Earlier this year, I called my phone company to talk about my bill. For years, I'd been paying about $25 a month for a land line arrayed with a panoply of services that I rarely used—unlimited local calls, cheap long distance, call-waiting, and several other fancy options. I wanted to cancel all of it. I've long used my mobile phone as my primary line; I'd only kept the land line because I get poor cellular reception in my house. A year ago, though, I switched over to Skype. It beats cell phones and land lines in both price and quality. Best of all, it's portable: I can use the same phone plan to make calls from home, from the office, and even from hotels around the world—again, for very little money. Skype isn't new—it launched in 2003, and millions of people around the world use it. But because Skype is so unbelievably cheap, I've run across lots of people who still consider it some kind of Internet dark art—a service with mysterious inner workings, one that requires some kind of special equipment or technical know-how to get it up and running.Read about it, then sign up - for free! Then it's 2 cents per minute.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
I just signed up and made my first international call. It wasn't quite free; it cost 4 cents for 2 minutes. A step-by-step guide to Skype. - By Farhad Manjoo - Slate Magazine
There has been lots of evidence that Obama accepted donations from unknown sources. His campaign turned off all the normal safety checks to accept payment from anyone, any where. And Obama does not release the names of all contributors, which McCain has done. Half the total amount of donations come from unidentified donors. Those that Obama has released include obviously fantasy persons, such as “Will, Good”. from Austin, Texas. Mr. Good Will listed his employer as “Loving” and his profession as “You.” A Newsmax analysis of the 1.4 million individual contributions in the latest master file for the Obama campaign discovered 1,000 separate entries for Mr. Good Will, most of them for $25. In total, Mr. Good Will gave $17,375, far in excess of the limit of $4,600. See the research of Kenneth Timmerman But there's more: Transatlantic Intelligencer: Well, if one is to judge by an article published earlier this month by the Italian columnist Maria Laura Rodotà, in certain European circles it would appear to be an open secret that it has. Moreover, Rodotà’s account of her being inundated by e-mails from the Obama campaign suggests that the campaign has not only been accepting illegal foreign campaign contributions, but that it has been actively soliciting them. Here is what Maria Laura Rodotà writes in her October 2 column in the major Italian daily Corriere della Sera [link is in Italian]:
Oh God. It's my fault. And your fault. And also the fault of that friend of yours who gave her e-mail to the Obama campaign. They have been writing us for a year, the Obama people – several times a day. They've sent us videos of Barack, they've responded to criticisms, they've laid down the party line, they've sold gadgets. They've invited us to interesting events like "Camp Obama" in California....At the foot of each e-mail, they'd ask for small donations, even just five dollars - which won't even get you breakfast here in downtown Milan. We never gave a cent. The cheapskates said "you can't do that," they'd be foreign contributions; others sent donations from fake American addresses. Real or fake, live or online, you felt part of a community of like-minded persons, all normal and liberal…
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Where did the bank money go? Look in the usual places and you find - Bill Clinton! CNS News Four major banks, including one that collapsed, two that received federal bailout money and one that filed for bankruptcy this past September, paid former President Clinton $2.1 million for 13 speeches he delivered on their behalf between 2004-2007, according to Senate financial disclosure statements filed by Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.). Citigroup paid Bill Clinton $700,000; Goldman Sachs paid $950,000; Lehman Brothers paid $300,000 and Merrill Lynch paid $175,000 to the former president for speeches during that time period. Sen. Clinton’s 2008 financial disclosure reports are not yet available. Question: Why can't Ecto use the font I specify?
Monday, November 24, 2008
Jennifer Granholm took Michigan from a roaring success to the only state that had its own recession then got worse in her role as governor. Does Obama want to emulate success or failure? He is choosing failure. Obama Channels Granholm on Green Stimulus - Henry Payne - Planet Gore on National Review Online:
Now we know why Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm is on President-elect Barack Obama’s economic policy team. Judging by Obama’s Saturday economic address, he plans to address the nation’s ills with the same inept policies Granholm has championed for the last six years here in Michigan. Granholm and Obama have much in common: They are both young Democratic party protégés, both are charismatic personalities, and both are left-wing, Harvard-educated lawyers with little experience running anything prior to assuming office. Like Granholm, Obama appears to have little grasp of market economics, but prefers showy public-works programs and utopian visions of bridging a carbon-addicted America to a new green economy that will employ millions.I am following the new main-stream media standard and not addressing female governors by the title Governor, but by their first name, as in Sarah Palin, not Governor Palin.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Trade has been a large part of the global prosperity we all have enjoyed the past 25 years. Where there is more trade there are more jobs. It doesn't mean that there aren't changes in product flows that results in people losing their jobs. But the sum total is a much larger benefit that swamps the loss for a few. And one of the causes of the Great Depression was the Smoot-Hawley tariffs that raised the barriers against trade. Let's continue with what works, says the president of Mexico. Bloomberg
Mexican President Felipe Calderon warned Barack Obama against trying to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, saying restricting commerce would only encourage illegal Mexican emigration to the U.S. ``The day access is closed, workers will jump over whatever river or wall you put there,'' Calderon told business leaders today at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Lima, Peru, where leaders of 21 nations are meeting. Calderon's comments reflect unease among U.S. trading partners over the likely economic policies of President-elect Obama, who has expressed reservations about Nafta and pending agreements with Colombia and South Korea. Leaders from the Asia- Pacific region also said they are concerned protectionism would exacerbate the global economic crisis. ``Obama's signals have not been very positive as far as free trade is concerned,'' Luc Gerard, president of Bogota-based private equity fund Tribeca Partners, said in an interview. ``There's definitely a concern.'' The leaders are meeting amid signs that the global economic slump is growing deeper. The worst credit crisis in seven decades spurred countries from China to the U.K. to boost spending or cut taxes in an effort to support growth and avoid a prolonged recession. ``One of the enduring lessons of the Great Depression is that global protectionism is a path to global economic ruin,'' President George W. Bush told the summit.When Barack first mentioned killing NAFTA the Canadians were looking for a deal more beneficial to Canada and less to the US.
Obama might do miracles: Now the blind can see! The left just noticed that Bill Clinton has a problem with lying - for the past 20 years. The Nation:
What guidelines should govern Bill Clinton's future activities if Hillary becomes Secretary of State? Recent events suggest that at least two are necessary:
- no more favors for human rights violators in exchange for big contributions to the Clinton Foundation;
- and no more lying to the news media about such deals.
Friday, November 21, 2008
My place of birth, Walla Walla, Washington - liked it so much they named it twice - has earned an excellent reputation the past decade by developing a first-class wine industry. The area has dozens of wineries and they have earned awards. They have developed the city with excellent restaurants and places to stay as well. It is in the far southeast corner of Washington - very remote for Puget Sounders - 300 miles away. See the map below. Before this recent development, other than being known for my birth there, it was known for hosting Washington's maximum-security prison; let's pass on that. And it has a unique agricultural product - sweet onions. Wikipedia: The Walla Walla Sweet Onion ... Over a century ago on the Island of Corsica, off the west coast of Italy, a French soldier named Peter Pieri found an Italian sweet onion seed and brought it to the Walla Walla Valley. Impressed by the new onion's winter hardiness, Pieri, and the Italian immigrant farmers who comprised much of Walla Walla's gardening industry, harvested the seed. The sweet onion developed over several generations through the process of carefully hand selecting onions from each year's crop, ensuring exceptional sweetness, jumbo size and round shape. The Walla Walla Sweet Onion is also designated under federal law as a protected agricultural crop. In 2007, the Walla Walla Sweet Onion became Washington's official state vegetable. Walla Walla Sweet Onions get their sweetness from low sulfur content, which is half that of an ordinary yellow onion. Walla Walla Sweets are 90 percent water. That, combined with Walla Walla’s mild climate and rich soil, gives the onion its sweetness. The Walla Walla Sweet Onion Festival is held annually in July. Sweet Onions on parade: "Colorful onions, zany onions and brainy onions, winsome and perfectly roasted onions, glittery onions and graffiti onions, flowery, woven, and delftware onions... "Sweet Onions on Parade features onion sculptures on Walla Walla sidewalks from May through October 2008. Each is a unique vision of what’s possible with a little imagination, some artistic skill, and a giant fiberglass onion." I can't tell how large these monsters are. Worth a trip, don't you think? The tourism web site: Walla Walla, Washington View Larger Map
Thursday, November 20, 2008
It's the United Nations; they can't be judgemental and say "It was a nuclear reactor." It was. Israel bombed and destroyed this nuclear weapon facility in Syria last year. Syria had the best air defense that could be bought - from Russia. But Israel spoofed it, so Syria saw nothing at all until the Israeli aircraft were departing across the border. WA DC Post: The first independent investigation of the suspected nuclear site in Syria that Israel destroyed last year has bolstered U.S. claims that Damascus was building a secret nuclear reactor, according to a U.N. report that also confirmed the discovery of traces of uranium amid the ruins. Officials with the United Nations' atomic agency stopped short of declaring the wrecked facility a nuclear reactor, but they said it strongly resembled one. And they noted that Syria had gone to great lengths -- including elaborate "landscaping" with tons of freshly imported soil -- to alter the site before admitting outsiders. Despite the apparent cleanup effort, environmental sampling by U.N. inspectors turned up traces of uranium, the fissile metal used in nuclear reactors, according to the report by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the world body's nuclear watchdog.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Now they want you to pay them for not working. Washington Post's Economy Watch blog Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) decided to shift the focus off the heads of the Big Three automakers during the Senate Banking committee underway right now to whip up a little on the United Auto Workers. Corker told Chrysler chief Bob Nardelli that one of his lobbyists told him the previous day that, even if a Chrysler plant is shut down, Chrysler still has to pay wages to its union employees. How can you come before us, Corker directed to both Nardelli and UAW chief Ron Gettelfinger, and ask us for $25 billion if you're asking taxpayers to fund this sort of activity? Corker's question prompted an odd scene in which Nardelli was forced to explain to Gettelfinger, as both sat at the witness table, that what Corker meant was the following: When Chrysler plants are idled because they are not making vehicles, Chrysler is still required to pay its UAW workers 95 percent of their wages. Gettelfinger stumbled a bit and offered that those wages are actually the workers's "unemployment."
We all saw how the news media abandoned their appearance of independence and led the cheer for Obama. Now one of the leaders in the industry calls them out. CNET News: With newspapers cutting back and predictions of even worse times ahead, Rupert Murdoch said the profession may still have a bright future if it can shake free of reporters and editors who he said have forfeited the trust and loyalty of their readers. "My summary of the way some of the established media has responded to the internet is this: it's not newspapers that might become obsolete. It's some of the editors, reporters, and proprietors who are forgetting a newspaper's most precious asset: the bond with its readers," said Murdoch, the chairman and chief executive officer of News Corp. He made his remarks as part of a lecture series sponsored by the Australian Broadcast Corporation. [Very well phrased!] Murdoch, whose company's holdings also include MySpace and the Wall Street Journal, criticized what he described as a culture of "complacency and condescension" in some newsrooms. "The complacency stems from having enjoyed a monopoly--and now finding they have to compete for an audience they once took for granted. The condescension that many show their readers is an even bigger problem. It takes no special genius to point out that if you are contemptuous of your customers, you are going to have a hard time getting them to buy your product. Newspapers are no exception."
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Senator Coburn is holding up a perk for Oregon because it makes taxpayers in Mississippi, Kansas and West Virginia pay for Oregon's perks. Good for him. Oregon, pay for your own wilderness, since you want it so, so badly. If I go there to use it you will make money from goods and services I buy. Oregon Environment News - Oregonlive.com:
An Oklahoma senator who makes frequent light of what he calls examples of Oregon "pork" spending once again blocked new Mount Hood wilderness legislation Friday, despite wide support in the rest of the Senate. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., pledged to filibuster a massive lands bill that included about 125,000 acres of new wilderness on Mount Hood and along the Columbia River Gorge, in Idaho's Owyhee canyons and elsewhere in California, Colorado and New Mexico. Coburn's filibuster could have forced the Senate to burn up to three days considering the bill. Senate leaders decided they didn't have those days to spare amid pressing legislation such as a rescue for the auto industry and extension of unemployment insurance benefits. However, a top aide to Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said that although the bill may have to wait until next year, it will pass. "Sen. Coburn is delaying the inevitable," said Josh Kardon, Wyden's chief of staff. "The new Congress with the new president will pass the wilderness bill. It's just a matter of time." Coburn has been the nemesis of new Mount Hood wilderness over the past year, repeatedly defying attempts by Wyden and Sen. Gordon Smith, R-Ore., to push their wilderness legislation through. He contends that the roughly $10 million cost for mapping and surveying is wasteful federal spending. The Oklahoma senator takes pride in making light of federal spending in a "pork report" on his Web site. On Friday, two of the eight examples in Coburn's pork report came from Oregon. One of the examples quoted an Oregonian headline describing "arty upgrades," including new lamps, sidewalks, bike lanes and trees, on Northeast 102nd Avenue in Portland funded with $5.4 million in federal earmarks. Another example described a "junket to Mexico" by Umatilla School District officials to brush up on Spanish skills and absorb Latino culture.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Albert Gore Jr.'s captive scientist is making large data errors again. And - surprise - he finds the world is getting hotter. When it is NOT. Watch the watchers to see what is really happening. James Hansen (Doctor to you) is not a reliable source. The world has never seen such freezing heat - Telegraph UK
A surreal scientific blunder last week raised a huge question mark about the temperature records that underpin the worldwide alarm over global warming. On Monday, Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), which is run by Al Gore's chief scientific ally, Dr James Hansen, and is one of four bodies responsible for monitoring global temperatures, announced that last month was the hottest October on record. This was startling. Across the world there were reports of unseasonal snow and plummeting temperatures last month, from the American Great Plains to China, and from the Alps to New Zealand. China's official news agency reported that Tibet had suffered its "worst snowstorm ever". In the US, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration registered 63 local snowfall records and 115 lowest-ever temperatures for the month, and ranked it as only the 70th-warmest October in 114 years. So what explained the anomaly? GISS's computerised temperature maps seemed to show readings across a large part of Russia had been up to 10 degrees higher than normal. But when expert readers of the two leading warming-sceptic blogs, Watts Up With That and Climate Audit, began detailed analysis of the GISS data they made an astonishing discovery. The reason for the freak figures was that scores of temperature records from Russia and elsewhere were not based on October readings at all. Figures from the previous month had simply been carried over and repeated two months running. The error was so glaring that when it was reported on the two blogs - run by the US meteorologist Anthony Watts and Steve McIntyre, the Canadian computer analyst who won fame for his expert debunking of the notorious "hockey stick" graph - GISS began hastily revising its figures. This only made the confusion worse because, to compensate for the lowered temperatures in Russia, GISS claimed to have discovered a new "hotspot" in the Arctic - in a month when satellite images were showing Arctic sea-ice recovering so fast from its summer melt that three weeks ago it was 30 per cent more extensive than at the same time last year. A GISS spokesman lamely explained that the reason for the error in the Russian figures was that they were obtained from another body, and that GISS did not have resources to exercise proper quality control over the data it was supplied with.Oh, I see. Gore's scientist is drawing conclusions from data he does not verify. They admit it. Quality control? No, we can't; we are too busy spreading the alarm.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Are you kidding me, President George? No oversight? Bailout Lacks Oversight Despite Billions Pledged: Yet for all this activity, no formal action has been taken to fill the independent oversight posts established by Congress when it approved the bailout to prevent corruption and government waste. Nor has the first monitoring report required by lawmakers been completed, though the initial deadline has passed. "It's a mess," said Eric M. Thorson, the Treasury Department's inspector general, who has been working to oversee the bailout program until the newly created position of special inspector general is filled. "I don't think anyone understands right now how we're going to do proper oversight of this thing."
Katie Couric gives advice and admits her own incapability. NY Post Page 6 Her advice for Governor Palin:
I think she should keep her head down, work really hard and learn about governing. But I'm not anyone to give advice to anyone about anything.Via NewsBusters.org:
It's gotten worse. It's bad enough when government wastes money on silly while while the economy is growing. But Now jobs are being cut in the productive sector, while still growing in the silly sector. Daily Mail Online (UK): Over the years, I've made a good living pillorying and poking fun at this never-ending carnival of politically motivated profligacy. My columns and TV shows have featured regular Nice Work If You Can Get It sections, diligently spotlighting the ingenious and often hilarious jobs invented by councils and quangos to expand their empires and devour our taxes. This non-stop recruitment drive at our expense has gone through a number of different phases. There was the great Aids scare, when no self-respecting council could bear to be without an army of HIV prevention workers. At one stage, I worked out there were more people in Britain earning a good living from Aids than were actually dying from it. That was followed by the crazy multiculturalism obsession, which could be satisfied only by hiring thousands of equality and diversity commissars. Today's driving force is the great global warming scam, entailing the recruitment of legions of eco-warriors and enviro-crime fighters, on salaries commensurate with their self-righteousness. In between, we've had such lunacy as real nappy co-ordinators, tasked with encouraging women to use washable nappies instead of disposable - until someone worked out that all the detergent being used to wash dirty nappies was actually doing more harm to the environment than throwing them away. The NHS is just as bad. For every doctor, nurse and ancillary worker doing a valuable job, there's a supernumerary cluttering up the offices. I've written about all sorts over the years - from condom commandos to advisers hired to address the very special needs of gay alcoholics. In yesterday's Guardian, for instance, Nottinghamshire NHS was advertising for an assistant director of equality and human rights, salary up to £77,179 a year. 'Acting as our champion on equality, diversity and human rights, you will work in collaboration with our external partners to develop and co-ordinate strategic policies.' After that, I lost the will to live.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Nuclear power for the masses. A small nuclear generator that will power thousands of homes for a few years with very little maintenance. FOXNews.com Yes, I DO want a nuclear reactor in my back yard. That's what Hyperion Power Generation, a small Santa Fe, N.M.-based startup, hopes lots of utility and energy companies say over the next few years as it prepares to build and market small, self-contained, portable nuclear reactors that need almost no oversight or maintenance. "Our goal is to generate electricity for 10 cents a watt anywhere in the world," Hyperion CEO John Deal told Britain's Observer newspaper in an article published Sunday. "They will cost approximately $25 million each. For a community with 10,000 households, that is a very affordable $2,500 per home." In fact, Hyperion claims its sealed, buried reactors, which would be 10-15 feet long and about 10 feet wide, could power 20,000 homes for 7 to 10 years. At that point they'd be dug up and hauled back to the plant for refueling. The portable, self-regulating nuclear reactor isn't a new one, and many companies and organizations have been trying to develop them.
Now that the election is over Obama's criminal colleague can make money from his notoriety. William Ayers was on a team that made bombs to kill people. And the New Yorker is helping with a softball interview. Ron Radosh at Pajamas Media Shame on The New Yorker and its editor David Remnick for playing a role in the attempt of Bill Ayers and his publisher to resurrect both Ayers’ book and his reputation. Beacon Press has announced that they are releasing an updated version of Ayers’ 2001 book Fugitive Days on November 12th, a publication date purposely held until after the election. As most everyone knows, the original edition had the misfortune of being published on 9/11/2001, a date that led to cancellation of Ayers’ book tour, and to reams of negative publicity. The last thing the American public wanted to hear about was the glamorization of a 1960’s terrorist. But in our celebrity driven culture, the attention to Ayers in the election campaign has made him a hot number, and he has decided to make his views known in a new afterword that appears at the end of the book. And now the current edition of the elite Manhattan weekly has helped Ayers in his new campaign, with a fawning “Talk of the Town” article. That the piece is written by its editor-in-chief David Remnick, a first rate writer and a very smart man, makes it even more inexcusable. Remnick lets Ayers get away with almost every point about his time in The Weather Underground. Attacks on him were all “guilt by association; ” he was made a “cartoon character.” Ayers expresses sympathy with Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who also was, Ayers told Remnick, “treated grotesquely and unfairly.” Evidently listening to, watching and reading Wright’s actual sermons is not enough for one to be allowed to render judgment. Most egregious is that Remnick also lets Ayers get away with his excuse that he never meant to imply in the 2001 Times article about him that he wished they had engaged in more violence and bombings. When he told them “I wish I had done more,” Ayers claims, “it doesn’t mean I wish we’d bombed more shit.” He never had been responsible for violence against other people, he said. He was only acting politically to end the war in Vietnam. His only sin was to use juvenile rhetoric, and he says that he only engaged in “extreme radicalism against property.” Ayers and Remnick must think people cannot read for themselves. Ayers actually said: “I don’t regret setting bombs. I feel we didn’t do enough.” Asked whether he would advocate bombing again, he answered: “I don’t want to discount the possibility.” Or as he writes in his memoir: “I can’t imagine entirely dismissing the possibility.” By repeating Ayers’ false excuses, and without challenging or correcting him, Remnick allows his publication’s readers to conclude that Ayers is, not as his enemies have claimed, an unrepentant advocate of terrorism, but a wise 1960’s activist, who has learned bitter lessons and who is now much wiser. I assume Remnick has not read Ayers two year old interview in Revolution and his speech in Venezuela standing next to Hugo Chavez, two examples which alone would quickly disabuse anyone of Ayers’ having learned anything in the past decades. Most outrageous is letting Ayers get away with his claim that he and his comrades only bombed property and harmed no one. Remnick does not ask him about their planned bombing of Fort Dix in New Jersey. The explosion there would have occurred had the bombmakers not prematurely exploded their homemade device while putting it together on March 6, 1970, killing themselves and destroying the Greenwich Village town house in which they were making the explosives. The bomb was an antipersonnel bomb meant to be placed at a dance for new soldiers and their dates at the fort clubhouse. Had it gone off, thousands would have been murdered. The bomb was an explosive wrapped in nails, meant to maim and cause severe pain as well as death. Had it been set off, historian Jeremy Varon writes, “it is possible that Americans would now speak of the 1970’s ‘as a decade of terrorism.’” The New York Times was correct when it editorially commented that the Weather Underground were “criminals, not idealists.” The basic text that presents the truth about the group is the book by Peter Collier and David Horowitz, Destructive Generation:Second Thoughts About the Sixties. The authors spent thirty hours interviewing all the factions of the Weather Underground, and ten hours alone interviewing Bill Ayers. It is to them that Ayers first uttered the words he used at the end of his own memoir, “Free as a bird-guilty as sin. America is a great country.” Perhaps Mr. Remnick should have read the Collier-Horowitz book before setting forth to speak to Ayers. Clearly, the life and times of Ayers’ terrorist comrades is not anything he has any real familiarity with. It is apparent from reading David Remnick’s words that in fact, he has not even read Fugitive Days. Even a cursory reading of the book reveals clearly that Bill Ayers is lying through his teeth in The New Yorker interview. At the end of this blog, I am posting my own detailed review of Ayers’ book, which appeared soon after 9/11 in the pages of The Weekly Standard. I dissect the book and what Ayers actually writes about his experiences and his view of bombing American targets. What he says disproves virtually all the claims he makes about himself to David Remnick. Or does Remnick really believe, As Ayers writes, that his actions were not terrorist, since they “intimidate, while we aimed only to educate?” Ayers also tells Remnick “I wish I had been wiser.” If this is true, how come he writes in his memoir that when people tell him the United States is a great country, he answers “It makes me want to puke?” I ask readers one thing only. Please circulate and pass on my review. The new Ayers release will get much media attention. And I believe my critique will be effective in countering it. Let’s do what we can to foil Beacon Press’ campaign to sell his autobiography anew, and let them and Bill Ayers know that the American public may have elected Barack Obama President, but they have not changed their mind about the sordid role of Ayers and the Weather Underground in our country’s past.
That's just the warm-up. Go to Radosh's blog to read his full review of Ayers' book.
Saturday, November 08, 2008
Michael Chrichton just died of cancer. The author of Andromeda Strain, Jurrasic Park, State of Fear and Prey; those are just the ones I have read. He also created the TV series ER. He had the distinction of having the #1 movie, Jurassic Park, #1 TV series, ER, and #1 book (paperback), Disclosure, in December 1994. His works were always science oriented, but not worshipping science. Sometimes the scientists are arrogant, but the object is always truth. Often a character who is surrogate for the author shows the way through the maze. I am listening to State of Fear on CD right now. The evirnomentaists are so fractic to prove radical climate change is occurring that they set out to stage it themselves. And they don't mind if a few - or a hundred or a thousand - people die unwittingly for the cause. Michael Crichton's Legacy - Weekly Standard: Bestselling author and TV producer Michael Crichton, who died of cancer Tuesday at the age of 66, had an ambivalent view of science but an unfailingly benevolent attitude toward humanity. His writings are particularly important for having brought an intelligent, nuanced view on science to a popular culture much more inclined toward ignorance and political shibboleths in its treatment of scientific issues. Known for his hugely popular thriller novels dealing with scientific subjects and for his TV series ER, Crichton, an M.D., infused his works with a powerful sense of scientific investigation as an adventure and the world as a place of real wonders. In Crichton's world, knowledge is always a good thing, but what people do with it is often foolish and enormously destructive, perhaps most famously in Jurassic Park, where a scheme to recreate dinosaurs for entertainment goes horribly awry. That opinion on the uses of science accords with reality, of course. It is an insight, however, that sometimes made Crichton's narratives seem to suggest a need for strong political strictures on science and technology. As science writer Ronald Bailey noted in a review of Crichton's novel Next, this implication could in fact be interpreted as a Luddite vision assuming that "humanity rushes headlong into misusing powerful new technologies." That, however, was not the real thrust of Crichton's works. Love for knowledge--philosophy in its basic sense--was clearly what drove him and is most evident in his writings. And that has been all too rare an attitude in contemporary American popular culture. There was never anything cynical about Crichton's works. His acknowledgment of the ills people can bring through science and technological advances need not suggest that science or technological change is intrinsically bad. In fact, his attitude looks rather like a scientist's puzzled acknowledgment of original sin. To some extent Crichton's writings reflected an attitude of scientism in its totalizing sense, the fallacious assumption that nothing not readily explainable by science is true. In a book such as Congo, for example, there is a strong implication that human beings are not unique in this creation and thus not intrinsically of greater importance than other creatures. That line of thinking actually contradicts the warm feelings toward humanity that are necessary to justify his and the reader's concern for the characters. Fortunately, that sort of scientism is usually not too annoyingly evident in his works. Very much on the positive side, in addition, was his crusade in recent years to tell the truth about global warming: Crichton was insistent that there is no manmade global warming crisis facing us today. In speeches, articles, and his excellent potboiler novel State of Fear, he not only refuted the scientific and economic assertions of global-warming alarmists but also, and perhaps more importantly in cultural terms, pointed out their real motivation for pursuing their agenda: money. As Crichton made clear in his typically melodramatic and entertaining fashion in that book, there has been a huge amount of money to be made by scaring people about global warming, and the activists who have flocked to that cause have made vast sums of it by exploiting the public's natural and laudable inclination to take good care of the environment. State of Fear was thus an important cultural event in addition to being a highly entertaining read.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Sweden discovers: There is a cost to following The One. He might end your prosperity by cutting trade - as he promised. Free trade fears cloud Sweden's embrace of Obama - The Local:
Amid the excitement in Sweden over Barack Obama’s victory, there remains real concern among members of the political and business establishment over how the US president-elect will approach the issue of free trade. Sweden welcomes Obama (5 Nov 08) “Our hope is that he doesn’t follow through on what he’s said about free trade,” Moderate party secretary Per Schlingmann told The Local. In the course of his campaign, Obama made a number of statements which raise questions about his support for free trade. “If we continue to let our trade policy be dictated by special interests, then American workers will continue to be undermined,” he told an audience at a campaign rally in Michigan in June. “Allowing subsidized and unfairly traded products to flood our markets is not free trade.” Among other things, Obama also called for trade agreements with tougher labour and environmental protections, as well as a renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) linking the US with Mexico and Canada, the benefits of which he said had been “oversold” to the American public. Obama’s positions worry free trade advocates who fear the president-elect’s less than enthusiastic support of free trade may portend a more protectionist attitude on the part of the United States. “I hope that [Obama] doesn't follow through on his statements about free trade. I can't say for sure what will happen, but I hope his policies are wiser than his past comments,” said Erik Ullenhag, party secretary for the Liberal Party (Folkpartiet). Swedish exports the equivalent of about 50 percent of its GDP annually, whereas the US exports goods and services equivalent to about 8 percent of GDP. As a result of Sweden's much greater reliance on external trade, free trade receives much wider support among most of the country’s major political parties.
Monday, November 03, 2008
A tenured prof with a comfortable job decides to leave academia. He is tired of students who expect - think they deserve - to be coddled and the whole scene of academia. Inside Higher Ed I am ready to move on – perhaps for a career where deadlines are honored, ideas are exchanged and gimmicks and fads are routinely avoided because they distract from advancing the mission of gaining and sharing knowledge. Yes, it is time to find another line of work, where I can enjoy the fruits of my labor, even if I realize that the grass is grayer, if not greener, elsewhere.
Suppose that every day, ten men go out for beer and the bill for all ten comes to $100. If they paid their bill the way we pay our taxes, it would go something like this: The first four men (the poorest) would pay nothing. The fifth would pay $1. The sixth would pay $3. The seventh would pay $7. The eighth would pay $12. The ninth would pay $18. The tenth man (the richest) would pay $59. So, that's what they decided to do. The ten men drank in the bar every day and seemed quite happy with the arrangement, until one day, the owner threw them a curve. 'Since you are all such good customers', he said, 'I'm going to reduce the cost of your daily beer by $20." Drinks for the ten now cost just $80. The group still wanted to pay their bill the way we pay our taxes so the first four men were unaffected. They would still drink for free. But what about the other six men - the paying customers, how could they divide the $20 windfall so that everyone would get his 'fair share?' They realized that $20 divided by six is $3.33. But if they subtracted that from everybody's share, then the fifth man and the sixth man would each end up being paid to drink his beer. So, the bar owner suggested that it would be fair to reduce each man's bill by roughly the same amount, and he proceeded to work out the amounts each should pay. And so: The fifth man, like the first four, now paid nothing (100% savings). The sixth now paid $2 instead of $3 (33% savings). The seventh now paid $5 instead of $7 (28% savings). The eighth now paid $9 instead of $12 (25% savings). The ninth now paid $14 instead of $18 (22% savings)! The tenth now paid $49 instead of $59 (16% savings). Each of the six was better off than before. And the first four continued to drink for free. But once outside the restaurant, the men began to compare their savings. 'I only got a dollar out of the $20', declared the sixth man. He pointed to the tenth man,' but he got $10!' 'Yeah, that's right', exclaimed the fifth man. 'I only saved a dollar, too. It's unfair he got ten times more than I!' 'That's true!!' shouted the seventh man. 'Why should he get $10 back when I got only two? The wealthy get all the breaks!' 'Wait a minute,' yelled the first four men in unison. 'We didn't get anything at all. The system exploits the poor!' The nine men surrounded the tenth and beat him up. The next night the tenth man didn't show up for drinks, so the nine sat down and had beers without him. But when it came time to pay the bill, they discovered something important. They didn't have enough money among all of them for even half of the bill! And that, boys and girls, journalists and college professors, is how our tax system works. The people who pay the highest taxes get the most benefit from a tax reduction. Tax them too much, attack them for being wealthy, and they just may not show up anymore. In fact, they might start drinking overseas where the atmosphere is somewhat friendlier. For those who understand, no explanation is needed. For those who do not understand, no explanation is possible. Authorship is unknown according to several rumor-checkers.
Saturday, November 01, 2008
PC enforcement here in the Seattle area. If you dare put up a sign for McCain-Palin you might be punished. Do you get the message? You don't want to take that chance, do you? NewsBusters.org:
Like Obama, the folks that run The Stranger "newspaper" in Seattle are all about tolerance... as long as you believe the same things they believe. If you don't, well, then you deserve intimidation and a good "outing." just as Obama has tried to intimidate radio talk show hosts, just like he has tried to use the office of the Attorney General to quash political free speech, The Stanger publication has decided that the best way to force citizens of Seattle to toe the far left political line is to have their homes photographed and their addresses made public for the outrageous crime of having a McCain/Palin sign on their property. Editorial Director Dan Savage, another boring Seattle gay activist, has helmed this intimidation disguised as "humor" in order to attack his political opposition. Good thing ol' Danny is all "tolerant" and stuff, isn't it?But Dan Savage showed his bravery by taking down the link. I saw this Saturday around 1 pm. When I followed the link it led to Drudge. What? Sure enough, the Stranger had changed their link to the story - http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/Content?oid=729360 - to lead to Drudge. Couldn't stand in the light of day. Newsbusters has an update covering this development, including a capture of the photos and text with the addresses removed.
**Update** 4PM [ET] 11/01/08 Looks like the wimps over at the gay centered "newspaper" The Stranger don't have the courage of their convictions, amusingly enough. They've pulled their story and re-directed the link to The Drudge homepage. Apparently, the Stranger folks just can't take the scorn any more. They know what they did was indefensible and now they are pretending it never existed. One thing is sure. If I had a dollar for every time the curse word f_ _k appeared in this "newspaper" I could comfortably retire after but a month of issues. Apparently literacy is a four letter word to these high-minded inteleckshuals. If you'd like to read the text Hell Houses, the story from The Stranger, G'Willie over at GEOBENT took the time to reproduce it before the "newspaper" took it down.