I'm almost starting to feel sorry for the folks at Cuil. First it was the less-than-stellar grand opening, then the snarky commentary from folks who tried the service but were unimpressed, and now it turns out that their name is uncool:
Seeing as how new search engine Cuil.com is, well, a search engine, its founders might have known that people could easily check online the company's claim that the word "cuil" means "knowledge" in Irish. Because, in fact, it doesn't.
Members of an online Irish language forum have been discussing the word and the company's claims of its definition. They say the word is most often translated to mean "corner" or "nook," but has sometimes been used for "hazel," as in the nut.
An online Irish language dictionary defines cúil as "rear." Another uses cuil to describe various kinds of flies. So while the word, or versions of it with and without accent marks, can mean a few different things, most Irish language enthusiasts say it doesn't mean anything like knowledge, despite Cuil.com's claims.
Megan McArdle is a map junkie:
When you see the map, it becomes radically apparent just how firmly Britain was the root of the Industrial revolution. With the lone exception of Japan, the darkest places on the map are either next to Britain, or former British colonies. And aside from Saudi Arabia and Chile, all the growth seems to spread outward from those Anglosphere points of infection. Nowhere, not even Saudi Arabia, has the income density of Western Europe and North America.
And it's hard not to agree with this sentiment:
It's a pity that geography is so rarely taught in schools above the third grade level — there's an enormous amount to learn about societies just from looking at maps.
The only Canadian distributor for Apple's iPhone says that they're still selling very well:
Sales of the iPhone in Canada are still outpacing supply, but the device's exclusive carrier Rogers Wireless (TMX:RCI.B) says it's getting weekly shipments from manufacturer Apple Inc. to help meet the demand.
The much-hyped iPhone went on sale across the country July 11 amid hoopla and buzz similar to the launch of a sought-after video game. Hundreds of Canadians lined up to buy the iPhone at Rogers stores across the country — albeit a year after the device was available to U.S. consumers.
What consumers waited hours for is a next-generation version of the smartphone that lets users surf the Internet and check their email with the added bonus that it works just like an iPod, storing and playing music and video.
"Sales continue to exceed supply and we continue to receive weekly incoming shipments from Apple thanks to pre-ordered inventory," Rogers Wireless spokeswoman Odette Coleman said Wednesday.
There's only one person in my immediate circle who's flaunting a JesusPhone around, but several have mentioned they're considering getting one. I'm still thinking about it myself, for that matter. We'll all be keeping an eye on the end of August, as that is when Rogers' temporary data plan price break ends ($30 per month for up to 6Gb).
Steve Chapman looks at the massive invasion of privacy represented by so-called "consent searches":
The other day, the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois issued a report on "consent searches" that sometimes accompany traffic stops. Relying on data provided by local and state law enforcement agencies, the report documented that black and Hispanic drivers are much more likely than whites to suffer such invasions — even though the cars of minorities are far less likely to yield contraband.
These treasure hunts are called "consent searches" because they require the motorist to give permission. They take place only when the police officer has no grounds for suspicion. If he has probable cause, he doesn't have to ask. Only when he's acting out of a vague hunch, racial prejudice, or simple malice does he need the driver's consent.
But the term is fantastical in these instances. Stopped on a lonesome stretch of highway, at the mercy of an armed man who has the power to arrest, very few citizens feel free to refuse. The Illinois State Police report that 94 percent of white motorists and 96 percent of minority ones "consent" to such searches.
Is that because they have nowhere else they'd rather be? Is it because they get a kick from watching a cop take apart their cars in an effort to put them behind bars? Or could it be because they suspect that refusing a cop is far too dangerous?
Fishing expeditions should not be part of a police officer's daily routine . . . they don't usually turn up anything, they're far too easy to abuse, and (minor point) the 4th Amendment to the Constitution kinda implies that they're . . . oh, what's the term . . . unreasonable searches. But the courts have not consulted that particular obscure document very often in this kind of case. A few states have acted to clarify the situation (New Jersey, Rhode Island, Texas, and Minnesota are mentioned in the article), but it shouldn't need special action on the part of state legislatures.
On the face of it, they're illegal, and the US Supreme Court should find a way to point that out. As Chapman says:
In a nation founded on respect for the rights of every person, these searches give all priority to the power and convenience of the government, while mocking the liberties we are supposed to have. Why would we consent to that?
A short Gawker round-up of some of William F. Buckley's less predictable output:
Slightly late to the game of fond remembrances of the late William F. Buckley, Jr. is Fox News correspondent James Rosen's essay on how the founding editor of National Review was a frequent contributor to Playboy. Many of the details Rosen digs up about this sideline beat, so to speak, are fun, but the association isn't quite as counterintuitive or shocking as he'd like to think it is. "Yes, in a union difficult to imagine involving any of today's leading conservatives . . . the bard of East 73rd Street wrote for Hugh Hefner's oft-vilified Playboy, on and off, for almost four decades, on topics ranging from 'the Negro male' and Nikita Khrushchev to Oprah Winfrey, the Internet, and Y2K." That's a poor use of the word "bard," and also an impaired judgment. P.J. O'Rourke and Christopher Buckley have both written for Playboy and they're "leading conservatives," if not shrieking TV banshees like Ann Coulter. But even back in 1963, when Buckley the Elder made his debut in a transcribed debate he'd had with Norman Mailer, the byline and the magazine were actually rather suited to each other in a strange aesthetic way.
Jon sent me this link to BoingBoing:
The Orwell Prize will mark the 70th anniversary of the Orwell Diaries by serializing them, one day at a time, on a blog — reminiscent of the way that Phil Gyford syndicated Pepys's Diary.
From 9th August 2008, you will be able to gather your own impression of Orwell’s face from reading his most strongly individual piece of writing: his diaries. The Orwell Prize is delighted to announce that, to mark the 70th anniversary of the diaries, each diary entry will be published on this blog exactly seventy years after it was written, allowing you to follow Orwell’s recuperation in Morocco, his return to the UK, and his opinions on the descent of Europe into war in real time. The diaries end in 1942, three years into the conflict.
I'll be sure to check the first entry on August 9th.
Radley Balko expresses amazement that Minneapolis is honouring the police officers who conducted a SWAT raid on the wrong address last year:
Last December, I posted about a botched SWAT raid on an innocent Minnesota family. Acting on bad information from an informant, the police threw flash grenades though the family's windows, then exchanged gunfire with Vang Khang, who mistook the police for criminal intruders. Seven months later, no one in the police department has been held accountable for the mistakes leading up to the raid.
However, this week Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan and Mayor R.T. Rybak did give the raiding officers medals and commendations for their bravery in nearly killing Vang Khang, his wife, and their six children.
[. . .]
This is really beyond outrage. The city of Minneapolis is commending and rewarding its police officers for firing their weapons at innocent people. A family of eight was terrorized, assaulted, and nearly killed, and it's the "perfect example" of a situation that could have gone wrong?
John Tierney tries to quell some fears:
For most of the year, it is the duty of the press to scour the known universe looking for ways to ruin your day. The more fear, guilt or angst a news story induces, the better. But with August upon us, perhaps you're in the mood for a break, so I've rounded up a list of 10 things not to worry about on your vacation.
Now, I can't guarantee you that any of these worries is groundless, because I can't guarantee you that anything is absolutely safe, including the act of reading a newspaper. With enough money, an enterprising researcher could surely identify a chemical in newsprint or keyboards that is dangerously carcinogenic for any rat that reads a trillion science columns every day.
What I can guarantee is that I wouldn't spend a nanosecond of my vacation worrying about any of these 10 things.
Of course, the human mind is optimized for worry so having a mere ten knocked off the worry list only makes room for more concerns to occupy us.
Ronald Bailey pulls out the calculator to do some rough calculations on Al Gore's proposal to produce 100% of America's electricity from renewable energy:
Of course, great-souled visionaries such as Gore do not concern themselves with piddling and mundane issues such as who will pay for this marvelous no-carbon energy future and how much it will cost. Not being burdened with a great soul, I decided to don my green eyeshade and make a preliminary stab at figuring out how much Gore's scheme might cost us.
According to the Energy Information Administration, the existing capacity of U.S. coal, gas, and oil generating plants totals around 850,000 megawatts. So how much would it cost to replace those facilities with solar electric power? Let's use the recent announcement of a 280-megawatt thermal solar power plant in Arizona for $1 billion as the starting point for an admittedly rough calculation. Combined with a molten salt heat storage systems, solar thermal might be able to provide base load power. Crunching the numbers (850,000 megawatts/280 megawatts x $1 billion) produces a total capital cost of just over $3 trillion over the next ten years.
What about wind power? Oilman T. Boone Pickens is building the world's biggest wind energy project with an installed capacity of 4,000 megawatts at a cost of $10 billion, or about $2.5 billion per 1,000 megawatts. For purposes of illustration, this implies a total cost of around $2.1 trillion over the next ten years to replace current carbon-emitting electricity generation capacity with wind power. That's assuming that the wind projects generate electricity at their rated capacity at or near 100 percent of the time. Making the heroic assumption that in fact wind projects will generate power at about one-third of their rated capacity (due to wind variability), this would imply tripling the number of wind power generators. This boosts the total overall cost to more than $6 trillion over the next ten years.
So how does it all compare to current expenditure plans for energy generation?
As a very rough low estimate, Gore's 10-year no-carbon energy plan would cost about $300 billion per year for the next ten years. According to the Brattle Group consultancy, "new and replacement generating plants will cost about $560 billon through 2030, absent a significant expansion of energy efficiency programs or new climate initiatives." That comes to an average of about $25 billion per year over the next 22 years. Gore's proposal is a "new climate initiative" that aims to spend twelve times more than the utility industry would otherwise annually invest in new and replacement generating capacity.
. .. as I did in yesterday's lament about not being able to watch P&T's take on climate change . . . because through the kind efforts of Tom Kelley, I got to watch this episode of Bullshit! . . . and (with the right plug-ins) you can too.
Thanks, Tom! But I'm still going to buy the DVD set when it comes out.
It was probably inevitable that Penn & Teller would get around to doing an episode of Bullshit! on climate change:
[. . .] Thursday's episode on environmentalism opened with a morose-looking Penn Jillette waving a magazine as he recited one ecotastrophe after another — drought in Africa, flooding in Pakistan and Japan, snowless winters in New England and Northern Europe — I snapped to attention. ''It says right here in Time magazine — the weather's gone nuts and we humans are to blame!'' Teller wailed. "We have bleeped up the environment and now we're going to pay for it!''
Yeah, that global warming is pretty bad. You know, Al Gore says — oops, never mind. Turns out Penn's not reading from the infamous Time cover story of 2006 on global warming, the one headlined BE WORRIED. BE VERY WORRIED. No, this Time is from 1974, and the headline is, ANOTHER ICE AGE? And all those violent paroxysms of nature are the pernicious work of global cooling.
Yes, back in the days of disco, the news media echoed with predictions of the world's imminent demise from ice rather than fire. Newsweek warned that temperatures had already dropped ''a sixth of the way toward the Ice Age average.'' By 1985, Life declared, "air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching the earth by one half.''
Too bad I won't get to see it until this season's episodes come out on DVD . . .
I'm tellin' ya, they're gonna change the electronic voting screens to say, "Click here to accept Barack Obama's Friend Request" so that these dim-witted youth voters can figure out how to cast their ballots for Obama. It'll be like ballots in Spanish. You will soon be able to request your ballot in electronic youth-speak (l337).
"aero", Comment at Hot Air, 2008-07-29
J.L. Granatstein calls for a new approach to parliament's consideration of Canadian defence policies:
Another way to improve traffic on the intersection between politics and the military is to have more MPs acquire the expertise they need to comment intelligently on defence.
To be blunt, the NDP's defence critic, Dawn Black, and the Liberal's former critic, Denis Coderre, wouldn't know an entrenching tool from a LAV III. Such ignorance helps no one and no party.
But what if there were an informal "defence caucus" that brought together Members from all parties on a regular basis to hear from knowledgeable military figures, scholars, and industrialists?
The Bloc's Claude Bachand from Saint-Jean knows his stuff; so too do the NDP's Bill Blaikie from Manitoba, unfortunately not running again, and Peter Stoffer from Nova Scotia. Add in Senators Colin Kenny and Hugh Segal and MPs from ridings with large military bases or major defence industries, and it would be possible over time to create a group of knowledgeable parliamentarians who could improve defence expertise in the House of Commons and Senate in a fashion that can benefit all Canadians and the Canadian Forces.
Given that the Canadian Forces are a significant part of the government's budget, they seem to get little understanding and less consideration from MPs than just about any other area of government. This idea might help to improve the situation for parliament and for the CF. It's certainly better than what we have now.
H/T to The Torch.
Pity poor Mr. Jennings . . . a recently naturalized British subject. He chronicles his experiences of trying to apply for a British passport:
When I made my last post about the small piece of incompetence I had encountered from the Home Office upon attempting to apply for a passport immediately upon becoming a naturalised British citizen, I wrote the sentence
Theoretically, when I became a citizen, one thing I gained was the right not to suffer the petty humiliations and bureaucratic hassles and incompetence from the Home Office that a non-citizen goes through just to live here.
One commenter left a response that more or less translated as "You poor deluded fool". I concluded the post on a surprisingly upbeat note, however
My passport will hopefully still come in a couple of weeks...
It is now two and a half weeks later, and all I can conclude is that yes, I was a poor deluded fool. However, the situation is somewhat more sinister than this.
From a review of a recent work by Zeus Scalzi:
Zeus Scalzi has quickly established himself as a young master of the paper form, rending and shredding fibers as a way to comment on the fraying of the fibers of life, and how each of us, in the end, is wiped away by the progress of events; indeed, our expulsion and removal is necessary for the continued health of the whole, to allow space for new generations. Gazing upon the work, one can appreciate this new and vital metaphor for the inevitable pinching off of our continuity with the community, after the community has, with animal efficiency, extracted all that is valuable from us. Truly, a difficult work best contemplated through solitary effort, perhaps after a fine meal with companions.
Steve Chapman tries to understand the complaints coming from the McCain team about excessive worship of Barack Obama:
I came into the office the other day, wearing an "Obama 2008" cap, a "Yes We Can" button, a "Team Obama" T-shirt, carrying an "Obama for Change" tote bag filled with Obama bumper stickers, made a stop at the Obama altar in the newsroom, strewed some rose petals, chanted a few hosannas, lit a votive candle and had a sudden thought: Is the news media's love affair with Barack Obama getting out of hand?
John McCain and his campaign staffers have a sneaking suspicion it is. They put out a video with footage of journalists acting gooey about the Democratic candidate, to the strains of "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You." According to the campaign, "The media is in love with Barack Obama." McCain's people say that like it's a bad thing.
You know all those things that you were told when you were young? About sex? Blame these guys:
When you were a kid, did you ever have an adult tell you that masturbation could make you go blind? When you grew up, did you ever wonder where bullshit like that got started?
History is full of sex experts who, as it turns out, were just making crap up as they went along.
Samuel Auguste Tissot (1728 - 1797)
Totally full of shit yet curiously influential, Samuel Auguste Tissot was a physician and neurologist who advised the Vatican. In the 18th century he wrote on many subjects having nothing to do with sex, and perhaps he was able to speak on some of those without talking out of his ass.
Ma malakat aymanukum — literally, what your right hands possess (ما ملكت أيمانکم) — is a reference in the Koran to slaves. Those with prurient interests, or considering life as a Muslim convert, may find themselves drawn to a better understanding of Islamic law regarding sex with slaves. A quick summary of the rules should come in handy. For example, if you co-own a slave she is off limits. Sex with your wife's slaves is also a no no. But if you are worried because your slave was married when you took her captive . . . no problem, go to town, she is yours so far as Allah is concerned. Just do not have sex with your slave's sister because that would be improper unless, presumably, you kill her male relatives and enslave her too in which case no harm no foul. No word on the age of . . . well, consent is not exactly a factor here . . . the age of your sex slaves but given Mohammad was the perfect man somewhere between the age of six and nine is the precedent. So if your slave is five years old better be safe than sorry and rape enjoy one of your ten year old slaves instead.
Nick Packwood, "What your right hands possess", Ghost of a Flea, 2008-07-25
An unusually breathless report at Webmonkey is headlined "Blind Taste Test Shows XP Users Love Vista":
Microsoft took a play from beverage marketing this month with a blind taste taste of Windows Vista. Company researchers rounded up XP-loving Vista skeptics in San Francisco to try out what they claimed was a new operating system, which they code-named Mojave. After taking the OS for a spin, the guinea pigs were let in on the secret: they were drinking straight-off-the-shelf Windows Vista.
The taste-testers were overwhelmingly positive. Earlier this month Microsoft announced a plan to tell the "real Windows Vista story." Expect the footage from the not-so-hidden cameras to make its way into an ad campaign soon. No word on whether there were any Chris Farley-esque outtakes.
And why should this be a surprise to anyone who's been paying attention? The new Vista UI got pretty high marks from reviewers, and it apparently cleans up some less-than-great UI quirks from XP. Run on new (high-powered) equipment, there's no reason it shouldn't wow a sample audience who were brought in to test-drive a new Windows OS.
Well . . . of course!
This is not why people have been staying away from Vista — it's not the look and feel of the UI — it's that it'll almost certainly run like a constipated hippo on most people's existing machines! Few of us want to buy all-new equipment just to run a new OS. Especially if we'll need to buy faster/more capable machines just to get something like the same perceived performance as we currently get from our old XP-powered clunkers.
An unexpected combination of publication and choice of subject, here. Canada barely ever registers on The Economist's radar, and the selection of Canada's former Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) is highly unusual in and of itself:
"We are not the public service of Canada," General Rick Hillier once told journalists. "We are the Canadian Forces and our job is to be able to kill people." Such a robust view of military power was unusual when General Hillier was appointed chief of the defence staff. In the three years he spent in the post before stepping down earlier this month, he almost succeeded in making it mainstream.
Canadians have often seemed more comfortable with an army that puts up tents and dishes out aid than with one that actually shoots people. The reasons for this are partly historical: the Liberal Party, which ruled Canada for most of the second half of the 20th century, drew much of its support from Quebec, where a dislike of military adventures dates back to the days of the British empire. Defence spending was frozen in the 1970s and 1980s, and then cut back in the 1990s.
Bucking this history, Canada announced in 2005 that it would assume NATO responsibility for providing security in Afghanistan’s Kandahar province and sent 2,000 soldiers to do the job. The task of selling the deployment of these troops fell to the plain-speaking general. The Taliban and Osama bin Laden were, he explained, "detestable murderers and scumbags" who should be hunted down.
General Hillier was an extremely effective communicator, and in a most unusual way (for a Canadian soldier): he talked like a soldier. Most of his predecessors had absorbed the language of bureaucracy by the time they were appointed as the CDS, and their public statements were (literally) indistinguishable from those of civil servants — woolly, non-commital, bland, boring. Hillier was so obviously not cut from the same cloth as the bureaucrats and politicians that it was a source of constant surprise that he was appointed at all, and then that he was able to not only stay in the job, but that he put on such a bang-up performance.
It's hard not to say that he was the first "rock star" Canadian general. He'll be a very difficult act to follow.
For the last several years, Vint Cerf, co-creator of TCP/IP and now a VP at Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), has worked with colleagues from NASA and elsewhere to extend Internet connectivity to deep space.
If their work succeeds, astronauts on manned missions to Mars and other distant locations could keep in touch with researchers worldwide (while maintaining their Twitter links). (Notably, Cerf's work began prior to his start at Google and continues independently of that company.)
Deep space presents daunting challenges to Internet communications. These include distance; line-of-sight obstructions (like meteors); weight issues (high-powered antennas are often too heavy to send on a space mission); and the need for specialized "hardened" equipment that can automatically heal itself or be fixed via remote (very remote) network management.
Cerf and others are engaged in several efforts to address these challenges. One approach is to modify the satellite payload design now used to link IP routers with Ka-band satellites in government and business networks. Some researchers think an adjusted satellite-based IP would work fine, as long as links were made to planets or highly concentrated communities in space, mimicking the successful one-to-many transmission patterns of today's high-powered Ka-band gear.
The Chicago Sun-Times responds to Radley Balko's exposé in the current issue of Reason on the failings of various American cities (where Chicago was a clear, uh, winner):
Reason mocks the city for requiring that fat cops shape up, providing them with nutritionists and trainers to help.
We don't. Police work is physical work. A cop has to be in shape.
Fair enough. But my mocking was more about the fact that after a year of headlines about police abuses, it just struck me a bit odd that the Board of Aldermen's biggest concern while I was in town researching the article was a proposal to assign cops personal trainers at taxpayer expense.
Reason knocks the mayor for regulating thousands of taverns — evil peddlers of demon rum — out of existence. Chicago has only about 1,300 taverns today, compared with about 7,000 in the 1940s.
We don't. A lot of those joints were buckets of blood that loomed within a short stagger of neighborhood schools. And nobody in town complains they can't find a drink.
Ah, yes. For the children.
And "buckets of blood?" Really? You know, I'll bet if we compare Chicago's crime rate in the tavern-happy 1940s with its crime rate now, the modern, 1,300-tavern era doesn't fare so well. In fact, let's go back a bit further. There was a time when alcohol in Chicago and the rest of America was banned altogether. What was crime like between 1919 and 1933? What was it like in Chicago? Also, is it really a good idea to make people travel farther from their homes to find a drink?
The Telegraph reports that a New Hampshire newspaper had an unusually embarassing typo: the newspaper's own name:
This Monday readers of New Hampshire's Valley News were surprised to see the paper's name spelled "Valley Newss" on the front page masthead.
The following day the newspaper, which covers the Upper Valley area straddling New Hampshire and Vermont, published an "Editor's Note" acknowledging the error.
"Readers may have noticed that the Valley News misspelled its own name on yesterday’s front page," it read.
"Given that we routinely call on other institutions to hold themselves accountable for the mistakes, let us say for the record: We sure feel silly."
I'd actually expected the report to be about the Manchester Guardian, which was notorious for editing problems many years ago (hence the occasional nickname "The Grauniad").
Megan McArdle recaps some pretty basic economic facts for the benefit of congressional head-in-the-sand types who seem to have dangerous misconceptions:
Let's look at the basic economics here. I agree that there is a "speculative premium" in the market — the price changes obviously do not simply reflect change in demand conditions or other new information. They're too volatile.
That doesn't mean that this speculative premium is wrong. Speculation is not a synonym for "gambling"; it's a synonym for "guessing". The speculative premium reflects people guessing that the mismatch between supply and demand will be even greater in the future than it is now.
Sometimes speculators are wrong, of course — just ask my classmates who took out $100,000 worth of student loans for business school so that they could hold onto that valuable Webvan stock. But sometimes they're right — the Confederate speculators who made a fortune buying and holding staples in the Civil War guessed, correctly, that the South would be getting a little hungry by and by.
Of course, this makes people angry who want to consume cheaply now, which is why you hear so much talk about war profiteers. But in fact, the speculators were providing a very valuable service. Without them, the confederacy would have consumed those staples early in the war at an artificially low price, and been even hungrier later.
Nobody likes paying higher prices today than they did last week, last month, or last year. But the price reflects a huge mass of information on supply and demand, in a neat little numerical form. Prices rise when supply is lower than demand, signalling that the product is becoming harder to find/manufacture/harvest, and the rational response on the part of the consumer is to use less of the item or to look for substitutes.
Prices work better than anything else we've ever invented for regulating supply and demand . . . far, far better than installing philosopher kings, commisars, or regulatory bodies to determine "fair" or "equitable" value for any given item. Trying to impose conscious human control over a process will only make the situation worse both in the short term and over the long haul.
But politicians aren't elected because of their economical insight . . . and they are always impelled to be seen to be doing something. This is never a good thing.
Radley Balko summarizes the most recent moves towards some new form of civil conscription in the United States:
The Service Nation Summit kickoff event is getting promotional help from Time magazine, whose Managing Editor Rick Stengel is a co-chair. Seems like an odd undertaking for a newsweekly, doesn't it? But then, Time has an annoying habit of crossing over into advocacy on issues its editors have deemed too important to leave to impartial reportage.
Lindgren points out that though the campaign is couched in terms that make it appear oriented toward merely encouraging volunteerism, some of its top officials have a history of supporting a more coercive definition "service," including support for Rep. Charlie Rengel's (D-N.Y.) bill to bring back conscription. Most ominously, one of the group's stated goals is to "[l]aunch a debate about why and how America should become a nation of universal national service by 2020."
Note the absence of the word "if."
Military conscription is indentured servitude. Civilian forms of conscription will be exactly as bad. This follows a discussion the other day where the term "generational welfare" was accurately used to describe most of these farcical initiatives.
Mike Riggs reports from the "DA,DT" hearing:
The hearing went better than I expected, insofar as the Democratic witnesses, Navy Capt. Joan Darrah, retired Army Maj. Gen. Vance Coleman, and Marine Staff Serg. Eric Alva utterly outspoke Army Sgt. Maj. Brian Jones and Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness, both of whom testitified (poorly, and in some places, damn near incoherently) on behalf of Republicans.
Donnelly managed, somehow, to answer every question from both the right and the left with, "Sexual urges would prevent unit cohesion." Jones, when asked whether or not he thought homoesexuality was immoral, replied, "No, but if I'm 6'8" and I want to be a fighter pilot, I can't." Both think a gay-friendly military would bring on the end of the world.
As this hearing evidenced, the social conservative arguments for preserving DADT, letting the Department of Defense write its own policy, or banning gay service, range from paper-thin to non-existent. The only obstacle I see to passage of the Military Readiness Enhancement Act — the bill that would repeal DADT and implement a non-discrimination policy — is good ole' fashion homophobia.
As a recruiting policy, DADT is just plain dumb. As a "retention" policy, DADT is worse: gay and lesbian soldiers are pretty clearly determined to serve — in spite of the widespread anti-gay mentality pervasive in some units — and are being dismissed from the service for being honest. This, at a time when all branches of the US armed forces are struggling to maintain troop levels. It's a stupid, dishonest policy and should be discarded ASAP.
Wage gaps between observably identical Nigerian workers in the United States and Nigerian workers in Nigeria (same gender, education, work experience, etc) are . . . considerable. They swamp the wage gaps between men and women in the US. They swamp the gaps between whites and blacks in the US. Actually, they swamp the wage gaps between whites and blacks in the United States in 1855. For several countries, the effect of border restrictions on the wages of workers of equal productivity "is greater than any form of wage discrimination (gender, race, or ethnicity) that has ever been measured." The labor protectionism that keeps poor workers out of rich countries upholds one of the largest remaining price distortions in any global market.
Who cares? You weren't planning on seeking employment in Nigeria anyway. The upshot is that even a very limited loosening of borders could do enormous, immediate good. No other poverty alleviation policy — microcredit, education, public health interventions, anti-sweatshop activism — compares with a work visa, even a temporary one.
Kerry Howley, "The Road Out of Serfdom", Hit and Run, 2008-07-23
Sorry, I had a breakfast meeting followed by other away-from-the-keyboard stuff this morning, so I haven't had opportunity to post anything. Here, just to keep you occupied . . . some font humour (you font geeks know who you are).
If you can't trust the BBC, then who can you trust?
What looks like the Arabic word for God and the name of the prophet Muhammad were discovered in pieces of beef by a diner in Birnin Kebbi.
He was about to eat it, when he suddenly noticed the words in the gristle, the restaurant owner said.
A search of the kitchen's meat revealed three more pieces which bore the names.
The meat was boiled and then fried before being served, owner Kabiru Haliru told newspaper Weekly Trust.
"When the writings were discovered there were some Islamic scholars who come and eat here and they all commented that it was a sign to show that Islam is the only true religion for mankind," he said.
The restaurant has kept the pieces of meat for visitors to see.
And to think that other religions have miracles involving flaming topiary, resurrecting the dead, great floods, and other such over-the-top demonstrations, when all you needed to to do was to inscribe your own name in gristle . . .
H/T to John Parry for the link.
Tomorrow is the 25th anniversary of one of the stranger episodes in Canadian flight history, the "Gimli Glider":
Air Canada Flight 143, with 61 passengers and eight crew members, was headed from Montreal to Edmonton.
Due to a miscalculation of the recently adopted metric system, the Boeing 767 ran out of fuel 12 km from the Ontario-Manitoba border at an altitude of 41,000 feet.
Plummeting fast with no engine power and no chance of making the Winnipeg airport, Captain Robert Pearson and First Officer Maurice Quintal made the decision to turn the plane into a giant glider and landed it at an abandoned air force strip at Gimli, Man.
No one was hurt except for some minor scrapes from exiting the plane.
The issue of Mr. Obama's blackness has come up. The Reverend Jackson has made it clear he doesn't feel Mr. Obama is black enough, apparently he seems to be disregarding "black issues." While I do not support Mr. Obama I have to call the good Reverend on this one. Barack Obama is not running for President of Black America. He is running for President of all America. If he intends to push the interest of one ethnic group over any others than he has no business running for President of a nation that is about eighty eight percent white, Asian, Dine, and other races.
Sooner or later a Latino will run for President and I damn well expect him to run as an American who happens to have Latino roots, not a Latino who happens to be an American.
Back in the Fifties segregationists didn't get it, their way of doing business violated both the written Constitution and the spirit of freedom and justice it upon which it was based. Nowadays the debate is on what methodology is needed to achieve desegregation, not it's desirability [. . .] The Segregationists of old have become obsolete.
A. X. Perez, "Getting It", Libertarian Enterprise, 2008-07-20
I've carefully not been following this story too closely, as I don't think it's anything more than a "doldrums of summer" timewaster for the sports press. Brett Favre is under contract to Green Bay, and there is no way that Green Bay's management wants to upset their plans for the coming season by entertaining Brett's public desire to come back. I can't see any reason for Green Bay giving Favre his release, as that would allow either Chicago or Minnesota to sign him — whether as a mutually beneficial arrangement or just as a way to spite the Packers.
Even if the Pack traded Favre, they'd still be cautious about the potential trading partner. It'd be very unlikely they'd trade with any other team in the division, possibly even the conference. Favre is still a good quarterback, and he clearly feels he has some gas left in the tank.
I'm still hopeful that current Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson will be the player the team hoped he'd be when they traded up in the draft to take him. He's shown some positive developments over the past season, and (if he can avoid some of the more obvious mistakes this year) he has the skills to take the team to the playoffs. With the power running capabilities of the Vikings, the quarterback doesn't have to carry the entire offense on his shoulders, so minimizing dumb mistakes will be enough to win a bunch of games.
Bringing in Favre would be the worst thing the Vikings could do for the long term . . . with all the good will in the world, Favre won't be starting for any team in the NFL two years from now, and it would indicate that the coaching staff do not have the confidence in Jackson (and would pretty much force them to spend their first round pick next year on a quarterback).
Anthony Hall covers the latest developments:
For those who are deathly tired of constantly seeing Brett Favre in the news, check this out: As The Favre Turns may be nearing a conclusion. Pro Football Talk reports that the man who has dominated the headlines for the Packers and Vikings alike over the past few weeks may have decided to end his comeback attempt:
Per the tipster, Favre is abandoning his attempt to return to the NFL. We're told the Packers presented him with a list of three teams to which they'd attempt to trade him, and that Favre refused each one.
Of course, even if this report ultimately turns out to be accurate, tampergate will still continue — although with Brett out of the picture, the tampering charges will become a considerably less significant storyline as we head into the season.
More importantly, though, I couldn't be happier with even the mere possibility that Favre will finally be going away. This whole thing has been exhausting — and that's coming from a Vikings fan who typically can't get enough of turmoil occurring in Green Bay.
Anthony correctly points out that Favre missed a great opportunity to shore up his support during the Fox interview with Greta Van Susteren: his fans have been deserting steadily since that appearance:
As it is, public opinion continues to rapidly turn against Favre. Indeed, hoards of sympathetic fans will not storm Lambeau Field if Thompson refuses to cave into the quarterback’s demand for a release, and they will not storm Lambeau Field if Favre cannot leverage a trade to a team not among the three that Thompson selected as potential destinations for Brett.
His only remaining options are to accept a trade to one of the three teams that the Packers front office has picked, or simply abandon his comeback attempt. I wish he’d choose the former option — it'd be interesting to see the media compare Favre's performance to Aaron Rodgers' on a weekly basis — but for Brett, the latter option is clearly the best.
John Scalzi links to a discussion of fan fiction under Canadian law:
For all you fanficcers out there, an interesting take on fan fiction from the Canadian legal perspective, i.e., whether fan fic would be legal in Canada if it ever went to court there. The author suspects not and notes that in Canada (and much of the rest of the world outside the US) there's an additional layer of complication in that the author is assumed to have a "moral right" to a work which includes some strictures on how the work (and the characters within) is to be used. There is no moral right issue in US law, of course, because we in the US don't have morals. Or something.
Ah, but just what is "fan fiction" I pretend to hear you ask? Here's a good answer (from the LRC article):
This is fan fiction, and it's all over the web, at sites such as http://www.fanfiction.net, and http://www.sugarquill.com. Though its roots are in the science fiction book world, the phenomenon really took off with the TV series Star Trek. By the series' second season in 1967, fans were writing their own episodes and sharing them with like-minded friends. Drawing on Star Trek characters and settings — referred to as the canon — they placed the characters in narratives not contemplated by the show's writers, very often with subversive results. Most famously, these early fan writers perceived a repressed sexual passion between Mr. Spock and Captain Kirk and began writing stories exploring this relationship. Thus was started a roaring sub-culture of fan writing, largely by women and for women, about homoerotic relations between ostensibly heterosexual male characters. Stories of such relationships — known as slash from the "/" used to connote a pairing (such as Harry Potter/Severus Snape) — continue to make up a major proportion of fan fiction.
Social scientist Camille Bacon-Smith, in her book Enterprising Women, identifies a number of sub-genres beyond slash which give a good sense of fan fiction's diversity. Sub-genres include mpreg (where a man gets pregnant), deathfic (where a major character dies), curtainfic (where the characters, typically a gay male pairing, go domestic and engage in such comfortably bourgeois exercises as shopping for curtains together), and AU (alternative universe, where the characters are displaced into an entirely new fantasy setting). Sexually explicit sub-genres — often tagged as 'kink' or 'with plumbing' — include PWP (porn without plot or 'Plot? What plot?') and BDSM (bondage and discipline, dominance and submission, and sadomasochism). And universally deplored as the worst cliché in the genre is the Mary Sue story, in which the fan writer writes her thinly-veiled self into the plot. 'Infinite diversity in infinite combinations' is fandom's abiding motto.
Should you feel the need to read some bad fan fiction — of which there is an incredibly large and possibly endless supply — you can cut right to the chase by visiting http://www.godawful.net/, who claim they've "scoured the 'net since 1998 to bring you the foulest fan fiction available and we like to think that we're responsible for many a dry heave and sleepless night, but the truth of the matter is, we just showcase these abominations. We'd like to take this opportunity to thank those deluded souls actually writing Godawful Fan Fiction, without whom this site would never have been possible. Or necessary."
I guess that posting about playground equipment of days gone by is the way to connect with my readership . . . first, I got a follow-up link to this site sent by frequent commenter (when I had comments open) "Da Wife":
Vintage playground equipment is fast disappearing from America’s parks and school yards. The equipment we grew up with — from spring-mounted animals installed in the 1940s to imposing rocket ships erected in the 1970s — becomes more scarce each year. Even seesaws, merry-go-rounds and swings are becoming things of the past, along with towering metal slides and elaborate wooden structures. The photos on this website celebrate the beauty and history of playground equipment that may soon be gone from the American landscape.
And then, I have Jon sending me his own thoughts on the original post:
The modern playgound is still pretty dangerous. There tend to be far more climbing areas now — (rock walls, ladders, steps, poles with footholds, rope ladders and nets — and there are more high places to serve as destinations for all that climbing. A modern play structure — I'm thinking of the one at [the local] school and another "all access for gimps" installation at another nearby school — still has monkey bars, suspended loops, firepoles, and occasionally a zip-line sort of thing between raised platforms. Of the playgrounds we frequent, half still have metal slides.
What seems to be a little disappointing about modern playsets, though, is the fact that they seem to be so small. Part of this may be due to the distortions of memory, but I think a good part of it may be due to design: they're making them smaller to discourage teens from hanging out on them.
The modern playset seems to me to be better equipped than the crap we had in the local park when I was a kid. There's more to do and there are actually places to _go_ within the playset. Contrast this to the stuff we played on, where the biggest decision about what to do on the bent pipe climber was whether to get the paint chip rammed under the fingernail at the top of the ladder or down at the bottom.
Clearly, I should post on childhood nostalgia more often . . .
Update: And yet more from the virtual landlord:
And about this bit —
"And they were different and unique, seemingly put together by the neighborhood handymen who in a burst of creative energy one Saturday morning emptied their garages of old tires, 2×4s, and chains and just nailed it all together."
This dates the 1000 Awesome Things author. If she's fondly remembering the scrap-lumber-and-old-tires-held-together-by-chains sort of playgrounds, she's reminiscing about the late 70's and early 80's. That's when this sort of garbage started showing up in my playgrounds and schoolyards. My friends and I recognized these things as the crap that they were and we noted then that we really missed the bent pipe and sheet steel playgrounds of our youth. We were 11.
I found this Wired post about the possibile threats posed by increasing use of IPv6 to be quite interesting. IPv6, for those of you not elbow-deep in internet protocol, is the replacement for the current internet address model (the way that human-readable names like "wired.com" are mapped to numerical addresses like 255.128.32.16). The limitation to the existing model (IPv4) is that we're literally running out of address space: IPv6 will vastly increase the number of discrete addresses available for use, but it will take a few years for the necessary equipment and software to be deployed.
Something I hadn't thought about was that this roll-out of IPv6-capable equipment might create some new opportunities for hackers:
Joe Klein, a security researcher with Command Information, says many organizations and home users have IPv6 enabled on their systems by default but don't know it. They also don't have protection in place to block malicious traffic, since some intrusion detection systems and firewalls aren't set up to monitor IPv6 traffic, presenting an appealing vector through which outsiders can attack their networks undetected.
"Essentially, we have systems that are wide open to a network," says Klein, who is a member of an IPv6 task force and will be speaking about the issue tonight at the HOPE (Hackers on Planet Earth) conference in New York. "It's like having wireless on your network without knowing it."
The internet is moving to IPv6 because IPv4 is running out of addresses. Estimates of when IPv4 addresses will be exhausted have varied. Command Information has a widget on its web site counting down the number of IPv4 addresses still available each time the American Registry for Internet Numbers assigns an address or block of addresses. By the widget's count, the supply of IPv4 addresses – currently at around 620 million -- will run out in about 917 days, or about two and a half years.
Don't read this if you're easily depressed. It's the latest report from Ronald Bailey at the Global Catastrophic Risks conference:
But before becoming too complacent, keep an eye out for reports on the 210-330 meter asteroid Apophis-there's a 1 in 45,000 chance that it could hit the earth on April 13, 2036. Measurements in the next 3 to 4 years will determine just how big a chance of a collision there is.
Gamma Ray Bursts
Technion physicist Arnon Dar warned of another space hazard — gamma ray bursts (GRBs). GRBs were originally detected by U.S. military satellites that were checking to see if the Soviets were testing nuclear weapons. GRBs are beams of highly energetic photons produced when a gigantic star goes supernova. Dar described a GRB beam hitting the earth would be like a kiloton bomb per square kilometer going off at the top atmosphere. He speculated that some of the earlier mass extinctions, such as the Permian extinction in which perhaps 90 percent of all life died out might have been caused by GRBs.
So are there any stars likely to go supernova nearby? Dar pointed out that the gigantic star Eta Carinae at a distance of 7,500 light years has been extremely unstable of late. Eta Carinae is 100 times more massive than the sun and 5 million times brighter. When it goes it will be a hypernova. Dar then gave us the good news: Eta Carinae's axis is pointed away from the earth, so the GRB beam it will generate when it dies will be aimed far from us. However, don't get too complacent about GRBs. Future of Humanity Institute research fellow Anders Sandberg mentioned that some astronomers are worried that we may be looking down the barrel of gamma ray gun when the WR 104 binary located 8,000 light years away goes supernova.
Just to add to your worries . . . we'd get very little real warning that a neighbouring star had gone supernova: the GRB beam would arrive almost simultaneously with the visual or radio wave evidence of the event.
Steve Chapman finds the world turned upside down as Barack Obama and John McCain swap stances over education:
I know, because admirers of Barack Obama tell me, that this year's election poses a choice between a candidate who represents a fresh approach to problems and one who offers a dreary continuation of the status quo. That much I understand. What I sometimes have trouble keeping straight is which candidate is which.
On the subject of elementary and secondary education, the two seem to have gotten their roles completely mixed up. Obama is the staunch defender of the existing public school monopoly, and he's allergic to anything that subverts it. John McCain, on the other hand, went before the NAACP last week to argue for something new and daring.
That something is to facilitate greater parental choice in education. McCain wants to expand a Washington, D.C. program that provides federally funded scholarships so poor students can attend private schools. More than 7,000 kids, he reported, have applied for these vouchers, but only 1,900 can be accommodated.
Obama promptly expressed disdain for McCain's proposal. The Republican, his campaign said, offered "recycled bromides" that would "undermine our public schools."
Those deadly devices, the playground equipment of a bygone era:
And of course, there was my favorite — the Big Spinner, also known as a Merry-Go-Round, but not the kind with lights and plastic horses going up and down. This was just a giant metal circle that laid about a foot off the ground and could be spun, usually by someone standing beside it. If you were lucky you'd get a pile of kids on there and somebody's mom or dad would kindly whip you into a World of Unimaginable Dizziness. A couple kids would fly off from the G-forces but most would hang on, teeth gritted, eyes squinted, cheeks flapping wildly against the wind, until the Big Spinner reluctantly came to a slow stop and finally let you off. Then you'd all walk away in different directions, some kids hitting tree trunks head on, others falling down nearby hills.
These days those classic playgrounds sure are hard to come by.
Since Reihan already had an iPhone, and I don't, he's choosing between the marginal upgrades — mostly the GPS and the 3G network, and his old phone. I, however didn't have one before, so I get to be all gee-whiz about features the rest of you have had for a year. Which are, as I have repeatedly been told, pretty great. The phone interface is unbelievably easy to use — so easy that my technophobe mother and luddite crank sister want to join me on an AT&T family plan with iPhones of their very own. Unlike Reihan, I've had absolutely no trouble with call quality — indeed, it seems quite a bit better than the reception on my old Razr. And the iPod sounds great.
On the new side, there are a host of new apps that take advantage of the GPS feature, and I've installed most of them. The killer app is, obviously, using Google maps to get you un-lost. But people have also coded a bunch of social networking applications that let you, for example, see where all your friends are. The ones with iPhones, anyway. And if they don't have iPhones, they should be dead to you.
Just kidding. Since I'm the early adopter on a lot of these applications, it remains to be seen how useful they will be. But things like Twitterific, AIM, and Facebook are already pretty key.
Megan McArdle, "Pondering the iPhone", TheAtlantic.com, 2008-07-15
Johnathan Pearce remembers his early history lessons:
Last night, I watched a repeat of a programme that took me back about 30 years to when I was a young kid being taught history by a very leftwing history teacher. The period of study was the Industrial Revolution, and I remember getting what I call the default-setting "Black Satanic Mills" version of the 18th and 19th centuries, full of horrible factories, brutish owners, vicious and incompetent governments, heroic but downtrodden workers, starving farm labourers, not to mention a cast list of all those splendid French revolutionaries. I think it was at about this time — 1976-77 — that I formed in my still-young head the vague sense that I was being sold a line, that something about this was not quite accurate. Anyway, I was only 10, I was more interested in sports and messing about with my mates, and had yet to take a more serious interest in the world of current events. But even at that age I developed a love of history that has stayed with me, and for all that he is a died-in-the-wool leftie, my old history teacher, who is now retired, is someone of whom I have fond memories. He is actually one of the nicest of men and I keep in touch with him. The programme in question was fronted by Tony Robinson whom many non-Britons will know as the guy who played Baldrick in the glorious Blackadder TV series. In more recent years, Robinson, who is a campaigner for things like trade unions, long-term care for the elderly and other causes, has made a name for himself as an enthusiast for ancient history. His programme last night was a classic example of the sort of history that I was taught at school: wittily presented, but at its base incredibly biased, often factually inaccurate, and playing into a narrative of UK history that has coloured our views of industry, law, industrial relations and trade ever since.
One of the main parts of the programme was about the use of the death penalty and how the harsh penal code of the time was used to protect the property of the landed classes and the emerging class of entrepreneurs. That the code was harsh is undeniable. By the early 1820s, there were scores of offences, even ones like stealing potatoes or game, that were punishable by death. What Robinson ignored, however, is that juries frequently refused to convict such crimes because they could see that the punishment was outrageous. And in the 1820s, Robert Peel, Home Secretary at the time, swept almost all capital crimes off the statute books, save only for murder. Robinson does not mention this. And Robinson scorned how landowners were allowed, under the English Common Law, to defend their property by deadly force. He then juxtaposed pictures of poachers being executed with the recent case of Tony Martin, the Norfolk farmer who shot, and killed, an intruder at his home after having been burgled repeatedly. As far as Robinson was concerned, Martin was a throwback to the disgusting concept of using deadly force to guard property, and did not stop to consider that it is often very poor, vulnerable people who are the victims of robbery and attack. The arguments presented by the likes of Joyce-Lee Malcolm, who, for example, has defended the right of use of deadly force in self-defence, do not even enter Robinson's frame of reference. Indeed, the whole show gives us an insight as to how the UK political left — Robinson is an avid Labour Party supporter of the old, hard-left variety — view the whole concept of self defence and the role of the state generally.
South Bend Seven is bothered by the groundswell of "compulsory volunteer" programs many politicians seem to be hankering for:
[. . .] these plans all amount to what Paul Thornton wisely labeled "generational welfare." Such plans are based on requiring service by teenagers or college students, presumably because they're all worthless young punks who wear baggy pants and listen to loud music all day, instead of pulling their weight (uphill both ways) like youngsters did back in the good old days.
I'm still waiting for the plan that requires volunteering* from able bodied retirees as a condition of receiving their social security checks, or requires a few hours a week of service from anyone getting unemployment benefits. This will never happen, of course, because it's clearly those rascally youths — who, by the way, probably need a hair cut and should definitely get off of our lawns — who are best suited for work without pay. Let them make the world a better place. We have better things to be doing.
I went to three different schools with some community service requirements, and there were some common themes amongst all three programs. One common occurrence is that people just found a sympathetic authority figure to sign off on wildly inflated numbers of hours served. This happened for almost everybody, even the people who did orders of magnitude more service than needed, because it's easier to get one person to sign one letter stating that you've put in 50 hours under their watchful eye, then get four different letters from four people each attesting to the 15 hours you actually did with each of them. At one school it was common to see fliers in the hallway promising multiple hours of service credits for less than an hour of time served.
The long-term result of all this mandatory "volunteer" programs is to devalue and discourage actual voluntary efforts, not to mention entrenching another Orwellian word-that-means-exactly-the-opposite-of-its-original-meaning.
An interesting story about Douglas "Wrong Way" Corrigan:
1938: Douglas Corrigan claims his place in the annals of aviation history when he "mistakenly" flies from New York to Ireland. With a single flight, Corrigan breaks the law, charms the Irish, becomes an American hero and earns an unforgettable nickname.
According to the flight plan he filed beforehand, his destination was California. Maybe it was, and maybe it wasn't: Corrigan had wanted to fly to Ireland all along, hoping to emulate Charles Lindbergh's solo trans-Atlantic flight of a decade earlier. But the Bureau of Air Commerce denied the request, on the grounds that Corrigan's plane -- a rather well-used Curtiss Robin OX-5 monoplane -- was too unstable for a long flight over water.
Last night's game, as has been the tradition all season long, started poorly. Unlike most games, it didn't improve during the second half . . . in fact, the game ended up being abandoned with the score 5-2 in Whitby Maroon's favour, and on the verge of going to 6-2 on a penalty that was awarded just before the game was declared over.
At the end of a very poor showing in the first half, Purple was facing a 4-2 deficit, with goals by Dan V. and Chris A., but the team had generated few other chances.
The second half was, if possible, going worse for Purple, as Maroon tallied another goal within ten minutes of the restart. Just about the twenty minute mark, things got weird.
Something must have happened inside the Purple goal area, as what had initially been signalled as a goal kick was suddenly re-indicated as a penalty against Purple. Before the players got organized for the penalty, Marco B. must have dissented, as he was shown a Yellow card. The carding set off a loud dissent from parents and friends on the sideline, which the referee couldn't avoid hearing. He came over to the sideline to tell me to get the spectators under control, but while he was doing so, a parent got verbally abusive enough to be told to leave the park.
I tried to get the man to leave, but he kept expressing his dissatisfaction with the referee while he was walking away. At that point, another supporter said something the referee objected to and she was told to leave the park as well. I was told to clear my side of the field of anyone not wearing a uniform, but before I could do so, the referee announced that the game was being abandoned, and that Maroon had won.
The club will take whatever action they determine is required after receiving the referee's report.
I was thinking about the upcoming Batman movie, and I suddenly realized: Batman and Richie Rich are basically the same character.
They both have butlers (Alfred, Cadbury), they both have sidekicks (Robin, Dollar), they both dress in ridiculous outfits (bat costume, short pants with bow tie) and they both have adventures in which problems are solved by the appropriate use of incredibly expensive material possessions.
The main difference is that Richie Rich's parents weren't shot to death in a filthy alleyway right in front of him, but tell me that wouldn't have improved Richie's back story.
Lore Sjöberg, Grading Batman's Gear", Wired, 2008-07-15
Kerry Howley views with disdain the recent book Grand New Party: How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream by Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam:
My friends Reihan and Ross have written an extremely savvy book about how to reinvigorate the GOP with a new narrative and a new coalition. Because I like the Republican party flaccid and moribund (all parties, actually), I hope their book is celebrated, widely reviewed, and ultimately ignored. And because I find most of their social policy troubling, I hope that even those dipping into the book for some new ideas take time to question the assumptions within it.
I don't think I am overstating the R&R position when I say that my friends would like to return us to a more traditional and less pluralistic concept of family life. Through social and tax policy, they would privilege heterosexual two-parent families, fund marriage promotion programs, encourage the stigmatization of single parenthood, subsidize motherhood among married women, increase taxes on the childless, and so on. In short, they would structure incentives to encourage women to use their bodies in the one way most appealing to social conservatives.
[. . .]
Privileging one, dominant idea of the family comes with costs that R&R never really grapple with in their breezy book, and those costs fall almost exclusively on one gender. Through the tax code, R&R wish to change the relative prices of women's options, rendering childlessness more costly and early motherhood less so. They want the federal government to stake a position on the proper role of women, and that role involves a heterosexual marriage with children. While conceding that this is politically infeasible at the moment, R&R write that "we should be willing to stigmatize illegitimacy by tying a tax relief to responsible parenting." (Responsible parenting=parenting by legally married couples.) This is a policy that punishes poor women unable to find marriageable men, gay and lesbian partners unable to access legal marriage, and any other number of people who are responding rationally to their environment, doing the best they know how for the kids they have.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has a unique talent for putting things in their easiest-to-mock form. Take these comments, for example:
Christian doctrine is offensive to Muslims, the Archbishop of Canterbury said yesterday.
Dr Rowan Williams also criticised Christianity's history for its violence, its use of harsh punishments and its betrayal of its peaceful principles.
His comments came in a highly conciliatory letter to Islamic leaders calling for an alliance between the two faiths for 'the common good'.
But it risked fresh controversy for the Archbishop in the wake of his pronouncement earlier this year that a place should be found for Islamic sharia law in the British legal system.
To start with, the followers of the two religions have been warring with one another, off and on (mostly on) for well over a thousand years. The score was decidedly in favour of Islam until the 17th century, and since then has shifted to favour Christianity. (Anyone who tries to bring up the Crusades as "proof" that Christianity was the primary aggressor has clearly never read anything about medieval history.)
Desperate to make the game more competitive, the Archbishop has been working tirelessly to put the initiative back in Islam's court. His odd interpretation both of history and of Islamic beliefs makes it even more difficult to discern which team he's actually supporting:
The Archbishop's letter is a reply to feelers to Christians put out by Islamic leaders from 43 countries last autumn.
In it, Dr Williams said violence is incompatible with the beliefs of either faith and that, once that principle is accepted, both can work together against poverty and prejudice and to help the environment.
You can only believe that violence is "incompatible with the beliefs of either faith" if you very carefully cherry-pick selected parts of the respective holy writings while turning a blind eye to other parts.
The Archbishop appeared to rebuke his colleague, Bishop of Rochester Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, who criticised his sharia lecture and who maintains that Christianity is central to British law, politics and society.
'Religious identity has often been confused with cultural or national integrity, with structures of social control, with class and regional identities, with empire: and it has been imposed in the interest of all these and other forms of power,' he said.
The Archbishop said that faiths which reject the use of violence should learn to defend each other in their mutual interest.
Historically, there have been remarkably few major faiths which rejected the use of violence. Those faiths which tried to do so generally found themselves unable to resist the impact of rival religions with no such internal restrictions.
Remember my post from the dim, distant past (that'd be yesterday)? The one calling the ignorant, arrogant barista a "douchebag"? Well, it appears that I was wrong: it's not the barista . . . it's the owner who's a douchebag:
What could a customer and a coffee shop be scuffling over that would lead the owner to publicly announce that if the customer comes back in, he'll "punch him in the dick?" And the customer saying the only way he'll come back in is with "matches and a can of kerosene?" The right to pour espresso over ice, obviously. The blogstorm began as follows...
Again, I should note that it's actually a good sign that we can get ourselves all frothed up over something as central to the values of human existence as whether it's okay to pour espresso shots over ice . . .
American army deserter Robin Long could be headed home as early as today after his bid to delay his deportation order was rejected yesterday by [. . .] Canada's Federal Court. In her ruling, Justice Anne Mactavish said Mr. Long did not provide clear and convincing evidence that he will suffer irreparable harm if he is deported. Mr. Long, 25, is the first of an estimated 200 American army deserters who have sought refuge in Canada to be deported. Bob Ages, chairman of the Vancouver chapter of War Resisters Support Campaign, said he fears the decision will set a new precedent. Mr. Ages said he suspects the deportation is in reaction to his group's recent successes — last week, Canadian courts granted deserter Corey Glass a stay of removal and, in a separate case, ordered the Immigration and Refugee Board to reconsider the failed refugee claim of Joshua Key. Mr. Long, who had been living in Nelson, B.C., since moving from Ontario, needed the Federal Court to grant a stay of his deportation order in order to have his appeal heard.
Uncredited report in the The Ottawa Citizen, 2008-07-15
The nice thing is that we don't have to spend quite as much time as our ancestors did worrying about whether the crops will come up, or whether the plague will come to our village, or whether the douchebag Baron (or a neighbouring Duke, Earl, Chief, or knight) will decide to pillage the place. Isn't civilization wonderful?
Oh, the coffee thing? Here's the Lileksized version:
As for the coffee shop story — a guy wanted his espresso with ice, the "barista" wouldn’t do it, so the guy asked for ice on the side — and was given a dressing-down by the barista for insulting the integrity of the craft and the virtue of the crema, or whatever. The comments are amusing; while some people hammer the blogger for his crude reaction, others side with the barista for sticking up for the espresso, for saving it from the indignity this barbarian wished to inflict upon it. Criminey. The man paid for his coffee. If he wanted to add ground-up goat-glands and drizzle donkey spittle on the top once money had changed hands, that’s his right. I love coffee; I love good coffee. I love coffee so hot and strong it would exfoliate a yak, but I don’t regard it as some holy ichor. This is the blood of Juan Valdez, shed for you. Here is the biscotti, consecrated by a snob with a artful piercing who carefully vets the notes on the community bulletin board to make sure everyone’s using recycled paper. Coffee was simpler once. Worse, but simpler.
Amusingly, the original post ended up with the information that while the "barista" refused to serve the customer's requested iced triple espresso — because it was against company policy and it was an abomination before the coffee gods — they'd happily serve a "plastic cup with ice, filled it 3/4 of the way with water" with "four shots of espresso." So, three shots bad, four shots good?
I was all keyed up to watch the first web-episode of Joss Whedon's latest creation, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, but discovered — to my horror — that it's only available within the United States:
Clive sent me a link to this article about the world's oldest blogger:
The Australian woman renowned as the world's oldest internet blogger has made her final post, aged 108.
Olive Riley, of Woy Woy on NSW's central coast, died in a nursing home just after 6am yesterday.
She will be mourned by family and an international readership in the thousands.
"It was mind blowing to her," her great grandson Darren Stone, of Brisbane, told AAP last night.
"She had people communicating with her from as far away as Russia and America on a continual basis, not just once in a while."
Olive had posted more than 70 entries on her blog, or as she jokingly labelled it, her "blob", since February last year.
Andrew Bolt rounds up the reports on the first recorded case of Climate Change Derangement Syndrome:
Psychiatrists have detected the first case of "climate change delusion" — and they haven't even yet got to [Australian PM] Kevin Rudd and his global warming guru.
Writing in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, Joshua Wolf and Robert Salo of our Royal Children's Hospital say this delusion was a "previously unreported phenomenon".
"A 17-year-old man was referred to the inpatient psychiatric unit at Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne with an eight-month history of depressed mood . . . He also . . . had visions of apocalyptic events."
(So have Alarmist of the Year Tim Flannery, Profit of Doom Al Gore and Sir Richard Brazen, but I digress.)
"The patient had also developed the belief that, due to climate change, his own water consumption could lead within days to the deaths of millions of people through exhaustion of water supplies."
But never mind the poor boy, who became too terrified even to drink. What's scarier is that people in charge of our Government seem to suffer from this "climate change delusion", too.
I'm still skeptical about the whole "global warming"/"global climate change" thing, and I'm even more skeptical about the demands of activists (and government officials) that we need to radically change our lifestyles in order to combat climate change. It may well be happening, and it might even be significantly due to human action, but to overhaul the entire course of western civilization seems a vast over-reaction to what is not yet confirmed scientific fact.
If the planet is warming up, and if this warming is predominantly due to the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, then we still need to evaluate what the most likely results of this change will be — and not just point to the most extreme apocalyptic vapourings of the most hysterical and imaginative activists. It is not as though the planet has not warmed and cooled over long periods of time in the past (see the little ice age and the medieval warm period, for example).
If it turns out that the planet is warming to a level that makes it difficult for humans to continue to live in certain areas, then some action may well be required, but the sudden stampede of the credulous (and the politically ambitious) to support vast overarching controls over the economy just can't end well: central control of economies has been disastrous in almost every instance, and there's no reason to believe that doing it to prevent/reduce climate change would be any different.
Jon sent me a link to this short article on the cover of The New Yorker for July 21st:
The Obama campaign is condemning as “tasteless and offensive” a New Yorker magazine cover that depicts Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) in a turban, fist-bumping his gun-slinging wife.
An American flag burns in their fireplace.
The New Yorker says it's satire. It certainly will be candy for cable news.
The Obama campaign quickly condemned the rendering. Spokesman Bill Burton said in a statement: "The New Yorker may think, as one of their staff explained to us, that their cover is a satirical lampoon of the caricature Senator Obama's right-wing critics have tried to create. But most readers will see it as tasteless and offensive. And we agree."
McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds quickly e-mailed: "We completely agree with the Obama campaign, it’s tasteless and offensive."
I may finally have a reason to seek out a copy of The New Yorker . . .
Give Birth to a Patriot on Russia Day was cooked up three years ago by Ulyanovsk's governor, Sergei Morozov, to prod the local population into improving the region's dismal 2-to-1 death-to-birth ratio. It worked like this: Women who gave birth on June 12 would be guaranteed one of a variety of prizes—refrigerators, TV sets, washing machines, even cash, and one lucky family would be picked to win the grand prize: a brand-new Russian-made jeep called the UAZ-Patriot.
[. . .]
On June 12, while Russia enjoyed its day off, doctors all over Ulyanovsk struggled to survive the most hellish day of their professional careers. The region's maternity wards, which usually stood half-empty, were suddenly filled beyond maximum capacity. Masses of screaming pregnant women seemed to materialize out of thin air. Stressed-out and sleep-deprived doctors ran around frantically attending to patients. Most doctors were forced to work multiple shifts just to keep up with demand.
When the clock finally struck midnight and the last bloody sheet dropped to the ground, the tally was impressive. Eighty-seven children were born in Ulyanovsk that day, nearly four times the region's average daily birthrate. With just a few prizes, Morozov's team had found a solution to a problem that has haunted Russia for the last two decades. Or so it seemed.
H/T to Bob Kopman, who liked Craig's link so much that he had to top it.
A few months ago, I posted a Quote of the Day about the case in Arizona where a 13-year-old girl was strip searched by school officials because they suspected she had ibuprofen. Five years later, the court system has finally come to the right conclusion . . . but by the narrowest of margins:
The 6-5 ruling by a panel of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday overturned an earlier decision, setting out its reasoning in an extensive 75-page ruling with many details on the complications of eighth grade life.
"Directing a 13-year-old girl to remove her clothes, partially revealing her breasts and pelvic area, for allegedly possessing ibuprofen, an infraction that poses an imminent danger to no one, and which could be handled by keeping her in the principal's office until a parent arrived or simply sending her home, was excessively intrusive," Justice Kim McLane Wardlaw wrote for the majority.
The majority found flaws in the school's logic that a tip from another student justified the action.
"The self-serving statement of a cornered teenager facing significant punishment does not meet the heavy burden necessary to justify a search accurately described by the 7th Circuit as 'demeaning, dehumanizing, undignified, humiliating, terrifying, unpleasant [and] embarrassing'.
"And all this to find prescription-strength ibuprofen pills.
"No legal decision cited to us, or that we could find, permitted a strip search to discover substances regularly available over-the-counter at any convenience store throughout the United States."
I find it chilling that this decision was as close as 6-5. Any rational human being must believe that this kind of intrusive, abusive enforcement of spurious rules must be beyond the pale: what possible public good is served by humiliating and terrorizing a 13-year-old girl — on the word of another teen attempting to mitigate her own situation — for the "crime" of possibly possessing legal medication?
The Canadian launch of the Apple iPhone 3G wasn't quite the run-away success that Rogers may have hoped for, especially as they appeared to have remarkably small quantities of product on hand: 100 iPhones per store!
Apple's new iPhone was launched across the country Friday after a publicity buildup more suited to a mega-popular video game, but the lineups for the new high-tech toy weren't quite on the same scale.
The hundreds of Canadians who did spend hours in line Friday were among the first in the country to buy the highly-hyped iPhone - a year after U.S. consumers were first to buy it.
I'm not sure I get how this was supposed to work: Rogers expected "record first-day sales", yet they don't even have enough iPhones available to cover the line-up outside the Toronto store on opening day? And, in a brilliant display of sensitivity to their eager customers . . . nobody goes out to tell the folks waiting all those hours in line that only 100 of them are going to be served?
Customers were being admitted to the Toronto location at a blistering pace of "one customer roughly every 10 or 15 minutes". It's rather amazing that there were not more altercations in the queue, as there had been in a reported case in Florida.
Worse, both for Rogers and other suppliers, servers were unable to handle the sudden load as new customers tried to get their iPhones activated and existing customers tried to update their firmware to take advantage of the new operating system features.
Liz Hamilton, a spokesperson for Rogers, confirmed that the cable and wireless giant had run into some computer-system issues because of the "unprecedented consumer demand" for the latest version of the device, which went on sale around the world yesterday.
"Systems are slow and there were periods where they were down but at last check, they are up and running," she said in the early afternoon. "Our customers are experiencing some wait times for our customer activation and even the process of 'unbricking' (unlocking) as iTunes was experiencing unprecedented demand worldwide."
Out in the RuinedIphone.com zone, where over 64,000 have signed the petition, they're trying to put together a group to approach Rogers in hopes of getting a better deal:
Ok. The only way to make a difference is to get a petition together and force a deal. We are trying to get as many people as possible together in order for us to negotiate a great deal on celluar data and voice plans to our visitors. Once this list hits 10,000 people we will approach Rogers, Bell, Telus and other alternatives to offer people a plan that will rival any plan in the states. The more people the better. Please enter your name only if you are serious.
We are going to negotiate a deal that will hopefully take care of cancellation fees from your current provider. The more numbers we get the more power we will have.
John Scalzi enjoys a bit of fun-poking at the expense of an elitist who calls other people "elitist":
This article notes that Lady de Rothschild was worth $100 million in 1998 . . . which was before she married Sir Evelyn Rothschild, of the British branch of the Rothschild financial dynasty, which is worth, well, lots.
So, on one hand, I suppose Lady de Rothschild might know what an elitist looks like. On the other hand, her saying she doesn't like Obama because she thinks he is elitist is so full of rich and creamy clueless irony that I feel like every person in the country who makes less than a quarter million dollars a year ought to drop trou, face away from Lady de Rothschild, and tell her to kiss our base and common puckerguards. Anyone who lives on a 3,200 acre estate that features an entrance hall "notable for its large paintings by Thomas Gainsborough, George Romney, and Joshua Reynolds" loses the ability to criticize anyone else in the entire goddamn universe for being "elitist," particularly a dude who while growing up got to experience the joys of a food stamp dinner.
Jon sent me a link to this article, which sounds like it was copied from The Onion:
In order to enhance the security of air travel and to help manage illegal immigration, the Department of Homeland Security has solicited a proposal from a Canadian security company to develop a passenger stun bracelet.
Like the pain collars featured in the classic Star Trek episode The Gamesters of Triskelion, Lamperd Less Lethal's electro-muscular disruption (EMD) bracelet is intended to incapacitate wearers on remote command.
Well, today's the day . . . for the usual sort of breathless enthusiasm:
The mobile phone that lets users play music, watch video, surf the Internet and check email rolls out across Canada on Friday after a lot of hype and a controversy over price.
Apparently this reporter had never heard of the Blackberry or the Treo, as they've offered some or all of the noteworthy features (music, email, web browsing) for some time now.
But though the Apple iPhone may be the smartphone consumers long to have, analysts say spending on the phone may not live up to its buzz. Exclusive Canadian carrier Rogers Wireless hasn't said how many iPhones it has received to sell in Canada or would like to sell here, but has said it has sufficient inventory.
The price is still controversial, even after the bone Rogers threw to potential customers earlier this week. I have to agree with this:
Analysts said that while there's pent-up demand for the high-end, touch-screen phone, only a small segment of consumers will buy it because of the costs associated with running it.
"The average person is going to look at this thing and say 'Very cool, very nice phone,' but am I willing to spend the money for a three-year contract at probably $70 to $80 a month minimum when you talk about voice and data," said U.S. telecom analyst Jack Gold.
You'll notice, for example, that I'm not busy lining up in front of the Toronto location for iPhone sales, unlike several dozen people gathered outside a Halifax store:
A crowd of several dozen people gathered outside a Halifax store Friday morning waiting to buy the first Apple iPhones to be sold in Canada.
The East Coast city is the first of six cities where select Rogers Wireless stores will be opening their doors at 8 a.m. local time to sell the much-hyped smart phones Friday. Other stores are located in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa and Calgary.
About 30 people waited outside a store in a Halifax mall early Friday morning, while in Toronto a string of people sat in lawn chairs outside a downtown store near the Eaton Centre.
Only in the media does a crowd of "several dozen" become the equivalent of "about 30".
Some in Halifax said they'd arrived as early as 2 a.m. to beat an expected rush.
Store officials, who were handing out numbered tickets, said they expect crowds to grow throughout the day.
You can bet that the store officials are praying that the crowds will materialize, never mind grow. If this doesn't turn into the anticipated feeding frenzy, Rogers will be quite embarassed (especially after their widely reported "climbdown"):
But when Canadians open their wallets to buy the popular device, they will be paying almost the highest overall price of all countries.
Canadians who buy the device before the end of August will fork out $2,176 US over the course of the three-year contract they must sign with Rogers Communications Inc., the sole provider in the country. That amount includes the up-front fee for the phone, plus monthly service charge.
Italy comes in first with $2,554 for a two-year service agreement. The amounts are in American dollars for the purpose of comparison.
I tried to post this yesterday, and spent what seemed like hours getting the same server error instead of the "Rebuilding . . ." message.
I was unable to post yesterday, so this is a test to see if whatever the clog in the intarwebs was is still there.
Purple faced quite a challenge last night against Whitby Green: they've improved significantly since the first meeting between the two teams and recently moved into second place behind Purple. Wind was a major factor in this game, with strong gusts coming in over the northeast corner of the field, giving Green a decided advantage during the first half (the wind was much less gusty during the second half, so that Purple didn't derive quite as much advantage in their turn).
Purple's players were late in arriving at the field, so Anthony C. (who usually plays forward) had to sub in as keeper until his cousin Nick M. arrived and got on to the field. Anthony had a flurry of activity during the 10 minutes of his shift, with Purple yielding three corner kicks in that span. Between the wind and the highly physical style of play used by the Green forwards, Purple was pretty much trapped in their own end for most of the first half. Green's pressure resulted in a 1-goal lead that held up until near the end of the half, when Mitch B. was able to move up the field and score the equalizer.
With the switch in ends, the second half was a mirror-image of the first, with Green pushed back on their heels and Purple constantly attacking. Mitch scored his second goal to give Purple their only lead of the night, with a clever move on a Corey M. corner kick.
The game had started off very physical, and the contact got progressively more and more uncontrolled as the game went on. The referee failed to clamp down on it early in the game, so one thing built on another and it was starting to resemble a rugby game at times. Victor R., Marco B., and Mark M. were each subject to repeated "head-hunting" by Green players, and Jordan S. had to leave the game after a spectacular tackle-from-behind that the referee somehow failed to notice. Adding insult to injury, the referee gave verbal warnings to Victor and Marco even though they were the players being fouled.
Near the end of the game, Mitch was tackled from behind just outside the 6-yard box (which should have resulted in a penalty shot for Purple). It was so obviously an intentional attempt to prevent a shot on goal that Purple's forwards were busy arguing about who should take the shot — ignoring the fact that the referee was indicating a free kick in the other direction. A quick-thinking Green defender ran up and booted the ball forward, and Purple was caught absolutely flat-footed. A few seconds later, Green had equalized.
And that was the end of the game.
Colour me astounded: Rogers is offering a better deal:
Rogers Communications Inc. has thrown a bone to potential iPhone customers by offering a limited-time promotional data rate plan that should silence complaints about Canadian pricing for the eagerly-anticipated device.
The wireless giant said today it would give iPhone subscribers who sign up before Aug. 31 the option of purchasing a 6-gigabyte data plan for $30 per month in addition to any voice plan.
While that still doesn’t match the unlimited data plans offered in the United States by AT&T Inc., the promotion offers significantly better value than the rate plans Rogers unveiled earlier this month.
Under that pricing model, the cheapest plan offered just 400 megabytes of data, 150 minutes of weekday talk time and unlimited evenings and weekends for $60 per month plus fees and taxes.
Interestingly, $60 per month was about as much as I'd be willing to pay.
So, I take back some of my pessimism that the public outcry from potential Rogers iPhone customers wouldn't force the company to make any change to their offerings. It's still not as good a deal as many other countries' iPhone offerings, but it's much better than the original offer.
H/T to Jon for the link.
Rising prices are being reported everywhere . . . even in the drug trade:
During a routine traffic stop in Ohio, police discovered over 100 pounds of the most valuable marijuana ever documented:
Police curbed the gray, four-door Mercury Grand Marquis Ruci was driving after he allegedly committed a lane violation, the highway patrol statement indicated. A specially trained, narcotics-detecting dog was brought to the scene, and its reaction to the car signaled the presence of drugs, the statement said.
A search of the vehicle yielded 104 pounds of hydroponically-grown marijuana stuffed inside eight black plastic trash bags. Police said the marijuana had an estimated street sale value of more than $4.7 million. [Naperville Sun]
This is really an incredible discovery and I'm surprised it hasn't generated more attention. At $4.7 million for 104 pounds, we're talking about an ounce that's worth $2824.51! That just blows away everything listed at High Times's market quotes section, where ounces of high-grade marijuana in Ohio last month were listed at $400. It also overwhelms the STRIDE data collected by drug enforcement officers showing that U.S. marijuana prices averaged around $200 per ounce as of 2003.
So far, I haven't heard of anyone smoking this new type of marijuana, but that's probably because the police took it all.
Don't worry though: it's the usual middle-man markup by both the police and the media. Regular users shouldn't find this particular kind of sticker shock next time they are in the market.
James Lileks unloads his bile on Deborah Harry:
As for "Blondie," the song was "Tide is High," which I loathe, right up to and including Debbie Harry's yips at the end. Some people said that the song marked the End of New Wave, but for heaven's sake New Wave ended with the first Blondie song. Okay? New York "downtown" ethos meets pseudo-Moroder synths, uses square-headed frontperson for sex appeal, that's it for New Wave. Don't talk to me about this. I'm still bitter.
Not really. Although I do matter when these things mattered a great deal, and how we had to come up with new genres to describe every deviation from the style of the times, since it was the style that nurtured our souls and gave our lives meaning. We are living in an era when New Jersey garage rockers are successfully using the raw, nervy Kinks style and adding post-Beatles sensibility to create an entirely new style, which is as impossible to dance to as its antecedents! Actually, to tell the truth I did think the term "post-Beatles" today, and in the correct sense of "stealing specific chords and/or harmonies." I was driving around Lake Harriet shooting a video for buzz.mn — a big summer-long project about all the lakes, released sometime early in September — and "It's a Livin' Thing" came on the radio. Electric Light Orchestra.
There's always that moment of shame when you find yourself liking a song from a group that has long passed out of favor and into the realm of ignored bands good for a punch line, but not if you're talking to anyone under 20.
According to The Register's Cade Metz, Apple's Steve Jobs isn't too happy with the deal they've struck with Rogers — unhappy enough to prevent Apple's own stores in Canada from selling the iPhone 3G:
On Friday, the 3G Jesus Phone makes its debut in 22 countries across the globe, including Canada. But you can't buy one from a Canadian Apple Store.
"[The 3G iPhone] will not be sold in [Canadian] Apple retail stores, but we will have the product to demo, and all our specialists will be trained on the 3G iPhone as well," is the word from an Apple automaton at the Eaton Centre Apple Store in Toronto.
According to AppleInsider, Steve Jobs has barred 3G iPhone sales from Canada's six Apple Stores because he's "disgusted" with the service plans laid down by cell provider Rogers Wireless. Rogers' monthly service plans for the reborn Jesus Phone start at $60 Canadian a month for just 150 calling minutes, 75 outgoing text messages, and 400 megabytes of net data. And each requires a three-year commitment.
Jobs is loath to sell these plans, so he's forcing Rogers and partner Fido to sell them on their own.
Interesting indeed, if true. Also "3G Jesus Phone" . . . heh!
Wired is first out of the gates with a look at the iPhone operating system:
I can't tell you how we got ahold of a first-generation iPhone loaded with version 2.0 of the iPhone operating system. What I can tell you is that if I do reveal this information, homicidal ninjas will come to my house and kill my family. Nevertheless, we do have one — and we were able to take a look inside and find a few minute yet interesting changes. Here's a preview of some of the ways in which iPhone 2.0 differs from iPhone 1.0.
iPhone 2.0, of course, is the operating system that will come preinstalled on iPhone 3G models when those start shipping on Friday, July 11. iPhone 2.0 will also be available as a free software upgrade to people who have first-generation iPhones.
[. . .]
The Contacts application now features a long-awaited search function. No more scrolling through endless menus: You can just type the first few letters of a name and the list narrows down to matching entries as you enter each letter. The search applies to fields that aren't visible, too, so you can search on company names, for instance.
Here, we entered the search term "Wired" and Chris Anderson, the magazine's editor in chief, popped up in the search results. Amy Winehouse popped up when we typed in "trainwreck."
The nutbars are apparently also iPhone 3G fans:
iPhones and sustainable agriculture don't have a lot in common, but a bedraggled group of publicity-seekers and iPhone enthusiasts who want the next U.S. president to plant an organic farm on the White House lawn have connected the two as a reason to line up for Friday's iPhone 3G launch.
Led by a fresh-faced sprite called Daniel Bowman Simon — who looks more likely to be driving his father's SUV than getting his hands dirty hoeing a row of seeds — Waiting for Apples' mission is to encourage people to grow their own food while setting a Guinness World Record for the most time spent waiting in line to buy something.
The group also wants to promote The White House Organic Farm Project, which is taking names for a petition to inspire the next president to plant an organic farm at the White House, the official residence of the U.S. president.
A few members of Waiting for Apples have been camped out in front of New York City's flagship Apple Store on Fifth Avenue since Friday morning, fortified by stacks of organic produce that a friend is delivering to them via bicycle from the Union Square Greenmarket.
An uncharitable person (like, well, me) might say something like "These folks probably don't bathe regularly anyway, so a week of camping out isn't likely to make them smell any worse than they normally would."
And no iPhone round-up would be complete without at least one of my fellow Canadian malcontents whining on about how Rogers is overcharging for iPhone service:
I'm Canadian and proud of it. Despite the fact that Macworld operates out of San Francisco, I still live in Halifax, Nova Scotia with my wife, two kids and our dog. It's a wonderful place to live and bring up a family. However, not everything is peachy up here, north of the border.
Specifically, for the past couple of weeks, I've had an uneasy feeling--the kind of feeling you get when you are walking in a strange city late at night and you notice a gang of thugs behind you. The difference is, these thugs wear suits and work for Rogers. Don't let the suits fool you, they are trying to rob me blind.
I'm referring, of course, to the iPhone plans announced by Rogers Wireless, which is Apple's iPhone partner here in Canada. The plans (all priced in Canadian dollars) are $60 a month for 150 weekday minutes, 400MB of data, and 75 text messages; $75 for 300 weekday minutes, 750MB of data, and 100 text messages; $100 for 600 weekday minutes, 1GB of data, and 200 text messages; and $115 for 800 weekday minutes, 2GB of data, and 300 text messages. Each plan also includes unlimited evening and weekend minutes (9 p.m. to 7 a.m.), visual voicemail, and access to Rogers Wireless and Fido Hotspots. Sending additional text messages will cost 15 cents per message, and additional data is billed at a rate of 50 cents per megabyte for the first 60MB, and then an additional 3 cents per megabyte. The price for extra weekday minutes varies depending on the plan, ranging from 35 cents to 15 cents.
No word on whether Rogers also wants one of my kids and an extra limb or two as well.
Parenthetically, RuinediPhone.com is up to 54 thousand petitioners who may well be upset but a significant proportion of whom are likely to be lined up outside a Rogers outlet at 10 am on Friday morning. I almost wish Rogers was evil enough to note who'd signed and then refuse to sell 'em an iPhone on Friday morning . . .
To restate: Rogers is a corporate entity. Corporations exist to make money. The only way Rogers will be prompted to change their current iPhone offerings is if it becomes clear that their current plans will not yield as much profit as a revised plan. The only way this might happen is if enough people choose not to purchase an iPhone 3G when they become available on Friday. Signatures on a petition are just a moral gesture . . . not an economic one.
Of course, it would help in so many other ways if the Canadian wireless market wasn't a duopoly of Rogers and Bell . . .
John Scalzi finds a perfect use for his less-than-stellar "stimulus" cheque:
So what do you do with a stupid, frivolous amount of stimulus money? Well, you spend it on something stupid and frivolous, of course!
Bob Barr has about as much chance of being president as I have in getting a tomato plant to spontaneously erupt out of my forehead, but he does have a teeniest bit of a chance of peeling off just enough disgruntled GOPers to be a pain in John McCain's ass come the general election, which at this point works for me as an ersatz protest vote and the GOP economic stewardship of the country (note that this statement will undoubtedly cause some delusional conservative/Republican to opine in the comments that it will be Obama whom Barr will peel voters off of, not McCain. Dear delusional conservative/Republican commenter: Just because you're apparently huffing acetone from the inside of a paper bag doesn't mean the rest of us are). That said, I don't actually want to spend real money on Bob Barr; I don't want anyone to get the idea he's actually my guy, presidentially speaking. I mean, really. Speaking of huffing acetone. For what I want to do here, six dollars and ten cents is almost exactly the right amount to send the dude. So that's what I sent . . .
Kurt Loder reviews the new documentary on Hunter S. Thompson:
The late Hunter S. Thompson was a dazzling writer who in his days of greatness — from the mid-1960s to the mid-'70s, approximately — misled a lot of younger writers into believing that if they just ingested enough drugs and alcohol, they, too, could write like Hunter S. Thompson. It didn't work that way. In the end, it didn't even work that way for Hunter anymore.
In "Gonzo," Alex Gibney's moving new documentary about Thompson, we meet the man foursquare: not just the brilliant, rampaging star of the "new journalism" of that period, but also the irascible crank, the drunken gun nut, the public menace. Hunter was much-loved by his many admiring cronies, among them Bill Murray, Keith Richards and Johnny Depp (who narrates the film). "On the other hand," says his ex-wife Sandy, "he was absolutely vicious." Such balanced candor is rare in any documentary, and it makes "Gonzo" the most transfixing film about a troubled artist since the 1994 "Crumb."
I first read Thompson's writing in the mid-1970s, and it was a jaw-dropping experience at that time. I thought his Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail '72 was utterly brilliant . . . it actually made me much more aware of the American political system almost in spite of itself. The word pictures were so arresting, so outré, that they still stick in my mind now, literally thousands of books later.
His later writings fell well short of the full-court brilliance of his best stuff, but they still had glimmerings of his earlier power with words. He kept returning to the same themes — and sometimes the very same phrases — over and over, as his writing got less and less original, and (frankly) less and less readable. I recently read one of his last collections, Hey, Rube: Blood Sport, the Bush Doctrine, and the Downward Spiral of Dumbness Modern History from the Sports Desk, and it was only a pale shadow . . . but even near the bitter end Thompson was still capable of startlingly accurate word pictures. Perhaps they stood out more because they were surrounded with so much dross.
In a sure sign that the summer doldrums are upon us, Wired presents their selections for the worst 10 aircraft:
Tupolev TU- 144
The Concorde gets all the love, but Russia's Tupolev TU-144 was the first supersonic transport and the only commercial plane to exceed Mach 2. The "Concordski" was fast but plagued by bad luck. Three crashes -- including a dramatic mid-air breakup during the 1973 Paris Air Show -- relegated it largely to a lifetime delivering mail. It was mothballed in 1985 but briefly brought back a few years later as a research plane.
B.O.A.C de Havilland Comet
The Comet was the premiere commercial jet airliner and a landmark in British aeronautics when it first flew in 1949. Today it's better known for its atrocious safety record. Of the 114 Comets built, 13 were involved in fatal accidents, most of them attributed to design flaws and metal fatigue.
Hughes H-4 Hercules
The "Spruce Goose" was either a brilliant aircraft years ahead of its time or the biggest government boondoggle ever. By far the largest aircraft ever conceived — its wingspan was 319 feet — the Spruce Goose was intended to be a military transport plane. But it wasn't finished until well after World War II ended, rendering it both obsolete and irrelevant. It only flew once.
Lists like these are useful for media outlets: they interest people, they're relatively easy to pull together, and they spark controversy (because no two people will ever agree about the ten best or ten worst anything). There were some rather less successful models than the ones selected for this list, but I'll leave that for the aviation fans to hash out.
BBC News reports that the word "Yuck!" used by toddlers throughout the English-speaking world to show their lack of appreciation for certain foods may be a signal of racism:
[The 336-page National Children's Bureau guide] said: "A child may react negatively to a culinary tradition other than their own by saying, 'Yuck!"'.
That may indicate a lack of familiarity with that particular food, or "more seriously a reaction to a food associated with people from a particular ethnic or cultural community".
It also warned: "Racist incidents among children in early-years settings tend to be around name-calling, casual thoughtless comments and peer group relationships."
Staff should be watchful of children using racist language, it added.
This is a document that masterfully combines the ongoing program of infantilization of adults with an uncanny belief in the complexity and depth of understanding on the part of toddlers.
H/T to John Parry for the link.
A bit late for the US holiday weekend, but still worth reading . . . L. Neil Smith:
Thirty-one years ago, in 1977, in what turned out to be my first novel, The Probability Broach, I asked a rhetorical question about the nation's Independence day, the Fourth of July: "What was left to celebrate?"
Even then, long before September 1, 2001, Homeland Security, Abu Graib, and Guantanamo (in those days, it was just a navy base), it was clear to me that what America's Founding Fathers had worked so hard and sacrificed so much to create was being destroyed, at a faster and faster rate each year, by those to whom the very notion of individuals at liberty to control their own lives is a nightmare straight out of hell.
The holiday itself presents all the evidence one needs to reach a conclusion like that. Then, as now, if you attempt to enjoy it in the manner traditional to our ancestors, heavily-armed uniformed thugs will show up on your doorstep, steal your fireworks (which they'll shoot off later, behind the station house, when they think nobody is looking), and if you tell them to go where they belong, they'll smash down your door, Taser you into convulsions, beat you up, and haul you away.
Or kill you.
For your own safety.
Happy Independence Day.
If you were to "shoot the anvil" — by placing a charge of black gunpowder beneath it and setting it off, sending the anvil a dozen or more feet into the air — they'd soil themselves, and then call in an airstrike.
You are perfectly welcome to celebrate freedom, as long as you do it in chains. TV and radio nags, most of them government-empowered one way or another, spoil the day for weeks in advance by preaching over and over that "you'll shoot your eye out" if you try to enjoy your own fireworks, and that everything else you might happen to love about the day — especially your Fourth of July barbecue — will give you a heart attack, cancer, or (despite the First Amendment's guarantee to freedom from religion) somehow despoil and offend the Earth Mother Goddess.
Steve Chapman points out that the "sky is falling" rhetoric about the Guantanamo inmates is seriously overdone:
"Islamic terrorists have constitutional rights," lamented one conservative blog when the Supreme Court said Guantanamo inmates can challenge their detention in court. "These are enemy combatants," railed John McCain. The court, charged former federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy of National Review, sided with foreigners "whose only connection with our body politic is their bloody jihad against Americans."
The operating assumption here is that the prisoners are terrorists who were captured while fighting a vicious war against the United States. But can the critics be sure? All they really know about the Guantanamo detainees is that they are Guantanamo detainees. To conclude that they are all bloodthirsty jihadists requires believing that the U.S. government is infallible.
But how sensible is that approach? Judging from a little-noticed federal appeals court decision that came down after the Supreme Court ruling, not very.
It's mighty convenient to have a place where normal laws don't run and where you can dump prisoners, suspects, and those unfortunates who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Mere convenience is no where near enough justification for ignoring the legal framework under which you're supposed to operate . . . and that's exactly what the US military has been doing right up until the recent Supreme Court decision.
Even if the highest public estimates are correct (that is, that 73% of the detainees represent a real threat) the rest — against whom the government may have no more than a verbal assurance from an Afghan warlord that they are enemies — should never have been detained and should be set free as soon as possible. Basic western standards of justice demand no less
I make a point of looking at the Economist each week, in order to see what this part of the establishment are thinking. I can not normally stand to read it for than a couple of minutes (as it makes me feel unclean), but that is enough time to find some utter absurdity with which amuse people.
However, this week I think I have come upon the worst Economist article of all time:
The title, featured on the front cover, is "McCain's lurch to the right" . . . For those who do not know British "political speak", "lurch to the right" is what the Labour party (and so on) have long said whenever a Conservative party politician gives any sign of not agreeing with everything the BBC and Guardian newspaper hold to be correct.
Paul Marks, "Latest attack on John McCain: The worst 'Economist' article of all time?", Samizdata, 2008-07-05
There aren't enough shades of ironic to cover this one:
Daily Mail publisher Associated Newspapers has admitted that a laptop containing financial and personal details of thousands of staff, suppliers and contributors has been stolen.
After months of criticising "criminally careless" government departments for losing confidential records, the company has been forced to send out an embarrassing letter telling journalists they may now be at risk of identity theft, MediaGuardian.co.uk can reveal.
There's a silver lining to all this — they can re-use all the headlines like this one:
Hard to disagree, isn't it?
It's starting to seem like piling on when even the Mac-heads at Macworld are asking impertinent questions about the iPhone 3G service costs:
Nothing stirs the imagination like an major Apple product update such as the iPhone 3G. Weeks before its July 11 release date, people will talk excitedly about its new features, thrill to its touted benefits, and dream of the day they can finally hold one in their hands. Very little, it seems, can dim people's enthusiasm.
Until the pricing information gets released, and the cold, hard sting of dollars and cents sets in.
AT&T released its rate plans for the iPhone 3G this week. The plans are essentially US$10 higher than existing iPhone plans, and text messaging is no longer included. Messaging rates start at $5 per month for 200 messages and go up to $20 a month for unlimited texting. Or you can pay as you go, at a rate of 20 cents for each text message. The end result — even though the iPhone 3G costs less than its predecessor, you'll wind up paying more in service charges over the life of your two-year contract with AT&T.
Those figures caused a few of us around the Macworld offices to pause from our anticipatory iPhone 3G yearnings and take stock: Are the changes promised by the latest iPhone worth the higher service plan rates. Below, you'll find two arguments — one from an editor who's had second thoughts and another from one who's as gung-ho about the iPhone 3G as ever.
Fascinating. Even the most die-hard Apple fans are balking at paying the anticipated higher costs for the newest, coolest iPhone. Could it possibly be that Apple and their various partners are over-estimating the traction that "cool new toy" can get against "hard economic reality"?
To recap: I'm following this story because I was toying with the idea of buying an iPhone 3G, but the announced costs from Rogers (the only Canadian firm handling the iPhone) are making me reconsider whether I'd be better off sticking with my Treo 600 . . . especially as Bell Mobility has improved their own data offerings since I last checked them out. Because I lost my cell phone soon after renewing my Bell contract, I ended up paying a lot for my current Treo, so if I can keep it going for a few more years, it'd probably be the wiser economic choice.
I've never actually bought an Apple product before, although I've occasionally used them at work. In no way was I looking at the iPhone as a "have-to-have" purchase . . . perhaps I'm not alone in this.
Getting back to the WHO study, it's striking that the lifetime marijuana use rate in the U.S. (42.4 percent) is more than twice as high as the rate in the Netherlands (19.8 percent), despite the latter country's famously (or notoriously, depending on your perspective) tolerant cannabis policies. The difference for lifetime cocaine use is even bigger: The U.S. rate (16.2 percent) is eight times the Dutch rate (1.9 percet). Do these results mean that draconian drug laws promote drug use, while a relatively laid-back approach discourages it? Not necessarily; that would be a hell of a "forbidden fruit" effect. But one thing that's clear is the point made by the WHO researchers: Drug use "is not simply related to drug policy." If tinkering with drug policy (within the context of prohibition) has an impact, it is hard to discern, and it's small compared to the influence of culture and economics.
Jacob Sullum, "What's the Opposite of a Drug-Free Society?", Hit and Run, 2008-07-04
What do you do when you're a crusading newspaper reporter, and there's nothing to crusade against? Well, if you work for the Mail on Sunday, you manufacture a bogus story. First, you artistically create a headline to catch the reader's attention . . . like this one:
After years of working for free, Down's syndrome man must PAY to wash councillors' dishes
Then, having arrested their notice from the scantily dressed starlets and fringe royals down the side of the page, you then build on the headline with carefully crafted misdirection:
A Down's syndrome man and Special Olympics champion who has been working for free for years is now being charged a fee to wash councillors' dishes.
Good. You've reinforced the message in the headline, so you can assume that the lazy reader will skim past the essential information in the next sentence:
Virgil Taylor has been helping to wash up, wipe tables and set up trolleys in a restaurant used by town hall staff for 17 years as part of subsidised adult care services.
Note the extra careful phrasing here: part of subsidised adult care services. It encourages you to read that as if Mr. Taylor is a volunteer for that program, in spite of his own disabilities. Now we move on to another delicate piece of misdirection:
Every week Mr Taylor - who won a gold medal at the Special Olympics in Glasgow in 2005 - has attended 10 sessions run by the William Knowles Centre in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset.
But now savage cuts have ended the subsidies and the 34-year-old will have to pay £2.50 per session for the 'privilege' of cleaning up after councillors.
You are now aware that Mr. Taylor is a Special Oympian, a gold medal winner, no less, which makes it seem to be even more unfair that he's being charged money to be allowed to help out, right?
Now, we can bring in the outraged parent who sums things up nicely:
His outraged mother Joan, of Winscombe, said: 'Virgil does not get paid for his time at the Town Hall. But I would never stop him going as it makes him feel useful and he is so proud when he puts his uniform on.
'He does this for nothing but he loves it and that is the most important thing.
'How and why should he pay? The £2.50 per session will really eat into his savings.'
Okay, we've pretty much got all the readers on-side now, angry at the skinflint, evil, oppressive council, right? Great. So we can pretty much assume that they're too upset to parse out the actual details buried in the remainder of the article.
But a more careful reading of the situation reveals it's not quite what the reporter wants you to think: Mr. Taylor isn't a volunteer. He's a participant in the adult daycare program, which until now has been provided free of charge by the local government. As part of the program, Mr. Taylor helps out in the council cafeteria — as a form of occupational therapy — not as an unpaid volunteer.
The new fee being introduced will probably be a tiny percentage of the cost of running the program (remember, up until now it's been free). This is what the outraged parent has to say about the change:
Mrs Taylor said: 'I save the Government a lot of money keeping him with me and I would not have it any other way.
'I am an honest person and the underhanded way we have been treated sickens me.
'Those at the council should hang their heads in shame.'
Did you catch that little slight-of-tongue there? She "save[s] the government a lot of money" by keeping her own son at home. Breathtaking illustration of the culture of entitlement: her son isn't really her responsibility . . . he's the government's responsibility . . . and she's being public-spirited by looking after him (except when he's in the almost free government-run adult daycare program).
Al Stewart's "Last Days of the Century" from a concert in 1988.
Like, for instance, this one:
The flight from Belgrade to London made an emergency evacuation after passengers panicked, fearing a terrorist gas attack.
But an official investigation into the incident at the Nikola Tesla Airport in the Serbian capital has revealed the fumes had escaped from a giant container of curry spices in the plane's cargo hold.
Okay, absurd enough? No, not quite:
Dozens of passengers had to flee the plane after it was returned to Belgrade and contained on a special emergency procedure runway at the airport.
Emergency workers wearing breathing apparatus helped screaming passengers off the plane before the source of the fumes was discovered.
So the curry spice (probably containing more than the normal proportion of Asafoetida) was so powerful that it caused the passengers to spontaneously scream? Or did the flight crew wind them up enough with hints of poison gas that they naturally panicked?
For a high-profile tech toy, the iPhone 3G isn't getting quite the happy welcome Apple may have anticipated. Take, for example, this Canadian Press headline:
Apple's iPhone may have poisonous bite for consumers with its high rate plans
Apple's iPhone may have a poisonous bite for Canadian consumers who want the much-desired touchscreen phone when it finally goes on sale later this month.
Analysts said Wednesday that consumers will have to pay the voice and data rates set by Rogers Communications Inc. (TSX:RCI.B) if they want the high-end device unless early sales are slow.
Rogers is the only Canadian carrier that has a network capable of running the iPhone, which goes on sale on July 11.
"Right now Rogers thinks that the iPhone is such a compelling device that people will essentially pay anything to get one," said PC Magazine's Sascha Segan.
"They they'll sign away their lives for three years, they'll pay higher data rates than are charged on other devices because the iPhone is so incredibly sexy and so incredibly desired."
As I said a couple of days ago, no matter how loud the screaming is from the peanut gallery, unless sales are significantly lower than they expect, Rogers is not likely to do much to make their offerings more consumer-friendly. From their point of view, there's not much reason to do so: the product is so eagerly anticipated that they will probably run out within the first few days of availability. If that doesn't happen, perhaps Rogers will reconsider, but the smart money is betting against it.
Bottom line: if you really want an iPhone 3G, but don't want to pay as much as Rogers wants, you have to restrain yourself from lining up next Friday. That's it. If enough of you do it, so that Rogers is left with lots of unsold iPhones after a few days (or weeks), they'll have to reconsider their situation. I don't expect it will happen: the feeding frenzy will occur exactly on schedule at your local Rogers storefront.
But I'd be delighted to be proven wrong.
In an astonishing economic turnaround, Canadians appear to have overtaken Americans in terms of individual wealth, according to Macleans:
How did this happen? Canada often comes out ahead when you look at squishy things like quality of life. But since when were we richer? Mintz credits the rising loonie, the boom in commodities, and better public policy. He says that over the past decade productivity growth in the U.S. has slowed, while we've been hacking away at our government debt and lowering taxes. In short, as a nation, we've been doing everything right, while the U.S. has been doing everything wrong.
When you look at how individual Canadian and American families make and spend their money, it gets even more interesting. The numbers show that our median household incomes are about the same, or at least they were back in 2005 when the most recent figures came out. That year the median household income in Canada was about US$44,300, after you adjust it for the exchange rate and our lower purchasing power, while the American median was US$46,300. Since then, the loonie has gained on the U.S. dollar, so we've likely narrowed the gap. But while our incomes may be similar to American incomes, we're still much wealthier because we have less debt. What you make isn't a good measure of how rich you are — to figure out your true wealth you should add up everything you have and subtract what you owe. And Americans owe more. A lot more. Here in Canada the average amount of personal debt per person is US$23,460. In the U.S. it's a whopping US$40,250. And all those numbers are from 2005, just before their housing market slipped into a sinkhole. If you looked at the numbers now, you'd find that Americans are even further behind, because their largest asset — their home — is worth less. "There has been a lot of destruction of wealth in the U.S. over the past few years," says Mintz, "and that would affect the net worth figures significantly. I would suspect that they would be even worse off today."
This is a very interesting article, although it does reinforce a few smug Canuck notions, it's surprising how different the average statistical American is from the average statistical Canadian. (Note the careful deployment of the word "statistical" in that statement.) Certainly some of the differences between Canadian and American attitude to debt can be traced to the differences in tax policies: Americans can deduct mortgage interest, while Canadians don't have that incentive. That alone would encourage people to take on a larger mortgage debtload, and with the housing market currently wobbling and the employment picture dimming, there are going to be more people discovering that they can't service those larger debtloads.
That being said, we're still disproportionally dependent on the overall health of the US economy . . . if recent anaemic economic numbers continue or worsen, Canada will still suffer as our largest trading partner does. In economic terms, no North American country is an island, and we're all much more vulnerable to economic downturns in the US economy than we used to be.
H/T to Craig Nodwell for the link.
In a game that was much closer than the final score indicated, Whitby Purple defeated Whitby Neon by a final tally of 4-1. Pat C., playing centre-forward, scored twice (one on a penalty), while Adriano C. and Anthony C. both contributed goals.
The first half started, as always, with Purple defending their 18-yard box for significant periods of time, yeilding several corner kicks and free-throws, but (just barely) keeping Neon off the scoreboard. First half keeper Nick M. was kept very busy, with several dramatic saves to his credit. The first half ended with Purple clinging to a single goal lead, courtesy of Adriano, which was scored very much against the flow of play.
Victor R. replaced Nick in goal for the second half, and benefitted from Purple's traditional second-half rally, only having a few close calls for the first fifteen minutes of the second half. Pat's penalty goal gave Purple a brief breathing space, but Neon replied quickly, sending their forwards up with good support from midfield. Purple didn't break up the attack quickly enough, which gave Neon the scoring opportunity.
Neon's goal steadied Purple, and the possession percentage was strongly in Purple's favour for the rest of the game. The few times that Neon threatened for the rest of the game were quashed fairly easily, with Victor's booming goal kicks quickly moving the action back into Neon territory. Daniel V. and James S. both showed excellent defending skills during the second half, allowing Purple's midfield to play a bit further forward than they normally would.
Next week's game will pit Purple against Whitby Green, who have been playing extremely well recently.
Some science suggests that happiness is essentially a fixed commodity. It may rise or fall sharply because of events — getting a raise, breaking a leg — but over the long run, people adapt to those experiences and revert to their natural level of satisfaction (or melancholy).
Scratch that theory. According to a recent global survey, happiness is not only variable but on the rise in most of the world.
Two things, it appears, are needed to increase the supply of happiness: freedom and money. As it happens, a substantial amount of freedom is crucial to the creation of wealth. There is no such thing as a rich totalitarian country, as even the onetime totalitarians in Beijing finally realized. So in a very real sense, freedom is the key to happiness.
Steve Chapman, "The Pursuit of Happiness: How economic liberty creates personal fulfillment", Reason Online, 2008-07-03
Camille Paglia looks back at the origins of the feminist movement and the current state of play in the gender wars:
In conclusion, my proposals for reform are as follows. First of all, science must be made a fundamental component of all women's or gender studies programs. Second, every such program must be assessed by qualified faculty (not administrators or politicians) for ideological bias. The writings of conservative opponents of feminism, as well as of dissident feminists, must be included. Without such diversity, students are getting indoctrination, not education. Certainly among current dissident points of view is the abstinence movement, as an evangelical Protestant phenomenon and also as an argument set forth in Wendy Shalit's first book, A Return to Modesty, which created a storm when it was published nine years ago but whose influence can be detected in today's campus chastity clubs, including here at Harvard. As a veteran of pro-sex feminism who still endorses pornography and prostitution, I say more power to all these chaste young women who are defending their individuality and defying groupthink and social convention. That is true feminism!
My final recommendation for reform is a massive rollback of the paternalistic system of grievance committees and other meddlesome bureaucratic contrivances which have turned American college campuses into womblike customer-service resorts. The feminists of my baby-boom generation fought to tear down the intrusive in loco parentis rules that insultingly confined women in their dormitories at night. College administrators and academic committees have no competence whatever to investigate crimes, including sexual assault. If an offense has been committed, it should be reported to the police, so that the civil liberties of both the accuser and the accused can be protected. This is not to absolve young men from their duty to behave honorably. Hooliganism cannot be tolerated. But we must stop seeing everything in life through the narrow lens of gender. If women expect equal treatment in society, they must stop asking for infantilizing special protections. With freedom comes personal responsibility.
Megan McArdle discusses the at-that-time-unexpected permanence of the blogosphere, specifically what one wrote then may still be used against you now:
I suspect that I shall spend the rest of my life being pursued by lefty bloggers who think that linking this six year old post is a substitute for argument. Nonetheless, it occurs to me that while I have repeatedly dealt with it in various places, I probably haven't here. So here's the deal. I'm going to talk about it now, because it was, frankly, a pretty stupid thing to write, and mea culpas are good for the soul. Then I'm never going to talk about it again. I have yet to see anyone deploy it against me who could even vaguely be accused of acting in good faith. On the other hand, there are readers in good faith who are surprised by it, and I think I owe them an explanation.
[. . .]
Why did I write it? In part, because blogging was a new medium for the warbloggers, and many of us had an unfortunate tendency to say the kind of ridiculous things that one says without meaning them at bars in 3 am, except in print where everyone can enjoy them forever. If you've ever declared that people who jump queues should be shot, you have some sense of what I mean.
And I was young, and lots of things seem inappropriately funny when you're young — in your mid-twenties, empathy is often largely theoretical. This is perhaps the only good thing about aging.
This is indeed the danger of our always-searchable blogging past: it can, and will, come back to haunt you. And it's not just bloggers . . . anyone with an ancient Usenet account can find their early maunderings preserved online. Lots of private email messages are out there, too, although (thank goodness) not everything is yet. Expect SMS and chat logs to show up soon. Data may or may not want to be free, but it'll be a rare bit that doesn't show up on the net sooner or later.
Apologies to Omar Khayyám fans for the butchery of the poem in the headline.
It is impossible to overrate the rage and anguish Democrats feel at the success of the 2004 campaign 527 called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth; it would be silly to even try. When Democratic voters and establishment sheikhs chose John Kerry over John Edwards, it was in large part because Kerry served in Vietnam and returned to campaign against the war. They completely discounted the bitterness that conservatives and many vets still harbored against Kerry. They were caught flatfooted when Kerry's military record became a months-long campaign liability after the group of angry vets caught the attention of the mainstream media and started getting cash infusions from big-time conservative donors. In November, Bush beat Kerry by 16 points among military veterans. Nominating a veteran got the Democrats nothing.
This is why, when today's Democrats talk about John McCain, they can sound incredulous. After all the crap they took, why is he able to ride his Vietnam record to the GOP nomination? How could he enjoin the culture wars by bragging that he missed Woodstock because he was "tied up at the time" and get so much praise he started running TV ads on that theme? Why is he able to follow it up with an ad named for his Navy ID number (624787) and featuring video of him lying in POW camp? It's not . . . it's not . . . it's not fair! Thus, Wesley Clark.
I don't think Clark's comments can stand up to scrutiny; no experience, not even being a Joint Chief of Staff or Defense Secretary, can directly prepare someone to become commander-in-chief. McCain's occasional argument that his command of a navy squadron was executive experience is sort of risible, but not as much as when he claimed it would qualify him to manage the economy. His POW years are as relevant to his qualifications as any presidential candidate's experiences. Eight years ago, weren't we hearing about how George W. Bush's 20-odd years of sowing his oats turned him into a great leader?
David Weigel, "Swift Boat Derangement Syndrome", Hit and Run, 2008-07-01
I try to avoid this sort of "Oh my GOD! We're moving towards a fascist state!" rhetoric, but when you read about cases like this, where a deluded whackjob is able to ruin peoples' lives for several months, you have to start asking when people are going to tell self-proclaimed "authorities" to go f*ck themselves:
Busts began. Houses were ransacked. People, in handcuffs on their front lawns, named names. To some, like Mayor Otis Schulte, who considers the county around Gerald, population 1,171, "a meth capital of the United States," the drug scourge seemed to be fading at last.
Those whose homes were searched, though, grumbled about a peculiar change in what they understood, from television mainly, to be the law.
They said the agent, a man some had come to know as "Sergeant Bill," boasted that he did not need search warrants to enter their homes because he worked for the federal government.
But after a reporter for the local weekly newspaper made a few calls about that claim, Gerald's anti-drug campaign abruptly unraveled after less than five months. Sergeant Bill, it turned out, was no federal agent, but Bill A. Jakob, an unemployed former trucking company owner, a former security guard, a former wedding-performing minister, a former small-town cop from 23 miles down the road.
Mr. Jakob, 36, is now the subject of a criminal investigation by federal authorities, and is likely to face charges related to impersonating a law enforcement officer, his lawyer said.
Okay, read that part again. Slowly.
Someone shows up in town who "went to great lengths to make police officers think he was a federal agent", and was eagerly given effective proconsular powers to crush the evildoers in this methamphetamine capital of the United States . . . Gerald, MO. I'm not the greatest geography whiz about the US, but I had to zoom out five times on Google Maps before I found a town in the area I'd ever heard of before1. We're talking "BF Nowhere" here.
That a place like that can be subject to the kind of mass delusion that allows "Witchsmellers" to arise and be given power is very disheartening. How many others have played this part for credulous audiences? I'd bet there are many, most of whom won't ever be forced to admit that they were fooled by con-artists.
1 For the record, it was Fulton, Mo., and I'd only ever heard of it because that was where Churchill made his famous reference to the "Iron Curtain" in a speech there in 1946.
Philip Delves Broughton glances across the Atlantic to Canada — and sneers:
Despite banging its own drum for decades, calling on the world to gather on its shores, Canada still looks like one of those poor young girls at a trade show, thrusting flyers at disinterested passers-by.
It is the big, earnest, empty restaurant which can't understand why the scrappier joint next door is hopping. People just do not want to go.
[. . .]
Culturally, Canada does not hold a candle to Britain. Its museums and orchestras are resoundingly second tier, though it may have an edge in country music festivals.
This is, after all, the home of Shania Twain, whose full-throated warblings make Dolly Parton sound sophisticated.
In the dramatic arts, Canada's greatest recent contribution - unless you include Jim Carrey and Pamela Anderson — is the incomprehensible, semi-nude contortion act of Cirque du Soleil. And as for its newspapers, they are lifeless and hobbled by the provincialism which divides the country.
[. . .]
Sure, Canada has been through a food revolution similar to Britain's, but still the way to a Canadian's heart is not through fancy Newfoundland oysters, but with 'poutine' — chips smothered with cheese curds and gravy. It makes a chip butty look like the healthy option.
[. . .]
Ah yes, hockey. If you thought British sport was becoming crude and violent, try watching two teams of toothless brutes sliding around on ice and pausing every few minutes to beat the daylights out of each other. It makes the Premiership look like synchronised swimming.
However bad Britain may seem, trust me, moving to Canada is not the answer. Why not try somewhere more appealing. Siberia, for example.
"It's a fair cop, guv."
It's easy to understand why civilized, educated people would not want to come out to the colonies. Why, the servant problem alone is enough to drive you mad! And the weather is terrible, unlike the perfect weather we have at home. And worse, you're likely at any moment to be overrun by Cousin Jonathan and his fascist hordes. Better stay at home, where the loving eyes of the surveillance cameras can keep a better eye on you.
It's the 141st edition. In previous years, July 1st, 2004 was another day after a lost soccer game, July 1st, 2005 was a break from overtime, July 1st, 2006 was a remembrance of the First Day of the Somme, and July 1st, 2007 was when I finally flew the Red Ensign.
I doubt it'll do much to influence the decision-makers at Rogers, but there is an online petition being put together against the high rates for Canadian iPhone users:
A Canadian online petition has been launched to protest the rate plans offered by Rogers Communications Inc. (TSX:RCI.B) and its Fido subsidiary for Apple's iPhone when it goes on sale next week.
On Friday, Rogers and Fido released the pricing for iPhone calling plans, listing them as starting at $60 a month and requiring three-year contracts.
Nearly 22,000 had signed the online petition posted on the website RuinediPhone.com by 7 p.m. on Monday.
Oddly, when I tried to visit that site this morning, I got a 403 error. According to a post at the group page on Facebook, Rogers has blocked access to the site for Rogers customers, and they're recommending using a proxy to get access instead.
Elizabeth sent me this link to a Financial Post story:
The petition, found on the Web site ruinediphone.com, was launched shortly after Rogers unveiled its pricing scheme last Friday for the iPhone, scheduled for sale in Canada July 11.
The Web site, titled "Screwing Canadian iPhone consumers since ‘08", also includes an open letter to Apple CEO Steve Jobs.
Signed by James Hallen, the letter calls on Mr. Jobs to intervene and pressure Rogers into cheapening up their iPhone rates.
"I was going to buy an iPhone for me, my girlfriend and my family. Now, sadly, I cannot afford the plan," writes Mr. Hallen. "I hope you can do something Steve; we are loyal customers and trust that you will. We don't want to lose faith in Apple."
While I'd like to think that this online effort would have some effect, the only real way Rogers will be forced to reconsider their pricing model is if potential buyers stay away in droves on July 11th. Lower-than-expected sales would be a strong indication to Rogers that they've overpriced the iPhone.
I don't expect that to happen: there are too many people eager to get their hands on an iPhone . . .
In the return match against Whitby Legion, Whitby Purple found themselves short-handed against a team determined to get some revenge. Both teams fielded 9 players, but Legion had an ace in the hole: a single substitute player to allow brief rest periods.
Legion started strong, scoring twice in the first fifteen minutes of play before Mark M. was awarded a penalty for a Legion defender's over-enthusiastic tackle in the 18-yard box. Mark fooled the keeper, who dove right, and put the ball into the upper left of the net. Randall S. levelled the score 10 minutes later.
The exhausted players dragged themselves off the field at the half, only to be met by clouds of mosquitoes around the benches (we've had plenty of rain recently, and the field is beside undeveloped land, with lots of temporary ponds).
After the break, Legion pulled ahead on a jail-break, as Purple's defenders were overwhelmed by a rush of almost the entire Legion team, gambling that they could score before Purple could regain possession. Purple keeper Pat C. got a hand on the shot, but was unable to deflect it far enough to prevent the goal. From the ensuing kick-off, Andrew S. levelled the score again, and then gave Purple their first lead of the night on a close-range shot that deflected off a Legion defender, leaving Legion's keeper no chance to save the goal.
Mark had another penalty goal, for a handball inside the box, to give Purple a brief 2 point lead. Just a few minutes later, Purple returned the favour as Mitch B. accidentally handled the ball while heading it away from the goal.
By this time, the substitution advantage was starting to pay off for Legion, as Purple's energy level began to drop. Legion gambled again, pushing everyone forward and again were rewarded with a goal to bring the score to 5-5, with eight minutes remaining.
Purple's defenders worked extremely hard, breaking up threats, and clearing the ball away, but the flow of play was becoming more and more in Legion's favour. On a Purple throw-in with five minutes remaining in the game, Jordan C. went down with a severe leg cramp, but the referee didn't notice the injured player down. Legion's forwards took full advantage of the reduced defensive line, scoring the go-ahead goal. Jordan was unable to return to play, which gave Legion an extra man advantage for the last portion of the game.
The final score was 7-5 for Legion, evening the head-to-head record between the two teams, and moving them back into a tie with Purple for first place in the division.
Visitors since 17 August, 2004