Day By Day

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Year


From "She and Me"

You Go, Girl!

Mike Luckovich, lefty cartoonist, posed the question. Danielle, an amazing young woman provides the answer. Check out the responses on Luckovich's blog [here]. It'll do you good and restore your faith in the young people of this country.

Hat tip to Michelle Malkin here. Also check out Lilek's response to Luckovich's question here. [scroll down to the second half of the piece].

Friday, December 30, 2005

Yet More Media Malfeasance

Remember all those assertions from Democrat Party stooges in the media to the effect that the Iraq insurgency was intensifying. Well, it wasn't so. Iraq has seen a "dramatic" decline in the number of casualties in the past year. Gateway Pundit is all over the story. [here]

Where's the NYT/WaPo blanket coverage of this?

Sudanese Refugees Attacked in Cairo

The horror stories out of Africa never end. AP reports that Egypt has resorted to Mugabean tactics in response to a flood of refugees out of Sudan.
CAIRO, Egypt - Egyptian police turned water cannons on Sudanese war refugees and beat them with sticks Friday, brutally clearing out a squatters camp in a city park. At least 10 people were killed, the government said. Hundreds of Sudanese have been living in the park since September to protest the U.N. refugee agency's refusal to consider them for refugee status. They want to be resettled in a third country, such as the United States or Britain, rather than go home after a peace deal ended the 21-year-long civil war in Sudan.
Read about it here.


The NYT reports some details.

The Sudanese - thousands of men, women and children - were packed into what amounted to a traffic island in an upscale neighborhood. They had fled war-torn Sudan, but the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees office in Cairo - across the street from where they camped out - told them that they were not eligible for refugee status or for relocation because it was safe for them to return home.

The police had tried for hours to persuade them to leave the small square, hosing them with water cannons, surrounding them with cordons of riot control officers, imploring the women and children to board buses, and repeatedly warning that they would be removed by force.

When the officers charged, women and children tried to huddle together, and to hide under blankets as some men grabbed for anything - tree limbs, metal bars - struggling to fight back, witnesses said. The police hesitated, then rushed in with full force, trampling people and dragging the Sudanese off to waiting buses, the witnesses said.

"They started hitting our heads with the sticks and dragging us," said Napoleon Robert Lado, a leader of the group, speaking on a cellphone from a police camp where he and others had been taken. "They dragged me when I was trying to help a woman who fainted to stand up. They dragged me, and I was stepping over the old people and women and children. I was screaming and trying to step away, but could not."

By nightfall, Muhammad Khalaf, head of the area's emergency department, said there were 23 dead, 7 of them children, 8 elderly, and 7 more women. Rights organizations said others died after being taken to police camps and being denied immediate access to health care.

Read it here.


There was a blogger there to witness the atrocity:

The most horrible was the EGYPTIANS! Civilians who cheered as if they are cheering for the “army forces” freeing Palestine! As forces advanced in battle; the audience cheered, whistled and clapped. They were amused!

Check out Nora Younis here.

Several excellent pictures, like the one above.

More Media Malfeasance

And while we're on the subject of media malfeasance STATS has issued its 2005 Dubious Data Awards. These awards are given to instances in which scientific studies were grossly misrepresented by the media. Subjects include obesity studies, teenage drug use, the chemical composition of toothpaste, and poison popcorn. Check it out here.

Combine this with the systematic misreporting of Katrina, environmentalist hype, and the obvious political slant of reporting at the leading media institutions, and it becomes clear that there is an ongoing crisis in our information industries. As with most entrenched professions, journalism has become thoroughly corrupt, serving its own institutional interests rather than those of the society at large, a fact that only became apparent with the rise of alernative sources of information.

The system of information collection, interpretation, and dissemination that emerged half a century ago is rapidly changing with the proliferation of new sources and channels. That change, however much it might be lamented by figures in the media establishment, is to be welcomed because the American people have for a long time been ill-served by the existing institutions.

The Politics of Fear

Michael Crichton has done it again -- a devastating critique of the lies and fabrications that underlie environmentalist activism and their real life consequences. Read it here.

Katrina -- The Shame of the Media

If the idiots who manage the MSM can for a minute quit congratulating themselves on how well they reported the Katrina mess they can ruminate on the fact that almost every major point reported from the scene was wrong. Not only that but the "larger truths" drawn from the disaster were also wrong.

As Knight Ridder reports:

1) the victims were not (repeat not) disproportionately poor.

2) nor where they disproportionately non-white.

3) many of those who died had access to transportation out of the city, but chose instead to stay.
4) the only demographic category that distinguishes victims from survivors is age. Three quarters of the victims were over the age of sixty, many were residents of nursing homes who were abandoned. This fact was generally ignored by the MSM in the rush to indict America for neglecting the poor and black.

It is not just that journalists got the basic facts wrong, but they got the whole context within which those facts were presented wrong. Katrina should be widely recognized for what it is -- an damning and unanswerable indictment of the Mainstream Media..., but it probably won't be. Far too many people have too much invested in the outdated myths that shaped the coverage.

Read the KR story here.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Darfur and the "International Community"

Nothing illustrates the illegitimacy and ineffectiveness of the "international community" better than the ongoing genocide in Darfur. Eric Reeves, writing in the New Republic, notes the latest outrage. He writes:

[T]here is no real international pressure on the architects of the genocide--the National Islamic Front security cabal in Khartoum--to bring the killing to a halt. On the contrary, as the genocide enters its fourth year, the international community continues to defer to Khartoum, or even to suggest disingenuously that the regime has somehow reformed itself. Either way, the clear implication is that the lives of Darfur's civilians are not worth the diplomatic price of confronting Sudan's brutal leaders.

There is no more appalling illustration of this phenomenon than recent announcements by the African Union and the Arab League that both groups will hold their upcoming summits in Khartoum. These summits will represent symbolic triumphs for Sudan's genocidaires. And they will reinforce in very public fashion what Khartoum already knows: that none of its neighbors really cares what it does in Darfur.

Read it here. [registration required]

The experience of the past half century has completely delegitimated the concept of "collective security" through super-governmental agencies, yet the idea lives on in many quarters simply because it is a convenient excuse for non-action. Worse, when confronted by atrocities such as those in Darfur or Zimbabwe, the "international community" actively conspires to inhibit or even preclude effective responses from individual nations or coalitions. We saw as much in Iraq. There is no longer any reason for a morally conscious person to give a damn what the EU, the Arab League, the AU, the UN, or any other such organization says or does.

A plague on all of them and those who would support such moral idiocy.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Cultural Depravity

A couple of days ago I commented on the case of a Pakistani father killing his four daughters because the eldest disobeyed him, labeling the crime "utterly repulsive and incomprehensible." One of my correspondents sent me this followup. Things were even worse than I imagined. Here's a horrifying account of this "honor" slaying.

Ahmed's killing spree — witnessed by his wife Rehmat Bibi as she cradled their 3 month-old baby son — happened Friday night at their home in the cotton-growing village of Gago Mandi in eastern Punjab province.

It is the latest of more than 260 such honor killings documented by the rights commission, mostly from media reports, during the first 11 months of 2005.

Bibi recounted how she was woken by a shriek as Ahmed put his hand to the mouth of his stepdaughter Muqadas and cut her throat with a machete. Bibi looked helplessly on from the corner of the room as he then killed the three girls — Bano, 8, Sumaira, 7, and Humaira, 4 — pausing between the slayings to brandish the bloodstained knife at his wife, warning her not to intervene or raise alarm.

"I was shivering with fear. I did not know how to save my daughters," Bibi, sobbing, told AP by phone from the village. "I begged my husband to spare my daughters but he said, 'If you make a noise, I will kill you.'"

"The whole night the bodies of my daughters lay in front of me," she said.

And how does the murderer feel about his crimes?
Ahmed showed no contrition. Appearing disheveled but composed, he said he killed Muqadas because she had committed adultery, and his daughters because he didn't want them to do the same when they grew up.

He said he bought a butcher's knife and a machete after midday prayers on Friday and hid them in the house where he carried out the killings.

"I thought the younger girls would do what their eldest sister had done, so they should be eliminated," he said, his hands cuffed, his face unshaven. "We are poor people and we have nothing else to protect but our honor."


"I told the police that I am an honorable father and I slaughtered my dishonored daughter and the three other girls," he said. "I wish that I get a chance to eliminate the boy she ran away with and set his home on fire."

Although the Pakistani government denounces such "honor killings" no effective steps have been taken to halt them. The government claims that there has been a reduction in such crimes, down from 579 last year, but women's rights activists say that those figures are unreliable.

Read about it here.

Few such crimes are punished. Police and judges are reluctant to interfere with Islamic law. Usually the compensation is a cash payment made by relatives.

Moral relativism, anyone?


Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Port Deposit

I've received a couple of queries regarding Port Deposit, the village on the Susquehanna River pictured in my Christmas post. I also drove past it just a couple of hours ago as "She Who Must Not Be Named" and I returned from New York, where we had spent the day traipsing around to museums [and in her case, museum shops]. So it's on my mind.

Here's a broader view of the village, from Chesapeake Bay Magazine [here].

The accompanying article explain's the village's name this way:

Port Deposit (originally called Creswell's Ferry) reportedly got its name from the fact that mountains of lumber were once rafted downriver from upstate Pennsylvania and "deposited" at the town's wharves. Huge rafts or "arks"-some of them up to 100 feet long with a 20-foot beam were cobbled together from logs and crudely shaped into double-ended vessels steered with a single 40-foot sweep. In 1826, for instance, some 1,500 arks arrived in town, carrying coa1, lumber, flour and whiskey from the uplands. One "raftsman" claimed that the downriver trip took three hours from where he lived, and that he would walk 28 miles to get back home the same day, to be ready for the next morning's trip. That's a heck of a commute by today's standards, but supposedly there were a number of taverns along the way where a fellow could rest his weary feet and, um, re-hydrate. Of course, the arks couldn't go upstream, so they were broken up and sold as lumber. Many of the older Port Deposit homes, in fact, were built from the logs harvested from the abandoned arks. (Today's remodelers have a time of it when they discover the wall they want to alter is actually 14 inches thick.)

Oh, one more thing people might find of interest -- Port Deposit is downriver from Three Mile Island.

I might also point out that there are several towns in Maryland and Pennsylvania associated with the word "deposit." In an earlier post I referred to a restaurant in the town of "Union Deposit" near Harrisburg, PA. They all seem to be former river or canal ports associated with the lumber trade.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Honor Your Father..., Or Else!

I referenced this story in the comments section of an earlier post, but it deserves more attention. AP reports:

MULTAN, Pakistan — A father, angry that his eldest daughter had married against his wishes, slit her throat as she slept and then killed three of his other daughters in a remote village in eastern Pakistan, police said Saturday.

Nazir Ahmad, a laborer in his 40s, feared the younger girls, aged 4, 8, and 12, would follow in their sister's footsteps, police officer Shahzad Gul said.…

[T]he man's 25-year-old daughter, Muqadas Bibi, had married the man of her choice against her father's wishes some weeks ago. Ahmad contacted Bibi this week, saying he was ready to forgive her….

During a visit by Bibi to her parents' house, Ahmad slit her throat as she slept and then killed the other three girls…. police were investigating whether other relatives helped in the killings and were also looking for Bibi's husband.

Read it here.

I don't know about you, but I find this kind of behavior utterly repulsive and incomprehensible. -- something that must be resisted by every means available. If Ahmed were a lone madman, it might be unworthy of comment, but these "honor killings" are common in Islamic society.

The story notes that hundreds of young women are killed by their relatives in Pakistan every year because they have not followed their father's commands.

And it's not just in Pakistan. Note this article on "burning girls" in French Islamic communities.

More Pennsylvania Politics

The Strategic Vision poll is out, and it has some interesting features.

In the Senatorial race, Santorum still trails Casey by 11 percentage points -- about the same as in the Quinnipiac poll a couple of weeks ago. It's better than the 18 points he was down a month ago, but his failure to keep gaining over the last two weeks shows that Rickey still has a lot of fence mending to do. Don't count him out, though. Bobby Casey is not all that formidable.

The Gubenatorial race shows Fast Eddie Rendell narrowly leading his major Republican opponents, Lynn Swann and little Bill Scranton. That's not good for an incumbent, especially since the Republicans are divided. Rendell's approval rating is only 45%. There's a very good chance that Scranton can knock him off, ...if he can get by Swanny, that is.

There's some interesting data on President Bush here, too. His approval rating is dismal -- only 35%, but most of that seems to be due to his handling of the economy, not Iraq where his approval rating is higher. This is interesting because the economy is in great shape and has been for some time. But public perception is just the opposite. Conservatives tend to blame it on media manipulation, but I suspect that it's all about gas prices. That hits everyone hard in the pocketbook and every time people drive into a gas station they are reminded of that fact. I also suspect that by failing to deal effectively or compassionatly with this issue the administration has done itself enormous damage. You and I know that all the "gouging" rhetoric is nonsense, but in political terms it is powerful. Another factor, one that I've heard often talking to well-educated Republicans, is the deficit. We all know that measured as a proportion of the GDP it's not all that bad, but there are plenty of fiscal ideologues out there, and they are all Republicans. Their disappointment cuts heavily into Bush's support. People who would otherwise back him are upset about his failure to balance the budget. It's not fair, but it's politics.

Finally, there is some indication of a groundswell of support for Condi. She ranks third among Republicans as a potential 08 presidential candidate, behind Rudy and McCain. I seriously doubt that she'll run, but she's someone to dream about. [AP has a Condi-boosting story here. They call her a "warrior-princess." I've heard that's what they call her inside the White House -- sounds good to me.]

Go Condi, go Condi, go Condi!!!!

Pennsylvania Politics -- Santorum Cuts His Losses

I hate to admit it because I long considered him to be a lightweight, but Rickey Santorum is turning out to be perhaps the most perceptive and challenging thinker in the Senate since Daniel Patrick Moynihan. His book, It Takes a Family, is a much deeper and more complex treatment of a difficult subject than the Hillary tract to which it is often compared. I watched him being interviewed last night on C-Span and he's impressive -- articulate, in command of his facts and arguments, and clearly at comfortable with big idea thinking. I often disagree with the Senator, but I am coming to respect him.

Meanwhile on the campaign trail, the recent Dover School Board decision proved to be an embarrasment to Rickey. He had endorsed the efforts of the Thomas More Law Center to promote a debate over Intelligent Design and "Neo-Darwinism" on the grounds that both sides of the controversy should be presented. However, the Dover court case, in which the More Center participated, was such a debacle that Santorum found himself in an untenable position. He immediately withdrew his support from the Center, which may be a craven sacrifice of principles or just good politics. In either event it gave the Casey camp an opportunity to portray Santorum as a "flip-flopper." [read about it here]

Meanwhile, Bobby Casey is facing problems of his own. His strong pro-life position seems to have come as a surprise to some Democrat activists, who are now threatening to throw their support to one of his rivals for the Democrat nomination. This is probably just meaningless venting, but the pro-choice ideologues did severely damage Ron Klink's campaign against Santorum last time around, and they're just crazy enough to do the same to Casey this time.

Stay tuned....

The "International Community" Blows it Again

Instapundit notes that the UN has spent an inordinate amount of the money collected for Tsunami relief on "overhead," and that much of the money collected by British charities has gone unspent.

Well, whaddaya expect? The UN and mosts NGO's are simple scams.

Read it here.

Here's the UPI story.

Christopher Tin; He Might Be the Next John Williams

Meet Christopher Tin, a brilliant young composer who is already making his mark in film and the computer gaming industry. His credentials are impeccable and his music amazing. Check him out at his homepage here and by all means download some of the samples. I would particularly recommend "Baba Yatu" [a musical rendition of the "Lord's Prayer" in Swahili] and "Goblinesque". They both reside now on my i-pod. He's a talent to watch, and listen, for.

Bush Administration In Bed with Playmate Anna Nicole Smith

AP reports:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Playboy playmate Anna Nicole Smith has an unusual bedfellow in the Supreme Court fight over her late husband's fortune: the Bush administration.

The administration's top Supreme Court lawyer filed arguments on Smith's behalf and wants to take part when the case is argued before the justices.

The court will decide early next year whether to let the U.S. solicitor general share time with Smith's attorney during the one hour argument on Feb. 28.

Actually the whole thing has to do with a technical argument over federalism.

The issue before the high court is one only lawyers would love: when may federal courts hear claims that involve state probate proceedings. Smith lost in Texas state courts, which found that E. Pierce Marshall was the sole heir to his father's estate.

The Bush administration's filings in the case are technical. Without getting into the details of the family squabble, Solicitor General Paul Clement said that the justices should protect federal court jurisdiction in disputes.

Read the whole thing here.

What the hell, she's sorta trashy..., well really, really trashy..., and tacky too. But watching this court battle is fun.

Sunday, December 25, 2005


This is not a Norman Rockwell painting, although it looks like it. This is the town square in Port Deposit, MD, a small village just off I-95 about half way between Baltimore and Philadelphia. Just another of those delightful little places that abound throughout this region. Read about it here.

Nice photo -- wish I had taken it.

May you all have a wonderful holiday.

D. B. and "She Who Must Not Be Named"

Friday, December 23, 2005

On Academic Diversity, Or Rather the Lack of It

There is a new study out that once again proves what everybody knows but nobody wants to admit -- that there is no real intellectual diversity in American academia.

Daniel B. Klein and Charlotta Stern write:
We find that the academics overwhelmingly vote Democratic and that the Democratic dominance has increased significantly since 1970. A multivariate analysis shows strongly that Republican scholars are more likely to land outside of academia.

On the 18 policy questions, the Democratic-voter responses have much less variation than do the Republicans. The left has a narrow tent.

The Democratic and Republican policy views of academics are somewhat in line with the ideal types, except that across the board both groups are simply more statist than the ideal types might suggest. Regarding disciplinary consensus, we find that the discipline with least consensus is economics.

We do a cluster analysis, and the mathematical technique sorts the respondents into groups that nicely correspond to familiar ideological categories: establishment left, progressive, conservative, and libertarian. The conservative group and the libertarian group are equal in size (35 individuals, each), suggesting that academics who depart from the leftist ranks are as likely to be libertarian as conservative. We also find that conservatives are closer to the establishment left than they are to the libertarians.
Read the study here.

Is anyone surprised by any of this? I doubt it.

The Beautiful Bin Laden

Meet Wafah Dufour, Osama bin Laden's niece. She's not real happy about being related to Satan. In fact, she took her mother's maiden name to avoid the association and claims never to have met him. Unlike most of the bin Ladens she has left Saudi Arabia and is now pursuing a modeling career in New York. And, apparently, she is not above exploiting her relationship with her infamous uncle to get a big layout in a major mag. She'll be featured in the January issue of GQ.

Read about here here.

The Most Important News Story of the Year?

A little perspective here. The local radio station here in Pennsylvania is running a listener poll on the top story of the year. The beltway stories that obsess the blogosphere are barely making a ripple. The Iraq elections only came in at number five, and combat deaths were number eight.

The top story, with 34% of the votes....., the death of the Pope.

Number two...., with 19%..., high gas prices.

Number three..., Katrina.

I wonder how many people in the national media will pick the Pope's death as the year's top story? Not too many, I suspect. It will be interesting next week to see their choices.

I suspect that the year end polling will reveal, once more, a radical disconnect between national and local cultures. And, lest it be forgotten, Tip O'Neill wisely said..., "All Politics Is Local" especially in an off-year election like the one we will be facing next year.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Pollution Slows Global Warming

That's the conclusion of a new study by British and American "scientists."

Bloomberg Reports:

Pollution may be slowing global warming, researchers are reporting today, and a cleaner environment may soon speed it up.

Writing in the journal Nature, an international scientific team provides evidence suggesting that a reduction in haze from human causes may accelerate warming of the earth's atmosphere. The researchers said pollutants had held down the rate of global warming by absorbing and scattering sunlight.

"If people clean up the air, more warming will come blazing through," Jim Coakley, a professor of atmospheric sciences at Oregon State University in Corvallis, said yesterday in a telephone interview. Nature selected Dr. Coakley to write a commentary on the study.

Read the whole thing here.

Oh those silly "scientists." Always something....

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

What are They Thinking?

The Weinstein Company plans to release the harrowing Australian slasher/horror flick, Wolf Creek, on December 25th. Is there really a market for watching Aussie teens get slaughtered on Christmas? I hope not.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Expert Drawing Class

This is really neat -- a drawing from the inside out. Check it out here.

Hat tip to one of my Maryland correspondents [you know who you are, thanks].

Cardinal Schonborn on Design in Nature

Science and Scientism seems to be emerging as a theme today. Here's a terrific article by Christoph Cardinal Schonborn on the subject of "The Designs of Science" from First Things.

Schonborn argues cogently against the arrogance of some scientists who would make theological pronouncements on the basis of their understanding of science:

Darwinian scientists going on dozens of pages in which they make such “theological” assertions, in bold and completely unqualified ways, assertions that evolution by means of random variation and natural selection is an unguided, unplanned process.

Many of those assertions are in textbooks and scientific journals, not just in popular writings.

The problem, he asserts, is a positivistic, materalistic form of science that:
first excludes a priori final and formal causes, then investigates nature under the reductive mode of mechanism (efficient and material causes), and then turns around to claim both final and formal causes are obviously unreal, and also that its mode of knowing the corporeal world takes priority over all other forms of human knowledge. Being mechanistic, modern science is also historicist: It argues that a complete description of the efficient and material causal history of an entity is a complete explanation of the entity itself—in other words, that an understanding of how something came to be is the same as understanding what it is.
He calls, instead, for a "modest" form of Darwinism that admits that there are questions that cannot be answered by scientific methodology, but that can be addressed by other, intellectually respectable, modes of thought such as philosophy, theology, and religion.

It's a powerful argument, well made, and one that is deserving of our attention.

Read it here.

Decision in the Dover Intelligent Design Case

AP Reports:
HARRISBURG, Pa. - A federal judge has ruled "intelligent design" cannot be mentioned in biology classes in a Pennsylvania public school district, deciding the latest chapter in an ongoing debate over evolution and the separation of church and state.

The Dover Area School Board violated the Constitution when it ordered that its biology curriculum must include "intelligent design," the notion that life on Earth was produced by an unidentified intelligent cause, U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III ruled Tuesday.


Jones said advocates of intelligent design "have bona fide and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavors" and that he didn't believe the concept shouldn't be studied and discussed.

"Our conclusion today is that it is unconstitutional to teach ID as an alternative to evolution in a public school science classroom," he wrote.

Read it here.

I agree with the judge that religious authority should not intrude into discussions of "science." I am also encouraged by the judge's statement to the effect that:
Jones said advocates of intelligent design "have bona fide and deeply held beliefs which drive their scholarly endeavors" and that he didn't believe the concept shouldn't be studied and discussed.
There are real moral and ethical problems raised by Darwinian principles as usually applied in public discourse. Think, for instance, of the ethical dilemmas presented by "social Darwinism," "eugenics," Nazi race theory, etc. There should be some place in public education for discussion of these problems. The question emerges, however, whether such discussions, which imply the existence of some moral authority, violate some constitutional test. It will be interesting to see just how this whole issue plays out.


Carl Zimmer, over at the Loom, has read the decision and has excerpted some salient points. For you masochists out there, he has a link to the entire 139 page decision. Check him out here.

The Crisis of Scientific Authority

In the current debate raging over the role to be played by science in our public life and policy a significant number of commentators on both the left and right have evinced a touching, but naive, faith in scientific authority.

As I see it there are two major objections to a reliance on scientific authority, especially in the area of crafting public policy. Both of these are illustrated by recent reports in the news.

First, there is the problem of humanity itself. Science, in one of its aspects, is a human endeavor, subject to the same limits and failings as all such enterprises. Scientists -- those who undertake scientific investigation, are no more and no less endowed with virtue than other people and the knowledge they produce is no more reliable. It will immediately be objected that the "methodology" of science is self-correcting [more on that later], subject to verification or falsification, and therefore more authoritative than other forms of knowledge. But the vaunted methodologies of science and the ways in which they are applied are themselves human enterprises and therefore subject to error and corruption.

Today's New York Times contains an excellent example of this process -- the scandal emerging from the work of South Korean scientist, Dr. Hwang Woo Suk. Nor is this an isolated instance. Setting the context for a discussion of Dr. Suk's troubles, the Times admits:

The South Korean scandal that shook the world of science last week is just one sign of a global explosion in research that is outstripping the mechanisms meant to guard against error and fraud.

Experts say the problem is only getting worse, as research projects, and the journals that publish the findings, soar.

Science is often said to bar dishonesty and bad research with a triple safety net. The first is peer review, in which experts advise governments about what research to finance. The second is the referee system, which has journals ask reviewers to judge if manuscripts merit publication. The last is replication, whereby independent scientists see if the work holds up.

But a series of scientific scandals in the 1970's and 1980's challenged the scientific community's faith in these mechanisms to root out malfeasance. In response the United States has over the last two decades added extra protections, including new laws and government investigative bodies.

And as research around the globe has increased, most without the benefit of such safeguards, so have the cases of scientific misconduct.

Read it here.

I have noted other disturbing instances in the past. Falsification of data by a prominent researcher in genetics at MIT [here] at which time I wrote:

The credibility of the entire scientific enterprise depends on the trustworthiness of its practitioners. Rampant careerism and ideological/political bias have resulted in widespread corruption and rendered the judgment of scientific authorities suspect. The problem permeates all levels of the enterprise, and as the public becomes aware of it, scientific authority itself will suffer.

An article in New Scientist which argues:

Most published scientific research papers are wrong, according to a new analysis. Assuming that the new paper is itself correct, problems with experimental and statistical methods mean that there is less than a 50% chance that the results of any randomly chosen scientific paper are true.

which prompted me to remind readers that:

[T]he greatest horrors of the past century -- Marxism and Nazi race theory both claimed the mantle of "science."

[read it here]

And there's this, from the Times [of London]

BRITAIN’S premier medical journal is endangering public health by publishing unfounded scare stories, 30 of the country’s leading scientists say today. Poor editorial judgment at The Lancet has fuelled panic over issues such as the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, hormone replacement therapy and genetically modified (GM) crops, the eminent medical researchers charge in a letter that the journal has refused to publish.

The signatories, thirty fellows of the Royal Society, two of whom are Nobel laureates, accuse it of favouring “desperate headline-seeking” over sound science, to the detriment of public health. “Under the editorship of Richard Horton, the publication of badly conducted and poorly refereed scare stories has had devastating consequences for individual and public health, in the UK and abroad, and carried a high economic cost,” they say.

Read it here.

And this survey that shows that one third of US scientists admit to having falsified [they prefer to say "fudged"] data. [read it here].

And the admission by JAMA that one third of the major studies published in highly rated, peer-reviewed medical journals presented false or exaggerated claims – claims that were widely trumpeted in the press.

[Read it here]

These are not, you will note, marginal sources. Dr. Suk was being touted for a Nobel Prize. MIT is as prestigious an organization as you will find. JAMA and the Lancet are national scientific journals representing the best research in their fields.

Clearly the problem of corruption permeates all levels of the scientific enterprise, although it seems to be especially prominent in the areas of medical and environmental science, and calls into question even the most highly regarded scientific authority. That fact alone should give pause to anyone who would rely upon that authority in the crafting of public policy.

But there is another, perhaps more disquieting, aspect to the scientific authority, one rooted not in human failing but in the nature of the enterprise itself. It is what I call the "shifting sands" problem.

Scientific knowledge is always tentative, subject to revision as new knowledge and understandings come to the fore. This may be because of the progressive unfolding of truth as a result of continuing investigation [the Victorian view of science, still popular today] or, as Thomas Kuhn has argued, simply because of the emergence of new ways of organizing knowledge [paradigm shift]. But whichever view is more accurate, the consequence is the same -- what we think we know today is different from what we thought we knew yesterday.

An excellent example of radical reconsideration of fundamental approaches appears in a recent edition of the New Scientist in the form of an interview with Stanford theoretical physicist Leonard Susskind, "discoverer" of "string theory."

Ever since Albert Einstein wondered whether the world might have been different, physicists have been searching for a “theory of everything” to explain why the universe is the way it is. Now string theory, one of today's leading candidates, is in trouble. A growing number of physicists claim it is ill-defined and based on crude assumptions. Something fundamental is missing, they say. The main complaint is that rather than describing one universe, the theory describes 10500, each with different constants of nature, even different laws of physics.

But the inventor of string theory, physicist Leonard Susskind, sees this “landscape” of universes as a solution rather than a problem. He says it could answer the most perplexing question in physics: why the value of the cosmological constant, which describes the expansion rate of the universe, appears improbably fine-tuned for life. A little bigger or smaller and life could not exist. With an infinite number of universes, says Susskind, there is bound to be one with a cosmological constant like ours.

The idea is controversial, because it changes how physics is done, and it means that the basic features of our universe are just a random luck of the draw. [emphasis mine]

Read the whole thing here.

Parenthetically, I happen to like Susskind's ideas because they are a way of incorporating Stephen Weinberg's "anthropic principle" into our concept of the universe. [Even more parenthetically, I myself advocate an extremely strong version of the anthropic principle that holds that the entire history of the cosmos is shaped by one overriding imperative -- to allow me personally to exist {it's a joke}.]

The interview also contains this rather startling statement:

Q: If we do not accept the landscape idea are we stuck with intelligent design?

A: I doubt that physicists will see it that way. If, for some unforeseen reason, the landscape turns out to be inconsistent - maybe for mathematical reasons, or because it disagrees with observation - I am pretty sure that physicists will go on searching for natural explanations of the world. But I have to say that if that happens, as things stand now we will be in a very awkward position. Without any explanation of nature's fine-tunings we will be hard pressed to answer the ID critics. One might argue that the hope that a mathematically unique solution will emerge is as faith-based as ID.

And on the subject of falsification there's this:

There is a philosophical objection called Popperism that people raise against the landscape idea. Popperism [after the philosopher Karl Popper] is the assertion that a scientific hypothesis has to be falsifiable, otherwise it's just metaphysics. Other worlds, alternative universes, things we can't see because they are beyond horizons, are in principle unfalsifiable and therefore metaphysical - that's the objection. But the belief that the universe beyond our causal horizon is homogeneous is just as speculative and just as susceptible to the Popperazzi.

Could there be some kind of selection principle that will emerge and pick out one unique string theory and one unique universe?

Anything is possible. My friend David Gross hopes that no selection principle will be necessary because only one universe will prove to make sense mathematically, or something like that. But so far there is no evidence for this view. Even most of the hard-core adherents to the uniqueness view admit that it looks bad.

All this is interesting [at least to me], but beside the point.

The point here is that eminent physicists hold radically differing views on the fundamental nature of the subject they are investigating.

For scientists radically diverging understandings are not a problem. Perspectives and paradigms are constantly being tested and revised. But, as Charles Lindblom and David Cohen argued in "Usable Knowledge", knowledge that is constantly being revised is an inappropriate base upon which to construct public policy.

All this is not to say that scientific authority is to be disregarded, far from it. But rather to reject the absolutist pretensions of those who would regard such authority to be final. Ultimately science is a tool, and only one tool, to be used in the crafting of public policy. Equal, or perhaps even greater, consideration should be given to the moral, ethical, economic, and political dimensions of governmental action or inaction.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Mark Steyn Scores Again

Mark Steyn points squarely at the elephant nobody wants to see. He writes:

These days, whenever something goofy turns up on the news, chances are it involves a fellow called Mohammed. A plane flies into the World Trade Centre? Mohammed Atta. A gunman shoots up the El Al counter at Los Angeles airport? Hesham Mohamed Hedayet. A sniper starts killing petrol station customers around Washington, DC? John Allen Muhammed. A guy fatally stabs a Dutch movie director? Mohammed Bouyeri. A terrorist slaughters dozens in Bali? Noordin Mohamed. A gang-rapist in Sydney? Mohammed Skaf.

Maybe all these Mohammeds are victims of Australian white racists and American white racists and Dutch white racists and Balinese white racists and Beslan schoolgirl white racists.

But the eagerness of the Aussie and British and Canadian and European media, week in, week out, to attribute each outbreak of an apparently universal phenomenon to strictly local factors is starting to look pathological. "Violence and racism are bad", but so is self-delusion.

Read it here.

The Latest from Iran -- Now He's Gone Too Far!

Forget the rampant anti-Semitism, the development of WMDs, the attempts to subvert democracy in Iraq, the crackdown on civil liberties, the insane rants, now Ahmadinejad has gone too far!

AP reports:

TEHRAN, Iran - Hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has banned Western music from Iran's radio and TV stations, reviving one of the harshest cultural decrees from the early days of 1979 Islamic Revolution.
The latest media ban also includes censorship of content of films.

Read the whole thing here.

Oh, My!

Senator Barbara Boxer, being interviewed on Fox, just said (citing John Dean as an authority) that she considered the wiretaps ordered by President Bush to he "an impeachable offense."

They want it..., so bad..., so bad it hurts....

On This Day in History

December 19, 1998:

The House of Representatives voted Articles of Impeachment against William Jefferson Clinton, Forty Second President of the United States. Mr. Clinton was only the second President to be impeached. The first was Andrew Johnson.

Why is Bush So Confident?

Maybe it's because he's winning, and winning big in Iraq. Check out this statement:
Adnan al-Dulaimi, leader of a prominent Sunni bloc, said insurgent groups had prevented violence from interfering with Thursday's elections, the newspaper said.

The truce resulted from weeks of negotiations between U.S. officials and insurgents.

Sunni religious leader Sheik Abed al-Latif Hemaiym told The Times in an interview in Amman that Sunnis were prepared to work with the United States.

"We now believe we must get on good terms with the Americans," Hemaiym said. "As Arab Sunnis, we believe that within this hot area of Iraq, facing challenges from neighboring nations who want to swallow us, especially the Iranians, we feel we have no alternative."
Wow! Why wasn't that reported in the New York Times?

Read it here. [the reference is to the Washington, not the New York Times]

Note the "weeks of negotiations between U.S. officials and insurgents." Why just a few days ago prominent Democrats were denouncing the administration's refusal to "reach out" to the insurgents.

It's rope-a-dope time again.


John McIntyre, over at RealClear Politics, has a similar feeling. He asks, "Have the Democrats Walked Into A Trap..., Again."

Read it here.

Democrats never tire of telling people just how very smart they are and how dumb Bush is, but he keeps taking them to the cleaners again, and again, and again. Funny thing that.

Bytheway -- I noted the rope-a-dope situation emerging a week before the blogosphere caught on to it. [here]. [enough patting myself on the back, my arm's getting sore]


James Taranto jumps on the rope-a-dope bandwagon. [here]

A Visit to Down Under, Sorta

Last week "She" and I checked out the new exhibit at the National Aquarium. It's an attempt to recreate on a small scale some of the habitats of Australia's Northern Territories ["Territory" sorry]. It was interesting, even though far too many aspects of the programming and exhibits are geared to pre-teens. I'd recommend it to any visitors to the Washington/Baltimore area.

One interesting thing -- many of the opening day visitors were Pennsylvania Dutch, dressed in traditional garb.

Note: the time stamp is wrong -- I just got a new camera and am still fooling with the controls.

Watch What They Do, Not What They Say

Watching Washington politics these days is a lot like Kremlinology. You have to look at what lies behind the spin. Glenn Reynolds makes a perceptive observation regarding Bush's address televised in prime time last night.

BUSH DOUBLES DOWN: I just watched Bush's speech. Nothing new there for anyone who's been paying attention to the speeches he's been giving over the past couple of weeks. But one big thing struck me: In this national televised speech, Bush went out of his way to take responsibility for the war. He repeatedly talked about "my decision to invade Iraq," even though, of course, it was also Congress's decision. He made very clear that, ultimately, this was his war, and the decisions were his.

Why did he do that? Because he thinks we're winning, and he wants credit. By November 2006, and especially November 2008, he thinks that'll be obvious, and he wants to lay down his marker now on what he believed -- and what the other side did. That's my guess, anyway.

Read it here.

I think da prof is right. There is a subtext of swelling confidence in the recent administration pronouncements regarding the war, and the Democrats are desperately trying to change the subject. The tide is running in Bush's favor again, and that, my friends, is a very good thing.

Where is the Context?

Mega power-pointer Thomas P. M. Barnett writes:

The press always wants a quick and easy answer to the question: Who wins and when does it happen? Either the U.S. is winning or the enemy is winning, and it has to be done by Tuesday. If Bush speaks to the long fight and says we'll always pursue victory even as it takes years and decades to unfold, then he must be speaking illogically. The Second World War should have been over by 1943. The Cold War should have ended in 1953. If the GWOT isn't done by 2005, then we've lost and we must retreat from the world.

We lost over 20k in Iwo Jima and we won. If we lose 2k-plus in almost three years in Iraq, then we must be losing.

Where are the wise men? Hell, where are the journalists with any sense of history?

Sorry, Tom, they're long gone, along with the entire institutional structure that produced them. A generation that took pride in freeing themselves from the shackles of the past killed them off.

Read Barnett's comments here.

Time Blows it Again

I often disagree with Michelle Malkin, but this time she's spot on. She brands Time's choice of Bono and the Gates's as "persons of the year" just plain "lame."

She says it all here.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

The Meaning of Katrina

Wilfred McClay has a must-read article in Commentary on "The Storm Over Katrina." In it he demolishes one-by-one the major media misrepresentations of what happened and why.

Thus did the news media, and in particular the hotdogs of television, make themselves not merely a nuisance but an important contributing factor to the very problem they were reporting on. Not, of course, that they saw it that way. The coverage of Katrina was “one of television news’s finest moments,” crowed CBS ex-anchorman Dan Rather, a past master of hotdoggery, adding that “covering hurricanes is something I know something about.”

Rather thrilled to the sight of reporters like Cooper who “were willing to speak truth to power.” But in light of the astonishing level of inaccuracy in what was reported, one would have to say instead that this was one of television news’s worst moments, an exceptionally shameful performance made all the more so by the self-congratulation that accompanied and followed it.

In what is becoming a routine of news reporting, some web-based bloggers and blogsites were quick to expose the falsity and bias that pervaded much of the work of the mainstream media, to be followed in due course by print media like the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and New Orleans Times-Picayune, which eventually detailed the extent of the journalistic errors made. But the damage had been done. Although Bush’s strong speech to the nation from a deserted Jackson Square on the night of September 15 did much to reverse the perception of him, and won him high marks even from evacuees living in the Houston Astrodome, the instant litany of charges and complaints was successful in giving decisive shape to public understanding of the event. [emphasis mine]

Thus did the MSM create and systain a myth -- one that has been extraordinarily useful to Democrats seeking to discredit the Bush administration.

To this point the article is a useful, but probably ineffectual, attempt to correct the historical record. But McClay has set his sights on higher targets. He sees New Orleans itself as a metaphor for our greatest national failings -- our inability to take a realistic view of human accomplishment, its successes and limitations, and our preference for assuaging feelings, no matter how irrational, rather than realistically addressing the problems at hand. In other words, our propensity for living in a world of myth that leaves us unprepared intellectually and emotionally to confront life as it really is. It is this last section that raises McClay's essay above the normal level of political discourse and places on this year's "must read" list.

Check it out here.

This Day in History

On this day in 1903 Wilbur and Orville Wright sent a telegram to their father in Dayton, Ohio. It read:
The world had changed forever.

We hear a lot about how we live in an age of unprecedentedly rapid change, but if you consider the transformations that took place between 1880 and 1920 you realize that they dwarf those we are experiencing.

The Parties of Fear

So the Senate failed to override a filibuster and extend some of the provisions of the Patriot Act. Is that important? I have to confess that I haven't a clue. I'm not a lawyer and can't discuss the intricate legal implications of the legislation, nor am I a security expert who understands the ways in which this complicates their enterprise, but I do know a little about politics and history and it is stunningly apparent that none of the major disputants is talking about the real world here.

Orin Kerr has some of the best commentary I have seen yet. He writes:
For those of us who think of the Patriot Act as actual legislation rather than a symbol of the Bush Administration, this is rather puzzling stuff. The dirty little secret about the Patriot Act is that only about 3% of the Act is controversial, and only about a third of that 3% is going to expire on December 31st. Further, much of the reauthorization actually puts new limits on a number of the controversial non-sunsetting provisions, and some of the sunsetting provisions increased privacy protections. As a result, it's not immediately obvious to me whether we'll have greater civil liberties on January 1, 2006 if the Patriot Act is reauthorized or if it is allowed to expire. (To be fair, though, I'd have to run through the effect of every expiring section and all of the reauthorization language to check this - maybe I would feel differently if I did.)

Of course, four years after the Patriot Act was passed, a meeting of everyone who thinks of the Patriot Act as actual legislation could be held in my kitchen. For most people, the Patriot Act is a symbol of the Bush Administration and the War on Terror. From that perspective, the current debate makes a lot of sense: for opponents, fighting the Patriot Act reauthorization continues the valiant struggle against the evil forces of Big Brother and the out-of-control Bush Administration; for supporters, supporting the Act helps beat Al Qaeda, makes the homeland safe from attack, and helps win the global struggle against terrorism. If neither of these visions bears a particular resemblance to reality, well, hey, no one ever said democracy was perfect.
Read it here.

Prof. Kerr has a point. Everyone in this debate is invoking apocalyptic rhetoric and symbolism that has little to do with the real world. Democrats try to portray Republicans as a threat to individual liberties. Republicans try to portray Democrats as threats to the nation's security. Neither claim is plausible in and of itself, but there is little interest on either side in fact or even plausibility. Both parties have settled on a strategy of trying to scare the bejeesus out of the American public. Of course, that's not going to work with the general public, but that's not the goal of the contending parties. In off-year elections the whole game is energizing your semi-sane "base" of workers and contributors, and the general public be damned.


Glenn Reynolds looks at the same passage as I did and makes many of the same judgments, but notes an ominous "mission creep" that worries him. He writes:

There does seem to be a lot of symbolism involved. On the other hand, there's been a lot of "mission creep," with Drug War legislation that has nothing to do with terrorism being slipped in to the reauthorization act. I don't know whether we'd be safer with the bill passing or dying either. But that seems to me to be reason to hold back: If we're going to pass a big national security bill, shouldn't we know things like that? The debate, which has been long on symbolism and caricature but short on substance, hasn't helped much.

I agree that perhaps more time for consideration is needed, but there is little reason to believe that reasonable and rational consideration will be forthcoming at least until after next year's elections. And even then..., well, when's the last time you heard a rational discussion of the nation's drug policies?

Read him here.

The Problem with the "International Community"

Many years ago, when I was taking an undergraduate degree in "International Affairs", one of my professors, a distinguished member of the foreign policy establishment, made a statement that shocked me at the time. He said, "International law works best when and where it is least needed." Over the succeeding decades I have become more and more convinced of that proposition.

International law works well when all the participants are in general agreement on fundamental rules, goals and procedures -- in other words, when there is a broad consensus that precludes serious conflict. But in the absence of such consensus international law is essentially void because the mythical "international community" cannot mobilize the resources necessary to make it stick.

Today we are faced with just such a crisis as cannot be effectively addressed by the toothless "international community." Stefan Nicola, writing for UPI, reports the paralyzing distress and frustration of EU leaders faced by EU diplomats when they confront people who won't play by the rules of the game.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the new President of Iran, doesn't play by the rules. He has called for Israel to be "wiped off the map," has called for it to be relocated to Europe, has blatantly intervened in the internal affairs of Afghanistan and Iraq, has pushed ahead in the development of nuclear and other WMDs in open defiance of international prohibitions, has purged the Iranian government of potential rivals, and is mobilizing the country to meet an anticipated invasion. We've all seen this movie before. Right now Ahmadinejad is a flaming nuisance. With nukes he's a real threat.

So how does the "international community" react?
'His [Ahmadinejad's] comments throw a shadow over the whole negotiation process,' Erwin Haeckel, Iran expert at the German Council on Foreign Relations, a Berlin-based foreign policy think tank on Thursday told United Press International in a telephone interview. 'There is a certain feeling of helplessness: What to do with Ahmadinejad, what to offer him?' [emphasis mine]
That's the instinctive response of the Eurocrat elites. Appease, speak softly of your "concerns", toss a few bribes out, and hope for the best. But that won't work with Iran, so more strenuous measures are being contemplated, to wit:

[T]alks collapsed in August when Iran reopened a plant in Isfahan that had been locked down under a November 2004 deal between the so-called EU-3 and Tehran, known as the Paris Agreement.

In light of Ahmadinejad`s aggressive rhetoric, the EU-3 are fated to strike a harsher note, observers say.

The President of the Jewish Central Council in Germany, Paul Spiegel, said the EU-3 should wave goodbye their 'appeasement politics,' break off diplomatic contacts with Tehran and think about economic sanctions.

The German Green Party said Iran should be excluded from next year`s FIFA Soccer World Cup in Germany. The international soccer federation FIFA on Thursday quickly announced that was not an option.

'The only way you could hurt Iran is by sanctioning on oil exports,' Haeckel said. 'But that is virtually impossible because our global economy depends on a stable oil price which you could wave goodbye in case of an Iranian oil embargo. Ahmadinejad knows that very well.'

Stopping talks altogether could destroy the hope for a peaceful solution of the conflict, said Johannes Reissner, Iran expert at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, a Berlin-based think tank.

'We need to stay on the ball here,' Reissner on Thursday told UPI. 'Breaking off talks because of Ahmadinejad`s recent remarks would be wrong, it would lead to nothing.'

Read the whole thing here.

Notice how every proposal, even weak ones like banning sports teams, is immediately followed by a statement that such action would be impossible or even counter-productive. This is the mind-set of the "international community" and it is one that is entirely inappropriate to the revolutionary times in which we live.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Windschuttle on the Consequences of Multiculturalism

Keith Windschuttle, one of the most refreshing voices in historiography, analyzes the Australian "race riots" in, where else, the Australian. He writes:

IT was inevitable, given the prevailing mind-set within government and the media, that Sydney's beachside violence this week would be called race riots.

The New South Wales Premier, his ministers and many newspaper headlines all used the term.

However, a more ungainly but nonetheless more accurate description would have been multicultural riots.

For the doctrine of multiculturalism is really to blame.

The tensions that exploded this week were defined into existence by multiculturalist policies and ideas.

It wasn't the youths at Cronulla beach who decided that all Lebanese constitute an ethnic group.

That was done for them by politicians, bureaucrats and academics in the name of constructing ethnic communities.


Multiculturalism is... at odds with the core tenets of liberal democracy, where rights inhere in the individual, not the collective, and where people's representatives are elected politicians, not self-appointed ethnic spokesmen or godfathers.

Multiculturalism is a reversion to tribalism that is anachronistic in a modern, liberal, urban society.

In Sydney it has been plain for at least a decade that, instead of ethnic communities living happily in the diversity of social pluralism, multiculturalism has bred ethnic ghettos characterised by high levels of unemployment, welfare dependency, welfare abuse, crime and violence.

The social engineers responsible should have been well aware of the likely outcome, especially for young men.

All the evidence from the numerous studies of similar ethnic ghettos in North America and Europe show they produce much the same result, whatever the colour or ethnicity of their inhabitants.

Ghetto culture for young men everywhere is characterised by interpersonal violence, sexual irresponsibility, incomplete education, substandard speech, a hypersensitivity about being disrespected and a feckless attitude towards work.

The Lebanese assaults on the Cronulla lifesavers that led to this week's mass retaliation were nothing new.

This behaviour has been with us for more than a decade.

Read the whole thing here.

Windschuttle has emerged in recent years as one of the most prolific and perceptive critics of modern liberalism. I first became aware of him when I read his devastating critique of left-wing Australian historigraphy, "The Killing of History". Check out his site here and read some of his product -- it's wonderful!

Iraqi Bloggers React to the Elections

Interesting commentary from Iraqi bloggers:

The Mesopotamian sees an almost mystical awakening taking place in his country, contrary to the expectations of most "experts."
Today was a tremendous moment of our history, a turning point and a real milestone. Say what you like; things are not perfect; there are countless problems; the “insurgency” is not going to disappear; the reconstruction effort is in shambles; there is corruption and thieving everywhere; errors and mistakes in everything. Yet despite all that, the political process is proceeding like a dream and the tree of freedom is taking roots, and that tree will continue to grow and grow and grow. The Iraqis are again confounding all the "pundits" and "experts". But some just cannot understand the true soul of a people. That this most profound revolution initiated by an act of liberation, by the daring praxis of the Americans, driven by some mysterious hand of the Providence, has touched the innermost womb of a nation, and that the present agonies of this nation are those of giving birth and new life. Oh no, that they cannot understand. Well then, let them witness surprise after nasty surprise that will confound their logic and demolish their arguments. But the word mongers will always find something to say, as wild dogs are always wont to bark all the more hysterically as they are irked.
Read the whole thing here.

Iraq the Model has organized reports from dozens of bloggers at cities throughout Iraq. Check them out here. Lots of good pictures too, like the one above.

A Citizen of Mosul [fiercely anti-occupation] writes:
The result will appear at the end of this month as expected, but we all know for sure who will win and why.

If you ask me why I vote, while I know the result in advance ?

It is because of an e-mail I received from an American friend telling me his feeling when he face a similar situation, he said:
" Now it seems certain that my vote will be for the losing side. I find that incredibly frustrating.
Even so, I will vote. I will lose, but I will vote."
I feel just as he felt, and I decided to do what he did, so I voted. Thank you my friend.
Read it here.

This last is the real triumph. A Sunni professional who did well under the Saddam regime, who bitterly resents the American presence in Iraq, and who is certain that he will be on the losing side in the election, still participates because somehow, deep down, he knows that democracy is the future and the door to the past is forever closed.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Origins of Whitey

The WaPo, writing in an agonizingly delicate manner, reports:

Scientists said yesterday that they have discovered a tiny genetic mutation that largely explains the first appearance of white skin in humans tens of thousands of years ago, a finding that helps solve one of biology's most enduring mysteries and illuminates one of humanity's greatest sources of strife.

The work suggests that the skin-whitening mutation occurred by chance in a single individual after the first human exodus from Africa, when all people were brown-skinned. That person's offspring apparently thrived as humans moved northward into what is now Europe, helping to give rise to the lightest of the world's races.


The work raises a raft of new questions -- not least of which is why white skin caught on so thoroughly in northern climes once it arose. Some scientists suggest that lighter skin offered a strong survival advantage for people who migrated out of Africa by boosting their levels of bone-strengthening vitamin D; others have posited that its novelty and showiness simply made it more attractive to those seeking mates.

The work also reveals for the first time that Asians owe their relatively light skin to different mutations. That means that light skin arose independently at least twice in human evolution, in each case affecting populations with the facial and other traits that today are commonly regarded as the hallmarks of Caucasian and Asian races.

Of course the whole thing is delicately embedded in statements to the effect that racial differences are only skin deep, that sociologists are worried about the use to which this information might be out by wrong thinking people, etc. Ignore the PC crap. This is an interesting and informative study.

Read the article here.

If anything the article best illustrates the extent to which both scientific inquiry and the reporting of scientific results are constrained and distorted by political and cultural imperatives.

Congratulations to the People of Iraq

Kerry Lets It Slip.... The Democrats' Dream

So this is the Democrats' long-term goal. To replicate Watergate and gain revenge for Clinton's take down.

The Hill reports:

Kerry Links Retaking House To Bush Impeachment

MA. Sen. John Kerry said last night that if Dems retake the House, there's a "solid case" to bring "articles of impeachment" against President Bush for allegedly misleading the country about pre-war intelligence, according to several Dems who attended.

Kerry was speaking at a holiday party for alumni of his WH '04 bid.

About 100 campaign vets gathered at Finn McCool's bar in D.C. to hear him. In a short speech, Kerry praised Dems who were working on Senate and House campaigns, and then said, according to one listener: "If we take back the House, there's a solid case to bring articles of impeachment against this president." Another listener heard a slight variation: "If we win back the House, I think we have a pretty solid case to bring articles of impeachment against this President." Kerry then quickly added, according to several in the audience, "Don't tell anyone I said that."

Read it here.

To be fair, Kerry may have been joking, as some of his aides claim. But Bush was obviously joking when he made the "bomb al Jazeera" comments [in private] and he is still being raked over the coals for that one. So let's see where this takes us.

The Democrats have only had two big electoral successes in the past half century. One came right after JFK's assassination, and was obviously due to the wave of emotion that engendered. That one would be hard to replicate, not that there aren't a lot of Kennedys out there to knock off, but there seems to be a diminishing payoff in doing so. And anyway, first you have to get the Kennedy into the White House, and that is an increasingly hard row to hoe.

So that leaves the other big Democrat victory -- Watergate. That one has obsessed Dems for a generation now. Every time a Republican claims the White House, they work their little butts off trying to generate a scandal of similar proportions. But again, the payoffs seem to decline over time. And, it is really hard to pump up a scandal to Watergate proportions when the Republicans control Congress.

Hence Kerry's remarks. They make sense in terms of the Democrats' long term strategy to take back the government.

1) Create a scandal that will bring down Republican congressional leaders and generate enough repulsion in the electorate to drive moderates out of the process while simultaneously demoralizing Republicans and energizing your base. This, they hope, will give them control of at least one of the houses of Congress.

2) Use Congress to generate a full-scale Watergate-style assault on Bush, then sit back and watch the votes roll in.

Well, at least that's the dream....

Maybe Kerry is just a dreamer.

Instapundit notes that comments like this will be counterproductive for Democrats because they will energize the Republican base.

Double Dutch

The Guardian reports:
A unique Dutch double will soon be preserved in the Rotterdam Nature Museum - hailed as "the two most famous tragically dead birds of the 21st century".

The sparrow shot by an enraged domino enthusiast after knocking over 24,000 dominoes lined up for a world record toppling attempt will join another historic feathered corpse, the victim of the first scientifically-documented case of homosexual mallard necrophilia.

Kees Moeliker, the Nature Museum's curator of birds, who was awarded the Ig Nobel prize for improbable research for his seminal paper, The first case of homosexual necrophilia in the mallard anas platyrhynchos, took up the case of the sparrow, which convulsed the Netherlands.

The hapless sparrow interrupted an attempt to topple 4 million dominoes, setting off a cascade and so angering one of the participants that he shot it.

A statement from the museum said that, thanks to tenacious lobbying, the counsel for the prosecution in The Hague has decided to hand over the dead sparrow seized by the authorities to the museum.

Mr Moeliker said the sparrow would be either mounted or pickled in alcohol, depending on the damage caused by the fatal shot, and serve as a centre piece of a coming major exhibition about the rise and fall of the house sparrow (passer domesticus).

"The domino sparrow is a symbol of the love the Dutch apparently have for this bird, and we will conserve it just like we did with other birds that tell a story, like the mallard duck that was the first ever recorded victim of homosexual necrophilia," he added.

The sparrow is currently in the freezer of a ministerial special agent involved in the investigation of the illegal killing, but will be handed over to Mr Moeliker next week. The house sparrow is an endangered species in the Netherlands, with numbers declining by half during the last two decades.

With scientific precision Mr Moeliker recorded the rape by a mallard of a second male duck, which was killed when it flew into a window at the museum. He speculated that the pair were engaged in a rape flight attempt. "When one died the other one just went for it and didn't get any negative feedback - well, didn't get any feedback," he said. He eventually rescued the corpse after 75 minutes.

Read it here.

I'm speechless....

Hat tip, David Meadows