Friday, February 29, 2008

Althouse: Let's watch the YouTubed Hillary ad that the NYT has frontpaged right now.

Althouse: Let's watch the YouTubed Hillary ad that the NYT has frontpaged right now.: "Anytime people are crying for us to do something 'for the children' you should watch out for two things--your wallet and your freedom--because they're coming for them both." (Comment by "Windbag" at Althouse.)

"... people like them."

William M. Briggs, Statistician: "Political and economic theories are strong stuff and even the worst of them is indestructible. No amount of evidence or argument can kill them because they can always find refuge among the tenured. The academics believe in these theories ardently and often argue that they should be given the chance—because they are so educated and we are not—to implement them. They think that—quite modestly of course–because they are so smart and expert, that they can decide what is best for those not as smart and expert. Their hero is Plato who desired a country run by philosophers, the best of the best thinkers. In other words, people like them.

The ordinary, uneducated man is more likely to just want to be left alone in most matters and would design his laws accordingly. He would in general opt for freedom over guardianship. He is street-smart enough to know that his decisions often have unanticipated outcomes, and is therefore less lofty in his goals. And this is why Buckley would choose people from the phone book rather the from the campus."

Liberal Fascism on National Review Online

Liberal Fascism on National Review Online: "The reaction from so many liberals to William F. Buckley's death is a good case in point. How many of them insist that even though Buckley recanted his earlier views on race that these views are all important and eternal when it comes to assessing the man? But the fact that the founding fathers of Progressivism and modern liberalism were chock-a-block with imperialists, racists, eugenicists, fascist-sympathizers and crypto-fascists is not only completely irrelevant but tediously old news?"

Friday Links

How do ants know what to do?

Arrested for flirting.

Introducing Dilandau.

Anatomy of an illusion.

Advice to young writers about money.

Starting a new project with Django.

Obsolete skills.

The graphics programming black book.

What Europeans think of each other.

The Newspond.

Telling when you should be showing.

Twenty years of movie receipts (this one's worth checking out merely to change your point of view on what a chart can be).

Cupertino's Charming Charmer

Some folks just walk on water as far as their fans and followers are concerned. When Jim Jones told his 900 or so swooning followers to drink the poisoned Kool-Aid, they drank. You betcha. While a young and rather foolish John F. Kennedy pulled the country to the brink of nuclear destruction, his swooning followers in the press called it "Camelot" (pronounced with a lilt in the voice and a wistful sigh). They still do, come to think of it. When the second-rate actor Ronald Reagan took the reins of government in hand and gave some good speeches, his swooning followers called him the "teflon president".

Much as such behavior is anathema to a rationalist-idealist like myself, realism dictates that it is an inescapable part of reality which we must account for if we are to be halfway serious in our understanding of the nature of the world.

Thus it should come as no surprise that, though many lesser mortals have been forced into jail for robbing the public through options backdating, Steve Jobs's flagrant dips into the till have gone unremarked by his legions of swooning followers. After all, he is the head of "the world's only publically-traded religion".

Sadly, as we have come to learn with the Clintons and others, power corrupts, and the longer one is able to get away with it the more shameless one becomes with one's predations. And so today's news that Apple has secretly set up its operating system to cripple rival software, and the lack of any discernible response to such news among the swooning fans. Microsoft was caught trying the same nefarious trick two decades ago and was punished, as it should have been, for this ethical lapse. It is continuing to pay the price for its misdeeds today. Don't hold your breath waiting for the anguished cries of outrage from the Apple acolytes consumers.

(Full disclosure: the author is an employee of Microsoft Corporation.)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Wanna Bet? :: Daniel W. Drezner :: Drezner gets results from the Financial Times: "Democrats cannot simultaneously talk about improving America's standing abroad while acting like a belligerent unilateralist when it comes to trade policy."

Trade Agreements are Hopeless

National Review's Rich Lowry says the audacity of hope doesn't extend to trade agreements.

For Barack Obama, hope can triumph over anything, except for open trade with a neighboring country with an economy 1/20th the size of ours. Then, all is despair. Obama's culprit is Mexico, our third-largest trading partner. It is trade deals like NAFTA -- the 1993 accord eliminating tariffs among the U.S., Mexico, and Canada -- that 'ship jobs overseas and force parents to compete with teenagers for minimum wage at Wal-Mart,' Obama intones. Feel inspired yet? . . .

"Obama always says that politicians should tell voters what they need -- not what they want -- to hear. But no one in the Democratic party will emphatically say that trade is a net benefit to the U.S., even if it brings painful -- and ultimately unavoidable -- dislocations. Hillary Clinton always was lukewarm about NAFTA, and even Bill is skittering away from his legacy.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Wednesday Links

Does Apple have the next generation interface?

The old guard KGB tightens its grip on Russia.

DatAmerica gets its claws into your confidential health records.

The most haunted places.

Who's really behind the Darfur genocide?

Programmers way past work.

A pivot table tutorial.

How to follow up.

Shooting down the satellites.

We don't see what we think we see.

Identical twins aren't genetically identical after all. Next they will tell me there's no Santa Claus and Castro is resigning.

14 grand engineering challenges.

Self-healing rubber.

A window into autism.

Is nanotech wrong (or are Americans just stupid)?

The audacity of data.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

DailyTech - Temperature Monitors Report Widescale Global Cooling

DailyTech - Temperature Monitors Report Widescale Global Cooling: "Twelve-month long drop in world temperatures wipes out a century of warming

Over the past year, anecdotal evidence for a cooling planet has exploded. China has its coldest winter in 100 years. Baghdad sees its first snow in all recorded history. North America has the most snowcover in 50 years, with places like Wisconsin the highest since record-keeping began. Record levels of Antarctic sea ice, record cold in Minnesota, Texas, Florida, Mexico, Australia, Iran, Greece, South Africa, Greenland, Argentina, Chile -- the list goes on and on."

The New York Inquirer

The New York Times takes a hint from Pravda in offering hoax after hoax.

BBC's Somali Service Explains the "Dressed" Pic

BBC NEWS | Africa | The meaning of Obama's robes: "This debate reminds me of people back home in Somalia, who say that women should not wear trousers, or other cultures who say men should not wear a tie. I just don't think it makes sense."

Monday, February 25, 2008

How to propagate errors with Kalman Filters

Yeah, the title is technical, but here is a case where what looks to be an error has been propagated into numerous papers and the Wikipedia article. The subject is the unscented Kalman filter, which is a way of estimating parameters given measurements that are nonlinear functions of those parameters. Part of the procedure is to compute a covariance matrix, a matrix that must be positive definite, by weighting a bunch of positive semidefinite matrices and adding them up. Now positive semidefinite matrices are a bit like non-negative numbers: if you multiply them by positive numbers and add up the results, you get a positive semidefinite matrix. In fact, the result should actually be positive if the unscented Kalman filter is applicable at all. But... let some of the multipliers be negative and all bets are off. Now one of the multiplicative weights one computes from the formulas in the articles can be negative. And not just a little negative, but negative enough that cancellation of terms leads to significant loss in numerical precision.

Pah, I went and derived the dang thing for myself. Then I went to the original paper where, lo and behold, it was done as G*d intended. Looking at the now universal screw up that fills the whole first page of a google search, it looks to me like it started as a punctuation error: confusing a dash with a minus. It's funny how these things propagate. And how few people really try to understand the tools they use. Reminds me of a citation error in Herzberg's famous spectroscopy book: article after article repeated the cite, they were all wrong. Apparently no one had actually read the paper they cited.

Of course, I might be wrong. But I don't think so.

Best headline this week.

Megan McArdle (February 25, 2008) - Forgotten, but not gone: "The reason that those of us on the fringe--libertarians, Greens, socialist workers, or what have you--do not have more representation in government is not because there is some structural problem with the American political system, like a lack of IRV or minority party candidates. The reason we don't have more representation is that most people just don't agree with us."


The New York Times' Dirty Work - HUMAN EVENTS: "The biggest story of last week was simply owned by the New York Times. The story featured devastating violations of ethical standards and serial failures to live up to a hard-earned reputation. It was almost bound to be a career-ender. And then there were the allegations the story made against Sen. John McCain."

Guardian, Idealist, or Artisan?

Choose one.

Forget "liberal" and "conservative"; according to an interesting essay in Slate, the three candidates still standing possess the three Myers-Briggs types known as ESTJ (Guardian), ESTP (Artisan), and ENFP (Idealist). If you're not familiar with the Myer-Briggs system, based on Jung's theories, follow the cited links for more information. But if like me you're a big believer in Myers-Briggs as an often uncanny predictor of probable actions and attitudes, you will find it important to know what you are getting before you buy.

Think about it for a second: should the President at this particular time be a Guardian, an Artisan, or an Idealist? To get some idea of what this might mean, here are some quotations from the Slate article cited. The references are to the psychologists Otto Kroeger and David Keirsey.

The ESTJ (Extroverted, Sensing, Thinking, Judging) is the Guardian.
Referring to ESTJs, Kroeger says, "[O]f all the sixteen types this is the most conventionally masculine."...
ESTJs are most comfortable in the world of the specific....
Guardian leaders are not the big thinkers or the bold doers....
ESTJs like nothing better than digging deep into the specifics of a system and batting out proposals with trusted staff, then presenting the perfect fait accompli to a grateful public....
The ESTJ can, to his detriment, says Keirsey, see the world as inhabited by good people and bad people....
Kroeger writes that ESTJs "do not cope well when things don't go as planned."

The ESTP (Extroverted, Sensing, Thinking, Perceiving) is the Artisan.
"Artisans need to be potent, to be felt as a strong presence and they want to affect the course of events," writes Keirsey....
They hunger to "have a piece of the action," "to make something happen" whether "on the battlefield" or "in the political arena."...
"Artisans also make everyone else look like amateurs when it comes to improvising survival tactics," writes Keirsey.

The ENFP (Extroverted, iNtuitive, Feeling, Perceiving), is the Idealist.
The ENFPs says Keirsey, are "filled with conviction that they can easily motivate those around them."...
[They] work to "kindle, to rouse, to encourage, even to inspire those close to them with their enthusiasm."...
[They are] "gifted in seeing the possibilities" of institutions and people....
Idealists, such as Thomas Paine, Mohandas Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr., tend to be leaders of movements, not office-holders....
Keirsey says that the Idealist is the unusual leader who is "comfortable working in a climate where everyone has a vote."...
As leaders, Keirsey says, the Idealists possess a "diplomatic intelligence." They "seek common ground," want to "forge unity," arrive at "universal truths," and are "trusting."

Forget the names, forget the parties, forget the past: these personalities are the choices we have. Which do you prefer, someone who digs deep into the specifics of a system and then imposes it top-down, someone who hungers for excitement and action but can deal well with a crisis, or someone inspiring, encouraging, rousing, and trusting? (H/T: Alistair)

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Oscar Winners

They're out.

The winners we care about are:

Best picture

Winner - No Country For Old Men

Best director

Winners - Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country For Old Men

Best actor

Winner - Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood

Best actress

Winner - Marion Cotillard, La Vie en Rose

Best supporting actress

Winner - Tilda Swinton, Michael Clayton

Best supporting actor

Winner - Javier Bardem, No Country For Old Men

Best foreign language film

Winner - The Counterfeiters (Austria)

Best animated feature film

Winner - Ratatouille

Best cinematography

Winner - There Will Be Blood

It appears that No Country for Old Men and There Will Be Blood are this year's must-sees.

Don't Panic About Disk Encryption

Click here to read my new article on Pajamas Media.

Sunday Links

What Muslims hate.

Hillary's spending fiasco.

Virtual teachers.

The God particle.

Watch free Star Trek episodes online.

Selling ads in videos.

Colorful atoms.

Obama's beef.


Better than Wikipedia.

Silverlight 2, with tutorials.

The most powerful laser.

The most precise clock.

Where horror movies are verboten.

6 principles for making new things.

Images of the nanoworld.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Nature is Stranger than Fiction

Am I the only one struck by the oddness of multi-millionaires who possess the best educations money can buy traveling about the country in their expensive private jets spending multi-millions of other people's money to lecture the rest of us on how nothing is more important than to help the poor?

Update: it seems that Victor Davis Hanson agrees.

What is Software Good For?

Kicking around ideas this morning it occurred to me that software is a hard sell, even though it's a huge very profitable industry. Contrary to belief on the DailyKOS and similar places, it's hard to get people to buy things. Even when those things are basically good for them. Why not just get your software for free?

There are many websites that make money, but largely they're just new-fangled versions of magazines. They're interesting because of the story they tell, perhaps with interactivity, but fundamentally interesting because of their daily newness, provided by human beings, not because they are on the internet or have anything to do with "high-tech".

So that got me to wondering: what exactly is software good for? It seems to me that software is only valuable ipso facto when it provides a new dimension to life, one that could not have existed in plain magazines, and that new dimension occurs because of its interactivity and automation. Automation is only useful when there are large volumes of things to do repeatedly, which only benefits large organizations for the most part. What about interactivity? I can only think of the following categories: games, education, conversation, creation, organization, and gambling. Games are obvious. Despite years of promise (and, let's face it, hype), the education market for software has never been very successful. Generally, the interfaces are too difficult and the benefits too small. Conversation includes blogs, IM, etc. Creation includes Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Powerpoint, while organization includes Outlook and MyYahoo among others.

Here's my question: does this cover the gamut? Is my thinking clear here?

Friday, February 22, 2008

The truth about Castro - The Denver Post

The truth about Castro - The Denver Post: "Cuba features a universal health care system, a minuscule 1.9 percent unemployment rate, near-total literacy, complete political 'unity' — and hundreds of thousands of people ready to risk their lives to get the hell out."

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Can we hear them now?

Back when Dubya was first elected there was no end of things he was blamed for. Not that that has changed.

In particular, however, the Buchananites and their ilk were fond of blaming GWB for the PRC dumping timber, steel, and most anything else one can think of into the US economy and putting Murricans (and Canucks) out of work. The decline of the US steel industry, and Billy Joel's Allentown, preceded Dubya's first term by nearly two decades. The US lumber/softwood industry has been complaining since I can remember and the US-Canada softwood dispute has been going on as long as we've heard the plaintive refrains of Allentown. I vaguely seem to recall complaints that China was dumping cement into the US marketplace (if you want to read more than you ever thought possible and China and cement, go here).

I even heard the most rabid of these people blame California wildfires on Bush II. But I digress.

A coworker recently returned from the PRC. Among many observations he shared was one that one sure way to get rich would be to sell concrete in the PRC. EU Referendum tells us about China and coal and other economic news from China (the links, especially this one, are worth following). Bloomberg tells us about the effect of Chinese imports on copper prices. There are conflicting reports about how large a steel importer China is but she is certainly rising up the ranks and challenging the US, Germany, and Italy.

The US, Chinese, and Indian economies (among others no doubt) have been pretty much rocking and rolling for the past 5 years or so. Surely there's been no shortage of customers for cement, steel/iron, coal, and timber/lumber. Yet I don't recall hearing a peep from the doom & gloomers. Why haven't they been singing the Hallelujah Chorus?

Quote of the Day

Best of the Web Today - "It's a man-bites-dog story, but the press corps looks more like a herd of sheep."

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Fall Election: Condensed Version

At last, Michelle Obama proud of America
“Hope is making a comeback and, let me tell you, for the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country. Not just because Barack is doing well, but I think people are hungry for change,” she said during a rally in downtown Milwaukee. --Michelle Obama

John McCain’s Feb. 19 Speech
“I don’t seek the office out of a sense of entitlement. I owe America more than she has ever owed me. I have been an imperfect servant of my country for many years. I have never lived a day, in good times or bad, that I haven’t been proud of the privilege.” --John McCain

Monday, February 18, 2008

Extremist Ideologies Insane Ends… | The Anchoress

Extremist Ideologies Insane Ends… | The Anchoress: "The fascist is whoever is trying to shut you up, shut you down, dis-employ you, silence you, cripple you or marginalize you for the crime of daring to fall out of step with the party and the conventional wisdom. Beware of them."

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Thursday Movie Review: There Will Be Blood

by Alistair

There Will Be Oscars, There Will Be Westerns

Although many have pointed to 2007 as the best year for films in quite some time, few have paid attention to what themes, if any, unite this year’s films. And as far as an overarching theme goes, you could do a lot worse than to point to the Western. In addition to the four or five critically acclaimed films that directly evoke the genre’s major characteristics, there are a handful of films like Into the Wild and Rescue Dawn that embody much of what we love about the cowboy philosophy. Not to mention the slew of crime films the year produced, whose anti-heroes embody the same sort of violent mysticism as the dust caked protagonists of westerns. Enough so, at any rate, to keep the two genres relatively close in my mind. So why the resurgence of the cowboy, be he a half-crazed Vietnam POW, a sad and wizened Texas lawman, or otherwise? Many may point to the relative success of 2005’s Brokeback Mountain—an undeniably sad and beautiful film because it so admirably showed the deep humanity of any number of denim-clad, dry-faced old men who (those of us from the West and Midwest are well aware) people the backgrounds of our lives and often go unconsidered. But although that film was set in the West and had some light to shine on the stoic cowboy as an American figure, it did not consider many of the things that make up 2007’s pearls in the genre.

These themes, which include violence, the order that sets in during a period of uncivilized lawlessness, the transition from one frontier to another, the formation of modern America, honor among sinners, and the creation and destruction of mythical figures, owe their most recent and best incarnation to the brilliant HBO series Deadwood. A series whose creator David Milch has been thoroughly obsessed with these issues, attacking them from several directions, and bringing them to the forefront as strong artistic fodder; a trend many have picked up on. And of the many who released strong, thoughtful films that seriously engaged the western tradition while transforming it into something new, I found There Will Be Blood to be the film that follows closest in Deadwood’s hallowed footsteps.

Part of the similarity undeniably lies in Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance, which will almost undoubtedly earn him an Oscar . After seeing Gangs of New York I have frequently asked anyone who would listen “How good would Deadwood be if Daniel Day-Lewis played Swearengen (Deadwood’s pragmatic and ruthless crime boss)?” There is an undeniable similarity between Daniel Plainview, Day-Lewis’s character in Blood, and Ian McShane’s Al Swearengen, both in how the characters are conceived and how the actors portray them. Both men speak within a brilliant homespun oratorical style that hints at the violence just barely beneath the surface. Both men are smarter than those that surround them and know how to manipulate them to get what they want (although, like the former trait, Swearengen excels more at this with a god-like omnipotence). Both men are, at root, self-made businessmen that oversee their empires with do-it-yourself attitudes (Swearengen by slitting throats, and Plainview by bribing and threatening officials). And both actors make very similar choices in portraying their respective characters, expertly bringing out nervous laughter in the audience and making them squirm in their seats (sometimes in the same moment). After all, both men grew and trained in the London stage scene at roughly the same time. But while Swearengen is probably a better conceived and written character, Plainview is more of a joy to watch. And the difference comes almost exclusively from Day-Lewis’s performance.

Daniel Plainview is from the start a captivating and fearful mercenary who inspires the same mixture of nervousness and excitement as a three-shot espresso. He begins the film as a young entrepreneur who buys up small properties in the hopes of mining them for gold and silver. One day he slips while climbing down one of his mine/wells and breaks his leg. He crawls his way back up the ladder, and drags himself across the desert and into town by his hands. He has with him some rocks to be assayed and there is nothing yet to tell us who this man is, but already the grim deterministic look on Day-Lewis’s face sets the audience a-twittering in giddy fear. After a successful diagnosis—indeed, he has found gold and silver fever—he returns with some men to mine it. They get more than they bargained for when they hit upon an oil spring.

From these unlikely beginnings Plainview is launched into the burgeoning world of oil barons. He discovers a town rich in oil, has several run-ins with the local preacher that end (for both men at varying points) in unsettling comic humiliation, tries to raise a son to follow in his footsteps, and shows us the fierce “competition” that plagues his soul. Day-Lewis shines brilliantly (and further establishes himself as one of today’s cinema’s greatest actors) because of his level of commitment. He is willing to push his character’s anger so far, let his contempt and greed breathe so openly, squeeze every scene for oil-black comedy, and war so heavily against himself (his major fight is between his deep need for family and his mistrust and dislike of anyone but himself) that the character pushes past cartoonish exaggeration and begins to feel like the basis on which the stereotype was formed.

Since the story unfolds in the early days of the twentieth century neither of the film's leads—Day-Lewis as Plainview and Paul Dano as the deliciously treacherous evangelical preacher—have an idea of the respective caricatures their stations in life later become: the greed driven baron or the corrupt preacher. In this lack of knowledge comes a sense of freedom: since they are creating the stereotypes they are not beholden to anyone. They can act or not act as they damn well see fit. This is a move of pure genius on the part of the film’s creator, writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson. By granting his characters this sort of existential freedom from subtlety, Anderson can focus on how these stereotypes were created and how they helped transform the old west into the American landscape of today.

Besides engaging in themes and larger-than-life men that will no doubt inspire comparisons to Citizen Kane and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre , Anderson delivers some really great dialogue and beautifully shot scenes. My favorite speeches are the two that introduce the film’s two main characters: Plainview trying to sell some farm-folk on selling him their land, and Dano’s Eli Sunday curing a woman’s arthritic fingers of Satan. My favorite shots are those that involve oil, both as a primordial, filthy muck that men wade in, and as a beautiful fountain that shoots out of the ground with anger, lights aflame, and burns all night.

Many have praised this movie for its major themes and its poetry (whichever Oscar the Coens don’t get, writing or directing, Anderson will probably snag—my bet is on directing) while criticizing its end as a mistake. As too dramatic or absurd even for a film this like a comic book history of the United States. In my estimation these critics have misunderstood this film and its maker, who steers away from ambiguity and towards big climactic endings whenever he can (remember Walberg’s speech to his reflection at the end of Boogey Nights or how effectively the frogs in Magnolia caused every character’s story to resolve just how you were rooting for it to resolve?) Besides this criticism of the last scene seems to ignore the final line, which is delivered with such aplomb by Day-Lewis as to qualify as one of the most fitting punch-lines I’ve ever heard. This line, besides making me laugh well into the credits, also serves as one of those rare moments in film in which a movie’s coda causes you to re-examine its whole structure. In this case we are given new insight into Plainview’s ascent to the top, which– as Day-Lewis’s reading of the final line suggests—may have been more of an attempt at destroying himself than at becoming a success. There Will Be Blood is a truly great film, its acting is top notch, its themes universal and large ones, its writer-director a true talent finally blossoming to his fullest potential, its scenery sparse yet poetic, its score (a foolish snub by the academy of Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood) great, and its every fiber neo-western. We can almost be guaranteed, as Awards season approaches, that in 2008 and 2009 there will be even more westerns.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Quote of the Day

Evil is like a shadow—it has no real substance of its own, it is simply a lack of light. You cannot cause a shadow to disappear by trying to fight it, stamp on it, by railing against it, or any other form of emotional or physical resistance. In order to cause a shadow to disappear, you must shine light on it.

-Shakti Gawain, teacher and author (b. 1948)

Interesting Point from the McCain Campaign Letter

If anyone knows how to make this big white space go away I'd love to hear about it.

Mike loves Mary


Results based on AP reporting

Current Delegate Count

Remaining Delegates Needed for Nomination

Available Delegates

% Needed to Win

McCain Delegate Count





Huckabee Delegate Count




Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Behind the numbers

I've been following the Democrat race more closely than the Republican for the last few weeks, and I've become fascinated by the political trading markets. The most interesting question for me has been: given that Obama (or Clinton) wins the nomination, what are the markets saying about their chances of winning the election.

As of right now (12:48 AM EST, February 12), it's clear that Obama won the MD, DC, and VA primaries handily. The markets reflect that - he's now at 74% to win the nomination. That's his biggest lead yet.

But he's also at 49% to win the election. That implies that if he wins the nomination, the markets are estimating a probability of .49/.74 = .662 that he wins the Presidency. Meanwhile, Clinton, though given only a 28% probability of winning the nomination, is at 19.5% to win the Presidency - implying a .195/.28 - .696 probability that she wins the Presidency if she wins the nomination. Apparently the markets think Clinton is a unlikely to win the nomination, but would be a slightly stronger candidate in the general election. Interesting that this has held up even as Obama has taken a commanding lead (at least probabilistically) in the race for the nomination.

These probabilities have been fairly consistent for the last few weeks, with Clinton generally leading, Obama generally close, and both ranging between 60% and 69% implied probabilities of winning the election given that they win the nomination. The markets have enforced this consistency, even though no one is actually betting on it (in the market in question, anyway).

Another interesting thought - if the race goes to the super-delegates, will the perception that Clinton is a better candidate in the general election be a swing consideration?


Mullings An American Cyber Column By Rich Galen: "Here's something we know: A Clinton cornered is a very, very dangerous political animal. Obama's supporters would be wise not to start celebrating too early."

Heere Bigynneth the Tale of the Asse-Hatte.

1 Whan in Februar, withe hise global warmynge

2 Midst unseasonabyl rain and stormynge

3 Gaia in hyr heat encourages

4 Englande folke to goon pilgrimages.

5 Frome everiches farme and shire

6 Frome London Towne and Lancanshire

7 The pilgryms toward Canterbury wended

8 Wyth fyve weke holiday leave extended

9 In hybryd Prius and Subaru

10 Off the Boughton Bypasse, east on M2...

With apologies to Geoffrey Chaucer

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

You wouldn't dare.

Dolly Parton postpones tour, blames breasts | Entertainment | Reuters: "LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Dolly Parton's breasts may be two of the wonders of the entertainment world, but the country music icon says they are a pain in her back.

Parton, 62, said on Monday she would postpone her upcoming North American tour after doctors told her to take it easy for six to eight weeks to rest her sore back.

'Hey, you try wagging these puppies around a while and see if you don't have back problems,' the folksy singer-songwriter said in a statement."

My Alma Mater

OPENING ARGUMENT: The University Has No Clothes (02/11/2008): "'The performers did not just take their clothes off -- and the actual nudity part of the show was rather tame. But mere nudity could hardly compare with a show that began with the Art Show's founder and director, Annie Oakley, imploring the audience to stand up and shout 'I take it up the butt!'..."

I'm so proud.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Quote of the Day

The fundamental insight of conservatism is that there's always horse manure.

— Jonah Goldberg

Democrats vs. Republicans, 2008

Is there a difference?, and does it matter?—is always good perennial party fodder. But lately I've had a couple of talks with committed Democrats (who don't know I'm faking it as a Democrat, who think I'm one of them) and they continually talk about who is more likely to beat the Republicans, Barack or Hillary. Republicans of my acquaintance by contrast are focussed—and bitterly—on who's a "real" Republican or a "real" conservative.

It is my general observation that when one party becomes focussed on its purity rather than on winning the election, it tends to lose the election and to be swept from power for a suitable interval of penance. Long years in the woods are eventually followed by the realization that maybe a little compromise isn't so bad after all in this fallen world. It has taken the Democrats 8 years to get to this point, so I'm guessing the Republicans won't be viable again until at least 2016. Anybody want to form a pool?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Althouse: "Democratic superdelegates may have the legal right to thwart the will of Democratic primary voters and caucus goers..."

Althouse: "Democratic superdelegates may have the legal right to thwart the will of Democratic primary voters and caucus goers..."

... and in a comment, she neatly summarizes this whole campaign:

It's very long, mostly an expression of passion and anger, but his point is that he likes a democratic approach and equates it with morality without making any real argument.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Washington Democratic Caucus—First Results

This just in.

Upon moving to Washington State I registered as an Independent. However, resolved to do my part to end the unending war between the Hippies/Vampires (Hillary) and the Werewolf/Frat Boys (W), I decided to walk over a few blocks and vote for Obama as a Democrat.

Alas, I arrived too late.

A couple of hours later I ran into a local Democratic party organizer wearing an Obama button. I asked her how things were going. She said she had come to Redmond to help with the counting of this (Eastside) Congressional District and that Obama was winning overwhelmingly all over the district.

That's good. I still have the audacity to hope that I will have the chance to vote for Obama in the Fall. I think it will come down to Obama's appeal in Texas and Ohio, which at this point is too uncertain for me to call, one way or the other.

Hassan, and an American Expat in Southeast Asia

An American Expat in Southeast Asia's blog deserves a visit. He's a long-term American Expat living in the region and has some interesting posts of his view on world affairs as he watches from Southeast Asia. Below is an except from a multi-part post he's been writing entitled Defeating Islamic Extremism. Once at his blog, his views of how the Indonesians view Obama are also with a look.

Hassan smiled and proceeded to heap accolades on me. "It's so nice to see an American who takes the time to learn our culture and language." I smiled and in response to his questions I confirmed that I did in fact have a Malay girlfriend that I liked very much. Hassan asked me if I had converted to Islam and I responded that I hadn't but that my girlfriend's mother spoke about it to me often. Hassan smiled and told me that if I was serious about this girl that I would eventually have to convert to Islam if I wished to marry her. Politely I told Hassan that is was a bit too early for that. Attempting to change the subject, I asked Hassan where he was from and what he was doing in Singapore. Hassan told me that he was from Malaysia and was in Singapore purchasing computer equipment for a madrassa and computer school that he ran in Malaysia. As I got up to leave the restaurant, Hassan scribbled his phone number in Malaysia on a napkin and asked me to stop up and visit sometime whenever I was in Kuala Lumpur.

A few months later I happened to be in Kuala Lumpur and being curious to see what a madrassa was like I decided to pay Hassan a visit. He wasn't exactly in Kuala Lumpur and in fact it was a bit of a drive and so I packed a few things in an overnight bag just in case I got too tired to drive back later. When I arrived at Hassan's madrassa I was bit taken aback at what I saw. The madrassa looked quite a bit rundown and all the students dressed in flowing white robes and turbans were standing outside when I drove in through the driveway to park my car in the back of the building. I walked around the building and spotted Hassan sitting with a few other gentlemen in the madrassa's canteen. Hassan stood up smiling and then introduced to me his "brothers" and then speaking in English, he told them that he had met me in Singapore, how I spoke Indonesian and Malay, that I had a Malay girlfriend and that I was interested in converting to Islam. Hassan's "brothers" smiled broadly and invited me to sit down and join them for a cup of tea. I noticed that Hassan's "brothers" were dressed slightly differently and then over a cup of tea, I came to learn that the "brothers" were in fact from Pakistan and were visiting in Malaysia for a few days before moving on to Indonesia. For the next couple hours we spoke mostly about Afghanistan and Islam and how the Taliban were transforming the country after the Russians had been defeated.

Defeating Islamic Extremism 101 - Part One
Defeating Islamic Extremism 101 - Part Two

Friday, February 08, 2008

See Pajamas Media today

for my essay.

Well looky there!

Canis latrans.

I'd seen plenty of the toothy lil' suckers while living in the Colorado foothills some many years ago.

I was a bit skeptical about reports they'd been eating folks pocket dogs and young babies here in coastal, central NJ suburbia. I ain't skeptical no more. There it was, pretty as you please, smack dab in the middle of the road near what passes for a wildlife preserve in these parts. No doubt about it.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Great Quiz

It was an education. From the Peoples Cube, of course.

Hillary’s DEMOCRAT Boss on Her Legal Ethics

Hillary’s Crocodile Tears in Connecticut: "My own reaction was of regret that, when I terminated her employment on the Nixon impeachment staff, I had not reported her unethical practices to the appropriate bar associations."

America's Middle Class: Living Large - Seeking Alpha

America's Middle Class: Living Large - Seeking Alpha: "Despite what Lou Dobbs and the media tell us, just by being alive in 21st century America, even if you're middle class, you've 'won first prize in the lottery of life.'"

I think I've found a new favorite blog.

The Lies of Tet -

The Lies of Tet: On January 30, 1968, more than a quarter million North Vietnamese soldiers and 100,000 Viet Cong irregulars launched a massive attack on South Vietnam. But the public didn't hear about who had won this most decisive battle of the Vietnam War, the so-called Tet offensive, until much too late.

Media misreporting of Tet passed into our collective memory. That picture gave antiwar activism an unwarranted credibility that persists today in Congress, and in the media reaction to the war in Iraq. The Tet experience provides a narrative model for those who wish to see all U.S. military successes -- such as the Petraeus surge -- minimized and glossed over.

In truth, the war in Vietnam was lost on the propaganda front, in great measure due to the press's pervasive misreporting of the clear U.S. victory at Tet as a defeat. Forty years is long past time to set the historical record straight.

Exxon pays as much income tax than bnottom 50 percent of American individuals

Exxon's 2007 Tax Bill: $30 Billion - Seeking Alpha: "Conclusion: In other words, just one corporation (Exxon Mobil) pays as much in taxes ($27 billion) annually as the entire bottom 50% of individual taxpayers, which is 65,000,000 people! Further, the tax rate for the bottom 50% is only 3% of adjusted gross income ($27.4 billion / $922 billion), and the tax rate for Exxon was 41% in 2006 ($67.4 billion in taxable income, $27.9 billion in taxes)."

The Primaries

I thought this was one of the best analyses of the Republican primaries, so I'll just link it. And remark that the Utah ballot had all the candidates, whether they had withdrawn or not. It was like reading last year's newspaper.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Is SteveB out of Ideas?

The Borg-Yahoo merger won't work. Here's why. It's like taking the two guys who finished second and third in a 100-yard dash and tying their legs together and asking for a rematch, believing that now they'll run faster.

Here's the weird thing: I first heard that line about the 100-yard dash from Ballmer himself, maybe a decade ago.

The Fake Steve has more.

You want a more ‘progressive’ America? Careful what you wish for. |

You want a more ‘progressive’ America? Careful what you wish for. | "Washington - I'm thinking of an American president who demonized ethnic groups as enemies of the state, censored the press, imprisoned dissidents, bullied political opponents, spewed propaganda, often expressed contempt for the Constitution, approved warrantless searches and eavesdropping, and pursued his policies with a blind, religious certainty.

Oh, and I'm not thinking of George W. Bush, but another 'W' – actually 'WW': Woodrow Wilson, the Democrat who served from 1913 to 1921."

Carter and Jesus

AmSpec Blog: "I was mocking WHY Carter thought the offer was so deviously attractive. And mostly it was because, as the quoted section clearly shows, Carter wagers Jesus would have enjoyed a chance to be like the 39th president, i.e. building Habitat for Humanity houses in Israel, fighting for the little guy, etc. In turn Carter would have had a solid endorsement of his domestic policies when the people failed to understand his brilliance in the future. So much for Jesus’ “singularity,” although having a 2000 year reprieve from a Jimmy Carter-like figure ruling the world is probably the most convincing argument I’ve seen yet for the existence of a Supreme Being. In Everything to Gain Carter talks about having to lean on God to get him through watching what Reagan was doing to the country--his great Commiserating Buddy in the Sky, this is part and parcel of Carter's much-heralded faith."

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Friday, February 01, 2008

The early wasp

So I'm out having a smoke and what do I see lying on top of the new snow? Wasps! Three wasps lying there, not quite dead, but not moving either unless disturbed. Where did they come from? I have no idea, unless it is from an old nest in a nearby leafless bush, or more likely from a warm crook somewhere in the building wall. It sure hasn't been warm enough here to hatch out any sensible insects. A minor tragedy, to be sure, but at cosmic scales we are all little wasps. Let us hope we are luckier.