Tuesday, June 29, 2010

McDonald v. Chicago

The Second Amendment applies to people throughout the nation. PDF file of the opinion.

The uncertainty prayer

The uncertainty prayer

Seen at a meeting yesterday:

Grant us…
The ability to reduce the uncertainties we can;
The willingness to work with the uncertainties we cannot;
And the scientific knowledge to know the difference.

(Drawn from a white paper on the use of climate models for water managers).

Sunday, June 27, 2010

What The Haeckel

What do Haeckel's embryos signify? : Thoughts from Kansas

Casey Luskin thinks they signify fraud. Other people beg to differ.

And Matt Young writes:

My colleague Paul Strode wrote a very clear and concise explanation of Ernst Haeckel’s “ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny” law for our book Why Evolution Works (and Creationism Fails). In Chapter 11, Strode explains that Haeckel was wrong in thinking that embryos resemble the ancestral adult forms; rather, early embryos resemble the embryos of ancestral forms. In other words, Haeckel was on to something, but he didn’t get it quite right. Strode explains further, “Recapitulation nevertheless provides helpful insight into evolutionary relationships and ancestry,” and argues that von Baer’s law is closer to the truth.

Nick Matzke writes:

Like Napoleon on Saint Helena, good ol’ Casey Luskin is re-fighting old lost battles again.
....
First, Haeckel didn’t ignore the differences in embryos in the earliest period just after fertilization (differences which are visually significant but mostly fairly trivial, due to the different amounts of yolk in different vertebrate eggs) – in fact, Haeckel himself prominently diagrammed them, as I showed here back in 2006. Whoops! And such diagrams are standard in any book which gives a thorough treatment of vertebrate development, although this may not include the most absolutely introductory general biology texts.

Second, Luskin makes it out as if it’s me and NCSE against developmental biology experts like Michael Richardson (whom he quotes), and as if we ignored the textbooks that did have the classic Haeckel’s embryo drawings. But (as I find out when I go back to the 2006 article which Luskin quotes) actually, no, Richardson’s on our side, and we counted the textbooks that had the drawings – taking the numbers directly from Jonathan Wells, no less! Not good enough for Luskin.

For those who actually want to be fair-minded about it, it’s pretty clear that what happened was that in the mid-1990s, as happens every few decades, a scientist (here, Michael Richardson) discovered the real, but moderate, problems with Haeckel’s embryo drawings. This led to some some guns going off half-cocked in the media and in popular works (e.g. by Gould), and this is the stuff which Luskin cites. In the meantime, the originator of the latest wave, Richardson, learned some more about the complex history of the drawings and the even more complex history of claims and counterclaims about “scandal” by creationists – from Haeckel’s day to today – and published an updated version of his assessment. We quote the updated version, and Luskin quotes the more heated early reactions, pretending (despite knowing better) that the later assessments don’t exist. Oh well.

Initiative to suspend California’s Global Warming Law (AB32) makes the ballot | Watts Up With That?

Initiative to suspend California’s Global Warming Law (AB32) makes the ballot | Watts Up With That?

Assemblyman Dan Logue, R-Linda, was elated this week to learn his initiative to suspend the state’s anti-global warming law made the November ballot.

In a phone interview, Logue said he found out Tuesday the initiative had enough valid signatures.

He said the initiative needed 440,000 signatures and it got 800,000. The names were collected by volunteers and paid “signature gatherers,” he said.

AB32 became law in 2006. It provides that between 2012 and 2020, greenhouse gas emissions will be reduced to the levels they were in 1990.

Logue’s initiative would postpone the implementation of AB32 until the state’s unemployment rate stands at 5.5 percent for a year. Now the jobless rate is around 12 percent.

A drop in a bucket?

Rush Limbaugh has been quoted as saying the amount of oil in the Gulf from the BP spill is equivalent to a teaspoon of oil in a bathtub of water.

Needless to say, critics have accused him of being ignorant.

As it turns out, he is.

Estimates of the volume of oil spilled range from 1.7 to 2.5 mega-gallons per day. Call it 60 days since the April 20 blow-out, and we get between 100 and 150 mega-gallons total.

According to the EPA, the volume of water in the Gulf of Mexico is some 643 billion mega-gallons. Divide this into the volume of oil spilled, and we get some four trillionths of the total volume.

How many teaspoons is four trillionths of a bath tub?

Well, a bath tub holds some 50 gallons of water. A gallon is 128 fluid ounces. A fluid ounce is six teaspoons. So a bath tub = 50 * 128 * 6 = 38,400 teaspoons.

Multiply four trillionths by 38,400 and you get some 0.15 millionths of a teaspoon.

So, if it's any comfort, Rush is wrong. He is grossly overestimating the amount of oil in the waters of the Gulf by comparing it to a teaspoon of oil in a bathtub.

You'd think these radio people would learn to do basic arithmetic.


UPDATE

A teaspoon is 5 milliliters. A milliliter is 20 standards drops. A teaspoon is therefore 100 drops. So the oil spill isn't even a drop in a bucket. It's about a millionth of a drop in a bucket.

Middle East's fuze is very short

Donald Sensing writes at length in his blogMiddle East's fuze is very short.

The war against Israel has never ceased by its enemies, but the intensity and tactics they use varies. It's no original thought of mine to classify the current phases as information war (more accurately propaganda war). David Kilcullen, in "Countering the Terrorist Mentality, New Paradigms for 21st Century Conflict," cited at the US Naval Institute's blog, explained the Islamists' concept this way:
We typically design physical operations first, then craft supporting information operations to explain our actions. This is the reverse of al-Qaida’s approach. For all our professionalism, compared to the enemy’s, our public information is an afterthought. In military terms, for al-Qaida the ‘main effort’ is information; for us, information is a ‘supporting effort.’
My Israeli blogging colleague, Daniel Jackson, wrote that the belief in Israel is widespread that this summer will bring the "Summer Games," open warfare between Israel and its three existential enemies of Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah. The opening gambit is a "two by two table."
Either Israel takes the first round or strikes first. Either Tel Aviv gets the first BIG hit or Jerusalem. While the obvious scenerio is with Tel Aviv, the market center getting hit, there is far more potency for Iran to strike Jerusalem hard. I'll come back to this later. No one here has any doubt that Iran has a big weapon and that they will use it. To play the American Game (like in 1991) will mean that Israel will have to wait for Iran to fire first. The longer that time plays out, the greater the risk that the first strike will be atomic. A Hiroshima sized weapon will hurt.

For Israel to attack first will immediately set off rocket bombardments from Syria and Hizbullah. The lunatics in Hamastan will also join in but they will be the first to feel the IDF fist. There will be no pulling punches this time. The question is whether the West Bankers will also open fire. The general Israeli feeling, given their training, is that the expectation is that all hell will break loose. ...

This will not be an IAF war. The IDF is prepared. After the missiles, expect the Israelis response to be strong.
This battle is brewing, the only question is when. Will it be this summer? Israel will take the first hit this year, but next year probably will hit first. And as Daniel pointed out, the US will not be able to sit it out. Our troops and naval vessels are targets for Iran if the balloon goes up at all.

Does the Obama administration foresee any of this and is it taking actions to reduce the likelihood? No and no. For this is a president of ceremony, not substance. For the first time, the United States has a chief of state but not a head of government. There's a dark cloud forming in the East and a blood moon is coming.

Quotable:

I cannot say whether things will get better if we change; what I can say is they must change if they are to get better.

— Georg Christoph Lichtenberg.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Power Line - Sharia Comes to Michigan

Power Line - Sharia Comes to Michigan... Taking this at face value, it seems that in Dearborn, MI, one cannot distribute Christian tracts within five blocks of an Arab festival. (Did the claimants get this particular instruction in writing? I'd have asked for that – I don't want to rely on my memory for something that important.)

RealClimate: What do climate scientists think?

From RealClimate: What do climate scientists think?

Questions for the Kagan hearing

George Will has... A few 'vapid' questions for Elena Kagan

...If Congress decides that interstate commerce is substantially affected by the costs of obesity, may Congress require obese people to purchase participation in programs such as Weight Watchers? If not, why not?

-- The government having decided that Chrysler's survival is an urgent national necessity, could it decide that "Cash for Clunkers" is too indirect a subsidy and instead mandate that people buy Chrysler products?

-- If Congress concludes that ignorance has a substantial impact on interstate commerce, can it constitutionally require students to do three hours of homework nightly? If not, why not?

-- Can you name a human endeavor that Congress cannot regulate on the pretense that the endeavor affects interstate commerce? If courts reflexively defer to that congressional pretense, in what sense do we have limited government?

-- In Federalist 45, James Madison said: "The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the state governments are numerous and indefinite." What did the Father of the Constitution not understand about the Constitution? Are you a Madisonian? Does the doctrine of enumerated powers impose any limits on the federal government? Can you cite some things that, because of that doctrine, the federal government has no constitutional power to do?

-- Is it constitutional for Arizona to devote state resources to enforcing federal immigration laws?

-- Is there anything novel about the Arizona law empowering police officers to act on a "reasonable suspicion" that someone encountered in the performance of the officers' duties might be in the country illegally?

-- The Fifth Amendment mandates "just compensation" when government uses its eminent domain power to take private property for "public use." In its 2005 Kelo decision, the court said government can seize property for the "public use" of transferring it to wealthier private interests who will pay more taxes to the government. Do you agree?

-- Should proper respect for precedent prevent the court from reversing Kelo? If so, was the court wrong to undo the 1896 ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson that segregating the races with "separate but equal" facilities is constitutional?

-- In 1963, President John Kennedy said Congress should "make a commitment . . . to the proposition that race has no place in American life or law." Was he right?

-- In 1964, Sen. Hubert Humphrey, a principal sponsor of that year's Civil Rights Act, denounced the "nightmarish propaganda" that the law would permit preferential treatment of an individual or group because of race or racial "imbalance" in employment. What happened?

-- William Voegeli, contributing editor of the Claremont Review of Books, writes: "The astonishingly quick and complete transformation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, from a law requiring all citizens be treated equally to a policy requiring that they be treated unequally, is one of the most audacious bait-and-switch operations in American political history." Discuss.

-- In a 2003 case affirming the constitutionality of racial preferences in law school admissions, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor said: "We expect that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary to further the interest approved today." If you are a sitting justice in 2028, do you expect to conclude that such preferences can no longer survive constitutional scrutiny because they no longer serve a compelling public interest?

-- The president is morose about the court's Citizens United decision holding that the First Amendment, which says Congress shall make "no law" abridging freedom of speech, means no laws abridging a corporation's freedom to speak, including nonprofit advocacy corporations such as the National Rifle Association and the Sierra Club. The court called it "censorship" for government "to command where a person may get his or her information or what distrusted source he or she may not hear." Do you agree?

-- You have noted that the court often considers legislative motives when deciding First Amendment cases. Should the court consider legislators' motives if, in response to Citizens United, they impose new burdens on corporate speech?

-- When incumbent legislators write laws restricting the quantity, content and timing of speech about legislative campaigns, are not their motives presumptively suspect?

"Palestine" is Jordan

Indeed, the so-called Palestinian territory used to be called "Transjordan".

From The Specator, Melanie Phillips writes:

The Dutch politician Geert Wilders has hit the bullseye:
‘Jordan is Palestine,’ said Wilders, who heads the third-largest party in Holland. ‘Changing its name to Palestine will end the conflict in the Middle East and provide the Palestinians with an alternate homeland...There has been an independent Palestinian state since 1946, and it is the kingdom of Jordan.’ Wilders also called on the Dutch government to refer to Jordan as Palestine and move its embassy to Jerusalem.
Wilders has spoken the big inconvenient truth. As a result, it is inevitably being dismissed as merely what ‘the right’ regularly says. So of course it's untrue, on the grounds that, by definition, everything ‘the right’ says is untrue. Yadda yadda.

But it is not untrue. It is correct. Anyone familiar with the history knows it is correct. Immediately after World War One, Palestine consisted of what is now Jordan, Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. The great powers dividing up the region decided that Britain should be given a mandate to administer Palestine and restore within it the historic Jewish national home. Within a couple of years, however, Winston Churchill, for reasons of realpolitik, gave away three quarters of Palestine to the Hashemite dynasty to found (Trans)Jordan (leaving all the rest to be settled by the Jews; but that’s another story).

So Jordan is indeed Palestine. As Camie Davis points out, the Arabs themselves repeatedly said so:

Silence is consent

Brutally Honest takes a look at the promotion of martyrdom in Jihadistan: 'when we die as martyrs, we will go to heaven.'

That which a culture does not denounce, a culture promotes.

Banning Sharia in Oklahoma

Right Truth writes on Banning Sharia Law in Oklahoma.

We already have enclaves of Muslims in the United States where U.S. law is pushed aside and sharia is allowed to rule. We have honor killings in the U.S. On March 22, 2006 I wrote about Muslim enclaves in the U.S., read it all here. Below is an excerpt but I suggest you go read it all:
Just like a prediction out of the book, "Age of Tolerance" by Glen Reinsford, "first in Europe and now in the United States, Muslim groups have petitioned to establish enclaves in which they can uphold and enforce greater compliance to Islamic law." This is no longer theoretical, it is reality.

Muslim organizations first established enclaves in Europe. "The Gwynnoaks Muslim Residential Development group, for example, has established an informal enclave in Baltimore because, according to John Yahya Cason, director of the Islamic Education and Community Development Initiative, a Baltimore-based Muslim advocacy group, "there was no community in the U.S. that showed the totality of the essential components of Muslim social, economic, and political structure."

"In August 2004, a local planning commission in Little Rock, Arkansas, granted The Islamic Center for Human Excellence authorization to build an internal Islamic enclave to include a mosque, a school, and twenty-two homes."

"While the imam, Aquil Hamidullah, says his goal is to create "a clean community, free of alcohol, drugs, and free of gangs," the implications for U.S. jurisprudence of this and other internal enclaves are greater: while the Little Rock enclave might prevent the sale of alcohol, can it punish possession and in what manner? Can it force all women, be they residents or visitors, to don Islamic hijab (headscarf)? Such enclaves raise the fundamental questions of when, how, and to what extent religious practice may supersede the U.S. Constitution."

"Objective" Journalism

Theodore Dawes at The American Thinker: Why the News Makes You Angry.

The news is not objective. It can't possibly be objective. It gets filtered through people, and journalists and their temper tantrums notwithstanding, there is no magic formula that yields truly objective reporting.

"...when a New York Times reporter reads the story, he sees objective truth, because he shares his colleague's underlying assumptions. The assumptions disappear, as if by magic, because it is only in conflict that you can recognize someone else's bias."

And so...

Okay, we've now established that journalistic objectivity is 1) a new idea, 2) a bad idea, and 3) impossible.

So what do we do next?

We should stop pretending that objectivity is possible, and stop asking our news providers to practice it.

That might sound shocking, but it may be easier to accept if we properly define our current system. We're indebted to the remarkable Marvin Olasky, who has provided exactly that. Olasky, a former journalism professor at the University of Texas and now editor of World magazine, says journalists today engage in "disguised subjectivity." In reality, it isn't objectivity at all, or even the effort to come close. Instead, Olasky says, it involves the practice of "strategic ritual," which he describes as "the process of selecting sources and structuring quotes so that a reporter may advance his view in the news story while claiming objectivity."

Sound familiar?

In his comment, Olasky provides the key reason why we need to abandon all notions of objectivity. It is in fact the perfect mechanism for slipping ideas and opinions into news stories while leaving readers unaware they are being propagandized. Under cover of "objectivity," the nation's reporters and editors are providing us not with the truth, but rather with the facts, the quotes, and the views they want us to hear, read, and believe.

Of course, if you are unaware you are being propagandized -- if you actually believe you're reading the objective truth -- then you are most likely to believe it.

It's the old primrose path, don't you know. And that's why the news makes you angry.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

What’s Blockaded?

From Commentary Magazine:

Preventing Hamas from importing missiles and other sophisticated weaponry from Syria and Iran is the blockade's primary function. There's a secondary goal, as well, and it's this one that has drawn the most criticism from the United Nations and Western activists. Israeli blockade-enforcement authorities have not only blocked construction materials such as cement, they've also been prohibiting seemingly random items like coriander, nutmeg, and musical instruments, while allowing in cinnamon, frozen meat, and medical supplies.

Critics describe the Israeli blockade as "collective punishment" against Gaza's entire population, and it does look that way when perusing the list of prohibited items, but the items on that list aren't outright banned. Aid organizations can import all the cement and coriander they want for reconstruction and food distribution. The restrictions only apply to private-sector importers, and even then, only "luxury" items and construction materials that can be used for military purposes are blocked.

"Humanitarian products are delivered on a daily bases to the Strip," said the spokesman for COGAT, the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories. "Food products are delivered almost without restriction—with the exception of luxury goods, which the average Gazan cannot afford, but which are purchased by the wealthy and corrupt leaders of Hamas."

"Why would we want to transfer items that only Hamas members could afford?" said an Israel Defense Forces spokesperson I contacted. "International aid organizations basically get to bring in whatever they want. So if there are certain luxury food items that we wouldn't transfer to the private sector in Gaza, the aid organizations will get them. The same applies for construction materials, which we won't let in unless it is going to aid organizations, since we are able to know where they end up (for building houses rather than bunkers, kassams, etc.) with a higher likelihood than if they were sent in privately."

As most Palestinians in Gaza are dependent on aid organizations for their basic needs, they are not adversely affected by the blockade. So easing the blockade won't help much, if it will help them at all.

Oklahoma set to ban Sharia

From Jihad Watch:

Oklahoma set to ban Sharia, to laughter from the galleries

They're laughing because everyone knows Sharia could never, ever come to Oklahoma, right?

Actually, Americans in general are getting used to a lot more Sharia, bit by bit, piece by piece, than they realize.

Preemptive strike: "Islamic Sharia Law to Be Banned in, ah, Oklahoma: Oklahoma Calls Ban on Islamic Law a 'Preemptive Strike,'" by Joel Siegel for ABC News, June 14:

The ban is a cornerstone of a "Save our State" amendment to the Oklahoma constitution that was recently approved by the Legislature.

The amendment -- which also would forbid judges from using international laws as a basis for decisions -- will now be put before Oklahoma's voters in November. Approval is expected.

Oklahoma has few Muslims - only 30,000 out of a population of 3.7 million. The prospect of sharia being applied there seems remote. But a chief architect of the measure, Republican State Rep. Rex Duncan, calls the proposed ban a necessary "preemptive strike" against Islamic law coming to the state.

Scalia's Advice to New Grads

From the New York Post:

[A] platitude I want discuss comes in many flavors. It can be variously delivered as, 'Follow your star,' or 'Never compromise your principles.' Or, quoting Polonius in 'Hamlet' — who people forget was supposed to be an idiot — 'To thine ownself be true.' Now this can be very good or very bad advice. Indeed, follow your star if you want to head north and it's the North Star. But if you want to head north and it's Mars, you had better follow somebody else's star.

....

"Movement is not necessarily progress. More important than your obligation to follow your conscience, or at least prior to it, is your obligation to form your conscience correctly. Nobody — remember this — neither Hitler, nor Lenin, nor any despot you could name, ever came forward with a proposal that read, 'Now, let's create a really oppressive and evil society.' Hitler said, 'Let's take the means necessary to restore our national pride and civic order.' And Lenin said, 'Let's take the means necessary to assure a fair distribution of the goods of the world.'

"In short, it is your responsibility, men and women of the class of 2010, not just to be zealous in the pursuit of your ideals, but to be sure that your ideals are the right ones. That is perhaps the hardest part of being a good human being: Good intentions are not enough. Being a good person begins with being a wise person. Then, when you follow your conscience, will you be headed in the right direction."

Don't Repeal "Don't Ask/Don't Tell"

Stuart Koehl at The Weekly Standard on why allowing openly gay soldiers in combat will hurt effectiveness.

On May 27, 2010, the House of Representatives voted to repeal the so-called "Don't Ask/Don't Tell" (DADT) law of 1993 that, while leaving intact the military's ban on homosexuals serving in uniform, prohibits the military from inquiring into the sexual preferences of military personnel or requiring them to answer questions about it. The Senate is expected to follow suit in coming weeks, though the public dissent by the chiefs of the individual Armed Services in opposition to Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, shows how contentious the issue remains. Just a month earlier, the Navy announced that it would allow women to serve on submarines, further eroding the military's traditional prohibition on women to fill combat roles. 

Both issues—women in combat and gays in the military—are different manifestations of a single problem: the failure of America's political leadership to understand the factors that motivate men to fight in battle and to continue fighting under the most horrific conditions—what professionals call "combat effectiveness" and "unit cohesion" respectively. In all the discussions of the issue, these terms seldom come up; when they do, it is only to be dismissed out of hand by those who wish to see all military positions opened to both women and homosexuals.

Those who have never served in combat have no idea what it is like. The most graphic books and movies do not even scratch the surface.  Take the first twenty minutes of Saving Private Ryan, amplified by an order of magnitude, plus the smell of blood, vomit, excrement, explosives and burning vehicles would still not be sufficient. After more than thirty years investigating the experience of men in battle, I don't even pretend to understand it as well as a soldier who has been through just one firefight.  This is why combat veterans are so reluctant to speak of their wartime deeds—civilians, and even rear-echelon military types, lack the frame of reference that would make understanding possible. 

....

Historically, most armies have seen homosexual behavior as undermining military discipline.  Even the Spartans didn't tolerate it in the field, while the Romans considered it a capital offense.  There is just one noteworthy example of open homosexuality in military service—the Theban Sacred Band, 150 pairs of homosexual lovers who swore an oath to stand by each other to death (and who were wiped out by Alexander the Great at Cheironeia). So even fairly tolerant societies found homosexuality unacceptable in the army, for the same reason that women were unacceptable:  they introduced sexual tension into small group dynamics, undermining unit cohesion. 

That tension has several causes. First, heterosexual men in the unit may not like becoming potential objects of sexual attraction to their fellow soldiers (the same thing also applies to women in mixed units), especially given the close quarters and lack of privacy that is part of field service. Second, there may be the suspicion that one or more soldiers may actually have entered into a sexual relationship, with the disruptive effect that can have on both discipline and performance (i.e., favoritism—will this guy risk his life to save me, or will he look out for his "special friend" first). If the homosexual involved is an officer, it creates all sorts of opportunities for abuse, which we have already seen in sexually mixed units. Given the kind of minefield that civilian workplaces have become due to sexual harassment laws, one wonders about the wisdom of tossing metaphorical mines in among the real ones with which our troops have to contend. 

There's a lot more.  RTWT.

No "best friends"?

From Big Journalism:

Sometimes the best examples of the New York Times's increasingly delusional, anti-rational, anti-American and, let's face it, anti-human-nature mindset are to be found not on the front page, where their slavish adoration of the Obama Administration continues apace, if somewhat diminished, but in the feature pages. There, their crackpot social theories and their chic cultural Marxism are given free rein to inject their slow-acting poison into the bloodstream of the body politic, with what serious consequences we can now all see after more than four decades of this nonsense. Which is why this piece, innocuously published in the Fashion & Style section, is so important.

If you want to encounter the smiling face of evil, read on:

A Best Friend? You Must Be Kidding

After all, from Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn to Harry Potter and Ron Weasley, the childhood "best friend" has long been romanticized in literature and pop culture — not to mention in the sentimental memories of countless adults.

But increasingly, some educators and other professionals who work with children are asking a question that might surprise their parents: Should a child really have a best friend?

Maybe marriage should be abolished, too.  If it's unhealthy for people to rely on a single "best" partner...

Bengal Island succumbs to global warming nonsense

Anthony Watts comments on the disappearing Bengal Island
 
 

From the New York Daily News via  Associated Press reports :

Global warming resolves 30-year land dispute between India, Bangladesh: Coveted island sinks

By NIRMALA GEORGE, Associated Press Writer Nirmala George, Associated Press Writer – Wed Mar 24, 9:29 am ET

NEW DELHI – For nearly 30 years, India and Bangladesh have argued over control of a tiny rock island in the Bay of Bengal. Now rising sea levels have resolved the dispute for them: the island's gone.

Note in the map below that the island was a river estuary, meaning it wasn't made out of rock as claimed.  It was made out of mud and sand.  From Wikipedia:

The island was situated only two kilometers from the mouth of the Hariabhanga River. The emergence of the island was first discovered by an American satellite in 1974 that showed the island to have an area of 2,500 sq meters (27,000 sq ft). Later, various remote sensing surveys showed that the island had expanded gradually to an area of about 10,000 sq meters (110,000 sq ft) at low tide, including a number of ordinarily submerged shoals. The highest elevation of the island had never exceeded two meters above sea level. [1]

The island was claimed by both Bangladesh and India, although neither country established any permanent settlement there because of the island's geographical instability. India had reportedly hoisted the Indian flag on South Talpatti in 1981 and established a temporary base of Border Security Forces (BSF) on the island, regularly visiting with naval gunships. [3][4]

Those darn tea partiers!

You'd think they were as bad as these folks....

The governor's office said Monday that Allee Bautsch suffered a broken leg and her boyfriend suffered a concussion and fractured nose and jaw in the alleged incident. (KSLA)

A Republican activist and her boyfriend were savagely beaten in New Orleans on Friday for wearing Sarah Palin pins.

Religously motivated?

Bookworm calls attention to a piece in the Washington Post:
 

The Washington Post has a piece that ostensibly educates WaPo readers about the true nature of today's terrorists.  Interestingly (or do I mean typically) it tries to erase Islam from the equation:

3. Al-Qaeda is made up of religious zealots.

To the contrary, rank-and-file terrorists who claim to be motivated by religious ideology often turn out to be ignorant about Islam. The Saudi Interior Ministry has questioned thousands of terrorists in custody about why they turned to violence, and found that the majority did not have much formal religious instruction and had only a limited understanding of Islam. According to Saudi officials, one-quarter of the participants in a rehabilitation program for former jihadis had criminal histories, often for drug-related offenses, whereas only 5 percent had been prayer leaders or had other formal religious roles.

Maybe I'm reading the above text wrong, but it seems to say that, if you're not deeply familiar with Islamic doctrine, at a scholarly level, then you're not religiously motivated.  And if you're not religiously motivated, of course, than you're not really an Islamic terrorist.  Instead, you're just one more piece of the "man-caused disasters" currently plaguing the West.

As far as I'm concerned, if you use Islam, no matter how limited your understanding, as the justification for slaughtering civilians all over the world, than you are by definition an Islamic terrorist.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Is it a crisis?

Jay Tea at Wizbang looks at the Obama Administration's response to the Gulf Oil Spill: The Scent Of Fear.

I've always been enamored of Professor Glenn Reynolds' oft-repeated aphorism: "I'll believe there's a crisis when the people who say there's a crisis act like there's a crisis." It's a great BS detector, but it has some corollaries that I'm finding truly terrifying.

What does it mean when those people say there's a crisis, I agree that there's a crisis, but they refuse to act like there's a crisis?

I speak, of course, about the Gulf oil spill.
....
And the conclusion I drew from that -- as well as what so many others have said -- is that the situation below the former Deepwater Horizon platform is developing into an ecological catastrophe that could scar -- and economically cripple -- the US for a very, very long time.

This is Katrina bad. This is 9/11 bad. This is JFK Assassination bad. This is Pearl Harbor bad.

And -- it should go without saying -- this is "screw politics, all hands on deck" bad.

But it isn't.

The Obama administration wastes no opportunity to remind us of how dire the situation is in the Gulf. But its actions are utterly inconsistent with their words.

The analysis leads to a 4X4 table:

1) The disaster isn't as bad as we all think it is, and the Obama administration knows that.
If that was true, then their "never let a crisis go to waste" response is understandable. Heinous, but understandable. This is an opportunity for them to push their agenda, and push it hard.
2) The disaster is as bad as we think, but the Obama administration doesn't realize it.
This would be entirely in character with this administration. They are the Peter Principle writ large: they have been promoted past their level of competency. They simply can't grasp that this disaster is a game-changer, so they are simply playing the game that they have played all their lives.
3) The disaster is at least as bad as we think, if not worse, and the Obama administration knows it.
If that is the case, then the only explanation that makes any sense is that they believe that the whole thing is a lost cause...
4) The disaster isn't as bad as we think it is, but the Obama administration doesn't realize it.
That's the fourth possibility of my little 2x2 matrix here, but I give it very little weight. It's the most Pollyannaish of the possibilities, and fits in with the first part of "hope for the best, but plan for the worst." I only include it here for the sake of completion.

Now, which of these possibilities is the right one? Which is more frightening?

The Case Against Marriage

Jessica Bennett and Jesse Ellison at Newsweek offer their Case Against Marriage.

Once upon a time, marriage made sense. It was how women ensured their financial security, got the fathers of their children to stick around, and gained access to a host of legal rights. But 40 years after the feminist movement established our rights in the workplace, a generation after the divorce rate peaked, and a decade after Sex and the City made singledom chic, marriage is—from a legal and practical standpoint, anyway—no longer necessary. The two of us are educated, young, urban professionals, committed to our careers, friendships, and, yes, our relationships. But we know that legally tying down those unions won’t make or break them. Women now constitute a majority of the workforce; we’re more educated, less religious, and living longer, with vacuum cleaners and washing machines to make domestic life easier. We’re also the breadwinners (or co-breadwinners) in two thirds of American families. In 2010, we know most spousal rights can be easily established outside of the law, and that Americans are cohabiting, happily, in record numbers. We have our own health care and 401(k)s and no longer need a marriage license to visit our partners in the hospital. For many of us, marriage doesn’t even mean a tax break.
....
Which brings us to this question: if you’re going to wait, why do it at all? Like a fifth of young Americans, we identify as secular. We know that having children out of wedlock lost its stigma a long time ago: in 2008, 41 percent of births were to unmarried mothers, more than ever before, according to a Pew study. (Older, educated mothers make up the fastest-growing percentage of those births.) And the idea that we’d “save ourselves” for marriage? Please. As one 28-year-old man told the author of a new book on marriage: “If I had to be married to have sex, I would probably be married, as would every guy I know.” Even the legal argument for tying the knot is easily debunked. Thanks largely to the efforts of same-sex-marriage advocates, heterosexual couples have more unmarried rights to partnership now than ever. And for the rights we don’t have—well, “if you have enough money,” says Jennifer Pizer, a senior attorney at the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, “you can pay lawyers to litigate just about anything.” To put the icing on the cake, it often pays to stay single: federal law favors unmarried taxpayers in almost every case—only those whose incomes are wildly unequal get a real tax break—and under President Obama’s new health plan, low-earning single people get better subsidies to buy insurance. As Diana Furchtgott-Roth, writing for the Hudson Institute, put it, “Goodbye, marriage.” As of 2013, “unwed Americans may find it even more advantageous—financially, anyway—to stay single.”

A Visit Inside Turkey's Islamist IHH

A lengthy piece from The Weekly Standard: A Visit Inside Turkey's Islamist IHH

Friends of Israel petition

Former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar has put forth a petition in support of Israel.

The Friends of Israel have joined together in a new international initiative on the basis of the following convictions:
  1. Israel is a Western country...
  2. Israel´s right to exist should not be questioned. ...
  3. Israel, as a sovereign country, has the right to self-defense. ...
  4. Israel is on our side. ...
  5. We believe in peace, but peace in the Middle East is not just about Israel and the Palestinians....
  6. We share the same threats and challenges....
  7. Believing that the continuous deligitimation of Israel has a great deal of responsibility in raising an aggressive and dangerous anti-semitism, in a spirit of solidarity with the State of Israel, and in recognition that we, the Western nations, must stand together lest we fall together, we therefore launch the Friends of Israel Initiative to do the following:
    1. To combat the deligitimization of the State of Israel at home, abroad and inside the institutions of the international community.
    2. To publicly show our solidarity with Israel’s democratic institutions – the legitimate expression of the Jewish people’s millennial aspiration to live in peace and freedom in its national homeland.
    3. To support Israel’s inalienable right to secure borders unmolested by terrorists or tyrannical regimes so that its citizens can continue living with the same guarantees that our own societies enjoy.
    4. To consistently and firmly oppose the prospect of a nuclear armed Iran.
    5. To work to ensure that Israel is fully accepted as a normal Western country, an essential and indivisible part of the Western world to which we belong.
    6. To reaffirm the value of the religious, moral, and cultural Judeo-Christian heritage as the main source of the liberal and democratic Western societies.

Israel up for grabs?

According to Mark Steyn, maybe it is.

In 1936, during the Cable Street riots, the British Union of Fascists jeered at London Jews, "Go back to Palestine!", "Palestine" being in those days the designation for the Jewish homeland. Last week, Helen Thomas, the doyenne of the White House press corps, jeered at today's Jews, "Get the hell out of Palestine," "Palestine" being now the designation for the land illegally occupied by the Jewish apartheid state. "Go home," advised Miss Thomas, "to Poland and Germany." Wherever a Jew is, whatever a Jew is, he should be something else somewhere else. And then he can be hated for that, too.

North Korea sinks a South Korean ship; hundreds of thousands of people die in the Sudan; millions die in the Congo. But 10 men die at the hands of Israeli commandos and it dominates the news day in, day out for weeks, with UN resolutions, international investigations, calls for boycotts, and every Western prime minister and foreign minister expected to rise in parliament and express the outrage of the international community.

Odd. But why?

Because Israel is supposed to be up for grabs in a way that the Congo, Sudan or even North Korea aren't. Only the Jewish state attracts an intellectually respectable movement querying its very existence, and insisting that, after 62 years of independence, that issue is still not resolved. Let's take a nation that came into existence at precisely the same time as the Zionist Entity, and involved far bloodier population displacements. I happen to think the creation of Pakistan was the greatest failure of postwar British imperial policy. But the fact is that Pakistan exists, and if I were to launch a movement of anti-Pakism it would get pretty short shrift, and in Canada a "human rights" complaint or three.

The "Palestinian question" is a land dispute, but not in the sense of a boundary-line argument between two Ontario farmers. Rather, it represents the coming together of two psychoses. Islam is a one-way street. Once you're in the Dar al-Islam, that's it; there's no checkout desk. They take land, they hold it, forever.

....

That's the reason the "Palestinian question" is never settled. Because, as long as it's unresolved, then Israel's legitimacy is unsettled, too.

Still, the impatience of the new globalized Judenhass is now palpable. I used to think that, when Iran got the bomb, it wouldn't use it. I wouldn't take that bet now. The new anti-Semitism is a Euro-Islamic fusion so universal, so irrational and so fevered that it's foolish to assume any limits.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Israel hasn’t changed; the world has *UPDATED*

From Bookworm Room Israel hasn’t changed; the world has

The Media Double Standard on Presidents

(Hat tip: Prairie Pundit)
In the Boston Globe, Howie Carr calls the press on its double standard in reporting on Presidents.

The fawning media rumpswabs are finally turning on Barack Obama - to a point. So let's review the state-run media's role in creating this calamity, by substituting hagiography for journalism in coverage of this clueless boob.

First, how they "reported" on George Bush, then how the Messiah fared until recent days with the same simpering sycophants.

Criticizing Bush - the highest form of patriotism. Criticizing Obama - hate speech. Who caused Bush's problems? - Bush. Who causes Obama's problems? - Bush.

When Bush mispronounced a word (like nuclear) - more proof he is a complete cowboy moron.

When Obama mispronounces a word (like corpsman) - how dare you even bring this up, racist?!

Unemployment at 4.6 percent under Bush - a jobless recovery.

Unemployment at 9.7 percent under Obama - the new normal, "steady," a lagging indicator of the happy days that CNBC says are here again.

Demanding the right to videotape flag-draped military coffins at Dover AFB under Bush - the public has a right to know! Never showing any returning coffins now that Obama is president - the public doesn't care.

Economic woes under Bush - portents of a new Depression. Economic woes under Obama - a blip on the radar screen, surprising.

Cindy Sheehan under Bush - a future recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Sheehan under Obama - give it up already, you old bag.

Bush playing a rare round of golf - complete video coverage, showing his utter indifference to the suffering of the American people.

Obama playing one of his endless rounds of golf - only still photos allowed, yet another glowing indication of our dashing president's youth and physical fitness.

Bush's speeches - a chill up their legs. Obama's - a thrill up their legs.

Media reviews of Bush's handling of Katrina - he hates black people. Media reviews of Obama's handling of the oil spill - Halliburton did it.

Bush tapping the phones of foreign terrorists with congressional authority - fascism. Obama's continuing attempts to rein in free speech on the Internet - good public policy.

Bush on Air Force One - junkets, fund-raising for GOP fat cats. Obama on Air Force One - fact-finding missions, reassuring the American people of his tireless FDR-like commitment to them.

Two hundred-point midday drops on the Dow under Bush - ominous plummet. Same drops under Obama - the market is seeking direction.

Democrat women elected under Bush - a triumph of feminism. Republican women elected under Obama - a setback for feminism. (Brit twit Tina Brown actually said this last week to Obama worshipper George Stephanopoulos on "Good Morning America.")

Popular Bush-era rhyme - Bush lied, people died. New rhyme - Obama snoozed, oil oozed. Just kidding - anyone in the drive-by media who ever dared utter such blasphemy would be banned from both MSNBC and the Hamptons. They'd be shunned by the Beautiful People as totally as Ann Coulter and Michael Savage - or George W. Bush.



Aboard the Mavi Marmari

Merv at Prairie Pundit saw this at Newsmax:

An American communications firm best known for shaping the liberal Moveon.org into a national movement has tackled a new project: orchestrating an international anti-Israel campaign aimed at breaking the blockade of the Gaza strip.

Fenton Communications, which has offices in Washington, D.C., New York, and San Francisco, signed two contracts last year with Qatar to develop "a communications action plan for an 18-month campaign" aimed at delegitimizing Israel and generating international support for the Hamas-run Gaza strip, documents filed with the Department of Justice show.

The campaign, known as the "Al Fakhoora Project," has a very visible Web presence that boasts of rallying 10,000 activists "against the blockade on Gaza."

....

Video footage taken by shipboard cameras and released by the Israel Defense Forces shows activists suiting up in bulletproof vests and assaulting Israeli commandos with metal bars and clubs as they tried to board the Mavi Marmara, the Turkish "aid" ship Burney describes in his YouTube interview.

Other footage, taken from Israeli helicopters, shows the "activists" assaulting an Israeli commando as he is rappelling down to the ship and tossing him off the deck of the ship.

The primary weapon the Israeli commandos used during the boarding operation was a Tippman 98 Custom — a paintball gun.

Testimony one of the commandos released later described how the "activists" shot this commanding officer in the leg and stabbed him in the stomach before tossing him off the deck. Other "activists" on the lower deck then dragged the officer inside, taking a knife to expand the wound in his stomach.

"They cut his ab muscles horizontally and by hand spilled his guts out," the soldier said.

"When they finished, they raised him up and walked him on the deck outside. He was conscious the whole time. If you are asking yourself why they did all that here comes the reason. They wanted to show the soldiers their commanders' body so they will be demoralized and scared," the soldier said.

"Luckily, when they walked him on the deck, a soldier saw him and managed to shoot the activist that was walking him down the outside corridor. He shot him with a special non lethal bullet that didn't kill him. My commander managed to jump from the deck to the water and swim to an army rescue boat (his guts still out of his body and now in salty sea water). That was how he was saved. The activists that did this to him are alive and now in Turkey and treated as heroes."

Controlling the Borders

Merv at Prairie Pundit:
The larger question is whether we are going to control the immigration process or not. We have an orderly process for immigration and then we have illegal immigration that can include criminals and terrorist and who knows what, because no background checks are run on those sneaking across the border.

You can have all the empathy in the world for the sneaks, but that is not a good reason to ignore the rule of law. These people are jumping the queue ahead of those who play by the rules and if there is no consequence for the queue jumpers we will only have more of them. Are we going to control the process or let those who do not obey the law control the process? That is the issue.

I don't carry a brief for the Arizona law. If Obama and the rest of his administration were doing their job, there would be no need for the Arizona law. That is what makes the decision to sue the state so perverse. It is an in your face slap that says we are not going to enforce the immigration laws and you should not do anything to make us. Politically it may appeal to the small open borders base of the Democrat party, but to the majority of voters the administration is on the wrong side of the immigration issue, regardless of whether anyone thinks the illegals are here to commit crime. Whatever crime they commit, would not happen if the immigration laws were enforced properly.

Flotilla: Before the Commandos Landed

Scott Johnson at PowerLine calls attention to film footage of a pep talk that occurred before the Israeli commandos reached the Mavi Marmara:

 Ynetnews reports reports that Israel's Foreign Ministry has released an illuminating new video filmed on board the Mavi Marmara before the IDF's interception of the ship. The footage was found among the possessions of one of the flotilla's passengers and shows Bulent Yildirim, leader of the IHH group that organized the flotilla to the Gaza Strip, speaking to the passengers on board.

Islam seems to have something to do with the mission to break Israel's blockade of Gaza. "We don't want to be recorded in Allah's book as cowards," Yildirim said. "Now they are saying that they will launch a fleet against us. That they will send the commandos here. And we say, 'If you send the commandos, we will throw you down from here and you will be humiliated in front of the whole world'," he told the assembled passengers, who responded by chanting "Allahu akbar."

Ynetnews adds that another speaker told those present in Arabic: "Don't be like the ones who turned back and don't turn back." An Egyptian parliament member then shouted to the crowd: "Millions of martyrs marching to Gaza," and the crowd echoed his words. Hamas supporter Raed Salah, head of the Islamic Movement's northern branch, can be seen sitting among the crowd.

The Mavi Marmara was no ship of fools. Those on board knew exactly what they were doing. The fools are on dry land, reaching right to the top of the Obama administration.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Yes, they do work together

Andy McCarthy at The Corner - National Review Online writes:

As I mentioned to K-Lo in part one of our interview this week, one of the things I've been surprised by since The Grand Jihad was released is the number of times I've been asked if I really believe Leftists and Islamists would actually work together. This question is odd because it is undeniable that the two camps do work together and have at several junctures in their histories. This is not to trivialize their differences, which are real. But I'm not hypothesizing that they might work together; I'm observing that they do work together and analyzing why it happens.

Later on...

Her Highness the Sheikha got the lefties at Fenton to set up a website which, Ken explains, "features a YouTube interview with the Al Fakhoora director, explaining why the group took part in the aid flotilla that attacked Israeli special forces" ... along with a "sidebar boasting that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors [who else!] is mulling a resolution 'to condemn Israeli Defense Forces’ military attack on the Freedom Flotilla.'" The director, Farooq Burney, helpfully explains that “the purpose of us to join this trip was number one, to allow support, or to enable us to interact with students in Gaza. Our intention was to go there and lend our support to students in Gaza and let them know that people care for them, and people are advocating for them to have access to quality education.” That's why “there was a lot of excitement” among the participants, with “a festive mood” on board the ships. “Unfortunately,” Burney went on, “we were attacked by the Israeli navy. People were killed. People were injured. It was very saddening to see that, to have somebody die in front of you . . . We talk about humanitarian work, we talk about activism. I don’t know how much more peaceful this could have been.”

Reviewing the video and other evidence, Ken suggests it could perhaps have been a tad more peaceful:
Video footage taken by shipboard cameras and released by the Israel Defense Forces shows activists suiting up in bulletproof vests and assaulting Israeli commandos with metal bars and clubs as they tried to board the Mavi Marmara, the Turkish “aid” ship Burney describes in his YouTube interview. Other footage, taken from Israeli helicopters, shows the “activists” assaulting an Israeli commando as he is rappelling down to the ship and tossing him off the deck of the ship. The primary weapon the Israeli commandos used during the boarding operation was a Tippman 98 Custom — a paintball gun.

Testimony one of the commandos released later described how the “activists” shot this commanding officer in the leg and stabbed him in the stomach before tossing him off the deck. Other “activists” on the lower deck then dragged the officer inside, taking a knife to expand the wound in his stomach. “They cut his ab muscles horizontally and by hand spilled his guts out,” the soldier said. “When they finished, they raised him up and walked him on the deck outside. He was conscious the whole time. If you are asking yourself why they did all that here comes the reason. They wanted to show the soldiers their commanders’ body so they will be demoralized and scared,” the soldier said. “Luckily, when they walked him on the deck, a soldier saw him and managed to shoot the activist that was walking him down the outside corridor. He shot him with a special non lethal bullet that didn’t kill him. My commander managed to jump from the deck to the water and swim to an army rescue boat (his guts still out of his body and now in salty sea water). That was how he was saved. The activists that did this to him are alive and now in Turkey and treated as heroes.”
Ah yes, our NATO allies, the Turks. If you subscribed to NR Digital, and you know you should, you'd find an essay from me in the new edition about Turkey's return to the Islamist fold and how it marks, finally, the victory of Muslim Brotherhood founder Hasan al-Banna over the bane of his existence, Ataturk.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Lies about SB1070

From Dr. Gina Loudon at Big Journalism:
 
    • LIE #1:  Most minorities are opposed to SB 1070 because they are afraid of being unfairly accused, stopped, racially profiled, or in some way inconvenienced or abused.

    The facts:  The hotel where we stayed had Native Americans, Latinos, Hispanics, Middle Easterners, and Asians.  I used my down time to interview them about SB 1070 and I was shocked to learn that not one person I spoke with of any national or ethnic origin was opposed to SB 1070.

    They know that dangerous terrorists have established an entire entry strategy utilizing the advantage of our broken borders, and as one Native American told me, "I would rather be asked for my ID than have my people blown to bits by a terrorist."

     
    • Lie #2:  Law enforcement will have to begin new processes that may include racial profiling when SB 1070 goes into effect.

    The facts:  I spoke with a shop owner who happened to be an off-duty Phoenix cop, and the moment he learned that I was the "BUYcott girl" I watched the passion well up in him.  "This law changes one thing.  One thing!" He said.  "And this is the one thing it changes… When 1070 goes through, and I arrest someone who I suspect is committing a crime, and haul 'em into the Feds, now they will have to do something with them.".

    He further explained that as the law (or lack thereof) stands now, he takes the criminal into the Feds, they release the suspect, and then the suspect comes after his family, or him for revenge.

    He said the biggest change in all of this isn't about race, or profiling, or even arrests.  It is about the lives of law enforcement and their families.

 

    • Lie #3:  Local groups are holding grassroots boycotts of Arizona.

    The facts:  I attended the Boycott of SB1070 undercover.  No one I met was from Arizona.  All came in on a bus, funded by union bosses or Communist front groups (I have their documents, and it is straight up true, see below) bragging about how they were traveling around the country "doing" these rallies because life has been unfair to them.

 

    • Lie #4:  The Mexicans, all illegals, and most foreign countries all agree that the US is being unreasonable in its desire to secure the borders.

    The facts:  After Mexican film crews interviewed me on the BUYcotts, I always asked them what their personal opinions were on the issue of SB 1070 and the US illegal immigration policy.  Without exception, they told me that Mexican sentiment is that politicians are using this to grandstand, and media outlets are using it to sell papers and get ratings, but that the people on the ground in Mexico prefer a safe guest worker program that is legal and well-managed.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Standing with Israel

From Brooks News:

StandWithUs, the international Israel education organization has mobilized a team of multi-lingual, web-savvy student volunteers around the globe to take Israel's case to the world, just as they organized a successful Internet response during Israel's Operation Cast Lead in December 2008.

....

The goal is to fight the web war against Israel by blogging and using social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, and posting talkbacks on a range of media sites. The volunteer teams are identifying and sharing videos, images, and relevant messages with their social networks.

SWU was founded in 2001 in response to the public's need and desire for more information about the Arab-Israeli conflict. The organisation runs several websites with relevant information:

The main website

www.standwithuscampus.com
is a resource for students on campus.
www.emersonfellowship.com details SWU Emerson Fellowship program on 39 U.S. and Canadian campuses.
www.standwithus.co.il is based in Jerusalem and details international operations.
www.LearnIsrael.org provides material for librarians, teachers and a free downloadable curriculum for high school teachers.
www.stand4facts.org is a password-protected site containing a database of information on anti-Israel speakers.
www.united4freedom.org is a speakers' bureau

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Singularity Goes Mainstream

 
 

Sent to you by Karl via Google Reader:

 
 

via Hit & Run by Ronald Bailey on 6/14/10

singularity imageThe guardian of conventional wisdom, the New York Times, published on Sunday a full two-page article in its business section on the coming technological Singularity. The best-known Singularity theorist/promoter, inventor Ray Kurzweil, defines the concept as follows:

Within a few decades, machine intelligence will surpass human intelligence, leading to The Singularity -- technological change so rapid and profound it represents a rupture in the fabric of human history. The implications include the merger of biological and nonbiological intelligence, immortal software-based humans, and ultra-high levels of intelligence that expand outward in the universe at the speed of light.

Kurzweil figures prominently in the fairly respectful Times article. The report focuses on the Singularity University where leading figures in nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, energy, biotech, robotics, and computing interact with a select group of CEOs, inventors, and investors trying to parse out the future. The regular course costs $15,000 and students in the ten-week graudate course at Singularity University shell out $25,000. Some tidbits fromt the Times article below:

[X Prize technocelebrity Peter Diamandis told participants]: "My target is to live 700 years." The students chuckled. "I say this seriously," he retorted. ...

Mr. Diamandis champions the idea that large prizes inspire rapid bursts of innovation and may pave a path to that 700-year lifetime.

"I don't think it's a matter of if," he says. "I think it's a matter of how. You and I have a decent shot, and for kids being born today, I think it will be a matter of choice." ...

Other lecturers talk about a coming onslaught of biomedical advances as thousands of people have their genomes decoded. Jason Bobe, who works on the Personal Genome Project, an effort backed by the Harvard Medical School to establish a huge database of genetic information, points to forecasts that a million people will have their genomes decoded by 2014.

"The machines for doing this will be in your kitchen next to the toaster," Mr. Bobe says.

Mr. Hessel describes an even more dramatic future in which people create hybrid pets based on the body parts of different animals and tweak the genetic makeup of plants so they resemble things like chairs and tables, allowing us to grow fields of everyday objects for home and work. Mr. Hessel, like Mr. Kurzweil, thinks that people will use genetic engineering techniques to grow meat in factories rather than harvesting it from dead animals.

"I know in 10 years it will be a junior-high project to build a bacteria," says Mr. [Andrew] Hessel [former research manager at the biotech company Amgen]. "This is what happens when we get control over the code of life. We are just on the cusp of that."

Go here for my column, "Will Our Robot Overlords Be Friendly?," on the 2009 Singularity Summit. And go here for the whole Times article, "Merely Human? So Yesterday." 

On Tuesday my regular science column will be a report on the first day of the Humanity + Summit held at Harvard held over the past weekend. Unfortunately, my schedule wouldn't allow me to stay for the second day.

Disclosure: I am still hoping to hear that the Personal Genome Project has accepted me as a participant.


 
 

Things you can do from here:

 
 

You can keep your plan -- if it still exists!

Over and over in the health care debate, President Barack Obama said people who like their current coverage would be able to keep it.  But an early draft of an administration regulation estimates that many employers will be forced to make changes to their health plans under the new law.  In just three years, a majority of workers -- 51 percent -- will be in plans subject to new federal requirements, according to the draft. 

....

Employers say the draft rules are too inflexible: Plans can lose their protected status by increasing copayments and deductibles above certain limits.  Gelfand said medical inflation alone would push many employers over the line. 

How employers react to the final rules will be critical.  If major companies start dropping health care benefits, opting instead to pay the government a penalty, Democrats would face a political backlash, says the AP.

Source: Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, "Health overhaul to force changes in employer plans," Associated Press/Breitbart, June 11, 2010. 

For text:

http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=D9G993800&show_article=1

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Police May Be Monitored

Tom W. Bell at suggests a bumper sticker and magnetic sign for when you're pulled over:

This bumper sticker should help to put police on notice that you may record them during traffic stops, thus negating any claim to a reasonable expectation of privacy:

Traffic stops may be monitored
for quality control purposes

Theories don't explain everything, and that's OK

From the Starts with a Bang blog:

Every scientific theory has its limits. It never means that the theory is entirely wrong, but pushing up against those limits often gives you clues towards either extending your theory (such as adding inflation to the Big Bang) or overthrowing your theory (such as replacing Newton's gravity with Einstein's General Relativity). In either case, the old theory is still a good theory over its range of validity, and if you overthrow your old theory, your new theory must explain all of the observations of the old theory.

Why do I bring all of this up now? Because Dark Matter -- an extraordinarily important part of modern cosmology (which you can learn about here, here, here, here, and here) -- is under attack by people who don't understand this concept.

In a nutshell, the "dark matter problem" is that on large scales (galaxies, clusters of galaxies, and even larger structures), the amount of normal matter that's present -- stuff from stars, gas, planets, and dust -- is insufficient to explain the gravity caused by these structures. The speeds of the galaxies in the image above? They're too fast, unless there's some extra unseen mass. The bent arcs of light, caused by gravitational lensing? Also require more unseen mass, but coincidentally, the same amount that the speeds require.

What about the large-scale structure that forms in the Universe?

It also requires dark matter, or gravity wouldn't work correctly. But there's something extra, that constitutes insurmountable evidence for the existence of dark matter. We've caught galaxy clusters in the act of colliding! According to the theory of dark matter, the gas should "splat" in the middle of the collision, but the dark matter from each cluster should pass right through, unaffected by the collision. When we map out the effects of gravity, if dark matter is correct, it shouldn't line up with where the gas is. Let's take a look at these colliding clusters, known as the Bullet Cluster. And let's put the hot X-ray emitting gas (from the "splat") in pink, and the map of gravitational force (as measured from lensing) in blue.

The fact that these don't line up is a smoking gun for dark matter. So if you want an alternative for dark matter, that alternative needs to explain all of these observations. And none of the theories -- not MOND, MOG, TeVeS, or any others -- can do so.
....
Dark matter doesn't do everything. Its predictions on small scales are uncertain, primarily because we don't know what makes it up, and we don't know what its properties are! If we knew these things, we could make predictions. But saying that, "since the naive predictions we can make are inadequate, the entire idea of dark matter needs to be thrown out" is absurd.

This isn't a house of cards, where if you find one defect, the whole thing will collapse. It's a stepladder that's missing a rung or two. It still works. In fact, it totally works! Its flaw is that it doesn't serve your needs for every single possible class of applications. (At least, not yet.)

So yes, my theory doesn't do everything. And that's okay. It means it's just like every other scientific theory that's out there. Which is to say, it makes it possible to figure things out.

PIPS

PIPS = Polar Ice Prediction System.

Steven Goddard looks at claims and counterclaims.

claims have been along the lines of :
  • PIPS isn't used by the Navy any more, because it isn't accurate enough
  • PIPS maps over-represent ice because they don't see areas of open water
  • PIPS maps don't take into account ice concentration. They consider the ice to be 100% concentrated
  • PIPS is just a model. It isn't an accurate representation of the ice.

The US Navy clearly refutes these claims ...

Another fight over "torture"

Terry Karney is a trained interrogator.

I have no idea what he's trained as, because I find it hard to believe he's actually interrogated anyone. And indeed, if what I've seen is an example of how interrogators handle information, I can see why everyone was convinced Iraq was stocked with piles of WMD all over the place.

Anyway, here's my post on Live Journal.

Gaza: So what?

Michael J. Totten posts at Contentions that nobody cares about Gaza.
...Few activists, journalists, or diplomats genuinely seem to care what those people are going through.

Consider this: Hamas, not Israel, refuses to allow donated food and medicine in. If it's "collective punishment" when Israel restricts certain items, what should we call it when Hamas refuses all of the items? Few seem to have given it any thought. So far I haven't found a single person indignant about the Israeli blockade who has said or written a word about Hamas refusing to allow donated goods into the territory. Even those who actually donated and delivered the items are quiet about it.

....

An extraordinary amount of time and energy has been spent in the last ten days denouncing Israel for its supposedly inhumane treatment of Gaza, but Hamas — under which Palestinians fare orders of magnitude worse — gets a pass from most of the people yelling at Israel. It's not hard to figure out who and what all the fuss is really about. If Gaza weren't at war with a half-Western Jewish country, Palestinians who suffer as a result would get no more attention than victims of the civil conflict in Yemen.

What does "equal rights" mean?

From David Friedman's blog:

Ted Olsen ... is one of the attorneys trying to persuade the Supreme Court that California's failure to permit gay marriage is an unconstitutional violation of the principle. His view, widely shared by supporters of gay marriage, is that current California law fails to provide homosexuals the same right it provides to heterosexuals—the right to be married to the partner of their choice.

An opponent could respond, with equal logic, that it is consistent with equal rights. Both homosexuals and heterosexuals have the right to marry a partner of the opposite sex, neither has the right to marry a partner of the same sex. Seen from this standpoint, the difference is not in what rights different people have but in what rights matter to different people. Current California law provides both homosexuals and heterosexuals with the marital right that heterosexuals value and provides neither with the marital right that homosexuals value.

For those readers who see this as merely a rhetorical quibble, I put the following question: Is a law forbidding discrimination against gays in housing or employment also a violation of equal rights? Seen from one standpoint, it provides the right to hire or rent or sell to the person of one's choice to those people who are not prejudiced against gays but not to those who are—a violation of equal rights. Seen from the other, it provides both groups the right to decide who to deal with on grounds other than sexual preference and provides neither the right to make the decision on grounds of sexual preference. It's just that the right it denies is valuable to one group and worthless to the other. The logic is exactly the same as in the case of California marriage law.

All of which suggests to me that that the principle of equal rights is a great deal less clear than it may at first seem.

Rank and File SB 1070

Jack Dunphy at Pajamas Media writes:

One must be wary in listening to police chiefs who claim to speak on behalf of their rank-and-file officers, especially when it comes to issues as politically sensitive as this one. Chances are that the chief's publicly espoused views are diametrically opposed to those held by most of the cops serving under him. Chief Beck's pronouncement on SB 1070 is but the most recent example of this.

Like any major city in America one could name, Los Angeles is governed by people of the political left but policed by people of the right. You may find the occasional conservative walking the corridors of L.A. City Hall (a lone member of the city council voted against a boycott of Arizona), and you may find a liberal here and there in the police department, but it is safe to say that those in the city's government and those in its police department are about as ideologically unaligned as any two groups can be.  Even those cops who might start their careers in a leftward frame of mind soon veer to the right as they confront the twin realities of seeing so much money taken from them in taxes while doing a job that offers such an unrivaled view of how that money is spent.

But that rightward tack, generally a steady progression in police officers working patrol and other field assignments, must be reversed by any cop harboring ambition for high rank in his department. Those seeking to ascend into the upper levels of the command structure, most especially anyone aspiring to be chief, must learn to embrace the liberal policies in vogue at City Hall, or at least feign doing so convincingly.

Which brings us to Chief Beck and his views on Arizona and SB 1070. In circulating among my coworkers these last few weeks, I've yet to encounter even one who expressed an opinion similar to Chief Beck's on the matter. In fact, whenever I've heard the subject raised, most of my colleagues said they would have preferred to see Beck keep his opinions on the Arizona law to himself, as the airing of them served no purpose but to further spread the many falsehoods about the law already in circulation. Moreover, it is unseemly for a police chief to show disdain for a law duly considered and enacted through the democratic process. The people of Arizona have spoken, and it is not for people from outside the state, least of all a police chief, to wag fingers and tell them they have erred.

In criticizing SB 1070, Chief Beck was most emphatically not speaking on behalf of most LAPD officers, but rather on behalf of the mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, who selected Beck as chief and whose position on illegal immigration is well known. Whatever Beck's true opinions on these issues might be, if they differ one iota from the mayor's, he took care to keep those differences to himself during the interviews leading up to his appointment.

California schools in action

Savage, at The Blogmocracy, posts a letter from a teacher in a California school:

Most of the schools you are hearing about, South Gate High, Bell Gardens , Huntington Park , etc., where these students are protesting, are also Title 1 schools.

Title 1 schools are on the free breakfast and free lunch program. When I say free breakfast, I'm not talking a glass of milk and a roll — but a full breakfast and cereal bar with fruits and juices that would make a Marriott proud. The waste of this food is monumental, with trays and trays of it being dumped in the trash uneaten.

I estimate that well over 50% of these students are obese or at least moderately overweight. About 75% or more DO have cell phones. The school also provides day care centers for the unwed teenage pregnant girls (some as young as 13) so they can attend class without the inconvenience of having to arrange for babysitters or having family watch their kids.

I was ordered to spend $700,000 on my department or risk losing funding for the upcoming year even though there was little need for anything; my budget was already substantial. I ended up buying new computers for the computer learning center, half of which, one month later, have been carved with graffiti by the appreciative students who obviously feel humbled and grateful to have a free education in America …

I have had to intervene several times for young and substitute teachers whose classes consist of many illegal immigrant students, here in the country less than 3 months, who raised so much hell with the female teachers, calling them "Putas" (whores) and throwing things, that the teachers were in tears.

Free medical, free education, free food, free day care etc., etc, etc. Is it any wonder they feel entitled to not only be in this country but to demand rights, privileges and entitlements?

 
He goes on to talk about the hidden costs of "cheap labor".
The problem with the schools could be addressed by making school attendance no longer mandatory, and making it easier for principals to expel students for misbehavior.  Let those kids who don't want to be in school and who don't want to learn make their way in the world while they're still young enough to know everything.
When, years later, they have been beaten down by life and their lack of marketable skills, let them return to the educational system and take advantage of whatever grades they haven't taken yet.  If someone drops out in the fifth grade, he gets to rejoin in the fifth grade and work his way through high school graduation. 
By then, maybe he'll appreciate it.
And maybe his example will motivate the twelve-year-olds he's studying next to.

Making Drug Testing Inconvenient

I'm not subject to random drug testing at work.  Or much of anywhere else, for that matter.  (Well, I suspect the Red Cross screens my donations for drugs along with  everything else, but that's not random.)

I've always said if my employer started a policy of random drug testing, I'd start baking cookies for everyone.  Chocolate chip poppyseed cookies are absolutely delicious, especially if I use the canned poppy seed filling from the Jewish section of the market.   Now, culinary poppy seeds are P. somniferum, or opium poppy. They give the best flavor.  So everyone who eats more than a quarter of a cookie tests positive on the next drug screening.

Now, over at Reason's Hit and Run blog, Jacob Sullum reports on a man who drank some tea and lost his job after a drug screening.
We recently received a letter from a reader who says he lost his job as a truck driver for a trash and recycling company where he had worked for more than two decades because he tested positive for cocaine in a random drug screen after inadvertently consuming some of his wife's coca tea. He notes that the Department of Transportation's drug testing guidelines (PDF) specify that "consumption of coca teas" should not be accepted "as a basis for verifying a cocaine test result as negative." Far be it from me to defend the ridiculous drug testing policies that have been foisted on employers by the federal government, which in this case (as in many others) led to a patently unfair result for an employee who posed no threat to anyone. But the rule regarding coca tea makes sense from a prohibitionist perspective. 

According to a 1996 study reported in Forensic Science International, "the consumption of a single cup of Peruvian or Bolivian coca tea produces positive drug test results for cocaine metabolites." The reason is straightforward: Coca tea contains cocaine; coca is where cocaine comes from. So this is not, strictly speaking, a "false positive." Since coca leaf, like cocaine, is a Schedule II substance, coca tea is illegal in the United States, although you can buy it online and customs agents often let it through. It is not safe to assume that the leaf in these teas, like the leaf used to flavor Coca-Cola, has been "decocainized," and distributors are cagey on this point.
I wonder what kind of flavor it would give to cookies...

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Ground Zero Mosque

Jay Tea at Wizbang looks at the proposed mosque at Ground Zero:

The establishment of this mosque, so close to the site where almost 3,000 people were murdered on 9/11, is an act of tremendous insensitivity. On that day, a small group of very determined men committed the single greatest act of terrorism in history -- in the name of Islam. They cited specific tenets and quotations from the Islamic faith in justifying their actions.

Around the world, many, many Muslims rejoiced in the attack, celebrating it in the name of Islam.

The attack wasn't something carried out by people who happened to be Muslim. It was carried out by people who were united and motivated by their Muslim faith, in full accordance with Islamic laws and traditions.

So while it might be unfair to blame all Muslims for 9/11, or even a majority, the connection between that attack and Islam is inescapable. And many of those who lost loved ones on that day, many of those who survived the attack, will bear the psychic scars of that beautiful, terrible day for the rest of their lives. They deserve our respect and our consideration.

Further, look at the name chosen for the Mosque. It will be named after the Great Mosque of Cordoba, which was hailed as the greatest monument of the Islamic invasiion of southern Europe. It started as a Christian church, spent 450 years as a mosque, and was converted to a Christian cathedral almost 800 years ago.

Let's repeat that: this mosque, so close to Ground Zero, is being named after one of the greatest accomplishments of the Muslim invasion and conquering of part of Europe.

Names like this are not chosen at random. Like the Cordoba mosque, this new one was not conquered or stolen, but bought legally. And it was a symbol of Muslim supremacy, deliberately placed at a place held sacred to those who had come before the Muslims.

Finally, the new mosque is scheduled to open its doors on Sunday, September 11, 2011. The tenth anniversary of the terrorist attack.

365 days in a year, and the day the mosque's backers choose to open it is that one. Like names, that is not something that happened by accident. No, that was a deliberate choice.

If the mosque backers were truly respectful of others, if they weren't trying to exploit the atrocities carried out by Muslim extremists, they would not be building a mosque in what once was the shadows of the twin towers. They wouldn't be naming it after one of the greatest symbols of Muslim conquest of the West. And they wouldn't schedule its grand opening for the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

No, this is clearly an "in-your-face" move, designed to prey on Americans' traditional tolerance and acceptance of others, our eagerness to show how open-minded we can be, and the willingness of so many of us to "blame America first."

"Liberal (n): One too broad-minded to take his own side in a quarrel."