Monday, June 30, 2008

Problems at the Foreign Service

The other day Mrs. FLG and I were eating dinner at a restaurant in Old Town. The guy sitting next to us was loud. He mentioned several times to his father, with whom he was eating, and also to the person on the cell phone while his father sat there stupidly, that he was working very hard for the Foreign Service. He was, to put it mildly, a major league douchebag. And not douchebag in the way a salesman or PR guy is a douchebag. No, no. This guy was the elite school uber-nerd with a somewhat prestigious job that goes straight to his head douchebag. In short, he suffered from the worst kind of douchebaggery.

Anyway, I could go on forever, but my main point is that I wouldn't want him to represent me at a McDonald's takeout window let alone the American people to a foreign government. I realize the foreign service hiring process is arduous. There are several rounds of testing, etc. Well, let me tell you something United States Foreign Service, you aren't filtering out only the best and brightest. You are also getting major league tools. You have at least one for sure.

Bloggers

Am I the only blogger who writes about international affairs, politics, and economics, albeit only half the time, who does not want to be a journalist, pundit, or academic? It sure seems that way.

Don't get me wrong. If I could make money writing this blog and sit at home all day doing this, then I would gladly take it. But I don't have huge aspirations based upon my blogging. Actually, I don't have particularly huge aspirations which are not based upon my blogging either.

Bond, James Bond.

Quote of the day

Andrew Sullivan:
In fact, it would be very hard to think of a piece of analysis so riddled with misconceptions and errors and so self-evidently wrong in almost every respect only five years later.

That horrible, horrible tease

Flying cars. Always just out of reach. A few more years. But, alas, never to be.

French National Pasttime Update

Now they're protesting for the removal of an Iranian opposition organization from terror blacklists.

From the EU has a long, long way to go before people think of themselves as European files

IHT:
COLLOBRIÈRES, France: Christine Amrane says it is mostly about profit, not just protest and nostalgia. This isolated village has decided to accept the French franc in everyday commerce, along with the euro, and the colorful old bills adorned with French heroes and writers have got people thinking.


Vive les francs! Vive la France!

The Law of Unintended Consequences

Telegraph:
Gangs of chicken rustlers are stealing hens to order as prices have soared following the free-range campaign by celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.


Some of this has to be related to the high price of food generally, not just free-range.

Dangers of WiFi

Le Figaro:
Cinq bibliothèques parisiennes ont renoncé à leurs systèmes d'internet sans fil après des plaintes de leurs employés qui souffraient de maux de têtes.


Translation:
Five Parisian libraries turned off their WiFI systems after complaints by their employees who suffered from headaches.


I had DirectTV at one point, and our neighbors in Boulder freaked because they thought the dish was reflecting rays into their house. I tried to explain that satellite dishes are parabolic, and therefore are specifically not concentrating the signal into their house, but people are morons. I offered to make them tinfoil hats before they left.

A Proposal

The NYTimes should replace Bill Kristol with Reihan Salaam. Discuss.

Scratch that. Replace Kristol's column with a video podcast by Reihan Salaam. Sure, it won't work in the newspaper, but newspapers are dying anyway.

While I'm at it, the NYTimes should replace Bob Herbert with, well, anybody that will write something that surprises me. As soon as I know the topic I can write his column for him almost word for word.

1) Take topic.
2) Write article articulating standard liberal line.
3) Rinse and repeat on EVERY FREAKING TOPIC.

Maureen Dowd should be fired and the space left fallow for at least two years to recover.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

More on guns

GEC's post reminded me of something. It's not about the guns. It really is about the people. And doctors are not the best sources of policy advice because they only focus on the bad stuff. You can thank The Big Assumption for that.

For example, the UK, where guns are almost completely outlawed, has seen doctors calling for the banning of sharp chef's knives:
A&E doctors are calling for a ban on long pointed kitchen knives to reduce deaths from stabbing.

A team from West Middlesex University Hospital said violent crime is on the increase - and kitchen knives are used in as many as half of all stabbings.

They argued many assaults are committed impulsively, prompted by alcohol and drugs, and a kitchen knife often makes an all too available weapon.


From another article the arrogance of doctors is apparent:
Writing in the British Medical Journal, Emma Hern, Will Glazebrook and Mike Beckett said the use of dagger-type kitchen knives owed more to tradition than culinary necessity. The knives, they argued, could be banned without unduly inconveniencing cooks.


You silly chefs who use really pointy knives. Don't you know they are dangerous, and we doctors know how dangerous they are, and you are stupid, and we know that it won't be a big deal to ban these super dangerous knives. I really, really dislike when doctors get involved in matters of public policy. They are 1) overvalue safety, 2) are awful at statistics, and 3) are usually pompous asses. I'm okay with docs overvaluing safety, being pompous, or bad at stats when they are speaking with a patient, but I hate them making public policy recommendations.

Don't smoke. Don't drink. Don't do drugs. Keep the chainsaw away from your genitals. I'm okay with those, but the optimal amount of sodium that should be in a fast food burger or the correct level of sharpness of a kitchen knife? Kiss my ass on those docs. Oh, especially MDs with an MPH.

Soon we will be using circular pieces paper to prevent paper cuts. Or maybe all paper will be banned in the name of public safety, health, and the environment. Paper airplane induced eye injuries are way up.

Congratulations to Spain

BBC:
Germany 0-1 Spain

Quote of the day

It is actually an entire letter from the NYTimes this Sunday.

To the Editor:

After a career in public service, I regretfully say, I would not do it again.

Philosophy and point of view led me to doing good instead of doing well, so I never expected to become rich. But now that I’m in my 10th year of a frozen judicial salary — less than summer students are being paid at law firms — I have concluded that whatever I may have accomplished for the public, I have wasted 25 years of my life by serving on the bench.

Emily Jane Goodman
New York, June 23, 2008

The writer is a New York Supreme Court justice.

Guns

I don't have anything particularly creative or intelligent to say about the 5-4 gun decision. But I did see this article in the Post written by a professor who claims to have proven home gun accidents account for far more shooting injuries and deaths within the family than against assailants, robbers, or brigands.

Now, if true, maybe he's right that it's not a good idea to keep a loaded gun in the house. However, the article leaves a lot of questions floating in my mind: Does the author really expect us to believe that hundreds of suicides just wouldn't have happened if there hadn't been something so convenient as a firearm around? That if only the Great Benevolent Father had banned and confiscated said weapons, untold suicides would not have occurred? Or for that matter, that all those men and women wouldn't have simply used common household implements to murder one another just as frequently as they did the gun? The fact these things happened with guns does nothing to prove that almost as many deaths wouldn't have happened by other means.

Maybe it's just my libertarian streak coming out to play, but I hate the presumption that it's the government's responsibility to save citizens from their own foolishness.

Call me old fashioned...

because I am uncomfortable with this.

But I guess we are all trying to move passed things.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Today's goings on

Mrs. FLG and I headed into the District today to visit the Newseum, despite vociferous condemnation from GEC. Apparently the universe, God, Yahweh, or the Fates didn't want us to visit because as we were walking up firetrucks started arriving and people were exiting the building.

So, we went to the National Museum of the American Indian. I was not interested in Native American culture before, during, or after our visit.

As Mrs. FLG and I were heading toward the Lincoln Memorial, we noticed a festival on the mall. Turns out it was the 42nd Annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival. This year the festival focuses on Bhutan, Texas, and NASA. Yes, NASA. Click here for proof.

We bought lime fizzes, and good times were had by all.

Even the Queen loves the Golden Arches

Telegraph:
Among Her Majesty's most recent acquisitions was a retail park in Slough - which encompasses a drive-through McDonalds.

Okay, here's the plan.

You sneak around back while I distract him. Then, when you are in position, I will push him and he will fall over. Ready? Break.

Le Monde:
Après le non irlandais au traité de Lisbonne, l'Union européenne a évité de prendre des décisions à la hâte. Mais il semble qu'il y ait déjà un plan : faire aboutir la ratification du traité de Lisbonne dans tous les pays qui ne l'ont pas fait et obtenir de la part de l'Irlande, isolée dans son refus, la répétition du référendum sur le même texte.

Il est indiscutable que les gouvernements nationaux doivent faire tout leur possible pour que le traité qu'ils ont déjà tous signé soit maintenant ratifié. Le Royaume-Uni a donné l'exemple et il faudrait que les sept autres pays fassent de même.


Translation to English:
After Irish "No" vote on the treaty of Lisbon, the European Union avoided making hasty decisions. But it seems that there is already a plan: to force successful ratification of the treaty of Lisbon on all countries which have not yet and to obtain from Ireland, who would be isolated in its refusal, a second referendum on the text.

It is indisputable that the national governments must everything in their power so that the treaty that they have already signed be ratified now. The United Kingdom provided the example, and the seven other countries must do it in the same way.


Okay, here's the plan. All the rest of you don't ask your people to vote. Just pass the thing already. The sooner the better. Then, when Ireland is the only one, we will go back to them and make them vote again. They will feel like outcasts and vote for it. Ready? Break.

Stupid Fuckers.

New Comments Thingamiginy

Fear and Loathing in Georgetown has a new, improved comments posting mechanism.

We think outside the box and create whole new par-a-dig-ms. Feel the Web 2.0.

I loathe Mugabe even more

Because, according to this website, he holds a BS and MS in economics. If true, and they are real degrees, then his acquiescence in the face of 1 gazillion percent inflation is far worse in my eyes.

To sum up:
Before, I thought he was a revolutionary thug - a mean person good for winning revolutions, but who is frequently a megalomaniac and extremely ideological politically. Hence, they are bad at making policy. Mugabe's two economics degrees would imply that he is not a bumbling political buffoon, but somebody who should know better. However, he is still a megalomaniac and all around evil bastard.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Wallpaper

I am a big computer desktop wallpaper person.

Two good sites:
Images from the Hubble
Mark Harden's Artchive

Also, I want a framed poster of this picture:

Fish-Gator

BBC:
Scientists say a fossil of a four-legged fish sheds new light on the process of evolution.

The creature had a fish-like body but the head of an animal more suited to land than water.

The researchers' study, published in the journal Nature, says Ventastega curonica would have looked similar to a small alligator.

Scientists say the 365-million-year-old species eventually became an evolutionary dead end.


Thank goodness I know evolution is, like, totally made up and has a lot of holes because if I didn't I would start to believe that Darwin guy was on to something.

Georgetown scientists get drunk in China

Scientists Travel to Shanghai For Symposium

Obviously, I prefer the original definition of the word.

Podcasts

I am really enjoying the Coverville podcast;, which I just discovered.

Georgetown Alumni

David Addington - SFS
Doug Feith - Law

It's cool and all that Georgetown Grads have such success in reaching the highest levels of government, but did these two guys have to be from Georgetown?

They aren't as bad as their critics would believe, but nonetheless..

Paris

I would rather be in Paris right now.

On the bright side, I will be in sunny San Diego in a few days.

Google Reader versus Bloglines

My official conclusion is that Google Reader is better for me.  Mostly for the reasons articulated by Miss Self Important.

I like the listing on my iGoogle homepage, and I don't have to keep logging in.

Whoop-dee-do

BBC:
Hillary Clinton is to join Barack Obama at a rally - their first public event since she pulled out of the race to be the Democratic presidential candidate.


Hillary is yesterday's news. Thank goodness, and I hope she stays that way.

Martians have smelly pee

Or at least they probably will...

BBC:
Martian soil appears to contain sufficient nutrients to support life - or, at least, asparagus - Nasa scientists believe.


Background reading:
Why Asparagus Makes Your Pee Stink

Facebook Etiquette

I haven't been using it actively for a few months. However, I still get email notifications.

Recently, a slew of people have been requesting to be my friend. I wasn't their friend in high school. I don't want to be their facebook friend. I just don't like them. Never have. I pressed ignore several times, but they are persistent.

I realize this doesn't seem like a big deal. "Just confirm them as friends," you say . I don't want my facebook to get cluttered with people half-remembered from high school whom I didn't like. Along with each new friend is a mounting wave of application requests, quizzes, status feed updates. Plus, I have to look at them in my friend list.

I propose a new feature on facebook, which I call acquaintance. When confirming a friend there would be three choices: confirm, ignore, and acquaintance. If I selected the latter, then they would appear to be my friend to the outside world, but I wouldn't see or receive any updates and shit from them. Basically, they would look like my friend, but wouldn't be.

Some might say that my proposal is lying or hypocritical. Yes. Yes, it is. But so much of human interaction consists of lying and hypocrisy that facebook must take it into account. I realize that I have complained in this blog about when people pretend to be one another's friends. "Oh, so good to see you. We should do lunch...[walk awya] she look's fat."

However, in this case, I am trying to ignore them. It isn't working. The only solution I see is to send a message telling them that I never liked them. This seems overly harsh and unnecessary. I don't hate them. I just don't like them. Also, it would take time to compose a suitable message. Therefore, I propose the acquaintance confirmation on Facebook.

SocGen Update

Le Monde:
Le «trader fou» Jérôme Kerviel est jugé psychologiquement équilibré

Jérôme Kerviel, l'ancien trader de la Société générale, est un jeune homme tout à fait normal.


Translation:
The "crazy trader" Jérôme Kerviel was judged psychologically stable.

Jérôme Kerviel, the former Société générale trader, is a completely normal young man.


Well, all except for that losing billions of Euros thing. Oh, and breaking the law. But otherwise he is completely normal.

I do, however, really like his tie.

God help the UK

Telegraph:
Pupils will be able to get a GCSE in English without reading a novel, according to the qualifications regulator.


This is an abomination.

The Constitution

WaPo:
the way to fix the Constitution is to amend it -- not ignore it.


However, Robinson also says this:
I believe the Constitution is a living document that has to be seen in light of the times. I believe the Supreme Court, in Roe v. Wade, was right to infer an implicit right to privacy, even though no such thing is spelled out. I think the idea that the Founders' "original intent" should govern every interpretation of the Constitution is loony -- as if men who wrote with quill pens could somehow devise a blueprint for regulating the Internet.


I am pro-choice, but Roe v Wade was bad legal reasoning, and even worse politically. Worse politically because it allow abortion expediently instead of through the slow, messy political process, but it also increased the focus on Supreme Court appointments by an order of magnitude. There is now a litmus test nominees fail and pass, depending on what side you are on.

Original intent, while problematic if applied dogmatically to every possible situation, at least offers a more grounded frame of reference. Presumably, we can determine the stated goals of each passage to the Constitution from the Federalist papers, congressional debates, etc.

The living document theory concerns me. Society changes, sure. No doubt about that. However, rather than saying that society up and changed, therefore our interpretation of laws should change, how about we actually change the laws? Or take some advice from Mr. Robinson:
the way to fix the Constitution is to amend it -- not ignore it.

North Korea

NYTimes:
The 60-foot cooling tower at the North’s main nuclear power plant was demolished on Friday, as promised by the North Korean government. The collapse of the concrete structure, the most conspicuous part of the nuclear complex at Yongbyon, 60 miles north of Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, bore witness to the incremental progress that has been made in American-led multilateral efforts to end North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs.


Very good sign. Sure, they are probably still hiding stuff. But this is nonetheless welcome news.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Hey, GEC!

Are you the one who told me to watch Babylon 5?

It's also on Hulu, and I am debating about watching it. The floor is open regarding the merits of the show.

UN and Islam

Israel Matzav:
The UN 'Human Rights Council' decided this week that it is forbidden to criticize Islam because "religious issues can be “very complex, very sensitive and very intense…This council is not prepared to discuss religious matters in depth, consequently we should not do it.” From now on, only religious scholars would be permitted to broach 'religious matters'

In case you didn't know: Pho

You know the pho places named, Pho [insert some two digit number here]. Ever wonder where the two digit number came from? I did. It's the year the family immigrated. Everything makes perfect sense now.

FLG's Internet TV Viewing

A while back, I questioned the sanity of a feminist who was dissecting a television series called Firelfy. I made a mental note to watch the show. I watched the episodes for free at hulu.com, and I have decided that my initial reaction was correct. The lady was nuts.

Hulu.com is now offering all six seasons of Highlander the Series, which I liked, but then stopped watching for some reason. I am going to watch those, too. Also, I watched some episodes of Airwolf, and it is not as good as I remembered. I loved that show. Same deal for Buck Rogers. In Living Color, on the other hand, still makes me laugh. Lastly, I have discovered a new appreciation for Kojak, which, alas, was before my time.

Heller

King in WaPo:
The record will show that our home-grown shooters have blown through the city's so-called strict handgun ban like John Riggins going up the middle. Over the past 20 years, there have been more than 6,500 homicides in the nation's capital, most committed with firearms, predominantly handguns. In 1976, the year the ban was put in place, the District had 135 gun-related murders, according to CNN. Last year, the number reached 143. Thus far this year, we've had 85 murders.

If D.C. street thugs are pleased by anything, it's probably the fact that five of the justices -- a slim majority, but that's all it takes to win -- have come around to seeing things their way.



But this is precisely the point, Mr. King. The District has had 30 years to solve, or even ameliorate, the violence in its city, and by and large it has not. Is DC ever going to be Greenwich, Connecticut? No. But it also doesn't have to be one of the most violent cities in America.

People often object to the statement, "if guns are criminalized, then only criminals will have guns" by saying it is a tautology. However, DC provides actual proof. Criminals have been killing each other using guns while law-abiding citizens have been denied the right to have a gun to protect themselves.

That said, DC's violence problems, like all its problems, are a result of corrupt, stupid, ineffectual political leadership over decades. The two most recent mayors seem to have changed that a bit, but in general, DC government couldn't run a three-legged race against itself and win.

French National Pasttime Update

IHT:
Winemakers in southern France have burned two police cars and vandalized supermarkets during protests to demand government aid.


Those crazy French winemakers.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Robot Overlord Watch and Grand Theft Auto

Guardian:
Robots ready to support soldiers on the battlefield

Intelligent armed vehicles that use GPS, laser and heat-recognition technology are close to being deployed in hotspots

The commander pulls out what looks like a PlayStation gamepad and the Mule is sent forward.

It presents a tougher challenge than the typical human soldier. The Mule can fire Javelin anti-tank missiles and has a turret-mounted machine gun, in addition to a digital "eyeball" with laser and heat-recognising target acquisition systems for aiming its weaponry. It is semi-autonomous, using GPS to navigate and localised perception to avoid trees and buildings. Its six wheels are on pneumatic legs, enabling it to climb over cars and barriers. Within minutes, the formerly deadly intersection is secure.


Most people are concerned that Grand Theft Auto desensitizes kids to violence in the real world. I don't worry so much about that. What I worry about is the Army taking these twitchy gamers, putting them in front of consoles, and not telling them that on the other end of the game they are playing are real, live human beings that they are killing. Basically, The Ender's Game scenario but not against bugs.

The controls for an unmanned fighter plane will be indistinguishable from a video game. Control of some robotic soldier will probably as well. I worry that the densenitivity to video game violence will be used to create real, but remote destruction rather than gamers going crazy and causing problems in the real world directly.

Weapon System Technology

Strategy Page:
What the Task Force Odin stories were really covering were two very different technologies in development. On the one hand (and more easily reported) was the effort to provide Internet like access to live video feeds from aircraft and UAVs. The U.S. Air Force and SOCOM (Special Operations Command) have been particularly keen on this, and has shared the technology with the other services, and friendly nations. The less publicized effort was Constant Hawk. This was a U.S. Army image analysis system that's basically just another pattern analysis system. However, it's been a very successful system. Last year, the U.S. Army named Constant Hawk one of the top ten inventions of the year. The army does this to give some of the more obscure, yet very valuable, developments some well deserved recognition.


The future of military technology will not be in weapon systems that look cool or blow things up really big. It will be in things you can't see that blow up really small. The important innovations will be in information processing. For example, the live video feed from a UAV, tank, soldiers helmet, etc, maybe all simultaneously, would be processed to isolate hostiles from civilians. Another possible technology would be to track individual units of the enemy and provide statistical projections of their next moves. Who knows what else, but the important thing will be in analysis. Information will increase lethality.

Wait till Your Father Gets Home

Was anybody else aware that this show existed? I wasn't.

On a related note, who knows who Googles Pisanno was? No googling.

Smoking

It's been over a month since I quit smoking, but I really hope that our tomato plant is in reality a tomacco plant. That would be great.

RSS Feed Bleg

Has anybody used Google Reader and Bloglines? I have been using Google for about a month. I've had an account for longer, but only used it recently.

A friend emailed me today saying to try bloglines because it is better. However, said friend has not used Google Reader.

Anybody have experience with both and want to offer a 1-2 line analysis? They seem the same to me.

Status Update

I give up.

Earth to New York Times

Your headline, Christian Novel Is Surprise Best Seller, reeks of The Big Assumption. Let me enlighten you to a few things.

There are lots of people, millions in fact, who don't live in Manhattan or gentrified sections of Brooklyn. Additionally, many of these people are practicing Christians. These millions of Christians can read, and they attend churches together where they can tell each other about books. Ergo, my question is whether it is really a surprise that a Christian book is a best seller to anybody besides self-regarding douchebags who live in New York?

Quote of the day

Ignatius:
a London-based newspaper called Al-Quds Al-Arabi, with very good sources in Damascus, alleged that several Arab nations had conspired with Mossad to assassinate Mughniyah.


This surprised me. Background on Imad Mugniyah here. However, it does appear that Arabs are getting nervous about Iran's growing influence in the region. I will have to track down the whole article today.

Annoying Jews

Most Jews are not annoying. Only certain ones. Explanation to follow. And this post was prompted unintentionally by Phoebe. I would like to note that I don't know Phoebe, but I doubt she is an annoying Jew. Furthermore, I know I am treading on thin ice here so I ask two things: 1) try not to read every word in the worst possible light, I most certainly didn't mean it that way and 2) read it all before responding or calling me an idiot. Thanks.

First, Jews are not a race. I don't particularly care if certain governments, ie Nazis or the USSR, defined them as such. Nor do I particularly care if Jews define themselves as a race. There is no way that all Jews from Eastern Europe, Ethiopia, Algeria, New York City, and everywhere else can be considered part of the same race. However, do understand the idea sort of and believe the concept is problematic. I will address that later.

Second, there is a distinct Jewish culture and intellectual tradition that even a person who no longer believes and practices Judaism can still be a part of.

Third, if a person has not been to temple since their Bar/Bat Mitzvah, I find it hard to call that person a Jew. However, I will respect the wishes of the person in question as to their Jewishness. If the person no longer believes, but still would like to be considered a Jew because they are part of the culture or for whatever reason, then that is fine with me.

Fourth, this religion and cultural nexus is relatively unique to Judaism. Catholicism is an integral part of many cultural/national traditions, but the religion itself does not encompass a cultural tradition per se.

So, if a person decides to define themselves as Jewish even though they no longer believe or attend temple, then fine. That's up to them. I understand. However, I still object to Jewishness as a race. Yet, I think I understand where some of this. This might be oversimplified, but I think there is some truth here. Nevertheless, I am not a Jewish scholar. Here goes.

Jews have been pretty much shit on by every culture, civilization, and people. I contend that a certain insularity and distrust of, let's say, outsiders developed as a self-preservation mechanism. Defining themselves as a race and strongly encouraging intramarriage were methods of preserving Judaism and Jewish culture despite hostile millieux. I understand that. Furthermore, a certain pride in being Jewish was required to withstand the terrible torments that the world has heaped on Jews throughout history. This is also understandable, and I would argue was required. However, when worse both of these combine its is really, really annoying.

An annoying Jew is a Jew who takes every opportunity to ostentatiously mention their Jewishness, which would be fine, but then complains that everybody notices that they are Jewish. It's almost schizophrenic. Please note there is nothing particularly Jewish about their annoyingness, it is just that they happen to be annoying about their Jewishness.

The fact that many Jews define themselves as a race is problematic. For example, if I walk down the street I can tell pretty readily who is a woman and who is African-American. Defining Jewishness as a race implies that the same can be done for Jews, as if I can walk down the street picking out the Jews. Perhaps Semitic features would give some away, but I can't really tell who's a Jew and who isn't. I certainly couldn't tell an Ethiopian Christian from an Ethiopian Jew or an Algerian Muslim from an Algerian Jew. To define Jews as a race implies a permanence both to the individual and to the religion. The religion can never die because it is part of race of people, the evil plots of bastards to wipe out the Jews notwithstanding. Yet, the self-classification as a race also implies, on the individual level, that a Jew can never become un-Jew because they are a member of a race. Therefore, there is almost no choice in the matter. A Jew is always a Jew. Add to this the sort of psuedo-nationalism associated with Jewishness, and this implies that they will remain perpetually separate from the mainstream of society by their own defintion.

While Jews should be rightfully proud of their religion, culture and tradition, there are a problems with the self-defintion as a race and nation that impede mainstream acceptance. This is not to say that Jews should or are ostracized or that Antisemitism is justified, but that there is something in the way certain Jews define themselves as a race and nation that habituates and cultivates a permanent separateness, for lack of a better word, between the group and the society at large. The pseudo-nationalism and race definition of Jews is not tied to a place. For example, Italian-Americans are separated from the place of their heritage. Jews are not separated. The culture is wherever they are. This leads to a stronger continuation of Jewish culture, but instead of a growing separation from the cultural heritage of the Old Country it creates a separation between some Jews and the mainstream. My observation is that the stronger a person's self-definition of Jewishness, the stronger the sense alienation from society at large. (This is not to say that Jewish self-definition is the only cause of a sense of alienation from society among Jews.)

FLG, are you saying that one has to lose their culture to become American? In a sense, yes, I am saying that, but it is not zero-sum. A full post on this topic alone is probably required.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Covers

The Violent Femmes have covered Gnarls Barkley's Crazy. Link here.

The original is here on YouTube, if you are not familiar with it.

Say a prayer

Because
Fear and Loathing in Georgetown
apparently is on its death bed.

Blog Changes

Okay. So, I have finished thinking about the blog changes.

As I mentioned previously, I will be out of town over the 4th of July weekend, and I will not be blogging. Maybe GEC will post something. Maybe he won't. I don't know. I didn't talk to him about it.

After the 4th weekend, I will be post less frequently with longer posts. These will consist of things that I find interesting or piss me off. My goal is to post 2-3 times a week. I will intermittently post short things if something is really funny, really annoying, or somebody is having sex with an inanimate object. Nevertheless, I will be far more selective in my posting. That's the plan.

Worst Public Policy Idea Ever

Telegraph:
Malaysian city urges women not to wear lipstick or high heels

The council spokesman for Kota Baru, the capital of Kelantan state which is controlled by the Islamic Party, said the suggestion aimed to protect rape and protect women’s dignity and morals.

Eurocrat Lobby

BBC:
The European Commission has defended its new voluntary register of lobbyists amid criticism from groups who say it is not transparent enough.

An estimated 15,000 lobbyists seek to influence EU legislation. Critics want more regulation of their activities.


Oddly, I had never thought about EU lobbyists, but I am all for mandatory, not voluntary, registration.

Brooks on Iraq

NYTimes:
And now the cocksure surge opponents, drunk on their own vindication, will get to enjoy their season of humility. They have already gone through the stages of intellectual denial. First, they simply disbelieved that the surge and the Petraeus strategy was doing any good. Then they accused people who noticed progress in Iraq of duplicity and derangement. Then they acknowledged military, but not political, progress. Lately they have skipped over to the argument that Iraq is progressing so well that the U.S. forces can quickly come home.

But before long, the more honest among the surge opponents will concede that Bush, that supposed dolt, actually got one right. Some brave souls might even concede that if the U.S. had withdrawn in the depths of the chaos, the world would be in worse shape today.

Life is complicated. The reason we have democracy is that no one side is right all the time. The only people who are dangerous are those who can’t admit, even to themselves, that obvious fact.


I hope the recent gains are lasting. As I said on April 6th during the Basra conflict:
The cause of democracy and stability in Iraq may be lost. I predict historians will point to the battle of Basra in 2008 as the inflection point.


My first sentence was wrong, but only because it looked like the Iraqi Government was losing in Basra at the time. The second sentence still stands. Basra was the turning point for Iraq. The surge really began paying dividends once the Iraqis defeated al-Sadr's forces in Basra. Or at least removed the city from their control.

More on Universities

Every time I hear that American Universities are not the best in the world, I always wonder how the author is arriving at that conclusion. Are they comparing American Universities to what they once were? If so, when and how were they better? Or are they comparing American Universities to some ideal university to which the actual universities are not living up to?

Because as far as I can tell from reading about the rest of the world, the American higher education system, even with all its problems, is still the best in the world. India has the IITs, but their enrollment is too small. China is graduating engineers, but most are the equivalent of tech school grads, not full-fledged engineers. Continental Europe, in a delusion about equality, refuses to charge tuition and won't let school select students. For example, in France, if you passed le baccalauréat, then you can enroll at your local university. This leads to overcrowding. Overcrowding with low or no tuition leads to poor facilities and overwhelmed professors. Poor facilities and overwhelmed professors lead to teachers and students who don't give a shit. Teachers and students who don't give a shit kill a university.

And now, the UK has joined in:
The degree system in British universities is "rotten" with grades based on "arbitrary and unreliable" measures, according to the university watchdog.


British Universities are underfunded, but they can still choose their students. So, Oxford and Cambridge, as well as several University of London colleges, are world class.

Overall, I still think the US system is the best and will remain so for a long time. The only problem I see is the continually rising cost, much of which is not spent on education. This does not mean that American universities are perfect, but they are far better than everybody else's. Our best universities are better than everybody else's, and the quality of our entire system is better than everybody else's.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Regrets, I've had a few

BBC:
An aide to Republican presidential hopeful John McCain has said he regrets telling a reporter that a terror attack on the US would be "an advantage".


And I regret that you are a complete idiot.

In case you didn't know: The end is not nye

BBC:
Our planet is not at risk from the world's most powerful particle physics experiment, a report has concluded.

The document addresses fears that the Large Hadron Collider is so energetic, it could have unforeseen consequences.

Critics are worried that mini-black holes made at the soon-to-open facility on the French-Swiss border might threaten the Earth's very existence.


I can't believe they actually did a report to placate the anti-science nutjobs.

Lost Tribe Update

It was a hoax. Go see UD for details.

Hippies

Andrew Sullivan:
I used to feel Cartman-level contempt for hippies


I still do, and keep them in my basement.

Elite Colleges Again

Miss Self Important has a post on the career plans of elite college graduates.

I still stand by my original take on the issue, but did mention in the comments on her blog that the average entry level civil service job doesn't require the intellectual horsepower of a Harvard grad. And furthermore the culture is such that would be too limited anyway.

No nukes is good nukes

IHT:
Germany's Social Democrats, who share power in the governing authority, and opposition parties are calling on the United States to remove all nuclear weapons stored in military bases here after a report found that safety standards at most sites for nuclear weapons in Europe fall well short of Pentagon requirements.


I would usually put this in the anti-America, pacifist left category and ignore it. And it is certainly coming from the anti-America, pacifist left, but they may actually have a point given the recent nuke safety problems the Air Force has been having.

Quote of the day

Sarkozy:
Il ne peut y avoir de paix sans l'arrêt de la colonisation


Translation:
There cannot be peace without the cessation of colonization.


He is referring, of course, to the Israeli-Palestinian issue.

EU

IHT:
The fact is, jolts like the Irish no, coming after French and Dutch ones in 2005 referendums, consolidate a pattern indicating that national self-interest will consistently trump the EU's formation of unified policy.


The European Union, and more importantly the Eurocrats in Brussels, are trying to do too much. They are not only trying to create a supranational state, which is folly, but are trying to eliminate, or at least they resent, national loyalties. That's dumb politically, and only makes sense if one believes that the European Union will be a state to which people actually feel loyal, which is beyond dubious.

The European Union needs to think of itself less as a state and more as a clearinghouse. States come in to work together. Sure, maybe there are some baseline rules required to be a member of the club, but the EU needs to get over its illusion that national interest will disappear. Furthermore, they need to get over the idea that national interest is bad per se.

The best way to fix the EU is to abolish NATO. Then the EU will come together with a coherent defense policy. What you will be left with is a military alliance with a single currency. That is the future of the EU. Nothing more.

Buying versus Renting

I completely agree with the premise of this article. I have had more than a few discussions with Mrs. FLG about buying a house that list the cons of homeownership.

Krugman:
In effect, U.S. policy is based on the premise that everyone should be a homeowner. But here’s the thing: There are some real disadvantages to homeownership.


However, even in a perfectly reasonable article, Krugman, who I am beginning to believe may have permanently lost it, can help taking a swipe at Bush.

“If you own something,” Mr. Bush once declared, “you have a vital stake in the future of our country.” Presumably, then, citizens who live in rented housing, and therefore lack that “vital stake,” can’t be properly patriotic. Bring back property qualifications for voting!


While we will probably buy a home next year, I find most people too many people are confused about homeownership. Fortunately for them their misunderstanding, you can't lose money on a house, usually doesn't cause a problem, but when it does it is a rude awakening.

L’Algérie

An interesting story about the generational cultural gap in Algeria caused by shifts in the educational system.

The schools were one center of that drive. French was banned as the language of education, replaced by Arabic. Islamic law and the study of the Koran were required, and math and science were shortchanged. Students were warned that sinners go to hell, and 6-year-olds were instructed in the proper way to wash a corpse for burial, education officials said.

There is a feeling among many Algerians that they went too far.

“We say that Algeria’s schools have trained monsters,” said Khaoula Taleb Ibrahim, a professor of education at the University of Algiers. “It is not to that extent, but the schools have contributed to that problem.”


Le Maghreb is a fascinating case study, in my opinion, of how Islam and Muslims will adapt to modernity. Will they reject it? Will it adapt? So many questions. Plus, there are such varied governments. Morocco is a monarchy. Algeria is a democracy, if one assumes the 2004 election was legit. Tunisia is a dictatorship.

George Carlin has died

I'm very sad.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Interservice Rivalry

Army versus Air Force

Link here

Update: Danger room disagrees, says this is no big whoop.

Nuking my old computer

Mrs. FLG has insisted that I get rid of my old computer, which was gathering dust in the closet. So, I am on my laptop until such time that my old workstation has been wiped by Darik's Boot and Nuke, and I can hook my newer workstation back up to the monitor. Approximately, three hours and counting.

I highly recommend that you use DBAN to wipe any computer before you get rid of it. It takes a bit of time, but everything on the computer is gone forever.

Iraq Reading

What's going right? And can it last? - IHT

What Obama Should Say On Iraq by Zakaria

What am I going to do with the next 20 years of my life?

Build a miniature version of Paris in my backyard.

HT: Boing Boing

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Iran

CNN:
"In my opinion, a military strike will be the worst. ... It will turn the Middle East to a ball of fire," ElBaradei said on Al-Arabiya television.


A ball of fire? Really?

How about this:
Try to imagine all life as you know it stopping instantaneously and every molecule in your body exploding at the speed of light. Now, that sounds scary.

In all seriousness, the heads of multilateral organizations offer important perspective on international issues. It's the useless, effete, pussy diplomat perspective, but it's a perspective.

Ship Names

So, the Navy just launched a new attack submarine. It's called the New Hampshire.

A short digression:
The New Hampshire is a Virginia class sub, all of which are named after states. The previous class of attack subs, the Los Angeles class, were named after cities. End of digression.

Although the United States possesses the most powerful navy ever to sail the seven seas, our ship names pretty much suck. I think we should hire a Brit to name our ships. Their names are so much cooler sounding.

Examples per wikipedia:
  • HMS Vanguard
  • HMS Victorious
  • HMS Vigilant
  • HMS Vengeance

I am particularly fond of the names of some of the escort carrier names from WWII:
  • Audacity
  • Archer
  • Avenger
  • Biter
  • Charger
  • Dasher
  • Battler
  • Attacker
  • Hunter
  • Chaser
  • Fencer
  • Stalker
  • Pursuer
  • Striker
  • Ravager
  • Reaper
If the HMS Reaper or Avenger is coming after me I am wetting my pants. The USN New Hampshire? Not so much. It's only slightly more scary than the USN Strawberry Shortcake.

I propose that the next submarine is called the USN Samuel L. Jackson.

Vegetarian or Orthodox Jew

I could be neither because I love bacon.
Every time somebody tells me they are a vegetarian I immediately ask, "Have you ever eaten bacon? And if so, what is wrong with you that you could give it up?"

Filthy animal or no filthy animal, it's delicious.


Correspondence

Fear and Loathing iN Georgetown,

I enjoyed your article about the School of Foreign Service, but can you please write something about the other schools? I am interested in Georgetown, but not international affairs.


Dear Name Redacted:

I don't know much about the other schools, but I can speak to the classes I have taken. First, I know nothing about the Nursing School. Second, the most popular major in the College is Government. In fact, most all of the students are interested in Government, which is probably why they want to go to school in DC. There is another group who chose Georgetown because it was the highest ranked school that they got into. This group sucks. The Government department is huge, and generally great. However, because it is so huge there is some dead weight as well. I found the Econ department to be really good as well. The History department is okay. The Theology department is hit or miss. I happened to have a really great professor for one theology class. The business classes I took were all really good, at least as far as business classes go. Math was math. In my opinion a math department's quality for a student can be summed up entirely by the course listing. My French teachers were all good teachers, but they were also French teachers which means they were nuts. I can't speak to any other departments or schools. Overall, I think it's really good school. Please note, you can get a similar education at a state school, but it will take more effort on our part. That is to say, the classes will be larger and you will receive less guidance.

-FLG

How do I keep my computer secure?


Dear Anonymous:

I am sorry that I took so long to respond to your email only to say that this isn't a tech blog and I try to keep technical stuff out of it as much as possible.

-FLG

More on the Anonymous Article

I forgot to mention this in my previous post.

As human beings, our concept of how things get done is based around heroes. Che Guevara. William Wallace. Guy Debord. History's fulcrums. Leaders.


I lean toward the Great Man theory of history. However, Che Guevara is not a hero. The other two I leave open to interpretation. I only know William Wallace from Braveheart, and while I know that Guy Debord was a French Marxist, I know almost nothing else about him.

So, Che Guevara -- important and a leader, but not a hero unless one believes communist ideology, which has subsequently proven itself bankrupt, justified the means enough to overlook numerous, needless executions. Also, your t-shirt is not cool.

Questions

I have some questions:

1) What influence did Irish Catholicism have on the no vote on the EU in Ireland? Are they still devout, or at least religious, in Ireland?

2) It it possible to determine somebody's intelligence just by looking at them? Yesterday, on the Metro, I saw some tourists and immediately decided that they looked dumb. It is probably impossible for me to separate cultural and societal cues from those narrowly focused on intelligence, so I guess my question is it objectively possible to determine a person's intelligence from their facial structure. There might be a case that grooming can offer something on intelligence as the average professor is pretty disheveled, but that is too subjective.

3) On the subject of intelligence, I would presume that the vast majority of jobs are created for people with average intelligence. Certain jobs like rocket scientist or neurosurgeon are filled by well above average intelligence people, but very few jobs can be created which require genius level intelligence. Quite simply, there just aren't that many geniuses and not all of them will be interested in the field. My question is this: If jobs are designed for average people, then doesn't the return to intelligence decrease over a certain level? That is to say, do decreasing marginal returns to intelligence exist? My guess would be that somewhere over 1,100 on the SATs (out of 1600) the importance of intelligence in determining income starts to fall off.

Anonymous versus Scientology: Round 17

The Times:
The police description is broadly accurate - most Anonymous members are indeed middle-class teenagers. They see themselves as guardians of free speech, fighting a malign organisation that bases its ideology on stories about aliens.

Anonymous's initial activities were silly - playing tricks or hijacking forums.

Last Saturday targeted Scientology's elite Sea Org - a pseudo-paramilitary group that used to own a ship. Hence the pirate costumes and the name - Operation Sea Arrrgh (as in “Arrrgh, me hearties”). “We get asked: ‘Why can't people believe what they want?'” said a young woman, holding a plastic cutlass. “The answer is, we are not targeting the beliefs, but the Church. Why does it take people's money? Why does it split people from their families? It is a dangerous cult.”


Please notice that Sea Org used to own a ship.

Quote of the day

Megan McArdle:
It might be nice if international justice were like a real national legal system, where everyone, rich and poor, submits themselves to the impartial will of the courts. But it is not. This is not fair--life isn't, you may have noticed. When the gap between the real and nominal power is as wide as it is in institutions like the UN, the institutions survive by not testing the boundaries--by defining deviance down rather than reveal that the institution does not have the actual ability to rein in its most powerful members.


Sometimes the glaringly obvious must be stated even if it makes some people uncomfortable. The entire post from which this quote was taken is worth a read.

Math, Science, and Women

Over at XX Factor all of the women seem to be generally uninterested in math and science. Or, at least, they find other subjects more interesting. Granted, I have found most writers do not like math and science. So, this sample may be skewed.

However, what if women are, for either societal or biological reasons, less interested on average in science and math than men? What's the big deal? Does it need to be rectified? Shouldn't people study and engaging in work they enjoy rather than encouraging people to fulfill ideological objectives such as precise gender balance in every single field and occupation?

For example, why aren't we talking about encouraging more men to study dance or drama? Is it that important that they are gender balanced? In fact, I would argue that feminism encourages women to make choices that men make, which might not be the best for every individual woman.

Obviously, there are women who like math and science. They should pursue those fields, but there will be nothing worse for the future of feminism than to force women to enter fields that they do not enjoy for the sake of successful careers. Furthermore, that success is often measured according to men's interpretation of success, which is strongly competitive, and this may not appeal to women as much.

Basically, feminism should stop telling women that they should do what men do simply for the sake of proving that they can do what men do. Perhaps, just maybe, men and women have different interests on average, which will result in different gender compositions in different occupations. That said, no woman should be excluded from any field, and male dominance in an occupation must not be used as justification for discouraging female participation.

Friday, June 20, 2008

In case you didn't know: Touch her arm

Telegraph:
Research shows that a man can significantly increase his pulling power by simply catching a woman's eye and lightly touching her arm.

A study at Aberdeen University found that two-thirds of women agreed to dance with a man who rested his hand on her arm for a second or two while making the request.

Women were also more likely to give their phone-number to a man who touched their arm as he approached them in the street.


Seems simple enough. Some single guy needs to try this out and report back.

Seems like a reasonable request

Telegraph:
Inmates at a prison in Paraguay have rioted because they want more sex.

Bilbo Baggins

Mrs. FLG and I have been meaning to eat there for a while, but have never gotten around to it. We walked passed it tonight. I want to have Frodo’s French Toast for brunch.

Website here

In case you didn't know: Teenagers are stupid

CNN:
A pact made by a group of teens to get pregnant and raise their babies together is at least partly behind a sudden spike in pregnancies at Gloucester High School, school officials said.

Principal Joseph Sullivan told Time magazine in a story published Wednesday that the girls confessed to making the pact after the school began investigating a rise in pregnancies that has left 17 girls at the school carrying a child. Normally, there are about four pregnancies a year at the school.

Finger pointing

IHT:
Delaying until autumn efforts to salvage the Lisbon Treaty, leaders of the European Union argued Friday over who was to blame for Ireland's no vote


How about blaming yourselves for writing such an annoying and long document that nobody wants to read and hence will not vote for? Nope. Too obvious.

The Civil Service

The following is FLG's take on the composition of the Federal Civil Service as determined from interaction with friends who are in the civil service and eavesdropping on civil service people riding the Metro:
50% well-meaning, lazy morons
40% not-so-well-meaning, lazy morons
10% smart, hard-working people who are frustrated by the other 90% and the inane bureaucratic environment they create.

Or using an alternate metric:
50% lost, drunken people who don't know where they are and no longer care
40% lost, drunken people who don't know where they are, but do care
10% people who know where they are and care, but don't drink.

I still can't believe they didn't hire me. However, I probably would have committed ritual Seppuku by now.

Travel Plans

FLG will be out of town over the Fourth of July Weekend.

Apologies to Miss Self Important

A recent post by Phoebe alerted me that my recent post on elite colleges is pretty much what Miss Self Important said:

The Russians Are Coming

I like to give credit where credit is due.

Rape as a Weapon of War and the Patriarchy

Most of the concern about rape as a weapon of war involves the victims, and rightly so. However, this focus on the victims also warps the analysis of the perpetrators of the attacks.

BBC:
"Survivors face emotional torment, psychological damage, physical injuries, disease, social ostracism and many other consequences that can devastate their lives," says Amnesty.

"Women's lives and their bodies have been the unacknowledged casualties of war for too long."


The consequences for the victims are presumed to be the goal of the rapist. To some extent this is true. The immediate physical satisfaction is obviously a motivation as well. However, I think it misses a broad, more fundamental and eternal motivation.

Women's bodies have become part of the terrain of conflict, according to a new report by Amnesty International.

Rape and sexual abuse are not just a by-product of war but are used as a deliberate military strategy, it says.

The opportunistic rape and pillage of previous centuries has been replaced in modern conflict by rape used as an orchestrated combat tool.


It has always been a deliberate military strategy. Communities, like individuals, are concerned first and foremost with their own survival and the survival of their children. Rape makes the survival of the community, as presently defined, difficult or impossible.

"In Bosnia systematic rape was used as part of the strategy of ethnic cleansing," it said.

"Women were raped so they could give birth to a Serbian baby."


The near universal existence of patriarchical societies is the direct result of the ambiguity surrounding paternity. Rape places the paternity of the children within the community in question. Therefore, it places the survival of the community itself into question. Or, more probably, it ensures that the community will forever bare the costs of the conquest. This is expressed most eloquently by Dennis Hopper in True Romance. (See video below.) In a very real sense it is like the apocryphal story of Rome salting the earth of Carthage, but rather than destroying the ability to grow crops for eternity it destroys the ability of the community to recreate itself biologically.

This is not to downplay the importance of the physical, psychological, and societal scars borne by the victims for rape, but a conception of rape as a weapon which is limited to the direct displays of power, humiliation, and physical gratification misses a larger reason for the use of rape as a weapon.


Quote of the day

Suderman:
Also, contrary to some depictions, Stanley Kubrick was not a filmmaker. He was a recluse with an occasional habit of massive, impressive cinematic undertakings.

The Lisbon Treaty

Many reasons have been offered for the Irish rejection of the Lisbon Treaty, as well as the French and Dutch rejections of the constitution before that -- xenophobia, economic concerns, unenlightened self-interest, etcetera, etcetera.

Here is the crucial point:
many -- including the Irish prime minister -- admit they haven't even read all of the document they're voting on.


I know why they haven't read it. It's 287 pages of legalese and vacuous progressive language.

Legalese example:
9) Article 7 shall be amended as follows:
(a) throughout the Article, the word "assent" shall be replaced by "consent", the reference to breach "of principles mentioned in Article 6(1)" shall be replaced by a reference to breach "of the values referred to in Article 1a", the words "of this Treaty" shall be replaced by "of the Treaties" and the word "Commission" shall be replaced by "European Commission";
Vacuous progressive language from Article 2:
5. In its relations with the wider world, the Union shall uphold and promote its values and interests and contribute to the protection of its citizens. It shall contribute to peace, security, the sustainable development of the Earth, solidarity and mutual respect among peoples, free and fair trade, eradication of poverty and the protection of human rights, in particular the rights of the child, as well as to the strict observance and the development of international law, including respect for the principles of the United Nations Charter.
Who the heck is going to read that crap?

The parsimonious U.S. Constitution, by contrast, can fit on one sheet of parchment. Unless and until the Eurocrats can limit their verbosity to less than 10 pages, they have no freakin' chance of passing the ghastly treaty-cum-constitution by referendum. Thank God.

You betta Czech yo-self..

before you wriggity-wreck yo-self.

BBC:
EU leaders are set to admit that the Czech Republic may not be able to ratify the Lisbon Treaty, which has already been rejected by the Irish.


Ha Ha!

Superheroes

Withywindle, if he was a superhero, would like to be named Dr. Conservative, and he would, thank goodness, destroy free verse poetry. For some reason, call me crazy, I bet the works of Cynewulf are the archetype of poetry in this alternative universe. Or maybe I am all wrong, and it goes back to the Greeks.

Also, on a related note, I always figured the superhero Withywindle would most like to be is Aquaman, but I guess when you are already a river there is no need to be an Atlantean superhero.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Animated FLG and GEC

FLG:


GEC:

Meet the Press

NYTimes:
NBC News executives, still reeling from the sudden death of Tim Russert on Friday, have yet to begin to grapple with the long-term question of who might replace him in his most visible role, as moderator of "Meet the Press." But they have decided that Brian Williams, anchor of "NBC Nightly News," will take Mr. Russert's place this Sunday, according to Allison Gollust, an NBC News spokeswoman. Mr. Williams recently returned from Afghanistan and is being replaced on "Nightly News" for the remainder of the week by Ann Curry.


I, for one, would like to see Ann Curry as the permanent host of "Nightly News." I will reserve judge regarding Mr. Williams' ability to host MTP until Sunday. Either way, Curry should host "Nightly News."

On the lam

NYTimes:
Mr. Israel’s abandoned GMC Envoy was found along a shoulder of the Bear Mountain Bridge near the Hudson River with the message “suicide is painless” written in dust on the hood. The keys and a bottle of pills were still in the car.

When Mr. Israel’s body failed to turn up and the message turned out to be the theme song of M*A*S*H, authorities quickly began to suspect he was on the run.


First, who doesn't know the name of the M*A*S*H theme is "Suicide is painless?" Second, the body not turning up takes time, which leads me to believe that the so called authorities 1) did not know the M*A*S*H theme and 2) they did not begin to suspect he was on the run quickly.

Note to authorities: If somebody writes "Da Plane! Da Plane!" on the hood of their car, then they probably weren't attacked by or left in a plane. They are going to Fantasy Island, which means goofin' on you.

Chicken without sexual life

CNN:
Local dishes like "Husband and wife's lung slice" or "Chicken without sexual life" conjure lots of furrowed eyebrows on famished foreigners.

So, with the Olympics a few short weeks away, China is giving its cuisine a linguistic makeover.

It is proposing that restaurants change the names of exotic, but bizarrely named, delicacies to make them more delectable for the estimated 50,000 visitors arriving in August for the Summer Games.


I'm adventurous and all, but I ain't eating anything called Chicken without sexual life. The changes are for the better.

Egghead Warriors

NYTimes:
Eager to embrace eggheads and ideas, the Pentagon has started an ambitious and unusual program to recruit social scientists and direct the nation’s brainpower to combating security threats like the Chinese military, Iraq, terrorism and religious fundamentalism.


I like the idea. However, it needs a slightly twisted classics professor.

Christinanity closing up shop?

Telegraph:
More than half of Britons think Christianity is likely to have disappeared from the country within a century, according to a survey.


First, do they really think the Church of England is going anywhere? Second, is this supposed to be a good thing?

In case you didn't know: bikinis make men stupid.

MSNBC:
though we might recognize this intuitively, there is some very important insight about sex and relationships, not to mention economics, to be gained from this latest research.

In the “bikini” experiments, Belgian researchers conducted a series of tests on 358 young men. In one test, the men looked at images of women in bikinis or lingerie and at images of landscapes. In another, some men were given T-shirts to handle and assess while others were given bras. Another batch of men was assigned to watch a commercial featuring men running over landscapes while other guys watched a video of “hundreds of young women, dressed in bikinis running across hills, fields and beaches.” (No word on whether they used “Baywatch” slo-mo).

In each test, the researchers offered the men the choice between being paid 15 euros immediately or bargaining for a larger sum that they'd be willing to wait a week or a month for. In all the tests, the men exposed to the sexy imagery or bras cited delayed reward amounts that were lower than the amounts cited by the men who saw sex-neutral imagery. For example, while a man who looked at landscapes might have demanded an extra payment of 10 euros a month later (totaling 25), the bikini-gazer might have been willing to settle for five extra (totaling 20). The sexy imagery did not work on all men all the time, but, as a group, men with sex on their brains settled for a less lucrative bargain, suggesting they were more impulsive and valued immediate gratification more than the controls.

France and Rhodes

When I said France should become a modern day Rhodes, I didn't mean internet pirates.

Quote of the day

Telegraph:

"It can't be too cheffy," said [Gordon Ramsay].

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Kiss Me I'm Irish

City Journal:
Another explanation for the Irish “no” vote was that Irish citizens had been frightened by the proposal of the French finance minister to equalize tax rates throughout Europe, thus destroying unfair competition (all competition is unfair, unless the French win).

In case you didn't know: The weak economy hurts hookers

Newsweek:

Sex for money may be recession resistant but it's not recession proof.


No wonder sex with inanimate objects appears to be skyrocketing.

Sex with Cheetos

Video evidence.

Creating new tag for these: object sex

HT: Ace of Spades HQ

Followup to "Grad Students... hmmph"

In a previous post, FLG gave us his take on what most grad students are like. I'd like to think I'm in category #3. Former students I don't blog with may disagree. (Exhibit 1 for the prosecution: I often send out this link and others from the same page to students around test or paper time). Ones with whom I do blog may as well, but never let it be said FLG isn't decent enough to pretend otherwise. 

As for whether it's a fair characterization of my colleagues ... here's my modification of FLG's distribution:

1. 50% confused and uninteresting, generally harmless kids who got straight A's in their major and decided they'd like to stay gainfully semi-employed and be paid to read for a living. They should have gone to law school, saved the whales, or done i-banking--anything but try to get a Ph.D.

2. 30% assholes who haven't yet realized they're not that smart, most of whom will eventually either mellow out and morph into the professorial version of #3 below, or drop out and go to law school.

3. 10% generally uninteresting but nerdy and thoughtful people who will muddle through every requirement, publish enough, and are usually either very good teachers or very good writers but a real bore at the other.

4. 5% assholes who are very talented at both teaching and writing and end up at the top of their profession (the most irritating species).

5. ~4.9% people who are talented writers, decent people, and good teachers.

6. >0.1% people who will either demonstrate their profound genius or be pushing a mop the rest of their life (may or may not have the personal characteristics of categories 4 & 5)

Categories 4 & 5 make an impression on their students and are either loved or hated. The rest are eminently forgettable. 

I think I've only met 2 or 3 full-fledged members of category 6. They deserve an essay all to themselves. Or extended fictional development in a novel. Another time...

And for those who haven't seen it, I give you the chronicle of doctoral education: Ph.D. Comics.

Thank goodness scientists are so smart

Guardian:
We know enough to say with confidence that deep ocean disposal of CO2 is certainly feasible, but unless small-scale pilot experiments are conducted, information necessary to assess the impact on the macro abyssal biota will remain obscure.


Let me translate from science nerd into English:
We are pretty fucking sure that we can put pipes into the ocean and pump CO2 down to the bottom. However, unless we put pipes into the ocean and pump CO2 down to the bottom we will have no fucking clue what happens to the plants and animals down there.


You mean we have to put CO2 at the bottom of the ocean to see what happens if we put CO2 at the bottom of the ocean? I figured wild ass guesses as to what would happen would suffice. Thank goodness you PhD-types are on the job.

Coup for sale

IHT:

The tale of the plot to overthrow the government of Equatorial Guinea in 2004 was so improbable that it sounded like something out of a tale from the tropics too outlandish even for Graham Greene.

It was, as outlined in a series of court cases and breathless news articles, a steamy stew of British upper-crusters concocting a scheme on behalf of a reclusive financier to use mercenaries to overthrow the tin pot dictator of a tiny, mineral-rich African nation for fun and profit - or, as the conspirators' argot put it, "a large splodge of wonga."

But as the trial of Simon Mann, an old Etonian and veteran of the elite Special Air Service unit of the British Army, got under way Tuesday in the West African nation, fact has proved as strange as fiction, if not stranger.


It's a very fascinating story if you haven't been following it.

UK votes for EU

BBC:
The UK has effectively ratified the EU's reform treaty - despite the decision by Irish voters to reject it.

A last-ditch Tory bid to delay the process for four months was defeated by a margin of 93, and peers later gave the EU Amendment Bill a third reading.


This is really bad. The UK needs to have a referendum. If MPs were worried that the people would reject the treaty, then they shouldn't have been schumcks and moved ahead anyway, especially when Blair promised a referendum.

Overseas Taxation

The Salinas post reminded me of this article in The Economist:
Because of pending legislation on President Bush's desk that is expected to become law by June 16th, any American who wants to surrender his passport has only a few days to do so before facing an enormous penalty.

That penalty is buried in an innocuous piece of legislation with the veto-proof name, Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax (HEART) act. The new law means active American soldiers will benefit from tax relief. To pay for that, Congress has turned on expats, especially those who, since new tax laws in 2006, have become increasingly eager to give up their citizenship to escape the taxman.


Why would an American want to renounce their citizenship?

Along with citizens of North Korea and a few other countries, Americans are taxed based on their citizenship, rather than where they live. So they usually pay twice—to their host country and the Internal Revenue Service. As this makes citizenship less palatable, Congress has erected large barriers to stop them jumping ship. In 1996 it forced people who renounced citizenship to continue paying income taxes for an extra ten years. Theoretically, the new law allows for a cleaner break.


Defending Americans overseas who want to give up their citizenship over taxes is not the easiest job, but I will try.


First, they shouldn't be taxed while living and working overseas because they aren't using any US government services. Granted, in the event of an international crisis the Marines will come, but that is not a big deal.

Second, it doesn't make sense to discourage Americans to gain overseas work experience, or to encourage Americans working overseas to renounce their citizenship through tax policy. We need people to go overseas and come back to maintain our economic, diplomatic, and political strength as a nation.


Lastly, any American citizen should be able to renounce their citizenship for any reason and at anytime during business hours. America, unlike most other nations, is not ethno-nationalist. It is based upon a set of ideals. One of which is a resistance to excessive taxation. Therefore, renouncing American citizenship because of taxation is a very American thing to do. Moreover, taxation is a matter of public policy and as such is reasonable grounds to break from a country. Nevertheless, and regardless of the reasons, citizens should, as a matter of principle, be allowed to reject their citizenship without financial or political consequence.

In conclusion, we should stop taxing people who live and work overseas. Also, we should allow citizens to dissolve their ties to the United States regardless of the reasons.

Raul Salinas

BBC:
Switzerland is to hand over to Mexico $74m from frozen bank accounts of the brother of former Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari.

Money from Raul Salinas's accounts was being returned because it had criminal origins, Swiss authorities said.


This is probably only interesting to me because I wrote a paper on the case. It's a fascinating case.

Grad Students...hmmph

McArdle:
"Everyone thinks they know everything when they're in graduate school." He paused. "You're lucky you got over it. A lot of people never do."

is it worth talking to graduate students in this stage? Can one take the ones who share one's ideological convictions quietly aside and advise them to wait a few more years before unleashing their newfound brilliance upon a waiting word? Can one, through gentle and respectful argument, convince the less ideologically congenial ones to behave like adults? Can one save them from the usual course of disillusionment, which is repeated humiliation at the hands of people who are not quite as dumb as they had assumed?


There are three types of grad students as I see it:
  1. Assholes. (40%)
  2. Temporary assholes. (50%)
  3. Those immune to assholedom (10%)
GEC may disagree.

The Rainbow Connection

Taken with my cell phone on the Key Bridge this evening.

 
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