Email notification to Brandon Starr's blog has been shown to reduce bad cholesterol in two-toed sloths, and has been used as an effective exfoliant.
Wednesday, April 21, 2004
Kerry to post military record on web site
20 schoolkids killed in Iraq bombings
Coordinated attacks kill 68 Iraqis, including 20 kids
I'm not saying the Iraqi people are bad. I know they're in a horrible situation.
All I know is, no matter how bad the economy is, whether riots were breaking out, or how bad a neighborhood the kid-killings happened in--no matter the situation, if it happened in the U.S., moms and dads in the area would COMB THAT NEIGHBORHOOD until they caught the murderers who were hiding amongst them, and tear them apart.
The pieces would then be sent to the appropriate authorities.*
I can almost understand them trying to kill US.** We're outsiders, we're different, some have died at our hands, our soldiers are apart from them (see my earlier post about my cousin in Iraq
). But allowing bombers killing IRAQIS to live among them? It should be intolerable.
In fact, forget the dads. It's a horribly chauvinistic society. But where are the concerned moms?
* Of course, they should skip the tearing-them-apart step. But I doubt they would.
** Almost. If they'd think rationally, they'd realize all they have to do is set up a democratic republic, and gently shove us out the door. Then they could set up whatever crappy Islamist state they wanted. Instead, they're letting killers roam among them.
Well, it's not that I think I was wrong a few days ago on silver. But in fact, silver is being pulled down heavily. And it's being pulled more than the recent moderate strengthening of the dollar would suggest.
But I will say that the "official yakking" about the silver market has to do with exactly that. The Fed may move sooner than expected. Interest rates up means stronger dollar; stronger dollar means weaker gold and silver. Thus, gold and silver go down.
Trouble is, silver is down from the mid-$8 range to the mid-$6 range. That's about a 25% drop. Gold is down about 8%.
So I still think someone's trying hard to push silver down harder than market forces alone would dictate. But even I'll stipulate that a stronger dollar implies a SOMEWHAT weaker silver market.
But not, I think, quite this weak.
For now, I've gotten out of the way. Yep, out of silver, out of gold. But I'm looking for a chance to get back in. Especially into silver, because 1) the industrial-use-versus-mining gap is larger, and 2) central banks don't own thousands of tons they may dump onto the market, as they do for gold.*
So, there you go. Short term, look out below for gold and silver. But longer term? I still say, watch your head on the way through the ceiling--at some point.
It's when that I have no freakin' idea about.
* Note that most of the big countries have an agreement limiting the number of tons of gold they will sell each year--but it just went up again.
Tuesday, April 20, 2004
Science wins a round in battle for Kennewick Man
Scientists win a round in effort to study Kennewick Man remains
If you don't live in the Pacific Northwest, you may have missed the earlier bits of this story.
Basically, a largely-complete skeleton of a man 9,300 years old was found. Local Native Americans tried to get the bones reburied, unstudied, under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. Scientists raised a cry: even if the bones don't end up in a museum permanently, at least let us do a thorough study, they argued.
The Native Americans disagreed. And the court case began.
I, as you probably can guess, side with the rational. That is to say, the scientists.
Firstly, the remains have serious scientific significance. The remains are far older than any others found anywhere in the area. This alone should be enough for at least a temporary stay while science gives the bones the once-over.
Secondly, there is serious doubt whether the local tribe members are the ancestors of Kennewick Man. 9,300 years is a lot of time, and many tribes made serious migrations over that period. Anthropologists say that all Native Americans stem from folks who made the journey from modern Russia to modern Alaska during a cold period that formed an ice bridge. They then spread over the Americas, from Canada to Chile. But perhaps more importantly, the remains show, intruiguingly, Caucasian features. Some point to the Ainu people of northern Japan, who also have some Caucasian features, as a possible ancestral link. In any event, Kennewick Man may or may not be ancestral to either local Native Americans or perhaps any Native Americans. The story needs to be unfurled. The tribes simply clam up on this point and "declare" that the remains are their ancestors.
Thirdly, the Act makes it difficult for tribes to claim remains over 500 years old. There is a gray area beyond which remains cease to be great-grandparents and simply become archaelogical in nature. Makes sense to me. And the fact that Kennewick Man is 8,700 years beyond the gray area says it all for me.
Native American religious hocus-pocus is just as irrational, bogus, and potentially harmful as any other religion. I say, study Kennewick Man, learn from him. To bury him as a local tribesman is to create an almost-certain lie, and to hide much other truth.
Monday, April 19, 2004
Bush bemoans Spanish pullout from Iraq
Bush: will give "false comfort to terrorists"
That is, of course, pure spin. There's nothing false about the comfort Spain gave the terrorists by their abrupt pullout. It's pure, unadulterated, Sealy Posturepedic comfort, with pillow top.
But it's worse. The Socialist election win, coupled with the high-profile promises to get out of Iraq, guaranteed they'd have to pull out. But it didn't guarantee they'd have to pull out so quickly. How quickly? Bush and company have been left begging for at least a little delay to avoid gaps in security.
Pretty pathetic on Spain's part. And dangerous to the soldiers who remain. Thanks, "partner."
Things aren't looking good, folks. If there are any Iraqis, beyond the lap dogs in the Governing Council, who truly desire peace and democracy, they're going to have to stand up and be counted soon. The window of opportunity is rapidly approaching closure.
Only the terrorists, the thugs, and the fanatics are voicing their opinions, with protests and with guns. If it is possible for a budding Gandhi, Mandela, or Washington to lead the Iraqis towards democracy, the time to begin is now. It's true, there isn't much recent history of freedom and democracy in Iraq--but there is a long history of relative secularism and education. And there wasn't much democracy in India, South Africa, or the States before those three great leaders came along.
Freedom must be earned. Only part of the cost can be borne by outsiders. A large part must be paid by those who desire it--desire it so deeply that they will risk the wrath of the jihadists, the Saddam sympathizers, and the wanna-be totalitarians. It only takes a small part of the population to be willing to pay the price.
Will Iraqis pony up?
Woodward: Bush diverted funds bound for Afghanistan to plan Iraq war
If so, this is likely an illegal act. Just ask Nixon or Reagan about the troubles illegally diverted funds can cause. Oh, wait, you can't. One's dead and the other is not-quite-dead.
Woodward has some other interesting things to say, too, like that the Saudi ambassador was kept in the Iraq-war loop more than Secretary of State Colin Powell.
If true, IF true, this is certainly giving us a better chance than we had as a nation with the Nixon administration. The bulk of the Watergate problems and evidence came out after the re-election campaign. Here, we have a chance to see information before November.
Keep reading and thinking, folks. This one's not over by a long stretch. But most importantly, keep your mind open until more is known.
Sunday, April 18, 2004
William Hung debuts first music video--"She Bangs"
If you can't get the MSN video to work, well, I can't either. But more importantly,
Really, I watch American Idol
. Heck, my favorite part of the show is the first few episodes where all the self-deluded folks line up like skeet to Simon Cowell's shotgun wit.
It was even funny when Hung got a little mileage out of his appearance, going on a few shows and singing at a few places.
It was a little less funny when it was announced he was going to release an album.
Now, it's pathetic. I mean, come on. Energy and an upbeat attitude? Not enough. He's not a member of "Up With People," he's trying to be some sort of bizarro-world solo artist.
To borrow from Popeye, "Enough is enough, and enough is too much!"
Saturday, April 17, 2004
Christian teens: only 10% say stealing Christian music is morally wrong; pirate music at same rate as non-Christians
So, what have we learned?
1) Christianity is irrational, and it leads to irrational behavior. It's not immoral if you can justify theft to yourself. "Everyone's doing it." "It's readily available." "It's another way to spread the Gospel."
2) Christianity, despite a widespread belief that it is the end-all and be-all of societal cures, has no effect on actions taken in this case.
3) Christianity is not about doing good deeds It's about lip-service. You can be forgiven of anything if you just repent.* "Good" thoughts trump bad actions in the mind of the irrational, even though actions can harm others, while thoughts cannot.
* So if Hitler repented instead of committing suicide, he would have "gone to Heaven." It's ideas like that that make a rational person shake their head.
Friday, April 16, 2004
Late to the party in Queens
I've only recently discovered "The King of Queens"
For those who haven't seen it, it's stand-up comedian* Kevin James's sitcom. Take one part "The Honeymooners," one part "All In the Family," and one part "Fawlty Towers," mix well, and serve with cocktail weenies.
I love the sort of crapola that some P.R. person had to write for the official web site--check out the link above. My favorite:
Set in the working-class suburb of Queens, New York, the show follows Doug Heffernan (Kevin James), an amiable delivery man, and his wife, spitfire legal secretary Carrie Heffernan (Leah Remini), as they explore the everyday challenges of love, life, family and marriage. (end quote)
Man, is that ever horrible to read. Boring, cliche, uninformative drivel. I'll bet not one new viewer has ever come to the show by reading that page.
Anyway, it's not going to replace "Friends" or "Monty Python's Flying Circus" in my heart any time soon, but here's the deal. The writing is solid, the acting is good, and the situations are funny. Anyway, here's how I see the connections to the abovementioned classic sitcoms:
"The Honeymooners"--this one's so obvious it's even mentioned in the drivel page I linked to. Working-class man, his wife, a couple of buddies, some physical humor, and very very formulaic plot-driven comedy. Seriously, the formulas are really down to the last dot on the last "i." But you know what? Formulas become formulas for a reason: they work. Sure, I can see the next plot twist coming quite a bit of the time, but it doesn't really spoil the ride.
"All In the Family"--like that show, there's an aging family head with a loud mouth and a lot of offbeat ideas, who stubbornly sticks to them. Unlike that show, he's not the main character, nor is there a social-commentary aspect to it. I must say, Jerry Stiller, who plays "Queen's" patriarch, is more grating than funny a lot of the time. He makes a lot of strange acting choices as to pauses and gestures which I think are supposed to seem funnier than they end up being. He is definitely the weak link in the show--but, because he was on "Seinfeld," he'll never be kicked off. Also like "All In the Family," a lot of comedy takes place during arguments.
"Fawlty Towers"--probably the best short-run sitcom ever, the John Cleese classic has quite a few similarities to this sitcom. The main character is a married man who screws up a lot, and his wife has to get things back under control. Because she's the governing factor in the household, she often seems shrewish or just plain bitchy, but also has a lot of funny scenes because of it. Other people on the show--coworkers, friends, neighbors--are only lightly fleshed out as characters, and are the objects of the main character's crazy schemes, mistakes, and general screw-ups. One is tempted to say that Kevin James's Doug character is like a male Lucy Ricardo, and maybe that's what they're going for. But he's really a lot like Basil Fawlty--completely flawed, unable to admit a mistake, and with a serious amoral streak that gets him in a lot of trouble. Parallels could also be drawn to Homer Simpson or Al Bundy, but I'll take any chance to mention "Fawlty Towers."
Anyway, this is a lot of writing for what is really a lightweight entertainment. Enjoyable, solid, formulaic, light. That's "The King of Queens."
*Kevin James was a good standup. I don't know why I never checked out his sitcom, as I liked his act. Having said that, there seems to be only three ways to get on a sitcom nowadays, and "The King of Queens" features all three:
1) Be a standup comedian (Kevin James)
2) Be attractive (Leah Ramini)
3) Have a long history in the business (Jerry Stiller).
What about talent? Yeah, I guess there's a place for that. But it's not enough to get you on a show, it seems. When's the last ugly guy or gal who was cast without having been a standup or having solid previous comedy work? The closest I could come was both Michael Richards and Jason Alexander on "Seinfeld." And you know what? The acting talent was a huge part of the success of that show. (Julia Louis-Dreyfus was both attractive and on "Saturday Night Live.") So, it's a shame that more risks aren't taken with casting on sitcoms.
Thursday, April 15, 2004
French to pay for British dentistry
British local councillor to organize group to go to France for tooth-fillings
There are a few really sad things about this:
1) It's basically competing noncompetitiveness. Both Britain and France have socialized medicine. Real competition, with no government interference, would ensure an adequate supply of dentists and keep prices low by competition--and would provide competitive pressure for dentists to keep up on their skills and technology, too.
2) Even given that both Britain and France will continue to have socialized medicine, now French taxpayers will be helping subsidize these British citizens' teeth.
3) A couple of months ago I linked to a report showing that in some areas of Britain, there were lines around the block for those few dentists left who would take low-paying government-subsidized patients. This is just more evidence that their system isn't working.
4) Buckle, the politician, says "treatment appears to be cheaper in France because there is greater competition for trade between dentists and they receive much larger government subsidies." I doubt the competition is really any greater, but I have no doubt that larger government subsidies--which is simply taking from all to give to some--would be a reason for dentists to at least provide service. But it doesn't give any incentive to improve their practices or keep their technology up.
5) Because the politician calls the trip to France the "Tooth Ferry," the story gets a hook and is written up. Where? In the "Offbeat" section. Great. The media finally prints some evidence about how horrible socialism is, and it only gets written up by accident, and then ghettoized to the "yuk-yuk" section of the news.