Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Pork - that's my job - Senator Patty

Our Washington senior US senator tells it as it is. Pork is job one. KIRO TV:
... Senator Murray told her she supports them. Hear why: "I think earmarks, so called earmarks should have full light of day, full public disclosure. People should know where they come from and we should have to justify them with our votes, and I'm happy to do that. But earmarks are especially critical to states like us that are 2,300 miles away from here. I shouldn't expect a small community in Enumclaw or Othello or Cahuilla to try to figure out how to get back here to Washington. D.C. and find their way to some agency that's almost impossible to get into to tell them how important and critical a transportation project or an economic development project or a housing project is. That's my job. I work with those communities bring their priorities here, work with all of them and put them in and those are so-called earmarks and I'm going to keep doing that."
Porker Patty

Cameron's claims on Jesus rejected by experts

James Cameron, the maker of Titanic and other movies, falsely claims he found the grave of Jesus Christ and that he and Mary had a son. The experts take him apart. Two samples: The four names on the ossuaries are the most common names at that time. there are likely other sites with the same four names. Second: He found "Jesus bar Joseph." But that is how Judeans named men. In Galilee it would have been different. And some people say it is not Jesus, but a variant of Hanoun. Powerline Blog has it:
The news that the Discovery Channel, a leading organization in the attempt to make science and education more attractive and entertaining, would broadcast a documentary by James Cameron and Simcha Jacobovici claiming to have found the bones of Jesus and evidence of his marriage has begun to backfire. Archeologists have condemned the conclusions drawn from the evidence by Cameron and Jacobovici, including one who ran the site from which the ossuaries come:
Leading archaeologists in Israel and the United States yesterday denounced the purported discovery of the tomb of Jesus as a publicity stunt. Scorn for the Discovery Channel's claim to have found the burial place of Jesus, Mary Magdalene and -- most explosively -- their possible son came not just from Christian scholars but also from Jewish and secular experts who said their judgments were unaffected by any desire to uphold Christian orthodoxy. "I'm not a Christian. I'm not a believer. I don't have a dog in this fight," said William G. Dever, who has been excavating ancient sites in Israel for 50 years and is widely considered the dean of biblical archaeology among U.S. scholars. "I just think it's a shame the way this story is being hyped and manipulated." ... Similar assessments came yesterday from two Israeli scholars, Amos Kloner, who originally excavated the tomb, and Joe Zias, former curator of archaeology at the Israeli Antiquities Authority. Kloner told the Jerusalem Post that the documentary is "nonsense." Zias described it in an e-mail to The Washington Post as a "hyped up film which is intellectually and scientifically dishonest." Jodi Magness, an archaeologist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, expressed irritation that the claims were made at a news conference rather than in a peer-reviewed scientific article. By going directly to the media, she said, the filmmakers "have set it up as if it's a legitimate academic debate, when the vast majority of scholars who specialize in archaeology of this period have flatly rejected this," she said. [Washington Post]
The Cameron/Jacobovici hypothesis fails on a number of points. First, Jacobovici claims that having the names of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and Judah (noted as Jesus' son) defies odds in a range between 600:1 and 2 million:1. That's a very wide range, and completely inaccurate. Other archeologists note that the names listed by the documentarians were the most common names in use at the time for Jerusalem. They also dispute that the name 'Jesus' on the ossuary is confirmed; some believe it is an early version of the name Hanoun. Magness has more objections about this than the media hype. She also finds the names interesting, but for a different reason. Recall that the Bible refers to Jesus as Jesus of Nazareth, not Jesus ben-Joseph. The patronymics on the ossuary would have been appropriate for Judeans, not Nazareans, which indicates that the family uncovered in the Talpiot tomb were native to Jerusalem or its environs. The use of stone ossuaries rather than graves also indicates a middle-class status or above for the family, rather than the poor and/or ascetic life of Jesus of Nazareth and his family. All of these are facts that archeologists like to take into consideration before leaping to conclusions. They especially tread with caution when trying to determine whether the evidence they have contradicts written history from the period in question. Archeology involves a level of speculation, but the true scientists make sure to minimize it as much as possible -- and this documentary amounts to nothing but speculation.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Who gets our federal tax money?

Our federal government is huge and consumes 20% of our economy. "What are we buying?" Until recently, getting answers meant slogging through dense, obscure documents. Today, the government is making available more meaningful data, and technology is allowing us to share it in powerful ways. The Transparency Act of 2006 promises a database of federal grants for public scrutiny. Now we have some help: - Google indexes buried federal info. - Plug the Office of Management and Budget's data into IBM's Many Eyes and visualize the federal budget as a Mondrianesque tree diagram. - The president's proposed budget is compact and searchable. Check out the Department of Agriculture which spent $93 billion last year: $47 billion on Food Stamps, School Breakfast, Lunch and milk (the details are in the guts and fine-print Appendix). The Food and Nutrition Administration will spend $149 million and employ 1,194 people to administer the programs in 2008. How about an analysis of what we are getting for what we spend? Performance-based budgeting. The Bush Administration has done a demonstration, call PART. From TCSDaily:
... for the Food Stamps program. It links budgets to program performance. It's deemed "moderately effective" according to OMB. In 2006, 64% of eligible people were served, and the payment error rate was 5.3%. Are diets improving and hunger being reduced? They are not sure. More studies are underway. Through PART, we get a glimpse into Executive budget-making. The Major Savings and Reforms section (PDF) shows what the administration wants to cut and why and you can compare this against a Master List of programs (PDF) in the federal government - there are about 1000.
Eileen Norcross is Senior Research Fellow in the Government Accountability Project at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia. She has even more at TCS Daily.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Laser Graffiti

Amazing. Imagine using an abandoned 18-story building as an etch-a-sketch. The people at Graffiti Reserch Lab in Netherlands put it together. A building in Rotterdam is the screen, 70 meters high. A green 60 milliwatt laser pointer is the drawing tool - hand-held. Its path is captured by a security camera and fed to the computer. Then a powerful DLP projector paints the image drawn. When I read the description I imagined a painful, slow process. Wrong. It is real-time. Fast. Watch the video at: Clearly some of the images are too ornate to be drawn by a hand-held beam. They were generated by another tool ahead of time. Here is the post inviting such submissions:
If you can’t make it to the Netherlands in February, send us your own animations and graphics for the LED facade on the KPN Building. The KPN Telecom building features a 70 meter tall low resolution LED facade. Send us your 22 pixel wide by 41 tall monochrome animated gifs or quicktime movies and we will convert them to work on the big screen.
Still, it's amazing. And the video shows some real-time drawing.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

George Washington

Today we honor George Washington on his birthday. Power Line Blog has a good article on who he was and how important he was. PowerLine:
Take, for example, Washington's contribution to the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Washington's mere presence lent the undertaking and its handiwork the legitimacy that resulted in success. The convention's first order of business was the election of a presiding officer. Washington was the delegates' unanimous choice. Presiding over the convention during that fateful summer, Washington said virtually nothing. In his wonderful book on Washington, Richard Brookhiser notes: "The esteem in which Washinton was held affected his fellow delegates first of all...Washington did not wield the power he possessed by speaking. Apart from his lecture on secrecy, Washington did not address the Convention between the first day and the last."
He didn't have to say another word! What a man!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Ownership Society - Increasing

The United States is increasingly becoming an "ownership society." More and more people own stocks, either directly or through mutual funds and especially 401(k) programs and their equivalents. The American Shareholders Association blog is going into great detail with graphics. The rapid growth of defined contribution plans changed America by enabling millions of Americans to create wealth which they own and control. Previously, workers were in defined benefit plans whereby employees would receive a check for life as a percentage of their salary. These payments could be cut at anytime, however, as evidenced recently by the massive reductions placed on airline workers and other old economy manufacturing industries. But with a defined contribution plan workers can move their retirement income from one job to the next and they truly own and control. Defined contribution plans also allowed Americans to experience the process of wealth creation for the first time. Rarely does a factory worker wake up and start picking stocks. Rather it is a gradual process and defined contribution plans are the gateway to real wealth creation. Seeing the funds accumulate in value workers then purchase mutual funds for more near term savings and the process of savings begins. And 2006 brought inprovements. Give credit to its source: President Bush.
The Pension Protection Act made several key changes to defined contribution and defined benefit plans which has forced Morgan Stanley to increase their forecast for net equity defined contribution flows from $11 billion in 2008 to $30 billion. If you are keeping score this is a 172 percent increase in annual net flows. Very positive for growth, wealth creation, and retirement savings. On the defined contribution side. First, the legislation made expanded 401(k) and IRA contribution amounts permanent. Originally signed into law as part of the 2001 tax cut these are the only Bush tax cuts made permanent to date and will ensure these flows are not reduced with the rest of the tax cuts expiring. Second, the legislation removed the barriers to employers automatically defaulting their employees into the 401(k) plan. Defined benefit plans were always mandatory. However, workers needed to opt into defined contribution plans. Employers were skittish for legal reasons to automatically enroll their employees and the legislation removed these barriers. A number of news reports show a dramatic jump in automatic enrollment since the legislation passed and this will increase the number of people participating in 401(k)รข€™s and the amount of equity flows for markets.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Organic food not better for environment

Organic food is not necessarily better for the environment. Or better for you, the consumer. There are risks from it, so we have to balance things out. Independent (UK)
Organic food may be no better for the environment than conventional produce and in some cases is contributing more to global warming than intensive agriculture, according to a government report. The first comprehensive study of the environmental impact of food production found there was "insufficient evidence" to say organic produce has fewer ecological side-effects than other farming methods. ... Sir David King, the Government's chief scientist, also told The Independent he agreed that organic food was no safer than chemically-treated food.
There are some good effects...
he report for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs found "many" organic products had lower ecological impacts than conventional methods using fertilisers and pesticides.
And some bad effects, including more energy required...
But academics at the Manchester Business School (MBS), who conducted the study, said that was counterbalanced by other organic foods - such as milk, tomatoes and chicken - which are significantly less energy efficient and can be more polluting than intensively-farmed equivalents. Ken Green, professor of environmental management at MBS, who co-wrote the report, said: "You cannot say that all organic food is better for the environment than all food grown conventionally. If you look carefully at the amount of energy required to produce these foods you get a complicated picture. In some cases, the carbon footprint for organics is larger."
So decide for yourself if the cost is worth the risks. Don't fall for the assumption that organic is always better.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Rejected Newsweek

Newsweek magazine offered me a subscription of one year for $20. They have sent me this offer once per year for about 10 years. That is very cheap; I rejected it. I rejected it because Eleanor Clift says she is associated with Newsweek when she appears offering her analysis on television. Every time Clift spouts the liberal line. The way to know what the liberal talking points are this week is to listen to her. So Newsweek sent me a bill and started sending the magazine. Get lost. I rejected your offer, Newsweek. I don't owe you anything.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Teens lose jobs due to minimum wage in Arizona

Do you want to remove teenagers from productive jobs to be idle at home or whereever? If you want idle teens there is a way to increase them. The minimum wage hurts many of the people intended to be helped by it. When employers are forced to increase pay they cut jobs, so the "help" some get is losing their job. AZCentral found it happening in Arizona in 2007:
Some Valley employers, especially those in the food industry, say payroll budgets have risen so much that they're cutting hours, instituting hiring freezes and laying off employees. And teens are among the first workers to go. Companies maintain the new wage was raised to $6.75 per hour from $5.15 per hour to help the breadwinners in working-poor families. Teens typically have other means of support. Mark Messner, owner of Pepi's Pizza in south Phoenix, estimates he has employed more than 2,000 high school students since 1990. But he plans to lay off three teenage workers and decrease hours worked by others. Of his 25-person workforce, roughly 75 percent are in high school. "I've had to go to some of my kids and say, 'Look, my payroll just increased 13 percent,' " he said. " 'Sorry, I don't have any hours for you.' "
Cause: Forced pay increase. Effect: Employers have increased expenses they cannot pass on, so they must cut expenses. They usually, not always cut some jobs. Some call this the law of unintended consequences. I have adopted the term "perfectly predictable surprise," * because the economists will tell anyone who listens that this is what happens when you impose higher pay. Every time. It may not be what you intended, but it's how the job market works. You can violate this result as easily as you can violate the Law of Gravity. * I wish I could remember the name of the woman who first used this term to give her credit.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Global Warming? - First snow in 63 years & Vaclav Klaus

Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, got its first snow since 1944. Reuter reports:
Snow fell on Nepal's capital, Kathmandu, for the first time in 63 years on Wednesday, stirring excitement and curiosity among residents and their children. "I have never seen it snow in Kathmandu in all my life," said 45-year-old housewife Manju Shrestha, playing in the snow with her young children. Weather officials said the brief snowfall, which lasted only a few minutes, was the result of a "westerly disturbance" over Nepal that earlier in the week caused heavy rains....
--------- President Vaclav Klaus of the Czech Republic separated Albert Gore, Jr. from the rest of humanity. Reported in Prague Monitor:
... That could only be said by Mr. Al Gore; a normal person would be hard-pressed. I see no destruction of our planet. Nowhere in life have I seen it, and I do not think that any serious and reasonable person could say it. You represent the economic press, so I assume a certain economic erudition. My book will answer that for you. But, for example, we know that there is a huge connection between the view toward nature and the development and riches of human society. It is evident that the poorer human society is, the more brutally it behaves toward nature; the more developed it is, the opposite is true. At the same time it is true that there are societal arrangements, such as those which liquidate private ownership and so on, that destroy nature far more than freer societies. Those are long-term tendencies and will lead us unequivocally to the fact that nature today on 8 February is infinitely better protected than it was on 8 February 10, 50, 100 years ago.

Science of Causes of Global Warming

A major US Daily paper gets an opinion from a scientist who does not agree that people are the prime cause of global warming.... The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Timothy Ball is no wishy-washy skeptic of global warming. The Canadian climatologist, who has a Ph.D. in climatology from the University of London and taught at the University of Winnipeg for 28 years, says that the widely propagated “fact” that humans are contributing to global warming is the “greatest deception in the history of science.”
... Q: If someone asked you where he should go to get a good antidote on the mainstream media’s spin on global warming, where should he go?
"...There are three Web sites I have some respect for. One is the one I helped set up by a group of very frustrated professional scientists who are retired. That's called It has deliberately tried to focus on the science only. "The second site that I think provides the science side of it very, very well is, and that's run by Sherwood Idso, who is the world expert on the relationship between plant growth and CO2. "The third, which is a little more irreverent and maybe still slightly on the technical side for the general public, is"
And read this article - for a good antidote to the msm's spin on global warming. Via Bill Hurb

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Abraham Lincoln

Monday is Presdient Lincoln's birthday. Lincoln was one of our best presidents. He held our country together - by force. He advocated leniency toward the leaders of the Confederate South, when many wanted to hang all the generals and leaders. Jim Miller wrote the story the newspapers didn't carry at Sound Politics. A sample:
And this ambitious man taught himself to be a lawyer — and an enormously successful one — and then a politician with remarkable gifts. Those achievements by themselves would be remarkable enough, but Lincoln did far more. This boy from the backwoods somehow made himself into a great statesman and led us to victory in our bloodiest war. His war leadership is far too large a subject for a brief post, but I can say something about his most famous speeches. As I have said before, the Gettysburg Address, his most famous, does not touch me as some of his other speeches do.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Fleeing the dictator in Venezuela

Hugo Chavez was elected President of Venezuela and reelected. But he has been dismantling his country's system of democracy and rule of law. So those who can leave are leaving now. The middle-class rush is on. The Telegraph (UK) reports:
Middle-class Venezuelans are queuing to leave the country amid fears that its president, Hugo Chavez, is laying the ground for a dictatorship. Opponents of his "20th century socialism" are so desperate to escape that they have resorted to learning new languages and tracking down long lost European relatives in the hope of securing a visa. At the US Embassy, visa enquiries have almost doubled in recent weeks, from 400 to about 800 a day. "There are normal spikes toward Christmas or another major holiday, but this increase doesn't fall into that category," said embassy spokesman Brian Penn. The British embassy has seen a similar rise in numbers. "It has been increasing for some time, but what's different now is the tone of desperation," said a British spokesman. [Chavez announced] last month that he would nationalise the telecommunications and electricity industries, ... "You're getting more families, who are worried about their children's futures," said Esther Bermudez, who runs the site.
The final straw:
Ernestina Hidalgo, 40, whose husband is a Spanish citizen, said that she was hoping that their two teenage children would also be granted Spanish citizenship. She said an "enabling law", passed by the National Assembly 10 days ago, granting Mr Chavez 18 months of rule by decree, was the final straw.
Chavez's actions are ruining his country. But who does he blame? He is destroying Venezuela's civic systems and the economy. Losing thousands of middle-class people will hurt every city. But he blames the United States for the damage he is causing.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Fired for science on global warming

The State of Oregon has reached its limit. The governor is going to fire the state's top weather official, because he doesn't toe the Algore line that Global Warming is your fault. KGW television in Portland: In the face of evidence agreed upon by hundreds of climate scientists, George Taylor holds firm. He does not believe human activities are the main cause of global climate change. Taylor also holds a unique title: State Climatologist. Hundreds of scientists last Friday issued the strongest warning yet on global warming saying humans are "very likely" the cause. “Most of the climate changes we have seen up until now have been a result of natural variations,” Taylor asserts.Taylor has held the title of "state climatologist" since 1991 when the legislature created a state climate office at OSU The university created the job title, not the state. His opinions conflict not only with many other scientists, but with the state of Oregon's policies. So the governor wants to take that title from Taylor and make it a position that he would appoint.

Friday, February 09, 2007

The Palestinian State - looks bad

The Arabs in Palestine (Israel) have always said they just want their own country, a state. They already have it. Israel moved out of Gaza in the summer of 2005 and let them have it to themselves. And they have their government, the Palestinian Authority. So they have their own country - Gaza. Do you want to move to Gaza, "the Palestinian State"? It is ugly.
In the State of Palestine 88 percent of the public feels insecure. Perhaps the other 12 percent are members of the multitude of regular and irregular militias. For in the State of Palestine the ratio of police/militiamen/men-under-arms to civilians is higher than in any other country on earth. In the State of Palestine, two-year-olds are killed and no one cares. Children are woken up in the middle of the night and murdered in front of their parents. Worshipers in mosques are gunned down by terrorists who attend competing mosques. And no one cares. No international human rights groups publish reports calling for an end to the slaughter. No UN body condemns anyone or sends a fact-finding mission to investigate the murders. In the State of Palestine, women are stripped naked and forced to march in the streets to humiliate their husbands. Ambulances are stopped on the way to hospitals and wounded are shot in cold blood. Terrorists enter operating rooms in hospitals and unplug patients from life-support machines. In the State of Palestine, people are kidnapped from their homes in broad daylight and in front of the television cameras. This is the case because the kidnappers themselves are cameramen. Indeed, their commanders often run television stations. And because terror commanders run television stations in the State of Palestine, it should not be surprising that they bomb the competition's television stations.
Caroline Glick reports this in the Jerusalem Post. Update: February 3. New York Times: Fatah force sets university on fire in Gaza City Spokesman says campus is place for weapons storage; 17 killed on Friday
JERUSALEM — In some of the worst internal Palestinian fighting to date, Fatah security force members stormed the Hamas-aligned Islamic University in Gaza City on Friday, setting ablaze the library, computer center and other buildings while the rival factions battled throughout the Gaza Strip. At least 17 people were killed Friday, including a 7-year-old boy, bringing the total for the past two days to 23.
They got their state so what do they do? Kill each other.

Friday, February 02, 2007


Blogger switched to a new version and is unresponsive. I use Ecto to compose my entries on my Mac and publish to Blogger. But Blogger is taking hours to days to accept a typical entry - a few hundred characters of text. This entry typed on Blogger might load quickly; hope so. But I won't use this method for routine posts; their Mac version has a very limited interface that requires coding HTML. I know how to, but it's too cumbersome.