Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Sheehan to crash SOTU.

via polipundit: Cindy Sheehan, fresh from her trip to Venezuala where she pandered to and slobbered all over Commie leader and Cocaine addict Hugo Chavez...will be in the audience at the SOTU tonight. Some nice Democrat gave her a pass. {she really was slobbering all over Chavez, I saw film of hugging and kissing and almost lost my lunch}

Will she behave? I wonder.

Another interesting post to check out at Michelle Malkins on the Palstinian riots complete with pics of burning Danish and Norwegian flags. It seems they are not believers in freedom of expression. Where is the left when you need them? Oh yes, that is right, they are sucking up to communists or making excuses for terrorists. Too busy to protect the freedom of speech or the press.


I just heard on Fox that Cindy Sheehan was lead away in handcuffs. It seems she tried to unfurl a banner. Needless to say she will be applauded by the Kos crowd. I wonder if these folks think rules don't apply to them?

Notice: Blue Scarf Meetings at your local McDonald's

This Thursday at 7 pm local time, I will be meeting Dag of the No Dhimmitude blog, for a discussion of free speech, multiculturalism, and Islam, at a McDonald's restaurant at Main and Terminal in Vancouver, British Columbia (the McDonald's on the southwest corner, not the one across the street in the train station). Any Flares readers in the area are welcome and encouraged to attend.

Thanks to Dag's blogging and to the Revolution Bleue movement in France that has emerged in response to elite media and government crack downs on Republican free speech, in the wake of the recent riots and the more general desire in many western countries to ban anti-Islamic and other forms of politically-incorrect speech (on this see, for example, Wretchard's recent post), there will be people meeting around the world in McDonald's restaurants and wearing blue scarves to identify each other and to show sympathy with those in France who are wearing blue scarves in public opposition to their present regime.

While we Canadians are yet unsure if we share fully in the goals of the French blue scarves - a recent anti-Masonic comment at their blog raised eyebrows because of the proximity of anti-Masonic and antisemitic rhetoric historically... but Freemasonry in France is a frankly political and anti-clerical movement, perhaps deserving some criticism, we don't know - it strikes us as nonetheless important for westerners to get out in public and find their voices in face of the various postmodern ideologies that would limit speech in the name of the supposed victims of free speech.

And it is important for people to discuss this issue in terms of the ongoing conflict between the west and Islam - or Islamic radicalism, if you prefer. What, for example, is the duty of western men and women to the Islamic women who are forced (in our opinion) to wear extreme forms of head covering, like the Burka, in our westetern cities, a symbol of their more general oppression under Islam and related forms of family life? How do we contest the multicultural ideolgies that would defend "the choice" to wear the burka, as a "right"?

This question of defending women enslaved by religion, family, and multicultural ideology is the specific topic for our meeting this Thursday. If you cannot join us, have a look at Dag's blog - especially his archives for last week - to gain some sense of the larger blue scarf movement and consider organizing a meeting at your local McDonald's. Just get the word out in the blogosphere when you will be at McDonald's, and see if any blue scarves show up. It worked for Dag.

Dag chose McDonald's as our meeting place, not simply because they are ubiquitous and you can sit for hours with a cup of coffee. In their ubiquity McDonald's also symbolize a western secular alternative to the sacred meeting places of the Islamic world. And because the target of our discussions is not simply Islamic radicalism, but its present tactical marriage with imperialistic western multiculturalism, McDonald's is the perfect symbol since it is so often a scandal for the elitist anti-American leftists who know what is best for all of us and who would restrict our free speech and stomachs accordingly.

Of course, it is when the mouths are closed that violence is most certain, and the present moves to restrict free speech are sure to reduce the security of Muslims in the west, not strengthen it. Because we are not against Muslims as people (we are out to love and defend the better side of humanity in all of us) but simply want a venue to meet and criticize aspects of both Islamic religion and postmodern western ideologies, we expect and will welcome into our meetings people of all faiths and backgrounds.

UPDATE, Feb. 1, 3:30 GMT: Dag's blog is currently undergoing some trouble. It's not loading properly and he thinks he may be under some kind of attack. Please try the link later


(Shamelessly copied from Dr. Sanity's shameless plagiarization of the poem "To an Athlete Dying Young" by A. E. Housman)

That time in the sixties you made your point
And celebrated with a joint;
Protesters stood cheering by,
And everyone of them was high.

To-day, you dwell within that past,
Desperate that your theories last,
But sadly, they have been debunked,
And Marx himself has been depunked.

Smart man, to slip into a haze
Where always is the dialectic praised,
And all your dreams might come to be
Untouched by life's reality.

Eyes that glittered with fanatic passion
Cannot forever be in fashion,
And slogans chanted from those marches
Have given way to Golden Arches

Once you weren't just antiwar
You understood what you were for,
But then the shit, it hit the fan--
The cause then died before the man

And after all the echoes faded,
The deaths and miseries paraded,
The consequences of your cause
Its inhumane and fatal flaws

You choose to close your eyes instead,
It's not your fault they all are dead!
You'll find another cult as good--
Potentially in victimhood.

And when you finally face your death,
So close to breathing your last breath;
Consider all the pain and strife
Your ideals caused in real life.

Dr. Pat did an excellent job on this, IMO - drop in and tell her so.

UPDATE: In keeping with the theme. (HT Dr. Pat)

It's Alito

I don't really know or care about Alito. I haven't followed it, don't care to follow it, and basically trust that if many many colleagues say he's highly qualified, then he's highly qualified.

Two things impress me about this. First, the Democrats aren't willing to give an inch. Only four Democrats were willing to vote affirmatively and maintain collegiality. The Democrats are increasingly shrill and partisan and that means they increasingly won't get my vote. They are like 2-year-olds who are having their toys taken away because it is bedtime. They wail and scream and gnash their teeth, but seem completely incapable of dealing with reality on their own hook. And we desperately need some grownups in charge these days.

Second, the very depth of their shrillness is starting to frighten me. A man who seems from a distance to be reasonable, if not in lock-step with my beliefs, is slammed as though he is the anti-Christ himself. Reckless charges that "our rights as Americans" will soon be completely removed, or that the "extreme right-wing" is imminently taking over are thrown about with wild abandon. There's no doubt that these people really have convinced themselves of such nonsense, similar to the way that a relatively innocuous data-mining program put in place by the NSA has been elevated to an all-out assault on civil liberties in "Ashkroft's Amerikkka", with George Bush himself peeking into everyone's bedroom. Good lord. This sort of hyperbole is simply insane, but as it continues to fester and grow it takes on a life of it's own, whatever tenuous connection to reality it held originally having been rendered entirely irrelevant. It cannot bode well for our future.

An Era Passes

Watching Senator Kennedy perform his last ditch soliloquy yesterday, in full dudgeon, clearly playing to the Nan Aaron, Kate Michelman, Ellie Smeal, Ralph Neas set I was struck by the sadness of the occasion. His face was red, his words were hot. In his mind, his cause was just. But he was doomed to failure and he knew it.

Here was a man in his mid seventies. Thirty five years before, he was the young last son left to carry out the improbable dream of his ambitious father, an ex-bootlegger who devoted his considerable skill and fortune to elect his second son President. But in his youth, beset by tragedy, this elderly Senator had squandered his inheritance much like the prodigal son, and never realized his potential because of his responsibility for the death of a young female staffer.

But he was then forgiven by a generation of followers because of his eloquence, hard work and skill as a Senator, and his bonhommie.

Yesterday, he paid back those who forgave him, and it reminded me of an old song which was popular in his heyday:

Once upon a time there was a tavern
Where we used to raise a glass or two
Remember how we laughed away the hours
And dreamed of all the great things we would do?

Those were the days my friend
We thought they'd never end
We'd sing and dance forever and a day
We'd live the life we choose
We'd fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way.
La la la la...Those were the days, oh yes those were the days

Then the busy years went rushing by us
We lost our starry notions on the way
If by chance I'd see you in the tavern
We'd smile at one another and we'd say

Those were the days my friend
We thought they'd never end
We'd sing and dance forever and a day
We'd live the life we choose
We'd fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way.
La la la la...Those were the days, oh yes those were the days

Just tonight I stood before the tavern
Nothing seemed the way it used to be
In the glass I saw a strange reflection
Was that lonely woman really me

Those were the days my friend
We thought they'd never end
We'd sing and dance forever and a day
We'd live the life we choose
We'd fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way.
La la la la...Those were the days, oh yes those were the days

Through the door there came familiar laughter
I saw your face and heard you call my name
Oh my friend we're older but no wiser
For in our hearts the dreams are still the same

Those were the days my friend
We thought they'd never end
We'd sing and dance forever and a day
We'd live the life we choose
We'd fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way.
La la la la...Those were the days, oh yes, those were the days

And so they were.

Opposition Research

I've been reading about the Abramoff scandal for quite some time - both actual details with some facts involved plus the constant meme that "this is huge and is going to destroy the Republicans". The latter is generally seen in comments and I have always taken it as an indication of the ignorance of the writer. Scandals - even if factually based and ultimately proven in court - affect the individual(s) concerned but have a minor impact upon perception of the party. Unless, of course, the party rallies to the defense of the scoundrel involved and attaches itself to his deeds. The "proper" response from the party is to distance itself from the individual and let nature (and, hopefully, justice) take its course. The '90's provide ample evidence in support of this argument. Newt Gingrich and Bob Livingston both had peccadillos in their past that did not withstand scrutiny, both acknowledged their errors, both resigned their offices and both left politics. Was the Republican party therefore tarred as the party of philanderers and did it suffer from such identification or is philandery more firmly attached to the Democratic party for some obscure reason?

Come we now to Abramoff and the exchange of political support of Indian gaming interests for financial support. I expect that the Gonzales DoJ will perform a very adequate and thorough investigation and that every instance in which sufficient evidence can be obtained will result in appropriate charges being leveled and trials conducted. I also expect that every Republican so charged will resign his/her office. I have no such expectations from members of the other party (vide '90's) for if it were so, Harry Reid, the Senate Minority Leader would already have stepped down in anticipation.

Opposition research produces results which might be best described as a razor sharp and double edged sword. When wielded with proficiency the results can be deadly to a single opponent, when wielded clumsily, the attacker may wind up with wounds more severe than the person being attacked. It's a weapon whose major efficacy is achieved by revealing the scabbard for drawing the blade gives no assurance that the wielder will be standing at the end of the fight. For that reason it is also a weapon of desperation and last resort. When you're losing and the outcome is in doubt, go down and go dirty. It works occasionally but it's a clear sign of a loser.

Like Harry Reid. Like the left wing of the once great Democratic Party.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Turn Up The Bass

So, you think politics is a bit rough? It just turned a tad rougher.

I really can't think of anything to write that expresses my feelings about this. Contempt just doesn't fit.

UPDATE: I was wondering how Dean was going to keep his job.

The Winds of Political Change

Heh, maybe this is the start of a new third party:

Cindy for Senate. And she's got international support.

72 to 25, Kerry's Excellent Davos Filibuster Adventure is Defeated

Much like the Excellent Cambodian Adventure, the Excellent Davos Filibuster Adventure goes into the dustbin of History. Another empty gesture that undermines the Senator's feeble attempts to reclaim leadership of the Democrats for the 2008 campaign.

Sad, revealing and, unfortunately, all too typical.

What a bunch of cowards

A new video has been released to AlJazeera {who else} of the young kidnapped American female journalist. She is in tears. What is next? They gonna pull the wings off flies? Blow up some little children standing in line for candy?

In other headlines there is the story about Zawhiri calling Bush a butcher and taunting him.

If the terrorist is so big and bad why is he hiding like the murdering cowardly barbarian that he is? At least Bush has the courage to show his face in public.

190% of us are heterosexual

Instapundit pointed to an amusing (not the topic but the innumeracy aspect) Run the Numbers post at Volokh. If you follow the comments just a little while you will find the statistical methodology showing how I arrived at my title for this post.

Libby's motion to compel discovery explained

Clarice Feldman at American Thinker lays out the strategery of Libby's lawyers through their discovery motion and presents information as to what it may mean for both Libby and the press.

Libby's Defense Goes after Antique Media Reporters

For those who haven't been following the Plame Affair closely, this article is indispensable. (And what may the press be holding back? You may be surprised.)

Justice Department guidelines limit prosecutors' ability to question the press. Before any subpoenas are issued, the prosecutor must have exhausted all other means of getting the information they expect the press to provide concerning their sources. Thus Fitzgerald's case is dependent on specific journalist's answers to specific and narrowly defined questions. A defense lawyer does not work under those same rules thus, especially since there is no Federal Press Shield Law, the Sixth Amendment screeches into the First. May the sparks begin!

Clarice also quotes from an article in the American Journalism Review by Rachel Smolkin which gives the press's reaction and prognostications concerning source waivers. A darned interesting article on its own. I highly recommend it.

Do we really hear ourselves?

While reading MHA's post The Centrist Canard it occured to me that many of us simply do not hear ourselves. We are so busy trying to make a point, so sure of our own rightness that we do not hear what others hear. We talk past each other.

Not long ago we had a discussion {I admit I do not remember the post} and the subject of how we view each other came up. I said that the other party or people holding certain views in line with the other party were our political opponents. A discussion ensued and I was informed that no, they were the enemy.

I have to admit this unsettled me in a very profound way. After all, if someone calls me their enemy, just how do I relate to them? Are they my enemy as well? What does this kind of rhetoric do to public discourse?

I think one thing it does is drive away those less passionate people MHA was talking about. The people who do not want to get involved with politics or even vote because it is all so distatestul to them. I know people like this, they are not stupid or slackers or lazy or disinterested...they just run screaming when the two parties start going at it.

I do consider myself a moderate because I know that too many things in this world are out of our control. We can not plan everything or control everything and so holding tight to rigid positions year after year in a constantly changing world does not mean you will stay in the same place anyway...that is only an illusion.

I do think that most Americans have a sense of ourselves as a nation. Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. We are more than squabbling Republicans and Democrats, we are the hope of the world.

Code Blue on Dr. Dean

Drudge (link may change later) has a 'Flash Report' that the DNC's dearth of cash is beginning to irritate (I'd say panic) party leadership. I would note that the actual December FEC report has not been posted as of this hour so real facts on the matter are in short supply. When I noted Dean's YTD performance in October it was picked up by the WaPo (non-attributed) and caused a little splash. In reviewing the November report I noted that cash on hand had improved but I remember thing to myself "this looks like they're stuffing invoices in a desk drawer". The cash on hand figure of $5.5 mil is significantly lower in December than November's $7mil plus, so I'll give myself a pat on the back (and next time I'll write up my suspicions).

How many dry holes will the Dem's allow Dean to drill before giving him the boot? The filibluster tactic is an obvious ploy to try and vacuum a little more dough out of the Koslander's wallets but I can confidently predict that it will fail. If there is one thing that can be said with great assurance of the Koslanders, it is that the full measure of their lack of courage is at least equal to their lack of convictions. In Texas I believe the saying is "All hat, no cattle."

Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Centrist Canard

Roger Simon has a good post today yearning for a third party to pull us out of the partisan doldrums. There are some excellent comments, but I was especially struck by this comment by Kevin Peters, a long-time contributor on Roger Simon's blog.
...there is my sister Sue.... If she heard your call for a third party she would jump in the air and scream amen. She hates both parties, she hates the politics of personal destruction, she felt bad for the hounding of President Clinton over his zipper problems and the Roberts and Alito hearings turned her stomach too....

But hold on. She isn't for gay marriage. Civil unions are fine but nothing else. Not in a 'you can become a heterosexual' stance but she thinks the way we have it now is best. She was against the war in Iraq from day one. Not because of the WMD question but because she thought we should stay out of the area and that it would never work. She is a non-racist isolationist. And because of this her loathing of President Bush matches my other Mother Jones sister. She is disgusted with the Immigration stance of both parties and her solutions lean towards a strict crackdown on illegal aliens and the companies that hire them. She is generally for increased public spending but wants a complete reworking of the way the money is spent. she is not too keen on the union movement. And she is in love with Hillary. I mean non sexual lust. She doesn't agree with all of her political ideas but she has bought into HRC's whole spiel.
The center is hard to define sometimes.

It is frequently presumed that there is a "center" out there and that the speaker is in it and that anyone who disagrees with the speaker is an "extremist". We all want to believe that our own beliefs are reasonable and everyone else's are insane. They seem insane--how could any reasonable person disagree with my own well-thought-out beliefs?--but calling them "insane" or "Nazis" tends to lose us friends and alienate people, so we dub them "extremist" instead.

There are partisans--and plenty of them--who will always vehemently argue for their own party no matter how outrageous its positions. Yet when individual issues are considered the world looks rather different. My observation is that there are two distinct types of people who take an interest in politics, on the one hand those who completely buy into the party line and always parrot all of its talking points, and on the other hand those who, like Kevin's sister, hold a constellation of opinions, a different one for each issue, a situation which looks contradictory to the more partisan sorts. Those who want to buy a whole package, hook line and sinker, and those who want to consider each option separately. It is people like Kevin's sister who are usually meant by the word "centrist", i.e., people who will not necessarily vote for or against Hillary just because she's a Democrat. But Kevin's post makes vividly clear the fundamental contradiction inherent in trying to create a "centrist" political party, to wit, two "centrists" are liable to be in complete opposition. A "centrist" like Kevin's sister might be anti-Iraq War and in favor of a crackdown on illegal aliens; a "centrist" like Terrye might hold the exactly opposite opinions on these subjects.

I would feign look at the situation from a different angle entirely. We can obtain a 1-dimensional view of any single issue by asking whether we favor it or oppose it. But it is more informative to add a second dimension, let us call it the dimension of passion, by asking how much we care about the given issue. Take Wal-Mart, its palpable iniquity a given for many. Whether I consider it to be the Devil's spawn or not is one thing; whether I really care very much about Wal-Mart is another thing entirely.

One thing that occurred during the Sixties was a shift along this second dimension, the dimension of passion. Somehow the idea propagated that passionate adherence to one's political beliefs was ipso facto very important, was a Good Thing, was in fact the Very Meaning of Life Itself. The idea spread that The Angels Would Sing if one pursued politics--as opposed to, say, engineering, entertainment, or getting involved in one's church--because, so the story went, only through politics could this world of vast woe ever be fixed. Politics became the religion, in other words. And in the process it became filled with self-righteousness and the belief that anyone who disagrees cannot simply be wrong but must be evil.

I would call for a little moderation. Let's pull the throttle back a smidge. The people I would like to see winning the political game are those who are a little less involved, those who don't quite take the thing so seriously, those who realize that their own beliefs may be wrong after all and so they can show a little humor and a little disinterest and, most important of all, a little humanity toward the other side. And a little graciousness in losing.

Those are the best "centrists" of all.

So, You Want to Be a Director?

The folks over at Tim Blair's are having fun making their own Bollywood movies. My favorite so far is Jim Treacher's. You can also play with the number at the end of the URL and watch other folk's efforts.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Adventures in Photography

Lesson 1: Choose your angle and foreground with care*.

*The picture caption is, "Tories begin process of transition to government."

New Blog: "Market Correction"

The guys from Cafe Hayek have a new blog: Market Correction. It's composed entirely of letters to the editor correcting basic economic mistakes in legacy media stories.

It's not amazing that there are so many of them (12-15 a week.) It is somewhat astonishing that they make good reading.

To the blogroll with them.

Star Trek and Science

Remember the old Star Trek shows where money was not an issue? Society was beyond all that. There were replicators and Science was God. Whatever the scientists wanted, they got. No need to beg the government or anyone else for research money. Illness or injury? No big deal. Except of course for some strange virus the Doc would find a cure for in less than an hour.

Well, we are not there yet. Now when we see a story about researchers being on the verge of some new drug that will stop cell degeneration and promise us eternal middle age if not eternal youth it probably means some drug company had to jack up the price of Granny's meds to pay for the research which may or may not pan out. We reach for the stars, nothing wrong with that...but what about what is happening right now?

I am not a demagogue or a partisan and I do believe that the society that the most people feel they have a stake in is the one most likely to succeed. That is why I am concerned at the debate or lack of it when it comes to health care. Democrats blame Republicans for being greedy and Republicans blame Democrats for giving too much to too many who they feel do not deserve it.

In his Jan. 25th article for Newsweek, Robert Samuelson noted something most people are probably oblivious to: We subsidize employer-paid helath insurance by excluding it from income taxes [the 2006 cost to government: an estimated $126 billion]

Below are some depressing numbers:
National Health Expenditures
1960... 1985... 2003
(in billions of current dollars)
Aggregate spending 27... 427... 1,679
Per capita 143.... 1,765... 5,670
(in billions of constant 2003 dollars)*
Aggregate spending 166... 730... 1,679
Per capita 891... 3,019... 5,670
Share of GDP 5.1%... 10.1%... 15.3%
Source: National Health Expenditures, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Office of the Actuary, National Health Statistics Group; U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis; and U.S. Bureau of the Census
*Adjusted for changes in the Consumer Price Index for all-Urban Consumers, “all items”

The nation’s spending on medical care has been on an unrelenting upward path for a number of decades. In 1960, aggregate health expenditures in the U.S. totaled $27 billion; in 2003, the figure stood at nearly $1.7 trillion — a 63-fold rise. In contrast, the U.S. population grew by only 51 percent. Health expenditures per capita (or per person) rose from $143 in 1960 to $5,670 in 2003 — a 40-fold rise. General inflation pushed up prices of goods and services in the economy by 5-fold. In contrast, the recorded rise in prices for medical care was 12-fold, driven mostly by increases in hospital charges and doctors’ fees.[1] The overall economic dimensions of the growth have been equally impressive, with the share of the economy devoted to health care tripling over the period, rising from approximately 5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 1960 to over 15 percent in 2003.
Inflation and the Rise in Health Care Prices
1960-2003.... 1990-2003
(Percent increase in prices)
Inflation generally
515%..... 41%
Medical care overall 1,232%.... 82%
Medical care services 1,469%.... 88%
Source: Consumer Price Index for All-Urban Consumers, loc. cit.

Consumption of health care by the elderly is larger than for the rest of the population. In 1999, per capita health care spending for the U.S. population as a whole, it was $3,834. For the population under age 65, it was $2,793. For the population age 65 or older, it was $11,089, or nearly four times as high. Even within the aged population, the divergence was significant.


The above stats are from the ASPE Issue Brief.

When the public rejected the idea of Social Security reform in spite of the obvious problems facing the system, I began to wonder if the American public is dedicated enough to free market economics to face the reality of coming change. I would like to see Republicans embrace a policy of reform, competition and deregulation to help deal with the worsening health care crisis, rather than partisan attacks on Democrats or uselss class warfare.

Perhaps it is time we realized that we can not have everything we want. Perhaps we should work on making the basics of health care more affordable and spend less time thinking about science fiction.

Otherwise we baby boomers might find ourselves facing something akin to Logan's Run. Is your crystal flashing? Is it your time to go to the Carousel?

Update: The National Institute for Pharmaceutical Technology and Education-NIPTE is a collaberation of 11 major universities working to bring down drug prices. At least people are paying attention.

Sides are lining up and digging in their heels

2006 is shaping up to be a strange/frightening year. There have been several events recently that indicate power shifts or expressions of will across the globe. It feels like the chess pieces are placing themselves on the board, standing resolutely, and preparing for the start of the big game.

  • Sharon's stroke
  • Damadola strike and fallout for Pakistan
  • bin laden tape
  • Iran's nuclear rhetoric heats up
  • Canadian elections give conservative govt
  • Portugal elects a right of center govt. First time in decades
  • Chirac talks tough on terrorism and sponsors. Threatens to use nukes
  • Iraqi insurgency turns against al Qaeda
  • Palestinians elect Hamas
  • American people poll in favor of military strikes on Iran with no prodding from Administration
  • Saudi Arabia boycotts Danish companies over publication of cartoons portraying Mohammed

And it's only January.

You think you had a bad day at the office?

Video captures octopus attack on sub in B.C.
Last Updated Fri, 27 Jan 2006 13:40:23 EST
CBC News

Rare video footage shows a giant octopus attacking a small submarine off the west coast of Vancouver Island.

Salmon researchers working on the Brooks Peninsula were shocked last November when an octopus attacked their expensive and sensitive equipment. ....

"It was only afterwards when I replayed the video and I thought, 'Oh, yeah, that's pretty neat.' But at the time, it was just scary."

I especially like this part:
"Old octopuses become what we call senescent, or senile, reaching the end of their life. And sometimes their actions are very inappropriate."

J.B. Poersch asked me to pass this along.

These straight-up copies of Democrat talking points can get boring. So I thought I'd boil this one down for everyone...


Electing more Democrats to the Senate is the best way to stop George Bush and his right-wing allies from arrogantly abusing their power to advance their extreme agenda. And I have good news: in our efforts to take back the Senate, so far, we're winning.

Embattled Republican incumbents, including Rick Santorum in Pennsylvania and Conrad Burns [will win unless you...]

Click here to make a secure, online contribution of $50, $75, or more.

[Republicans like Santorum use "dirty tricks". To help us counter them...]

Click here to make a secure, online contribution of $50, $75, or more.

In Montana, incumbent Republican Senator Conrad Burns has plummeted in the polls [but we're still losing, and we cannot succeed unless you...]

Click here to make a secure, online contribution of $50, $75, or more.

Remember, the DSCC is the only national party organization solely dedicated to electing a Democratic Senate.


Please make a contribution today.


J.B. Poersch

Executive Director

P.S. You can also help our efforts by forwarding this message to your friends and family. Ask them to...

Click here to make a secure, online contribution of $50, $75, or more.

They're really hard up for money. They'd appreciate anything, as long as it's $50, $75, or more...

Friday, January 27, 2006

Desktop Fusion Update

Sonofusion confirmed by a joint Russian-Rensselaer-Purdue team?

Happy 250th!

"How seemly, then, to celebrate the birth
Of one who did no harm to our poor earth,
Created masterpieces by the dozen,
Indulged in toilet humor with his cousin,
And had a pauper's funeral in the rain,
The like of whom we shall not see again."

“Mozart” - W.H. Auden

Hamas Charter

On the occasion of the Hamas victory in the Palestinian elections, Pastorius at CUANAS is calling on all bloggers to post the Hamas charter. Pastorius is using this excerpt from the Jerusalem Post:
"Our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious...The Movement is but one squadron that should be supported by more and more squadrons from this vast Arab and Islamic world, until the enemy is vanquished and Allah's victory is realised...

The Islamic Resistance Movement is one of the wings of Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine. The Muslim Brotherhood Movement is a universal organization which constitutes the largest Islamic movement in modern times...

It strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine, for under the wing of Islam followers of all religions can coexist in security and safety where their lives, possessions and rights are concerned...

The Islamic Resistance Movement is one of the links in the chain of the struggle against the Zionist invaders. It goes back to 1939, to the emergence of the martyr Izz al-Din al Kassam and his brethren the fighters, members of Muslim Brotherhood. It goes on to reach out and become one with another chain that includes the struggle of the Palestinians and Muslim Brotherhood in the 1948 war and the Jihad operations of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1968 and after...

The Prophet, Allah bless him and grant him salvation, has said: 'The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him...'

Resisting and quelling the enemy become the individual duty of every Muslim, male or female. A woman can go out to fight the enemy without her husband's permission, and so does the slave: without his master's permission...

There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors. The Palestinian people know better than to consent to having their future, rights and fate toyed with...

The day The Palestinian Liberation Organization adopts Islam as its way of life, we will become its soldiers, and fuel for its fire that will burn the enemies...

The Zionist invasion is a vicious invasion... It relies greatly in its infiltration and espionage operations on the secret organizations it gave rise to, such as the Freemasons, The Rotary and Lions clubs, and other sabotage groups. All these organizations, whether secret or open, work in the interest of Zionism and according to its instructions...

We should not forget to remind every Muslim that when the Jews conquered the Holy City in 1967, they stood on the threshold of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and proclaimed that 'Mohammed is dead, and his descendants are all women.'

Israel, Judaism and Jews challenge Islam and the Muslim people. 'May the cowards never sleep.'"
Pastorius notes that the paragraph beginning "The Prophet, Allah bless him..." is lifted straight from the Koran, official text of the religion of peace.

For the complete Hamas Charter, click here.

Everyone knows...

Kerry takes up fight against Alito.

Sen. Reid: 'Everyone knows there is not enough votes' for filibuster.

And this is the dope nearly half of American voters wanted to serve as our POTUS. How many hydrocarbons were pumped into the atmosphere and how much jet fuel was burned so that this gasbag could preen and pose. Oh well, somewhere an Alpine ski slope is happy. No doubt Davos is saddened by the loss.

Trollery Explained

I'm always confused by political arguments. I remember in 1997 or so when my uncle, who lives in Texas, told me that George W. Bush was going to be the next President. I thought to myself, Who is George W. Bush? Why should he of all people be President? But there he was, President right on schedule. Similarly, we have found ourselves frequently discussing Hillary Clinton, a woman who as far as I can tell has never held an administrative position of any sort in her entire life, as a likely candidate for the most important administrative position in the world. How does this happen? Beats me.

Even more troubling to one who has dedicated his life to the pursuit and application of logic is the outright refusal by partisans to listen or respond in any way to facts or arguments which logically contradict their stated positions. A certain troll infecting this very blog jumps immediately to mind, but my own political thinking isn't necessarily free of logical contradictions either. Still, how can people adhere to beliefs which are flat-out contradicted by the facts? How can people with a straight face claim to be "liberals" and at the same time favor Saddam Hussein's continued butchery?

A new study casts light on this dark corner of the human mind.

During the 2004 election campaign, Republican and Democratic partisans were hooked up to brain machines so their brain activity could be analyzed. The Republicans were handed a pair of statements from Bush which logically contradicted each other, the Democrats a similar pair of statements from Kerry. What happened?

That part of the brain which processes logic completely turned off. The partisans were physiologically unable to detect the logical contradictions. That's a little shocking, but not terribly surprising upon consideration.

Next, the statements were switched: the Republicans received the Kerry contradictions, the Democrats the Bush contradictions. This time the parts of the brain which involve logical decision-making lit up and both groups were able to detect the logical contradictions in the other party's candidate. Again, not terribly surprising.

Now here's the kicker. The very act of looking at logical contradictions in one's own candidate, while turning off the logical analysis parts of the brain, caused a completely different part of the brain to light up instead. "...activity spiked in the circuits involved in reward, a response similar to what addicts experience when they get a fix."

So there you have it. "Essentially, it appears as if partisans twirl the cognitive kaleidoscope until they get the conclusions they want, and then they get massively reinforced for it....", said one researcher. Trolls are getting a fix from denying reality, they're enjoying a rush from ignoring the logical contradictions. It follows that arguing logic and facts with such people is not only useless, but self-defeating. They are getting positive brain-shocks from reasserting their illogical statements in the face of contradictory facts. Denying reality is making them feel great.

Update: Specter in the comments below notes that the cited study was a very weak study as studies go, so don't take this as the Word of the Divine. Think of it only as a possible pointer in the right direction.

Thursday, January 26, 2006


Instapundit passed along this link re: cyber-disinhibition which, it turns out, is a short article written by Daniel Goleman, psychologist and author of Emotional Intelligence. I would never read the book as I have no interest or other connection with either intelligence or emotion. Besides, you people who work with whackos give me the heebie-jeebies. I figure that there's only the finest of lines between criminals and the people we hire to protect us from them and a similar thing can be projected out onto the shrinks.

But anyway, I wasn't going to bother reading about cyber-disinhibition but decided I would after all because, well, I remember the days pre-www when newsgroups were filled with the most remarkable flame wars over the most insignificant of things and I've always found this a mildly curious phenomenon.

The techie explanation for what I imagine we all more or less guess, is:

Communication via the Internet can mislead the brain's social systems. The key mechanisms are in the prefrontal cortex; these circuits instantaneously monitor ourselves and the other person during a live interaction, and automatically guide our responses so they are appropriate and smooth. A key mechanism for this involves circuits that ordinarily inhibit impulses for actions that would be rude or simply inappropriate — or outright dangerous.

In order for this regulatory mechanism to operate well, we depend on real-time, ongoing feedback from the other person. The Internet has no means to allow such realtime feedback (other than rarely used two-way audio/video streams). That puts our inhibitory circuitry at a loss — there is no signal to monitor from the other person. This results in disinhibition: impulse unleashed.

What seems obvious but hadn't occured to me (I don't even have a good grasp of the obvious!) is:

Such disinhibition seems state-specific, and typically occurs rarely while people are in positive or neutral emotional states. That's why the Internet works admirably for the vast majority of communication. Rather, this disinhibition becomes far more likely when people feel strong, negative emotions. What fails to be inhibited are the impulses those emotions generate.

That failure to grasp the obvious wasn't nearly as disappointing to me as learning that it hasn't been my long hard attention to self-control that has led to my paltry level of success at not allowing myself to cyber-disinhibit. All I did was get freakin' older:

The greatest danger from cyber-disinhibition may be to young people. The prefrontal inhibitory circuitry is among the last part of the brain to become fully mature, doing so sometime in the twenties. During adolescence there is a developmental lag, with teenagers having fragile inhibitory capacities, but fully ripe emotional impulsivity.

Oh well, as the saying goes getting older is preferrable to the alternative.

Oddly enough there is even a connection to a part of what was discussed in What Am I Missing? below. I won't quote that here 'cause we more or less beat it to death there, but I found it interesting (and a potential legal defense!).

The bottom line, as Goleman points out, is

As with any new technology, the Internet is an experiment in progress. It's time we considered what other such downsides of cyber-disinhibition may be emerging — and looked for a technological fix, if possible. The dangerous thought: the Internet may harbor social perils our inhibitory circuitry was not designed to handle in evolution.

When it comes to communications humans are downright masters of adaptation. I suspect we'll manage to muddle through this. Except, of course, for the youngsters who always have communications issues anyway. The only real problem comes from those who insist this.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

What hath McCain-Feingold wrought?

Shut Up, They Explained - The left's regulatory war against free speech, by Brian Anderson in today's OpinionJournal, despite being the longest article I've ever seen there, is well worth reading in its entirety.

A sample:

The irony of campaign-finance reform is that the "corruption" it targets seems not to exist in any widespread sense. Studies galore have found little or no significant influence of campaign contributions on legislators' votes. Ideological commitments, party positions and constituents' wishes are what motivate the typical politician's actions in office. Aha! reformers will often riposte, the corruption is hidden, determining what Congress doesn't do--like enacting big gas taxes. But as Mr. Will notes, "that charge is impossible to refute by disproving a negative." Even so, such conspiracy-theory thinking is transforming election law into what journalist Jonathan Rauch calls "an engine of unlimited political regulation."

McCain-Feingold, the latest and scariest step down that slope, makes it a felony for corporations, nonprofit advocacy groups and labor unions to run ads that criticize--or even name or show--members of Congress within 60 days of a federal election, when such quintessentially political speech might actually persuade voters. It forbids political parties from soliciting or spending "soft money" contributions to publicize the principles and ideas they stand for. Amending the already baffling campaign-finance rules from the 1970s, McCain-Feingold's dizzying do's and don'ts, its detailed and onerous reporting requirements of funding sources--which require a dense 300-page book to lay out--have made running for office, contributing to a candidate or cause, or advocating without an attorney at hand unwise and potentially ruinous.

Not for nothing has Justice Clarence Thomas denounced McCain-Feingold's "unprecedented restrictions" as an "assault on the free exchange of ideas."

Campaign-finance reform has a squeaky-clean image, but the dirty truth is that this speech-throttling legislation is partly the result of a hoax perpetrated by a handful of liberal foundations, led by the venerable Pew Charitable Trusts. New York Post reporter Ryan Sager exposed the scam when he got hold of a 2004 videotape of former Pew official Sean Treglia telling a roomful of journalists and professors how Pew and other foundations spent years bankrolling various experts, ostensibly independent nonprofits (including the Center for Public Integrity and Democracy 21), and media outlets (NPR got $1.2 million for "news coverage of financial influence in political decision-making")--all aimed at fooling Washington into thinking that Americans were clamoring for reform, when in truth there was little public pressure to "clean up the system." "The target group for all this activity was 535 people in Washington," said Mr. Treglia matter-of-factly, referring to Congress. "The idea was to create an impression that a mass movement was afoot--that everywhere they looked, in academic institutions, in the business community, in religious groups, in ethnic groups, everywhere, people were talking about reform."

Mr. Treglia urged grantees to keep Pew's role hush-hush. "If Congress thought this was a Pew effort," he confided, "it'd be worthless. It'd be 20 million bucks thrown down the drain." At one point, late in the congressional debate over McCain-Feingold, "we had a scare," Mr. Treglia said. "George Will stumbled across a report we had done. . . . He started to reference the fact that Pew was playing a large role . . . [and] that it was a liberal attempt to hoodwink Congress. . . . The good news, from my perspective, was that journalists . . . just didn't care and nobody followed up." The hoaxers--a conspiracy of eight left-wing foundations, including George Soros's Open Society Institute and the Ford Foundation--have actually spent $123 million trying to get other people's money out of politics since 1994, Mr. Sager reports--nearly 90% of the spending by the entire campaign-finance lobby over this period.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

"No man is good enough to govern another man without that other's consent."

A message to Cuba via the US Interest Section in Havana.

MiamiHerald.com | 01/24/2006 | U.S. diplomats in Havana flash messages to Cuban protesters outside...

Calling Hercule Poirot

There seems to have been a racist murder committed in Brussels by Moroccan youth. The socialist parties of Europe are going to have to deal with the law and order issue at some point instead of making excuses and hoping the whole problem goes away or, even worse, exploiting the immigrant community for votes, something that reminds me of the Democratic Party here in the good old USA pandering to inner city failure. Be that as it may, not only does it appear that many second generation Muslim emigrants have become homophobic and misogynist, but they have also become racist in the traditional way: despising blacks. Wherever these values come from, and Belgium itself as well as Islam and North African tradition seem likely sources, I think that the recent riots in Birmingham, England and Cronulla, Australia further illustrate the problem.

Why have these attitudes come to prominence? Why should the second generation have more problems than the first? I suspect this results from a combination of things. First, we are speaking of young men who, if not disciplined, trained, and brought into the work force, are always going to be a problem. All that young masculine energy and striving is going to go express itself somewhere. Second, there is a lack of law enforcement in the immigrant ghettos. This is cowardice masquerading as multiculturalism: no one wants to suffer the violence and danger that enforcing the law would entail, it is easier to leave the isolated communities alone and let them to go to Hell unseen and unheard. Third, I think that many Europeans just don't want to admit that the immigrants are there to stay and need to be dealt with. So problems are ignored, money is thrown at unemployed youth to buy them off, and the cowardice of the authorities earns contempt while promoting an attitude of arrogance. And who of us wouldn't be arrogant if we belonged to a group that could get away with most anything without suffering serious consequence or risking a fight?

Watching Europe is like watching an old movie where the dot of an aircraft, its engine wailing louder and louder, accelerates earthward until it impacts in a cloud of black smoke. Except in this case the pilot is mumbling 60's platitudes to the inert Gods of Socialism instead of rasslin' with the stick to pull out of the dive.

Some more thoughts on anti-Americanism

Instapundit points to this Clive Davis report about the BBC's American correspondant's claim that America bashing has gone too far.

A few days ago the reporter was duly hauled up in front of the Feedback programme in order to explain himself. Yet even after apologising for expressing himself "a little too warmly", Webb stood firm:

...What I was trying to do - and I would say this in mitigation - was puncture an atmosphere which developed, I thought, during this broadcast, and which I think occasionally does develop on the BBC and on other broadcasting outlets, where there is a kind of cosy feeling that somehow if only America would behave differently, then everything in the world would be fine. I think that is a view which does annoy and upset Americans, as I said it did. And it's not just the White House - it is a broader thing than that - and also a view which is, to put it mildly, open to challenge, and that's what I hoped to do....

Later, he went out of his way to reject the notion that he had, in that quaint British phrase, "gone native".
The Beeb's man (JW), after suitable groveling and penitence, went on to say:

JW. I don't think there's a double-standard at a conscious level. I don't think the BBC has a double standard. I've never been told what to say one way or the other

RB. But you're saying there's a greater readiness to criticize America than there is to criticize China, or perhaps Saudi Arabia or other countries in the Middle East?

JW. And the reason is , I think, that it's easier, that we have a problem reporting open societies, particularly in a time of great international turmoil and war. It's just easier to criticize, it's easier to get information, it's easier to find people within the society who are immensely critical of it Yet when you think of China, when you think of the Taliban...when you think of the situation in Iran it's just more difficult to get a handle on what's going on in those places. And I think there is a tendency, which we always have to guard against, of being tougher on democratic societies simply because it's easier.

Yeah, well, no kiddin', JW. Even with Chimpy McBu$hitler's Gestapo running the plantation nobody is going to string you up or disappear you.

Another take on rampant international anti-Americanism is available in Jan/Feb Foreign Affairs article David’s Friend Goliath by Michael Mandelbaum. I think there's some room to take issue with some of the assertions Mandelbaum makes but he's got the overall picture correct. It begins:

Everybody talks about the weather, Mark Twain once observed, but nobody does anything about it. The same is true of America’s role in the world. The United States is the subject of endless commentary, most of it negative, some of it poisonously hostile. Statements by foreign leaders, street demonstrations in national capitals, and much-publicized opinion polls all seem to bespeak a worldwide conviction that the United States misuses its enormous power in ways that threaten the stability of the international system. That is hardly surprising. No one loves Goliath. What is surprising is the world’s failure to respond to the United States as it did to the Goliaths of the past.

Sovereign states as powerful as the United States, and as dangerous as its critics declare it to be, were historically subject to a check on their power. Other countries banded together to block them. Revolutionary and Napoleonic France in the late 18th and early 19th century, Germany during the two world wars, and the Soviet Union during the Cold War all inspired countervailing coalitions that ultimately defeated them. Yet no such anti-American alignment has formed or shows any sign of forming today. Widespread complaints about the United States’ international role are met with an absence of concrete, effective measures to challenge, change, or restrict it.

The gap between what the world says about American power and what it fails to do about it is the single most striking feature of 21st-century international relations.

and ends:

In the end, however, what other nations do or do not say about the United States will not be crucial to whether, or for how long, the United States continues to function as the world’s government. That will depend on the willingness of the American public, the ultimate arbiter of American foreign policy, to sustain the costs involved. In the near future, America’s role in the world will have to compete for public funds with the rising costs of domestic entitlement programs. It is Social Security and Medicare, not the rise of China or the kind of coalition that defeated powerful empires in the past, that pose the greatest threat to America’s role as the world’s government.

The outcome of the looming contest in the United States between the national commitment to social welfare at home and the requirements for stability and prosperity abroad cannot be foreseen with any precision. About other countries’ approach to America’s remarkable 21st-century global role, however, three things may be safely predicted: They will not pay for it, they will continue to criticize it, and they will miss it when it is gone.

Along the way he covers a good deal of ground. It is worth the few minutes to read. I take issue with his qualifier that efforts to "challenge, change, or restrict" the US must be "concrete" and "effective" or they are not real. The fact that the UN is feckless and corrupt does not mean it hasn't been seen, and used, in an attempt to - at the very least - restrict the US. Part of the EU's problems, IMO, are directly the fault of the organizational goal of challenging, changing, and restricting the US. And we certainly have seen determined (and somewhat effective) groupings of nations of the Middle East to challenge the Superhyperhegemon. But other than picking that nit...

Boys will be boys but will they be educated?

Catherine Johnson is all over the boys in school stuff at Kitchen Table Math. (You gotta scroll beyond a brief rant at the top.) There's some interesting stuff there and a plethora of links.

Dawn of a New Era

You're looking at the Japanese H-IIA Launch Vehicle pushing the ALOS (Advanced Land Observing Satellite) satellite into orbit from the Tanegashima Space Center early this morning. It contains several sensors, but especially noteworthy is the PALSAR (Phased Array type L-band Synthetic Aperture Radar) instrument. This is the first commercial fully-polarimetric spaceborne SAR ever to be seen. It can see through clouds during both night and day operations. It operates in L-band, which means it can see through trees.

What does this mean to me, you ask. It means that we now have a cost-effective means for monitoring terrorists and enemies operating under the trees or at night for the first time. If the Japanese are kind enough to allow us the use of their shiny new toy.

Originally designed to be launched in 2002, more can be found here, in Japanese here, and in Eurospeak here.

Note on politics. You'll notice that there's a paucity of information on this in the American press, and no news about it coming out of NASA. That's because the Japanese have taken the lead while the Americans are sitting on their duffs. But don't worry. We'll build better cars instead. Not. So we'll build bullet trains. Er, that would be the Europeans and Chinese.

The Germans are scheduled to launch a similar satellite this year, followed by the Canadians. Yes, even the Canadians are putting us to technological shame these days. No similar American satellite is even contemplated at this point. We'll be relying completely on these three allies for our monitoring needs. I guess we'll want to maintain good relations. So sit back, open a beer, and enjoy a toast to Yankee Japanese ingenuity.

12 Years Just Isn't Enough

for Risen, Keller and Sulzberger. Richard Baehr, in an excellent American Thinker piece, makes a convincing argument that the folks at the Times involved in releasing a story that compromised American security have exposed themselves to criminal liability. The crux of his argument ties to the language used by the judge in sentencing Larry Franklin, a Pentagon employee who pleaded guilty to charges of passing classified DoD documents to two former employees of AIPAC and to an Israeli diplomat.

US District Judge T. S. Ellis III stated (according to an AP report) “that civilians who receive and disseminate unauthorized classified information are as culpable as the government officials who leak it.”

General Michael Hayden layed the predicate concerning the seriousness of the potential charges against the Time's employees in a speech yesterday (PDF) during which he said that:

"Had this program been in effect prior to 9/11, it is my professional judgment that we would have detected some of the 9/11 al Qaeda operatives in the United States, and we would have identified them as such."

Readers may want to mull that one over while thinking about the idiocy committed by the Times which put an NSA director in front of an audience explaining a program whose effectiveness is in great part due to the fact that it was secret. I would encourage you to read all of Gen. Hayden's speech to gain an understanding what type of people work at NSA and what principles guide them. We owe them our thanks and gratitude in precisely the same manner in which we are indebted to the men and women who have chosen to serve their country in uniform.

Journalists have absolutely no special standing under the federal law. They are not "priviledged" under federal statute because of their occupation. They are employees of companies whose main function is to garner profit. The vast majority of the practitioners of the craft are honorable and decent people doing a job they enjoy to the best of their ability. It is truly unfortunate that a contemptible few choose to dishonor their calling by disguising propaganda as news.

Risen, Keller and Sulzberger should have the opportunity to defend their actions in court. If found guilty then their sentences should be commensurate with the damage they have done. Twelve years just won't be enough.

Living in the bubble

I have to admit, this BBC news report is a real gem: it reports upbeat news from Iraq and Afghanistan and positive signs in newly-conservative Germany (juxtaposed against worsening gloom in France).

Better yet, it perfectly captures the Beeb’s unique style of bias: subtle, yet unmistakable.

First of all, the item is relegated away from the picture stories on the main page (“Canada Conservatives win election,” “Europe 'knew about' CIA flights;” “3D structure of HIV is 'revealed'”) to the end of a list of other less-important stories (“Saddam trial is postponed;” “Ailing Kuwait ruler ousted by MPs;” “Congo to lead African Union;” “Iraq general's killer reprimanded;” and “Six killed in Iran bomb attacks.”)

Second, the title is not “Iraqis and Afghanis Excited About Future;” or “Iraqis and Afghanis Optimistic;” or even “Iraqis and Afghanis Must Wear Shades.” Instead, the report is titled “Poll finds surprising optimists,” thereby avoiding any mention of Iraqis and Afghanis – and focusing instead on the fact that this is, after all, only a poll. (Is the Beeb always this careful when reporting the results of a poll rather than an immutable fact – for example, when reporting on GW’s ‘popularity’?)

Next the upbeat result is explained away: Iraq and Afghanistan, we're told, have been “devastated by war and civil conflict.” (Not decades of dictatorial rule, you understand.) Thus, as the “experts” at the polling firm who conducted the survey have suggested, the “war may have created a "year zero" experience of collectively starting again.” In other words, Iraqis and Afghanis are only optimistic as a reaction to the devastating invasions illegally launched by Cowboy Bush!

Most revealing of all, however, is the Beeb’s “surprise” at the results – and the way it expresses that surprise as the only response that any sane person would have. This is reminiscent of liberal film critic Pauline Kael’s expression of disbelief in Nixon’s trouncing of McGovern, given that she didn't know anyone who voted for him.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Red is the "in" color in Canada

Congratulations to Stephen Harper for following Truepeers advice and leading the Conservatives to victory in Canada. May it be the first of many.

Now I don't feel so bad ...

... about having 3 separate sets of Beethoven's Symphonies. Here's Tyler Cowen on 14 versions of Don Giovanni.

(Ordered the Gardiner one, will report back.)

Chirac Rattles Nuclear Saber

A link via my personal news service from the Tocqueville Connection, carries this:

On Thursday, Chirac for the first time raised the threat of a nuclear strike on any state that launches "terrorist" attacks against France.

Although he did not single out any country, the warning could be intrepreted as including Iran -- frequently accused of sponsoring terrorism and under pressure over its disputed nuclear programme.

I am not sure what to make of it. When did France decide to grow a pair?

Is this what happens when we let Europe take the lead?

Junk Charts

Kaiser Fung has declared war on chartjunk.

Lots of good stuff in the archives.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Calling the Dog

Yep, that's what is happening here, the little beast isn't minding its masters. Remember when George Galloway was speaking truth to power in the halls of Congress? Now he's walking the dog.

What Rough Beast: the Prelude

This month is the twentieth anniversery of the first computer virus. I am going to celebrate by sitting down with a large glass of wine and contemplating which Linux distribution I want to play with next.

Abramoff Fallout

I wish Jay Cost would wrap up his doctorate soon and I hope his dissertation will be available as soon as it is accepted. Jay's current column at RealClearPolitics is the best summary of the probable outcome of the Abramoff scandal that I have read to date. The core of his argument:

From data like this, we have learned that he is a poor fit. We have learned two fundamental facts about how the average American voter thinks about politics. First, he has surprisingly low levels of political information. This is the principal mistake that many pundits make. They assume that the voter knows about as much about politics as the pundit does. Not true. Not even close. This fact has become so widely accepted among professional students of political behavior that the animating research question of the last 20 years has been: given these low levels of political information, how does the average voter make rational decisions, if indeed those decisions are rational at all? Second, he is, by and large, according to Michigan’s Donald Kinder, “innocent of ideology”. The conventional wisdom is that we are a 50-50 nation. This is not true if the 50 and the 50 are ideological conservatives and ideological liberals, respectively. It is not even true if we define the 50 and the 50 as “right leaning” and “left leaning”. Much of the public lacks the information necessary to develop a coherent political ideology akin to what political elites possess. Recent work suggests that about 30% of the public can engage in ideological thinking or effectively ideological thinking. The rest of the public organizes political information in some different kind of way.

reflects an understanding of the electorate absent from the babble generated by many political pundits. His evisceration of Howard Fineman could be written about many, if not most, of those who pontificate about an electorate that pays them no attention.

The Abramoff scandal is not about a "culture of corruption" but about the fact that power corrupts the weak, stupid and proud first. I hope that Gonzales' DoJ is meticulous and thorough in its investigation and prosecution of any office holder who clearly sold a vote for money. I also hope (vainly, I fear) that Congress might realize that no new idiocy is required in the way of a "law" which would undoubtedly be a series of loopholes with tatting around the edges to give a semblance of substance. The current law seems to be functioning quite well and legislation concerning outlawing stupidity has a dubious history. Application of the current law should be sufficient to stiffen resistance to temptation on the part of all but the weakest reeds.

what rough beast?

Ubiquity has an interview with Ray Kurzweil on the general topic of his book, The Singularity is Near.

I have always sensed a little of The Rapture in speculations about the Singularity. Nevertheless, anyone truly concerned about the future must acquaint themselves with the concept. The technological reality slouching toward us demands a certain preparation, mental and otherwise.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Dog That Just Won’t Bark

Fallout continues regarding the NYT’s publication of an obviously-staged propaganda photo related to the recent US airstrike in Pakistan.

Here, for example, Thomas Lifson, editor and publisher of The American Thinker, eviscerates NYT Executive Editor Bill Keller’s response to his criticism of that publication.

Lifson notes the 'curious incident' occasioned by Keller’s utter failure to bark at the AFP: “Bill Keller’s lack of protest over being had, his lack of evident resolve to get to the bottom of the situation, and his unwillingness to confront the actual criticism I made suggest some pretty ugly conclusions. He has been duped and he is content to pretend it is all just a little thing, not his fault, and that doesn’t matter very much, anyway.”

I wonder what Holmes would have made of it?

Pulling the gun away

Austin Bay has the good and bad news on the Iraqi Elections.

Wikipedia on the Liberal Party of Canada

Someone replaced the Liberal Party logo at Wikipedia with something more topical. Wikipedia's ability to ride the onrushing currents of history is unrivaled. Nitpickers may question its accuracy, but here it reveals the wisdom of the masses and recovers a deeper truth. More coverage at Silent Running .

More War and Politics

You know what they say, if you can't beat them, join them.

It seems that Senator Evan Bayh has decided he will beat Hillary to the punch and go to the right of Bush on Iran by introducing legislation calling for sweeping sactions against Iran:

"We have wasted valuable time, diverted resources and ignored this problem at our peril." Mr. Bayh says noting that he supports a ban on gasoline sales to Iran and other economic punishments. "No one wants to forestall the need to use military force more than I do, but if we are to do we must act now".

You know foreigners think they can divide this country and every now and then they succeed but sometimes when push comes to shove our politicians are united by the desire to win elections.

Iran offers the Democrats an oppurtunity to look tough, after their fractured and often times humiliating response to Iraq and the difficulties encountered there.

The mullahs are mistaken if they think they can play Democrats against Republicans, at least at this stage of the game. Very few Democrats want to be seen pandering to these guys. Democrats remember the Iranian mullahs... they are the ones who ruined Jimmy Carter and took our embassy and held our people. And Evan Bayh and Hillary Clinton want everyone to know, they are not Jimmy Carter.

The question is will the Democats remember that in the morning when cold light of dawn breaks on the very real possibility of another war?

Will any of us?

Friday, January 20, 2006

Rock and a hard Place

The Dow fell by 213.36 points today, the largest decline in a single session since April 2003.

Oil was up to over $68 a barrel. Iran is pulling money out of Europe. Citibank and GE had disappointing earnings.

Iran is getting frisky and reminding us they can shut that oil off any damn time they feel like it. After all it is their oil.

Well, the mullahs claiming that oil is their oil is a lot like a bank robber claiming the money in the vault is his money.

I remember the Oil Crisis. The people that were the most hurt were the poor, here and all over the world. It precipitated the largest transfer of wealth in history and the people who made the most money off that debacle spent it on Terror and gold encrusted toilet seats.

At what point does the world say it is tired of a bunch of autocratic midieval crybabies and vengence seekers controlling the world economy?

Would we be better off we just bombed Iran's oil facilities and beat them to the punch? With 80% of his country's GDP gone how long would the mad mullah with the green aura last?

The Rules

WHEREAS, 95 percent of all the e-mail received by critics and columnists is civil, friendly or respectfully constructive;

but WHEREAS, this is the Internet age, and we're all anonymous and can avoid making eye contact forever;

and WHEREAS, there's so much information overload, a little heat and drama on your part may be necessary just to be heard above the din;

and WHEREAS, many of those who fire off potshots are missing out on some of the best techniques for effective snippiness;

THEREFORE let us now post the rules for membership in the Pills of the American Internet Neighborhood Society.

1. Use the strongest language possible. Calling names is always effective, and four-letter words show that you mean business.

2. Having a violent opinion of something doesn't require you to actually try it yourself. After all, plenty of people heatedly object to books they haven't read or movies they haven't seen. Heck, you can imagine perfectly well if something is any good.

3. If it's a positive review that you didn't like, call the reviewer a "fanboy." Do not entertain the notion that the product, service, show, movie, book or restaurant might, in fact, be good. Instead, assume that the reviewer has received payment from the reviewee. Work in the word "shill" if possible.

4. If it's a negative review, call the reviewer a "basher" and describe the review as a "hatchet job." Accuse him of being paid off by the reviewee's *rival*.

5. If it's a mixed review, ignore the passages that balance the argument. Pretend that the entire review is all positive or all negative. Refer to it either as a "rave" or a "slam."

6. If you find a sentence early in the article that rubs you the wrong way, you are by no means obligated to finish reading. Stop right where you are--express your anger while it's still good and hot! What are the odds that the writer is going to say anything else relevant to your point later in the piece, anyway?

7. If the writer responds to your e-mail with evidence that you're wrong (for example, by citing a paragraph that you overlooked), disappear without responding. This is the anonymous Internet; slipping away without consequence or civility is your privilege.

8. Trolling is making a deliberately inflammatory remark, one that you know perfectly well is baloney, just to get a rise out of other people. Trolling is an art. Trolling works just fine for an audience of one (say, a journalist), but of course the real fun is trolling on public bulletin boards where you can get dozens of people screaming at you simultaneously. Comments on religion, politics or Mac-vs.-Windows are always good bets. The talented troll sits back to enjoy the fireworks with a smirk, and never, ever responds to the responses.

9. Don't let generalities slip by. Don't tolerate simplifications for the sake of a non-technical audience. Ignore conditional words like "generally," "usually" and "most." If you read a sentence that says, for example, "The VisionPhone is among the first consumer videophones," cite the reviewer's ignorance and laziness for failing to mention the prototype developed by AT&T for the 1964 World's Fair. Send copies of your note to the publication's publisher and, if possible, its advertisers.

And there you have it: the nine habits of highly effective pills. After all: if you're going to be a miserable curmudgeon, you may as well do it up right! —How to Be a Curmudgeon on the Internet - New York Times

One question: what the hell is a "pill"?

"Here, then, was this grey- headed, ungodly old man ..."

... chasing with curses a Job's whale round the world, at the head of a crew, too, chiefly made up of mongrel renegades, and castaways, and cannibals - morally enfeebled also, by the incompetence of mere unaided virtue or right- mindedness in Starbuck, the invulnerable jollity of indifference and recklessness in Stubb, and the pervading mediocrity in Flask. Such a crew, so officered, seemed specially picked and packed by some infernal fatality to help him to his monomaniac revenge. How it was that they so aboundingly responded to the old man's ire - by what evil magic their souls were possessed, that at times his hate seemed almost theirs; the White Whale as much their insufferable foe as his; how all this came to be - what the White Whale was to them, or how to their unconscious understandings, also, in some dim, unsuspected way, he might have seemed the gliding great demon of the seas of life, - all this to explain, would be to dive deeper than Ishmael can go. The subterranean miner that works in us all, how can one tell whither leads his shaft by the ever shifting, muffled sound of his pick?"

I just thought we ought to have some moment of culture before I point out that Michael Moore is making an ass of himself again.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Politics and War

It is getting harder and harder to tell the enemy and the loyal opposition apart:

In my response to these fallacies, I say: The war in Iraq is raging and operations in Afghanistan are on the rise in our favour, praise be to God. The Pentagon figures indicate the rise in the number of your dead and wounded, let alone the huge material losses.

To go back to where I started, I say that the results of the poll satisfy sane people and that Bush's objection to them is false.

Reality testifies that the war against America and its allies has not remained confined to Iraq, as he claims. In fact, Iraq has become a point of attraction and recruitment of qualified resources

Believe it or not these words were spoken by Osama Bin Laden, not Nancy Pelosi.

via: powerline

Bush seeks omigod (shhhh) p*o*r*n

I don't get this at all.

The Bush administration on Wednesday asked a federal judge to order Google to turn over a broad range of material from its closely guarded databases.
In court papers filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose, Justice Department lawyers revealed that Google has refused to comply with a subpoena issued last year for the records, which include a request for 1 million random Web addresses and records of all Google searches from any one-week period.
government lawyers said in court papers they are developing a defense of the 1998 law based on the argument that it is far more effective than software filters in protecting children from porn. To back that claim, the government has subpoenaed search engines to develop a factual record of how often Web users encounter online porn and how Web searches turn up material they say is ``harmful to minors.''
Hey, Bush. I love ya, but DAMN. Why don't you hire 1000 Ashcrofts to sit at their computers for a week and, you know, Google. It would be cheaper. And, maybe I'm dumb, but when an adult hunts for you-know-what, what does it mean if he actually finds some?

The QUANTITY of stuff available has no relationship to accessibility. This is just plain DUMB.

And do you have any idea what you've done to the artist community? (like anyone here cares) The sites I frequent have gone overboard in their fear of Ashkroft's Amerika (no matter he isn't AG anymore). There's a Gorelick wall mentality in place now. Credit Card companies have gone bonkers as well and have made extremely strict rules about what sites they associate with.

Most of the rules are fine. But in their zeal they even forbid unclothed infants. I mean, not just diapers are required, but t-shirts as well.

This has gotten out of control.

Roger Simon says…

Roger Simon just told me by email that his site may be missing much of the day, as he resolves a hosting problem. I just looked and it's painting right now, but when the DNS change starts it will be hinky for a day or two.

(Hinky. That's a technical term.)

The bodies, the bodies!

Back to Damadola...

(I think the old saw is true: that the only way Americans learn geography is by going to war...how many Americans could find Afghanistan on the map before 9/11? Ever heard of Fallujah before Iraq?)

From the AP:

Pakistani intelligence agents hunted Wednesday for the graves of four al-Qaida militants believed killed in an airstrike near the Afghan border -- including at least one suspected high-ranking al-Qaida figure. ABC News and The New York Times reported that Pakistani officials believe a master bomb maker and chemical weapons expert for al-Qaida was killed in the attack on the village of Damadola last week. He was identified as Midhat Mursi, also known as Abu Khabab al-Masri, who ran an al-Qaida training camp and has a $5 million reward on his head. Also killed, Pakistani officials believe, was Khalid Habib, the al-Qaida operations chief for Pakistan and Afghanistan, ABC said. The Times, however, said officials were uncertain about whether he was killed.

The Times also reported that Pakistani officials believe Moroccan Abd al-Rahman al-Maghrebi, the son-in-law of al-Qaida No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri, and the man who ran the group's propaganda in the region, was killed in the strike. ABC described al-Maghrebi as a senior operations commander. The newspaper said an Egyptian chief of insurgent operations in a region near the airstrikes also was believed killed and an Egyptian associate of al-Zawahiri's was possibly slain.

Pentagon officials said they had no information on the reported identities of the dead and CIA spokesman Tom Crispell said the agency could not comment.

That's because nobody has the actual, er, bodies.

The New York Times:

The bodies of the men have not been recovered, but the two officials said the Pakistani authorities had been able to establish through intelligence sources the names of three of those killed in the strikes, and maybe a fourth. Both of the officials have provided reliable information in the past, but neither would be identified because they were not authorized to speak to the news media.
(Bill Roggio at Threats Watch says 'According to a trusted source, the DNA tests are complete and the two other other “foreigners” killed are said to be al-Qaeda bodyguards.' But, um, they don't have any bodies so I doubt that.)

So four, or five. Big ones. But there is yet another wrinkle. Two more bodies seem to be missing:

2 graves near Damadola found empty

The villagers are claiming 18 innocents died in the attack. There are 18 graves to match. But two are empty.

So the villagers, who insist no foreigners were in the area, were busy little beavers. They sorted the bodies, dug graves, buried the locals, and hid the foreigners.

And it's possible that an early report saying there were as many as 7 foreigners may have been correct after all.

Or not.

Islamic Extremism and Fear of Women's Sexuality

The German weekly, Stern, talks with Salman Rushdie.

British author Salman Rushdie said the West had failed to grasp the extent to which Islamic extremism was rooted in men's fear of women's sexuality.
"The Western-Christian world view deals with the issues of guilt and salvation, a concept that is completely unimportant in the East because there is no original sin and no savior," he said, in comments printed in German.

"Instead, great importance is given to 'honor'. I consider that to be problematic. But of course it is underestimated how many Islamists consciously or unconsciously attempt to restore lost honor."
Rushdie, 58, said that much of the anger toward the West was provoked by that split on sexual issues.

"(It is) because Western societies do not veil their women. Because they do not defuse this potential danger," he said.

Well, there certainly are other cultures with no concept of original sin and redemption and though they repress their women, probably for much the same reasons, they don't exactly veil them. Nor do they inflict suicide bombers on the rest of humanity in protest. I would surmise a lot of the actual overt behavior has as much to do with the not-to-be-named individual these Islamists are emulating.

Western culture has its rapists and sexual predators like any other society, and they existed long before women went bikini. But the majority of Western men adapted along with the hemlines. Today's erogenous zones are much smaller than they were a century ago.

But a religion written in stone and immutable does not allow its adherents to adapt, nor its erogenous zones to change. And it forces its women to be the keeper of the zone, refusing to give the male any responsibility for his own behavior.

(h/t Rantburg)

Harry Reid wants me to clean up Washington


I have been in public service for over 40 years and never been as disillusioned as I am today. In 1977, I was appointed chairman of the Nevada Gaming Commission. It was a difficult time for the gaming industry and Las Vegas, which were being overrun by organized crime.

During the next few years, there would be threats on my life, FBI stings and even a car bomb placed in my family's station wagon. What is happening today in Washington is every bit as corrupt as when Las Vegas was run by the mob, but the consequences for our country are worse. These Republicans have created the most corrupt government in our history. Their "K Street Project" is a shakedown machine that would make the mafia blush. We cleaned up Las Vegas, and we will clean up Washington DC.

Today, Democrats from Howard Dean in Ohio to Nancy Pelosi and me in Washington are declaring our commitment to a government as good and honest as the people it serves. To achieve that vision, this morning we introduced the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act. Our tough, real reforms go beyond the public relations fixes Republicans suggest.

For example, a key proposal in the Act, known as "The Jack Abramoff Rule," will ban staff and members from receiving gifts, meals and travel from lobbyists. This is not just about talking the talk; we are going to walk the walk, right now. Last night I told my staff that even though this bill is not yet law, our office will follow its provisions starting today. I am going to lead by example, and I challenge George Bush to do the same.

Join me, Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi, and hundreds of Democratic elected officials from around the country by signing the Honest Leadership Pledge. Our goal is to have one million Americans join us in this commitment to honest government:


Republicans will be introducing their own ethics legislation. Quite frankly, having Republicans trying to clean up the mess in Washington would be like asking John Gotti to clean up organized crime.

There is a price to pay for the culture of corruption, and we can see it in almost every major issue facing our country. Big Oil, protected by Republicans, reaped $100 billion in profits in 2005 while middle class families are paying more for gas, heat and other needs. Take the state of health care. There are the HMOs that benefited from the $10 billion slush fund in the Medicare bill. On the other side are seniors who face gaps in their coverage and skyrocketing prescription drug costs.

And then there is our national debt. On one side are the special interests and the multimillionaires who have received tremendous tax breaks over the last five years. On the other side are our children and grandchildren who will pay for these tax cuts when they inherit billions in debt.

We are seeing what happens when lawmakers and lobbyists conspire to put the needs of special interests before the needs of the American people. Democrats will put a stop to the culture of corruption -- period.

Join us and sign the Honest Leadership Pledge today by visiting:


Thank you,

Harry Reid

P.S. I know similar emails are being sent today by a variety of Democratic organizations. If you are receiving multiple emails on the same topic, it is only because this issue is so important, we are banding together, as a party, to address this issue in one voice.


I feel so... needed.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

The Marriage Gap

The Winter 2006 issue of the City Journal includes Marriage and Caste - America’s chief source of inequality? The Marriage Gap by Kay S. Hymowitz. It is a long article which tells us, in softer tones and fewer graphs, yet again some of what Herrnstein and Murray told us a decade ago in Bell Curve : Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life.

Hymowitz avoids framing the matter at hand as one of intelligence. That is purely my definition of what it at stake. She (I'm presuming "Kay" is a "she") opens with:

For a while it looked like Hurricane Katrina would accomplish what the NAACP never could: reviving civil rights liberalism as a major force in American politics. There it was for the whole world to see: the United States was two nations, one rich, one poor and largely black, one driving away in the family SUV to sleep in the snug guest rooms of suburban friends and relatives, the other sunk in the fetid misery of the Superdome. Newsweek, echoing Michael Harrington’s 1962 landmark book that ignited the War on Poverty, titled its Katrina coverage “The Other America” and warned the nation not to return to the “old evasions, hypocrisies, and not-so-benign neglect” of the “problems of poverty, race, and class.”

Though that liberalism revival only lasted for about five minutes, the post-Katrina insight was correct. There are millions of poor Americans, living not just in down-on-your-luck hardship but in entrenched, multigenerational poverty. There is growing inequality between the haves and the have-nots. And there are reasons to worry whether the American dream is within the reach of all.

But what two-America talk doesn’t get is just how much these ominous trends are entangled with the collapse of the nuclear family. While Americans have been squabbling about gay marriage, they have managed to miss the real marriage-and-social-justice issue, one that affects far more people and threatens to undermine the American project. We are now a nation of separate and unequal families not only living separate and unequal lives but, more worrisome, destined for separate and unequal futures.

She continues with a look at the conventional wisdoms in play to explain what seems somewhat obvious to many of us but then things begin to get interesting:

That picture turns out to be as equivocal as an Escher lithograph, however. As the massive social upheaval following the 1960s—what Francis Fukuyama has termed “the Great Disruption”—has settled into the new normal, social scientists are finding out that when it comes to the family, America really has become two nations. The old-fashioned married-couple-with-children model is doing quite well among college-educated women. It is primarily among lower-income women with only a high school education that it is in poor health.
Hymowitz goes on to present the data that recent studies are publishing. She takes us from 1960 to today, exploring how increases in children born to, and raised by, single mothers of three different educational levels (college degree and above, HS grad and some college, and HS dropouts) all rose to similar relative degrees until:

But around 1980, the family-forming habits of college grads and uneducated women went their separate ways. For the next decade the proportion of college-educated moms filing for divorce stopped increasing, and by 1990 it actually starting going down. This was not the case for the least educated mothers, who continued on a divorce spree for another ten years. It was only in 1990 that their increase in divorce also started to slow and by 2000 to decline, though it was too late to close the considerable gap between them and their more privileged sisters.

Far more dramatic were the divergent trends in what was still known at the time as illegitimacy. Yes, out-of-wedlock childbearing among women with college diplomas tripled, but because their numbers started at Virtually Nonexistent in 1960 (a fraction of 1 percent), they only moved up to Minuscule in 1980 (a little under 3 percent of mothers in the top third of education distribution) to end up at a Rare 4 percent.

Things were radically different for mothers in the lower two educational levels. They decided that marriage and children were two entirely unconnected life experiences. That decline in their divorce rate after 1990? Well, it turns out the reason for it wasn’t that these women had thought better of putting their children through a parental breakup, as many of their more educated sisters had; it was that they weren’t getting married in the first place. Throughout the 1980s and nineties, the out-of-wedlock birthrate soared to about 15 percent among mothers with less than a high school education and 10 percent of those with a high school diploma or with some college.

She goes on to explore some of the CWs and assumptions that are prevalent regarding the causes for this divergence and explores the numbers. You may not have seen the numbers but you've heard the CWs and assumptions.

Hymowitz then begins to close in on her target:

When Americans began their family revolution four decades ago, they didn’t tend to talk very much about its effect on children. That oversight now haunts the country, as it becomes increasingly clear that the Marriage Gap results in a yawning social divide. If you want to discuss why childhood poverty numbers have remained stubbornly high through the years that the nation was aggressively trying to lower them, begin with the Marriage Gap.
Again we get some stats and CW about marriage, economic wellbeing, and children. But the target is in her crosshairs and she isn't about to let it get away:

All this makes depressing sense, but when you think about it, the Marriage Gap itself presents a puzzle. Why would women working for a pittance at the supermarket cash registers decide to have children without getting married, while women writing briefs at Debevoise & Plimpton, who could easily afford to go it alone, insist on finding husbands before they start families?
More stats, CWs, assumptions... but the sights are steadying, the breathing becoming quiet and controlled, the trigger finger sensitized... Some attention to surrounding details is paid, range safety examined, positions of CWs and assumptions fixed and noted... rules of engagement reviewed...

Educated, middle-class mothers tend to be dedicated to what I have called The Mission, the careful nurturing of their children’s cognitive, emotional, and social development, which, if all goes according to plan, will lead to the honor roll and a spot on the high school debate team, which will in turn lead to a good college, then perhaps a graduate or professional degree, which will all lead eventually to a fulfilling career, a big house in a posh suburb, and a sense of meaningful accomplishment.
Time is not an issue... the target is not a fast moving one... review... review... rules of engagement... be sure of a righteous kill... no stone unturned...

To repeat the question: Why do educated women marry before they have children? Because, like high-status women since status began, they are preparing their offspring to carry on their way of life. Marriage radically increases their chances of doing that.

This all points to a deeply worrying conclusion: the Marriage Gap—and the inequality to which it is tied—is self-perpetuating. A low-income single mother, unprepared to carry out The Mission, is more likely to raise children who will become low-income single parents, who will pass that legacy on to their children, and so on down the line. Married parents are more likely to be visiting their married children and their grandchildren in their comfortable suburban homes, and those married children will in turn be sending their offspring off to good colleges, superior jobs, and wedding parties. Instead of an opportunity-rich country for all, the Marriage Gap threatens us with a rigid caste society.

So what is it about the nuclear family that makes it work so well for children decades after Americans have declared it optional?

Scan the surroundings one more time... Those CWs and assumptions and expert opinions are everywhere...

But this theory finally doesn’t explain all that much. If two parents are what make a difference, then why, when a divorced mother remarries, do her children’s outcomes resemble those of children from single-parent homes more than they do those from intact families? Why do they have, on average, lower school grades, more behavior problems, and lower levels of psychological well-being—even when a stepparent improves their economic standard of living?...

You could posit that children in stepfamilies may well have suffered through their parents’ divorce or have had a difficult spell in a single-parent home...

Others take an alternative approach to the question of why children growing up with their own two married parents do better than children growing up without their fathers. It’s not marriage that makes the difference for kids, they argue; it’s the kind of people who marry...


The problem with this theory is that it merely tiptoes up to the obvious. There is something fundamentally different about low-income single mothers and their educated married sisters. But a key part of that difference is that educated women still believe in marriage as an institution for raising children. What is missing in all the ocean of research related to the Marriage Gap is any recognition that this assumption is itself an invaluable piece of cultural and psychological capital—and not just because it makes it more likely that children will grow up with a dad in the house. As society’s bulwark social institution, traditional marriage—that is, childbearing within marriage—orders social life in ways that we only dimly understand.

All that remains is to dress the kill. Ms. Hymowitz does that for us. Nice shot, Kay.