Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
--C.S. Lewis--

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Monkeys With Super Powers

It just keeps getting worse and worse. As if their heightened agility, strength, and speed weren't enough, now we're breeding monkeys with super powers! Worse still, they can now pass these abilities on to their offspring, whether we like it or not. When the war comes, we'll have been the ones who armed the enemy.

Judge Sotomayor...The Crassly Political View

-Republicans would be crazy to fight her nomination. Too high a cost, no chance to win, and we're already not doing well with minority voters.
-If Judge Sotomayor actually does turn out to have the independent-minded streak (i.e. doesn't just default to the reflexively liberal position on most issues), how many of the liberal commentators currently applauding that will still be happy with it?
-Does anyone doubt that this is Obama's way of saying, "Here you go Hispanic community. Hope this keeps you too busy to notice that I don't plan to touch amnesty...er comprehensive reform...with a 10 foot pole."

A Cure For Cancer

Well, a treatment at least. It may come from people with Down syndrome, who have significantly less chance of developing cancer. It seems to be related to the way their genes express themselves in the development of blood vessels. Of course, its a long path from knowing how something works to being able to recreate the effect ourselves. Ironic that they might be providing us with a way to immeasurably improve our lives while we're killing them in mass.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Missing Link Found?

So, we've finally found a missing link connecting prosimians to higher primates? Funny, I thought we already had...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

What A Ride!

This video is a compilation of the various views of cameras attached to the solid rocket boosters space shuttle Atlantis used as she took off on her mission to repair Hubble. The cameras monitor the exterior in order to make sure there is no damage to the shuttle that might endanger the crew upon re-entry. They fall off with the boosters and are reviewed by NASA before they give the shuttle permission to return to earth.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Wow. There's a lot in the show's season finale to digest. I don't usually do TV blogging, but there were a couple of points I wanted to throw out.

First of all, I think I've found the struggle for the soul of Renee Walker to be one of the most interesting plots to watch all season. In season 1 we got Jack Bauer as a fully-formed Promethean terrorist-stopping machine. There must have been an initial moment somewhere when Jack first stepped over the line, but we really never got to see it like we have with Renee. One thing I've always appreciated about 24 was its acknowledgement that fighting the bad guys is messy. Anyone who sees a full-throated endorsement of torture in the show is obviously not paying attention. Jack makes the decisions he makes because he believes they are necessary, but the show never pretends for a moment that they don't come at a price. A wife, a daughter, a grandchild, a friend, etc., Jack is always hurting and losing the people he cares about because of his job and the way he goes about it. Fighting the enemy effectively requires him to become like them in some ways, and shedding your humanity always comes with a price. Renee understands this, and with full knowledge of the consequences, she is still taking a step forward into Jack's world.

I read a good analogy recently over at National Review. Think of civilization as a herd of sheep, while terrorists are the wolves prowling outside the fold. Sheep can't protect themselves. They don't have the tools or temperament. Who does? The sheep dog. He has the muscles, the fangs, the claws, and the temperament to go toe-to-toe with a wolf and win. But, he can never be a sheep. He is with them, but not one of them. They'll never feel as comfortable with him as they do with other sheep. He shares too much in common with the wolves he fights.

It looks like 24 has at least one more season, which most likely means Jack will be surviving the bio-agent currently ravaging him. A less likely, but possible outcome is that 24 has a final season centered on Renee, not as a replacement for Jack, but finishing Jack's final mission. On an emotional level, that's the outcome I want, despite my certainty that it will not happen. Jack will never get to walk off into the sunset. He's tried it too many times, and each time he gets pulled back in. Even if the show ended on such a note, deep down we all know it won't last. Terrorism will be back, the normal rules won't be sufficient, and Jack will again have the weight of the world dropped on his shoulders. The only rest for Jack would be the grave.

On a side note, were I Muslim, I would be offended by that final scene between Jack and the imam. Moralistic therapeutic deism, America's unofficial religion, raises its ugly head, this time covered in a taqiyah, telling Jack to forgive himself, as if God's concern is for our self-image rather than for our holiness. Apparently the producers of 24 think Muslims are a pretty cheap date. After CAIR's incessant objecting to a show about terrorism that might dare to use Muslims in some of its plot lines, 24 started using a bait-and-switch routine. Usually about halfway through the season we would end up finding out that the Muslims were really just a front for evil, corporate white guys. (Which is mildly insulting in itself, isn't it? I mean after all, are we supposed to assume the brown guys are too dumb to mastermind anything without a white guy making all the tough decisions?) Now, we get another ill-conceived sop in which the Muslim imam comforts Jack with the kind of platitudes I'd expect from Oprah, not a spiritual leader.

Lastly, I wanted to point out the parallels between President Taylor and Jack. On the surface they seem so different. She works in the open, using charm, and playing by the rules. Jack works in shadow, often on the wrong side of the law. And yet, both of them have felt the devastating cost of allowing others to depend on your for their safety. Both have lost and alienated those closest to them through no fault of their own, simply because they had to do what was necessary to guarantee the country's survival. And while they work on opposite sides of the law, both are trapped by it.

Monday, May 18, 2009

More On Obama At Notre Dame

Some additonal valuable thoughts can be found here, at Mere Comments. An exerpt:
So it is that President Obama stands on the wrong side of an unbridgeable chasm, separating those who believe that good and evil are independent of what we happen to want at the moment, and those who believe that our wanting determines what is "good for us". It is the very principle of the Culture of Death that the "value" of human life depends upon the valuers, and not upon the God-given nature of the human being in question. What compromise with that principle is possible? "Human life is sacred," say the Christians, and "Human life in the womb is to be valued according to the price list provided by the pregnant woman," says the President. There is no middle position between these principles, exactly as there is no middle god between the God of Israel and Baal or Moloch. Though perhaps I am being unfair to the old Moloch-worshippers. They at least did not sacrifice their children for the sake of mere convenience.

Obama's Notre Dame Speech

The president has a habit of saying very little, but saying it so beautifully that people don't notice. His knack in this regard was on display in his commencement speech at Notre Dame. The full speech can be read here, but I'll stick to the piece addressing abortion, since that is what is relevant to the controversy over the school awarding him an honorary degree.

Now, admittedly, a graduation is no place for a full-on campaign moment. But since one of the excuses Notre Dame's administration used to defend their invitation was the need for "open dialogue", it was entirely proper for President Obama to use part of his speech to address the issue. And address it he did. However, his main point boiled down to a simple statement that we should be nice to each other and realize abortion is a tough issue for people's consciences. Wow, what powerful stuff.

He went on to say that pro-lifers and pro-choices can work together to reduce the number of abortions within the current legal framework. That's fine as far as it goes, but there are a few problems. First of all, even as he says those words, the president has thus far only worked towards goals that lead to an increase in abortion deaths by making the legal framework we must work within ever more restrictive. At the state level he worked to block born-alive infants legislation, despite its explicit statement that the legislation should not be construed to impact the legality of abortion. He openly dodged the question of when life begins, calling it "above my pay grade". One of his first actions as president was to rescind the Mexico City policy, authorizing US funds to be distributed to overseas NGOs that provide abortions. He has also voted against partial-birth abortion bans, against parental notification, and against legislation to ban non-guardians from transporting a minor across state lines to receive an abortion.

Despite explicitly saying, "Let's honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause," his administration has proposed a recension of the current conscience clause allowing medical professionals to refuse to participate in abortions. The administration's claim is that they are looking for ways to "clarify" the law. Does anyone really think it will come back in any meaningful form once its been removed?

Essentially, the only way the president will allow attempts to reduce the number of abortions is if those attempts fall within his pre-existing policy goals. Want to increase entitlement benefits or pass universal health care? Call it pro-life and get on board! How about expanding access to contraceptives and lowering the age at which kids start sex-ed classes? Wow, it's like you're the pope or something!

The bottom line is this. I can respect someone who entertains no thought of real compromise if they admit it. But don't tell me you want to work together as long as it doesn't require you to cede a single inch of territory, and call it a compromise. That isn't bipartisanship or understanding. That's simply telling someone to accept unconditional surrender with a smile and a happy tone.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


-The beauty of Hulu.com is that you can revisit childhood TV favorites. My childhood wasn't that long ago (some would argue it has yet to end), but it is nonetheless fun to watch shows I haven't seen in years. I was saddened to learn that Sliders, while entertaining, doesn't hold up well. The plot holes and inconsistencies are legion. Can they slide early? In some episodes they do, but in others they act as if they can't. One of the ongoing plot devices is a "race against time" as they struggle to be ready to slide when the timer goes off, lest they be stuck on one planet forever. There are two problems here though. First of all, if they can move the timer forward, which they sometimes can, why can't they delay it? Secondly, since Quinn built the timer from scratch once, if they lost their window, why couldn't he just build a new timer from scratch and start over again? Oh well, at least the A-Team aged gracefully.

-Give credit where it's due. Obama was wrong to say he would release pictures of prisoner interrogations, but at least he realized his mistake and decided to fix it.

-Patience. It occurred to me today that the word refers to two related, but distinct attributes. One refers to our forbearance with others in trying circumstances, and the other refers to our ability to be content when forced to endure the passage of time. One is not necessarily connected to the other. For example, I can be patient with a child who is learning to read, but lose my mind knowing a present is waiting under the tree for Christmas morning. Anyway, doesn't it seem like they deserve separate words?

-Hubble is being repaired by the shuttle crew this week. Sometimes I don't think people understand how much courage that must take. Have you ever been working on an engine and caught your arm on a sharp edge, or snagged a sleeve? Now, imagine working on unfamiliar equipment in a bulky space suit and gloves, knowing that one snagged sleeve means a suit rupture that will kill you. That's if all of the space debris doesn't punch a hole in you or the shuttle first.

-Given President Obama's track record in nominations so far, how many potential justices do you think will have to withdraw over unpaid taxes? I'm guessing two.

-Did anyone ever wonder how Scrooge McDuck got so rich? He obviously has pretty shaky business sense, given that he spends most of his time on crazy treasure-hunting schemes rather than his many profitable businesses. Besides that, think of all the interest he never earned on the money locked up in his money bin.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Taking An Obsession With Gender Equality To Its Logical Conclusion

"Legislation outlawing gender rating by health insurers took another step forward Monday when the Assembly voted overwhelmingly to prohibit insurers from using a person's sex as the basis for charging different premiums for similar policies."

Why in the world would insurers have the audacity to think that they have any right to price health care according to gender? Simply because men and women are biologically distinct, suffer from different diseases, have different ailments and weaknesses as they age, etc. is surely no reason to think that they should be charged different rates for insurance. It would be like a mechanic charging more when working on a Ferrari than a Toyota, simply because it requires different parts and more training. How much sense would that make?!?! Oh...wait...

More seriously though, this is a perfect example of Thomas Sowell's criticism that the left doesn't "think beyond the basics". Charging women more money is bad. End of thought processes. The idea that women may have higher costs for the system (Anyone heard of pregnancy? How many men require a monthly pill throughout much of their sexual prime?) isn't even a factor. The net result of pricing restrictions will be that it becomes less profitable to insure women. Companies will need to make up the difference, probably by paying doctors less for female-specific procedures. This in turn will make specialties like gynecology less profitable than male specialties, chasing the most qualified doctors to other fields. When women see a scarcity of doctors focusing on their ailments, the cry of "gender discrimination" will ring out, necessitating further government "solutions".

Monday, May 11, 2009

Pigs, Feel Our Wrath!

Sweet swine flu revenge!

This Tastes Terrible, It Must Be The Pâté

Apparently, people cannot distinguish pâté from their dogs' Alpo. They did successfully identify the dog food as being the worst-tasting offering, but somehow this didn't lead to the conclusion that it was, in fact, dog food. As someone who can personally attest that dog food is, well, really bad, it makes one wonder why people bother eating pâté. Isn't cheese whiz cheaper? At least it can't be mistaken for dog food.

**Hat tip, The Corner**

Truth In Advertising

I have no idea whether the police in this story acted correctly. They may have reacted too quickly, and with too much force. However, can we all agree that the headline reporting that a "boy" was shot by police for playing with a toy gun is a little deceptive and inflammatory? The article reports that the "boy" in question was 15. While not technically inaccurate (the term boy can refer to anyone from an infant up to adulthood), it seems to me that the word "teen" would conjure up fewer images of some pre-pubescent child with a cap pistol.

It's an unfortunate fact that by 15, many kids are involved in violence and gang activity that could reasonably cause an officer to fear for his life when confronting a teen with what appears to be a weapon. Why not use a more accurate, less loaded term that can accurately reflect this?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Ashton Lundeby

In what, on it's face, seems like a ridiculous overreaction, a sixteen year-old North Carolina boy has been held without charge since March 5th over accusations that he made a bomb threat. Does anyone know anything further about this story? For example, the story blames the Patriot Act for the boy's prolonged detention, but doesn't cite any particular article being used. I know the Patriot Act is a useful boogeyman to throw around when you want to accuse the government of overstepping its bounds, but I'm not aware of any section dealing with detention of US citizens. The article also mentions national security letters, the use of which was expanded by the Patriot Act, but NSL's are essentially an administrative warrant. They get you information, not people.

The story sounds horrific, but the sheer ridiculousness of the reaction, coupled with the lack of much factual detail/blaming the evil Patriot Act, makes me wonder what information is missing here. Is anyone aware of what legal authority would allow the government to hold a citizen without habeas corpus rights? Is anyone aware of any reason why ANYONE for ANY reason would be held for two months over an accusation of a bomb threat when no bomb-making materials were found, nor any reason to believe the boy actually made such a threat?

Specter Lost His Seniority

Apparently Reid promised he could keep it, then caved under pushback from his caucus. Specter still seems to think he'll get it back after the 2010 elections. (Seriously? What possible benefit could there be to the Dem Caucus to give it back to you once you're safely re-elected.) Despite my previous defense of Specter, after his classy comments about the death of Jack Kemp, this news makes me very happy.

School Choice

Which do you think is more helpful to black students: Knowing that president Obama shares 50% of their racial makeup, or giving them an opportunity to participate in a safe, successful school despite the objections of teacher's unions.

Remember this. President Clinton's daughter went to private school. President Bush's two daughters went to public school, and his wife was a public school teacher. President Obama's daughters go to private school. Who do you think cares more about school results, and who cares more about being on the right side of the big donors?

Yeah, They're All Sweetness And Light

Until one tries to eat your face in your sleep! NEVER trust a monkey or any of its primate buddies!

Why Your Kids Should Never Watch TV

Personally, I'm a big fan of the Disney channel and other kids programming, much to the chagrin of the wife. But if you think about it a little, some of their shows really do send the wrong messages.

Hannah Montana: Keeping secrets allows you to have the best of both worlds.
Phineas and Ferb: Unsupervised use of power tools and electricity=fun
Tru Jackson/Sonny with a Chance: Child labor laws? What child labor laws?
The Suite Life of Zach and Cody: Running around a hotel unsupervised leads to fun adventures. Oh, and make friends with the weird guy living in the boiler room.
The Suite Life on Deck: See above, plus the addition of shipboard dangers.
That's So Raven: If you start seeing things no one else sees, don't see a neurologist. It's probably just cool psychic powers.
The Replacements: If you don't like someone, just get rid of them.
iCarly: Pretty young girl+webcam+minimal adult supervision. What could possibly go wrong?