Thursday, April 28, 2005

What do "environmentalists" really want with ANWR?

The Seattle Times has run a couple of "guest editorials" the last couple of days on ANWR and energy use. I found them interesting, in that they revealed more than the usual "don't disturb the caribou" bumper sticker slogans. In fact they pointed out, that the opposition to ANWR, was not so much that they were afraid we would destroy the park, a desolate area nobody goes to anyway, but that they actually want to restrict our access to oil, in order to amplify the shortage. A telling quote:

Ultimately, an energy policy that relies on billions of dollars in subsidies to big oil and gas companies and drilling wildlife sanctuaries for less oil than the U.S. consumes in a single year is worse than no plan at all. By extending our reliance on fossil fuels at the expense of sustainable, clean, innovative energy solutions, pro-drilling politicians are missing the boat.

Now let me start by saying, I am completely in favor of "alternative" and "clean" energy. If you can invent a fusion reactor or fuel cell car, more power to you. Any major company that is not investing in future technologies like this is truely "missing the boat". I am even in favor of government sponsorship of some of this research. Where the authors are "missing the boat" on this, however, is that we don't currently have the technologies to replace fossil fuels. That is why prices are going up. They just want to make the situation worse, as some sort of perverse incentive program. These technologies will be developed over time by private industry, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't use what resources we do have available. These two issues are not mutually exclusive. This argument is like claiming that we shouldn't treat AIDS patients, because keeping them alive without finding a cure for AIDS, is just "extending our reliance" on the current drugs. We can do both!

The second piece, by the fact challenged Floyd McKay, makes the same false point.

Wrong, if you look at our congressional leadership. Once again, Congress is taking the wrong fork in the road to the future. The tough have backed off, and instead rewarded their friends.

Increases in gas prices remind us that we have two roads to choose between. One road — the energy industry's road — leads to drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and probably in the not-distant future to drilling offshore.

Congress is taking that road, and the House added insult to injury by boosting the tax breaks the oil industry already gets, to encourage more exploration in the Gulf of Mexico. Even President Bush, stalwart friend of Big Oil, gagged at that one.

The road not taken by Congress is to use concern over gas prices to do some conservation work to ease our dependence upon non-renewable resources.

There is absolutely nothing saying that we can't do both at the same time! This is not a fork in the road, these are various steps that we can take. There is more than one solution to a problem. This is analogous to the current argument that we invaded Iraq purely for WMD, not to overthrow Saddam and establish a democracy. Because everyone knows you can't have more than one reason for doing something.

The Kabul Golf Club

I love this story by Steve Kelley, a sports columnist for the Seattle Times. In Bosnia some guys I worked with would occasionally try and hit balls over the fence. We always wondered whether they could set of a mine.

KABUL, Afghanistan — Standing on the weedy tee box at No. 3, I noticed movement in my periphery as I started my backswing. I stopped and looked over my shoulder at the unsettling sight of a man standing about 20 yards away with an AK-47 slung over his shoulder.

"Who's he?" I nervously asked my host, Muhammad Afzal Abdul, the manager and teacher at Kabul Golf Club in the beautiful Bandi Qargha section of Kabul, about 7 miles from the city's center.

"That's my security guard," Afzal Abdul said with a sly grin. "You don't play golf in Kabul without security."

Afzal Abdul calls it "golf with an attitude."

This course he loves like a family member looks more like a bean field after harvest. The "fairway" is furrowed and strewn with rocks and twigs. The hillsides are guarded by Afghan National Army tanks.

The ball doesn't roll in the fairway. It plugs into the dirt. According to the scorecard, "If your ball lands on the fairway, you may either play the ball as it lies, play it from a mat, or play it from a wooden tee."

The rough contains souvenirs of the Soviet occupation, such as the massive green grillwork of an exploded Russian armored personnel carrier. A weathered explosive device lies nearby.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Historical (hysterical) Revisionism in the NY Times

Instapundit and the Mudville Gazette have some great coverage on this NY Times editorial, which among other things attempts this little bit of historical revisionism:

The only plausible reason for keeping American troops in Iraq is to protect the democratic transformation that President Bush seized upon as a rationale for the invasion after his claims about weapons of mass destruction turned out to be fictitious. If that transformation is now allowed to run off the rails, the new rationale could prove to be as hollow as the original one.

Just to add my own comments, I found the intro particularly ironic:

The millions of brave Iraqis who risked their lives to vote in January didn't expect that nearly three months later, their squabbling politicians would still be struggling to form a government.

The Mudville Gazette correctly points out that, in fact, the government is being formed. But what if we ignore that for a minute and say, compare this "nearly three months later" with another case of a government being formed, also from today's NY Times...

PARIS (AP) -- The leaders of France and Germany joined forces Tuesday to try to save Europe's embattled constitution, warning French voters they could set back European ambitions if they reject the charter in a referendum.

French polls have shown a steady opposition to the charter. A poll published Friday, indicated 62 percent of voters will reject the constitution in France's May 29 referendum -- the highest figure so far.

All 25 European Union members must approve the text for it to take effect. A French rejection could spur ''no'' votes elsewhere.

Sixty years after WWII and 15 years after the Berlin Wall fell, the Europeans are still struggling to form a government. This can only mean one thing, quagmire!

UPDATE: Kudos to Reliapundit, for being both ahead of me, and the NY Times. No arguing over which is easier...

Book Review: Freakonomics

At the risk of turning this blog into something resembling a seventh grade English class… I have been doing a lot of reading lately. Freakonomics : A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, is a rather interesting little book (barely 200 pages) by the prize winning economist, Steven Levitt and Stephen J. Dubnar, a journalist who nobody really cares about anyway. Levitt, a “rogue” economist known for his unique approaches to problems, attacks such every day issues as comparing the “Ku Klux Klan and real estate agents” and my personal favorite “Why drug dealers live with their mom?”. Although many of his breakthroughs seem rather obvious, and rather full of himself, I still found the book largely entertaining and informative. His main thesis seems to be to look at the way people interact with their world in new ways, not assume connections automatically, and don’t discard options without looking at them. My main question is, if Levitt, a graduate of both Harvard and MIT, is so darn smart, why does he need a journalist to help him write his book?

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Welcome back Chief

Contrary to popular opinion, we don't all know each other. Although his name does sound familiar...

A 58-year-old citizen-soldier on the O'Dea High School faculty and coaching staff is back from the Gulf War.
Andy Slatt, who was wounded in Vietnam, returned safely in March, after 14 months of duty as a logistics warrant officer who spent most of his time in Kuwait. O'Dea students and faculty are all relieved and happy to have him back.

"We missed him when he was gone," said Monte Kohler, the Seattle school's football coach, co-track coach and athletic director. "We are thankful he has returned to us safely."

Fellow track coaches also are happy to have Slatt back for O'Dea's quest for a third straight Class 3A state track and field title. That doesn't stop them from ribbing him, however, about wearing more layers of clothing than anyone else on chilly days as he readjusts from the Mideast.

Slatt is back at O'Dea doing what he loves, but he is just passionate about the mission in Iraq.
"If I was called to go back tomorrow, I'd go in a heartbeat," he said.

Although based in relatively safe Kuwait, Slatt sometimes flew into combat areas to deliver items that were urgently needed. He also made one trip to Afghanistan.

Monday, April 25, 2005

Putin Gets Nostalgic

Vladimir Putin makes an address to the Russian nation, in which he laments the fall of the Soviet Union, calling it the "greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century". Now I understand that there have been a lot of problems to overcome since the wall fell, but I could think of some other "catastrophes" that happened in the 20th century. Perhaps Stalin, for one. Or the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. It looks like Vlad's KGB training is starting to kick back in.

Oddly enough, CNN covers the speech with the rather optimistic headline Putin: Democracy is top priority, and makes no mention of his "catastrophe" statement. Maybe those people who have been calling it the Communist News Network all these years were on to something?

UPDATE: Not to sound paranoid, but doesn't this sound a lot like an old Milosevic speech?

"As for the Russian people, it became a genuine tragedy. Tens of millions of our fellow citizens and countrymen found themselves beyond the fringes of Russian territory."

Keep an eye out for Putin to make his Kosovo Polje speech.

UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers to my humble blog. I am honored to be linked. Feel free to comment. Nobody ever leaves me comments. Even my dad just calls me up asking questions on posts...

UPDATE: Even Pravda runs the headline Vladimir Putin: The Fall of the Soviet Union was the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century. How sad it is when Pravda is more accurate than CNN?

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Graduate Reading Room Posted by Hello

It was such a nice day out I decided to take a walk around the U. I brought along my camera, since I am still trying to figure out how to use it correctly. I have always been a fan of Suzallo Library and the graduate reading room. It is so gothic, you feel like you must be able to think of something profound there.
Suzallo Library Posted by Hello
Ducks in the Shade Posted by Hello

It was so warm out the students had to hide in the shade outside of the HUB. Too bad Mrs. Chief couldn't join me, as she is a big duck fan.

Chief's Rules of Conspiracy Theories: Rule 6

I already posted my Rules of Conspiracy Theories, but have updated them due to a discussion I had on an online forum with a 9/11 conspiracy theorist.

Rule 6

The Law of Infinite Permutations. Even in the case that an infinite amount of statements are proven wrong an equally infinite amount of new statements can be made.

For example: in the discussion I had the moonbat asserted that no black boxes were found from the 9/11 crashes. When I pointed out that the black boxes from the pentagon and Pennsylvania crashes had in fact been found, he changed his argument to "OK, well 2 of them have been found, but the data has not been released". I then pointed out that in fact they played the cockpit voice recorders to members of the families who requested. His argument then changed to, well they were probably faked. And this of course can go on ad infinitum.

In mathematical terms:

Conspiracy Theorist (CT) states 2 + 2 = 5
Level Headed Republican (LHR) proves this is false 2 + 2 = 4
CT counters, no 2 + 3 = 6
LHR proves otherwise, 2 + 3 = 5
CT counters, no 2 + 4 = 7...

And this of course goes on forever. Thus CT can never actually be proven wrong.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Me Want Cookies!

A hilarious editorial by Jonah Goldberg on political correctness and the Cookie Monster.

The producers of "Sesame Street" have decided that Cookie Monster is gay.
Hold the phone. I'm kidding. But try to hold onto your reaction for a moment because what they've really done to Cookie Monster is worse - they've taken away his reason for being.
Since my copy of "Meditations" by Marcus Aurelius is in storage, let me explain by paraphrasing Hannibal Lecter's famous dialogue with Clarice Starling in "Silence of the Lambs." Imagine Lecter isn't a superhuman cannibalistic serial killer and that, instead of being a doe-eyed feminist naif in the FBI, Ms. Starling is a doe-eyed feminist naif at the Children's Television Workshop.
Lecter: "First principles, Clarice. Read Marcus Aurelius. Of each particular thing, ask: What is it in itself? What is its nature? What does he do, this creature you seek?
Starling: He entertains children..
Lecter: "No! That is incidental. What is the first and principal thing he does? What need does he serve by entertaining children?
Starling: Social acceptance? Personal frustration?
Lecter: No: He craves. That's his nature. And what does he crave? Make an effort to answer.
Starling: Food?
Lecter: No! He is not a "food monster!" He is a cookie monster!
But not according to the well-meaning social engineers of PBS. After three decades, they've announced he's not a Cookie Monster at all. In the interests of teaching kids not to be gluttons, CTW has transformed Cookie Monster into just another monster who happens to like cookies. His trademark song, "C is for Cookie" has been changed to "A Cookie Is a Sometimes Food." And this is a complete and total reversal of Cookie Monster's ontology, his telos, his raison d'etre, his essential Cookie-Monster-ness.

Book Review: Conspiracy of Fools

I just finished reading Conspiracy of Fools by Kurt Eichenwald, an informative, entertaining, if somewhat fictionalized account of the Enron scandal. By fictionalized, I don’t mean falsified, but that it is written in the style of a novel, where all the characters glare at each other emotionally and the reader knows their every thought through dialogue on the page. While this may lessen its historical credibility somewhat it does tend to make some of the more drier subjects, namely corporate accounting, more readable.

As far as the story itself, Eichenwald largely portrays Andy Fastow, the CFO of Enron, as the arch-villain behind the whole scandal. The author details how he set up Special Purpose Entities (SPE) as special off book investment funds with the intended benefit of helping Enron dump bad assets, hedge investments, and used tricky accounting measures to hide losses and create false income. He also managed to then manipulate these entities and make tens of millions of dollars off them. Who says crime doesn’t pay? Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling, the off and on CEOs appeared to have largely been willing dupes of Fastow’s manipulation. From other accounts I have read this seems to a fairly accurate portrayal, although they certainly were “willing” dupes, and should have known better.

In a more general business sense this brings up the issue of corporate earnings and earning targets. Much of the trouble Enron got into was because they used shady dealings and accounting measures to manipulate earnings. They would do things like sell an asset temporarily with an explicit agreement to buy it back, then count that sale as quarterly earnings. This of course was unsustainable, because then the next quarter they could not only not count on that “income” but they then had the additional cost of buying back, at a loss, the asset that they had owned in the first place.

Although I certainly don’t propose using such methods, I believe part of the problem lies in culture of Wall Street. Corporations are under such ridiculous pressure to bring in predictable earnings by investors, no matter the business environment. At its most harmless it just leads to the silly expectations games that Microsoft plays every quarter, where immediately after they release their earnings they start downplaying their next quarters earnings (we aren’t selling a thing, we suck) so that they can manage to come in at or above earnings the next quarter. For some businesses though, this pressures them into more illicit activities, lest they be punished by Wall Street for missing their targets. More on that later.

Why I paid attention in Russian class

It happens to the best of us. You get rusty after time. I still say McCain-Rice 2008 would be the ticket to beat, although McCain has had some strange votes lately. I looked this up on some Russian news sites but could find no mention of it. I guess they didn't find it interesting. They did talk about, however, how Condi laid into Putin for his despotic tendencies. Apparently they found that rude.

MOSCOW - U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice tried out her rusty Russian in a Moscow radio interview on Wednesday, only to get caught out by a question on whether she might run for president.
"Da (Yes)," Rice answered in Russian, before realizing her misunderstanding and hastily adding "Nyet" (No) — seven times.
Rice's interview on Ekho Moskvy radio turned into a linguistic ordeal when the Soviet expert and former provost of Stanford University fielded a schoolgirl listener's question on how she achieved her career success.
"It's too complicated to answer!" Rice, in Russia to meet President Vladimir Putin, started out in English. "It is an opportunity for me to come back to Russia, a place I love very much. I love the culture and the language."
She then switched into Russian, but quickly hit trouble.
Apparently meaning to say that she would like to do her next interview in the language of her host, she chose a verb that sounded more like "to earn money" than the Russian for "to do."

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Jimmy "Moonbat" Mac Speaks

In the Times, right above my letter to the editor sadly (why they give this congressman more space than me is a good question) Jim "Wiretap" McDermott attacks a previous Times editorial supporting federal laws giving military recruiters access to high schools. Supporting federal laws, there is a radical concept! The incredible thing about it is he brags about his military service, then criticizes stop loss, in a vague and misleading way, then complains that recruiting is down, and then he still manages to call for making it MORE difficult to recruit. Could this man have a coherent position on anything?

Some gems:

Buried in the fine print of Santiago's recruitment paperwork eight years ago was a provision called stop-loss. It is meant to ensure that America has enough soldiers to defend itself in time of national emergency, but the Pentagon under Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has perverted the use of stop-loss because military recruitment is significantly below goals.

If 120,000 soldiers in Iraq, and another 19,000 in Afghanistan doesn't fit the definition of "national emergency" I am not sure what could, short of Canada invading.

Stop-loss now affects 50,000 soldiers. Santiago could end up serving until Christmas Eve, 2031, 37 years after he signed up — a virtual lifetime.

Of course this is intentionally misleading, and I am sure McDermott knows it. I already addressed it here:

The Seattle Times casually tells its readers that a student can sign a form to opt out. The reality is that young people have lost their right to privacy and The Times is stone-cold silent on restoring this fundamental right in a free society.

He just admitted they can "opt out" of being contacted. What exactly is this right to privacy? Somehow when our founding fathers were running from town to town trying to raise an army during the Revolutionary War, I can't imagine them considering that knocking on people's doors asking them to fight for freedom was a violation of their "right to privacy" and thus enshrined in our constitution. And even if they don't opt out what is the worst that can happen? They aren't drafting you, a recruiter might call them! The horror. At least it isn't someone calling to ask if you want to change your long distance provider.

Meanwhile, don't blame the recruiters. These people were selected because they are role models, the best of the best to represent the military. Now, they suffer under a quota system, and recruiters are under increasing pressure to find soldiers. Army National Guard recruitment plunged 31 percent in February and fell another 12 percent in March.

OK, recruiting is down. Here is a solution, make recruiting more difficult!

HB 1174 Changing veterans' tuition waiver provisions

I heard about this on Bryan Suits show last night. Apparently the legislature has passed a tuition waiver for veterans. I am not sure how this varies from the one that they already have for the National Guard, but it sounds like good news. Any lawyers out there want to explain?

Chief in the Times

Well after being jilted on the McKay piece the Times published my letter to the editor. Although they chopped it down a bit. The other two letters on the same subject are well done too. Mine is just more pithy.

And no, I did not come up with that title.

Guarding chickens

William Raspberry is concerned that, because of Fox, readers can no longer trust The New York Times without question. Funny, I thought [disgraced journalist] Jayson Blair was more responsible for that.

Wasn't there a time when a critical analysis of information sources was considered a good thing? Now, apparently it is a threat to the mainstream media.

— James Bennett, Bellevue

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Western Washington Moonbat Watch

This even made Little Green Footballs. We have become the Mecca of Moonbats.

The Port of Olympia could become the Peace Port of Thurston County under a petition planned by the Green Party of South Puget Sound.

Party members hope to schedule a November ballot item to rename the port in response to its policy of accepting Iraq war-related shipments.

The port resumed military shipments last year for the first time in 17 years.
"I see this as a referendum on using the port for military shipments and as a referendum on the war in Iraq," Green Party member Chris Stegman said Monday.

The most unintentionally funny quote has to be.

It is unclear whether a U.S. port has ever been renamed using the notion of peace in the title.

Don't Question the Media

I sent the following letter to the Seattle Times. I doubt they will run it, but we will see.

After reading William Raspberry’s column “Fox News Channel: journalism as battlefield”, I am just stunned at what modern journalism has become. Apparently Fox’s greatest sin is not whether it reports the news factually or not, but that it may cause people to question and criticize the news that they watch and read. Raspberry is concerned that because of Fox, readers can no longer trust the New York Times without question. Funny, I thought Jayson Blair was more responsible for that. Wasn’t there a time when a critical analysis of information sources was considered a good thing? Now apparently it is a threat to the mainstream media.

The column to which I am responding follows.

So why would I consider Fox such a generalized threat? It is because I think the plan is not so much to persuade the public that its particular view is correct but rather to sell the notion that what Fox News Channel presents is just another set of biases, no worse (and for some, a good deal better) than the biases that routinely drive the presentation of the news on ABC, CBS or NBC — and, by extension, the major newspapers.

For the Foxidation process to work, it isn't necessary to convince Americans that the verbal ruffians who give FNC its crackle have a corner on the truth — only that all of us in the news business are grinding our partisan axes all the time and that none of us deserves to be taken as serious seekers of truth.

This is huge. As a friend remarked recently, time was when if you found it in The New York Times, that settled the bar bet and the other guy paid off. But if The Times and The Washington Post or any other mainstream news outlet — including the major networks — come to be seen as the left-of-center counterparts of Fox News Channel, why would anyone accept them as authoritative sources of truth?

Monday, April 18, 2005

Semper Fi Marine

Now why is it that the press will drone on for weeks about Jessica Lynch, whose main achievement was remaining unconscious, but they practically ignore stories like these?

U.S. forces have repelled each attack, inflicting large losses on the insurgents while incurring few casualties. The base commander at Camp Gannon, a former Iraqi customs and immigration post at the edge of one of its most dangerous cities, credits Butler with preventing massive deaths here.

"Butler — that day, that Marine — that's the critical error the insurgents made," Capt. Frank Diorio says. "They thought they could keep the Marines' heads down. But he gets back up."
Butler, 21 and an Altoona, Pa., native, fired through the windshield of the first suicide bomber as he rammed a white dump truck through a barrier of abandoned vehicles the Marines had improvised. Barreling toward the camp's wall, the truck veered off at the last moment under volleys of Butler's gunfire.

"I shot 20 or 30 rounds before he detonated," he says.
Knocked down by that blast, with bricks and sandbags collapsing on top of him, Butler struggled to his feet only to hear a large diesel engine roar amid the clatter of gunfire. It was a red fire engine, carrying a second suicide bomber and passenger. Butler says both were wearing black turbans and robes, often worn by religious martyrs.

Amid the chaos of that first bomb blast, supported by gunfire from an estimated 30 dismounted insurgents, the fire engine passed largely undetected on a small road that leads from town directly past the camp wall, according a Marine report.

"I couldn't see him at first because of the smoke. It was extremely thick from the first explosion," Butler says. When the fire engine cleared the smoke, it was much closer than the dump truck had been.

As the driver accelerated past the "Welcome to Iraq" sign inside the camp's perimeter, Butler says he fired 100 rounds into the vehicle. The Marines later discovered the vehicle was equipped with 3-inch, blast-proof glass and the passengers were wearing Kevlar vests under their robes.

Pfc. Charles Young, 21, also of Altoona, Pa., hit the fire engine with a grenade launcher, slowing its progress and giving Butler time to recover. Without breaching the camp wall, the driver detonated the fire engine, sending debris flying up to 400 yards and knocking Marines from their bunks several hundred yards away. Butler, less than 50 yards away, again was knocked down by the blast, which partially destroyed the tower in which he was perched. After he crawled for cover, a third suicide bomber detonated outside the camp. That blast caused no damage or injuries. Sporadic fighting continued for several hours.

Meanwhile, Cpl. Anthony Fink of Columbus, Ohio, 21, fired a grenade launcher that the Marine unit says killed 11 insurgents. The Marines' "React Squad" swiftly deployed against the remaining insurgents.

Update: This got me thinking. There have been quite a few of these types of attacks recently, and in most of them the terrorists get their heads handed to them. While you can find a lot of complaints about military policy, they have done quite a good job learning from the politically correct ROE that lead to hundreds of dead in Beirut and the Khobar towers. Let's hope that keeps up.

The Big Mac Index

Another interesting comparison of international economies. This supports my contention that the Euro is overvalued. The Eurozone is facing serious problems, with a shrinking population, zero growth, and high unemployment. Their overly tight monetary policies make it even worse. All so that they can have bragging rights over having a stronger currency.

The Economist's Big Mac index is based on the theory of purchasing-power parity (PPP), the idea that exchange rates should move to equalise the prices of a basket of goods and services across different countries. Our basket is the Big Mac. For example, the cheapest burger in the chart is in China, at $1.26, compared with an average American price of $3. This implies that the yuan is 58% undervalued relative to its Big Mac dollar-PPP. On the same basis, the euro is 25% overvalued, the yen 17% undervalued.

Hat tip Johnny, UW MBA 2001, and international economist extraordinaire.

The EU "At least we are above Arkansas"

It is fashionable nowadays to bash the US as collapsing economically while Europe is a prospering socialist paradise. While there are certain advantages to the European lifestyle, I personally would love 6 weeks of vacation a year, one thing that many people miss is that there salaries are no higher than ours, while their expenses, and certainly taxes are much higher. I have spoken with many Europeans who complained about how expensive things have become, especially after the introduction of the Euro. The NY Times, in a rare moment of honesty, has a good article on this:

All this was illuminated last year in a study by a Swedish research organization, Timbro, which compared the gross domestic products of the 15 European Union members (before the 2004 expansion) with those of the 50 American states and the District of Columbia. (Norway, not being a member of the union, was not included.)

After adjusting the figures for the different purchasing powers of the dollar and euro, the only European country whose economic output per person was greater than the United States average was the tiny tax haven of Luxembourg, which ranked third, just behind Delaware and slightly ahead of Connecticut.

The next European country on the list was Ireland, down at 41st place out of 66; Sweden was 14th from the bottom (after Alabama), followed by Oklahoma, and then Britain, France, Finland, Germany and Italy. The bottom three spots on the list went to Spain, Portugal and Greece.

Alternatively, the study found, if the E.U. was treated as a single American state, it would rank fifth from the bottom, topping only Arkansas, Montana, West Virginia and Mississippi. In short, while Scandinavians are constantly told how much better they have it than Americans, Timbro's statistics suggest otherwise. So did a paper by a Swedish economics writer, Johan Norberg.

Contrasting "the American dream" with "the European daydream," Mr. Norberg described the difference: "Economic growth in the last 25 years has been 3 percent per annum in the U.S., compared to 2.2 percent in the E.U. That means that the American economy has almost doubled, whereas the E.U. economy has grown by slightly more than half. The purchasing power in the U.S. is $36,100 per capita, and in the E.U. $26,000 - and the gap is constantly widening."

Saturday, April 16, 2005

The Ward Watch

I find this guy fascinating, in a sort of, "rubbernecking horrific car accident" sort of way. A writer for the Weekly Standard spent a couple of days with him, and he tells us a lot about this crackpot, as well as those who admire him.

"He's fighting against terrorism," the other says. "We are destroying whole peoples, nearing levels of genocide, that's how bad the U.S. military is." The kids are excited, but are calmed down a bit when a cooler head interrupts. Daniel Burton-Rose, a guy with hoop earrings and an AK Press T-shirt, is sitting in a nearby chair, reading a book on Chinese medicine. He is himself the author of Confronting Capitalism, and when I carelessly identify him as an anarchist, he corrects me, saying he's an "anarcho-daoist." Clearly I've reached the rarefied strata where even people's shorthand IDs contain dialectical disputes.

To grossly dumb down Daniel's argument, which would take several pages to replicate, Churchill is precisely the galvanizing public intellectual the anti-globalization movement needs. For while many elements of the movement seem contradictory--the neo-Marxists agitating for a transformed and all-controlling state, the anarchists espousing the obliteration of the state altogether--all sides, including the boutique'ers in between, are unanimous on one tenet: America, as it's presently constituted, sucks.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Optimistic Iraqi Stat of the Day

Military fatalities by month.

Month US UK Other* Total Avg
Jan 05 107 10 10 127 4.1
Feb 05 58 0 2 60 2.14
Mar 05 36 1 3 40 1.29
Apr 05 15 0 0 15 1.07

This explains why most academics are liberals

I have all the respect in the world for educated people. I hope to be one some day. But unfortunately, all too often, sounding educated has become a substitute for actually saying something meaningful. These guys proved it in a prank.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (Reuters) - A bunch of computer-generated gibberish masquerading as an academic paper has been accepted at a scientific conference in a victory for pranksters at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Jeremy Stribling said on Thursday that he and two fellow MIT graduate students questioned the standards of some academic conferences, so they wrote a computer program to generate research papers complete with nonsensical text, charts and diagrams.

The trio submitted two of the randomly assembled papers to the World Multiconference on Systemics, Cybernetics and Informatics (WMSCI), scheduled to be held July 10-13 in Orlando, Florida.

To their surprise, one of the papers -- "Rooter: A Methodology for the Typical Unification of Access Points and Redundancy" -- was accepted for presentation.

The prank recalled a 1996 hoax in which New York University physicist Alan Sokal succeeded in getting an entire paper with a mix of truths, falsehoods, non sequiturs and otherwise meaningless mumbo-jumbo published in the journal Social Text.

Stribling said he and his colleagues only learned about the Social Text affair after submitting their paper.

"Rooter" features such mind-bending gems as: "the model for our heuristic consists of four independent components: simulated annealing, active networks, flexible modalities, and the study of reinforcement learning" and "We implemented our scatter/gather I/O server in Simula-67, augmented with opportunistically pipelined extensions."

Update: You can read their paper, and even make one of your own at their web site. Probably the most famous geeks at MIT right now.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Still waiting on my travel voucher...

WASHINGTON — Some National Guard and Reservists mobilized for the War on Terror have waited months, even years, to get reimbursed for their travel and meal expenses, they say, costing thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket costs and forcing many to be delinquent in paying other bills on time.

Now some lawmakers and soldiers are calling this outstanding debt the latest in a long line of inequities and hardships for the nation’s Guard and Reserve soldiers, many of whom have reported problems with housing allowances, health coverage and payments for purchasing battlefield gear.

"The problems that I experienced — and most of the guys I was deployed with — were extensive. It was ridiculous," said Sgt. Jason Hartley, a National Guardsman from New York City who returned from Iraq two months ago. He just received a check for his housing allowance — 12 months after the expense was incurred.
"Most of the problems I encountered were with the travel system," said National Guardsman Patrick Jennings, a military historian who was deployed to both Afghanistan and Iraq and is home now in Newmarket, N.H. "I got a check a few months ago that was two years old."

A new Government Accountability Office report released in March on the "Inefficient, Error-Prone Process Results in Travel Reimbursement Problems for Mobilized Soldiers" found that the Department of Defense pay system was overwhelmed early on due to the massive call-up of the Army National Guard since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.,2933,153409,00.html

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Moonbats continue to reign in Seattle

Having worked in recruiting, I have plenty of sympathy for the job they have to do in the first place. Now they have to do their job being persecuted by people trying to make political statements. If you don't want to join the military, don't! If you don't want your kid to join the military, don't let them! But that doesn't give you the right to prevent others from having access to information on the opportunity.

Citing various concerns about the war in Iraq, recruiting tactics and the military's policy on homosexuality, a local parent-teacher-student group is urging Seattle high schools to ban military recruiters from campus.

In taking its stand, the Garfield High School PTSA expressed fears that military recruiters were aggressively targeting high school students and were sometimes misrepresenting sign-up agreements in order to meet recruiting goals.

"Public schools are not a place for military recruiters," the resolution adopted last week reads.
The move is largely symbolic -- in Seattle, the decision of whether to allow recruiters on campus is left up to principals -- but it's important to take a stand, PTSA co-chairwoman Amy Hagopian said.

The vote reflects parents' fears that their children will be "sucked into this war, through recruitment or a draft or something," she said.

Who will he be working for?

Most Republicans skipped the hearing, leaving Democrats largely
unchallenged as they assailed Bolton's knack for making enemies and disparaging
the very organization he would serve.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

The Chief Posted by Hello

Another great editorial on intel

Just read and learn. It lays out how to approach intel requirements better than a hundred commissions ever could.

If size were a measure of insight, the WMD Commission's just-released 618-page report would be an even more valuable guide to understanding the cascading series of failures that have plagued our country's intelligence service than the 9/11 Commission's 567-page best-selling opus. But there is no correlation whatever between size and insight and — alas — the most striking feature of both reports is their focus on what is obvious and their silence about what lies beneath.
For example, the WMD Commission concludes that "We need an Intelligence Community that is truly integrated, far more imaginative and willing to run risks, open to a new generation of Americans, and receptive to new technologies." Well, yes — but this recommendation is equally valid for large corporations, universities, and the 2008 U.S. Olympic women's synchronized-swimming team.

The 9/11 Commission concluded — after nearly two years of contentious hearings and deep thinking — that the horrific attacks on New York and Washington weren't prevented by our country's $40 billion-a-year intelligence service because it had suffered a "systemic failure." No kidding — but most Americans had figured this out even before the south tower of the World Trade Center came crashing down.

While both reports provide a detailed narrative of what precisely went wrong, neither report explains why things went so wrong.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Where is Jack Bauer when you need him?

Onething I have always found so interesting about the CIA, is that it is so hard to get in. They take the cream of the crop, a bunch of very intelligent people and then drown them in bureaucracy. Quite sad. I found this an interesting read.

And who can blame them for wondering? The CIA, as I wrote a couple of years
back, now functions in the same relation to President Bush as Pakistan's ISI
does to General Musharraf. In both cases, before the chief executive makes a
routine request of his intelligence agency, he has to figure out whether they're
going to use it as an opportunity to set him up, and if so how. For Musharraf,
the problem is the significant faction in the ISI that would like to kill him.
Fortunately for Bush, if anyone at the CIA launched a plot to kill him, they'd
probably take out G. W. Bish, who runs a feed store in Idaho.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Major disaster strikes Canada

My thoughts and prayers are with our Canadian friends as they struggle through these difficult times.

A beer truck flipped over on a roadway overpass in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Monday, prompting local officials to comment on the tragedy.

"It is sad," Capt. Scott Logan of the Halifax Regional Fire Service (search) told The Daily News of Halifax. "Chances are they won't recover any of the beer."

The truck, hauling 46,368 bottles of Alexander Keith's India Pale Ale (search), skidded to a stop against the overpass's guardrail, luckily avoiding a 50-foot plunge down to another road.
The female driver was pulled out of the cab uninjured — "more frazzled than hurt," according to Logan — letting rescuers focus on the calamitous aspects of the disaster.

"I had a tear in my eye, actually, when I was watching it," said police Constable Mark Hobeck. "It was full of beer. We were hoping a Hostess truck full of pretzels would come by, but no such luck.",2933,152793,00.html

What is wrong with the army language program

I will post this without comment, in order to avoid a court martial.

I've just read one of the funniest and saddest government documents I've run across in years. Published by the Pentagon (the source of most such things) under the title "Defense Language Transformation Roadmap," it details the official plan for improving foreign-language skills among U.S. military personnel. The plan is meant to fill an urgent need. It was ordered by the deputy secretary of defense, administered by the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, and coordinated with the service secretaries, combat commanders, and Joint Chiefs of Staff. And to read it is to see, with your own increasingly widening eyes, the Pentagon's (or is it the federal government's?) sheer inability to get anything done on time.
The document—only 19 pages, so take a look—traces, all too clearly, the project's shameful chronology. It got under way in November 2002—over a year after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks—when the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness was directed to have the military departments review their requirements for language professionals (interpreters, translators, area specialists, and so forth). This review was a bust—or, in the document's more delicate language, it "resulted in narrowly scoped requirements based on current manning authorizations instead of … projected needs."
So, in August 2003—in other words, after another nine months—the undersecretary tried again, directing a formal review of the Defense Language Institute Foreign-Language Center. The resulting study "articulated the needs for qualitative improvement in language skills." What a surprise!
In September 2003—two years after the 9/11 attacks that made officials realize they didn't know enough about the rest of the world—the deputy undersecretary of defense for plans commissioned a study "assessing language needs."
For the first seven months of 2004, the deputy undersecretary assembled a "Defense Language Transformation Team," consisting of representatives from the services, the National Security Agency, and the Special Operations Command. ("Transformation" is widely known to be Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's chief obsession, so officials know that stamping the word on a document or program is the best way to grab attention.)
On May 10, 2004, the deputy secretary of defense ordered the military services, the JCS, the combat commands, the NSA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency to appoint "Senior Language Authorities," who will "assess language needs, track language assets, identify emerging policy requirements," and form a "Defense Foreign Language Steering Committee."
From June through August, 2004, the steering committee oversaw the development—and on Aug. 31, approved—the "Roadmap," and submitted it to the undersecretary of defense.
So, by the end of last summer, it had taken 21 months simply to draw up a 19-page plan.
It gets worse.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Since when was fraud covered under the 1st Ammendment?

Professor's visit sparks furor at Eastern Washington University
By John K. Wiley The Associated Press
CHENEY, Spokane County — A Colorado professor whose formal visit was canceled because of safety concerns criticized administrators yesterday on the Eastern Washington University (EWU) campus, where he spoke after a compromise was reached.
Ward Churchill, whose remarks comparing some Sept. 11 victims to a Nazi war criminal touched off a firestorm and prompted calls for his firing, was a guest of EWU's Native American Student Association.
Scores of uniformed police officers stood by as Churchill told about 500 students gathered at the university's outdoor mall that his appearance was a victory for their free-speech rights.
Churchill earlier had gone to a federal court to try to force the university to rescind its cancellation of a planned speech. Instead, Churchill was allowed to lecture ethnic-studies classes and speak at the Native American Awareness Week rally.
"It was stated clearly, and in English, that the administration's posture here, in attempting to cancel [the formal speech] ... carried clear implications of unconstitutional prior restraint of speech," Churchill said.
"The job assignment of any academic institution ... is to see to it that the academic mission of the institution is fulfilled, not to prevent it, not to shape it to the purposes of their funders," he said, calling security concerns "bogus."
Churchill's remarks were received with polite applause, though a few boos could be heard.
EWU President Stephen Jordan in February canceled a scheduled speech by Churchill, a Colorado ethnic-studies professor, because of security concerns over Churchill's writings comparing some World Trade Center victims to Adolf Eichmann, an architect of the Nazis' "final solution" for European Jews during World War II.

A Tribute to a Hero

I discovered this while surfing the web this morning. I didn't know Gene really well, but I served with him for a couple of months. I thought this was a sweet tribute. Hard to believe it has almost been three years. You will be missed SSG Vance.


Now that is what I call a stop loss!

Brilliant headline from the front page of the Seattle Times this morning.

A Pasco guardsman is fighting the Pentagon's right to add 26 years to his enlistment.

Lifetime enlistments, just like under the Czar. I am assuming it is supposed to be 26 months but you never know. Bush and Rummy could be up to something.

Update: Actually now that I think about it, what they are referring to is when you stoploss someone it become indefinite, although it has to follow certain rules, usually 90 days past your deployment. So they code this in the system at some far off date like 2030. This happened to a bunch of people I served with in Bosnia. But no, they do not make you serve 26 more years.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

More Math Challenged Liberals

Stupid comment of the day: Bob Beckel a Democratic strategist was on Hannity and Colmes tonight commenting on the recent 60 Minutes Jane Fonda interview. He used the opportunity to attack Michael Reagan for not serving in Vietnam, tasteless, but oh well. Then when that was done he did the same to Sean Hannity, another conversative who supported the war, but was unwilling to serve! Just one problem, Sean Hannity was born on December 30th, 1961, which means he would have been all of 12 years old when the US involvement in the war ended.

I admit it, I only joined the National Guard to avoid the draft.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Chief's Rules of Conspiracy Theories

I have been reading conspiracy theories on the Internet, chiefly (no pun intended) regarding the 9/11 attacks and all the theories that Bush either caused or allowed it to happen for certain benefits such as arresting young Muslim men and invading Afghanistan and Iraq. How exactly that benefits Bush is a long story. Anways, being a rather skeptical person, I am just amazed by some of the wild distortions of logic that some people will come up with to defend their theories, so I have come up with the following rules that conspiracy theories must follow. Not exactly Newton's 3 laws of motion, but hey, I am just starting.

1. It is only necessary to observe the evidence that you wish to.

For example, the moonbats who believe that a cruise missile hit the Pentagon. As "proof" of this they cite a man who said he saw a plane hit the pentagon "like a cruise missile", ignoring the concept of a simile, and the fact that he, along with thousands of other people saw a "plane" hit the pentagon.

2. A lack of evidence is only proof of the depth of the cover-up.

Pretty self explanatory, I would have the evidence if only they hadn't covered it up so well!

3. Anyone who doesn't agree with a conspiracy theory is either part of the cover-up (see rule 2) or just a close minded drone of the government.

4. The law of inverse proportionality of authority. The validity of any source is inversely proportional to its authoritativeness .

Any government commission, serious academic (not those who teach humanities at Berkeley), law enforcement official, or politician, ie. the people who are in the position to actually know, are immediately suspect because they were probably involved in the conspiracy in the first place. Someone completely removed from the situation, like some guy posting on his website while watching reruns of Star Trek in his parents' basement is more likely to be untainted.

5. Occams corollary: The complexity and difficulty of a conspiracy theory is only proof of the depth and deviousness of the conspiracy.

More Kudos for UW

UW School of Medicine ranks as nation's top primary-care medical school

For the 12th consecutive year, the U.S. News & World Report annual graduate and professional school rankings, released today, list the University of Washington (UW) School of Medicine as No. 1 among medical schools that excel in primary-care training. The UW School of Medicine also continues to be ranked as the best in the United States for teaching medical students about family practice and rural medicine.
The UW medical school received high national rankings in teaching other medical disciplines. It tied for No. 4 in teaching medical students about AIDS, ranked No. 6 in teaching about women's health, No. 7 in geriatrics training, No. 7 in internal medicine training, tied for No. 8 in teaching future physicians to recognize and treat drug and alcohol abuse; and tied for No. 9 in pediatrics training.

Friday, April 01, 2005

A little shameless self promotion

In the 2 years since I first was admitted to UW, the program has gone from 39 to 18. Coincidence? I say not. OK, I have never actually attended, but let's not get into that right now...

UW's MBA Program Advances to Nation's Top 20 Elite

The University of Washington’s MBA program has been ranked 18th among the nation's best business schools by U.S. News & World Report, advancing nine spots from last year's ranking by the weekly news magazine. The annual rankings appear in the 2006 edition of the book America's Best Graduate Schools. "The progress is the result of outstanding effort and collaboration among our students, staff and faculty, coupled with tremendous support from the business community in the Pacific Northwest," said Dave Burgstahler, acting dean.The rankings are based upon reputation among recruiters and academic peers, student quality indices, and measures of placement success for the program. The magazine surveyed more than 391 accredited master's programs in business.Dan Poston, executive director for MBA programs, said the progress made in the rankings is due in part to the new MBA curriculum instituted last year at the suggestion of employers who hire UW graduates."Regional recruiters are pleased with our responsiveness and with UW MBA graduates who demonstrate better communication skills, critical thinking, ethical values, and leadership," he said. "By building deep ties to businesses in the Pacific Northwest and by striving to serve the needs of those businesses, our reputation with recruiters has climbed, our salaries and placement percentages rose and our graduates are happy."The school's Executive MBA program was ranked 22 in the nation. And among specialty programs, Accounting was ranked 22, International 21, and Entrepreneurship 29.
U.S. News & World Report ranked the UW Business School's graduate program 49 in 2002 and 35 in 2003.A complete list of the rankings will be available Monday in the 2006 edition of the newsstand book America's Best Graduate Schools. Some of the specialty categories will also appear in the April 11 edition of U.S. News & World Report.