Battlepanda: January 2007


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

McDonald's coffee beats Starbucks

I've been saying it for some time, but now I have Consumer Reports on my side. Starbucks makes lousy coffee.
They may be unlikely competitors, but McDonald's is giving Starbucks a run for its money when it comes to coffee.

According to a report published in Consumer Reports magazine, McDonald's serves up a better cup of joe than the mega coffee chain.

Testers compared a medium cup of black coffee from McDonald's, Burger King, Dunkin' Donuts and Starbucks. They found the best cup of java under the golden arches.

The magazine said McDonald's coffee was "decent and moderately strong" while the coffee from Starbucks "was strong, but burnt."
"Burnt." That's exactly the way I'd describe Starbucks' coffee.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The big C

Have we cured cancer?
Here's the deal. Researchers at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada found a cheap and easy to produce drug that kills almost all cancers. The drug is dichloroacetate, and since it is already used to treat metabolic disorders, we know it should be no problem to use it for other purposes.

Doesn't this sound like the kind of news you see on the front page of every paper?

The drug also has no patent, which means it could be produced for bargain basement prices in comparison to what drug companies research and develop.

Scientists tested DCA on human cells cultured outside the body where it killed lung, breast and brain cancer cells, but left healthy cells alone. Rats plump with tumors shrank when they were fed water supplemented with DCA.

Again, this seems like it should be at the top of the nightly news, right?

Cancer cells don't use the little power stations found in most human cells - the mitochondria. Instead, they use glycolysis, which is less effective and more wasteful.

Doctors have long believed the reason for this is because the mitochondria were damaged somehow. But, it turns out the mitochondria were just dormant, and DCA starts them back up again.

The side effect of this is it also reactivates a process called apoptosis. You see, mitochondria contain an all-too-important self-destruct button that can't be pressed in cancer cells. Without it, tumors grow larger as cells refuse to be extinguished. Fully functioning mitochondria, thanks to DCA, can once again die.

With glycolysis turned off, the body produces less lactic acid, so the bad tissue around cancer cells doesn't break down and seed new tumors.

Here's the big catch. Pharmaceutical companies probably won't invest in research into DCA because they won't profit from it. It's easy to make, unpatented and could be added to drinking water. Imagine, Gatorade with cancer control.

So, the groundwork will have to be done at universities and independently funded laboratories. But, how are they supposed to drum up support if the media aren't even talking about it?

All I can do is write this and hope Google News picks it up. In the meantime, tell everyone you know and do your own research.

Whether or not the cancer cure is real, the problem outlined is a big one. Food for thought.

Anti-Darwin awards

People who have remained in the gene pool due to their incompetence.
A Taoyuan County couple who could not get their parents' blessing to marry split up after three failed attempts to commit suicide together, a Chinese-language newspaper reported yesterday.

A man identified only as Lin (林), 30, had been dating a woman surnamed Lee (李) for a year and wanted to marry her, the Liberty Times (the Taipei Times' sister newspaper) reported.

But both sets of parents were opposed to the marriage, so Lin and Lee decided to commit suicide, the report said.

Over the weekend, the pair checked into a Taipei County hotel, determined to commit suicide by burning charcoal. However, the smoke detector in their room went off and hotel staff expelled them from the hotel, the report said.

The pair checked into another hotel. This time they wrapped a towel around the smoke detector, but the alarm still went off, and again they were forced to leave by staffers, who feared a suicide would bring bad luck to the hotel.

The couple decided to return home, but quarreled in the car. Lee scratched Lin, and Lin hit Lee. When they got to Taoyuan County, they went to the police station to press charges against each other, putting an end to their relationship.
Have they considered actually, um, just getting married without their parent's blessing and forgoing all this romeo and juliet drama? Sigh.

Having said that, I would have really have like to hear the conversation in that car.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Friday Catblogging

Panther lounging in the sunshine.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

"Take your medicine"

I would have missed this article altogether if somebody didn't push it over at the new newsblog, because I'm not exactly a regular visiter of ESPN, but wow. It's a terrific piece on the Genarlaw Wilson case, which if you remember concerned a promising 17 year old who got ten years for recieving oral sex from a 15 year old due to a dumb-as-shit Georgia law.

The part that really sent chills down my spine was the bit with Barker, the prosecuter in the case. His "cry uncle or we'll be within our rights to break your arms" attitude has nothing to do with justice and everything to do with the kind of ugly, powertripping bastard he is:
"We didn't want him to get the 10 years," he says. "We understand there's an element out there scratching their heads, saying, 'How does a kid get 10 years under these facts?' "

In Barker's eyes, Wilson should have taken the same plea agreement as the others. Maintaining innocence in the face of the crushing wheels of justice is the ultimate act of vanity, he believes.

"I understand what he's saying," Barker says. "I think he's making a bad decision in the long run. Being branded a sex offender is not good; but at the same time, if it made the difference between spending 10 years as opposed to two? Is it worth sitting in prison for eight more years, and you're still gonna be a sex offender when you get out?"

Barker is quick to point out that he offered Wilson a plea after he'd been found guilty -- the first time he has ever done that. Of course, the plea was the same five years he'd offered before the trial -- not taking into account the rape acquittal. Barker thinks five years is fair for receiving oral sex from a schoolmate. None of the other defendants insisted on a jury trial. Wilson did. He rolled the dice, and he lost. The others, he says, "took their medicine."

While Bernstein works on every possible legal solution, the Douglas County District Attorney's Office has the power to get Wilson out of prison. If the prosecution wanted, this could all end tomorrow. The D.A.'s office says Bernstein hasn't asked. Bernstein says she has. Not that any legal he said/she said matters. Only the prosecutors' opinion does, and according to at least one legal expert, prosecutorial ego is more of a factor in this case than race. The folks in Douglas County are playing god with Genarlow Wilson's life.

"We can set aside his sentence," Barker says. "Legally, it's still possible for us to set aside his sentence and give him a new sentence to a lesser charge. But it's up to us. He has no control over it."

The position of Barker and the district attorney, McDade, who refused to comment, is that Wilson is guilty under the law and there is no room for mercy, though the facts seem to say they simply chose not to give it to Wilson. At the same time this trial was under way, a local high school teacher, a white female, was found guilty of having a sexual relationship with a student -- a true case of child molestation. The teacher received 90 days. Wilson received 3,650 days.

Now, if Wilson wants a shot at getting out, he must throw himself at the prosecutors' feet and ask for mercy, which he might or might not receive. Joseph Heller would love this. If Wilson would only admit to being a child molester, he could stop receiving the punishment of one. Maybe.

"Well," Barker says, "the one person who can change things at this point is Genarlow. The ball's in his court."
There is something in Barker's attitude that just turns my stomach.

I understand the rational for plea bargains. I agree that those who are contrite should be given a break. That is the proper place for plea bargains. However, it's simply sickening when the plea bargain is used as a tool for prosecutors to twist the accused's arm into pleading guilty.

The plea bargain is the carrot before the trial, tempting the accused with an easy way out? Why not just take your medicine and have done with it? Why risk a good chunk of your remaining natural life?

The plea bargain becomes the stick after the trial, beating off any suggestion that a grotesquely oversevere sentence is unjust. Afterall, it's the accused's fault for not taking that perfectly reasonable plea bargain.

This reminds me of the Julie Amero case, which Majikthise is all over. This woman is potentially looking at a 40 year sentence. But if she had copped a plea, she would not have had to serve any time in prison at all. Is the prosecution seriously making the case that what Amero did was so egregious that she could go to jail for the rest of her life for it but at the same time so trivial that she wouldn't have had to go to jail at all if she had only said "sorry"?

In an insidious, backdoor way, our right to a fair trial by our peers is being eroded by what is in effect prosecutorial blackmail. There is a point of commonality between the Amero and Wilson case -- both would have had to carry the sex offender label if they accepted the plea, which goes a long way towards explaining why they gambled on a trial (if they did not, we would not have heard about their cases at all).

What of other cases that carries no such stigma?

When faced between a potential life sentence versus just a few months in jail or even just probation, how many of us would protest our innocence, and how many would quietly take our medicine?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Political Personalities

Hee. Majikthise on Nancy "Mother of five" Pelosi:
Electoral politics is about symbolism, not syllogism. It's like the Village People. Everyone needs a character. [snip] If it's acceptable to run as a cowboy, or an entrepreneur, or soldier, why not as a Mom?
This makes me think that we need action figures and accessories for all the politicians...

Monday, January 22, 2007

Women are safer cyclists


Via Marginal Revolution, a interesting web site that presents travel-related fatality statistics. (It doesn't work in Firefox, so you'll need to use that inferior web browser.)

Curious to find out what sort of risk I'm subjecting myself to by commuting by bicycle, I queried the site, selecting "Ages 25+" and "Monday-Friday" as my parameters. The overall fatality risk for cycling with those parameters is 6.24 fatalities per 100 million passenger miles, over 7 times the risk of commuting by car (.86 fatalities per 100 million passenger miles).

When you break down the fatality statistics by gender, however, men subject themselves to more risk while cycling than women do. Men aged 25+ cycling Monday-Friday have a fatality risk of 7.93 fatalities per 100 million passenger miles. That's four times the risk that women aged 25+ subject themselves to while cycling during the work week - 1.96 fatalities per 100 million passenger miles.

Are women just safer cyclists? That wouldn't surprise me if I had been looking at data for people under 25. Boys and young men are bigger risk takers than girls and young women, but I would have expected the difference to be minimized by the age of 25.

Or are women doing a different sort of riding than men, in general? Perhaps more women who bike during the week are riding for pleasure, on less trafficked roads during low-traffic hours, while more men are commuting to work, which often entails riding in heavier traffic.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Bonus dog blogging

I took those pictures to go with my story today about herbal remedies and acupuncture for dogs. But they failed to upload properly, so I'm posting them here since I think somebody should see them.

Fei Fei, the laziest little maltese.

Half yorkie, half pomeranian, all viciousness.

I think this dog looks a little bit like its owner.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Samantha Bee gives Al Jazeera English the CNN makeover.

BTW, here's the English Al Jazeera website.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Diversifying the portfolio

Can having a more diverse staff boost a company's bottom line? I'm not quite convinced yet, since there could be any number of correlations that cause the effect, but it's interesting research anyhow. This part grabbed my attention especially:
Something more subtle -- and intriguing -- also seems to happen when people of color join groups that were formerly all white: The entire group starts to think in new ways. Minorities, in other words, not only bring new perspectives to the table but also seem to catalyze new thinking among others.

Tufts University psychologist Sam Sommers recently created mock juries -- either all white or diverse -- with volunteers from the public. He then provided the groups with ambiguous information about a crime involving a sexual assault and a black defendant. Sommers asked his "jurors" to judge whether the defendant was guilty.

About a third of whites in juries that were diverse thought the defendant was guilty, while 50 percent of the jurors in all-white groups reached that conclusion. What was really interesting, however, is that Sommers had people draw their conclusions before the groups had any discussions. The mere presence of people of color in the diverse groups caused whites to think differently about the case.

There's a little more detail in this NPR interview with Shankar Vedantam. It might not be slam-dunk support for why companies should be diverse, but perhaps compelling evidence that our police force and juries should be.

UPDATE: I emailed Shankar Vedantam regarding his piece (in particular questioning whether Herring controled for geographical factors such as southern companies being more likely to be less productive as well as less diverse.) Shankar responded that Herring controlled for much more factors than Shankar was able to get into in his piece, which is fair enough I guess. I still feel like the more compelling experiment of the two was Sommers studies, but that Sommers' studies don't really support Shankar's main point, i.e. more diverse companies are more creative.

The Lazy Philosopher

Eric Schwitzgebel at The Splintered Mind quotes a fellow grad student from his days at Berkeley:
David Barton, sitting in his usual spot on the couch in the graduate student lounge (a place he occupied sometimes for long stretches): "Work, schmerk. Kant, Schmant. For all x, schmex."


Herman has competition.

Meet Robert.

Interestingly, both rabbits are bred by old German guy. I wonder if they are in some sort of competition with each other and that's why they always do their darndest to make their rabbits look bigger by shoving them as far into the camera's lens as possible. Robert's superior bulk impressed a North Korean delegation who bought 12 rabbits to start a pilot breeding program back in NK, where it is hoped that the giant rabbits will go some ways towards alleviating the food shortage there.

The logic of this decision seems doubious. Since North Koreans are starving, period, not just starved for meat, how does keeping giant hungry rabbits who can eat up to 2kg of feed a day make sense? Even supposing that the rabbits can be fed food that humans cannot eat such as grass, it still does not make sense to use extremely big rabbits compared to small meat rabbits that probably grow more quickly.

How Internet Explorer can get you in jail for 40 years

(Via Majikthise)
NORWICH, Conn. --A substitute teacher in the Norwich school system is facing up to 40 years in prison after being convicted of exposing students to pornography on a computer at the school.

Julie Amero, 40, of Windham, was convicted Friday on four counts of risk of injury to a minor in connection to pornography the students saw on her computer screen.

Prosecutors said sexually graphic computer images she accessed were seen by several of her Kelly Middle School students in October 2004.

During the trial, Amero said any inappropriate images on her computer screen were from adware, which can generate pop-up ads and not from sites specifically keyed.

Sigh. Justice as onion article. I liked this quote by paperghost, who actually knows a thing or two about spyware.
You do realise, I could probably wander into that school with a chainsaw, kill everybody and STILL get less than 40 years? Yet some kids see a bunch of porn popups and suddenly, a teacher is worse than Hitler. Awesome.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Best Dressed? Yeah, right.

BP guessed in the comments to my four and one meme post that there seemed to be a contradiction between (2) and (5). How could I have been voted "Best Dressed" in my Senior High School Yearbook if I was also into break dancing in high school? Who ever heard of a well-dressed break dancer?

Well, (2) was the lie. I certainly was not voted "Best Dressed." On the contrary, if there had been a "Worst Dressed" category, I would have won it. I committed every fashion sin of the 80's:
  • Parachute pants
  • Tiger-striped bandannas
  • Mirrored sunglasses
  • A Michael Jackson "Beat It" jacket
  • Sleeveless t-shirts with my name on the back
(I'm particularly embarrassed about the last item on that list.)

If I had been a celebrity, I would have been featured regularly on Go Fug Yourself.

The only thing that kept me from dressing even worse was my limited budget. I borrowed my more expensive tacky clothes, such as the "Beat It" jacket and the parachute pants, from my best friend Doug.

I was actually voted "Most Intellectual" in my Senior High School Yearbook.

The Jews of Kaifeng

Thanks to Brock for reminding's time to reveal the big fat porky pie in the four plus one things about me meme. Let's review...

1) I used to take my miniature schnauzer, Dodo, to class with me during my college days. Most professors were pretty tolerant about it since their lectures usually put her to sleep within minutes.

True. I only wish they gave her a diploma. She sat through all the classes!

2) I was obsessed with the idea of becoming a self-sufficient homesteader during my early teen years. I read as many books on the subject as I could while turning our family's back yard into an experimental plot where I grew herbs, tomatoes, and other assorted veggies. I composted and unsuccessfully tried to start a worm farm.

True. I am still obsessed with having my own veggie garden and a few chickens one day. But I no longer entertain the possibility of cutting myself off from the rest of civilization.

3) My absent-mindedness is legendary. On holiday once in Italy, I jumped off a boat with all my clothes on because I forgot I have not yet changed into my swimsuit.

Unfortunately, true.

4) In my spare time, I like to write Country & Western songs with titles such as "Another West Texas Town" and "It Ain't Right."

True, and one day I might even finish them.

5) I am partially of Jewish ancestry. My maternal grandmother's family hailed from a small community of Jews migrated and persisted for centuries in Kaifeng, China. She did not self-identify as a Jew by any means, but she never ate pork and is proud of the fact that she was spared from footbinding due to her family's different traditions.

False. Did you guess?

Well, not that many of you actually guessed so I don't know if I managed to fool people. I hope I put one over at least a few of you.

Like most lies that aspire to be non-transparent, this one was based partially on the truth. There was a Jewish population in Kaifeng, near where my grandmother was born. Although there has been a resurgence of interest in their heritage in recent years, the descendents of the Jewish population in Kaifeng have largely not maintained their ties with the Jewish culture or religion. They look Chinese, of course, just as the Ethiopian jews look Ethiopian and Russian jews look Russian.

My grandmother's story is just as interesting in its own way. She came from a Christian family and her father was a missionary. This is why her feet were never bound. I wish I had asked her more about her family's history and her experiences during the war, but she mostly remain tight-lipped. I don't know, among other things, when and how her family was converted to Christianity or how she came to know my grandfather or any of a host of questions. Now that she's gone, I guess I won't have the chance to find out short of some kind of major genealogical effort.

Now, Brock's turn...

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Mr. Noodles and Japanese National Identity

R.I.P. Momofuku Ando, inventor of Ramen. As Jeremiah of the Granite Studio commented at the Peking Duck, "These are the people who truly change history. Who says the 'great man' theory is dead." Amen, brother.

I was curious to read that Ando, despite his Japanese name, was in fact of Taiwanese descent. Or so I assume. Some articles say that he was born in Chiayi in Taiwan, and that his original name was Wu Baifu (吳百福). But most simply identify him as Japanese. I've always assumed that Japan was a very insular society that is not easy to assimulate into and that Chinese and Korean immigrants never become fully accepted even after generations. Even expat Japanese, like Alberto Fujimori, find their names rendered into the katakana character set usually reserved for foreign names and words as if they are no longer considered Japanese enough.

Damn. Now I feel like some ramen.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


(Via Dennis)

Don't flush it:
The problem with urine is that it is the main source of some of the chemical nutrients that have to be removed in sewage treatment plants if they are not to wreck ecosystems downstream. Despite making up only 1 per cent of the volume of waste water, urine contributes about 80 per cent of the nitrogen and 45 per cent of all the phosphate. Peeing into the pan immediately dilutes these chemicals with vast quantities of water, making the removal process unnecessarily inefficient.

To be fair, if you use conventional western plumbing there's not an awful lot you can do about your personal pee-print right now. A lucky few, however, live or work in one of the buildings in continental Europe where you can find a future must-have eco-accessory: the urine separation toilet. These devices divert urine away from the main sewage stream, allowing the nutrients to be recycled rather than treated as waste. They could solve all the environmental problems associated with urine and even turn sewage plants into net producers of green, clean energy.
And wouldn't you know, Finland, in addition to being the home of the Helsinki complaint choir, is also the global leaders on urine recycling.

The big question is, will this sort of system ever take off in the United States? Urine recycling toilets function by having a front pipe for urine and a back pipe for, erm, other stuff. This necessitates peeing in a sitting-down position in order to catch the urine. This is mooted as an obstacle for the acceptance of this technology, which can save flushing water by 80%. However, you've gotta think...even if the guys are unwilling to sit, how hard could it possibly be to to put a low-tech urinal that drains into the same holding cistern?

A bigger obstacle is the unwillingness for Americans to think too much about this stuff I think. We have a horror of bodily processes. We just want to get it all as far away, away, away as possible.

By the way, do you know that there is a World Toilet Organization?

The secret of happiness...

Low expectations?
Sweden has more blond beauties per capita, Italy and France have far better cuisine, and most of the free world can boast of better weather. But over the past 30 years, the citizens of Denmark have scored higher than any other Western country on measures of life satisfaction, and scientists think they know why. [snip]

The researchers arrived at their findings by a process of elimination and humor. Blonds may have more fun, they argue, but Sweden has a higher prevalence of them. As for climate, Danes “bask in a somewhat colder and cloudier version of the balmy English weather.” They also eat fatty foods and drink a lot, and genetically they are not significantly different from their gloomier Scandinavian neighbors. And in 1992 the Danes won the European Championship in soccer, creating “such a state of euphoria that the country has not been the same since.”

But on surveys, Danes continually report lower expectations for the year to come, compared with most other nations. And “year after year, they are pleasantly surprised to find that not everything is getting more rotten in the state of Denmark,” the paper concludes.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Cynicism or Delusion?

Paul Krugman asks the question of the day (via Mark Thoma):
The only real question about the planned “surge” in Iraq — which is better described as a Vietnam-style escalation — is whether its proponents are cynical or delusional.
Opinions differ:

Senator Joseph Biden ... thinks they’re cynical. He recently told The Washington Post that administration officials are simply running out the clock, so that the next president will be “the guy landing helicopters inside the Green Zone, taking people off the roof.”

Daniel Kahneman, who won the Nobel Memorial Prize ... for his research on irrationality in decision-making, thinks they’re delusional. Mr. Kahneman and Jonathan Renshon recently argued in Foreign Policy magazine that the administration’s unwillingness to face reality in Iraq reflects a basic human aversion to cutting one’s losses — the same instinct that makes gamblers stay at the table, hoping to break even.

I'm sure it's a mixture of the two. Warmongering pundits like William Kristol are surely delusional. And surely there are some in the administration who are merely cynical, perhaps including the President himself.

The danger is that the newly elected Democratic Congress falls prey to a different form of cynicism: they've already won one election because of an unpopular war, and it's got to be very tempting to put up only token resistance to the President's crazy scheme, let him have the "surge" he claims to want, and coast to another victory in 2008 when the plan inevitably fails. It's especially tempting since the most dangerous Republican presidential candidate in 2008, Senator McCain, is a surge proponent.

Is McCain delusional? Or is he a different sort of cynic, hoping that the Democrats refuse to go along with the President's scheme, so that he can run on the Dolchstosslegende?

Labels: ,

Dead kitties

So sad. Jasmine, one of the cats of the Drumstir, is gone. It's strangely heartwarming to read the usually vitriolic comment board at the Political Animal and find mainly old readers like me from back in the Calpundit days, where Kevin used to catblog every friday, offering him our condolences. Farewell, littls Jasmine.

So is DJW's Henry.

And my friend A's childhood cat, Beauty, who lived to the ripe old age of 17, also passed.

Sigh. They don't stay with us for long enough do they, and it's so sad when they go away. A reporter I work with told me that she once had a schnauzer too, but that after it died, her family never got another dog.

"My whole family couldn't stop crying," she said, "I can never get another dog because it hurts so much when they die."

"But the reason you were so sad when she died was because she gave you so much love while she was alive," I said.

It's worth it to love even though nothing lasts forever, isn't it?

Strunk Struk

This takedown of Strunk and White is pretty awesome. I've owned the book, but it's one of those assigned books I bought and somehow never brought myself to crack open because nothing on it would be tested concretely in class. I think I do detect S&W's ideas in much of the writing advice offered to me though, and agree heartily with Haspel about the robotic hate campaign against the passive voice and the common misconception that: If you write in short sentences. It would be clearer. Compared to if you did not.

However, I can't help but feel that Haspel's own advice is rather useless and anodyne too, and he probably would have had a good time viciously taking this folling paragraph down if he had not written it himself:
I know only two infallible rules for writing well. First, read good writing: take it apart to see how it works, where it succeeds and fails, and then imitate it as best you can. Who would produce must first consume. (Faulkner recommends reading bad writing as well, but I have tried reading Faulkner, and it did me no good.) Second, write exactly what you think. Certain authors, like Céline and Henry Miller, have survived despite prose that lacks every virtue but this one. Most of us suppress our best material, in the interest of job security or domestic tranquility or not being forced to flee the country.
The first rule is like being told if you want to lose weight you must eat more healthily and exercies. True as far as it goes, but hardly revelatory. As for the second, what does it really mean? Write whatever comes into your head? That's obviously not useful advice, so what does Haspel mean?

Now, everyone who writes on a regular basis knows the danger of that internal voice that censors your writing constantly as you churn out your sentences, slowing your progress to a crawl and leaving your with pinched and unnatural prose that is not satisfying to read the same way a picture that is drawn in painstaking detail without looser preparatory strokes is unsatisfying to look at. It is a reason why a person who is knowledgeable about a subject and can talk about it at length often have trouble setting out the same knowledge in writing. Maybe Haspel means "forget Strunk, forget trying to sound smart, say what you have to say."

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Haloscan stupidity

First it ate my comment. Then (since I cleverly remembered to copy it first) it refuse to let me repost because "you've said that already!" Grrr...

Here it is, guys, a reply to some of your comments from the prev. post. Gotta run out of door now...

It'll stop when the prospect of continuing the war looks very troubling for the ENTIRE ruling class or we just plain abolish their rule.

Good point, but I deviate slightly in interpreting it. We live in a democracy after all. The war does not have to bankrupt the country or kill all our young people. It only has to become unpopular enough that politicians can gain a definite advantage by being strongly against it. They, craven as they are, they'll all be against it apart from those so deeply invested that they cannot extract themselves.

Surely it depends what your goals are, yes? A libertarian, for instance, can't currently work within the 2 party system, as both parties are now committed to larger government.

Look at what the evangelical christian's goals are. Faced with two secular parties, they picked the more conservative and made it theirs. Yes, the republicans didn't give them everything their heart desires, but they are still a lot closer to getting their agenda accomplished than if they stayed outside of the system.

I don't see that the street protests did much good to stop the war in Iraq, but I also don't see that those who sought to work within the system did much good to stop the war in Iraq.
To paraphrase Brad Spangler, this war will stop when it becomes politically untenable for the ruling class to continue it. In this sense, I think we've already come a long way. Public opinion of the war has been plunging, and it is taking Bush's popularity with it. Hugely negative public opinion is going to stop this war, and nothing else.

And really, the political advantage of this unpopular war (associated with Bush) is far too profitable for Democrats to squander by forcing a withdrawal.
I agree. It's easy to put yourself in the place of an establishment dem and think:"Huzzah! Bush's polls are down. The war is really unpopular. Best let him twist in the wind for a while...if we push for withdrawal, he could blame the failure of the whole thing on us and we'd be the unpatriotic defeat-monkies. And if there's one thing the American public do not like, it's defeat-monkies."

I'm not saying that the screws should not be put to centrist Dems, but it should be put in a way that makes sense. I thought Sheehan made an enormously effective figure spreading her anti-war message at the beginning of her campaign because of her story and the everywoman figure she cuts. With every antic, every heckling, every protest she's dragged away from as dead weight, she's undermining her power. I don't think an ordinary American can really identify with her anymore. Look, she sets my teeth on edge, and I'm a liberal.

I suppose I should qualify my statement of working "within the system". It is not the same as putting our trust in centrist dems! It means recognizing the fact that we have a two-party system and so one of the parties will have to be the instrument of accomplishing our goal.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Angelica the centrist

Am I coming over all centrist in my old age? Here's Lawrence, in response to this post:
As time goes by, you seem more and more committed to a moderate centrism that excludes radical critiques of the whole political system. You also seem increasingly willing to view the Democrats with a kind of idealism that, to me, seems misplaced.
I think ideologically I've always been fairly liberal and remain so. I've gotten less liberal on some issues as I've grown older and more liberal on others, but basically those changes balance out. Certainly on the subject of Iraq, I was stridently anti-war from the get-go. My position on withdraw is almost certainly closer to Sheehan's than Liebermans.

However, when it comes down to tactics, I have to say I cannot stand the radical left. I've been to one anti-war protest only, in Boston. At the time it left me with a reasonable warm-fuzzy feeling even as I realized that it accomplished nothing. But there were elements of the protest that made me cringe. The homemade "no blood for oil" and generic George W. = Dumb type signs, the floats, the "hey hey, ho ho" chants. Now I look upon the protest with some measure of embarrassment. The whole protest culture which Sheehan is perhaps the premier participant in leaves me utterly cold. I understand how somebody who grew up during times when protests proved to be more momentous would disagree violently, but in this day and age, they are the sideshow.

And yes. I think the smart thing to do to get what you want is working within the system, not attacking from without, at least at this moment in history. I only started paying attention to politics around 2003. The bitter lesson of 2000 remained heavy and ashen in the mouth. As I've learned more about politics and the history of American politics, I've also seen the amazing radicalization of the Republican party from within and how the country have been made worse in so many different ways because of the power they wielded. Of course, these lessons would not have affected everyone so powerfully. But my personality is inherently pragmatic. My philosophy is utilitarian and not particularly dogmatic. It fits.

It's not that I don't agree with Sheehan's goal, but I disagreed with her tactics. If you can convince me that by heckling Rahm Emanuel she advanced the likelihood of an earlier U.S. withdrawal from Iraq, I'd be happy to revise my opinion of Ms. Sheehan.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Whiny-ass babies

A heartfelt plea for bipartisanship:
Thirty-one-year-old Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.) is not a large man, standing perhaps 5 feet 3 inches tall in thick soles. But he packed a whole lot of chutzpah when he walked into the House TV gallery yesterday to demand that the new Democratic majority give the new Republican minority all the rights that Republicans had denied Democrats for years.

"The bill we offer today, the minority bill of rights, is crafted based on the exact text that then-Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi submitted in 2004 to then-Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert," declared McHenry, with 10 Republican colleagues arrayed around him. "We're submitting this minority bill of rights, which will ensure that all sides are protected, that fairness and openness is in fact granted by the new majority."

Omitted from McHenry's plea for fairness was the fact that the GOP had ignored Pelosi's 2004 request -- while routinely engaging in the procedural maneuvers that her plan would have corrected. Was the gentleman from North Carolina asking Democrats to do as he says, not as he did?

Hmmm. For the last decade or so the Republican congress have acted as if it is going to be in the majority forever. Tradition was cast aside, bridges were burnt, common decency disregarded when it comes to letting the Democratic minority have a say. They acted like bullies, and now they suddenly discovered the virtues of sharing and cooperation as soon as the Dems take over congress?

Reading the rest of Milbank's article is highly recommended. One part that did annoy me was what I initially thought was Milbank needing to bring in balance by making a big deal of Cindy Sheehan heckling Rahm Emanuel elsewhere in the same day. Why should it be relevant? However, I'm not in the States and thus I don't really know how the media coverage went there. If the Sheehan stuff did hog the coverage at the expense of the Dems being able to expose a Republican hypocrisy, then yes, it was unfortunate worthy of mention.

I've written nice stuff about Sheehan when she first came on the scene, and I've bit my tongue since then when I though her actions had been politically counterproductive/embarrassing. She lost her son in Iraq, for god's sake, and I did not want to add to the pile of misogynistic, ugly, putrid character assassinations piled upon her from the right with anything else that is negative. But really. Now I cannot help but feel so frustrated by her actions I can just scream.

What Sheehan needs to realize that though she differs with the Democrats on the fine points of extracting ourselves from Iraq, we are essentially on the same side. When she undermines the Democrats on national television, she is cutting the legs from under her own campaign. If she went on the talk shows and said what she had to say, fine. But she had to do so in a way that made a spectacle of herself.

A retreat in the face of the facts would betray weakness

The wingers ordered the crow, but now they don't want to eat it. Just as girl-journalist Michelle Malkin was going to go to Iraq herself and break the case of the faked policeman wide open, this come down the line:
BAGHDAD, Iraq - The Interior Ministry acknowledged Thursday that an Iraqi police officer whose existence had been denied by the Iraqis and the U.S. military is in fact an active member of the force, and said he now faces arrest for speaking to the media.

The captain, whose full name is Jamil Gholaiem Hussein, was one of the sources for an AP story in late November about the burning and shooting of six people during a sectarian attack at a Sunni mosque.
Let the squirming begin!

Just to clarify, I’m not apologizing for anything. Also, I await response/reaction from my sources and will keep you updated. [Allahpundit]

I question the timing.
[Confederate Yankee]

Phase II Begins [The Jawa Report]

I find it quite humorous
that the left is giddy with glee as if this whole story is over with. The six Sunni's were indeed burned because this one police officer was other evidence needs to be produced for them. [Flopping Aces]

Another question
that I’d like answered, now that the guy has been found: is he a “third way” Baathist holdover? [Patterico]

Nice. Jamil Hussein never existed. And if he did it wouldn't matter because he's probably a liar and a Saddam-lover. And just to show that I'm not falling down on the gloating, here are some freshly-picked nuts from LGF:

I fear I will never be satisfied. I would want someone to go talk to Jamil, and deliver him all the questions we would like answered, which are still many. So he delivers the AP 60+ stories which are largely not corroborated, which is illegal (but it happens anyway). But now if anyone would try to ask him a question about those 60 stories, well he just cant, cus that would be illegal! I think this still stinks. he may exist, but the questions remain. [Commenter Dr. Manhattan, LGF]

There's more than what meets the eye on this one.

/I wish I knew what it was [Commenter Greg in Seattle, LGF]

The AP could tell me what my phone number is and I still wouldn't believe it.
[commenter Tedzilla99, LGF]

Extra time

I thought I blogged about Art Buchwald, but googlesearch sez no. Anyhow, the venerable humor columist and pulitzer prize winner was told his kidneys were failing and that he needed to be on dialysis for the rest of his life. He refused, wanting a pain-free end, and moved to a hospice for what he has been told would be the last three weeks of his life.

That was back in February. In the months that followed, his docs told him that his kidney has inexplicably come back online and he has now moved out of the hospice.

Ezra posted about this,
noting that end-of-life heroic measures should not be discounted because doctors are not always right about when things turn 'hopeless'. But I get the opposite message from this story. A painful, expensive medical measure was what Art Buchwald refused so that he can go with dignity. He has made his peace, and now any extra time he gets is a blessing.

"I wonder if you have accepted atheism into your life?"

This is good for a laugh. Door to door atheists bothering Mormans.

Still, after watching this video, I feel like the execution of this idea is simply not on the same plane of genius as the concept. Why start to get hissy and rude with people? Are you genuinely trying to ilicit an interesting reaction from people, to see if they can take what they dish out every day with good grace? Or are you just out for some gleeful, juvenile retaliation?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Beware of good advertising

Scott at the Dallas Food blog has written something great. A piece of blog-journalism that truly demonstrated the potential of blogs as a conduit for investigative reports and transcended the food blog genre.

I would have never thought I would read a ten-part expose of a hidiously expensive chocolate I have never heard of before, but I was instantly hooked. Whereas score of food reporters merely passed on the hype, Scott dug deeper and exposed the racket behind the world's most expensive chocolate. His presentation was flawless, both in illustrating his report with interesting pictures and in managing information flow so that I kept on clicking page after page. His report was also choc(k) full of fascinating background about the chocolate making process and jargon, all seamlessly intergrated into the piece. I now know what "couverture" means as well as the merits of Equadorian versus Venezualan chocolate.

Also, the story is satisfying in confirming your worst suspicions about hidiously expensive chi-chi products in pretty boxes.

This story has not only been linked by Boing Boing, but is also making the rounds at econ blogs Marginal Revolution and Economist View because it presents such an interesting example of the price decoupled with substance. Mark Thoma at the Economist's View, in particular, characterized the scandalously high prices charged by NoKa chocolates as a market failure. Well, if we count price anomalies caused by good advertising, branding and public relations as market failures, this really throws off the assumption that the market is essentially efficient. As the case of NoKa shows, we cannot assume perfect information, and that has serious consequences in real-world markets.

Bravo, Scott, bravo.

Monday, January 01, 2007


Since BP has tagged me, let's see if I can come up with four interesting truths and one plausible lie about myself.

(1) The first time I ever went bowling, I bowled a 180. It must have been beginner's luck, because I haven't been able to break 100 since.

(2) I was voted "Best Dressed" in my Senior High School Yearbook. Over the intervening years, I've lost my fashion sense, and while I manage to avoid the major fashion faux pas, I'm hardly what you could call well-dressed.

(3) I used to perform with a live cast at the Rocky Horror Picture Show. I played Dr. Scott more than any other role, but I also played Frank, Brad, and Eddie at times.

(4) Like the late President Gerald Ford, I'm an Eagle Scout.

(5) I was into break dancing in high school, and my sole brush with celebrity was when I ran into Boogaloo Shrimp from Breakin' at the Mall of Memphis.

I'm not going to tag anybody. These things have got to stop somewhere.