Saturday, September 13, 2003

The ultimate hypocrite?

Here's my nominee: Madonna. She's protecting her daughter Lourdes:
"I protect her from sex full stop," she said.

"She's not aware of sex, nor should she be. You know, we've had little conversations about where babies come from, but sex is not, and shouldn't be, part of her repertoire right now."

The interview comes just days after Madonna French-kissed Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera live on stage at an awards ceremony.

But she said she would ensure that her daughter does not see such TV footage of her mother until she is much older.
I didn't see the show, but I thought I saw a picture in which Lourdes was on stage at the time this all happened.

Does this mean she thinks that what she has done in her career is bad for kids?
Although Madonna admitted that she had come a long way from her wild Sex and Erotica days, she said she regretted nothing.

"I'm not apologising in any shape or form (for those Sex years)," she said. "That's where my head was at the time."
Oh, that's not the only place...

Sure, it's up to parents to protect their kids from adverse influences, and some might even have the cojones to praise Madonna for her approach. Hey, she's even writing books for kids nowadays. Welcome to common sense, sweetie - some of us were here all along.

There was a time when pop culture was far less sex-addled than it is today. Madonna was a major factor in pushing standards to the looseness of today's. In doing so she made money hand over fist from other peoples' kids, and now she's using that money to seal off her own kids from her own influence.

Link via Drudge.

Conflict of interest

Aaron Haspel writes about something I've been thinking about for a while.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

The Jumpers

Kathy Kinsley linked to this, about the photos of the people who jumped out of the WTC two years ago.

What would it take to make you jump out of a building from 100+ stories up? Does showing pictures or videos of these somehow disrespect the dead and/or their kin?

IMO no, it doesn't. And if it's horrible, well, maybe that's what it will take to get people to remember just what was done two years ago.

OTOH I know something that does show disrespect for the dead and their families. That's when some jackass says "move on", or better yet, "why do they hate us?" Do you suppose any of the jumpers asked themselves that?

Badly Biased Coverage

I've heard the fuss about the BBC's slanted coverage before but couldn't comment because I hadn't been subjected to it. Until this morning, when I happened upon BBC America and decided to see how they'd cover the second anniversary of the 9/11 massacre.

So far I've heard much alleging political opportunism by Republicans, blah blah. And the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were spoken of as if Bush had just thrown darts at a world map to decide where to fight back.

Top story? The murder of a Swedish politician, with much emphasis on how hard Swedes were going to take it, and how violence had marred their liberal society. Fair enough - they have a whole world to cover, and this certainly is newsworthy. But I was under the impression that the feed I was watching was designed with the American audience in mind.

Back to New York. So far we've had two interviews - both of people from September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, whose views might be said to be in the minority. There's nothing like balanced coverage, eh?

One of them said something like their loved ones didn't die to be politically exploited. If that's true, sister, then get your silly mug off the screen - do you think the BBC news guy would be interviewing you if you hadn't lost someone?

They've moved on to other stuff now after covering part of the recitation of names of victims at the WTC site, and I've had enough besides. Maybe if I sat around for more I'd see something better. But so far I haven't seen anything to contradict what I've heard about their biases.

The Possum on justice

Right here.

Edward Teller 1908-2003

We lost a great American on Tuesday. Being a staunch anti-Communist, Edward Teller was demonized relentlessly for half a century.

Here is a 5 page bio.

Of all of the stellar cast of physicist he worked with, he might well have been the most brilliant of them all. Because as the bio notes: "No one could have had a greater influence on me than Hitler, who made it entirely clear to me that one could not ignore politics, and very particularly one could not ignore the worst evils in politics." And he quotes a speech by FDR: ""I am a pacifist, and you my friends are pacifists, but I am telling you, if you are not going to work on the instruments of war, freedom will be lost everywhere." "

One year ago on NWA

I was looking through some stats and it appears that the archive a year ago this week is my most popular. So here's another shot at it.

Rounding out the top 5 are this , this, this and this. And there's lots more where that came from, from the long list on the lower right side of this blog.

You're welcome....

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Does JCPenney buy merchandise from North Korea?

I saw that allegation here and decided to ask in an email through their website. A couple of days later, here is the answer:
Thank you for contacting us online.

Your concern about goods made in countries which allegedly violate human rights matches our own. Our concern is reflected in the stringent requirements to which we hold suppliers accountable in our contractual agreements.

We buy apparel and shoes from the world's foremost fashion suppliers, many of whom manufacture extensively in the Far East. We require them to scrupulously obey the laws of the countries where they operate, as well as to abide by normal human rights conventions. As with all our suppliers, we monitor their operations periodically and promptly investigate any evidence or allegation of non-conformance with their contractual agreement to comply with our code. Imported goods come from countries around the world, including many items that are manufactured partially in the U.S. and partially in another country.

Indeed, we shop the international marketplace to find the best values in the world for our customers. For 96 years JCPenney has followed its founding principles, not only to do all we can to ensure such value, but to test every policy, method and act in this wise: does it square with what is right and just.

We appreciate your bringing your concerns to our attention. We are doing our best to satisfy you as an American consumer and citizen. We hope you will continue to shop JCPenney.

We welcome your comments and suggestions, and encourage you to write to us anytime.

JCPenney Internet Customer Service
Interesting. What I would have liked to have seen was something like "No, our policy is that we do not knowingly purchase products or services from North Korea, and we take the following safeguards to prevent violation of this policy...." It would seem that there is fair amount of wiggle room - who knows what the laws of the other countries permit, or what JCPenney has in their contracts? I'm not sure what "normal human rights conventions" means either.

This is not to accuse JC Penney of anything. After all, anyone can make allegations, and given the problems the govt is having with other trading practices of North Korea it seems inappropriate to place too high a burden on JCP's compliance programs.

Chariots of the Gods? - the series

Back in the early 1970's there was a very popular book called "Chariots of the Gods?" by Erich von Daniken. He claimed aliens had been here and had left such evidence as...uh, well, read it if you want.

Like anything else with aliens, debunkers came swarming to defend the faith. Here is one example.

Anyway, I figured it was probably about the 30th anniversary by now and I looked it up for blogfodder. And now I find that someone is making it into a TV series.

If you like oddball stuff like this, you'll like Charles Fort and Art Bell. If you don't, you're more likely to like James Randi.

A poll of Iraqi opinion

Commissioned by the American Enterprise Institute, it offers some interesting observations.

One conclusion wasn't too shocking. It turns out that the majority (the Shi'ites) are in favor of democracy and the minority (the Sunnis) are against it. You might expect the group that presumably would have the most power under the new arrangement to be in favor of it.

Interesting quote:
Inchoate anxiety toward the U.S. showed up when we asked Iraqis if they thought the U.S. would help or hurt Iraq over a five-year period. By 50% to 36% they chose hurt over help. This is fairly understandable; Iraqis have just lived through a war in which Americans were (necessarily) flinging most of the ammunition. These experiences may explain why women (who are more antimilitary in all cultures) show up in our data as especially wary of the U.S. right now. War is never pleasant, though U.S. forces made heroic efforts to spare innocents in this one, as I illustrate with firsthand examples in my book about the battles. Evidence of the comparative gentleness of this war can be seen in our poll. Less than 30% of our sample of Iraqis knew or heard of anyone killed in the spring fighting. Meanwhile, fully half knew some family member, neighbor or friend who had been killed by Iraqi security forces during the years Saddam held power. Perhaps the ultimate indication of how comfortable Iraqis are with America's aims in their region came when we asked how long they would like to see American and British forces remain in their country: Six months? One year? Two years or more? Two thirds of those with an opinion urged that the coalition troops should stick around for at least another year.

Click it or ticket

Oh yeah, it's a good idea to use your seat belt. And although I don't like it, I can tolerate enforcement of seat belt laws - apparently the cops are showing enough discretion to keep it from being intolerable (although I hesitate to entrust such powers to a group that increasingly is chosen more for ethnicity than competence).

But do the feds have to get involved? Walter Williams has more.

Monday, September 08, 2003

Take that!

Dean's World, eh? Well, there's Dean's Planet too. And he has this to say to you.

A matter of utmost gravity

Say what you will about teachers' virtues - the fact is that they still need some quality control. Let Rand Simberg and Jay Manifold take it from here.

What a card!

He posted it a couple of weeks ago and said that it was all over the Net, but I had missed it. Anyway, now that Qusay and Uday are dead meat, Dave Trowbridge offers us a list of lesser known members of the family.

Who will save us from the press?

Remember "Jesus Christ Superstar"? Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice wrote a "rock opera" depicting the last days of Jesus Christ, and some found it highly sacrilegious. For my part, I just liked the music.

In the overture Judas Iscariot asks something like "why'd you pick such a backward time in such a strange land? If you'd come today you could have reached the whole nation...Israel in 4 BC had no mass communication".

Interesting thought, that. Never mind the practical problems with finding 3 wise men and a virgin - I'm sure we could have a lot of fun speculating on how Jesus Christ's appearance would have been covered by media like today's. How about the New York Times? The Guardian? Drudge? Bill O'Reilly? Larry King? Instapundit? Andrew Sullivan? The BBC? Atrios?

Experts without expertise

That's the title of a column by Thomas Sowell lamenting the abdication of adult responsibility for moral education of children:
One of the modern mothers says: "I can give them my opinion, tell them how I feel. But they have to decide for themselves." The notion that children can raise themselves, and create for themselves a moral universe that took whole societies centuries to evolve, is one of those notions that fit George Orwell's remark that some ideas are so stupid that only an intellectual could believe them. "No ordinary man could be such a fool," Orwell said.
Sowell cites Kate Hymowitz and two of her books, Liberation's Children and Ready or Not.

UPDATE: That's KAY Hymowitz - I blame my cousin Kate. And I didn't even give a link to the Sowell piece - I added it just now.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

U and you

A day or so ago Glenn Reynolds posted about depleted uranium (U), which has been a bee in many bonnets for some time. I'm not naive enough to think that the issue will go away, because too many professional liars find it convenient. But I've cast pearls before swine before, so what follows is some information about uranium in the environment, from Nature's Building Blocks by John Emsley.

The fact is that uranium really isn't that uncommon. It's alleged to be the reason for the continuing heat in the earth's core, which may in fact be a huge reactor. Its decay is the source of radon which can concentrate in homes (you know, the ones that are too tightly sealed because they're trying to save energy so we'll quit building nuclear power plants). Just ask this guy, whose house was so full of radon that he was contaminating his work site at the Limerick nuclear power plant in PA (the link is a PDF several pages long, but it's informative and probably contrary to your expectations).

And this uranium is primordial - it was there long before there were bomb tests or any other anthropic means of mass distribution of radioactive isotopes. Every life form on the planet has been exposed to it from day 1, so every life form inherently can deal with radiological impacts to greater or lesser degrees. And the variance is such that tree-huggers in Colorado will get more dose in their lifetimes just from living there than I ever did in a 10 year career working at nuclear power plants (and that includes trips into the drywells dressed up in rubber sucking air through a tube).

OK, just how common is it? In seawater it's about 3 parts per billion, and in the earth's crust it's about 2 ppb. It's more common than silver and mercury combined.

Is uranium toxic? Sure, if you get enough of it in the right places. But a little doesn't hurt, and you're already eating 1-2 micrograms of it daily. In excess it can mess up your kidneys by forming salts that will block its tubules. The soluble forms can be absorbed through the skin but are also readily excreted. If inhaled it is bad for your lungs, but then it's so dense that it's hard to get the stuff airborne.

So if you're around the dust for a while you might suffer the above? Not necessarily. You don't have to look far for examples - consider Nobel laureate Marie Curie and her husband Pierre. This woman worked with radioactive substances long before there was any concept of industrial hygiene:
Sometimes they could not do their processing outdoors, so the noxious gases had to be let out through the open windows. The only furniture were old, worn pine tables where Marie worked with her costly radium fractions. Since they did not have any shelter in which to store their precious products the latter were arranged on tables and boards. Marie could remember the joy they felt when they came into the shed at night, seeing "from all sides the feebly luminous silhouettes" of the products of their work. The dangerous gases of which Marie speaks contained, among other things, radon - the radioactive gas which is a matter of concern to us today since small amounts are emitted from certain kinds of building materials. Wilhelm Ostwald, the highly respected German chemist, who was one of the first to realize the importance of the Curies' research, traveled from Berlin to Paris to see how they worked. Neither Pierre nor Marie was at home. He wrote: "At my earnest request, I was shown the laboratory where radium had been discovered shortly before.... It was a cross between a stable and a potato shed, and if I had not seen the worktable and items of chemical apparatus, I would have thought that I was been played a practical joke."

They did suffer health effects:
In actual fact Pierre was ill. His legs shook so that at times he found it hard to stand upright. He was in much pain. He consulted a doctor who diagnosed neurasthenia and prescribed strychnine. And the skin on Marie's fingers was cracked and scarred. Both of them constantly suffered from fatigue. They evidently had no idea that radiation could have a detrimental effect on their general state of health. Pierre, who liked to say that radium had a million times stronger radioactivity than uranium, often carried a sample in his waistcoat pocket to show his friends. Marie liked to have a little radium salt by her bed that shone in the darkness. The papers they left behind them give off pronounced radioactivity. If today at the Bibliothèque Nationale you want to consult the three black notebooks in which their work from December 1897 and the three following years is recorded, you have to sign a certificate that you do so at your own risk.
The dose rates she received had to have been astronomical. And as a bonus, she was hounded by the French press for an alleged affair and she suffered from anti-Semitism without even being Jewish. But this frail woman later had a healthy child and died in 1934 at age 67.

There's no question that having the DU around increases the amount of radiation in the vicinity. But it's interesting to note that the complaints never mention actual dose rates - they just say the rates are X% greater than "background". It makes the numbers look more impressive to be sure, but IMO those truly concerned with dose rates would present the impact in those terms instead rather than just "increases in background". It makes quite a difference - the two are related, but much more loosely than you might suspect, and in a way that makes the DU sound thousands of times worse than it is.

So forget about the DU already. And for extra credit, smack the next guy who tries to make an issue out of it.

How the Towers Fell on the Discovery Channel

Collapse: How the Towers Fell
60 min.
Investigators attempt to determine the exact causes of the collapse of the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11. Included: structural details. (VCR Plus+ 949610)

Rating: TV-PG
Content: Violence
Category: Documentary
Release Year: 2003

Additional Airings
Date Time Channel VCR Plus+
Monday, 8 0:00 AM 36 DSC 777953
Sunday, 14 6:00 PM 36 DSC 977559

Why bother?

A Jewish fable relates that a man stood at the gates of Sodom and cried out against sin. He implored men to repent and change their ways. As things got progressively worse, he continued to cry out his warning. When it looked absolutely hopeless, a passerby asked him why he still bothered. He answered, 'I used to cry out so that men would change their ways. Now I cry out so that they won't change me!