Saturday, May 08, 2004

Another take

There has been a lot of hyperventilation about Abu Ghraib. Politicians here and abroad have sought to capitalize on some illegal and unacceptable mistreatment which nevertheless in many cases sounds a lot more like fraternity hazing or a clip from "Jackass" than torture IMO. Interrogation is about getting people to say things that they would rather not disclose - before long we'll have people claiming that that alone is unacceptable because of the effect on the self-esteem and sensibilities of those subjected to it.

Now Charles Krauthammer has written this:
We think of torture as the kind that Saddam practiced: pain, mutilation, maiming and ultimately death. We think of it as having a political purpose: intimidation, political control, confession and subjugation. What happened at Abu Ghraib was entirely different. It was gratuitous sexual abuse, perversion for its own sake.

That is what made it, ironically and disastrously, a pictorial representation of precisely the lunatic fantasies that the jihadists believe -- and that cynical secular regimes such as Egypt and the Palestinian Authority peddle to pacify their populations and deflect their anger and frustrations. Through this lens, Abu Ghraib is an "I told you so" played out in an Arab capital, recorded on film. ....the abuse at Abu Ghraib is so inflammatory and, for us and our cause, so damaging. It reenacted the most deeply psychologically charged -- and most deeply buried -- aspect of the entire war on terrorism, exactly as Osama bin Laden would have scripted it.
(link via VodkaPundit)

Masked mischief

Madpony got me thinking about raccoons as pets. A Google later and we find all sorts of neat references on the subject, starting with this and its many links.

When I was younger a neighbor caught an old male alive, and he was about as mean as they come - getting within about 10 feet of the cage was good for snarls and claws extended through the bars. Apparently raccoons aren't fit company unless they're held a lot when they're little. Or even then -see about domestication issues here. In some jurisdictions having one is against the law.

Maybe a pet raccoon is the last thing you have in mind, and you just want the little varmints to go away. This has some suggestions.

Friday, May 07, 2004

Move over 007

The James Bond character may live dangerously, but he's got nothing on Terry Schiavo. Bond has the bad guys after him, but I don't recall anyone ever attempting to dehydrate him to death.

Ms. Schiavo is unable to communicate clearly at this time. Her husband has been doing what he can to get her to die, despite the wishes and beliefs of her parents.

She had been left to slowly dehydrate, a penalty we couldn't impose on the world's most heinous criminal. Thanks to legislation by the state of Florida and Gov. Jeb Bush, she had her feeding tube restored.

But the Florida judiciary, previously distinguished by their attempt to throw the last presidential election to Al Gore, has intervened. She can't communicate, you see. So she can't express the wish to stay alive. So according to Pinellas County Circuit Judge W. Douglas Baird, Gov. Bush violated her rights by ordering her feeding tube restored.

Now check out the news coverage. The WaPo covered this as Brain-Damaged Woman's Rights Were Violated, Fla. Judge Rules (

Yep, that's it. Her rights were violated by an order that saved her from slow dehydration.

Justice must be served, you know. Perhaps some day the judge who came up with logic will be found unconscious and needing help somewhere and the onlookers will apply the same logic. "Well, why didn't he say something!"

It's possible that Ms. Schiavo would wish to die under such circumstances. That has been her husband's position all along, but he can't document it. And there are reasons to be suspicious of his motives. Her supporters' website is here.

I've had a relative die slowly. I can see why people might want to die under certain circumstances. But I can't see anyone wanting to do it this way.

If euthanasia über alles types think she wants to die, fine - let them kill her outright and have a test case. But the ones who would hide behind an Orwellian legal decision that would kill her to "defend her rights" can drop dead.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

You don't have to admit your score

Rob the Acidman has a multiple-guess test full of questions about everyday life back when. Yeah, they had a pop culture back then too.

He also knows how to deal with Georgia's gift to agriculture, the Vidalia onion.

Thinking negatively?

Suppose your spouse proposes that you take out a life insurance naming them as beneficiary. Is this responsible behavior? Or is it "thinking negatively"? Or could it mean that your spouse is planning your demise?

I'm hoping that most of us would think it was about financial responsibility, but after this morning I can't be so sure. Chilli Amar, the traffic babe on a morning show, told of her friend's relationship which had progressed through an engagement. Then just before they set a wedding date, the man matter-of-factly proposed a prenuptial agreement, not suspecting that it would be an issue. It was - the friend was outraged and things haven't been quite the same.

If any specifics were discussed, Chilli didn't mention them. Certainly there's some potential for abuse there, especially if it pops up the morning of the wedding. But apparently her friend was mortally offended by the idea alone - there was nothing specific to complain about and no wedding date had been set yet anyway.

I don't see the problem here. We were told that both had some significant assets such as houses and savings - why be at the mercy of judges' whims?

We didn't hear from the friend, but a number of callers weighed in. Most were for the prenup, and insisted that there were benefits that weren't obvious. At least one was against it, talking about "negativity" et al, as if someone were betting that their marriage would fail going in, and he felt that the uncertainty provided an incentive to work on saving the marriage.

IMO if you can't think of a better reason for making a marriage work besides what might happen to your personal assets, maybe you shouldn't get married at all. But in a world full of willful judges, vicious family law attorneys and jealous family members, putting things down in writing sounds like plain common sense to me.

Anyway, I thought it was interesting. Trust is good, but not having to trust is better.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

The inflection point

A is flying an airplane. He is flying higher and higher until he manages to disable the jet engines. The plane's altitude continues to increase for a bit because of its momentum. Then A turns over the controls to B.

Shortly after B takes over the plane reaches a maximum altitude and then starts to fall. He manages to restart the engines, but it takes a while to recover and the plane loses a lot of altitude before it starts to climb back up again.

And he's still climbing, but hasn't reached the heights A reached because B is flying by more responsible rules and has some nasty storms that A didn't have to deal with in the meantime. Now we're considering a new pilot, who has never flown a plane and thinks A was a better pilot than B because A reached higher altitudes.

Now tell me - when did the problems start? When A killed the engines? Or when the plane reached a maximum height and started falling?

And when did things start improving? When the plane started pulling out of the dive? Or when the minimum altitude was reached and it started climbing?

David Brock wants to use the peak as the starting point of a recession. That this peak occurred during 2 months into Bush's administration pleases him because he doesn't like Bush (in more ways than one) and wants to blame the recession on him. He goes so far as to say that the Republican claim that the recession started under Bill Clinton is a lie.

Believe me, David Brock knows about lying. But as his post cites, he has some support from the National Bureau of Economic Research, which uses the peaks as bounds for measuring recessions and expansions.

That they would do so is not surprising, because peaks and valleys are easy to measure. It's far more difficult to tell exactly when things "started to get better/worse".

But for deciding who'll make a better President we don't need precision. We just need a definition that can be used to tie economic performance to economic policies of a particular administration. Anything that can keep the accuracy within a 4 year window is good enough.

And we know for sure that George W. Bush had only been in office for two months when this peak was reached. His staff was probably still replacing the W's on keyboards when this peak happened - he certainly hadn't had time to effect any economic policy changes. We are forced to conclude that if we can hang this economic performance on the President whose policies were in effect, Bill Clinton is the guy responsible. So Brock's story fails even on its own terms.

But even if the recession had come later that wouldn't have let Bill Clinton off the hook. Things had to have been fouled up well before the peak was reached. If business activity were a smooth function, this would be sometime around the "inflection point" before the peak, when the graph started curving downward instead of upward (it's the point at which the the second derivative became zero - did that help?). That puts the start of the recession well within Clinton's 8 year watch.

Suppose you think I'm all wet and you like Brock's reasoning. Fine, run with it. Note that it shows the beginning of the expansion that Bill Clinton enjoyed was before Bill Clinton entered office. So it appears that the guy who ran for President claiming that we had "the worst economy in 50 years" not only was lying, but was not responsible for the upturn in the economy - it started before his policies came into effect. (Of course using my reasoning the result is the same, only that the expansion started even earlier in Bush 41's term). We have no evidence that John Kerry's economic policies will be better than Bill Clinton's, and by now we know that Clinton's led us to a recession after Bush 41's recovery.

Anyway, despite my trademark digressions, the general idea of this post is that thanks to the tremendous momentum of and lags in our economy, things can be hosed well before we reach the peaks and things can be on the mend before we hit bottom.

And we can conclude that the last two expansions were started by guys named Bush and the last recession was caused by the policies of Bill Clinton.

Donald Luskin takes another approach here, but the conclusion is the same.

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

The 'cost' of medical care

Thomas Sowell offers this anecdote:
" I saw a vivid example of what bureaucratic medical care meant back in 1959, when I had a summer job at the headquarters of the U.S. Public Health Service in Washington. Around 5 o'clock one afternoon, a man had a heart attack on the street near our office.
He was taken to the nurse's room and asked if he was a federal employee. If he was, he could be sent to the large, modern medical facility there in the Public Health Service headquarters. But he was not a government employee, so an ambulance was summoned from a local hospital.
By the time this ambulance made its way through miles of downtown Washington rush-hour traffic, the man was dead. He died waiting for a doctor, in a building full of doctors. That is what bureaucracy means."
And some people want more of this.

Separation of church and state

Look around among blogs or elsewhere and you'll have no problem finding brayings about separation of church and state. Yeah, yeah, we've got to have it to prevent theocracy, blah blah, as if we've ever come close. It's as if feminists in the US claimed that unless we backed them we'd soon be seeing this and this next door.

But somehow the flipside never gets considered. We must protect the Leviathan we call from the multitude of churches, but how about protecting the churches from the govt?

For instance, what's this about politicians ragging religious officials who would deny Communion to politicians who refuse to uphold the policies of their churches? That's an internal matter - what business does the govt have in interfering?

No one can stop John Kerry or Nancy Pelosi from calling themselves Catholic. But if the Catholic Church can no longer determine what it takes to receive Communion, then the govt has overstepped its bounds, and this should be recognized as unConstitutional political bullying.

Sunday, May 02, 2004

Crooked journalists

Unless you're a crime buff or an old Chicagoan you probably haven't heard of Jake Lingle. He was a popular journalist with the Chicago Tribune who was murdered in 1929.

Ha - it turns out that Lingle was crooked:
In the wake of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre in 1929, the police cracked down on many organized crime activities in Chicago. One of the gambling dens that was closed was the Sheriden Wave Tournament Club. A year later, Zuta and his gambling partners were ready to reopen the plush gambling casino. When the Chicago Tribune's Lingle got word of this he became greedy and let Zuta know that he wanted $15,000 up front, or 50 percent of the net for protection. Zuta balked at Lingle's demands. When Zuta refused to pay, Lingle told him, "If this joint is opened up, you'll see more squad cars in front ready to raid it than you ever saw in your life before."

The murder of the popular Lingle created sensational headlines in Chicago and the Tribune printed daily that a $55,000 reward was available for information leading to the arrest and conviction of his killer. The public's outrage at the killing caused a police crackdown on all of the gangs in Chicago.
For some time now we've heard that Saddam Hussein allegedly liked buying journalists because they were so cheap. Now Instapundit links this, which apparently names some names of corrupt journalists.

So what's the appropriate punishment? Given all the braying we hear at the slightest impact on the First Amendment, and that these people were manipulating public opinion against the public interest, such journalists ought to get penalized as they would have if they had committed treason.

OTOH, I wonder if any of them ever tried pulling Lingle's trick on Saddam Hussein? Gosh, what do you suppose he would have done? Seriously, have there been any mysterious disappearances of journalists in the Middle East?

Are three blades better than two?

The answer is here, from the most credible of sources - a blogger.

Now if they can just figure out how to keep Mom from using the same one Pop is using on his face, they'll really have something.

"'He has spoken to his family and now is ready to get back to work.'

This man shouldn't ever have to pay for his own drink again.

Link via Instapundit.