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--

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Please Don't Sneeze On The Kilogram

You might break science.

We already use fundamental constants to define other important measures. The article gives the example of a meter, but a second has also been standardized this way. A second is defined using the natural decay of a cesium atom. These measures mean that anyone, anywhere, at any time can verify a measurement with the proper equipment. The problem with gravity (and hence measures of weight) is that gravity is incredibly weak. Think about it. If I throw a rock, I can temporarily defeat the total gravity of the entire mass of the planet earth. There are so many things that can counter gravitational force to one extent or another that the precise work needed to obtain a universal constant is not easy.

I also can't help but thinking that there must be a weight loss joke in this story somewhere...

Independent Commissions For Everyone!

So, let me get this straight. We have a commission to deal with redistricting because we can't trust the legislature to do it. The governor created another commission to update the tax code because they've messed that up as well. There's a coastal commission to deal with environmental and sustainability issues. Now they're voting on the creation of a prison commission and a water commission. For goodness sakes, we've even got a STRAWBERRY COMMISSION. At what point has the legislature devolved so much of its power into various commissions that we can take it as a tacit admission that even they know they're useless so we can send them home?

Monday, August 24, 2009

Best of the Web

James Taranto's Best of the Web column is, as it claims, one of the best daily roundups on the web. He made a telling point today that I thought was worth passing along, about presidential press coverage.

Here's a blast from the past. The New York Times, July 9, 2001, reports on George W. Bush's first summer vacation as president:
On Friday, as new unemployment figures painted a newly troubling portrait of the American economy, Mr. Bush placed himself in the same scenes--golfing and fishing in a New England paradise--that once caused his father electoral grief.
Simply amazing.
Here's the Bureau of Labor Statistics report, dated July 6, that "painted a newly troubling portrait of the American economy":
The unemployment rate was little changed at 4.5 percent, five-tenths of a percentage point higher than the average for 2000.
As Barack Obama embarked on his first summer vacation as president last week--also in a "New England paradise," Martha's Vineyard--the most recent unemployment rate was 9.4%, more than double the summer 2001 figure. Covering the Obama jaunt, the Times offers no hint that there's anything wrong with a president taking a vacation during a time of genuine crisis. Indeed, it offers this justification:
Mr. Obama, whom aides described as being amused by all of the gloom-and-doom prognosticating over his health care agenda, did not even consider skipping his vacation. Last year, he talked about the importance of taking a break to avoid "making mistakes."
That makes sense--and in any case, it's not as if the president actually escapes his responsibilities when he goes on "vacation." But the Times's coverage of Obama is a useful contrast to the paper's petty partisan sniping against Bush.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Quality Work MSNBC

What do you do if you're dying to run a story about how angry white protesters are toting guns to presidential events because they're scared of having a black man in charge, and the gun-toting protester in question ruins it by being a black man himself? If you're a professional reporter, you reconsider your presuppositions about the motivations behind the protest. If you're MSNBC, you just crop the video so that no one can see he's a black guy. Let's tale a look!

Objective Reporting


Thursday, August 20, 2009

Threatening Protesters

Don't follow this link if you don't want to see some fairly explicit threats against the life of the president by deranged protesters. Of course, all of these were threats aimed at President Bush. Does it excuse any of the nutters currently holding any of the nasty signs aimed at President Obama? Of course not. Anyone who holds a sign advocating the death of the president should be turned into a Secret Service chew toy as far as I'm concerned. But I think it needs to be emphasized that this crazy isn't a conservative phenomenon, nor is it racially motivated. Crazy is universal unfortunately.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Fresh From The Department Of Nothing Better To Do

Mathematicians from the University of Ottawa (Go fighting Gee-Gees!) have discovered that zombie attacks may lead to the destruction of mankind unless dealt with quickly. Coming to such a profoundly revealing conclusion requires either a PhD in applied mathematics or a 3-day weekend, a George Romero* boxed set, and a VCR.

Apparently these math wunderkinds use the same sort of procedures that they would use for studying outbreaks of a real pandemic. It's a good thing that there are currently no real-world pandemic outbreaks that might distract them from this important work.

*Fun fact file: George Romero was inspired to go into horror directing after working on a segment of Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood.

It Frightens Me More Than A Little Bit

...to find myself on Barney Frank's side in this little spat.

Have You Ever Feared A Plant?

Because I do.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Go Chuck!

I hope he sicks the Libertarians on Babs.

Congresswoman Lee Multitasking

"Of course the Congresswoman values your input. What would make you doubt that?"

Reason 6,347,843 that gerrymandered districts are a bad thing.

Driving A Stake Through The Heart Of The "Prevention" Canard

If you've paid any attention at all to the federal health care debate, you know that "prevention" and "wellness" seem to be the Holy Grail of health care cost reductions. Everyone, including the president, seems to think that we can simply screen and manage our way to solvency. So, with such a simple solution facing us, why haven't health care plans already cut their costs? After all, it is in their best interest financially, and most of them cover preventative services while offering some kind of wellness program. And yet, as president Obama so helpfully pointed out, we keep cutting off diabetics' feet rather than simply helping them manage their medicine and weight.

The answer is that most of the benefits of wellness and preventative care are a myth, at least when it comes to lowering costs. Think about it for a minute. Is the 300 pound diabetic who is in danger of losing their foot really unaware that their weight is unhealthy? Is there one person left in all of America who isn't aware that being severely overweight, not exercising, and smoking are all bad for you? We are fat, lazy smokers because it is EASY, not because we want to be. Short of paying your doctor to follow you around and slap Twinkies out of your hand, that isn't going to change.

As for screening, it may save lives, but not money. Chew on this for a moment. The US has the highest cancer survival rates in the western world, in part because we have some of the best early detection practices. And yet, WE'RE HAVING THIS DEBATE PRECISELY BECAUSE OUR COSTS ARE TOO HIGH! Perhaps screening isn't a magical budget cure-all. The problem with screening is that there isn't a way to screen only the folks who will develop diseases. That means you screen tons of people who won't ever develop problems, and the costs of their screenings have to be factored in to your equation.

Take colon cancer, with its legendarily fun endoscopies. The third most common form of cancer in the west, an American has about a 7% chance of getting it. Assuming that you start screening at 50, and will, on average, live to be 75, you'll get 6 preventative exams. With 93% of the population never developing the disease, that means every population of 100 health conscious people will have around 550 unnecessary screenings and about 7 people who benefit. This is, of course, assuming that early detection will cut treatment costs for the 7 people who will develop colon cancer. And it doesn't take into account the fact that people who already engage in less healthy behavior are the ones who are most likely to develop colon cancer and least likely to come in for screenings, while the health-conscious folks who willingly submit to being on the business end of a sigmoidoscope are already at less risk.

In case you want a slightly more authoritative source for all of this, try the CBO. They are the people tasked with telling us if the current proposals can actually, you know, work. And they say no.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Cash For Clunkers

In addition to being a shining example of why breaking windows does NOT stimulate the economy, and creating an artificial shortage of used cars for people too poor to buy something better, apparently the program also stinks at helping clean up the air.

Hubble In 3D

I Keep Telling You It's Complicated

Temperature increases have led to a greener Sahara Desert. Vegetation there has been increasing for 20 years now. What does increased vegetation do? It removes more CO2 from the atmosphere. And this isn't an isolated phenomenon. But the computer climate models on which we are supposed to base the future of our economy can't even agree on whether desert greening will occur. Want to bet on whether their projections regarding its effects on atmospheric CO2 are accurate?

But don't worry, the Democratic party still has sound science to justify the Cap-and-Trade fiasco. Debbie Stabenow feels it when she's flying.

Note To President Obama

When everyone is already a bit freaked out that you put payments for end-of-life counseling in legislation dealing with COST CONTROL, it probably isn't the best time to tell them that you'd deny your own grandma a hip replacement. Oh wait, was this the bigoted old granny you threw under the bus next to Jeremiah Wright? Let me see if I remember how that story went correctly. He thought the government invented AIDS and America deserved 9-11, she got scared of an aggressive panhandler. Yup, both mean old racists. No wonder you didn't want the government to pay for a new hip...

Stupid ACLU

Listen, I stand second to none in my crazy religion-and-gun-clinging, talk radio-listening, and according to Paul Krugman, probably racist, fear of federal government intrusion into everyday life. But really? The ACLU is losing it over the administration's decision to use tracking cookies on federal websites. Are they aware that EVERY FRIGGIN' SITE IN THE WORLD EXCEPT THOSE OPERATED BY THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT DOES THIS? My info may not be secure with the feds, but that's really a moot point, since everyone from the Drudge Report to Yahoo mail is already selling my Internet browsing habits to Nigerian bankers and discount Viagra suppliers. Perhaps one of the IT guys that maintains the ACLU's website should take them aside and calmly let them know that they can simply adjust their browser security settings to foil this vicious federal plot.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

God Bless America!

You will NEVER see an interview quite like this one anywhere else...

What A Weird, Rambling, Incoherent Response

Apparently in Barbara Boxer's world wearing nice clothes to a townhall meeting is proof of "organization". She doesn't explain exactly why, other than that someone once yelled at her in Florida while wearing nice clothing, nor does she explain why being "organized" makes one's protest less valid. I'm sure CSEA and the other union thugs running our state will be glad to stop sending organized groups out on Senator Boxer's behalf. Godspeed, Chuck Devore!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Issue Drinking Licenses

I assume this idea was spawned by the fact that licensed teens drive so responsibly?

The Mood On Healthcare Is Ugly

Just watch this. It's precisely why they wanted to get something done before the recess started.

And this is Pennsylvania. Imagine what the mood is like for red-state congressmen.

P.S. I don't endorse the rudeness of the crowd, or enjoy it. Specter and Sebelius have the courtesy to come and try to have a townhall meeting with voters, the voters should show the same courtesy back. Being impolite is not constructive nor does it reflect well on the crowd.