Friday, March 25, 2005

From the WSJ

Great Moments in Public Education

"A Bronx teacher who repeatedly flunked his state certification exam paid a formerly homeless man with a developmental disorder $2 to take the test for him," New York's Daily News reports:
The illegal stand-in--who looks nothing like teacher Wayne Brightly--not only passed the high-stakes test, he scored so much better than the teacher had previously that the state knew something was wrong, officials said. . . .
Brightly, 38, a teacher at one of the city's worst schools, Middle School 142, allegedly concocted the plot to swap identities with Leitner last summer. If he failed the state exam again, Brightly risked losing his $59,000-a-year job.

The News notes that the test has a 95% pass rate, which makes the inaptly named Brightly's repeated flunking--and the school system's failure to fire him long ago for incompetence--all the more appalling.





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Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Headline of the Day

Weiner abuse case begins Monday


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Monday, March 21, 2005

Whose Whims Rule? (As written by Tolles)

From a NYT editorial today:

The implications of Justice Scalia's remarks are sweeping. Many of the most central principles of American constitutional law - from the right to a court-appointed lawyer to the right to buy contraception - have emerged from the court's evolving sense of the meaning of constitutional clauses. Justice Scalia seems to be suggesting that many, or perhaps all, of these rights should exist only at the whim of legislatures.

Assholes.



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The one in which I take a cheap shot at Tolles

Something has always bugged me a little about Tolles' postings. I couldn't quite put my finger on it until I saw this:

Left Wing Blogger Workflow
1) Go to their favorite media outlet and read a news story that bashes: (pick 1 or many) Bush, America, U.S. Soldiers, a member of the Bush administration, Mom (unless she turned lesbian and threw Dad out) or Apple pie.
2) Post excerpt on blog.
3) Agree with every bogus fact, add nothing to the debate except except a link to last week's [now discredited] story.
4) Then finish the post by calling Bush and/or Republicans a dumb name.
5) Whine when the media ignores you.

I don't think #5 applies, but the other 4 seem pretty on the mark. Examples in March include:

Ann Coulter is a lunatic and a racist

Peter King is a dick (in an article where he King praising Hillary Clinton)

David Brooks in is an asshole (in an article where he explains how Republicans have gone wrong)

Jim Bunning is a hypocrite

Not bad considering he only has 7 posts in March and one is about spring training. The thing that is so annoying about it is that Mike is both smart and funny. Everyone who reads this blog and didn't get here by searching for Anna Benson pictures knows that. Come on Mike.


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Whose Whims Rule? (by Max)

From a NYT editorial today:

The implications of Justice Scalia's remarks are sweeping. Many of the most central principles of American constitutional law - from the right to a court-appointed lawyer to the right to buy contraception - have emerged from the court's evolving sense of the meaning of constitutional clauses. Justice Scalia seems to be suggesting that many, or perhaps all, of these rights should exist only at the whim of legislatures.

What Justice Scalia is suggesting, actually, is that these "rights" are not outlined in the constitution at all and that the people should have a say on the issues. "The whim of legislatures" is a nice phrase but what they mean actually is "at the discretion of the people". Legislatures being elected, accountable bodies, are far more likely to consider the views of the people they represent than are unelected, unaccountable judges.

Scalia's point is not that the people are always right, but that they should have the right to self governance. When 5 judges can outlaw capital punishment for minors on the basis of international law and what they see as an emerging consensus, that is a whim. When their opinion overturns an opinion of virtually the exact same court and explicitly rejects their prior reasoning, that is a whim. The NYT would have you believe that the will of the people is little other than a whim, while the personal opinion of 5 unaccountable judges is a solid unalterable basis of reasoning.... until court cases start going against their editorial line, of course.


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Tolles on Math

Earlier today, I pointed out a WaPo article where the author claims that a privatized social security plan would hurt 75% of workers, then in the very next sentence says it would hurt one third of workers. Tolles' substantive response:

That's right, Max. Keep flogging that private accounts plan! It's going great so
far.

Actually, I am not sure I have ever flogged the private accounts plan. And I certainly didn't do so here.

Congrats, Tolles, and a big thumbs up for coming up with a creative way to avoid a substantive response.

On the issue of private accounts: social security is, in effect, a market account where you are 100% invested in US bonds. No financial planner would do that to one of their customers. Also, while there are some really good, really serious reasons to not go to a private accounts type of plan, opponents of private accounts ought to subject their plans to the same kind of assumptions. The Professor in WaPo today makes several worst case types of assumptions for private accounts but then compares that to a stable, no change scenerio for the current system. The problem is we know for a fact that no change is not an option for the current system. Taxes will have to be raised or benefits cut or deferred. Apples should be compared to apples.

On to Tolles' nonresponsive response: Not sure if you mean "not working politically" or not working in terms of the markets. I largely think you are right that it is not working politically, although when David Brooks made the same point last week you said he had nothing new to offer and called him an asshole. If you mean the markets aren't working, I don't get it. I anticipate my retirement will be funded almost entirely by my retirement accounts, not by my social security check.

What any of that has to do with the WaPo publishing contradictory numbers, I'm not sure.


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Global Warming, Redux

No Stopping Global Warming, Studies Predict
Virtually no one disagrees human activity is fueling global warming..
The key here is the word "fueling". If we are using fueling to mean "the main cause" or "driving" then quite a few people disagree. If "fueling means "also contributes to", then I suspect they are right that virtually no one disagrees. But, "also contributes to" doesn't spark the same fear, does it?
Even if people stopped pumping out carbon dioxide and other pollutants tomorrow, global warming would still get worse, two teams of researchers reported on Thursday...
Wait, I thought global warming was a man made phenomenon. Now we hear that even if we completely stopped polluting, global warming would still continue. Think about that. How many times have you heard that we (humans, Americans, SUV drivers, etc) are responsible for global warming. Now it turns out that even if humans didn't exist, global warming would continue apace.

Wait a minute: if we are "fueling" global warming, how is it going to get worse even if we completely stop polluting. I bet the response has something to do with "given what damage we have already done...". Problem: this is all speculation based on models of weather over the next 100 years. Two points: first, the weather model my weatherman uses said about 12 hours ago that it would be raining right now. It is sunny and clear. Second, those same models predicting the next 100 years are fantastically bad at back predicting. That is to say, if you input the same assumptions, pretend it is 1904 and run the model, it predicts radically higher temperatures and sea levels than what we have today. Global warming computer models are the perfect illustration of the old GIGO motto.

It has been a couple weeks since I have said it, so I'll restate: global warming is more about politics than science.


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Where does 75% equal 33%?

In the Washington Post:

Nearly three-quarters of workers who opt for Social Security personal accounts under President Bush's "default" investment option are likely to earn less in benefits than those who stay with the traditional Social Security system, a prominent finance economist has concluded.

A new paper by Yale University economist Robert J. Shiller found that under Bush's default "life-cycle accounts," which shift assets from stocks to bonds over a worker's lifetime, nearly a third of workers would bring in less in benefits than if they remained in the traditional system.


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Airport Economics

I am completely baffled by the economics of airports. Not airlines, whose economics are baffling to everyone including CEOs and CFOs of the airlines, but airports. A couple of cases in point:

1. The number of flights coming to and going from our airport is down over 50% from 10 years ago with the number of carriers down even more. The only major presenses left are American and Southwest. But there are now at least 5 new parking lot companies. I am guesstimating that number of parking spots is up around 100% from 10 years ago. I don't get it. Did most people take a cab or get dropped off at the airport 10 years ago? I don't remember that being the case.

2. The more flights American cuts to and from STL, the more stores open up in the airport. Americna sent me an e-mail today informing me of 2 new Starbucks, a full size Chili's Restaurant, a CNBC store(??!!) and a Brooks Brothers opening in the main terminal. Leaving aside the CNBC oddity, what explains the additions of these stores. I have a theory on Starbucks: there are way fewer people at the airport but those that are there are there much longer than they used to be. This might help the Chili's as well, but Brooks Brothers?

3. The biggest question I have revolves around the airport itself. Lambert is undergoing an expansion that will double its size, despite the fact that it is running at less than half its capacity as is. Where is the sense in that?


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Friday, March 18, 2005

Extraordinary Rendition, Redux

This is a follow up to a call and response begun here.

To start off, Mike has found one instance where someone was allegedly shipped to a country that is not his home country, Khalid el-Masri. He is, not surprisingly, unwilling to give the government any benefit of the doubt. His second case, that of Maher Arar, is more problematic than he would have you believe. Mike started out by saying that:

As a point of fact, Arar's "home country" is Tunisia, not Syria.
I pointed out to him that, in fact, his wife's family is from Tunisia, he is from Syria. Good manners would dictate that he would acknowledge the error before moving forward with what is a decent argument. Instead, he moved right on to declaring that Arar's home country is Canada. Any port in a storm, I guess. Click read more

The problem as I had already pointed out, is that Canada gave us the information leading to his arrest and was not interested in having him repatriated. I don't know what the law is on this and neither does Mike. But Mike's comments would lead you to believe this is a simple case of a Canadian citizen who got the shaft rather than Canada helped aid the deportation of this guy.

As an aside, "rendering" is not a euphamism for torture as Mike suggests in his response:

On vacation in Macedonia, he was arrested and flown to Afghanistan where he was
tortured, uh, I mean where he was “rendered”.

Rendering is the process of delivering a suspect to a country. If we catch a wanted Mexican criminal in the US and deliver him to Mexico, that is called rendering. If an American bounty hunter goes into Mexico and catches someone wanted in America, then brings him back, that is called Extraordinary Rendition. The extraordinary part is that we are taking possession of someone in a foreign land. Mr. Arar was captured in America and was therefore rendered (not extraordinarily as Mike continues to suggest). It is no small point as there is a pretty big difference between A) sending CIA agents into Canada and plucking one of their citizens out to send to a third country and B) capturing a wanted man on US soil and then deciding what country to send him to (where, remember, the decision was made simple by one country not accepting him).

On to other points: Mike would have us believe that Masri's case is not unique. Yet, it is the only case he has. I pointed out that the New York Times reported that half of all detainees were rendered back to friendly, non-torturing, western nations. I pointed this out to suggest that the ER policy was not designed to be a free torutre pass. Mike completely ignored this fact and continues to assert that we simply ship everyone off to be tortured. Why? Not sure, but if you believe the ER system is designed as a free torture instrument for the US, there is really no way to explain sending people to England or France. If, on the other hand, the system is set up to send these people back to their home countries, the fact that many go back to England, France and other western countries makes sense. Again, Mike cannot give the US government the benefit of the doubt on anything. His nonresponsiveness to this point is telling.

If we make a mistake on sending someone somewhere, I think we need to come clean. If we are sending someone (correctly) to a country that practices torture, I think there is a good and legitimate argument to make that we should simply refuse to repatriate people to a country that tortures prisoners. Several countries refuse to extradite people to the US because of our use of the death penalty.

Mike believes I have set up a strawman with the "Gitmo or torture" (paraphrasing his paraphrase) comments. Actually, this would be a false choice argment, not a strawman. But it is not a false choice argument as it is a reflection of the real choice made by the lawyers for the Yemeni men in question. The issue is stay in Gitmo or be sent back to Yemen. My point is that liberals spent a solid year suggesting that Gitmo features systematic torture and human rights abuses, now we are supposed to believe that Gitmo is fine. Not "nightmarish but better than Yemen", but fine (otherwise, the lawyers would be pushing for them to be moved, no?)


Mike, are most of the people in Gitmo people we picked up off the streets of Toronto or out of the terrorist training camps in Afghanistan? Does it matter to you at all? I can see different standards of evidence required for holding someone captured in Detroit rather than Kabul. I'm not sure where, how or if you are drawing lines here. I'll draw one: when we catch people on a live battlefield in Afghanistan they are by definition either a POW or enemy combatant. POWs are not entitled to all the same rights as American suspects in a criminal or civil trial. They are often sent back to their home countries at some point during or immediately following a war. They don't get the choice of where to be sent. Bad things sometimes happen to them (witness the widespread execution and/or imprisonment by the Russians of Russians captured then released by Germany).

Final point: wow, I am totally blown away by the terrifying ordeal suffered by the Kuwaiti at the end of your comment. You mean he had to be interrogated by an attractive woman. Wow. I hope he can recover from that horrifying moment. What? You say she flirted with him and was sexually suggestive. Good God, man. Call the ACLU. Then she played to his prejudices with a comment about Jewish lawyers. Wow. Truly, I have seen the enemy and he is us. What do you suppose interrogations are like? I guess we should not use women at all since that probably offends his sensibilities. Maybe a woman could be in the room provided she is covered in a Burkha and is serving tea to the interrigator and the prisoner. She would have to prove she wasn't Jewish or unclean, maybe. Mike, a woman dressed like our common friend would be seen as both attractive and sexually provocative to a strict Muslim man. Even if his judgement was in line with ours on sexuality, so what?

PS: believe it or not, it is not uncommon for police or military interrogators to try to drive a wedge between the captive and his lawyer. It doesn't mean she was an anti-semite; it means she was pretty reasonably sure he was. And she played off it.



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Surely, They are Joking

New on the Wire: AP to Offer Two Leads for Some Stories
"The concept is simple: On major spot stories -- especially when events happen early in the day -- we will provide you with two versions to choose between," the AP said in an advisory to members. "One will be the traditional 'straight lead' that leads with the main facts of what took place. The other will be the 'optional,' an alternative approach that attempts to draw in the reader through imagery, narrative devices, perspective or other creative means."
Here is an example lead:

MOSUL, Iraq (AP) A suicide attacker set off a bomb that tore through a funeral tent jammed with Shiite mourners Thursday, splattering blood and body parts over rows of overturned white plastic chairs. The attack, which killed 47 and wounded more than 100, came as Shiite and Kurdish politicians in Baghdad said they overcame a major stumbling block to forming a new coalition government.

I kid you not, this is an example of the traditional lead without the "imagery, narrative devices, perspective" etc. AP's idea of a "straight lead" is one which features "splattering blood and body parts".

Taken from Kausfiles


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Thursday, March 17, 2005

H-man,

Here you go, right under the wire:

First round:

IL
NV
UW-Mil
BC
UAB
AZ
SIUC
OK St.

Wash
Pitt
G Tech
L'ville
TTech
Zags
Creighton
WF

NC
Iowa St.
Nova
FL
Wisc
KS
NC St.
UConn

Duke
Stanford
M St.
Cuse
Utah
OK
Iowa
KY

Second Round:

IL
BC
AZ
OK St.

Pitt
L'ville
Zags
WF

NC
Nova
KS
UConn

Duke
Cuse
OK
KY

Third round:

IL
OK St.

L'ville
WF

NC
UConn

Duke
KY

Final Four

IL
WF
NC
Duke

Title Game

IL
Duke (winner)


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The Dark Side of College Basketball

is that it becomes so much fun to root against teams. Sure the NFL has the Oakland Raiders to hate, but college ball has so many teams to hate for so many different reasons. Here is a nice little piece from Slate with some suggestions.

I have to differ on a couple of points: while the Duke bit is dead on, the author makes this ridiculous assertion:

Around 2008—when pro defenders have finished demonstrating that Redick can't
deploy his robotically perfect shooting stroke when he's guarded...

There is no such thing as a "pro defender". Professional basketball, like professional wrestling, is all about offense". Defense is much, much more respected and expected in the college game.

Second, attacks on Ashley Judd will not be tolerated here. Even if the Michael Bolton point is both a good line and, sadly, true.


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Library Logic

Our County Library doesn't have Johnny Cash's final record. I requested they add it to their catalogue. Two weeks later I got this form note back from them:

We regret that we are unable to fill your request due to this item being previously turned down for purchase. Thank you for your interest in the Library.
Acquisitions Department
Did I miss something here? We can't buy this CD because we previously told someone else we can't buy the CD. Look if you can't buy it for reasons of price or content or percieved lack of interest, I totally understand. But by the logic employed here, the more people request it the more unbuyable it becomes (having been turned down more and more in the past). Very odd.


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Secrets of the Brackets Revealed

Every year countless numbers of people come up to me and say: "Max, you never seem to win a march madness pool, yet deep down inside I know you have mystical secrets you use to pick your brackets. Tell me, o sage one, how do you pick?" Sometimes, to the naked ear this sounds like: "Wake Forest??? What are you retarded or something?," but I know what they mean.

So without further ado, here are 10 little tidbits of my methodology:

1. Pick the (1) over the (16). Start slow...

2. Find Stanford. Find the first team they play that could conceivably beat them. Knock them out the round before that team.

3. Find Cincinnati. See #2.

4. Find Iowa, Texas Tech, and UCLA. See #2. (Note: they screwed me this year by pitting TTech and UCLA against each other in the first round). Good job bastards. Fine. Flip a coin and decide who gets to lose to the Zags in round 2.

5. If the team plays in the Pac 10 or their school is in or west of the Rockies, they win one round at most. Special exemption this year for Gonzaga who should get two or three wins.

6. Find Utah and Kentucky. Pick both teams to win as many games as it takes for them to meet up. Then pick Kentucky to win that game.

7. Find Roy Williams team. To break his heart he must either lose in the first round or in the final four. This year feels like final four to me (NC is a #1 seed).

8. Now we are on shakier ground. Pick the east coast team that will annoy me most (could be UConn, Syracuse, Villanova, or this year's surprise choice: BC). These teams will all be in the sweet 16 and at least two of them will be in the final 8. By the time we get to the second weekend I pretty consistently find myself rooting against teams rather than for them. With NC and Duke going on to the second weekend, these four teams will ensure that almost all the games will feature a villain.

9. Make sure you don't pick IL, KY, or KS to win it all.

10. Pick (9) over (8) and pick one (12) to beat a (5).


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Monday, March 14, 2005

Leaving the most boring 6 minute movie ever

Gibson Resurrects 'The Passion' with Less Gore


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Missing the Point

Howard Kurtz reports on a new study finding that Fox News is opinionated. Most of the examples are fairly silly and "old news". For example, Fox news anchors were caught hoping that democracy takes root in Iraq and cheering Iraqi forces who captured one of Saddam's henchmen. Dear God, what's next? Having a waving american flag added to the little omnipresent logo opn the screen? Allowing anchors to wear American flag lapels?

Oh yeah: Fox made a public declaration three and a half years ago that they were going to do both and that they would not shy away from openly backing America. These are the kinds of bias that most Americans are OK with (the kind that says we are on the side of America). CNN with a worldwide audience might be expected to be more nuetral on taking sides in the war. Note that nuetrality here is nuetrality between Democracy and Islamofascist dictatorship so maybe it is a little different than nuetrally reporting on the social security debate.

On a more laughable note: the study faults Fox for opinionating on the Brit Hume and Bill O'Reilly shows. They then mention in passing that Hume's high rate of opinion comes from the "analysts panel" at the end. In other words, Fox opines on their news analysis and commentator's segments; segments created for the express purpose of expressing opinions. Also laughable is the finding that Keith Olbermann's show expresses opinion in only 9% of its stories. If you look at written transcripts you might get that impression but if you watch his reporting, his snotty, snide ironic delivery makes it abundantly clear where he stands.

I also like how Kurtz reports on the number of positive and nuetral stories about Iraq on cable news but omits the third catagory. Thus, we learn that Fox has about 38% positive stories on Iraq with CNN coming in at about 20%. Fox is just as likely to run nuetral stories (39%) while CNN runs far more nuetral stories (41%). The dog that didn't bark is the omitted catagory of negative stories which run at 23% for Fox and 39% for CNN. A classic trick used to cloak findings from a survey. Without thinking about the negative stories the impression you get is that Fox runs about 77% positive or nuetral while CNN runs about 61% positive or neutral. So Fox is higher but both are high. But there is no underlying logic behind the Pos/N choice which could just as easily be reported as N/Neg (62% for Fox and 80% for CNN).

So the study manages to miss the point by "finding" that Fox is pro-America, a charge they copped to post-9/11, and by "finding" that news analysis done by a panel of op/ed writers and political commentators expresses opinion. Seems like they could have saved a lot of money on this study. Here is a freebie for the Project for Excellence in Journalism: people writing on the op/ed page of the New York Times often inject their opinions, too. By the way, isn't it biased to proclaim a preference for excellence in journalism. What about all the mediocre journalists?

At the bottom of Kurtz post today is a story about a guy canned from Fox who was quoted as saying some nasty things about them. He claims he didn't say any of it and he loves Fox to this day. The editor is standing by the story but offered the guy a letter to the editor or an op/ed with only one condition: he can't criticize the original story. Classic.


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Was it all a Dream?

I guess the answer to the burning question "how long can the NYT go without attempting to turn every story into a 'Bush sucks' piece" is: about two weeks. For two weeks the Times flirted with such radical ideas as: maybe Bush did something that wasn't all bad.

Now they are back to form with a piece that goes back to the issue of the looting of Iraqi weapons sites. You might remember this as the October surprise that the NYT hyped endlessly before last year's election. An October surprise in that 60 minutes had all the information for the story and had decided to sit on it until the Sunday before the election. Word leaked out and the story ran in the NYT a week earlier than 60 minutes wanted. Too bad for 60 minutes. The first couple days of coverage made President Bush look pretty bad. Before the week was out, however, it became apparent that there was less to the story than met the eye (the weapons were likely removed before the conflict began). Given the complete dearth of stories on the subject after November 2nd, it took on the tenor of a hit piece that failed.

It took them four months to regroup, but the Times is back on the case. They are now reporting looting at "over 90" sites. Their graphic contains the following notes about 6 different sites:
...Produced equipment necessary for uranium enrichment...
...Another factory for uranium enrichment...
...Another facility for the Uranium enrichment program... (emphasis mine)
...International inspectors called a complete potential nuclear weapons laboratory...
...Housed a centrifuge and missile manufacturing program...
...A production plant for scud missiles...

Here is the deal: either Saddam had programs working on WMDs or he didn't. The left apparently wants President Bush to be wrong about Saddam working on WMDs and also be wrong about safeguarding WMD sites. Liberals wiggle position is that he clearly didn't have any WMDs but just as clearly these WMD sites should have been quickly identified and secured. This isn't any more satisfying than the original position. How could they be certain he had no WMDs given the fact that he had "over 90 sites" working actively on such programs? Each of these plants, of course, is a violation of the UN resolutions he signed at the end of the first gulf war.

Liberal's position is that Saddam didn't have WMDs, Saddam wasn't on the market for uranium, the UN resolutions were working, AND that the uranium program he was working on was stolen from Iraq. But most of these things are mutually exclusive.

The story is premised on UN inspectors looking at satellite imagery of the sites. So that leaves open both the possibility that the sites were stripped pre-invasion and the possibility that the US has stripped the sites and isn't telling while it does some work on the info gathered. To be fair, the Times piece has information suggesting that the looting at some sites was clearly post-invasion.

The Times article points out that this was large complicated machinery that was spirited away (likely to other countries). Keep that in mind when we announce that Iran, Syria, Libya, etc. Need to hand it over and liberals begin squawking about how Bush is a warmonger. Your rules, liberals. If the Bush administration is culpable for those programs getting loose, they are responsible for solving the problem.


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Tenure Ain't Nothing

So last week H-man and I were discussing the power of tenure. I think it goes too far. H-man thinks it has nothing on the power of being a football coach.

I think he has won this round.

Colorado's football coach will stay. Despite being in the center of a recruiting scandal that has consumed the President, AD and Chancellor of CU, despite the accusations of sexual harrassment of female staff, despite the jaw-droppingly heinous treatment of a female athelete (he suggested she deserved the gang-rape she suffered because she was a bad player), Coach Barnett is staying....and making a million dollars a year.


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Environmentalists, Revisited

Remember responsible environmentalists? Neither do I. Nicholas Kristof, who considers himself one, argues today that they are few and far between. After detailing several of the classic examples of environmentalists being dead wrong [and one example where they were dead wrong (and racist! Can you imagine what Tolles would say to a conservative book titled: Too Many Asians) disguised as "right...but overestimated"], he goes on to his central point:

Professor Diamond argues that if we accept false alarms for fires, then why not for the health of our planet? But environmental alarms have been screeching for so long that, like car alarms, they are now just an irritating background noise.

This is what we simpletons who lack nuance would call: The Chicken Little Effect. But I would add to Kristof's points the further point that we accept false alarms for fires in part because we assume benign motives. But if there were a group of people whose income depended on fire alarms (real or false) as did the validation of thier belief system, we would probably become much, much less tolerant of the constant false alarms.


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Extraordinary Rendition

The recent slew of stories on extraordinary rendition (ER) seem to all dodge a central point of the procedure: detainees are sent back to their home country regardless of where that country is. This is not a policy designed to facilitate torture. The NYT last week had a story on ER that completely bypassed this point even as the sidebar graphic made it clear that half of the Gitmo detainees that had been subject to ER went to Britain, France, Russia, Australia, Kuwait, Spain, and Sweden.

Today's WaPo article does the same suggesting that lawyers for a group of Yemeni men are "worried the government will try to move them from the Guantanamo Bay facility to another country". No word from WaPo on where that other country is. Let's call it Yemen. You know, based on the fact that the men are Yemeni.

Also, while I know Tolles will disagree with me here, I don't get why a prisoner of war (or in the case of most of the terrorists we have rounded up in Gitmo: a enemy combatant) should be entitled to the protections of the American legal system. They are POWs captured in a war on foreign soil and detained on foreign soil. Our Supreme Court ruled in 1942 that American citizens who worked for the enemy could be dealt with in military tribunals. Why foreign enemies should get better is nonsensical to me.

I also love the consistancy here: what ever happened to the "Gitmo is a tortuous hellhouse" complaint. Now all of a sudden judges are passing injunctions to prevent the US from transferring people out of Gitmo. Why? Because Gitmo was never the den of iniquity liberals wanted it to be. They just needed something to attack America about in the "post-Saddam capture" phase of the war. The "Oh yeah, well Bush still hasn't caught Osama" line seemed a little stale. "Gitmo is the new Hanoi Hilton" worked well until they decided "sending prisoners back home to countries that torture" sounded even better. Not that President Bush should do anything about middle east countries that practice torture, mind you. That would be wrong, too.

Best line of the article:

My clients were in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Yes, that time would be: after terrorists attacked the United States. And that place would be: in a terrorist camp in Afghanistan. But, I'm sure that was just part of a Yemeni holiday package tour gone sour, no?


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Good News, Bad News for Illini

The good news is they got the dream slot with games in Chicago, Indy and STL. From H-man's perspective they got the additional "good news" of a loss under their belt.

The bad news is that while they comfortably beat Wisconsin yesterday, Kentucky got their asses handed to them in a 17 point loss. Under the inscrutable "it is much better to lose than to win" theory of H-man, this suggests Kentucky is primed for a run. Thank heavens for the Ohio State loss, however, or else the Illini might have been beat by Fairleigh-Dickenson this week.


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Least Surprising News Story of the Day

Who didn't see this one coming:

Daschle Moving to K Street

You mean he is not going "home" to South Dakota? Stunning. So off he goes to work with Bob Dole at a big shot lobbying firm. Dole and Daschle? Two pols who clearly fire the passionate loyalties of thier parties. Can you feel the excitement?


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Friday, March 11, 2005

More Zero Tolerance Nonsense

From today's WSJ:

OUTGUNNED: Yadkin County, N.C., student Michael Beam says he switched book bags recently and brought a BB gun to school by mistake. Although he immediately
turned it in to a principal, he was charged with weapons possession and ordered to a group home for rehabilitation. According to a March 9 report on local Channel 12, his distraught parents, including mother Mandi, don't want their child in the arms of the state. But Yadkinville police detective Dawn Perdue told the station that "as a mother you have to step back and think, 'We need to do what's best for our children.'"

So the kid was sent to a foster home? Even a suspension for a kid who clearly did the right thing seems a bit harsh. But to take him away from his family? Maybe if the parent had accidently left a real loaded gun in a backpack and the kid took it to school you could argue parental negligence. But a B-B gun? This is nuts.


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Thursday, March 10, 2005

St. Louis: Feel the Excitement!

Just got an e-mail from American Airlines about their "Worldwide Spring Fares". It has information on trips from Dallas to Paris, LA to Hawaii, Chicago to Japan, etc. For STL there is one location listed: Bloomington, IL. Time to go buy some Berlitz tapes.


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Women and Sports

Two nights ago I had a litmus test. I wanted to watch some sports and my choice was between two basketball games: Oakland vs. Oral Roberts (men) or U Conn vs. Rutgers for the women's big east championship. Turned out the decision wasn't even hard: I would rather watch bad men's teams in a division I know nothing about than good women's teams in a championship game.

I am not alone in this. Every guy I have talked to about it has agreed (as did my wife). Yet, ESPN goes out of their way to report on and cover women's sports. I don't get it. On the other hand, stories like this might entice me (though probably not my wife).

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa's female football team will be coached in
etiquette and given tighter T-shirts in a drive to soften their image and
attract sponsorship ahead of a 2007 World Cup bid. FIFA President Sepp Blatter last year courted controversy when he urged women players to wear tighter shorts to distinguish them from men.

Ah yes, act like a lady. And wear this crop top baby T with these short shorts. Only in America...
Obviously they can't wear skirts on pitch...

That didn't seem obvious to me. Heels, I think would clearly be out, but skirts could work. On to the money quote:
The efforts to soften the team's image are part of a drive to attract hot
new talent to the team...

Excellent.


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Where is the Dumbest Man Alive?

Bucharest - A Romanian man lost his wife and mistress in one night after buying both a personalised gold necklace and mixing up the gifts.

He's got a wife and a girlfriend and money to spend. Then he went and spoiled it all by doing something stupid like not checking the tags. Honestly, though, the gold necklace for the wife was probably a give away even if he did give her the right one.





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story of the day

A bit of advice: if you don't want publicity, don't don a "modified chain mail outfit...leaving nothing to the imagination and dance in front a group of students while photographers for the student paper shoot you. It's the kind of thing you might not think you have to make explicit, really.

Now the young lady feels "marginalized and humiliated". I'd have figured that moment came before she christened herself Honey Houston and started giving out lap dances, but we're all different.

The best line in the story, however, comes from a sex therapist who says:

"...this event as a whole was about sexual awareness. So I don't know how this photo of this woman's naked body tells that story."

So the naked woman at the event was all fine and dandy but taking a picture of it for the story of the event doesn't make sense?


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For the Record

Before I take heat for the trashy stories to follow, I'd like to point out that the Washington Post has an article in their Middle East section today that is pretty much devoted to how hot Angelina Jolie is.

I'd also like to point out, bitterly, that the article has a picture but it is not of Angelina.


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Wednesday, March 09, 2005

The Kiss of Death

To begin with a brag: I finished my dissertation two weeks ago and am now officially Dr. Max Power. Sweet.

Anyway, I was in Houston a couple of weeks ago getting my committee signatures and visiting with old friends. Two small stories. First, when I was doing my masters work there was a truly batty professor. Batty in terms of his politics and in terms of being completely removed from reality. He once walked into class with a piece of cake the size of my watch on his cheek and another piece of similar size on his shirt. So nine graduate students had to engage in a three hour seminar with this guy without being the one to crack up. He was, of course, a committed leftist and one of those professors who would dock your paper for deviating from the Dem party line (to be fair to professors I worked with, they were almost all leftists, but almost all fair to a fault in their grading and dealings with students). He has since moved on, but my friend pointed out to me last week that he had been the (wait for it.....) Ken Lay Professor of Political Science.

Second story:

So I am having lunch with an old professor friend in Houston. I asked him "What ever happened to (name)", a colleague of ours who was super sharp. "Well, he didn't get tenure. There were two problems, you see. First, he was competent. Then he won a teaching award, and you know that's the kiss of death."


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Banner ad of the Day

For a pharmaceutical company:

Of two minds about Schizophrenia? Click here.


Super classy!


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Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Quote of the Day

If you cut your sex organ and then eat it, then something is wrong with you.


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We Just Remembered

Human rights groups have criticised Niger after it cancelled a special ceremony to free about 7000 slaves.
But those human rights groups obviously didn't hear the reason the slave freeing ceremony was cancelled:

The event was dropped at short notice after the government backtracked and said
slavery did not exist in Niger.


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Monday, March 07, 2005

We are in the wrong line of work

From the NYT today:

The cable business channel CNBC contributed more than $250 million in profit last year to the coffers of General Electric, its parent company. It did so while attracting a tiny audience that is at best just over 200,000 viewers.
Read that again. That is profit, not income. And I have to believe that CNBC's viewership does not fluctuate that much. Pretty much the same 200,000 people are watching every day. Near the end of the article NYT lists their income as 437 million for a profit margin of 57%. Or $2185 per viewer.


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Friday, March 04, 2005

headline of the day

"Woman Accused of Naked Dog Wrestling: Friend Says Woman Has Been Acting Strangely Recently"--headline and subheadline, Internet Broadcasting System, March 4


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Super Classy

From the WSJ today:

BAD BET:A Feb. 24 corporate press release from Costa Rica goes on for six paragraphs about the health and tenure of Pope John Paul II, speaking reverentially about his "unshakable devotion to his calling," and quoting one Barry "Action" Jackson as saying the pope is a "stand-up dude" and "I wish him a long life." Then comes the real point: Mr. Jackson is the president of BetOnline.com, which "is pleased to offer odds on: 'Who will be our next Pope?' " How's that for a kicker?


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Thursday, March 03, 2005

No One Expects the Spanish Inqusition

Ever since his election, Zapatero has spent much of his time shadowing Bush and attempting to shake his hand. On Wednesday, he was waiting in the shadows, and made his move when Bush was talking to Tony Blair. Bush, who I suspect didn't really know who Zapatero was said "hola amigo" and continued talking to Blair. Meanwhile, Zapatero walked off smiling away like a child with a new pair of shoes. The exchange was so brief Spanish newspapers had a nightmare trying to find a photograph of the "great meeting." To make matters worse a Spanish government spokesperson said that Bush and Zapatero had a "cordial exchange." (They forget to mention it lasted about two seconds.)

Even more laughable was the "meeting" Spanish Foreign Secretary Moratinos had with U.S. Secretary of State Rice. He literally rushed over to her in a passageway and then later claimed he had a summit meeting.

Ruthlessly stolen from somewhere.


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