Sunday, October 31, 2004

My right-wing Wiccan ticket

I've combed over the ballot initiatives, looked over the endorsement pages of various local papers, and checked a couple of bloggers I generally agree with.

Q & O has a nice summary, with endorsements and reasons for endorsing for and against the propositions.

I think everyone knows my pick for President. I will also vote Republican for Senate and House to give the President as much support as possible. Gridlock is great for domestic legislation; it keeps Congress out of the peoples' hair. But it is decidedly less than optimal for foreign policy.

I will probably vote Libertarian on the State offices.
Proposition My pick Orange County Register LA Times Daily Breeze LA Daily News Citizen Smash Q & O
1A Y N N Y Y Y
59 Y Y Y Y Y Y Y
60 Y Y N Y N Y Y
60A Y N Y N N Y
62 N N Y N Y Y N
63 N N Y N N N
64 Y Y Y Y Y Y
65 N Y Y N N N
66 N Y Y N N N
67 N N N N N N
68 N N N N N N
69 Y N N N Y Y
70 N N N N N N
71 N N Y N N N N
72 N N N N N N

Whew! (I don't think this thing has a table edit mode.)

Osama wants a truce

Clayton cramer points to a Belmont Club analysis of Osama's tape. According to Wretchard, Osama wants a truce.

All I can say is,

You can't handle the truce.

Implied (and other) promises

(Hat tip: Instapundit.)

I have a bit of a quirk. Whenever I take on a stray animal, I never just get rid of it. I make sure it has a good home, wherever it's going. I figure that by taking the animal into my home, I've made a promise to it. I've promised to take care of it, as well as I can.

Nor is this some new-age thing where I commune with animals and grant them the same rights that I claim for myself. The promise I make is kept at least as much for my own sake as for the animal's. Breaking a promise, even one made to an animal, damages my integrity.

My sense of ethics will not allow me to return a stray to the street.

When we invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, we made certain promises. Among these, we promised to help the people of both these countries establish representative governmentst so they would have at least a chance of living without a dictator running their lives.

Right now, we're carrying out that promise to the best of our ability, and we're not doing that bad a job.

There were good arguments for and against the invasions of both countries. However, having invaded, we need to carry through on our promises.

As George Will puts it:

Reasonable people can question the feasibility of Bush's nation-building and democracy-spreading ambitions. But, having taken up that burden, America cannot prudently, or decently, put it down. The question is: Which candidate will most tenaciously and single-mindedly pursue victory? The answer is: Not John Kerry, who is multiple-minded about most matters. Tuesday's winner will not start from scratch but from where we are now, standing with the women of Bamiyan, Afghanistan. Back in Washington recently, Zalmay Khalilzad, U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, said those women were warned that Taliban remnants would attack polling places during the Oct. 9 elections. So the women performed the ritual bathing and said the prayers of those facing death. Then, rising at 3 a.m., they trekked an hour to wait in line for the polls to open at 7 a.m. In the province of Kunar an explosion 100 meters from a long line of waiting voters did not cause anyone to leave the line. Which candidate can be trusted to keep faith with these people? Surely not the man whose party is increasingly influenced by its Michael Moore faction.

I hope the American electorate is not the sort to return strays to the street.

Friday, October 29, 2004

One Pro-choice feminist Democrat for Bush

Tammy Bruce is a lesbian, pro-choice, feminist Democrat. She is the past President of the California chapter of NOW. She is voting for Bush.

Not, as some have put it, because she's "confused about what voting means", but because:

Because some things simply transcend party lines, when in front of that Early Voting touch screen, I stood there as an American first, and voted for George W. Bush. This nation, our lives, and the lives our children require nothing less. I explain to detractors and supporters alike that President Bush is the man who will keep this nation safest. The president and I hold dramatically divergent views on a number of social issues of importance to me, and yet for the 3,000 people who died on September 11th, abortion rights and same-sex civil unions mean absolutely nothing to them now. These issues, while important to me and ones on which I will continue to speak out about, are luxuries in the face of a world war where the enemy is a stateless savage who hunts children and cuts off people’s heads. <snip> I voted for President Bush because having a Pacifist Internationalist in the White House will only embolden those who salivate at the sight of our blood. Having a man in the White House who stands for nothing will only excite Islamic Fascists who revel in torture and the cutting off of heads. I do not want a man in the White House who is so cold, when asked by a New York Times reporter how September 11th changed him, answers “It didn’t change me much at all.”

And for those who are concerned about how Bush is "hated" by "the rest of the world":

Upon hearing that, I remind myself of the time President Reagan increased arms production and installed more Pershing Missiles in Europe as we faced down the Soviet Union. President Reagan grappled with European polls, anger and resentment, all of which evaporated when the Soviet regime collapsed.

"Evaporated" – as soon as no one had to worry about angering the Soviet Union.

Evolving brains

A new study tracks the development of brains – in cetaceans. There was one jump in brain size about 35 million years ago, which may correspond with the development of echolocation. After that, brain sizes started to vary all over the place. Some of the cetaceans may have brains comparable to ours.

"Here you have four or five different animal groups that, from an evolutionary standpoint, are very different," says Marino. "But there’s clearly a higher order selection effect that has created similarities in function. It might be the consequence of some aspect of social interaction." "And keep in mind," Marino points out, "brains don’t all just get bigger over time. You’d better have a very good reason for having a big brain, because they’re metabolically very expensive. You’ll have the brain that you need, no more." But for those creatures inhabiting an ecological niche where intelligence pays off, it sounds as if high IQ’s could be reached via many roads. "Cetaceans and primates are not closely related at all, but both have similar behavior capacities and large brains -- the largest on the planet. Cognitive convergence seems to be the bottom line."

More than a dime's worth of difference

We have a new rating for legislators. It's the Economic Efficiency Score (Econ-E Score).

This score was developed as the Ph.D dissertation of Martin Kennedy.

In essence, representatives are given a percentage score based on how many times they vote in favor of laws that will yield more economic benefits to the nation than costs. A score of 100 would mean the legislator supported greater economic efficiency 100% of the time.

The lowest scoring legislator managed a score of zero; no one managed 100%.

The highest scoring House Democrats were Barney Frank (MA), Earl Blumenauer(OR), Ralph Hall(TX), and Charlie Stenholm(TX). They all scored 48%.

The highest scoring House Republicans were John Shadegg(AZ), John Sununu(NH), Tom Petri(WI), and James Sensenbrenner(WI). They tied at 87%.

In the Senate, Blanche Lincoln(AK) had the highest Democrat score at 64%, and Republican Richard Lugar(IN) had the highest Republican score at 91%.

Average Econ-E Scores by House and Party
Average Score Rep Dem
House 54 20
Senate 69 40

On the whole, the Senate is less sensitive to the pressure to bribe constituents with Federal pork, but Republicans are generally more disciplined than Democrats are.

Stem cells

One interesting survey question would be, "Since President Bush took office, Federal funding for stem cell research has (a)increased or (b)decreased."

The New York Times has a "Fact Check" column on the subject of stem cell research.

Mr. Kerry said that "100 million Americans suffer from one disease or another that's chronically debilitating."
The Kerry campaign said it got the 100 million figure from the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research, an organization that advocates therapeutic cloning for the purpose of scientific study. The organization says this is the number of people who “suffer from cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, Parkinson’s, spinal cord injuries, heart disease, A.L.S. and other devastating conditions for which treatments must still be found.”
Mr. Bush said, as he often has during the campaign: "I'm the first president ever to allow funding, federal funding, for embryonic stem cell research."
Mr. Bush is literally accurate but not telling the whole truth when he says he was the first president to allow federal financing for stem cell research. The Republican Congress blocked President Bill Clinton when he tried to use government money for this kind of research. What Mr. Bush permitted was federal money for research only on the relatively small number of stem cell colonies that existed in August 2001 when his policy was announced. Scientists view this as putting a brake on research, not accelerating it.

OK, Kerry claims that approximately one in three Americans suffer from some debilitating disease. Well, I suppose that's possible. Some of these, like heart disease and cancer seem to be diseases everyone will get if they live long enough. Alzheimers also shows up, when it does, later in life.

And then there's that wonderful catch-all, "other devastating conditions".

Bush gets graded down on passing stem cell funding because his predecessor tried to pass funding. So Republican success must be judged in the light of Democratic intentions.

I'd love to know, by the way, which "scientists" regard increased funding as "putting a brake on research" and why they think so. I can see a case to be made for increased funding putting a brake on research, if the funds go into an option they don't expect to be productive, at the expense of those with more promise. But an unattributed statement about the beliefs of nebulous "scientists" doesn't leave much to explore.

Is it reasonable to believe some scientists might consider embryonic stem cells a dead end?

Scientists say embryonic stem cell research is a promising avenue that could lead to the treatment and possibly cure of dread diseases. But it is unlikely that anyone with these diseases today will be helped. So far, there has not even been successful treatment in mice, and no specific help for humans is on the horizon.

OK, it's promising, but that promise is nowhere near being realized. Maybe it's not all that promising. And frankly, there are limits to how much research in any one area can be accelerated by throwing money at it.

Explosive Story – Bomb or Dud?

John Kerry jumped on the story of missing explosives with both feet, shortly after it was broken by the news media. Unfortunately, he's finding it very hard to maintain the argument that explosives went missing because of American screw-ups without denigrating the troops he claims to support.

And now, we're learning, among other things, the explosive may have been gone by the time any American forces got to al Qaqaa. Furthermore, we may have photos of the trucks that moved stuff out of the facility in the weeks before the war.

Given the reaction this story is provoking, I imagine Kerry wishes he'd spent as much as seven minutes pondering the implications before he charged ahead with it.

Heavy water in Iran

(Hat tip: Brown and Caldwell California Water News)

Iran has unveiled a heavy water plant, capable of producing 8 tons of heavy water each year. In five months, it's expected to double its output.

Heavy water is water with heavy hydrogen (deuterium) instead of normal run-of-the-mill hydrogen. Light water is H2O; heavy water is light water enriched with additional DHO (one hydrogen atom, one deuterium atom) and D2O.

Deuterium weighs very close to twice what hydrogen weighs, and each deuterium atom in an average molecule of heavy water increases its mass by about one atomic mass unit. (Up to a maximum of two, if every molecule contains two deuterium atoms to one oxygen atom.)

A small fraction of all water has at least one deuterium atom in place of one of its hydrogen atoms. These can be concentrated by various methods. Indeed, certain bodies of water, like the Dead Sea, have naturally high concentrations of heavy water, because heavy water evaporates a little more slowly than light water does. Over the centuries, the heavy water has noplace else to go, so it piles up. (Actually, it reaches an equilibrium concentration because it does evaporate.)

The increase of mass doesn't seem like a whole lot. DHO has an atomic mass of 19 5.5% heavier than H2O's atomic mass of 18. D2O is 11% heavier than H2O.

5.5% and 11% heavier doesn't seem like that big a deal, except that increase in weight happens to be right where all the action is.

In a nuclear reactor, you have two essential components: nuclear fuel, and a moderator. Other components that are extremely nice include control rods and a cooling system.

In order to get a nuclear reactor going, you need some of the atoms in your fuel to split and emit neutrons, and you need enough of those neutrons to be captured by other atoms of fuel, causing further splitting and generating further neutrons, to keep the reaction going.

That brings up the notion of the "interaction cross section". Neutrons moving through fuel are like bullets flying through a collection of targets. If you blindfold a marksman (marks-person?) and let him shoot in random directions in a room full of targets, there's a small chance he'll hit a target. If the targets are made bigger, the odds go up. Being bigger, each target has a larger interaction cross section.

The thing about nuclear reactions is the interaction cross section varies with the speed of the oncoming particle. It's as if the marksman's targets grew or shrank depending on the muzzle velocity of his gun.

Natural uranium is mostly U-238 with a small fraction of U-235. U-235 has a very large cross section for slow neutrons, and it can be burned in a light water reactor very easily. In a light water reactor, the fuel is surrounded by light water. Neutrons speeding out into the water are pretty likely to run into a molecule of the water. If they hit a hydrogen atom, they will be slowed down quite a lot, and may even come to a screeching halt. Since neutrons are only slightly heavier than the nucleus of hydrogen atoms, they bounce off each other like pool balls on a pool table. If one ball hits another dead on, the first ball comes to a stop and the other ball goes speeding off with all the energy. The water acts as a "moderator", slowing fast neutrons down so they can be absorbed by the U-235 and cause them to split.

U-238 has a relatively small cross section for slow neutrons. Its cross section is much higher for fast neutrons. Therefore, you don't want to slow neutrons down if you want to burn U-238. You want some material that will reflect neutrons back into the fuel without slowing them down.

Going back to the analogy of balls crashing into each other, let's look at what happens when the masses are unequal. Suppose we replace our cue ball with one that's half the mass. It turns out that even if we hit another ball dead on, we can never get it to come to a dead stop. It will transfer, at most, two thirds of its momentum to the other ball, and thus keep a lot of its own speed. The result is, neutrons speeding through heavy water take a longer time to slow down, and thus spend more time at a speed where they are likely to hit the U-238 targets.

Heavy water thus makes it possible to burn natural uranium in a reactor without going through the work of enriching it. (And enriching water to make heavy water is much safer to deal with than enriching uranium. Uranium is radioactive, and in order to process it, you have to react it with some very reactive chemicals.

The main problem with an Iranian heavy water program is that a nuclear reactor that burns natural uranium can also produce other byproducts. Not all neutrons will cause uranium atoms to split. Some of them will be absorbed by uranium atoms without causing a fission. If the resulting U-239 declines to split, it will decay (with a half-life of less than 24 minutes) into Neptunium 239. Neptunium then decays (with a half-life of some two and a half days) into Plutonium 239.

Pu-239 has a half-life of 24,390 years, so it will build up in a reactor for as long as you care to run it. It will capture neutrons and split very readily, so you have to balance various factors to keep the stuff around, but it's certainly doable.

In order to get large quantities of "weapons grade" uranium, you need to do a lot of work to separate isotopes. In order to get "weapons grade" plutonium out of used nuclear fuel, you only need to do a chemical separation. That's a lot easier.

That's why people are worried about Iranian heavy water production.

Now, the Iranian government says it will use its nuclear technology for peaceful ends. Given their track record, I think it's reasonable to have doubts about that.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Our ancient ancestors?

More like cousins.

A new species of human, Homo floresiensis, has been discovered on an Indonesian island. Well, her fossilized remains were discovered.

Apparently the bone structure is different enough to merit classifying this specimen as a new species. What's even more surprising, H. floresiensis may well have shared the island with H. sapiens – modern humans.

Until H. floresiensis died out some 13,000 years ago.

Legends of the "Little Folk", anyone?

Abuse of Prisoners

Two thousand Muslims gathered to protest the arrest of six men. Security forces broke up the protest, and arrested 1300 people, carting them off in military vans.

On arrival at the military camp, it was found that 87 of those men had suffocated or died of heat stroke in the vans.

It will be interesting to see of this gets the publicity the incidents at Abu Ghraib got.

But I'm not expecting nearly as much.

You see, these Muslims died at the hands of Thai forces in the Narathiwat province of Thailand. Since the deaths weren't inflicted by Americans, they won't attract nearly as much attention.


Another area where science education is sorely lacking.

The managing editor of World Net Daily has a long piece on bad ideas that have been sold by popular (leftist) culture and the media. He compares it with the matrix, from the so titled movie.

He points out how all the people who sang the praises of President Reagan after he died sang a much different tune while he was President. Back then, he was a dunce who was going to wreck the economy and drag us into World War III. Or maybe he was Satan incarnate who was going to wreck the economy and drag us into World War III.

Now, enter the Matrix, Kupelian's analogy to the world being projected by the mainstream media.

...the scary fact is that the media – both news and entertainment – are literally the creators and sustainers of what most of us perceive as reality, very much like the malevolent computer program in "The Matrix" film trilogy.

Well, not really. The computer program knew it was projecting a falsehood. I still think, giving as much benefit of the doubt as I can, the mainstream media has bought into a vision. This vision shapes their view of the world, and establishes filters through which perceptions and ideas are sieved. Only those which are compatible with the vision make it through.

And to make matters worse, the process that all their associates go through, from high school to college journamism classes to job interviews, filter out any people whose visions may clash with the organization's vision.

This matrix is not imposed from without; it is carefully built by its inhabitants.

And this sort of matrix is not the exclusive property of the Secular Left.

Kupelian gives a wonderful example of a vision gone wrong from the perspective of the Religious Right.

To demonstrate the real-life matrix programming we consider our reality, let's momentarily set aside the news media and focus on one of the most stunning and audacious real-life matrix programs currently running. I'm referring to what we call "evolution." <snip> In the days prior to the evolution matrix program.... Looking in every direction, we humans beheld not only fantastic complexity, diversity and order, but also the supreme intelligence behind creation, as brashly evident as the noonday sun. <snip> Ever since Darwin and his successors succeeded in loading the evolution matrix program on mankind – a fantastic theory for which there is no proof, and many serious problems – when we now walk outside and look at the created universe, what do many of us see? Chance!



Darwin's model includes small, random variations, and natural selection. In fact, it's so well established, organizations like Answers In Genesis have quit arguing against it. They postulate, with no supporting evidence, some sort of barrier beyond which change cannot go. Why can't change go beyond that barrier? It just can't. Accept it.

Yes, mutations occur by chance. However, natural selection, just like any other kind of selection, is the very antithesis of chance.

Evolution has been studied for nearly a century and a half by dedicated researchers, all of whom work in a field where the best way to make a name for yourself is to overturn the established order. (Ever hear of Einstein? Stephen Hawking?) If these flaws existed in the fundamental notion of evolution, the best way to achieve undying fame would be to demonstrate them once and for all.

Certain words are red flags.

When someone discussing evolution brings up the phrase "only chance", or someone discussing the Iraq War brings up "Bush's lies", I know where he's coming from. I know I'm talking to someone who's been sold a bill of goods, and there's no point in any discussion with that person. His matrix is solidly in place, and he's gobbling down blue pills as fast as possible.

In public, I may take the time to present the facts – the "rest of the story". I may point out the other reasons for invading Iraq, or just have the person read the Congressional resolution authorizing war. There are a couple dozen reasons, none of which were predicated on stockpiles of WMD sitting around.

Likewise, evolution, for all that it's misunderstood on the right and misused on the left, isn't that scary. Here's the basic underlying thesis that all scientists accept:

We came to exist through the operation of natural law.

OOOOOOOooooooooh! Scary!

The stars and planets are not gods or angels. They are objects that move through the sky under the natural laws of gravity and momentum.

Lightning is the result of physical laws, not Thor's bolts striking down those who anger him.

Sickness has natural roots – in chemistry and biology. It is not a curse bestowed by a vengeful God.

And life itself is the result of natural processes operating in known, or at least knowable, ways.

That's all.

I'm afraid you'll have to be terrified of something else.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

And the undecides – can't decide where to break!

Betsy Newmark notes Pat Caddell saying the notion that the undecided voters break toward the challenger is nonsense.

According to Caddell, a former pollster, that in every polled presidential election that has been close, the undecideds break for the incumbent because they are risk-averse in changing leaders.

Elsewhere, I read the undecideds break toward the challenger because they know the incumbent and are willing to take a chance.


I think I can safely say, the impact of the undecided voters will be no larger than whatever fraction of the population they comprise.


Neat idea, and a physics nitpick

Enviropundit links to an article about the Zeer Pot-in-pot cooler. What grabbed my attention at once was the following:

The principles of the technology are very simple. When heated by the sun, water contained in wet sand between two jars evaporates, cooling the contents of the innter pot.


That's taken directly from the abstract of the paper, but unless I missed something major in my physics classes, heat flow doesn't work that way. The lowest temperature you should be able to achieve with an evaporative cooling system is the dew point. Placing the system in direct sunlight shouldn't do anything more than throw more heat into the system, causing the water to evaporate faster.

On reading further, I see:

The innovative cooling system that Abba developed in 1995 consists of two earthenware pots of different diameters, one placed inside the other. The space between the pots is filled with wet sand that is kept constantly moist, thereby keeping both pots damp. Fruit, vegetables and other items such as soft drinks are put in the smaller inner pot, which is covered with a damp cloth and left in a very dry, ventilated place. The water contained in the sand between the two pots evaporates towards the outer surface of the larger pot where the drier outside air is circulating. The evaporation process causes a drop in temperature of several degrees, cooling the inner container and extending the shelf-life of the perishable food inside.

Oh. That's what I thought.

It works because of the low humidity and the ventilation; the sand is a water reservoir, additional wicking material, and presumably additional insulation.

I guess whoever wrote the abstract didn't read the article very carefully.

This is more than just scoring points at Enviropundit's expense. It's easy for people to get details wrong. If they're never fixed, you may wind up thinking a bit of technology can do more than it really can. Or, you may use the technology in a way decreases its efficacy.

My hunch, backed up by at my (admittedly two-decades-old) knowledge of thermo-goddamics, is that putting one of these coolers in direct sunlight will, contrary to what is implied in the abstract, shorten the life of whatever is stored within it. Now, it may be the sand and ceramic insulates the contents well enough that the difference is negligable. But on the off chance the difference is significant, the end user should be aware of what direction it runs.

Eliminate computer viruses!

I just found this miracle cure online. I thought you might be interested.

I just downloaded a homeopathic computer virus cure program from a website - what they do is take 1 bit at random from the file, mix it with 1MB of random data, and then repeat the process ten times. Then you download 1 bit at random from this file (download time at 56K < 1 min), mix it with 1MB of random data from YOUR computer, and your computer will be cured. Can't seem to get the application to run, though.....

Are conservatives ignorant?

David Bernstein reprints a list of average scores for political knowledge vs. strength of party identification. (He uses Republicans as a surrogate for political conservatives.) Following is a slight rearrangement of the data:

Strength Republican Democrats
Strong 18.7 15.4
"Independent" 15.7 14.2
Weak 14.1 13.3
Independent / no party affiliation 9.5

(I hope this renders better when published than it does in "preview" mode.) (Yay! It does! I don't have to go in and play with the template.)

Note the political knowledge score increases with strength of party identification from 9.5 for the completely unaffiliated to 18.7 for strongly affiliated Republicans. Note also that for all populations with a declared party preference, Republicans outscore Democrats at each level of strength of affiliation.

I haven't explored the error inherent in these scores, so I can't say how significant they are, but the notion that conservatives are less well informed than liberals is not well supported.

Arrogance, Lies, and Weakness of Intellect

Orson Scott Card, again.

I have been puzzled for some time by the behavior of the Left, not just in this election but in the past decade.

Among issues he has with the Left, we have:

Gore tried every trick to win Florida, including blocking the counting of absentee ballots from military personnel overseas, yet the Left claims the Bush administration tried to suppress votes.

The Left claims the Republicans lie. What they call "lies" would not be called lies if uttered by any non-Republican.

When they trumpet examples of Republican "lies," they usually turn out to be in the following categories: 1. Statements that turn out to be wrong, though they were believed to be right at the time they were spoken. (In the rational world, we call these "mistakes.") 2. Statements that interpret legitimate data in ways that support the Republican view. (In the rational world, we call these "differences of opinion.") 3. Statements that point out obvious contradictions between what the Democratic candidates say and what they have said and done in the past. These are called "negative campaigning" and "mudslinging" and "distortions" and, of course, "lies," but these countercharges are offered instead of coherent explanations. Meanwhile, the Democrats engage in wholesale, flat-out lying, ranging from Kerry's false charges against America's soldiers in Vietnam, his phony claims about Christmas in Cambodia and what it was he threw over the fence when he said they were his medals, to present charges that Bush has blocked stem-cell research and that if Kerry were president, paralytics would rise up and walk.

The Left claims to have a monopoly on intellectuals, but who actually carries out intellectual analyses?

I get letters that are endless variations on the same theme: Mr. Card, I like your books and you seem so wise, but yet you're supporting Bush. Why don't you look at the evidence and realize that Bush is the devil and Kerry will save us from the disaster that Bush is leading us toward? Yet when I choose to answer these letters and ask them to get specific, it becomes obvious that none -- no, not one -- of these people has actually examined the evidence at all. These "intellectuals" show not even the slightest sign of ever having questioned their own opinions. Now, I have to regard this as the minimum standard for being regarded as a genuine intellectual -- that you have questioned your own beliefs and subjected them to rigorous tests of logic and evidence. <snip> I actually find better reasoning about and evidence in support of the Leftist point of view, and more skeptical but serious examination of Rightwing ideas, in magazines like Commentary and The Weekly Standard than I do in Leftist publications like Harper's and The New Yorker. What I find from most self-styled "intellectuals" in American public life is a laziness so profound as to be frightening. These are our opinion leaders and university professors? Have they forgotten that "the never-doubted opinion is not worth speaking"?

And arrogance? The Left believes it's the only faction that deserves to rule.

But I no longer believe it. Because the double standards of the Left today are not prompted by any sense that the lies and misbehavior they are concealing are wrong, but rather by the fact that the exposure of those lies and misbehavior would be politically inconvenient. Indeed, the whole question of right or wrong is irrelevant to the thinking of the Left. They speak the language of morality, declaring Bush to be evil (or variations on that theme), but in fact the Left lives in a moral universe in which there is only one moral virtue, and here it is: It is good and right for power to be in the hands of the Left. All "morality" on the Left and all "reasoning" on the Left flow from this unspoken axiom.

I've noticed that Kerry's criticisms of the Bush administration are vague, at best ("too many notes"). When specifics are mentioned, they are basically the same things the Bush administration has done or is already doing. The only difference is that Kerry will do these things in a "better and smarter" fashion. Why will Kerry's implementation be "better and smarter"? Because he's not a Republican.

The Left is firmly convinced that good is only possible in the world when they are in power; therefore they can do any number of unfair, indecent, or dishonest things in pursuit of that goal.

Science and Theory

Science is all about theories, and science can't work without theories. Unfortunately, few non-scientists have any idea what a "theory" is.

While the popular notion equates "theory" and "guess", a scientific theory is a great deal more than a guess. It's a model that has been found to match reality. In particular, it's been found to be a better match than any other idea that's been offered. Theories are offered and rejected all the time, as they fail to meet the tests demanded by science.

There are two issues in creating good theory: (1) getting the modeling right and (2) using assumptions relevant to nature. Sometimes the former dooms theory, but in most instances it is the latter.

Not too long ago, Michael Behe and David Snoke published a paper that purported to show that complex systems would take an inconveniently time to evolve by the usual methods.

Unfortunately for Intelligent Design/Intelligent Origin Theory (ID/IOT), there are significant gaps in their model.

We believe there are some issues with the modeling in the paper, but investigating them is too complex for this essay. However, even a rough reading of the paper makes it clear that Behe and Snoke's work and the conclusions they draw are not relevant to nature.

So what are the problems?

Behe and Snoke are attempting to estimate how long and how large of a population it would take for a protein in the absence of selection to evolve a new binding site or other complex feature. They assume up-front that multiple amino acid substitutions would be required before the new feature can be preserved by natural selection. Behe and Snoke are modeling the formation of a completely new binding site in a duplicated protein. While this process is important in generating some kinds of new function, in the majority of duplicated proteins, existing binding sites are either modified to act on new substrates or new catalytic mechanisms. Duplication of enzymes and modification of their existing binding sites can produce quite complex pathways; for example the clotting cascade is due to duplication of proteolytic enzymes with a subsequent change in substrates.

(Parenthetical statements removed. Read the original.)

Basically, they are assuming that:

  1. The protein system must have two specific functions
  2. Its formation requires two specific mutations
  3. The mutations must occur in two specific genes
  4. The mutations must occur in specific locations
  5. The mutations must occur in a specific population
  6. The mutations are not subject to natural selection until both are in place
  7. Only point mutations exist
  8. The population of organisms is asexual
The first four items are part of the "one true sequence" model which ID/IOT assumes. In fact, when we look at real living things, we often find numerous different ways to carry out any given function. Given the variety of different ways different organisms will do the same thing, assumptions 1–4 are very hard to support.

I'll skip the discussion of real-world evolution in real-world living things and cut to the chase. Stipulating all of Behe and Snoke's assumptions, how improbable is the evolution of complex systems?

Despite using assumptions that render their model overly pessimistic, the population size and generation time that Behe and Snoke calculate is not prohibitive for the types of organisms (haploid, asexual) that it is most applicable to. The authors conclude that population sizes of 109 would require at least 108 generations to evolve a two-site MR feature (λ=2) under their model. And while this does seem prohibitive for large, multicellular eukaryotes, it's actually easily achievable for bacteria. A population size of 109 is what one would find in a very small culture growing in a lab; even small handfuls of dirt, or the average human gut, will contain populations in excess of this number. Bacteria reproduce quickly; under optimal conditions for E. coli, 108 generations will occur in less than 40,000 years, a geological blink of the eye. Given that there are about 5x1030 bacteria on Earth (Whitman et al. 1998), we should expect the evolution of novel MR features to be an extremely common event -- an average of many times per microsecond -- even if we accept Behe and Snoke's unrealistic assumptions. Since we can be confident that their numbers are a vast overestimate, Behe and Snoke have ironically demonstrated that the evolution of novel gene functions is not unlikely at all. And yet, it has been a long standing claim of the ID movement that the evolution of "novelty" simply cannot happen, period. Behe and Snoke have done us the favor of disproving this bogus notion once and for all.

(This isn't the first time a pro-creationism or pro-ID/IOT discussion has wound up supporting evolution. I've seen articles in Creation Research Quarterly that wind up being very nice discussions of known methods of natural selection in the wild.)

Monday, October 25, 2004

Testing hypotheses

(Hat tip: The Volokh Conspiracy.)

Tutissima Cassis looks at the widely-circulated news that Republicans are more likely than democrats to believe certain falsehoods.

A number of left-leaning bloggers have pointed to surveys that show that Bush supporters are more likely to believe erroneous information about Iraq (such as whether weapons of mass destruction have been found) than are Kerry supporters. The surveys appear to be real. Bloggers such as Brian Leiter and Philocrites point these out. I'm disturbed by the implication that pundits and bloggers are all too ready to make -- namely, that Republican voters are, as a group, less well-informed than Democratic voters. Indeed, it seems like this survey may be unconsciously designed to inadvertently come up with that kind of result. Why? Well, we know that most of the electorate simply doesn't follow the issues. Within each party, there is some percentage of people who simply don't know what's going on in the world. That is, there are Democrats who know political facts and Democrats who don't, and there are Republicans who know political facts and Republicans who don't. This survey asks exactly the kinds of questions that the group of Democrats-who-don't-know are likely to answer correctly, but Republicans-who-don't-know are likely to get wrong.

Now, how to construct a valid test?

Even assuming an equal distribution of ignorance, if Republicans are asked questions that the least well-informed members of their group are more likely to get wrong than the least well-informed Democrats, the survey will give results that appear to indicate that Republicans are less well-informed. The results of the survey can and are interpreted to suggest that Republicans as a group are less well-informed than Democrats, when in fact the much more innocuous explanation is a distinct possibility. It should be relatively easy to test whether this is in fact the cause of the survey results. All that is necessary is to turn around and ask questions that the least-well-informed Democrats are probably more likely to answer wrong than the least-well-informed Republicans. (Again, using the simple tool of "I like Bush" or "I don't like Bush" to determine how the uninformed are likely to respond). For example, "Is it true that filibustered Republican judicial nominees Miguel Estrada and Priscilla Owen received a rating of "not qualified" from the American Bar Association?" (It is not true. Both received unanimous ratings of well-qualified). Or perhaps, "Is it true that President Bush has done nothing to try to stop the genocide in Sudan?" (As Kristof points out, while Bush could have done more, he has so far done more than any other American president in this area, and has been a global leader in trying to stop the killing in Sudan.)

Paying for the war

Forbes Magazine suggests the Treasury is missing an opportunity to save billions on the cost of the Iraq war. War bonds could be sold, paying between 4% and 5%. We could promote them the way war bonds were promoted during WWII, and a lot of people might buy them to show support of the war.

And since a lot of government paper is bought by buyers in Japan and China, they would wind up paying a lot of the costs of this war.

A Liberal for Bush

Armed Liberal discusses the merits and shortcomings of both candidates and comes down, however reluctantly, in favor of voting for Bush.

Some select bits:

Bush has flip-flopped as well; against DHS, and then for it. Against nation-building, and then for it. That's what politicians have to do. I am concerned - in light of the seriousness of the issues of the war - that his position on the war is so nuanced that it's indistinguishable from no position at all. That's the risk with carefully nuanced positions. In accommodating the largest group, you are trapped and unable to move. I'm more concerned - in Kerry's case - that I can't make sense of his political evolution, and track it to his biography. I've blogged this before. This leaves me - and I think others - with a disquieting sense that he's Chauncey Gardner.

To me it seems that whenever Kerry has offered any details of his foreign policy plan, and his plan for the war in particular, it's been pretty much the same as the Bush plan. The only difference is, Kerry's plan will work better because he's good enough, smart enough, and doggone-it, foreign leaders like him.

No one who plays in the big leagues is incapable of hitting a curveball. No politician who has a state or national level presence is truly stupid, and it's not only offensive to bandy that charge about but itself foolish, because it leads you to get sandbagged by your opponent.

Open request to Democrats: Please, please keep repeating the Bush Is Stupid mantra. Repeat it so long and so loud you believe it down to your toes. Feel free to base your campaign strategy on this stupidity.

In fact, I dare you.

Finally, after skipping over a great deal of meat:

We'll skip the obvious social issues differences, and simply stipulate to them. yes, Bush is bad for gays, and probably for women. With due respect, both groups will survive, and in fact thrive as the underlying social changes that lead to greater acceptance will continue, regardless of who is in office and what specific policies they may promulgate.

Here's the 800-pound gorilla issue. This is the issue, in fact, Tammy Bruce cites in her decision to vote for Bush.

I suspect Tammy and Armed Liberal both support abortion rights, same-sex marriage, and any number of related agenda items. Both realize that, given the current social climate and social trends, those rights are already pretty strong and will not disappear overnight no matter who wins the election. Any shortcomings in social policy can be fixed, given enough time and energy.

But what will happen if the terrorists win?

"Winning" for the terrorists does not mean the United States withdraws from the Middle East, or even into a "fortress America". "Winning" means converting the infidels to their form of Islam. Nothing less.

If the terrorists win, I guarantee abortion rights, gay rights, women's rights, ad the entire Bill of Rights will go right out the window.

In a pre-9/11 world, this balance would have certainly tipped me toward Kerry. Sadly, I live in a post 9/11 world. I wish I didn't, and that none of us did.

Read the whole thing.

Toilet to tap

Orange County, California, has broken ground on a treatment plant that will take sewage and purify it to the point where it can be used as drinking water.

I don't know the figures for Orange County, but the City of Los Angeles takes in some 600 million gallons per day of water from various sources, and discharges some 400 MGD as sewage. (The remaining 200 MGD evaporate into the air, soak into the water table after being used to water gardens, or escape into the storm drains.)

In LA, recycling sewage would cut the demand for new water by up to two-thirds.

"'Twill be taken and noted as a precedent."

Sinclair Broadcast Group has decided not to air "Stolen Honor".

This decision followed the announcement of plans to sue Sinclair on the grounds that running the documentary might adversely affect stock prices, injuring stockholders.

What's astonishing here is that this legal-political double team has gone on with barely a whimper of protest from the rest of the media. In fact, it is being celebrated as a defeat for all of those right-wing scoundrels who support President Bush. We understand that most of the press corps is liberal and desperately wants Mr. Kerry to win. Editors and producers may let that distort their coverage, but they usually aren't so blinded by partisanship that they can't see their own self-interest. Now that this trial lawyer-government precedent has been set, who's to stop it if it next turns, as eventually it will, on the New York Times, or CBS? One of the most important protections that a free press has is independent corporate ownership, but what if the Nixon Administration had unleashed its lawyer friends and government pension funds on the Times Company when it was publishing the Pentagon Papers, or the Washington Post when it was digging into Watergate? If the standard now is that stirring controversy is a fraud against shareholders because it may cost ad revenue, a lot more media owners than Sinclair are going to become political targets.

Indeed, what has happened to the price of Viacom in the wake of CBS's little problem with those memos?

Hypothesis testing

The economists I respect are the ones who treat economics like a science.

In science, you're allowed to dream up any notion (or "hypothesis") you like. But then you're expected to test your notion against reality.

You test a hypothesis by asking what effects we would see if the hypothesis were in fact true. For example, if we suppose gravity behaves in a certain way, we would expect objects that are moving under its influence to move in certain ways. If they move some other way instead, our hypothesis about gravity is in trouble.

Walter Williams puts a couple of economic hypotheses to the test. These are: "43 million Americans without health insurace aren't getting vital health care", and "All our jobs are being "outsourced" to other countries."

Well, if 43 million people were being denied health care because they lack insurance, there'd be any number of hard-luck stories for the news media to broadcast. Where are they? Apparently, those 43 million people are getting treated for their health problems. Maybe not as quickly as they'd like, but they are getting treated.

"Outsourcing" turns out to be more than balanced by "insourcing", or jobs being exported from other countries into the US. There are some things foreigners can do better and cheaper than we can. (Though some people have had nasty surprises overseas, and had to bring their jobs back to the US. Cheaper isn't better if it's not suitable for your intended use.) There are a lot of things we do better than foreigners.

If you're going to vote, it's your responsibility to avoid voting when you're in the throes of panic. You don't make good decisions when you panic.

What should voters be scared of?

Alan Reynolds, with the Cato Institute, has a list of things Kerry believes he can use to scare voters away from Bush.

When it comes to unfair gamesmanship, Sen. John Kerry hit a new low lately with campaign claims that President Bush is somehow responsible for contamination of flu vaccine at a plant in England, that the president's re-election portends a military draft and that the president plans, as January surprise, to slash Social Security benefits by 30 percent to 45 percent. An astute Washington Times cartoonist suggested Mr. Kerry might as well have also accused the president of eating puppy dogs.

The vaccine shortage is the result of the closure of a plant in England. The reasons the supply of vaccine is so precarious that one plant can make that much of a difference are costly regulations which make it more expensive to produce vaccines, and Government agencies hold vaccine prices down to a low level.

The draft was introduced by a Democrat. When it came to a vote, the Democrat who introduced the bill didn't have the soldierly virtues to vote for his own legislation. The voices that are calling for more troops in Iraq have all been Democratic voices.

Social Security benefits may well be cut – for those born after 1980. In exchange for lower benefits from Social Security, workers will receive more benefits from private retirement accounts. Studies have shown that even a bad investor can beat the returns available from Social Security, and unlike Social Security, a private account doesn't disappear when the recipient dies. It can be willed to heirs.

So what should voters be scared of?

In a well-informed world, such obviously deceitful tactics ought to backfire, and they probably will. Mr. Kerry has clearly been willing to say just about anything to scare people into not voting for his opponent. If that doesn't scare you, it should.

I would be going berserk

Now, one that's a lot less funny.

REMEMBER, ZERO TOLERANCE IN SCHOOLS IS ONLY FOR STUDENTS: A teacher and a "family worker" at Public School 186X in the Bronx, New York, have been accused of improperly searching students after another teacher reported a missing ring. Attention was focused on four boys aged 10 and 11, who were made to strip and then jump up and down on the theory that the ring was hidden on their bodies, and jumping would dislodge it. Julio Passaro, the family worker, was suspended without pay, and the unidentified teacher was reassigned to the school's special education students. (New York Newsday) ...On the theory that special ed students won't be able to complain when it happens to them.

The McMartin preschool was shut down over child molestation charges. Pastor Roberson in Wenatchee, WA went through hell, along with his wife and most of his congregation, over child molestation charges. This incident is different in that it actually happened.

I hope the NYPD and New York District Attorney are giving this matter very serious attention.

And transferring the teacher to a different set of students – isn't that one of the things that got the Catholic Church in deep kim-chee?

Osama's Silence

Jack Kelly takes up the question of whether Osama bin Laden is, shall we say, "metabolically challenged".

Matthew Heidt of "Froggy Ruminations" thinks Osama is dead, because that's the only thing that would have shut him up. Gregory Djerejian of the Belgravia Dispatch concurs.

Richard Minter, author of The Shadow War thinks he's still alive, but has changed his appearance and doesn't want soldiers knowing what face they're looking for.

Bin Laden needs dialysis, and needs to spend between 12-20 hours a week hooked up to a dialysis machine. Because of this, Kelly thinks he's in Iran where he can get access to a dialysis facility. (Home units are available, but I'm not sure if he'd have access to enough of the needed support structure in a cave in Afghanistan. He'd need, at the bare minimum, a generator, a supply of electrolyte solution, and lots and lots of extremely clean water.)

If he's not dead yet, I don't think he's long for this world. And when he does die, it will not be a glorious martydrom.

The best medicine

There's a fellow in Germany who's coaching his fellow countrymen in the best way to deal with anyone who proposes any zero tolerance policy.

Mr. Christoph, 43, said he came across laughter therapy when he was recovering from heart surgery. "As soon as I realized how useful it was for my health, I learned to laugh and I haven't stopped since." He says he has coached 1,500 Germans in the art of laughter.

And in particular:

"There are many different types of humor and they all have their place," he said, listing sarcasm, satire, mimicry, parody and his favorite, schadenfreude (slapstick), which he illustrated with a picture of a pensioner laughing at a man who had bumped into a lamppost.

Now your homework: Apply all of the above modes of humor to the Zero Tolerance Watch items listed nearby.

(Closed captioned for the humor impaired.)

Zero Tolerance Watch

For some reason, Zero Tolerance seems to produce Infinite Humor

GIVE ME LIBERTY, OR GIVE ME SCHOOL: Joshua Phelps, a 17-year-old senior at Pine Bush High School in Crawford, N.Y., was looking for an extracurricular activity to participate in to round out his college application when he spotted an ad for the school's Civil War Club. He signed up and spent a weekend in a mock battle against Confederate soldiers in a replay of the 1863 Battle of Chancellorsville. Back at school, a security guard noticed something in Phelps' car: a militia uniform, complete with a (gasp!) fake musket. The guard called police, who arrested Phelps on weapons charges. In addition to criminal charges, the school has suspended Phelps for five days pending an expulsion hearing for violation of its zero tolerance weapons policy. Police Chief Daniel McCann calls the bust proper. "The musket was found in his car on the high school grounds and could have been used," he says, perhaps to fire a small rock or something. (Middletown Times Herald-Record) ...Surely no one there has any spare rocks in their heads that he could use for that, though, right?

If the fake musket was anything like other fake guns I've seen, the only way it could be used to "fire" a small rock or something would be if you used it as a bat. So why are baseball bats allowed on campuses?

A friend of mine tells the story of one of her friends who was arrested for possession of a deadly weapon. Charges were dropped when the police noticed the weapon was a fake, and in fact didn't even have a barrel.

Here, the amusement value comes from a typo on the paperwork. The charge was typoed as "Possession of a dead weapon."

Zero Tolerance Watch

AIRHEADS: Two girls at Greenfield Junior High School in Gilbert, Ariz., were setting up the decorations for a school dance and got the idea of inhaling the helium they were using to fill balloons to hear themselves "talk funny." Principal Jill Bowers noted the school district's policy that prohibits the "non-medical use of drugs" also includes inhaled drugs, and suspended the girls for five days. "If it's such a dangerous substance," complained one of the girls' fathers, "why weren't they supervised? I think they went a little bit overboard and took the zero-tolerance policy to the extreme." Bowers relented, reducing the suspensions to one day. (Arizona Republic) ...Whew! Now they'll be able to squeak by the seventh grade.

I think if I'd been a parent in that situation, I might have sued the school for child endangerment for leaving minors unsupervised around dangerous materials. If the school district doesn't come to its senses, then it had jolly well better treat helium as if it believed its own reasoning.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

An Objectivist says, "Vote for Bush"

(Hat tip: Instapundit.)

Summary: The nature of this campaign is set, and the meaning of this election is: independence vs. dependence. The Bush policies favor America retaining its sovereignty--cooperating with allies as and when they are willing--and America on the offensive. The Kerry program favors America surrendering that independence to curry favor with the bribed French and the America-hating despots at the United Nations.

Donovan's Mickey's Brain

Brain cells extracted from a rat have been wired to a computer. When exposed to a "training" session, they have been able to learn how to fly an F-22 fighter jet in simulated conditions ranging from calm to hurricane-force winds.

Scientists hope to gain an understanding of how networks of nerve cells do the intricate processing that is easy for brains, and next to impossible for computers. If they can program this into a computer, we may yet have computers with the power of a HAL 9000. Or Colossus.

(Hat tip: Instapundit.)

Lex tibii, non mihi

(Hat tip: The Command Post.)

In California, at least, this behavior would be illegal. California has laws against campaigning within 100 feet of a polling place.

One woman who voted early in Boca Raton, at the Southwest County Regional Library, complained that as she stood in line, two men behind her were "trashing our president," Fletcher said, declining to identify the woman. She tried to ignore them. Then the man touched her arm and said, "Who are you voting for?" "I said, `I don't think that's an appropriate question,'" the woman said she responded. "Uh oh! We have a Bush supporter here," screamed the man behind her. For the 2 1/2 hours she had to wait in line, she was heckled by the man. As they neared the voting room, someone in the rear of the line yelled, "I sure hope everyone here is voting for Kerry!" she reported. That's when the man behind her held his hand over her head and screamed, "We have a Republican right here!" There were "boos and jeers" from the crowd. "I felt intimidated, harassed and threatened!" the woman wrote in her complaint to the Republican Party.

I suspect this kind of thing is illegal in Florida as well. But then, try and get it enforced.

A nice example of the leftist belief that "the law is for you, not for me."

(10/25/04 – fixed the Latin in the title.)

Bush IQ higher than Kerry's?

(Hat tip: Command Post.)

Two different sets of tests have been used to estimate George W Bush's IQ as "in the mid 120s". Kerry's IQ is estimated at 120.

Now recall the standard deviation on any given test is going to be a few points in either direction, and the two estimates are within the margin of error. The two could be equally intelligent.

And recall, also, the left does not believe IQ tests mean anything unless Republicans score low on them, in which case they determine all.

There was a rumor going around that Bush had an IQ score of 91. The same people who assure us that IQ means nothing thought this number was very meaningful in Bush's case.

It occurs to me that if we assume the number was in base 14, that works out to 127, which is right in the ballpark. Though why Bush would have taken an IQ test administered by Hogan's Ganymean aliens is another question entirely.

Yes, let's train more Iraqi police.

They're doing a hell of a job.

And the results came in quick and positive operations beginning in the Haifa Street area of Baghdad, where two battalions hauled away 58 foreign fighters attacking Iraqi and multinational forces in the city. The first two battalions also hauled away another large force of foreign fighters in Samarra operations. When immediately attacked in North Babil by anti-Iraqi force small arms fire, mortar, and improvised explosive devices, the unit efficiently and methodically negotiated the attacking force before continuing on to their objectives, according to multinational advisors familiar with the action in their advisory roles. <snip> Despite having been together for only a few weeks, the then 400-man force successfully deployed and within 24 hours commenced coordinated multinational force operations with success. In addition, in all three operations thus far employed, the unit has only sustained one minor injury. And, according to Thabit, have the ability to respond for movement with a single hour’s notice.

If Kerry can implement a plan to train these guys faster, I'll be impressed.

On the left, darkies' deaths don't count

Belmont Club examines an article in the Guardian on "The Power of Nightmares". It makes the case that terrorism doesn't really exist – the 9/11 attack was a one-off, and not related to other incidents.

Wretchard has some problems with the analysis carried out by the article's author, Adam Curtis:

The most interesting aspect of Curtis' argument is the narrowness of its cast. By limiting his set of terrorist incidents to the developed world, and to Europe in particular, he arrives at the conclusion that terrorism does not exist. He looks around his world and asks, 'where is it?'. Kashmir, Algeria, Saddamite Iraq, Sudan, the Balkans, Indonesia, Timor and the Philippines -- to name a few places -- are ommitted from his account. The wonder is not that he omitted them; the astounding thing would have been if he had included it. The Left has displayed a magnificent indifference to death in the Third World and only slightly more sensitivity to deaths in the Balkans.

The left doesn't care about people dying in the third world, except when it can be blamed on the USA, and especially on Republicans.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Who was "outed"? And as what?

Tammy Bruce has an article out with her take on the "compliments" John-John paid to the Cheneys at the debates.

Reports from those in the auditorium indicated a general gasp from the mixed Republican and Democratic crowd. The gut instinct of the people in the room, and the millions watching, was that Kerry’s use of Cheney was more than inappropriate—it smacked of exploitation and an agenda based in something other than respect. <snip> To disabuse you of the notion that Edwards and Kerry meant to ‘compliment’ the Cheneys (which simply piles on the insult) consider Kerry campaign director Mary Beth Cahill’s interview remarks immediately after the debate. When asked if Kerry’s remarks about Cheney were appropriate Cahill said Mary Cheney was out so “it is fair game.” Others in the campaign have used the same phrasing. Gee, “fair game.” A fascinating term to use when paying compliments. And remember, for the Democrats “it” in this instance is a woman. The issue here is one of integrity and the intentions of Kerry.

So What are John-John's intentions?

While the Kerry behavior seems bizarre at best, there is a method to his and Leftist madness in general. First, Mary Cheney is hated by the Gay Elite. There are discussions and direct efforts to make life uncomfortable for her. Why? Because she dares to be different. She has made the same mistake as I — she refuses to have her sexuality be the singular defining aspect of her identity, and she has had the gall to be her own person and not bow down to the leftist agenda. Yes, she commits the fatal mistake of not conforming to the conformist Gay agenda. Cut to John Kerry on debate night. Here is a man who is trying to maintain the traditional base of Democratic party support. Women are abandoning him as they realize having a passive internationalist in the White House is not the best protection against a Beslan horror on American soil. <snip> Now consider that supposed political monolith of homosexuals. Kerry says he’s opposed to gay marriage but supports civil unions, a position identical with the president’s. I contend Kerry was in part pandering to the Gay Elite to make up for his position on marriage. The targeting of Mary Cheney by the Gay Elite is a well known effort by liberals, and Kerry’s comment was his way of saying “I’m with you,” by attempting to further their punishment of her on international television. <snip> Secondly, and perhaps even more revealing of how disconnected the Kerry gang really is, his campaign truly feels that Christians will reject the Bush and Cheney families because of this issue.

Makes sense to me. Problem is, it seems to have backfired.

In the decade-plus of my work as a radio talk show host and writer, I have spoken with thousands of Christians from across this country. What I found from them, coming from the feminist establishment as I do, is that while they hold religious beliefs against homosexuality, they are the most tolerant, understanding and kind people I have ever met. Oh sure, there are fringe extremists on the right, just as there are on the left, but the hundreds of Christians and others I heard from by e-mail and on my radio program were insulted, but by Kerry’s presumption that they were as shallow as he.

And to those who are still aware of the importance of foreign policy in a world of extremist groups that want to blow up more of our buildings – cities if possible, remember this is the same deft touch Kerry and his cohort will bring to international relations.

Friday, October 22, 2004

The Florida saga continues

Jonah Goldberg on the great urban legend of the Florida 2000 votes.

Interestingly enough, he quotes Eric Holder, a member of the Democrats' Election Task Force, as saying,

If every vote is allowed to be cast, and every vote is counted, John Kerry will be president within a day of that election.

Well, actually, he'll be president elect. He won't be president until Inauguration Day, in January.

I know what he meant, though. So do you, so did he, and so did Chris Wallace, who was interviewing him. But if a Bush aide, or a Bush supporter, or Bush himself had made that gaffe, would the press have been willing to do the work of translating it for him?

The media and the elections

Your vote this November may not just be for or against any particular candidate – it may be for or against the arrogant factions in the mainstream media, too.

Patriot Act – one perspective

A lawyer's take on the Patriot act. He doesn't think it's as bad as the ACLU does.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

A shot in the arm for vaccines

One of the problems with making vaccines, especially flu vaccines, is the nine-month lag time between the time you start manufacturing a vaccine and the time it's ready.

Here's an article about the biotech advances that promise to cut development time, and make vaccines safer and more effective.

Katherine Harris' take on Florida

The Democrats are still whining about Florida.

Katherine Harris offers her perspective.

Seven states experienced worse rates of "undervotes" and "overvotes" than Florida (the rate for his home state of Georgia was 3.5 percent, as compared to Florida's 2.9 percent. The rate for Cook County, Ill., which includes Chicago, was 6 percent).


...Mr. Carter repeats discredited myths about the 2000 presidential election in Florida without providing evidence to support his claims. He alleges that "several thousand ballots of African Americans were thrown out on technicalities," when 1) the American tradition of ballot secrecy prevents us from knowing the race of a voter who cast a spoiled ballot, and 2)no shred of evidence exists to support the far-left accusation that "thousands of African Americans" were prevented from voting because of Florida's effort to remove felons and other ineligible voters from the registration rolls, which was required by 1998 legislation sponsored by two Democratic legislators and signed into law by Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles. In fact, during the 18 months of litigation that followed Election 2000, only two persons testified that they were unable to vote in that election because their names erroneously appeared on the mandated list of potentially ineligible voters. Nevertheless, because one qualified voter's loss of this sacred right constitutes an anathema to me,I made certain that the groundbreaking election reforms that Florida enacted in 2001 included "provisional ballots" (enabling individuals whose registration status is challenged at the polls to vote and have that vote counted upon later verification of their eligibility).

Keep watching the skies...

When I first learned about the use of arrays of radio telescopes that were networked together to improve resolution, I started thinking about how neat it would be if we could do that for optical telescopes. An array of small scopes would behave like one very large scope, for a fraction of the cost.

The Navy Prototype Optical Interferometer consists of six mirrors which combine their inputs to mimic a single 437 meter (1433 feet) telescope.

A simple calculation shows that a telescope of this diameter has an angular resolution of some 8E-8 degrees, or 1/3400 of an arc-second.

You could make out an object one meter in size at a distance of 445,000 miles. An object one centimeter in size (about the resolution you need to read a large headline) could be resolved at 4450 miles.

The same technique could be adapted to larger arrays, possibly even arrays orbiting the Earth.

I thought so...

I've gotten calls from customers who were worried because of signs posted in their apartment buildings. The signs, a result of Proposition 65, passed in 1986, have a general statement to the effect that the property may contain chemicals that are known to the State of California to cause cancer.

The first such call sent me to the Internet, where I learned that any business with more than ten employees had to post such a sign if they had carcinogens on site. However, the list of carcinogens is very long, and there's no penalty for having the sign if you don't have any of those chemicals on site.

I decided the people who were posting those signs were probably covering their rear ends, and left it at that.

Now I find there's a law firm that's suing small businesses and apartment buildings to enforce compliance with Prop 65. Their latest effort is to demand that posted signs specify the chemicals that may be present.

The Consumer Defense Group states that compliance with Prop 65 is no big deal. "We're talking about a $10 sign." Well, it's more than one for a large building, and if it has to list the specific chemicals that might be encountered, that could push the cost of the sign a lot higher.

And the signs cause other problems as well:

Tim Fuller, a Valencia Hills resident, said he believes owners of the complex are not sharing all the information. Fuller, who moved into the complex 10 months ago, said when he signed the lease, it said the complex "may" contain toxins. The signs recently posted on the entrances say "does." "What do they know now that they didn't know when they opened these apartments?" he said. "It's clearly worded differently. That information is supposed to be divulged before you move in."

Here we have someone who's been trained to expect absolute certainty. The apartment owners are expected to know about all the risks in the building. If they post a notice about one when no notice was ever posted before, he assumes the owners have been hiding the information up to that point.

This is an unreasonable standard. Apartment owners are not God. They are not omniscient. Blaming them for not notifying you about a risk they have just discovered is not reasonable. But unfortunately, many people are equally undreasonable, and many of those make it onto juries.

Aspirin and weight loss?

Researchers are looking at a derivative of aspirin to prevent weight gain. It seems to block the hormones that keep people from losing weight

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Terrorism as a nuisance

(From Tech Central Station)

Harvard Law Professor William J. Stuntz declares that Kerry's comparison between terrorism and organized crime (particularly activities such as gambling and prostitution) is surprisingly apt. And it leads to lessons that may surprise Kerry.

To be sure, people in organized crime were prosecuted for prostitution and gambling, but this is not because that's the worst things they did. They were simply the most prosecutable things they did. Organized crime figures were often jailed after pretext prosecutions to get them off the streets.

Likewise, terrorists are often prosecuted for other crimes, because the terrorism is either hard to prove in advance, or would require compromising intelligence assets. Or both.

And criminal prosecutions are not a promising option. No one is willing to wait for a nuclear weapon to blow away an American city and then prosecute the conspirators who survived the blast. Nor does it make sense to devote massive resources to building cases for small-potatoes crimes that will put away would-be murderers for a year or two, after which they can resume their homicidal careers. Perhaps that is why military and intelligence services have played such a large role in the war on terrorism. Some crime problems are intractable. Seen as a crime problem, terrorism is intractable too. It makes sense to redefine the problem, to look for other tools. This war needs to be fought by the Army and the CIA, not merely the Justice Department. Therein lies the real problem with Kerry's comments. Kerry thinks America's seventy-year-long battle against the Mafia was a success story. He is wrong. Tolerating Mob bosses (which is what we did for most of those seventy years) was very costly. Tolerating terrorism -- or leaving it to police and prosecutors, which amounts to the same thing -- would be a disaster.

Orson Scott Card on Kerry

Mr. Card doesn't have nearly as many good things to say about J.F.Kerry.

Orson Scott Card on the war in Iraq

Orson Scott Card looks at how Bush is doing in Iraq, saying the best answer is a book called The Shadow War: The Untold Story of How Bush Is Winning the War on Terror, by Richard Miniter.

Some money quotes:

Contrary to Kerry's deliberate deception, Bush did not "let Osama get away" at Torah Bora. It was winter in extraordinarily rugged country. All the forces that could be brought to bear were deployed, but no one, not even Bush, can defeat weather and terrain all the time. Nor is Iraq is a distraction. In fact, there is simply no doubt among honest people who know anything at all that Iraq under Saddam was a sponsor of terror, that it had ties to Al Qaeda, and that it was a dangerous source of shelter, training, weaponry, and funding to international terrorism. The Iraq campaign has diverted nothing and distracted no one. The work being done against terrorism has vastly increased and improved during the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns. The Bush administration is using appropriate levels of force and funding. There are times when pumping more money and manpower into a particular area does not make things go better, it makes them go worse.


The point is that irresponsible politicians like Kerry are free to make false accusations against President Bush -- about how he is distracted from the real war, etc. -- and they know he can't answer, because he cannot prove how well the war is going without exposing and, probably, ending secret cooperation from Muslim governments. In other words, Kerry is free to be irresponsible, dishonest, and unfair precisely because he knows that President Bush puts national security ahead of his own political advantage.


Naturally, most of what President Bush has personally done is to choose from the many alternatives presented to him by his advisers. The president doesn't go out and personally collect information; he does not personally develop weapons systems; he does not lay out specific military campaigns. Bush has, however, made clear strategic choices that made it possible for our forces to be effective in the war on terror. For one thing, the decision to hold state sponsors of terror accountable transformed the war into something that we might win. Without the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, governments would still behave as if they could thumb their noses at us with impunity; those campaigns are the foundation of the newly cooperative attitude of many governments.

...and finally,

Kerry is the enemy of American military power, even when used multilaterally in support of international law. He will never, ever be capable of using our military effectively or carefully, despite the lies he tells during the process of a campaign. And I call them lies because they so obviously are lies. Democrats speculate without evidence about President Bush's and Vice-President Cheney's motives all the time, accusing them of deception without a shred of evidence. But Kerry's claim to being tougher and smarter about military matters than Bush is so obviously false that we should be laughing whenever he makes it. He has been wrong on every defense system, on every vote in his entire political career. If Kerry's will had prevailed, we would have no military that was capable of resisting our enemies. And that is precisely the reason why the fanatic left wing of the Democratic Party is so eager to elect John Kerry. Because they know he's lying about his intentions concerning the war. They're counting on it. If they believed that he actually meant what he says about the war on terror, they would never vote for him.

...but read the whole thing.

Combat readiness

You may recall headline hand-wringing over low readiness figures for various units. This article discusses what that means, and why it's not nearly as bad as it sounds. Indeed, you may not want to score too high.

There's an inverse relationship between readiness and combat activity. Forces that go through combat wind up shedding readiness as stuff breaks, gets worn out, or gets used up. Any unit that managed to stay at 100% readiness would be a unit that never did anything.

The fact that readiness is below 100% means they're being made use of.

The importance of the electoral college

Many people would like to see the electoral college done away with. Jonah Goldberg disagrees.

The ABA said the electoral college system was "ambiguous," "complex" and "dangerous." It's not complex. Each state decides democratically who it wants to be president, the winner gets that state's electoral votes, which are allotted proportionally based on population. Whoever wins the majority of electoral votes wins. If you think that's too complex to grasp, I'm not sure you're qualified to vote in the first place. It's not ambiguous either. Indeed, one of its chief benefits is that historically it has given an unambiguous victory in electoral votes to candidates who receive only a fraction of the popular vote.

In addition, people who have looked into the math have found that in most elections, the electoral college increases the power of every citizen's vote. Each vote becomes more likely to make a difference in the final total, and in deciding the winner.

Taking the "hex" out of hexavalent chromium

Hexavalent Chromium, or chromium six (CrVI) is the environmental toxin that made Erin Brokovich a household name. I've grown accustomed to the fact that we get phone calls from worried customers every time the news mentions chromium contamination in the local ground water.

After assuring them the stuff isn't detected in our supply, I have often told customers that if they're really worried about it, they can get some vitamin C crystals and drop a pinch into their water before they use it. Vitamin C reduces CrVI to CrIII, which is a nutrient. In fact, people shell out their hard-earned money at health food stores for the stuff.

Now I have a newspaper article in my files which I can fax to worried customers.

Oh. The article discusses a PG&E project to inject substances into the ground water that will reduce the CrVI to CrIII in situ, before it's ever pumped to the surface.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

I've been polled.

Just half an hour (and one meal) ago, I got a call from an opinin survey group. I was asked a series of questions, including my party affiliation (still Libertarian, for the moment), whether I voted in 2000 and 2002, and which candidate I planned to vote for in the Presidential and Senate races.

I was also asked about Props 67 and 1A, and measure O.

So real people do get polled.

<pat self down> ... I think.

"And then what happens?"

Questions and Observations cites an article in the Daily Oklahoman on the reasons why flu vaccine is so hard to come by this year.

By imposing a "liability without fault" concept on the industry. Tucker notes there were 26 U.S. companies making vaccines in 1967. Today there are four, and none of them make the low-margin flu vaccine. Vaccines don’t produce enough revenue to cover the potential liability resulting from the fraction of the population that has a bad reaction. Give 100 people a glass milk, Tucker points out, and a few of them will get sick from it. But that doesn’t mean the dairy industry should be shut down. "Liability without fault" replaced the notion of simple negligence, meaning that vaccine makers could be held liable only if they’d actually done something wrong – not because their vaccine caused a bad reaction. The majority is thus punished because of problems occurring to a small minority. Lawyers profit. Under liability without fault, Tucker writes, manufacturers can be held responsible for harm from their products whether blameworthy or not. "Add to that the jackpot awards that come from pain and suffering and punitive damages, and you have a legal climate that no manufacturer wants to risk."

The general rule holds. If you increase the cost of doing something, you get less of it.

One of the readers of Q and O notes:

Before 1993, manufacturers sold vaccines to doctors, doctors prescribed them to patients, and there was some markup. Then Congress adopted the Vaccine for Children Act, which made the government a monopsony buyer. The feds now purchase over half of all vaccines at a low fixed price and distribute them to doctors. This has essentially finished off the private market.

Monopsony, by the way, is a real word. It comes from the Greek mon-, one, and opsonia, the purchase of foodstuffs. It refers to a situation where there is one buyer and many sellers – the inverse, if you will, of a monopoly.

In any event, by making itself the 8,000 lb gorilla in the marketplace, the government has crowded out all other buyers who might pay more, and imposed a ceiling above which prices will not go, no matter what it costs manufacturers to make vaccines.

The general rule holds. If you decrease the reward for something, you get less of that something.

Our "crowded" world

The Scotsman has a "hot topic" page devoted to population decline. Those who are worried about overpopulation may be a bit behind the times.

Where is Osama

The Scotsman asks the burning question, and mentions theories including that Osama may have assumed room temperature.

Most intelligence officials believe that Bin Laden is still hiding in the mountains between Pakistan and Afghanistan, protected by loyal followers and surrounded by ultra-conservative Pashtun tribesmen who are mistrustful of the US. It is an immense area, with countless caves and hidden passes, providing an ideal place to hide. It is also an area without police, which the Pakistani army enters only in large numbers on specific operations. Several hundred soldiers are required each time a single house is searched because those doing the searches have to be protected from hostile neighbours. Bin Laden is unwelcome in his birthplace, Saudi Arabia, and his former base in Sudan, so the near-unanimous verdict is that he is trapped.

But then again...

"I don’t know where he is, but I think most people suspect he is in that area between Afghanistan and Pakistan," deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage confirmed recently. "I know one thing. He’s in a hole and it’s tough for him to move around."

Funny, "in a hole and it's tough for him to move around" would describe the situation of most dead people, too.

In any event:

"The longer this goes on, however, the more difficult it gets. Not catching a man who’s carrying a $25m reward around the mountains of Afghanistan can be called an embarrassment, but my own concern is that we fixate on him and forget about the other bad guys there are out there."

With the shrill refrain from the lunatic left echoing in our news media, it's easy to forget that Osama's not the only bad guy in the world. Really: are the other bad guys a "distraction" from Osama, or is Osama a "distraction" from the other bad guys?

Saddam Hussein and terror

In The Scotsman, we see indications that Saddam Hussein used oil-for-palaces money to finance terrorist groups, including the PFLP. He also provided a safe haven for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

Much has gone wrong since Saddam was deposed. But equally, those who favoured a continuation of sanctions as an alternative to regime change must explain how they would have stopped Saddam funding the PFLP, or giving al-Zarqawi free rein to plot bombings in Western Europe. Or how they would have stopped him bribing UN officials to get his murderous way.

Monday, October 18, 2004

It seems to be working in Afghanistan

Winds of Change has a long piece on the good news in Afghanistan.

More than WMD

I've been telling people they should read the actual resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq. There were 20 justifications for the use of force (I had called "a couple dozen"), most of which have been pretty robust.

Enviropundit makes the case that the case for war is still valid.

Mission of Gravity

In Hal Clement's novel with this title, a space probe is landed on a planet with a surface gravity 400 times that of Earth. It's purpose is to make measurements of the gravitational field in a place where it's very intense (but won't destroy the probe) in hopes that scientists will come closer to understanding it.

Gravity is the weakest of the four forces known to modern day physics, and that makes it very hard to study. In order to get a lot of this force, you need a heck of a lot of matter, or you need to amplify your measurements by a huge factor. The pioneer space probes have been subject to the effects of gravity for a long time, and over a large range of field strengths.

They are also exquisitely sensitive measurement devices. Space probes are lauched with precisely known masses and velocities, and they are aimed very precisely. They routinely hit their targets dead-on, carrying enough fuel to change their speeds by a total of a few hundred feet per second. There just isn't that much of an ability to make course corrections. The fact that space probes wind up anywhere near where they're supposed to be is a testimony to how well known the effects of gravity must be.

The pioneer probes are not where they're supposed to be.

The difference between where they are and where they're supposed to be is the same as the distance between the Earth and the Moon.

New probes are being proposed to study this further. Whatever the cause turns out to be, it's bound to be Interesting.

What is one life worth?

The answer, as in every other case, depends on who's paying for it.

In one of my monthly rants, I pointed out that it made sense for a car company to try to avoid paying a small amount for a safety feature that might prevent one or two deaths over an entire car line. Needless to say, a correspondent took me to task for this cold, calculating, devaluation of human life.

In the ensuing exchange, I pointed out that he, himself places a finite value on human life, including his own. The fact that he is not driving the safest possible car is proof of that. (I didn't know for sure, but the probability approached certainty, given the price of the safest possible car.)

With more knowledge, I could have pointed out any number of other choices that were not the safest possible choices, but which he made anyway. In fact, people make any number of decisions for reasons other than absolute safety. These decisions are based on cost, convenience, enjoyability, and doubtless many other concerns I'm not thinking of right now.

So now that Thomas Sowell is discussing the same thing in one of his pieces, I have an excuse to rant on it again, and link to his article.

A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are for.

Stir for five months

Martha Stewart is in prison for lying to a Federal investigator. (Apparently, she thought she'd get the same treatment as Bill Clinton.) As This is True puts it, Martha Stewart's recipe is, "Stir for five months".

She is undergoing a two-week indoctrination period, after which she will be assigned her prison job. According to one of her fans,

"They will be lucky to have her in the kitchen," said 24-year-old Nathan Sams, who describes himself as a devoted Stewart fan. "Even with prison-quality stuff, she will make a five-star presidential meal out of it."

But then again, anyone who's ever seen her show knows she can do all kinds of things around the house – cooking, cleaning, gardening (prison farm?), even small remodeling projects.

California Prop 71

Steven Milloy, of The Junk Science Page, has comments on California's Prop 71, which promises to encourage research in embryonic stem cells. He doesn't dwell on the science of embryonic stem cells in this piece, but rather on the possible motives of those who are behind the proposition.

At the risk of committing a Bulverism, he points out that a lot of the money generated by Prop 71 will go to benefit a number of private concerns, including one in which one of Prop 71's boosters holds a number of stock options.

StemCells Inc. has a stock price of $2/share, down from $15/share in 2000, but up from $1.24/share this past summer. If 71 passes, the price could easily pass $5.25/share, the price at which those stock options are worth anything.

At this point, what happens is going to depend on how the people who hold these options feel about the chances for stem cell research. If they think the influx of money will result in real progress, they'll stay in and bet their stock appreciates.

If, on the other hand, they don't think embryonic stem cell research will pay off, they'll cash in before the lack of success becomes obvious to everyone else, and the price of the stock will drop fairly quickly.

Given how well embryonic stem cells have performed in the past, Prop 71 may force Californians to pay $3 billion for a deflating balloon. If private investors want to gamble on this, they're welcome to. Just not with my money.

TSA Strikes Again

I subscribe to the free edition of This Is True. This week's mailing has follow-up on the story of a teacher who was arrested for carrying a book mark through airport security:

I HAVE A PHOTO of the "dangerous" bookmark that the TSA confiscated from the hapless bookworm. has the story and photo, and as always you're welcome to circulate that URL at will. A few of the Premium readers saw the photo and declared that the item is not a bookmark but rather a "book weight". OK, fine; I went with the description in the newspaper article I sourced from. Several cops mentioned that it resembles a "sap", which is a weapon. OK, fine; my point is that if it's a potentially dangerous everyday item, take it away. To actually arrest a schoolmarm (as they did) and threaten her with a $10,000 fine (as they did) is what I'm terming ridiculous "zero tolerance" mentality. The first time I flew after 9/11, the airport screeners broke off the 1.5" file from my fingernail clippers before letting me board, as if that tiny bit of metal on a swivel would allow me to take over a jetliner. But they didn't haul me off in handcuffs. I was not arrested; they took it from me and sent me on my way. They couldn't do this for a 52-year-old woman ...why?

FWIW, I've seen those book weights, and at the time I thought it would be a very effective sap. But then, lots of common, everyday objects can be used as weapons. If we follow this to its logical conclusion, passengers will have to fly naked, with their clothes and effects stuffed in a baggie in the luggage compartment.

Back in the 70s, MAD Magazine addressed the spate of hijacking incidents, and one suggestion was to have every passenger fly in a locked glass cubicle. (The cartoon showed the stewardess – this was before they all became "flight attendants" – stopping by and offering, "Coffee, tea, or oxygen?" The passenger's response was, "I have to go to the bathroom!")

I have no ridiculous stories to tell about my getting through airport security on my way here. Just a silly one: at my home airport I was pulled over for a thorough search because I "almost" made the metal detector beep. Uh... OK, but if I had enough metal on me to trigger a pat-down, then why didn't the detector beep? After we all got through, the guy behind me whispered, "You know what 'TSA' stands for, don't you? 'Thousands Standing Around'."

For more comments on TSA, check out Jerry Pournelle's website. He was blogging before blogging was cool.

Also, yes, I did hear the story about the woman boarding in Denver who was told by a screener, "I'm going to feel your breasts now." A TSA spokesman says such invasion is "a sign of the times". I have the details in my slush pile, so the story may appear in a future issue.

Subscribe now and you won't miss it.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Anti-gay bias among Republicans?

Ed (Dispatches from the Culture Wars) comments about statements by various conservative and Republican spokesmen. They believe Kerry's intention when he mentioned that Cheney's daughter is gay was to shave a few points off Bush's vote totals in the rural areas. The theory is that homophobes, hearing that Cheney has a gay daughter, would switch their votes to someone else.

Ed considers this an admission of an anti-gay bias in the Republican party.

Of course, given the Elvis factor (In one poll, 12% of people believed Elvis was still alive, and 10% believed if you mailed him a letter, he'd receive it), you will probably find in any given group at least one subgroup that believes just about anything. It's quite possible there are Republicans who would be affected that way. It's also quite possible there are Democrats who would be affected the same way.

As it happens, though, these statements are not necessarily indictments of Republicans. At most, they are statements of belief about what sort of cynical motive Kerry might have had for bringing up the sexual orientation of a family member of the opposing team.

That Kerry had a cynical motive is an assumption, though I suspect it's well supported. If he did have a cynical motive, how would he have expected the comment to go down?

Given the stereotype of Republicans as Neanderthals, who aim to keep women barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, keep Blacks in the back of the bus, herd gays into concentration camps, and poison the air, water, and food supply, it's not hard to guess the intended effect of playing the gay card.

If this is what happened, it illustrates once again how dangerous it is to believe your own propaganda.