Sunday, April 30, 2006

This Can't Be Good

From the link:

Numerous economists have expressed optimism about Iran's ambitions, saying that the impact of the Iran oil bourse on the American dollar-and U.S. economy could be worse than Iran launching a "direct nuclear attack."

While the article is somewhat dated and keeping in mind the need to consider the source,, it still speaks to the implications of their effort.

And this (also dated) article:

The Bush administration will never allow the Iranian government to open an oil exchange (bourse) that trades petroleum in euros. If that were to happen, hundreds of billions of dollars would come flooding back to the United States crushing the greenback and destroying the economy. This is why Bush and Co. is planning to lead the nation to war against Iran. It is straightforward defense of the current global system and the continuing dominance of the reserve currency, the dollar.


With economies so interdependent and interwoven, a global, not just American Depression would occur with a domino effect throwing the rest of world economies into poverty. Markets for acutely less expensive US exports would never materialize.

The result, some SME's estimate, might be as many as 200 million Americans out of work and starving on the streets with nobody and nothing able to rescue or aid them, contrary to the 1920/30 Great Depression through soup kitchens and charitable support efforts.

Can You Live With That?

Tens of thousands of antiwar protestors marched in New York yesterday.

"We are here today because the war is illegal, immoral and unethical," said the Rev. Al Sharpton, who is certainly an expert in such things. If the Reverend Sharpton needed proof of his claims, this sign-holder had it ready to hand:

The claim asserted by this sign is so bizarre, so stupid, that it immediately discredits whatever arguments the sign-holder might otherwise make.

We also note that not everyone marching against the war is opposed to war itself. They're just opposed to this war.

There are politically correct wars and politically incorrect wars. The way to tell the difference is that the latter is any war Bush happens to have initiated. The former is, inter alia, a war that we are not currently fighting.

Here are two questions every protestor should be required to answer before they get their official protestor certificate: "What do you think will happen in, and to, Iraq once American forces are withdrawn?" And secondly, "Can you live with that?"

I have no way of knowing, of course, but I wonder how many in yesterday's crowd would have answered the first question by saying "I don't care." I wonder, too, how many would have answered the second question by saying "Damn right I can."

Thanks to Michelle Malkin for the photos.

Iran Oil Exchange

According to this article it looks like Iran is moving foward with its oil exchange.

Oil Minister Kazem Vaziri Hamaneh said on Wednesday that the establishment of Oil Stock Exchange is in its final stage and the bourse will be launched in Iran in the next week.

I guess it will soon be time to start prepping those B1 bombers.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Evil Energy

Here are some facts I've gleened from the current events regarding oil.

The country's three largest petroleum companies - Exxon Mobil (XOM) Corp., Chevron (CVX) Corp. and ConocoPhillips (COP) - posted combined first-quarter income of almost $16 billion, an increase of 17 percent from the year before.

No doubt we have a Dr. Evil here...but wait...

Taken together, Exxon, Chevron and ConocoPhillips made a profit of $8.19 on every $100 in sales. In contrast, Internet bellwethers Google Inc. (GOOG), Yahoo Inc. (YHOO) and eBay (EBAY) Inc. collectively turned a $19.20 profit on every $100 of their combined revenue.

And of course, despite the outrage from our congressmen, the government sees to it that it gets its share of the windfall...

In the first quarter, Exxon, Chevron and ConocoPhillips turned over a combined $13.8 billion in sales taxes - about 7 percent of their total revenue.

This supports my claim stated in an earlier post...

Economists are perhaps most troubled by the possibility that lawmakers will consider suspending the federal 18.4-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax. All that would do is raise demand and worsen the government deficit - a lose-lose proposition, they said.

And here is a statement that affirms the logical conclusion of free markets...

Art Smith, chief executive of energy consultant John S. Herold, said $75 oil is "the best thing that could happen to the alternative energy business" and is the greatest force for change in the market. He and other analysts said SUV sales are already declining, and they expect Americans to think more critically about the energy efficiency of their homes and the lengths of their commutes in the years ahead.

We haven't seen much about this in the news yet but the cost of increases in petroleum reflected at the pump are only the beginning. Keep in mind that everything you buy is transported to the stores you frequent by rail and truck. The increased transportation costs will eventually and most assuredly appear in the price tag of the goods you purchase as transportation costs will inevitably be passed on to the consumer.

Also note that petroleum is a vital component in the manufacture of many of the products we buy today. The increase in the cost of petroleum will eventually be reflected there as well.

Sure, higher energy prices are tough to take but you don't have to be a victim. You can invest in energy companies to offset the losses due to higher prices of petroleum and related products. Another positive note is that higher energy prices enable alternative energy technologies to be developed. This, and only this, will free us from our dependency on OPEC.

God Save Their Souls

For some people the death penalty would be a sentence of unfathomable mercy compared to what they deserve:

Prosecutors won't seek hate-crime charges against two white teens accused of brutally beating and sodomizing a 16-year-old Hispanic boy after he tried to kiss a young girl, officials said.

If the teenagers are convicted, though, jurors will be told during sentencing about the ethnic slurs used during the attack, Harris County prosecutor Mike Trent told the Houston Chronicle for Friday's editions. David Henry Tuck, 18, and Keith Robert Turner, 17, are both charged with aggravated sexual assault in the attack that left the unidentified victim in critical condition with massive internal injuries.

Authorities said the two dragged the boy from a house party Saturday and into the yard, where they sodomized him with a plastic pipe from a patio table umbrella and poured bleach on him. Trent on Friday described the pipe as being sharpened at one end and said Tuck stomped on the boy with steel-toe boots and kicked the pipe into him. At one point, the teens tried to carve something on the boy's chest with a knife, he told CNN Friday.

"I don't know that the very beginning of the attack was racial," Trent said, "but there's no question that they were venting quite a bit of hatred in their hearts."

The victim lay behind the house for more than 10 hours before he was found and someone called an ambulance. Trent said there were witnesses to the beating, though no one else had been charged. "You do certainly have to wonder why anyone not report that for as long as they did," he told CNN.

Investigators said the attack happened at an unsupervised house party in Spring after the 16-year-old tried to kiss a 12-year-old Hispanic girl.

Bleach was poured over the boy's body in an attempt to destroy DNA evidence, Sheriff's Lt. John Denholm said. Trent said Friday that doctors had also told investigators they suspected some kind of toxicity in his internal organs that may have been caused by foreign substance, "which makes me wonder if they didn't pour bleach down the pipe as well."

The sexual assault charges are punishable by five years to life in prison. Trent said if the victim dies, the teens could face murder charges punishable by life in prison or the death penalty.

Never mind their ages and the Supreme Court's refusal to allow minors to be executed. Anyone who would do what these two young men did is an animal that should be put to rest just as would be done with a vicious dog. Even if the victim doesn't die, his attackers should at the very least spend the rest of their lives in prison. They don't belong in human society.

I know. Someone will ask what room such sentiments leave for Christian compassion and human redemption. Christian compassion consists in resisting the temptation to treat these wretches in the same savage fashion that they treated their victim. They should be executed quickly and painlessly and then forgotten.

As for redemption this a theological matter and as such is of no concern to the state. Redemption is the prerogative of God, not society. The state's responsibility is to dispatch justice tempered with mercy (compassion). We do pray, nonetheless, that God save the souls of these monsters even as we wish that the justice system could, and would, make their souls available for saving.

Causes of Decline

A friend notes an interesting item from an article in our local paper. In a speech marking a celebration of a local councilwoman being named Democrat of the Year, state representative Daylin Leach (D) pointed to three events from the 1960s and 1970s which caused the current decline of the Democratic party - the Vietnam War, the Civil Rights Movement and Roe vs. Wade. Since 1974, he said, Democrats have not had a banner year in national politics.

The article doesn't say exactly how these issues precipitated the Democrats' fall from popular grace, but we can guess. The Vietnam war, for instance, branded the Democrats for two generations as soft on national defense. The current crop of Democrats have only reinforced that perception among the public.

The Civil Rights Movement, which could have been the crowning achievement of the Democrats in the last half of the twentieth century, turned out to be a mixed bag. John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey and others get much of the credit for the progress of civil rights in the 60's and 70's, but it was also Democrats in the south who opposed the national leadership and fought to maintain segregation and racial inequality. Moreover, although minorities made enormous strides under LBJ's Great Society they also suffered from the dysgenic effects of the welfare state, plunging to greater depths of dependency and crystalizing into an American underclass. Other aspects of the civil rights movement also alienated voters - affirmative action, for example, and the waste of millions, if not billions, of dollars which did nothing to lift people out of poverty, but only lined the pockets of politicians and con artists.

Lastly, it has taken thirty five years for the American public to realize the moral impoverishment of our abortion culture, but it is dawning upon increasing numbers of people that, as Ramesh Ponnuru says in his new book, the Democrats, in their zeal for the right to kill unborn children, have become the party of death. There is a majority of people in this country who still find that repulsive.

We'd probably want to cite a few more events or trends of the sixties and seventies that have led to voter disenchantment with the Democratic party, but Leach's statement is interesting, and all the more since it was contained in a speech given by a Democrat to Democrats. Unfortunately, for those who would like to see a return of the Democratic political hegemony, few in the current leadership will be receptive to messages like his, and even fewer will be in a position to do anything to change the perceptions Leach laments.

Something to Think About

Victor Davis Hanson gives those who argue that we should set a date for Iraq to get its act together and that if they don't meet it we should begin withdrawing immediately something to think about:

As for the Iranian crisis, the only peaceful solution, given Russian meddling and Western fear over oil prices, may be through the emergence of democracy in Iraq, which would then galvanize dissidents in Iran. Anyone who rules out force in dealing with Iran's nuclear ambitions should support unequivocally the democratic experiment in Iraq.

An Iraqi democracy may well serve as a model for Iranians tired of the oppression of the imamocracy they've endured for thirty years. If Iraq is allowed to fail, however, then it will exert no positive pressure on Iran to change, and the current leadership in Tehran will continue its mad pursuit of nuclear weapons.

In other words, one consequence of failure to "stay the course" in Iraq is that it will become more likely that it will be necessary to go to war with Iran. No one who shudders at that prospect should be urging us to get out of Iraq even one day before that country is stable and able to go it alone against its enemies.

DOW / Gold Ratio

Here's an interesting chart that I look at from time to time.

The lower chart illustrates the DOW / Gold ratio for over the last 100 years. If you move your mouse to hover over the lower right corner of the chart an icon appears that enables you to zoom in on the chart (at least in Internet Explorer).

It's informative for several reasons. It shows that prior to a bull market in stocks, the price of gold was relatively close to the price of the DOW. We see this prior to 1929, during the '50s and '60s and then again just before the bull market of the '90s. For example, in 1980 when gold was around $800 and the DOW was around 1600, the ratio was 2 to 1 and one could "buy" the DOW with two ounces of gold.

We also see that during the bull markets the ratio diverged greatly with the last period being the year 2000 when gold was around $265 and the DOW just under 12000. That's a ratio of around 45 to 1. It took almost 45 ounces of gold to "buy" the DOW.

Since 2000 the ratio has been declining again and is presently at around 17 to 1. Over the last 100 years the ratio has always reverted to its mean and it doesn't look like this time will be any different.

What this chart doesn't tell us is what the prices will be for gold and the DOW when the mean ratio of 2 to 1 is achieved again. At today's price of $650 per ounce of gold the DOW would have to drop to about 1300. Not a likely scenario. On the other hand, if the DOW were to stay near 12000 for the next several years, the price of gold would have to rise to about $6000 per ounce. Also not too likely. And for you stock market bulls out there a third scenario is that the DOW goes to 36000 but then the price of gold would have to climb to $18000 per ounce.

The more probable scenario is that they will meet somewhere in between. The DOW could drop to 8000 and the price of gold could rise to $4000 per ounce. Or the DOW could drop to 6000 and the price of gold could rise to $3000 per ounce.

Looking at the chart and the trend that's been in place for the last six years it seems apparent that the mean ratio will be achieved before the next divergence begins causing the ratio to increase yet again.

Given all of this, it certainly appears that $1 invested in gold is a much better play than the same $1 invested in the DOW.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Teaching Evolution, Pt. II

Part II of John Timmer's summary of the New York University Conference on teaching science is here. Timmer writes that:

The first talk in the morning session [of the second day] was from Gerald Skoog, who runs a science education center at Texas Tech.

Skoog noted that there are three pressures for teaching creationism (including ID) in public schools. The first is simply to provide a historic context for evolution, which can be appropriate or abused, depending on the teacher. The second is that some are convinced that there is positive scientific evidence for creationist views, which is where improving scientific education and outreach should come in. The final issue is probably the most challenging: teaching all sides of an issue as a matter of fairness. He suggested that science needs to come up with a compelling slogan in answer to the "teach the controversy" demand used by its opponents, but I did not hear one offered during the conference.

Actually, there is a slogan already in circulation. It says "There is no controversy." It's a form of denial, to be sure, but it's symptomatic of those about to suffer an unexpected defeat that they first resort to denying the imminent realities.

Skoog was followed by Jennifer Miller, a biology teacher in Dover...Miller's talk ... made clear that the school administration, which typically lacks scientific training, played a key role at many stages in Dover, and it was noted during the discussion that they also have ultimate control over the hiring of science faculty, and can thereby shape the teaching of science in their schools. As such, it seems that raising the scientific literacy at the administration levels of schools should also become a priority.

Fat chance of that happening. Most school administrators were not science teachers before they got their administrative certification, and many of them were scarcely even teachers in any discipline. To raise their science literacy to the point where they could be expected to make competent decisions about the content of science curricula, or make informed judgments concerning the nuances of the demarcation problem, would require many credits of science-oriented education. Not many administrators have either the time or the inclination to subject themselves to that.

Next up was Glenn Branch of the NCSE (National Council for Science Education), which, as he puts it, spends its time putting out brushfires of evolution controversy around the nation. His talk focused on the efforts of creationists to gain a footing in collegiate settings, with the ultimate goal of gaining credentialed supporters to advance their cause. He tracked how many formerly religious or creationist campus organizations have recently morphed into pro-ID "IDEA Clubs." Branch noted that the religious nature of the national IDEA organization was obvious in the fact that it has only recently dropped its requirement for members to be Christian. These clubs hope to foster debate on campus, but Branch suggested they were best avoided. Many creationists are far more skilled at arguments that appeal to a non-scientific audience than scientists are, and debates draw a crowd. In the absence of the legitimacy conferred by debate, the attendance at IDEA clubs is usually limited to a few committed activists.

So, these clubs are suspect because they contain Christians and because their members are skillful debaters. It's best not to engage these creationists in open debate, evidently, lest the rabble be misled to believe that the evolutionists don't have much of a case. This is odd advice to give to the materialist evolutionists. They're being instructed to avoid a public discussion of the issues, a course of inaction which could only serve to keep people in the dark as to what the controversy is all about. The irony of this is that this advice is given at a conference on how to improve science education and public scientific literacy.

One wonders, by the way, if Mr. Branch would be similarly dismissive of a club comprised mostly of atheists devoted to the promotion of evolution. In fact, come to think of it, that's pretty much what the NCSE is.

Branch's final topic was how to handle a situation where a biology department winds up with a creationist as a graduate student. This was both of general interest, as creationists tend to use their degrees as rhetorical weapons, and of personal interest, as I was part of the Berkeley class that produced the noted Discovery Institute fellow Jon Wells. Unfortunately, his conclusion was that there are no easy answers. He did, however, note that graduate departments exist to serve the scientific community by providing qualified individuals to perform research and teaching services. There is no ethical requirement for graduate faculty to be complicit in the training of someone who is ultimately going to actively harm the field.

Hmm. Now here's an interesting dilemma for the evolutionary inquisitors. They keep insisting that creationism is religion, and now they're saying, or at least Mr. Branch is saying, that students should be discriminated against if they're creationists. I.e. universities should actively discriminate against students on the basis of their religious beliefs. That doesn't sound to us like it would pass constitutional muster, but we could be wrong.

Does Mr. Branch also think that a grad student could be discriminated against because of his/her political views? What about students who have ethical objections to experimenting upon, or dissecting, animals? What about students who oppose stem cell research, or cloning, or who favor policies that would result in environmental degradation? Would Mr. Branch say that no graduate school need confer a degree on students who hold to politically unfashionable opinions in the science community? Or is it only a student's religious views which would justify denying him a degree?

[Ken] Miller and Branch were asked what they felt the next development will be now that the latest creationist effort, ID, has been rejected in court. Miller suggested the redefinition of science to include the supernatural, as has happened in Kansas, while Branch expected efforts to "teach the controversy" to predominate.

I think they're both right, although I would quibble with Miller's use of the word "supernatural." In the present climate it's not clear what that word denotes. As we've pointed out before, the word "supernatural" seems to refer to anything which transcends our universe, yet physicists and philosophers discuss the possibility of other universes without thinking that they're discussing anything supernatural.

It would be more precise, perhaps, to say that science might eventually be redefined to allow for extra-cosmic intelligence as a causal agent, and why not, if there's evidence which points that way?

Gas Relief

Well it's the end of the week and I was due for a good laugh and today I got it complements of our government. Our congressmen are thinking about giving us back the dollars we have given them in taxes to pay for the increase in the price of gasoline. What a hoot! But I'm not sure since the article referenced below refers to "millions of taxpayers". Does that include you or me?

At any rate, the idea is totally preposterous as it's simply another example of government intervention in the immutable laws of supply and demand. What our government is attempting to do is enable people to be able to afford to buy gasoline at higher prices and in so doing they are perpetuating the demand for gasoline!

The law of supply and demand tells us that if the price of gasoline goes too high, demand will be diminished because people simply can't afford it. That diminishment in demand causes the price to drop and eventually reach a point of equilibrium. Obviously our government leaders think they are all wise and will solve the problem by throwing money at it.

From the link: WASHINGTON - Senate Republicans unveiled a 10-point plan Thursday that offers a $100 "gas tax holiday" rebate check to millions of taxpayers. Meanwhile, Democrats are proposing a 60-day gasoline tax holiday.

Since our trusted government is in control of the matter, I suspect the price of gasoline will go much, much higher.

From The Mogambo Guru

The Mogambo Guru tells it like it is. For those who will listen this is a must read article.

But what all these groups of people have is common is that they all want to be paid in their own units of purchasing power, which (at $75 a barrel) is about ten pizzas. It makes no difference to them what kind of money you use to pay for the oil, as long as they can exchange it for ten pizzas Preferably, they would like to be paid in units of purchasing power that GAIN in purchasing power, so that tomorrow they can buy eleven pizzas for a barrel of oil. And if not gain, then at least not lose purchasing power, and tomorrow only be able to buy six pizzas!

Unfortunately, the dollar is NOT a currency that is going to gain in purchasing power. It is, on the other hand, one of those currencies that are going to lose purchasing power. So, everybody, including foreign oil exporters, have to charge a higher price for oil just to make up the losses in purchasing power they will suffer until they can actually get around to spending the damned dollars on pizzas!

And it is going to get worse, much worse, as you can readily conclude from Chuck Butler at his famous Daily Pfennig site, who reports that at the latest G-7 meeting (representatives of the seven or so biggest economies in the world), they announced that they all decided that "it was 'critical' for the Asian currencies to let their currencies rise versus the dollar. I would not be surprised if China started spending its dollar reserves on all the crude oil supplies they can purchase - at any price. What will be more valuable to their economy next year, $75 U.S. dollars or a barrel of oil?" In short, will seven pizzas be more valuable than six pizzas next year?


So, the next time you are watching in horror as that gasoline pump is sucking the money out of your wallet ("sluuuurrrrp!") and you wonder why gasoline costs so much, don't be like me and get mad and go running up to the clerk and calling him a cheating, thieving little over-charging bastard from hell. Experience has shown that it won't help.

And anyway, it usually turns out that the kid had nothing to do with the price of gas, but instead the price of gasoline is up because the purchasing power of the dollar fell! And the dollar fell in purchasing power thanks to the horrid Federal Reserve, which has been creating excess money and credit with their every waking moment since the dreadful moment when that hideous creature of fraud and corruption was created in 1913, which was (as Mogambo musicologists know) the inspiration behind the classic Mogambo reggae tune, "The Fed'ral Reserve Be Killin' Me Money, Mon!" which contains the immortal line "Based on lies, and founded on the sly, based on lies and founded on the sly in 1913, mon, me money goin' down, mon, me money goin' down!"

Atlas Shrugged

Here's news for Ayn Rand fans. We've heard these rumors before, but perhaps now plans to make the movie will finally come to fruition:

Ayn Rand's most ambitious novel may finally be brought to the bigscreen after years of false starts. Lionsgate has picked up worldwide distribution rights to Atlas Shrugged from Howard and Karen Baldwin, who will produce with John Aglialoro.

As for stars, the book provides an ideal role for an actress in lead character Dagny Taggart, so it's not a stretch to assume that Rand enthusiast Angelina Jolie's name has been brought up. Brad Pitt, also a fan, is rumored to be among the names suggested for lead male character John Galt.

Atlas Shrugged, which runs more than 1100 pages, has faced a lengthy and circuitous journey to a film adaptation.

The rest of the article explains why.

Raping Reputations

The alleged victim of the alleged unsolicited advances of three members of the Duke Lacrosse team, none of whom anyone would want dating their own daughter, has apparently put the kibosh on the District Attorney's hopes of looking like a hero in the coming election:

The woman who says she was raped by three members of Duke's lacrosse team also told police 10 years ago she was raped by three men, filing a 1996 complaint claiming she had been assaulted three years earlier when she was 14. Authorities in nearby Creedmoor said Thursday that none of the men named in the decade-old report was ever charged but they didn't have details why.

They weren't charged because she declined to press charges, claiming to be afraid for her safety. Okay, that happens. But there was apparently an absence of physical evidence both ten years ago as well as in the recent case, and once a jury hears this history it'll be next to impossible to convict the accused of anything beyond being Division I sleazoids.

A lot of people hitched their wagon to this woman's story. It resonated with people who wanted to believe the very worst of rich white males. Consequently, these young men's lives, and those of their parents, have been seriously compromised. Without any real evidence that a crime had been committed, the president of the university cancelled the lacrosse season, punishing the whole team based on an unsubstantiated allegation against three of its members. Without any proof, pictures of these students, in association with the word "rape," were plastered all across the nation's newspapers and television sets, debasing and humiliating both them and their parents. African-American race hustlers seized the opportunity to blather about the awful history of white on black rape as if it were not the case that interracial rape since the 1960s is overwhelmingly perpetrated by blacks against whites.

We wonder how, if the charges indeed eventually come to naught, all these people will ever apologize to the young men, and to the nation as a whole, for their debased attempt to exploit this sordid event for their own various ignoble purposes. Perhaps a sincere apology will be a lot more than any of the students or their families can reasonably expect.

Two Bad Arguments and Two Better Ones

Here's a link to a very good paper by philosopher of science Jeffrey Koperski on the ID/ evolution issue. He discusses two arguments often made against ID that he identifies as bad arguments and two critical arguments that he feels are more promising.

The "bad" arguments are familiar to anyone who has kept up on the controversy. The first is the attack on the motives of IDers. Critics of ID often seek to dismiss it as a thinly veiled attempt to smuggle religion into science, but they commit a fallacy when they attack their opponents' motives rather than their arguments. The second argument is the complaint that ID is not genuine science. Koperski skillfully skewers both of these.

The critics, however, are on firmer ground when they point to the the lack of a well-developed research plan for ID. The second "good" argument against ID is that it is too radical. This latter argument is quite provocative, and it will be interesting to see how ID theorists respond to it.

Koperski's paper is a little long and probably not appropriate for the casual reader, but if you've done some thinking about this controversy and are interested in the arguments, it's worth a look.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Pass This on to W.

"In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin.

"But this is predicated upon the person's becoming in every facet an American, and nothing but an American...There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn't an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag... We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language... and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people."

Theodore Roosevelt 1907

There was a different breed of men in 1907, apparently. Few who have any visibility in Washington today would have the pluck to say something like this for fear that some editorialist at the New York Times or Washington Post would write something mean about him. To assert some bold truth like Teddy did might cause one to be called shameful names like racist, chauvinist, or xenophobe. Unlike TR, our modern politicians are deathly afraid of offending the arbiters of political fashion in the media.

Unfortunately for them, the visages of such tremulous souls will never adorn a future Mt. Rushmore.

Teaching Evolution, Pt. I

John Timmer of Ars Technica reports on a New York Academy of Sciences program titled Teaching Evolution and the Nature of Science. His report is in three parts which, unfortunately, don't link to each other. Part I is found here. Timmer writes:

As readers of this Journal know, science literacy in the US and its close cousin, the teaching of evolution, are major concerns of mine. So, when the New York Academy of Sciences announced a program entitled "Teaching Evolution and the Nature of Science", I got in touch as soon as I found out about it, and received a press pass to cover the event. The talks were specifically targeted to science teachers at the high school and college levels, as well as policymakers, and took place on the west side of Manhattan. The sessions were formatted to allow two 30 minute talks on related topics, followed by a half hour of discussion, and I was able to attend the majority of them. The talks and discussions were generally very good, and I'm planning on covering them in three entries to be posted on consecutive days.

Teaching evolution even in the absence of controversy can be a challenging thing. Focus too much on the detailed evidence, and the big picture can get lost. Present the broad overview of evolution's explanatory power, and it's easy to skip over the wealth of data that supports the theory. Things get much worse when students come prepared with creationist arguments and the teachers are faced with opposition from a combination of the school administration, the school board, and the state government. The meeting was intended to provide a status report, teaching suggestions, and advice for how to handle the controversy in the future.

Made worse? Why is it a bad thing for students to question the orthodoxies of the scientific establishment? Why is it a bad thing for students to ask questions and challenge the information they're being presented by their teachers? Here's a possible answer: It's bad because it embarrasses teachers who, by and large, don't really understand evolution very well themselves, let alone the criticisms of evolution, to have their lack of knowledge, depth, and preparation exposed to their students.

The first session was on the nature of science and biology, presented in part by Robert T. Pennock of Michigan State, who testified at the Dover trial. He suggested that teachers should present evolution as part of a discussion of the nature of science, as the development of the theory is an example of science done right....Ultimately, however, he suggested that the key feature of evolution is that it passes the pragamatic test: evolutionary processes work in both engineering and computer programming, producing efficient products that would not have been proposed by intentional design, including an antenna used by NASA.

I'm not sure I understand what Timmer is saying here, but if I read him correctly he's claiming that Pennock employs the success of engineers and computer programmers as models of the ability of evolution to generate novel designs. If this is the correct reading it's a most peculiar example that Pennock is using. To the extent that engineers and programmers assist in the evolution of novelty the fact simply confirms ID since the input of the engineer or the programmer is the input of an intelligent agent. What Pennock needs to show to discredit ID and support materialist versions of evolution is that this novelty, whether in some physical system or in a computer program, arises without the supervision or input of an intelligent being.

Pennock's talk was supposed to detail the "scientific virtues", but he only got to these at the very end. He considers them to be curiosity, skepticism, attentiveness, meticulousness, objectivity, and integrity.

Skepticism? It's certainly not a virtue in the scientific community to be skeptical of materialistic evolution. In fact, there's a word for scientists who are skeptical of any established dogma. Their colleagues refer to them as "crackpots."

The next speaker, Bruce Alberts, formerly the president of the National Academies of Science, [gave a talk the first half of which] was devoted to his research on DNA polymerases, and included a mind-blowing real time animation of the enzyme at work making a copy of the DNA. Oddly, he explicitly and repeatedly used the term "machine" to describe this collection of proteins, despite acknowledging that ID proponents had used his words to suggest such enzymes were analogous to human designed machinery.

The people who work in the labs just can't help themselves. The systems they study are indeed biological machines, and they can't avoid calling them that despite the telic implications of their own language. Biologists have to constantly remind themselves that what they're looking at is not designed by an intelligence but is rather a product of purely blind, mechanical forces.

Alberts was the first to raise what also became a recurring theme at the meeting: the science education system is broken from the top down. This starts in the colleges that train our teachers, which rely on the same general science education classes that those on the research track take, and provide little help in training future teachers to present science to a general audience. Nobody takes responsibility for ensuring that the teachers-to-be have a general understanding of the nature and practice of science.

This is true. A lot of high school science teachers are really not scientists themselves in any but a superficial way. They're simply dispensers of information. Many of them perform this task with considerable skill and artfulness, of course, but they have limited experience actually doing science themselves. Until they start doing graduate work (and sometimes not even then) they have little familiarity with the practice of science except what they gain as a student sitting in a classroom. One way to remedy this would be to require prospective science teachers to serve an internship in a research lab, or doing field research, as part of their education. The experience of actually doing science under the tutelage of a genuine scientific researcher could be very helpful in giving the future teacher a deeper, fuller appreciation of what science is all about.

We'll comment on Part II of Timmer's report tomorrow.

Welfare Reform Ten Years Later

Ten years ago Congress reversed the decades old welfare programs that had sentenced generations of mostly black people to life imprisonment in the American underclass. When we finally decided that we had wasted enough money subsidizing dysfunctionalism, the left vigorously opposed legislative change. Dire predictions of impending catastrophe for the poor were heard throughout the land. We can't just throw poor mothers into the workforce, we were told. Children will starve, we were guaranteed. In fact, none of that has happened.

Maggie Ghallagher summarizes a lengthier piece in City Journal and brings us up to date on the effects of welfare reform. It's worth copying in its entirety:

This year is the 10th anniversary of the 1996 welfare reform bill. Kay Hymowitz marks the occasion in the current issue of the Manhattan Institute's City Journal by asking a penetrating question: "How is it that so many intelligent, well-intentioned people, including many experts who made up the late 20th century's Best and Brightest, were so mistaken?"

In 2004, The New York Times called welfare reform "one of the acclaimed successes of the past decade." But at the time, the same Gray Lady denounced it as "draconian." New Jersey's Sen. Frank Lautenberg predicted "children begging for food, 8- and 9-year old prostitutes." Sen. Ted Kennedy called it "legislative child abuse," and Connecticut's Sen. Chris Dodd denounced it as "unconscionable."

But 10 years later, what has actually happened? First, caseloads fell dramatically, dropping 60 percent between 1996 and 2004. The proportion of single mothers who held a job increased steadily to more than three-fifths, or about the same employment levels as married mothers. With little education, most took low-wage jobs. But their wages are supplemented by the Earned Income Tax Credit. And like other workers, their salaries rise with time. Only 8 percent of working single mothers who are high school dropouts earn the minimum wage.

In 2004, distinguished family scholar Andrew Cherlin announced after reviewing the evidence that he had changed his mind about workfare. Mothers, he said, "derive a basic dignity" from work, and "as a result of what I have seen, I now think the term 'dead-end job' is a label that often doesn't fit the perceptions of low-income workers, and I will not use it again."

What about the kids? Christopher Jencks and Scott Winship found "food insecurity" among single moms actually dropped between 1995 and 2000. Poverty rates among single mothers (and their children) are at all-time lows. Studies of children of former welfare mothers suggest little or no evidence of deleterious effects. The pessimists were wrong, but so were the optimists: The work of the mothers does not appear to translate in any direct way into better outcomes for children, on average. No worse, but no better either.

Welfare reform was associated with a sustained pause in the growth of illegitimacy, which does hurt children. But it has not reversed the long-term trend toward more children born outside of marriage.

The critics, concludes Hymowitz, were badly wrong about welfare reform because they underestimate how much culture matters. Welfare reformists, by contrast, argued the way to improve the lives of poor, unwed mothers was to get them to adopt bourgeois habits, like work and marriage.

We've succeeded with the former, but it may be in the long run the latter that matters more for children. Here Hymowitz relapses into the pessimism of the right: Welfare reform can encourage work, but the government cannot do much to help poor mothers make and sustain good marriages. But the Bush marriage initiative, relentlessly opposed by the same people who fought welfare form, is a tool for encouraging civil society to do what Hymowitz says is necessary: Educate the next generation of young people about the importance of marriage for themselves and their children.

Check back in 10 years. The marriage initiative may fail, in which case a several hundred-million-dollar effort to address our most important social problem in a trillion-dollar federal budget will have been wasted. If it succeeds, in 10 years there will be a network of inner-city churches offering scientifically validated programs that actually succeed in helping young people make and sustain decent, loving marriages.

If this happens, it will not be because conservative public intellectuals exhorted them in urban journals to do so. It will be because George Bush decided in his stubborn way to do something good, even if it had no profound public constituency.

Imagine that. The worst president in history completely reversing a cultural trend that condemns people to transgenerational misery. What are the chances that that could happen?

The answer, by the way, to Kay Hymowitz's question in the first paragraph is that intelligence has very little to do with why so many people were so wrong. When you start from faulty ideological assumptions it doesn't matter how smart you are, you're going to wind up on the wrong side of the truth. Liberals are often very intelligent people, but if they start from the socialist assumption that government is perfectly competent to replace the traditional institutions of family, church, and work their policy prescriptions are likely to be disastrous.

Liberals are good at calling the attention of the rest of us to problems that we might not otherwise see, but once they have sounded the alarm they have frequently exhausted their potential for making a positive contribution to solving it. The solutions to the problems they so keenly discern are best left to those who have a better understanding of human nature.

Overstating the Case?

Our friend Byron takes us to task for overstating the case when we accuse the left of being indifferent to whether tax cuts help the economy or not (See the next post below). Our point was that the left despises the rich and any policy which allows the rich to remain so will be unsatisfactory to them. He chides us for over-generalizing, and perhaps we're guilty. He makes his case on the Feedback page.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Dow Ends at 6-Year High

The Bush economy, spurred by the much-maligned tax cuts for the rich, just keeps puttering along, generating jobs and creating wealth. With an unemployment rate at 4.7, which is considered full employment, and more tax revenue pouring into federal coffers, one might think that the Democrats would be changing their mind about tax cuts. If so, one would be wrong.

Liberal opposition to tax cuts has nothing to do with whether or not they work. The left opposes them because they despise the rich and want to punish them. Any solution to poverty which allows the wealthy to remain wealthy is, in their minds, unjust. That the poor are better off now than ever before, that there are jobs out there for anyone who wants one, does not matter to the lefties. The rich are getting richer.

The odd thing about this is that so many of the wealthy class help fund the Democratic left. Freud would have a grand time with all the unresolved guilt and suicidal death wishes that these people must be afflicted with.

Sorting Out the Differences

Christians of various sorts are frequently in the news, and it's sometimes confusing as to what exactly is meant by the labels that are often affixed to them. We often hear people referred to, without explanation, as fundamentalists, evangelicals, or pentecostal/charismatics, but what is it about each of these that sets them apart from the others?

One problem with trying to distinguish between "types" of Christians is that there is considerable overlap among groups and drawing distinctions is a bit like drawing distinctions between races. In some ways there are clear differences, but in other ways there are not, and in many cases distinctions are simply unimportant.

In any event, the differences between the three groups mentioned above are not usually over matters of basic belief but rather over approaches to the culture and the role of reason or intellect in an individual believer's life. Maybe the following brief analysis will be helpful:

Fundamentalists tend to be more separationist with regard to the culture and more disdainful of intellectual pursuits than are evangelicals. Fundamentalists have, at least until relatively recently, taken the position that the only book one really needs to read is the Bible, and that book is to be understood in a very literal sense.

Evangelicals, in contrast to fundamentalists, are often more oriented toward a rational understanding of their faith, based upon both special and natural revelation, and more immersed in, and influenced by, their cultural milieu. Pentecostals, generally speaking, are less enamored of the mind than are evangelicals and tend to be more existential and experiential. They tend to rely, for their theological understanding, upon mystical experience.

Fundamentalists, moreover, are much more likely to see doctrine as important and to see it starkly in black and white. They are more apt than evangelicals to place a literal interpretation on passages of scripture and to read presupposed interpretations into the text. Evangelicals believe doctrine is important, but they are less inclined to certainty about the correctness of their beliefs and more open to a range of views on the meaning of scripture and on doctrinal orthodoxy than fundamentalists usually are.

Pentecostals often share with fundamentalists a strong emphasis on Christian doctrine but will rely more on subjective experience and the "leading of the Spirit" to help them interpret a passage of the Bible than do fundamentalists. The latter are more prone to believe that there is an objectively correct interpretation of most passages of scripture and are suspicious of the subjectivity embraced by pentecostals.

For a more thorough, and perhaps somewhat different, take on the differences between these three varieties of Christians, check out this site.

ID vs. Creationism

Who says Intelligent Design is just Creationism in a cheap tuxedo? Certainly not Creationists and certainly not proponents of Intelligent Design. Rob Moll writes about the increasing estrangement between the two in Christianity Today. Here are a few excerpts:

While the press railed against efforts to introduce Intelligent Design into classrooms, spokespersons at the Discovery Institute routinely distanced their theory from creationism and from those who wanted to teach ID in science classrooms. At the same time, creationists were warning their millions of followers about the dangers of ID. Its foundation in science, not the Bible; its willingness to accept large aspects of evolutionary theory; and perhaps a little jealousy of ID's quick rise to prominence make ID unacceptable to creationists.

Besides, they don't need ID's help to topple evolution. They're doing just fine. An April CBS poll found that 44 percent of Americans believe God created humans in their present form within the last 10,000 years.

ID isn't opposed to evolution, says [Young Earth Creationist Ken] Ham; it's really just opposed to naturalism. Not only that, says [YEC Terry] Mortenson, ID proponents say they're not even interested in the Bible.

"So you've got this group that's not about the Bible," says Ham. "You've got the secular press saying this is just a way to get the Bible back in the schools, because many of the Christians who think ID is great think it is a way to get the Bible back into schools. [At the same time] the ID movement's trying to divorce themselves from that saying it's not [about the Bible]. The secular press is saying yes it is. And many of the Christians who are behind them are really doing it because they are Christians."

But Christians are being duped, Mortensen says. "Most if not all of the ID books are published by evangelical Christian publishers, which are marketing to an evangelical audience. And our concern is that [although] in those books there are good design arguments, there are statements sprinkled in them implying or stating openly that Genesis isn't important."

"We're concerned about the influence it's having on the church," says Mortenson, "causing Christians to not be concerned about what Genesis says."

This can weaken Christians' faith, says Ham. "Those of us who believe in a literal Genesis have a history, a history concerning the Fall, a history concerning the Flood. So when we look at this world, we're looking at a fallen world. It's not God's fault there are tsunamis. ... Death is not God's fault." However, by only discussing an unnamed designer, Ham says, flaws in creation must be attributed to that designer.

"In a subtle way, none of the ID people are coming out and attacking the Bible," says Mortenson, "but by leaving the Bible on the side and saying Genesis isn't really important, and we don't need to worry about that, is a very subtle form of undermining the authority of the Bible in the church."

And the Bible is clear, says Mortenson and Ham, that you can not insert millions or billions of years into Genesis. "I've had personal conversations with a couple of leading systematic theologians who believe that the fall had a cosmic impact," Mortenson says. "You can't have millions of years of death and suffering and extinction of the dinosaurs millions of years before man ever was created, and then have a cosmic impact of the Fall."

"What good is it if people believe in intelligence?" says Ham. "That's no different than atheism in that if it's not the God of the Bible, it's not Jesus Christ, it's not salvation."

What to make of all this? Well, for one thing ID is clearly not a Trojan Horse for Creationism. Proponents of ID are trying to achieve a relatively modest goal. They're attempting to convince the scientific world that the idea of intentional design is a plausible, indeed, compelling explanation for an amazing array of cosmological, geophysical, and biological facts and phenomena.

Creationists, on the other hand, are trying to convince the world that the God of the Bible created the universe in six days, ten thousand years ago.

The two groups have different agendas and rely, for the most part, on different arguments. IDers are willing to concede, for the sake of advancing their position, that descent through modification may have occurred and that the earth may be 13.5 billion years old. They are willing to concede this because a. there's little to be gained by fighting about it given the nature of much of the evidence, and because b. it's not essential to their argument.

Creationists see the ID approach as an intolerable concession to the materialists because it removes the argument over origins from the realm of Biblical hermeneutics and places it in the realm of science, or at least the philosophy of science.

Creationists see their argument as primarily theological with implications for science and philosophy, whereas IDers see their argument as primarily scientific and philosophical with implications for theology.

Complicating these differences is the fact that there is rhetorical overlap between IDers and Creationists. They are both critical, for example, of the ability of physical processes to fully explain the cosmos and life, and some of the major figures in the ID camp are, in fact, young earth or old earth creationists in their personal theology.

All of this can be very confusing which is the kindest reason I can think of to explain why so few journalists and other critics of Intelligent Design ever seem to be able to get it right.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Rick Monday, Thirty Years Ago

One of baseball history's memorable moments is commemorated in this piece in the Washington Post:

LOS ANGELES -- Rick Monday never tires of answering questions about that memorable day 30 years ago, when he performed his own Patriot Act and unwittingly became an icon to millions of American war heroes and their loved ones.

Monday was playing center field for the Chicago Cubs on April 25, 1976, at Dodger Stadium when he noticed two protesters kneeling on the grass in left-center, intending to burn the American flag. He immediately bolted toward them and snatched it away.

"I was angry when I saw them start to do something to the flag, and I'm glad that I happened to be geographically close enough to do something about it," said Monday, now in his 13th season as a Dodgers broadcaster.

"What those people were doing, and their concept of what they were trying to do was wrong. That feeling was very strongly reinforced by six years in the United States Marine Corps Reserves. I still think it's wrong to do that."

The Dodgers will acknowledge the event before the finale of a nine-game homestand on Sunday, two days before the actual anniversary of it. A video tribute will be shown before the game and Monday will throw out a ceremonial first pitch. On Tuesday, the Houston Astros will honor him as well when the Dodgers play the middle game of a three-game series.

Back in '76, Monday was presented with the flag in a ceremony at Wrigley Field by Dodgers executive Al Campanis. It hung in his home in Vero Beach, Fla., until a couple of years ago, when the house sustained severe damage from a hurricane. Now it's in a safety deposit box.

Monday wouldn't say how much the flag is insured for, but "you'd have to add a lot of zeros. People have offered an outrageous amount of money for it _ not that it's for sale."

The Baseball Hall of Fame recently named Monday's quick-thinking act as one of the 100 Classic Moments in the history of the game.

"Whatever their protest was about, what they were attempting to do to the flag _ which represents a lot of rights and freedoms that we all have _ was wrong for a lot of reasons," Monday said. "Not only does it desecrate the flag, but it also desecrates the effort and the lives that have been laid down to protect those rights and freedoms for all of us."

There's more from the Washington Post story at the link. There's also more background and photos here as well as an audio of play by play announcer Vin Scully's apposite description of the event and of the characters who intended to burn the flag.

Maybe EMP Isn't a Threat After All

In the past we've posted on the potential threat posed to our nation by the detonation of a nuclear weapon high in the atmosphere. Such a blast, we noted, could release a pulse of gamma radiation that would effectively knock out all of our electronics across the entire continent with devastating consequences to every sector of society. It would effectively bring our nation to its knees.

Now J.R. Dunn in The American Thinker gives us reason not to lose too much sleep over the prospect. After summarizing how EMP (electromagnetic pulse) weapons would work he discusses why they are probably not the immediate danger that some analysts feared:

Yet all the same, it's unlikely that EMP represents a major terrorist-related threat to the United States, or will at any time over the next decade. EMP is a national weapon, a weapon that can be used only in cases of total war - and also, at the moment, a weapon effectively beyond the reach of anyone outside the major members of the nuclear club.

Technical requirements for an EMP attack are extremely steep. To achieve continent-wide coverage, a warhead needs to be lofted to an altitude of over 200 miles at a point directly over Kansas, a distance of 1500 miles from the East Coast. This would require a booster of the Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) class, which is one step above the Shahab series. The latest model, the Shahab 4, with a range of 1200 miles, is almost capable of such a mission, but without a full 2,000 lb. warhead.

Another complication is that high-altitude EMP requires a weapon in the megaton range. (Cold War scenarios utilized a top-of-the-line 20-megaton bomb.) These are thermonuclear weapons, hydrogen bombs, which terrorists and associated states do not yet have. It requires an extremely advanced industrial plant to construct such a weapon. The U.S. can do it, as can the Russians and Chinese. The Iranians cannot. Their first nuclear weapons, if they're allowed to build them, will be simple fission weapons of a relatively low yield.

EMP can be achieved by fission weapons at a much lower altitude. (The effect begins to pay off at roughly 19 miles.) Such an attack would be far less destructive than a high-altitude strike, with effects limited to a radius of 250-300 miles. To achieve useful results, something on the order of a dozen launches would have to be made, on both east and west coasts along with the Gulf of Mexico. This is an extremely complex operation in which each part has to operate with clockwork precision. And even at best, some areas would be left untouched.

In fact, the universal collapse envisioned as a result of a high-altitude EMP strike may be impossible in any case. The situation has never been tested....Much of what we think we know about EMP lies in the realm of theory, with little in the way of hard evidence.

Some scientists believe that the effect has been overrated. These include electromagnetic specialist Dr. William A. Radasky, who thinks that disruptions would be minor and temporary. The pulse could very well be attenuated by distance and other factors, some of which may be completely unknown to us at this time. Mountain ranges such as the Rockies and the Sierra Nevadas could provide considerable protection, along with various deep valleys around the country.

And in any case, the collapse would be well short of "universal". Even if everything went according to plan, Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico, Guam, Gitmo, and all the fleets and overseas bases would still be intact. In the worst case, the U.S. would remain a reigning military power. And with only a handful of suspects, it would not be long until the troops paid a visit to the guilty party.

Dunn finishes his essay with a plea for ballistic missile defense, just in case. Better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it, we say.

Iraq's Progress

Bill Crawford's seventh installment of Good News From Iraq is up at NRO. It's a good antidote to the doom and gloom dispensed by the anti-Bush Old Media.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Waffling on Leaking

Senator Kerry presents yet another challenge to those who strive to understand where he stands on things:

'THIS WEEK' HOST GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: On another -- on another front, excuse me, CIA official Mary McCarthy lost her job this week for disclosing classified information according to the CIA probably about a WASHINGTON POST story which reveal revealed the existence of secret prisons in Europe. A lot of different views. Senator Pat Roberts praised action but some former CIA officers described Mary McCarthy as a sacrificial lamb acting in the finest American tradition by revealing human rights violations. What's your view?

SEN. KERRY: Well, I read that. I don't know whether she did it or not so it's hard to have a view on it. Here's my fundamental view of this, that you have somebody being fired from the CIA for allegedly telling the truth, and you have no one fired from the white house for revealing a CIA agent in order to support a lie. That underscores what's really wrong in Washington, DC Here.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That's one issue of hypocrisy but should a CIA officer be able to make decisions on his or her --

KERRY: ... Of course not. Of course, not. A CIA agent has the obligation to uphold the law and clearly leaking is against the law, and nobody should leak. I don't like leaking. But if you're leaking to tell the truth, Americans are going to look at that, at least mitigate or think about what are the consequences that you, you know, put on that person. Obviously they're not going to keep their job, but there are other larger issues here. You know, classification in Washington is a tool that is used to hide the truth from the American people. Daniel Patrick Moynihan was eloquent and forceful in always talking about how we needed to, you know, end this endless declassification that takes place in this city, and it has become a tool to hide the truth from Americans.

....So I'm glad she told the truth but she's going to obviously -- if she did it, if she did it, suffer the consequences of breaking the law.

So. A United States Senator is glad that an employee of the government, who signed a contract promising not to divulge secrets of state, did exactly that. An unauthorized leak by a CIA employee is legally and ethically comparable, in Kerry's judgment, to an authorized leak by an agent of the president of the United States. She shouldn't have broken the law, but she should have. I voted for the 87 billion before I voted against it.

The senator maintains that leaking to tell the truth is different from leaking to tell a lie. No kidding. I wonder whether he'd use that same rationale if members of his campaign staff were leaking to the press some uncomfortable truth about him during the last election. The question is not whether what the agent leaked is true or not, but rather whether a trusted agent of the government should be taking it upon herself to make those kinds of decisions, especially when those decisions may well be politically motivated.

Allahu Akbar, Etc.

Presumably, the demonstration outside the Israeli consulate in New York over the weekend was carried out by American Muslims. It's all pretty discouraging. Here's the summary from Counterterrorism Blog:

The Queens-based Islamic Thinkers Society (ITS) held a rally yesterday outside of the Israeli Consulate in Manhattan. Members of the Islamic Thinkers Society are easily identified by their Khilafah flags and provocative signs as well as rhetoric against homosexuals, Jews, Christians, Danes and others, depending on the hot button issue at the moment. Yesterday's rally was held in response to Monday's Tel Aviv bombing that killed 9 and injured scores. While carrying signs including "Islam will Dominate" with a picture of an Islamic flag over the White House, the small but loud group of men chanted threatening slogans:

Leader (in Arabic): With our blood and our lives we will liberate al Aqsa!

[The rest also respond in Arabic:] With our blood and our lives we will liberate al Aqsa!

Leader: Israeli Zionists What do you say? The real Holocaust is on its way. Takbeer!

Response: Allahu Akbar!

Leader: Israeli Zionists, What do you say? How many women have you raped today? Israeli Zionists, What do you say? How many children have you killed today?

Zionists, Zionists You will pay! The Wrath of Allah is on its way! Israeli Zionists You shall pay! The Wrath of Allah is on its way! The mushroom cloud is on its way! The real Holocaust is on its way!

We are not your average Muslims, We are the Muslims of Was al Sunnah.

We will not accept the United Nations, they are the criminals themselves. They get paid by the Israeli and the US government to do their job. We don't recognize United Nations as a body. We only recognize Allah.

Israel won't last long... Indeed, Allah will repeat the Holocaust right on the soil of Israel. Takbeer!

Response: Allahu Akbar!

Leader: No wonder they call you [the Jews]sons of apes and pigs because that's what you are.

We know many government services are watching us. Such as the FBI...CIA...Mossad, Homeland Security... We know we are getting on their nerves, And so are you.... So we say the hell with you! May the FBI burn in hell. CIA burn in hell. Mossad burn in hell. Homeland Security burn in hell!!

Islam will dominate the world. Islam is the only solution. Islam will dominate the world. Islam is the only solution. Takbeer!

Another mushroom cloud, right in the midst of Israel! Takbeer!! Allahu Akbar!

Sadly, the only problem for which Islam offers a solution is the problem of overpopulation. There is no other difficulty facing civilization today for which Islam is even remotely useful.

We are relieved that there didn't seem to be too many of these psychopaths in the demonstration (see video), and those who were there looked pretty buffoonish, as you might expect. Even so, people who justify suicide murders and nuclear attacks on Israel should be taken seriously and treated with the public contempt and scorn they so deeply deserve.

Don't expect such treatment from the media, however. Even had they the courage, they'd lack the resources to carry it out. They're focussing all their efforts on heaping their quota of contempt on the real enemy of human civilization, the Bush administration.

Stand Firm

The president's opponents never tire of declaring Iraq a lost cause and using this alleged failure as a club with which to beat Donald Rumsfeld, and through him, President Bush over the head.

Nevertheless, one must be an inveterate pessimist to see our Iraq policy as a failure. There is much cause for optimism for one who is inclined to see it and willing to look for it beyond the pages of the Old Media.

Take the information dispensed in a recent briefing by General Rick Lynch, for example. His entire briefing is here, but this part, excerpted by John Dwyer at The American Thinker, is especially interesting. General Lynch says this:

I want to talk about four specific indicators on operations here in Iraq, and I don't want to talk about what happened yesterday. I want to talk over a period of time to give you a sense of the trend lines that we see. And these are four that I've talked to you about before, but allow me to give you an update.

We believe that 90 percent of the suicide attacks in Iraq are conducted by foreign fighters-al Qaeda, Zarqawi commissioning foreign fighters to conduct these suicide attacks. Last year this time, across Iraq, we were averaging about 75 suicide attacks a day. Now we're averaging about 24 a day.

One of the reasons for that drawdown is not that Zarqawi and al Qaeda doesn't want to do it anymore, but effective border operations have been capturing foreign nationals at the border. And I talked you through last week in great detail what's happened on the Iraqi border. Last November the Iraqi government declared initial control of the borders, and over time they've placed Department of Border Enforcement personnel-20,000 people, on the borders, 258 border camps-to stop this flow of foreign nationals into Iraq, some of which are coming in to be used as suicide bombers.

So if you look closely at what's happened, just before the first of the year, we were averaging about 44 captured foreign nationals per month, and now we're down to less than half of that. The effect of that is reduction in the number of suicide attacks in Iraq: over 70 a year ago, 24 now.

I talked about IEDs and IEDs that are found and cleared. We have reached the point where almost 50 percent of the IEDs are found and cleared before they detonate. And people say, "Well, why is that?" A reason why that is, is the number of sophisticated bomb-makers we've been able to take off the battlefield here in Iraq.

There are indeed people with talent and capability that can build a reliable IED, one that will function as designed. What we've been doing is a conscious effort with the Iraqi security forces to take those guys off the battlefield and either kill or capture them. And you can see that we took out 115 in the year 2005. And since the first of the year, we've taken out an additional 26.

The effect of that is, IEDs are produced that are less effective. And in many cases, we're finding the people that are emplacing the IEDs are killed by their own IEDs, or the IEDs that are emplaced don't go off as detonated. And that's because of the conscious decision to kill or capture bomb-makers.

I talk every Thursday about the weapons caches and weapons finds. And if you looked over the years 2005, we came across 2,880 weapons caches and since the first of the year almost 900 weapons caches.

Again, this goes to the effectiveness of the insurgents. In order to be able to create effective IEDs, he's got to have technical expertise, and he's got to have the proper munitions. A lot of these weapons caches we found had old munitions, but a lot of them had relatively new munitions that could build an effective bomb.

So as we look for bomb-makers and as we look for weapons caches to this level of effect, we are reducing the effectiveness of IEDs, VBIEDs and suicide car bombs, suicide vest packs, and also by taking out foreign nationals as they come across.

But I believe that the most important indicator on these charts, on this quad chart, is this one. And that's the number of tips, actionable tips, that we are receiving from the people of Iraq. They have indeed reached the point where they're tired of the insurgency, and they realize that they are indeed the target of attacks by the insurgency. The numbers of attacks against civilians, as I told you before, has doubled in the last four months, is up by 86 percent just in the last nine weeks.

So the people of Iraq are tired of the insurgency, and what they're doing is calling in actionable tips or providing tips to the 250,000 members of the Iraqi security force that are patrolling the streets of Iraq.

Of course, none of these positive trends in Iraq matter to liberal opinion molders. Their agenda, unfortunately, is not to inform the American people, but rather to discredit Bush and defeat the Republicans. Consequently, the sort of news Gen. Lynch gives us will never make it onto our televisions or into our newspapers. Nevertheless, it appears to be the case that Iraq is slowly but steadily developing into a democratic state able to stand on its own feet against the insurgency. There are sure to be further stumbles along the way, more mistakes will be made, but the absolutely worst thing we could do at this point is to lose heart and give up.

To follow the advice of the Last Helicopter crowd at this stage of the game would be a blunder of world-shattering consequence. We must stand firm against those whose vision is so astigmatic that they cannot see America succeeding in any great enterprise. We must resist the defeatism of those like John Murtha and John Kerry who insist that we're losing and should quit the field.

What these gentlemen really mean is that we should guarantee that we lose in Iraq before Bush actually succeeds and garners the credit for an historic achievement. To have Bush succeed would be more than they could bear. We can be sure that if Bill Clinton were at the helm, and if he were doing things just as the Bush team has done them, mistakes and all, Murtha, Kerry, and the rest of the cut-and-runners in the Democrat party would be totally supportive of the effort.

Osama's Latest Missive

Counterterrorism Blog lists the ten points of Osama bin Laden's most recent audiotape. One of his aims, it appears, is to justify the murder of Western civilians by holding them ultimately responsible for what their governments do. This, he probably hopes, will encourage the public to rise up against their leaders and demand an end to the GWOT:

1. Hamas: Despite the fact that we (including Ayman Zawahiri) warned (Muslim Palestinians) not to take part in elections in general, the victory of Hamas shows that there is a "Crusader Zionist War against Islam." Cutting foreign aid to the Palestinians because of Hamas victory proves that war.

2. The public (in the West and the US), despite our warnings, continues to reelect these Governments, pay taxes to these Governments, and send their children to fight against us. They (civilians) are therefore part of the war against us. They are responsible for any harm that would be caused to them.

3. Sudan: The Bashir Government is failing in stopping the Crusader War in Sudan. The Crusaders (Britain) has pushed the southerners (Blacks) to separate. The US has armed them and is supporting them. And now, because of tribal tensions in Darfour, the Crusaders are planning on intervening there. We are calling on the Jihadists to fight them in Darfour and Southern Sudan.

4. Long War: We're calling on all Jihadists, particularly in Sudan and the Arabian Peninsula to prepare themselves for a long war.

5. Danish Cartoons: We are asking the Danish Government to remit the Cartoonists to al Qaida.

6. Saudis: We criticize the Saudi Monarch for refuting the idea of Clash of Civilizations. There is a clash led by the West against Islam.

7. Arab Liberals: Jihadists must silence the Arab and Muslim liberals. (A list has been established, but it wasn't aired).

8. Education: We warn [against] any change that would affect the educational curriculum in the Arab and Muslim world.

9. Arab TV: We warn against those TV stations airing into the region and propagating Crusader propaganda.

10: Truce: We offered a truce to the West (i.e. US and Europe) but their public refused to accept it. They will only blame themselves.

Number 4 is particularly interesting inasmuch as it suggests that bin Laden is no longer optimistic about the outcome of global jihad. He also seems to have written off Iraq and looks to Saudi Arabia and Africa as more promising.

Number 8 is also of interest because it supports the complaint of many observers that it is through the schools (madrassas) that the extremists are preparing future jihadis. These schools should be shut down in the U.S. and Europe, and it is astonishing to us that they haven't been already.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Let's Call the Fouls Both Ways

A group of debauched young white Duke University students allegedly assaults a black stripper and the cable news shows go wall to wall playing up the racial aspects of the incident. All the usual suspects emerge to tell us what this says about white attitudes toward black women and how racism still thrives in the ivory towers of white privilege, etc, etc.

Meanwhile, a gang of Neanderthals attacks several people just minding their own business in Las Vegas. The attacks are savage and disgusting, serving no purpose except to inflict pain and suffering on a complete stranger. The news media dutifully mentions them, but it wasn't until I saw the surveillance tapes of the brutal beatings that what everyone pretty much knew, but nobody wanted to say, became clear. The gang of attackers were black and the victims, as far as I could tell, were white.

There wasn't a peep about the race of any of those involved in this savagery in any of the reports I read or heard (see here or here, for example) until Campbell Brown asked a guest on the Today show Saturday morning whether police thought there might be just a teensy racial dimension to the attacks. Her guest replied, that, no, there probably wasn't, the attackers just happened to be black and the victims just happened to be white, and Ms Brown was happy to let that answer suffice.

For the media, racism is only a factor in crimes in which whites attack blacks, a phenomenon which is much more uncommon than the reverse. In fact, blacks are 50 times more likely to commit violent crimes against whites than whites are against blacks. Bureau of Justice victimization reports show that 89 percent of interracial crimes involved black perpetrators and white victims. Yet the media seems to want us to believe that the real problem in America is white violence against blacks.

Let three white degenerates merely be charged with having forced themselves onto a black stripper, and the news media is made delirious by the catnip of racism in the air. Yet when fifteen to twenty black sub-humans punch, kick, and whip innocent bystanders who just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, one is given to think the word racism must have suddenly disappeared from the media style manual.

A basketball referee who only called fouls against one team and not the other would quickly lose the respect of everyone in the game. Maybe this helps explain the low esteem in which the modern media is held.

Dancing on the Head of a Pin

Several very prominent atheists have gathered at The Edge to wrestle over whether it is ethical of them to accept fellowship grants from the Templeton Foundation. The Foundation awards extremely generous amounts of money to scholars seeking to promote a deeper and richer understanding of the relationship of science and religion, and since most of the heavyweights in this debate desire that religion cease to exist altogether, they're torn over whether they are behaving immorally by allowing themselves to be seduced by the Templeton offer.

There's something amusing about a bunch of atheists struggling with a moral question. Their debate reminds the reader of medieval theological arguments over how many angels could dance on the head of a pin.

If atheists are correct in their belief that there is no God, which they presume they are, then questions of ethical propriety are a bit like the 19th century ether. They seem as if they should be real and mean something, but in fact they're illusions which don't mean anything at all. The question of whether atheists ought to take the money when they don't agree with the Foundation's aims is absurd. If there is no God then there is no objective standard of ethics, and all statements of morality are simply expressions of our own desires and preferences.

What, after all, would make an act right or wrong in the absence of a perfectly good, all-knowing Lawgiver? What is it that would make any moral notion obligatory? More to the point, what would make taking the Foundation's money a wrong act? Why would it be wrong to misrepresent oneself to the Foundation, especially if doing so works to one's advantage?

To be sure, other people may not like someone who did such a thing, but so what? What is it about not being liked that makes an act immoral?

In other words, the eminent scientists and philosophers involved in this debate should simply do whatever they feel like doing and not worry about whether it is "right" in some metaphysical sense. It isn't right. Nor is it wrong. Nothing is. That's one of the many ugly consequences of atheism, and it's a consequence that those atheists who are aware of it rarely wish to publicize.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Top Ten Cars

For automobile lovers Forbes has a Top Ten Best Designed Cars feature which begins here. One interesting aspect of the story is that number one on the list costs about $18,000, and number ten will set you back $600,000. You might have to take on a part-time job if you want one.

Highs and Lows

It's passing strange that Democrats still complain about a weak economy with unemployment so low and the Dow so high:

Blue chips gained Thursday, pushing the Dow industrials to their highest close since January 2000, amid solid earnings from GM and a retreat from record oil prices.

The Dow Jones industrial average (up 64.12 to 11,342.89, Charts) rose 0.6 percent, closing at its highest point since Jan. 20, 2000, when the blue-chip indicator finished at 11,351.30. It's also within sight of its all time high of 11,722.98, reached on Jan. 14, 2000.

Maybe the Dems are just hoping that nobody's paying attention. They might be right. The Dow is approaching its highest level ever while Bush's approval ratings are sinking to among the lowest ever. We have a booming economy under the aegis, according to Sean Wilentz at Rolling Stone, of the worst president ever. Go figure.

Republicans Are the Luckiest People

The Republican party doesn't deserve to be this lucky:

(Reuters) - Former Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry said on Thursday he was seriously thinking about another White House bid in 2008 and will decide before the year is out.

"I will make that decision toward the end of the year, but I'm thinking about it hard," Kerry said in response to a question at the Latin Economic Forum at the United Nations.

The Republicans have been incredibly fortunate in the last two presidential elections, largely because of the quality of the Democratic candidates who have been trotted out to oppose them. Another John Kerry candidacy would make it three in a row. They must be thinking that it really is too much to hope for.

On the other hand, aside from the politically skillful Bill Clinton, when in the last forty five years have the Democrats offered the nation a really good candidate for president?

Somebody Has to Do it.

Here's a great idea. If the feds are going to drag their heels on securing the borders, shame them into taking the problem seriously. This is a story worth following:

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) -- If the government doesn't build security fencing along the Mexico border, Minuteman border watch leader Chris Simcox says he and his supporters will. Simcox, whose civilian watch group opposes illegal immigration, said Wednesday he was sending an ultimatum to President Bush to deploy military reserves to the Arizona border by May 25 or his supporters will break ground for their own building project.

"We're going to show the federal government how easy it is to build these security fences, how inexpensively they can be built when built by private people and free enterprise," Simcox said.

George Bush's approval ratings are down among Republicans to 66%. Pundits say its because of the war, but we doubt that. In our view it's because he's done nothing to curb spending and even less to secure our southern border. If he won't do it, Americans will do it for him. Unfortunately, the fence can only be built on private land, and a lot of the border is public land under government control. Even so, the Minutemen have the right idea, and maybe their example will have a salutary effect on the thinking of our congressmen and president. We'll see.

Free Speech

Wang Wenyi is being given a lesson about the 1st Amendment to the US Constitution and I suspect she's somewhat confused. Perhaps the America she heard about is not the America that exists today. It seems she has been charged with the misdemeanor of willfully intimidating, coercing, threatening and harassing a foreign official.

That's rich. Read the details here.

Meanwhile, we have this item that might help to explain Ms Wenyi's outspokenness.

Back in February I posted this Potpourri Rant that mentioned how in exchange for the opportunity to do business with China, CISCO was cooperating with the Chinese government to enable the Chinese to track dissidents through the Internet, some of whom are executed and their organs harvested for sale.

It looks like the Chinese (our favorite nation trade status partner) have decided to save on the cost of the bullet. Now it looks like they simply perform the surgery on living individuals and allow nature to takes its course.

Ya gotta hand it to those Chinese. There's a certain economic efficiency and elegance to it don't you think?

Friday, April 21, 2006

CIA Leaker Fired

This is welcome news. One of the miscreants responsible for disclosing classified information to the media has been cashiered. We hope she will also be prosecuted:

WASHINGTON - In a rare occurrence, the CIA fired an officer who acknowledged giving classified information to a reporter, NBC News learned Friday. The officer flunked a polygraph exam before being fired on Thursday and is now under investigation by the Justice Department, NBC has learned.

Intelligence sources tell NBC News the accused officer, Mary McCarthy, worked in the CIA's inspector general's office and had worked for the National Security Council under the Clinton and and George W. Bush administrations.

The leak pertained to stories on the CIA's rumored secret prisons in Eastern Europe, sources told NBC. The information was allegedly provided to Dana Priest of the Washington Post, who wrote about CIA prisons in November and was awarded a Pulitzer Prize on Monday for her reporting.

Sources said the CIA believes McCarthy had more than a dozen unauthorized contacts with Priest. Information about subjects other than the prisons may have been leaked as well.

Perhaps the example being made of Ms McCarthy will have a salutary effect throughout government and there will be a greater reticence among those who know and are sworn to protect our nation's secrets hereafter.

Gas Rant

I just filled up the car at the local gas station with 92 octane (middle grade) at a cost of $3.06 per gallon. Ouch! It looks like we are just about at post Katrina / Rita days except there isn't any hurricane. Or at least one we can blame on nature.

There is a silver lining in the rising price of gas though and there is benefit to be appreciated. SUVs that get 12 miles to the gallon will start to disappear from the roads. You know them, their the vehicles that blind you at night when they're behind you and their headlights are so high that they reflect in your rear-view mirror causing a nearly total inability to see where you are going.

When they're in front of you, you can't see anything beyond them so you have no idea what the rest of the traffic might be doing. In addition, statistics show that the other party of an accident involving an SUV is 5 times more likely to be killed.

To me, high gas prices are a God-send. I hope they go to $5 a gallon and with our present administration hard at work on their "energy policy", I suspect they will. Then the SUVs will become a thing of the past and as far as I'm concerned, good riddance.

Perhaps the legacy of the Bush administration will be that he single handedly enacted policy to rid the roads of these monster vehicles that consume twice the gas as the average vehicle does thus driving prices up for everybody although I find it odd that the biggest SUVs are eligible for tax credits. I haven't figured that out yet but I suspect it was simply one of those lobbying things that slipped through on the national defense budget legislation.

There's one other way we might be rid of the SUV. Ford Motor company lost 8% today on the stock market and GM is struggling to outdo them but only lost just under 4%. What amazes me is that in the world of stocks, in order for someone to sell their shares, someone has to buy them. What thinking person would spend money on either of these companies?

At any rate, both companies are going down the toilet and when they do, the SUVs as we know them will be flushed along with them. Driving will be a much safer and more enjoyable...for those that can afford the price of gasoline.


Yesterday gold plunged over $20 per ounce and silver followed with over a $2.00 loss.

I was almost in tears as a sat there looking at the real-time graphs that illustrated the greatest plunge in recent history in the metals...and I had no spare cash to take advantage of a buying opportunity that hasn't happened since the bull market in gold began five years ago. Ugh.

Of course, in less than twenty four hours the market recovered almost completely as to almost sneer at me for being caught off balance.

From Richard Russel tonight:

And gold, that unprincipled sneak -- it turned around and closed up 12.40 today -- and up another 3 in the after-market to 638.50 on the June futures. The previous high on the June futures was 636.00 recorded on April 19, so Monday it would not surprise me to see June gold at a new high! Silver did not do as well. But for those who were knocked out of the box in gold, sorry, it's never easy to trade the bull. All that's happened is that the gold bull has succeeded in shaking thousands of non-believers off his back. Amazing!

Experience is a great teacher although it's usually a very expensive one. I've learned my lesson well. There will be more corrections to come during this bull market in gold. In 1980-'81 there were corrections of $100 to $150 dollars that happened just as quickly as yesterday. I'm going to be ready for the next one.

Just in case...

there is anyone left who would believe that our government doesn't lie to us consider this article.

Let's take the official inflation rate, tracked using the consumer price index, or CPI. The idea behind the CPI is to have a fixed basket of goods and track how the prices of these things change from year to year. It only gained prominence after World War II, as a way to adjust autoworkers' labor contracts, a practice that soon spread.

Over time, its importance grew and more people looked to it as a gauge of general price inflation - and, hence, to get a feel for the health of the economy.

The thing is, the way the CPI is calculated changed dramatically over the years. Politicians have figured out that these statistics are useful in winning elections. Ergo, nearly every administration has altered the calculation. And always, the changes made the CPI lower. Every effort to change the CPI, by design, aims to make the economy look "better" than it looked before the changes.

The accumulation of these changes creates a huge difference over time. It's like making a series of small changes to a ship's course in the midst of a long voyage. Soon, you wind up way off course, miles and miles from where you think you are. The chart below on William's Web page shows the extent of the difference, which is just massive. The rate of inflation using only the pre-Clinton era CPI is closer to 7%!

The "Experimental C-CPI-U" is another innovation, introduced by the Bush administration to lower the CPI yet again, once again to paint a kinder portrait of the old hag known as the U.S. economy.

But it's about more than just making the economy look better. For example, since increases in Social Security payments link to the CPI, a lower CPI also saves the government money. According to Williams, if you used the CPI when Jimmy Carter was president, you'd get Social Security checks 70% higher than today's levels. Yes, 70% higher.

The government also duped all those people who thought it was such a great idea to buy TIPS (Treasury inflation-protected securities). Changes in the CPI determine the interest paid on these bonds. The higher the CPI, the more interest paid to bondholders. Some people loved the idea, figuring here was a bond that would keep pace with inflation. Given the government manipulates the CPI, you can be sure the interest rate paid will not keep pace with inflation - nor has it ever.

The manipulation of the CPI explains the great disconnect between what the man in the street feels when he pays his bills and what the confident, well-dressed Fed chiefs and politicians try to tell him. The cost of living is rising a lot more than they want you to believe. At a 7% annual rate of inflation, the cost of living would double in about 10 years. Looked at differently, the purchasing power of your dollar will fall in half.


What about unemployment? The government, since the time of the Kennedy administration, has been changing the definition of "unemployed." Again, many small changes over time lead to dramatic end results. According to Williams, if you back out the changes, you get an unemployment number closer to 12%!

Let's look at the federal deficit - basically, the amount of money the government is losing every year. The official deficit for 2005 was $319 billion. However, this excludes unfunded Social Security and Medicare obligations. Throw them into the mix and calculate the deficit the way a business does in its financial statements - and you get an annual deficit around $3.5 trillion.

That's more than 10 times the so-called "official" deficit. By Williams' calculations, you could raise the tax rate to 100% - dump everyone's salaries into the U.S. Treasury - and still have a deficit.

Years of such deficits have created a mountain of obligations for the U.S. government. As Williams says, "The fiscal 2005 statement shows that total federal obligations at the end of September were $51 trillion; over four times the level of GDP." These debts are unsustainable. The bills must go unpaid. If the U.S. government were a private corporation, its bankruptcy would be beyond dispute.

There are only two ways to protect yourself from this kind of abuse. Buy gold and ride the storm or buy gold and leave the country.