Saturday, January 27, 2007

Friday, January 26, 2007

Drive by BDS

Heh. I love it... Someone came and left this comment to an old post:
Anonymous said...

Beacause it is a fact, worse. president. ever.

Does that sentence even make sense? No, no it doesn't. Does it relate to the post? No. no, not really. My question was not why do the T-shirts in question exist, but rather, why do they think that they'll get money by advertising said T-Shirts on my website?

In any case. I love the commenter, and I hope that the person sticks around to drop more pearls of wisdom in my direction...


Why is Greece getting hit by terrorists all of a sudden? What has changed in the past several months?

If anyone knows/has a theory, please share. I'll look into the issue more and get back to you all.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Picture of the Day (after a long hiatus)

These pictures are beautiful: (Click the pic., slick)

You can go here too.

Recommended Reading (of the normally Humorous variety)

Go read Frank J.'s surprisingly serious (and well put) column on one-issue conservative crybabies. (The title is "The Main Challenge Facing Conservatives Today Is for Them to Stop Being a Bunch of Hysterical Little Girls") It's great. I'm just disappointed that he sacrificed his usual high level of humor content to make a valid and excellent but serious point.

And then go read the Dilbert blog's post on "Flip-flopper Season." That one's funny, but I don't agree with it as much. I think you'll see why after you read it. If you don't see why and you still care, ask me to explain more.

Terror-Free Oil

This list is depressing. It's a list of companies that don't use oil from the middle-east, which this group says makes them "terror-free." The only two companies that don't use any oil from the middle east are the Hess Corp and Yukos. The listing for Hess has a note which says they do get oil from Algeria (the home of the GSPC which just allied itself with Al Qaida International and refreshed it's declaration of Jihad on France) and Yukos is a Russian oil company that is increasingly being controlled by the Russian government (and isn't available in North America anyway). WHoo-hooo.

So, basically, there are no good oil companies to buy from. This has long been a problem. However, I take issue with their definition of "terror-free." I haven't found a long defense of their definition, so perhaps I'm missing something, but not all states in the Middle East support and encourage terrorism, and not all states outside that area are blameless.

There are no good places to get oil from. The more people realize this, the more acceptable alternative energy will be. The only oil company I'm willing to boycott is Citgo, because of Chavez. Though lately I've been thinking that this boycott might actually succeed in kicking him out of power, at which point I would miss his frequent and hilarious outbursts. I'm currently trying to weigh the benefits of a Chavezless Venezuela to us and them against the costs of my personal enjoyment. I'm sure I won't buy gas from them soon, but I will miss his press releases if we ever kick him out.

Some baseball longing

I love baseball, and every year right around now (now being the day after the patriots are out of the patriots) I start longing for spring training.

So, here's a baseball themed post.

One of my favorite Red Sox players, Trot Nixon, is no longer with us. Boo. He was a hard player, and he came up through the Red Sox farm system as well. He was never a superstar, perhaps, but he did give his all everyday, which is maybe why he ended up on the DL so often. Now he plays for the Indians. I guess we did owe them something for Manny.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

I like chicago, by the way

Here's something from the Chicago Boys blog...good stuff, good point.

Stupid Pimps

Not a good video to watch. Here's the reference.

Monday, January 15, 2007

This is Torture

His legs were beaten by planks of wood. A drill had been used to bore holes into all of his ribs, his elbows, his knees, and into his head. Doctors estimated the man endured this torture for days. Apparently when the fun was over, or they’d extracted what they needed, or the terrorists were worried about being discovered, or they had another victim waiting for their attentions, they shot him.
From Michael Yon.

And, a look at the contrast between our troops and theirs:

But for those who are truly fighting, this is a brutal death match where every mistake can get them killed, or make worldwide headlines. Yet when the enemy drills out eyes or tortures people with acid, it never resonates.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

best dilbert I've read so far in a while


And, this is a good close second.

If the Economist says it...

It must be true. And I repeat it cause I want to hear it!


Go read Yon's embeded piece. Him and Bill Roggio are always worth a read.

The Washpo and the Minimum Wage

Please, read this and let me complain about it. The first comment is that it's a public interest story about a serious issue. That practically guarantees that the story is going to be distorted. As it turns out, I wasn't disappointed. Well, I was, but I was right that the story would be distorted.

Quote: "Passage is expected, with Senate approval soon to follow, and if President Bush signs the resulting bill into law, as he indicated he would, the U.S. minimum wage would rise for the first time since 1997, ending a debate about whether such a raise would be good or bad for the economy."

(Me:) The last part of that quote is stupid. I mean technically it would end the debate, it just wouldn't resolve it. It would end the debate in the senate, I guess. But that's not the point.

Quote: At the store where he got the money order, the worries are about Wal-Mart, which not only supports an increase but also built a Supercenter on the edge of town that has been sucking up customers since it opened three years ago.

(Me:) Go Washpo! Way to distort the relationship between Walmart and the rest of the world! Good work!

Quote: "As for Iles -- who keeps $70 out of every paycheck to cover two weeks' worth of food and gas and in a matter of minutes was already down to $26.54 -- his worry was as basic as how fast to drive home."

(Me:) If he keeps 70 dollars out of every paycheck, at 7.25, then he's getting paid of ten hours of work. If the washpost wants to imply that 70 hours of his work is getting taken by the government, I'm all for it. However, what they're really saying is that he's made choices that force him to spend 400 dollars a month on a brand new car, along with the car insurance necessary for that brand new car.
He does lives with his parents, which this confuses the issue for everyone.
It's very true that raising the minimum wage would buy a teenager more chimichangas and gas.
And, since that person would also be me, I'm all for it...however, I don't really think it's a good idea.

(note: they later explain what he spends his money on, but that's fishy for other reasons that I'll deal with then.)

Quote: "The debate about the minimum wage usually comes down to jobs. If Congress approves the increase, it will result in raises for an estimated 13 million Americans, or about 9 percent of the total workforce."

(My friend says:) I just can't believe how people think it's a magic formula, like money just comes out of nowhere or out of the pockets of the greedy capitalists.
(Me:) 9 percent of the workforce does not get paid the minimum wage, they must be thinking that people just above the 7.25 line will get paid more too...

(note: they later explained that the 9% figure also included people who were paid around the minimum wage. Which is around 7 million jobs out of the 12 million they were citing. Warning: I really estimated the numbers here. They are close enough)

Quote: "At the store where Iles works, for instance, the owner thinks the minimum wage should be increased as a moral issue but worries about which employees' hours he will have to cut to compensate.
At the store where he bought the chimichangas, the cashier who makes $6.25 worries that a raise will force her out of her subsidized apartment and onto the street.
At the convenience store where he bought gas, the owner worries that he will have to either raise prices, angering his customers, or make less money, "and why would I want to make less money?""

(My friend:) Yeah, oh, I love that.
(me:) Read that last part, especially. Could they try to make the "capitalist" look bad in a more blatant way? The first part is good... and the second part is proof that the government should stay out of welfare programs - if that girl were living in an apartment provided by the church or the rotary club, or the progressive party or whatever, then she wouldn't get forced out until she could support herself.
(My friend:) Right, which they (the charity) would know because they're actually there on the ground.

Quote: "A onetime Wal-Mart vice president, Bower moved back to Atchison several years ago to teach and ended up buying the old J.C. Penney store, and now runs a business where the meaning of a dollar is displayed on shelf after shelf. The jar of Peter Piper's Hot Dog Relish? That's what a dollar is worth. The Wolfgang Puck Odor Eliminator that a customer was looking at as she said to a friend, "I just don't know how I'm ever going to make it. My ex-husband's not paying his child support"? That's a dollar, too, as is the home pregnancy test, the most shoplifted item in the store."

Comment: Presented without comment.

Quote:"Soon after, he bought his car, a used 2005 Dodge Neon, and just about every workday since then he has spent his lunch break in the driver's seat, eating a bologna sandwich with the engine off to save gas, even in winter."

(me:) shouldn't he be doing that anyway, to keep us all from dying from global warming?

Quote:"Bill Murphy, who said that if he had the chance to talk to new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, he would ask one question. "Where does she think the money will come from? And that is the question," he said. "My wages are going to go up 10 percent.""
"Employees at $7.25 will want $8.25. Those at $8.25 will want $9.25. Economists classify such workers as the ones who would be indirectly affected by a minimum-wage increase. Of the estimated 13 million workers expected to get raises, 7.4 million are in that category. "

(me:)Good work Bill! And this is where they explain the nine percent thing. With 300 million people in this country, why are we making life hard for everyone to benefit 13 million? Especially since the jury is far from unanimous that it would actually help those people.
(my friend:) I like how the broke entrepreneur is going to be even worse off after they do this

Quote: "And yet he will pay it, he said, and compensate with price increases, which he worries will be inflationary, even though most economists say that won't happen. He will raise prices, he continued, because the only other option would be to earn less money, which he doesn't want to do because he owes $1.5 million on his businesses and wouldn't want to default."

(Me:) Bingo, my friend.
At this point, my friend went into spasms and used words inappropraite for the context of this blog. However, I am here to sumarize his points. He said: "We should just raise the Earned income tax credit! That's exactly like giving a raise to everyone who falls under the poverty level, doesn't cost our employers any more, and doesn't really cost the government that much money. What little it costs (because people in that tax bracket pay precious little in taxes already, in fact, the EITC is a negative tax for some, meaning they always get a refund.) would be offset by the savings in welfare because less people would need it." And then he said:
(my friend:) AND FIX OUR SCHOOLS!!

(me:) but that concept is too difficult to explain to people. On a related mater, I would like the washpo to explain to me how most economists think that a minimum wage hike will not cause inflation... at least an inflation like effect on the people affected by the wage hike. Though this inflationary affect would only exist for the short term, the rise in prices and decline in real wages would be permanent.
(My friend:) So, the thing people do to try to help actually ends up hurting the people it was supposed to help. Who could have see that coming?

Quote: "Wal-Mart won't say how many of those workers earn less than what the new minimum wage would be, but if the Atchison store is an example, starting pay is $6 an hour. Nonetheless, in October 2005, Wal-Mart chief executive H. Lee Scott Jr. said in a speech that the "U.S. minimum wage of $5.15 an hour has not been raised in nearly a decade, and we believe it is out of date with the times." He went on to say, "Our customers simply don't have the money to buy basic necessities between paychecks.""

(Me:) A whole decade! The minimum wage hasn't been raised in a whole decade! I didn't realize it was so out of date! Now I agree with raising it! We should put it at 10 dollars! It's been ten years!

Quote: "When it comes to Wal-Mart, however, just about any announcement that affects public policy is greeted with suspicion, and that has been the case with the minimum wage. Some have said that Wal-Mart, in need of good publicity, is supporting an increase for public relations reasons; others have declared it an attempt to drive small, independently owned stores out of business."

(Me:) That translates from lefty-talk to: Wal-mart is evil, even when they agree with me...

Quote (Out of order): "Seven dollars and twenty-five cents an hour equals $15,080 per year, and out of that comes $313 for the car loan and $100 for car insurance, Iles said, going over his monthly bills. An additional $90 for the 1995 car with 135,000 miles on it that he is buying from a friend for his mother, $150 for the family phone bills, $35 on his credit card, $100 for gas, $100 toward the mortgage on the trailer. "That's about it. Oh yeah, $20 in doctors' bills," he said, and totaled it up on fingers scarred by surgical stitches. Nine hundred and eight dollars. "I bring home 900 a month," he said. "So I very rarely have any money for myself.""

(me:) This is where they explain what he spends his money one. And, by the way, even though he didn't have insurance, he seems to have gotten a good deal on paying for his doctor's bills. He owes 8000, which at 20 dollars a month will take him 33 years to pay it off without interest, which is how long he is supposed to pay for it. Sounds like he got a good deal.

(me:) This situation is hardly generic, or representative.
(My friend:) All of this is an argument for charity, not for poorly thought-out gov't interventions

The closing quote: "Life at $7.25. Should that be the minimum wage? "Yes," Iles said. Even if it hurts job opportunities for people like him, as Dennis Garrett had suggested? "Yes." Or causes price increases, as Bill Murphy had suggested? "Yes." Or damages businesses such as Always Low Prices? "I mean, it's tough for me, and I'm already making $7.25 an hour." Or causes Jack Bower to reduce hours for one of his employees? Perhaps for Iles himself? "It's just so hard for people. I mean, it's hard," Iles said, and then he went to work."

(me:) Well, I guess that seals the deal! We should do it based on the advice of an undereducated person working for the minimum wage! I could also comment on why I think this family came to the country illegally - strike that, use "without documents" instead - because they aren't getting welfare for an obviously disabled family member, but I don't think I will. Because this one young man is supporting a family of three while getting paid the minimum wage. It's not exactly pretty, but it works. And, he's young and will only get raises.

Note - The illegal angle could be a big deal here, but it's these types of people that I'm ok with welcoming to my country. He should have waited for the papers, but he's obviously willing to work hard and overcome serious hurdles to succeed. There are many born-here-as-citizens Americans that would give up and start taking welfare long before they were in this situation. And I think that makes him someone to be admired, not kicked.

Best Story of the day

Because of the last line. I know it makes us look kind of stupid to the rest of the world, but it is high-larious.

Chavez is an Idiot, No. 31783

Yet another reason to not buy gas at Citgo...

Does anyone else know of companies that are owned by the Venezuelan government that I could avoid as easily as Citgo?

I'm an evil person

I guess. Because I can't think of anything to say to this story, except "Cool. Maybe he'll die and we can start to fix things in Burma."

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


It bothers me to no end that I have adds to "anti-bush t-shirts" on my site. I don't pick them, but they show up based on what I'm posting. Am I doing something wrong? I mean, Bush isn't my favorite president (that would be Teddy Roosevelt), but neither do I think he's totally screwed the whole world up. How, exactly, do those Google word algorithms that figure out which adds to sell for my site pick their topics?

So, I repeat the question, am I doing something wrong?

Thoughts on Islam

These are spawned by the comments on this post over at Althouse. She's still on the old blogger, so it's slow going and hard to post comments. But whatever, I still like the site.

So, I posted a comment over there saying that I thought it would be ok for Muslims to use the old mosque in Cordoba to pray if they want to...I'm assuming that some moderates are making this request, and someone rightly called me on the assumption. PatCA, if you're reading this, I assume that there are moderates making the request because most Muslims in the world don't want to kill everyone who disagrees with them, which makes them moderates. This not wanting to kill everyone strain of Islam is very prevalent (in many parts of the world) in Spain. So, while there may be some radicals making the same request, there are probably more moderates, just because of the way numbers and percentages work. I have no proof of this, so I could easily be wrong. However, I'm probably not. Thanks for getting my tag-name right. I know it's just a copy-paste thing, but others in the comments over there were not so perceptive.

Others say that since the building is owned by the Catholic Church, they have the right to not allow others to use the property. Very true. I'm not disputing that. However, I do think that since the Church wants to open dialog with the Muslims, there is no reason they can't take a first step like allowing some Muslims to use the mosque on Friday, when it's probably usually closed, given the Spanish tourist schedules (which are strange, I know). If they decide not to, that is within their right, however, it's also within my rights to disagree with that decision, and I do.

The building is HUGE! and most of it is still in the same form as it was when the Christians moved in. The place where the building was built used to be a place where Roman's made sacrifices to their gods. In fact, the rocks they used to build that site were lying around the area when the Muslims went to build their stuff, so they used a lot of it. I think that's cool. The ground underneath the building changed hands many times before the existing structure was raised while the Muslims controlled Spain and called it Al-Andalus. It got expanded many times, and now is big enough to have over 1000 columns, spaced 'bout ten feet apart (note the bad grammar to go along with the most likely bad estimation), which should give you some idea of about how big it is.

Actually, you should add about 150 columns and space for them in the middle, because when the Christians legitimately reconquered the territory that the mosque stood on, they took out those columns and built a Church Cathedral type "nave" in the middle. We should thank ourselves for this, because it probably added to the structural integrity of the whole building. However, there is much, much mosque space located around the Cathedral space in the middle. It's beautiful to look at, walk around in, and pray in, but it's not used much during the Saturday/Sunday service, to my knowledge. (I'm a protestant, and since I can't really take mass with catholics, I didn't go to services at Catholic Churches while I was in Spain.).

My point is, there is plenty of space for everyone. The Christian religion wants to be known as the one of tolerance, and I think they could make an exception to their (good) rules about allowing other faiths to hold services in their cathedrals in this instance. If they wanted to nit-pick, only the area in the middle is really a Catholic Church, and the area around it just happens to work well for Muslims services - Something to think about.

To the people who brought up the Haggia Sophia - I lament this loss, as you do. When the Muslims took over this chapel, they changed many of the decorations and ruined lots of the mosaics. Then they used it as a mosque for a long time. This is too bad. However, it is no longer used explicitly as a mosque, and is instead a museum, where all faiths are welcome. This is good, and I really, really want to go there.

I think it would be nice if the Muslims learned from our example and opened up their holy sites to visitors where that would be appropriate and desirable for all involved. For example, there is no need to open up mecca - the pagans that revered that site don't really exist anymore, so it's pretty exclusively the Muslims territory. The dome of the rock is built on the territory of the Ancient Temple, and while it would be nice if Jews could visit, you can't really say that it is the old Temple, as is the case in Cordoba. That's a much thornier issue, and not really parallel to this one.

However, in general, the commenter's over there are rather disturbing. I mean, they're legitimate opinions, I guess, just not ones I would subscribe to. Most of the commenters that I read (I read most, but not all, of the nearly 100ish comments) seemed to think that there was no hope for a peaceful co-existence with Islam. Now, I'm second to none in my belief that we have to be extremely careful of radical Islam, and that it's possible that co-existence with them is impossible. However, they are far from a majority. There are many sects that could be classified as "radical" and worthy of watching, but Islam, at it's roots, is not evil.

I take it for granted that most people would like to find the moderate Muslims and work with them...we don't have to look that hard, mostly just around the corner. But we have to make sure we're not confuse ourselves that the version of Islam that the media alludes to most often is the version of Islam that is most prevalent. It may be the loudest (with the biggest BOOMing voices, perhaps), but it's not the biggest.

It disappoints me that the people calling for Muslims to be more tolerant and not blow stuff up are not willing to give most Muslims the benefit of the doubt themselves.

You are of course welcome to disagree with me, and I welcome the comments below that I can argue with.

UPDATE: There is, of course, a benefit to allowing Muslims to hold services in this particular Mosque/Cathedral Hybrid, alongside Christians, and as long as they don't interfere with the Christian worship that happens inside. The Catholic Church, as the owners of the property, would have tremendous influence over which Imam's get to preach inside their property. The Imam who teaches at this particular Mosque (one of the biggest in the world) would recieve tremendous publicity and influence, just because they taught at the only Mosque in the world that shared a physical space with a Christian Cathedral. Not all of this publicity would be approving, but the message would get out. This is an excellent way to find the "moderate" Muslims and give them a voice and a platform. I think this plan is a win/win for the Christian Faith and moderate Muslims...

We get two

Some good news in the terrorism world. Two down, but many still to go...

And Chavez is still a jerk.

Monday, January 08, 2007

A poem

I want to share this poem that I found in my Russian Lit class...

Velimir Khlevnikov -

We chant and enchant,
Oh charming enchantment!
No raving, no ranting,
No canting enchantment!
This ranting enchantress
Has cast her enchantment -
We see what her chant meant!
Here rant! There cant!
You charming enchanter,
Cast out her enchantment,
Uncast it, uncant it,
Discast it, Discant it,
DescantL Decant! Recant!
He can't. She can't.
Why can't she recant?
Why can't he uncant?
Ranting chanting,
No recanting.
Discant, descant.

The poet who wrote it was trying to cast off the chains of the artists and poets who had come before him...and in this poem he's rejecting the idea of a "Muse"
I just want to say that I won't be following the advice from this line "No raving, no ranting," but I think we bloggers can adapt it as a rejection of the old MSM and it's rigid structure of providing opinions to the masses. So there, descant yourself, CNN!

Sunday, January 07, 2007


When are they going to learn? And why don't we have an Israel in the area that can bomb their stuff back to the stone age?

Saturday, January 06, 2007

I'm intrigued by this post at Free Exchange, a blog from the Economist, and the comment there.

The post mentions that the Stern Report on Global Warming uses a 0% discount for future human lives when calculating the costs and benefits of a particular action. Normally, an economist decides that when calculating benefits accruing in the future, a discount is used because of the uncertainty of the situation. It's possible that something unrelated will happen and the benefits will disappear, or the effect of our action will be different from what we expected.

However, this is kind of a moral dilemma for actions that would end up to be a close call. For example, should we ignore global warming now and cause huge costs to future generations, or should we sacrifice a huge amount of our current wealth/production capability, to make sure that those people don't have to pay the far higher costs?
Even if we need to pay half of what we produce every year to fix global warming forever, that cost is still far less than the price paid by our descendants if we do nothing. However, because we're the one paying the price, we dither about it.

I think that's not a good idea, and we should spend the money now to fix the problem for later. However, not enough people listen to me. It's not even that we'd have to spend all that much, really, if everyone made their efforts. And, the sooner we start, the less work we have to do, which will be spread out over a greater time span. Everything is better if we don't procrastinate (and please don't let my teachers ever hear that I said that)

But whatever. That's not really the point of the post over there, though it is interesting, and necessary background.

The point is that, if we refuse to discount the cost/benefits to future humans for global warming, we should do it for other social issues as well. Such as, the deficit. Cleaning up the Middle East and Africa. Solving AIDS (have I hit everything yet? No). And, abortion.

The minimum cost to the mother of carrying out the pregnancy is 9ish months of her life spent carrying a fetus in her belly, which is awkward, and probably costs more for food, plus a bit for lost work. Remember, the mother could always give up the child immediately after birth, so we shouldn't count costs of child rearing in this. The benefits of going through all this are those of being a mother, which is a questionable benefit (evidently) to some people. The cost of an abortion (at least early on) is pretty small, and the benefits are not having to go through with the pregnancy. However, if we include the costs and benefits that accrue to the potential human at a zero discount, they almost certainly outweigh the costs to the mother. Being alive, at any price, is better than not being alive.

So, I think I like this zero-discounting for human lives...and it should not be selectively enforced. However, I'm not sure if the guy who commented has a valid point or not. I think he's trying to worm his way out of the inevitable conclusion in terms of abortion, but he might be right about this individual case.

He says that using a 0% discount for a bunch of people is ok, but you can't use it to predict cost/benefits for individuals. In a general sense, it works, but individuals are too complicated to analyze like that, so we need to discount for probability, or even just use a different method to weigh our options.

I'm not sure this is valid. I think that the cost/benefits that we are doing (where alive = better than dead, either from and abortion or death caused by global warming) can be used in the case of individuals, so it works for this point. Does anyone agree with him, or understand him better than I do?

Update: There are now lots of comments. I'm talking about the one by

Thursday, January 04, 2007

I just wanted to share...

That I still want Condi to run. Can you see anyone else worth voting for? I don't want to make the mistake the democrats did in 2004 and vote for someone I think will be "electable." I'm still young and idealist, so I want to vote for someone I can be excited about. Hence, go Condi. Boo everyone else. Mostly.

Short Answer: YES!

From a commenter over at C and S (one of the new blog's I blogrolled):

is this another example of why we win?

i honestly feel, this plastic pig could be a better US SENATOR than Rodham, Schumer, Boxer, Leahy, Kennedy, Kerry, Dodd, Reid, Biden, etc...

that's honestly feel(sic)...

Here's the link.

Finally, ben Wakes Up

So, I've been busy the past few weeks. I think I made up for it by updating the blog. I've added a bunch of links and moved a few things around. Let me know how you feel about it, if you'd like to.

Also, I've been remiss in posting the rest of my paper. I do this because I don't think it's working out as a series of blog posts. If you think differently, let me know. If you'd just like to read the whole thing, here it is.

Has anyone ever used google doc's before? I'd like some reviews if you have...