living room remains the mess it was four months ago. And then even when I had finished reading Persian Fire I found that I did not then want to do, read or even think about anything much else, because I wanted to make sure that I had done my Samizdata review of it before it began to fade from the memory. So, if you read no further of this, read that this is one splendid book.
Amazon.com and Canada Post willing, I should be able to judge for myself whether these two books are as impressive as Brian Micklethwait writes.
Update: Bob McHenry posted a link in the comments at Samizdata to a less enthusiastic review from Roger Sandall.
In the last few weeks, Universal has been trying to actively suppress the fan base who did so much to publicize the movie Serenity. They're busy sending cease-and-desist orders to the small firms and individuals who have been selling Firefly and Serenity merchandise — including those which do not use images or artwork from the movie or TV shows.
While clearly on firm legal ground for this, the moral stance is particularly galling: they benefitted from literally thousands of hours of free work by fans, who went far beyond the call to raise awareness of the movie release, and who invested lots of time and money to try to make it a success. Universal should have either policed the merchandise earlier or made the licensing easier to access in order to at least go some way towards recompensing the individuals and small companies who've done so much (and, in hindsight, for so little from Universal).
Millenium Falcon versus Serenity (warning, written by a Firefly fan, so the result is not too surprising):
The Dangerous Chick that Comes Onboard And Can Kick Everyone's Butt: River Tam vs. Princess Leia: Okay, pre-Serenity movie, this was no question. Leia wins, all the way. But in the Serenity movie . . . "and start with the part where Jayne gets knocked out by a 90 pound girl, cause that's never getting old!"
Ideologies often claim to know what is best for everyone. Libertarians, who would rather leave the choices up to the individuals involved, can afford to admit that nobody knows what is best for everyone else. It is a distinction we should be proud of, as it makes us the only people in politics with a realistic outlook on life.
Darian Worden, "We Don't Have All the Answers", Libertarian Enterprise, 2006-10-29
Sophia Lever and her 13-year-old daughter, Storm, were looking for a Halloween costume on Friday. It turned out to be a long day.
For example, when they walked into Halloween Headquarters on Market Street, the first thing they saw was a wall of costumes that looked like they'd fit in better at Victoria's Secret than the Seven Hills School's Halloween party in Walnut Creek, which was where Storm was going after shopping.
The choices included "Sponge Bath Betty," a skimpy nurse's costume; "Home Wrecker," a construction-worker costume with a plunging neckline; and a "White Bunny" costume with a tiny skirt, white stockings and a garter belt.
[. . .]
And that's fine. Grown women can certainly make up their own minds. But what makes some parents uneasy is the way the racy outfits are targeting not only teenage girls but preteens, meaning girls 10 to 12 years old.
For example, "Sexy Army Lady" isn't incredibly revealing, but it has a definite sexual vibe. And what about "Miss Teddy Bare," another costume sized for younger girls?
"We have a French maid costume for a toddler," Jyoti says. "It's amazing."
I'm not sure if this is a trend that's already swept California, or if it's continent-wide . . . I haven't been looking at kids' costumes for a few years now, but you could probably have predicted it was coming, given the ongoing sexualization of children (James Lileks has ranted several times about the pre-teen skankware and the Bratz-style dolls now available).
It's just another sign of the apocalypse, or something like that I'm sure.
I love civil liberties. I'm glad the American Civil Liberties Union exists. If I weren't an agnotheist1, I'd bless their little hearts in my prayers every night. But I have to admit, more and more frequently, I find myself thinking "Don't they have anything better to do?" I mean, if nativity scenes on public squares are truly the greatest remaining threat to liberty in America, then hey, we might as well fold up the organisation and head home, because folks, we've won.
1 What on earth is an agnotheist? I hear you cry. It's an agnostic who puts a very, very low — yet non-zero! — value on P(God).
Jane Galt, "Amen", Asymmetrical Information, 2006-10-27
There are less than two weeks left before the 2006 "midterm" elections. Neither of the wings of the monolithic institution we call the "Boot On Your Neck Party" appears capable of offering the voters anything, for any office, anywhere, except mutants, monsters, and madmen.
And madwomen, of course.
L. Neil Smith, "Repulsive Choices, 2006", Libertarian Enterprise, 2006-10-22
I suspect someone has a minor issue with conversion from Imperial to metric measurement here:
The body of the article gets the figure a little closer to reality: 1,127 kilometres.
Also amusing . . . the ad that appears above the headline.
A fascinating summary of the newly revised US National Space Policy, at Hit and Run:
"The danger against which we all must be vigilant," [Robert Luaces, U.S. representative to the U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) First Committee on Disarmament and International Security] said, "is not some theoretical arms race in space, but threats that would deny peaceful access to and use of space — especially ground-based space denial capabilities intended to impede the free access to and use of space systems and services."
In other words, space is ours, bitches.
Which isn't to say that there won't be lots of space-based fun for all. Said Luaces: "We also believe other nations have the right to be in space as well, and that those nations who have space systems, services and capabilities in space have the right of free passage; that is, their satellites should be able to go wherever they go unimpeded." The document should also give hope to commerical/private space nerds, with significant verbiage mandating coordinated government action to "enable a dynamic, globally competitive domestic commercial space sector in order to promote innovation, strengthen U.S. leadership, and protect national, homeland, and economic security."
From dictionary.com, a rider is "a clause, usually having little relevance to the main issue, that is added to a legislative bill." One would be hard pressed to find an issue that has less to do with port security than online gambling. Riders are a sneaky, underhanded way of passing legislation that wouldn't stand up to a vote on its own and they are used by almost every politician in Congress. As an individual bill, the online gambling ban was having trouble getting to the floor in the Senate due to lack of interest (although it passed the House with overwhelming support from both parties). Instead of accepting defeat, Bill Frist, Enemy to Democracy, decided in his infinite arrogance and tyranny to force this bill on us through a rider. So now we have a law passed that was unable to garner the support of a majority in Congress, much less a majority of the American people. Allowing ridiculous riders like this to pass in such a fashion is undemocratic, unfair and absurd. If tyranny of the majority weren't bad enough, we have this whole system in place that allows and encourages the passing of laws that even the majority won't pass! The worst part is that almost everyone in this country is aware of this problem and chooses to not do anything about it.
The issue of riders is one that almost everyone agrees needs fixing, so why is no one motivated to do anything about it? This is partly due to the fact that most riders are minor spending pork riders rather than big liberty eroding ones such as this latest, and people care less about such. This is also partly due to ignorance and a lack of understanding by some voters on how often this occurs and how it undermines democracy. Ultimately though, the real problem here is the two party system. Every person who votes for their party no matter what wrongs they do just to keep "that other party" out of office is enabling these politicians to get away with this crap. Every person who votes for a Republican or a Democrat rather than a preferred third party candidate for fear of "wasting their vote" is enabling these politicians to get away with this crap. Stop enabling politicians to violate our democracy like this, America!
At last! A use for Bluetooth!
H/T to "Tom".
The latest issue of the OntarioWineReview is now available. The feature article this time is a visit to the Mountain Road Wine Company in Beamsville:
As you climb Mountain Road, which starts in the middle of Beamsville, you begin to wonder if you're actually on the right path. But soon, as you crest the hill, you see a sign that says "Mountain Road Wine Company" and you breathe a sigh of relief; but as you turn right into their driveway, the doubt in your mind is renewed. An old steel barn-like building to your right, a large rusty tractor straight ahead, to your left a house — all looking innocuous enough but unlike any other winery you've ever seen. As you make the turn into the parking area, you'll notice a short brick wall that acts as a barrier between the lot and the tree-shaded pond beyond it. From the vantage of your newly acquired parking spot, you are probably under the impression that you are in the midst of some junkyard oasis. Is this really the right place? As you step out of your car and turn to face the building, you notice a small path to the left, leading into an alcove, this is the main entrance to the tasting room of the Mountain Road Wine Company. This is a cottage winery. This is how the big guys got their start, selling wine out of their basement, one bottle at a time. This winery boasts no fancy building; no monstrosity of a production facility; no gravity-flow, high tech machinery; just good, small batch, artisan winemaking.
By the description, the place hasn't changed at all since Brendan and I last visited the winery. We were both absolutely sure we'd turned into the wrong driveway (and starting to hear the distant strumming of banjo music . . .).
[Australia's half-billion dollar gun buyback program] made no difference for the same reason as establishing the gun registry in Canada has made no difference — it's already illegal to shoot people.
Despite laws banning the practice, the problem of people shooting people (along with the closely related "kniving people" and "bludgeoning people") persists. Faced with that difficult reality, gun control advocates turn to delusion as a solution — arguing that laws against owning murder weapons will succeed where laws against commiting murder have failed.
Kate McMillan, "Gun Control Failure", Small Dead Animals, 2006-10-24
Someone should be cringing for their work on some of these advertising embarassments. Yikes!
The Armorer has a good post up about the Charge of the Light Brigade, which took place on this date in 1854. For a more irreverant view of the battle, you can't beat George Macdonald Fraser's Flashman at the Charge, which does a great job of illustrating just how amateurish and incompetent the British leadership was . . . and how even with all of that, it still took a great deal of inter-personal blundering to make the Charge happen.
Update: Good God! There's even a Wikipedia entry for Flashman at the Charge!
James Dunnigan sets the record straight on the relationship between the Islamic world and the rest of it:
The war on terror is all about defending innocent people from Islamic terrorists. Or is it? In much of the Islamic world, the war on terror is seen as a smokescreen for all-out war on Islam by infidels (non-Moslems.) How did that happen? It's all got to do with paranoia, lies and incompetence in the Moslem, and particularly, the Arab, world.
Let's start with the basics. Like economics and being able to feed yourself. The Moslem world contains some of the most economically backward and inept nations on the planet. Despite all the oil wealth, economic growth in the Arab world is at the bottom of the list (just above sub-Saharan Africa, which has much less oil.) This is no accident. Islam has, over the centuries, evolved into a religion that discourages education, critical thinking and technical progress. Islam also has large sects, like the Wahabi in Saudi Arabia, that are violently intolerant of other religions (no other religion can have a house of worship in Saudi Arabia, for example), and openly preaches hatred, intolerance, and the use of violence, against infidels. Moslems tend to downplay all this, and blame their lack of performance on the machinations of infidels.
Islamic media tends towards the sensationalistic, paranoid and dogmatic. It's taken as a given, for example, that the September 11, 2001 attacks were a Jewish plot (even though al Qaeda has proudly admitted to it) and that the West is bent on destroying Islamic culture? What's to destroy? The Islamic world doesn't produce any new medicines, agricultural concepts or technology that benefits all of humanity. Even educated Arabs admit that something is wrong here. But these critics are in a minority, and are persecuted for such clear thinking if they become too vocal about it.
H/T to The Armorer.
Lois McMaster Bujuld, author of the "Vorkosigan" SF series and the "Chalion" fantasy series, is guest-blogging this week at the EOS Books blog. In her first posting today, she talks about some of the differences between her writing habits and those of other writers:
It was suggested that among things of interest to readers I might post in my week of guest blogging would be out-takes, discarded bits and pieces of the recent book that would show my writing process at work. Now, there are as many processes as there are writers, but mine doesn't leave much on the cutting room floor readable by any eyes other than mine (and sometimes not even by mine — what word was that penciled squiggle intended to be . . . ?), because most of my structural revision takes place at the outline stage, which is ornate and multi-layered, more resembling thinking out loud on paper than anything else. After the first draft goes onto the page, revisions, for me, tend to be a line here, a paragraph there, partial re-tooling of a scene, but very seldom wholesale slaughter of bad ideas that didn't grind to a halt quite fast enough. This is not only because my prose sets up like concrete and I have to revise with a jackhammer, and I hates it, Precious, although there's an element of that, too.
Also, for those interested, the sample chapters from her latest book, The Sharing Knife: Beguilement are available here. While I must admit that the book didn't grab me as much as her "Chalion" books have done, this is only the first half of the story, so I'm still hoping that the second part (due out next year) will be more to my — admittedly uneducated — taste.
Jacob Sullum looks into the actual provisions of the latest attempt by the US fe
deral government to ban online gambling:
Contrary to early press reports, Congress has not banned online gambling. Instead it has opted to maintain an uncertain legal environment in which businesses that cater to Americans' taste for betting run the risk of harassment and prosecution by overzealous Justice Department officials who twist the law to fit their moral views.
The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, which was tacked onto a bill dealing with port security right before Congress adjourned for the elections, makes it a federal crime, punishable by up to five years in prison, to receive a payment in connection with "unlawful Internet gambling." It also mandates regulations requiring financial institutions to block such payments.
But the act defines "unlawful Internet gambling" as online wagering that is already prohibited by state or federal law. It explicitly does not expand the category of forbidden gambling.
So, if Sullum's reading is correct, the bill is nothing more than a last-minute election ploy, rather than a considered, deliberate attempt to kill a thriving online business. Cynical as hell, yes, but not actually much more in the way of government interference.
Update: Radley Balko has more:
In the wee hours of the last night of the last session of Congress, Majority Leader Bill Frist attached a ban on Internet gambling to a port security bill.
It was a dubious maneuver, which not only prevented any real floor debate over the ban, but also attached an intrusive, unnecessary, big government measure to a bill that addressed important national security concerns. This meant that any senator who held the position that what Americans do with their own money in their own homes on their own time is none of the government's business couldn't vote against the gambling ban, lest they risk being smacked about the head with the "soft on national security" cudgel.
If Frist's move was underhanded, it was also wholly appropriate, given the way the GOP has handled this issue. The debate — to the extent that there has actually been one — has been marred by misdirection, red herrings, and a certain obliviousness among the bill's supporters to, well, reality.
That's a legislative mechanism I always forget about . . . but it seems that the very worst laws are passed by being attached to other bills and being voted on with the bill they're "riding". It always seems to be the worst examples of new restrictions on individuals' and corporations' economic freedoms, bans of consensual interactions, and criminalization of otherwise harmless activities that come into law using this mechanism.
You might well be able to make a case that the "rider" is one of the least democratic ways of making laws: because they're attached to bills that get the vast majority of the scrutiny of the legislators, they often appear to be passed unread by the legislature.
It's hard to sympathize with the woe-is-us crowd of journalists when you learn that the number of full-timers employed by U.S. news-media organizations today has increased by almost 70 percent compared with 1971, according to The American Journalist in the 21st Century. The book doesn't even include in its census the new jobs in online newsrooms or at the business-wire upstart Bloomberg News.
The idea that a newsroom should employ X hundred staffers because it has traditionally employed X hundred staffers ignores the changes technology has made in the news market. For instance, Tribune critics denounce it for cutting the foreign bureaus at the Baltimore Sun and Newsday, which it owns. But should every metropolitan newspaper keep its Moscow or Jerusalem bureaus when readers can click to Web coverage from the New York Times and the international press, especially when many of those papers are losing circulation? Something's got to give.
Jack Shafer, "If You Don't Buy This Newspaper . . . We'll shoot your democracy.", Slate, 2006-10-24
An old friend of mine has started her own publishing company: Kitsune Books. There are only a couple of initial offerings, but who knows where this one may lead?
Palestine is the new Cuba, a political cause whose invocation has the effect of instantaneously anesthetizing the upper brain functions of those who believe in it.
Terry Teachout, "Bulldozed by Naiveté: Terror advocate dies in accident. Atrocious drama ensues.", OpinionJournal.com, 2006-10-23
Who'd you rather spend time with? Hot Swedish nightclubbers or the folks who look like they're just back from a really bad game at St. James' Park?
Of course, there's no indication that the comparison is fair . . .
H/T to Johnathan Pearce at Samizdata.
Temujin has published the latest Red Ensign Standard over at West Coast Chaos. Go and see what the rest of the Red Ensign Brigade has been posting about recently.
Remember, if you're interested in joining the Red Ensign Brigade, you can contact me or any of the bloggers in the unit.
First, Middlesbrough finally managed to win back-to-back games in the Premiership, winning against Newcastle in the Tyne-Tees derby. It was only a 1-0 final line, but Boro have been needing something to get them back on the winning track . . . they're sitting in the middle of the pack, standings-wise, with only 11 points from nine games played.
Then, Minnesota had a great result visiting Seattle, beating the Seahawks by a score of 31-13. The upset was helped along substantially by a knee injury to Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle's starting quarterback. Chester Taylor had his best day as a Viking, including a 95-yard run, breaking a team record. The loss broke Seattle's streak of a dozen games undefeated at home.
Finally, Victor's team opened their indoor soccer season with an unfortunate loss, 9-7, but Victor himself did well, scoring one goal and nullifying the best player on the opposing side. Victor and Cody were on the same team the previous two years, so Victor has had plenty of opportunity to study Cody's moves and try to figure out how to stop him.
A few weeks back, Elizabeth and I took my mother for a drive up to the southern reaches of Algonquin Park. We were hoping to catch some of the glorious fall colours, but we mis-timed it for Algonquin: most of the reds and golds had long since faded to browns and yellows. In spite of that, it was a lovely drive and we enjoyed the scenery. Here are a few photos taken along the way:
The last image was on our way home, alongside Highway 35 south of the park. I didn't have a tripod, so the image is a bit shaky, but I'm glad I stopped to try taking it.
A couple of links that were worth passing along:
We grown-ups, however public-spirited, are all now assumed guilty until proved innocent.
As a result, adults are being deterred from offering to help with children. The Girl Guides and Scouts are chronically short of volunteers: the Guides have a waiting list of 50,000, the Scouts 30,000, and some parents have resorted to signing their children up at birth. These checks will reveal not just convictions, but also offences of which people were accused but not convicted. This could wreck the lives of adults who have been falsely accused. [. . .]
One of the nicer aspects of being a child used to be the random acts of kindness offered by adults outside the family: the friendly shopkeeper who ruffled your hair and gave you a sweet; the enthusiastic PE coach who gave up time after school to help with your gymnastics and was constantly — and wholly innocently — adjusting your body position to get the moves right. These adults were generous with their time and their affection. We knew who the pervs were and took pains to avoid them.
Now all adults are deemed to be perverts unless they can prove that they are not. Most will now avoid contact with other people's children and will refrain from touching them for fear of the action being misconstrued.
Mary Ann Sieghart, "The Bill that will kill trust between the generations", TimesOnline, 2006-10-19
All I can say is that I've been just a tad distracted this week.
For those of you who contacted me, thank you for your concern. Unlike the last time I faced sudden unemployment, I will not have to sue my former employer . . . the notice and severance package they've offered me is actually quite generous. I won't need to worry about not being able to feed the family and keep a roof over our heads. Not immediately, anyway.
But, as a result, I've been neglecting the blog . . . and with the work situation deteriorating over the last few weeks, it has clearly shown in both number of posts and in their quality. Sorry about that . . . full refunds are, of course being offered (original receipts required).
Jon sent along a link which might be useful to those who haven't yet found out how addictive online gaming can be:
First off, let's go back to the time it takes to accomplish anything in the game. To really be successful, you need to at least invest 12 hours a week, and that is bare minimum. From a leadership perspective, that 12 hours would be laughed at. That's the guy who comes unprepared to raid and has to leave half way through because he has work in the morning or is going out or some other thing that shows "lack of commitment". To the extreme there is the guildie who is always on and ready to help. The "good guildie" who plays about 10 hours a day and seven days a week. Yes, that's almost two full-time jobs. Funny, no one ever asks any questions, though.
The worst though are the people you know have time commitments. People with families and significant others. I am not one to judge a person's situation, but when a father/husband plays a video game all night long, seven days a week, after getting home from work, very involved instances that soak up hours and require concentration, it makes me queasy that I encouraged that. Others include the kids you know aren't doing their homework and confide in you they are failing out of high school or college but don't want to miss their chance at loot, the long-term girl/boyfriend who is skipping out on a date (or their anniversary — I've seen it) to play (and in some cases flirt constantly), the professional taking yet another day off from work to farm mats or grind their reputations up with in-game factions to get "valuable" quest rewards, etc. . . I'm not one to tell people how to spend their time, but it gets ridiculous when you take a step back.
An unbelievable post at Samizdata:
The threats to liberty in Britain are too numerous to keep track of. Thanks to Josie Appleton on Spiked! for this, which I had entirely missed before now:
The Safeguarding Vulnerable Groups Bill, due to return to the House of Commons next week, will mean that 9.5million adults — one third of the adult working population — will be subject to ongoing criminal checks.
It is a House of Lords Bill, but has Government backing.
The Bill would create an Independent Barring Board (IBB), which would maintain "barred lists" preventing listed individuals from engaging in "regulated activities". "In respect of an individual who is included in a barred list, IBB must keep other information of such description as is prescribed." [cl.2(5)]
And, just like the US government's No Fly lists, once you're on, you can't get off . . . leading to situations like this:
The practical effect? Well, as an example, as I understand it, if the Bill were currently law, I would be committing a criminal offence in paying someone I trust to look after my elderly mother, who is currently convalescing from an operation, without both of us being made subject to official monitoring first.
And the government springs to action . . . to create a "solution" which will be worse than the problem it is allegedly designed to address.
As I alluded to in an earlier post, the Turk came for a visit today and asked me to turn in my
playbook access card. I'm back to what we in the software business call "consulting".
Unlike the last time I was in this situation, my employer handled it with a fair amount of grace and tact . . . not the least of which was that I was allowed to go around and say goodbye to the folks I'd been working with for the past eight years. I still don't know what my package looks like, as they are supposed to be sending it to me by courier tomorrow. I hope the "class act" doesn't wear out when I open that envelope.
Radley Balko was in New Orleans a few weeks ago, and took some photos . . .
There is a fine line between fiction and nonfiction, and I believe Jimmy Buffett and I snorted it in 1976.
Kinky Friedman, as quoted by Matt Labash in "Kinky Friedman Runs for Governor: But is it good for the Texans?", Weekly Standard, 2006-10-16
Talking about social security is like attending a cocktail party full of accountants: everyone spends the whole time doing disgusting things to innocent numbers.
Jane Galt, "Social security sleight of hand", Asymmetrical Information, 2006-10-11
I note these leaders are all "Anglo-Saxons," and that the Continental European politicians who tried to be like them (Aznar in Spain, Berlusconi in Italy) were thrown out of office for their efforts. For some reason, when it comes to understanding certain hard facts about how the world works, "English as a first language" really seems to help.
Yet for all the best efforts of our Anglosphere and its sometime allies, our overall western response to the challenge of an aggressively violent totalitarianism remains profoundly timid. Our national debate should not be about what to do in Afghanistan, but what to do in Iran. About how China is poised to exploit our difficulties. Instead of bringing troops home, we should be thinking about how to double, quadruple, or octuple our military, for the grim scenes ahead. And what social programs to sacrifice to pay for all that.
We should be surveying the contemporary landscape like eagles, not ostriches.
David Warren, "Many Faraway Quarrels", Western Standard, 2006-10-09
I don't blog about my employer, for both obvious and obscure reasons. This past few weeks have been fraught: my company has been taken over by a competitor, and there's much fear and loathing in the halls as we adapt to our new reality. We are all, to one extent or another, waiting for the Turk to call:
For a two-week period each year in late summer, NFL players, who generally are a resilient and tough-minded group, are reduced to bundles of insecurity and nervousness while waiting to hear if their names make the final roster.
It's cut down time in the NFL. Time for the Turk.
Who is this Turk? He is the individual assigned by the organization to go to a player's room, knock on his door and utter those dreaded words: "The coach wants to see you — and bring your playbook." In short, the Turk is the NFL version of the Grim Reaper.
Of course I've changed. That's just a part of being alive. You should not have the same views at 74 that you had at 34. On the other hand, I think in certain basic principles I haven't changed, but the world has changed a great deal. I believe deeply in free speech, free trade, free love, free drugs for old people, the public health system. Those are all liberal keystones. And in 1965 you'd have to be voting Liberal or New Democrat to push any of those planks.
I also believe in a robust foreign policy. And in the 1960s, with [Lester] Pearson as prime minister, I don't think we had any reason to be ashamed of our foreign policy. I was a Pearson Liberal. He certainly is my favourite prime minister — a man who never got a majority in the House of Commons, but nevertheless accomplished more than anyone else. The health system came under him, the flag. A new rapprochement with the provinces was part of his legacy. And he did that in five years with a minority government and a maniac named [John] Diefenbaker leading the Tories and shouting at him from across the House. I think that was a huge achievement. I voted for that Liberal party and if that Liberal party existed today, I might vote for them again. If Diefenbaker's Conservative party existed today, they wouldn't have a chance of getting my vote.
Robert Fulford, interviewed by Marni Soupcoff in "Question Period: Robert Fulford", Western Standard, 2006-10-09
Items that might once have grown into full posts:
If we insist — by applying social pressure, as in the U.K., or by making laws, as in France — that Muslim women must not wear the hijab or the burkha, then we should logically also require nuns to (at least in public) shed their habit. We should then perhaps also nix yarmulkes and turbans, à la the French. Come to think of it, is a golden cross or a star of David or a Wiccan pentangle worn around the neck an example of people potentially making others uncomfortable, inappropriately shoving their religion into others' faces? Do we allow orthodox Jews to wear black hats and side curls? May teenage girls wear WWJD bracelets without risking setting us off? Could Amish folks pose an affront to our secular or "neutral" preferences when they openly wear straw hats and ride horse-drawn buggies?
Live and let live. If Muslim women want to dress in dour black tents, or if the Pope is hellbent on proudly preening his pointy hat, I'll be the last person to stop them. At the same time, of course, I do reserve the right to laugh like a hyena at their chosen outfits (that picture above, for instance, really tickles my funny bone). And they shouldn't be surprised, much less hurt, if others shun them or regard them with suspicion based on those get-ups and on what those get-ups signify.
I dreaded shots as a kid; who didn't? The nurse had a trick: She'd hold a box up to my eyes, and ask me what color I saw. "Red," I'd say, thinking: Blood red! When it changed from red to green, she asked me again, and as my brain processed the new information and prepared a response, she jabbed with the drill bit into my tender arm. It certainly took my mind off the problem, but to this day I can't go through a traffic signal without feeling like I deserve a balloon.
James Lileks, "Daily Quirk: Roll up your sleeve; it's jabbin' time", Star Tribune, 2006-10-10
Today's random selection of stuff includes . . .
We have a government in power now that feels it can spy on us without a warrant, that it can apprehend and detain anyone it wants for any reason at all — also without a warrant — torture them, all while holding them indefinitely without access to a lawyer. This is a government that couldn't even bring itself to give a definitive "no" when asked if it felt it had the power to assassinate American citizens. Not only that, but many in this government and many of its allies believe they should have the power to arrest and imprison any journalist who dares to write about all of the above. This is also the most secretive administration we've ever seen, as well as one that routinely abuses the classification process, classifying politically damaging information while declassifying formerly "sensitive" information when it deems that doing so might score political points.
These things ought to scare the crap out of you. Frankly, if I had to come up with a definition of "tyranny," it'd be hard to do better than the paragraph above.
Radley Balko, "What Matters", TheAgitator.com, 2006-10-09
Another edition of "if only I had more time" . . .
I'm normally all in favor of taking advantage of market incentives, but things like this can backfire too. I recall reading a study about a nursery school that started fining parents for picking up their kids late. This actually led to more late pickups, because arriving late stopped being seen as discourteous to the people running the school, and instead was seen as a luxury parents could buy.
Julian Sanchez, "Have You Stopped Beating the Poor Yet?", Hit and Run, 2006-10-10
More links that might have turned into articles if I had any spare time at all right now . . .
A blanket "thank you" to Jon for forwarding several links to me over the past few days.
When confronted with the question of single-payer health care, Democratic economists often seem to suddenly act as if all the normal rules they take for granted about markets had been repealed. Pharmaceutical companies apparently do not respond to incentives, and so will continue to invent drugs even if we drive down the price to the marginal cost of producing the pills. Also, unlike other markets, competition between different providers is bad: we should have just one pill for every condition. And the government does an excellent job of identifying and filling consumer needs, so that its success at funding basic research will translate directly into inventing good drugs. Also, apparently there are never any suboptimal equilibria in monopsony markets, so that if the US decreases its funding for research, the French will altruistically pick up the slack. This even though the lack of new drugs will not be politically traceable to the decision to force pharmaceutical companies to price at marginal cost.
Jane Galt, "Yes, Virginia, there are tradeoffs", Asymmetrical Information, 2006-10-06
Autobiography is only to be trusted when it reveals something disgraceful. A man who gives a good account of himself is probably lying, since any life when viewed from the inside is simply a series of defeats.
George Orwell, "Notes on Dali",Dickens,Dali & Others: Studies in Popular Culture, 1944
Now here's an intriguing team. They can run the ball, throw the ball, stop the run, create turnovers and make plays on special teams. They're a five-tool team. So what can't they do? Other than stay out of trouble?
Anyway, if the Patriots don't have what it takes this winter for a fourth Super Bowl appearance, I'm pulling hard for Cincy to make it to Miami. And why? Because the Bengals would be out in Miami for two weeks!!!! Hide the women, hide the children, hide the Maxim models . . . here come the Bengals! That would be the single greatest week in ESPN history. ESPN should station Ed Werder and Shelley Smith 24/7 outside the Miami Dade County courthouse right now just to be safe. Seriously, what would feature more arrests, Super Bowl week with the Bengals or Season 1 of "Miami Vice?" I'm 18 levels beyond giddy about this.
Bill Simmons, "Strength in numbers", ESPN.com, 2006-09-30
The Homework Conspiracy: Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post reported that new studies by Duke University's Program on Education conclude, "Elementary school students receive no benefit from homework." The new book "The Homework Myth" by Alfie Kohn comes to the same conclusion, adding that in middle school more than 90 minutes of homework per night, and in high school more than two hours per night, backfire by reducing grades and test scores. The reasons are plain as the nose on your face — too much homework leaves kids tired in the morning and makes them sick of education, while denying the time they need to goof off and be kids. Yet despite research showing large amounts of homework actively injurious to education, homework requirements have been rising steadily in public schools. Tuesday Morning Quarterback thinks he knows why: Teachers are using homework to exact vengeance on parents.
Since the National Commission on Education declared, in 1983, that "educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people," parents have been complaining nonstop about schools. Set aside that the declaration of the National Commission on Education contains a grammatical error — "nation" is not a proper noun and in this usage should not be capitalized. The 1983 report put school performance into the headlines. The media now stereotype public schoolteachers as muttonheads who oppose high standards and are more concerned with union politics and political correctness than teaching the basics and classics. (In my experience, teachers spend most of their time on basic subjects and classic texts.) The annoyingly large subset of "helicopter parents" now constantly second-guesses teachers. Meanwhile salaries of doctors, lawyers and other professionals keep accelerating toward the asteroid belt, while teachers are expected to work for love rather than money. The teachers' revenge? Assign loads of homework. Assigning loads of work is a great CYA tactic against complaints about standards. More important, teachers know too much homework renders home life unhappy during the evening when exhausted moms and dads are trying to relax. In those glistening suburban houses with the flat-panel TVs and granite countertops, kids are crying about homework and parents are stressed about homework — take that, helicopter parents! Plus, teachers know that many moms and dads not only help kids with their homework, but end up doing the homework. Assigning extra homework makes affluent parents miserable, exacting the public teachers' vengeance.
Gregg Easterbrook, "Page 2: Marketing HS football's scary", ESPN.com, 2006-10-02
Our "public servants" are increasingly secretive, increasingly less accountable, increasingly infused with a sense of privilege, and increasingly of the opinion that they're above the law. The Foley imbroglio is only the latest example of what can happen when we continue to let them think that way.
Radley Balko, "Privileges of the Ruling Class", TheAgitator.com, 2006-10-03
People need to start thinking of Islam in the same manner as they thought of Communism. Islam may be a religion but it is also has an imposed 'whole life' view that makes it indistinguishable from a political ideology. If Muslims want their religion to be treated with tolerance, they need to de-secularise it in the same way Christianity has (largely) done. But for as long as Islam advocates an imposed political order based on religious principles, it must not be treated either legally or socially as being above critique on any level whatsoever.
Islam is the problem and, just like Communism and Fascism, it is simply incompatible with western post-Enlightenment civilisation. And also just like Communism and Fascism, it must be contained or defeated militarily when it threatens us but it must also be defeated as an ideology as well.
Perry de Havilland, "Violence is just a symptom... it is all about Islam", Samizdata, 2006-10-04
[Modesty is a really odd word]. The way burkha lovers use it, it's supposed to convey the chaste, humble message that the female form mustn't draw attention to itself. But the garment chosen to attain that goal is hardly modest in the sense of inconspicuous. In fact, in any Western setting, a burkha is likely to be the most conspicuous sartorial choice of all. A woman in a burkha is exactly as in-your-face (and as out of place) as a bikini-clad Paris Hilton on a commuter train, and just as impossible to visually ignore as a leather fetishist wearing a huge studded codpiece to a dinner party.
You could say that the codpiece is a really "modest" clothing choice, too. Hey, it completely covers the guy's package, doesn't it? And yet, it also makes an aggressive, confrontational statement that, to me, is pretty much the opposite of modest.
Rogier van Bakel, "On Muslims and Modesty", Nobody's Business, 2006-10-01
We'll know in six weeks if this liberal fright mask is enough to save the GOP majority, but it's not too soon to say that Republicans in the 109th have been a major disappointment. The best thing about this Congress is that by doing little at least it did little harm.
"The GOP Record", OpinionJournal.com, 2006-10-02
Jon sent a link to this article on the differences between the Arab and Western worlds:
In Eastern Europe and the South Balkans, whenever I have gone to live in a place which I had formed opinions about, the actual experience of living there has always radically changed those opinions, sometimes into a completely contradictory ones. Most often, my academic research led me to form a beautifully coherent model which experience turned into a semi-coherent collection of observations and tentative conclusions.
In the case of the Kingdom, I went there with a certain sympathy for Arab grievances, a belief that America had earned a lot of hostility from "blowback" from our ham-handed interventionist foreign policy and support for Israel etc.
I came back with the gloomy opinion that over the long run we are going to have to hammer these people hard to get them to quit messing with Western Civilization.
Autonomous Source is running a poll for the most annoying Canadian. The competition is strong, but (as of right now), Jack! is enjoying a massive lead (he's got 40% of the vote, in a field of 24).
You can vote for your candidate once per day until the end of December. Let's see if Jack! can hold his early lead . . .
The inevitable backlash to Jamie Oliver's healthy school lunch initiative:
In common with all state schools, sweets, chocolates and crisps have been taken out of the vending machines and off the meal counters. Bowls of fresh fruit have replaced racks of doughnuts with jugs of water and sugar-free drinks being served in place of bottles of fizzy pop.
But the Government overlooked one crucial point when it instituted these changes — and that is that changing the law doesn't change children's minds. Any teacher will tell you that children don't learn much when they're being taught by fascists. While children's food intake is very heavily policed in school, outside the gates they are free to do what they want.
Sweet shop owners around the country must be rubbing their hands with glee. Where I live, shopkeepers tell me of a huge upsurge in business before and after school. They're raking in money by the bucket load but the school canteen coffers are virtually empty.
One school caterer I know called Jane, said: "It's a real disaster for us. We're losing £70 a day compared with last year."
Explaining that the new guidelines mean food preparation is much more labour intensive than before, she added: "I've had to hire more staff to make the food but the kids are just not coming along. The canteen is half-full at lunchtimes. I feel in a state of despair."
Of course, the next step will be to ban the sale of crisps, chocolate, and fizzy pop within 500 metres of a school. I'm sure that that would solve the problem handily. Oh, and serious penalties for people who try to bootleg the contraband within the junk food exclusion zones. Oh, and banning any adverts in which the banned substances might appear.
Enforcing the ban might be difficult, but — having solved every other problem in sight — I'm sure the nanny state is up to the task.
Here is a list of sure-fire, can't fail, methods for screwing up a project:
[. . .]
3. Set up ongoing committees focusing on management process (such as TQM groups, etc.) and make project team members participate in frequent meetings and write lots of reports . . . preferably when critical project deadlines are coming due.
4. Interrupt team members relentlessly . . . preferably during their time off. Find all sorts of trivial issues that "need to be addressed," then keep their beepers and cell phones ringing and bury them in emails to keep them off balance.
5. Create a culture in which project managers are expected to "roll over" and take it when substantive new deliverables are added halfway through the project. (After all, only a tradesperson like a plumber or electrician would demand more money or more time for additional services; our people are "professionals" and should be prepared to be "flexible.")
[. . .]
Several high-tech firms I've worked for clearly had the entire list down cold . . . but it had been accidentally mis-labelled as "Project Management Bible". That's the only way I can account for the number of companies in the field who do all the things listed in the checklist deliberately.
Hat tip to Rick Bishop, who sent this link to the Tech Writing mailing list.
Canadians are very trusting. Much more of life exists on the honor system here.
For instance, at a tourist spot, the cashier asked us if we were AAA members, since that would entitle us to a discount. We said we were, and she just replied, "Well ok then." Michelle automatically pulled out her card as proof, and the cashier was a little surprised. And at the motel where we're staying, my keycard had become demagnetized, and at the front desk they didn't ask for any proof of who I was before rekeying it to the room I requested.
Canada (or at least BC) seems altogether quite a bit like, say, Minnesota: white, economically and socially quite liberal in its politics, but pretty conservative in the lives of its citizens.
Steve Sailer pointed out once that such local homogeneity and personal conservatism often leads to political liberalism because the polity assumes that everyone else will be as prudent and responsible as they are, and therefore they don't percieve things like welfare as an antisocial incentive. After all, who would choose to live on payments off the government when they could just work hard and save like us and everyone else we know?
Russell Wardlow, "Canada", Mean Mr. Mustard 2.0, 2006-09-21
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