Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Crime news!

I'm sure this story about a rapist who disguised himself as a fireman must be all over the news in the states but I am just hearing about it. It isn't something I would normally pay attention to. I don't usually get too wrapped up in such cases. But I found myself linking and linking to different sources until I stumbled across Darkside by Steve Huff.

Steve does an amazing job of tracking down information on various criminals and way back in early November he started on this one and began a fascinating and creepy account of the person who was an early suspect and now has been arrested. Next day he followed up with even more info here.

This should be a bizarre story as it unfolds. His mother and half-brother both want him to kill himself but for different reasons.

As I said, I don't usually follow these things but Huff sure makes it hard to ignore.

Ukraine a Year Later

Interesting update on Ukraine. Only problem:

Everywhere, the old Soviet ways are petering out. Kiev is now a pleasant place--no, above all, a normal one.


Either the writer hasn't been to Kiev or he doesn't know what normal is.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Back

Got back today but have been absorbed in reading all the news I missed.
Iraq's election seems to have gone well with indications that perhaps
some Sunnis are ready to start working with the US. Chatter continues
across the mideast about success for Iraq.

And only one new conspiracy from the left concerning NSA monitoring of
suspected terrorists. Slow week for them.

We are still waiting to see if the Avian Flu amounts to anything here.
They've evacuated PCVs living in the affected areas but so far so good.

Anyway, I'll get back into blogging tomorrow.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Outta Here

Heading over to Kiev for some meetings. Probably won't be back before
Tuesday. Have a good weekend.

King Kong

Saw King Kong last night. Lots of fun and three hours went fast.
Most important point to make is that I watched this in Russian, so
dialogue was spotty for me and my reaction is more to the imagery I
watched. Overall, I loved it.

Kong is a tremendously moving character and the relationship between
him and Darrow is fleshed out more than in previous versions. Kong's
realization is even more amazing than Gollum. Yes, I got misty at the
end.

There are a few things I didn't like. First, the use of CGI when it is
simply not needed. Having a boat row to shore isn't such a difficult
task that you need to substitute real action with computer imagery.
While Jackson used it to good effect in LOR, he tended to be too
dependent on it IMHO, and in Kong he continues that tendency. I've
developed a knee jerk reaction to the overuse of CGI over the years and
don't see myself softening in that opinion. Every time I see it, it
pulls me out of the story. And sometimes it seems that directors will
create outrageous sequences through CGI for no other reason than they
can.

So rather than using talented stuntmen to stage a raid on a ship, a
raid that could be quite exciting, the film shows some CGI characters
doing utterly impossible feats that pull you right out of the movie.
Impossible? Maybe not but the jerky moves of the computer characters
kept my awe in check as I watched that sequence.

There is an immediacy to watching real human beings do real things.
That's why god invented stuntmen and wires. I'm not asking for people
to die for my entertainment but I think movies can be even more
exciting if they pull back a little on the fantastic settings and give
real people a shot in front of the camera.

And I cannot understand why CGI has the fuzzy look that seems to be in
everything CGI. I assume there is a softening process during rendering
to take the sharp edges off but as amazing as the technology is, it is
still artificial and obviously so. More SETS!

Second, Jackson has a tendency to shoot and edit action sequences so
frenetically that what is happening on screen is simply lost to the
audience. I noticed this during LOR several times and in this it is
even more annoying. Just because new technologies allow you to put the
camera everywhere your imagination takes you, doesn't mean you should.

This may sound pissy but I think Jackson is much better at creating
exciting sequences than actually shooting them. I would love to see
him make a film with a good action director as second unit director
that shoots all the action sequences.

Finally, Jack Black. I've been a fan of Black's for a long time and
he's a really funny guy, but his arching eyebrow, while used to good
effect in comedy, simply became annoying in this. By the time he
delivered the final line, which I interpreted to be the same as in the
original Kong, I didn't take his character seriously at all. And that
is a problem because that final line is a classic.

As you can tell, I'm not a professional movie critic. To look at the
above, it may seem that I am not so enthusiastic about King Kong.
Actually, as I said above, I loved it and can't wait to see it in
English. But it seems everybody is a critic these days so I'm doing my
part.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Torture Talk

Torturous Torture

The WSJ on the great Torture Debate. I am apparently the only blogger in the world who is not an expert on torture. Oh sure, my extremely limited audience allows me to live in ignorance but I have been confused about the vast wisdom that so many seem to have on this subject while I know so little.

And evidently my questions concerning the subject are beneath answering. Well, this article is a start.

So I keep asking why, if torture is so ineffective as so many people say with absolute authority, have so many used it for so long? Why has our government decided for years to accept the inevitable, that US soldiers if subjected to torture will break eventually?

Question one, does torture work?

There's also last week's ABC News report that 11 of 12 captured al Qaeda kingpins who have talked only did so after being waterboarded. This would appear to contradict so many glib suggestions, such as those in an open letter yesterday from Congressmen calling themselves the New Democrat Coalition, that such techniques "just plain don't work." The truth is that sometimes they do work.


Hollywood slump

Everybody's talking about the box office slump and giving their particular wisdom on why the movie industry is going through it.

Hit and Run takes a run at it after noting a piece by Tammy Bruce here.

But the most accurate assessment I have seen so far is at the new LA Alternative site here.

Having said that, as I commented on Tammy's site:

The problem with films today isn't only that they are out of touch, the problem is that they aren't very good. I'll choose an out of touch, ideologically naive thriller that's made well over a mainstream piece of crap any day. I've had a great time with films that entertain me but don't stand up logically to scrutiny later. There have been plenty of exciting movies based on a paranoid's worst nightmare.

The problem has been a convergence of crap with out of touch, ideologically naive subject matter that results in crappy, crap, crapfests that nobody gives a crap about.

Hollywood keeps trying to catch that new hot trend when the only trend they really need too focus on is "quality". Sure, there are plenty of bad movies that make money but if you want to play it safe, stick with a decent script and all the other elements that lead to a good movie.

And tell Sean Penn that he's just turning into a creep who's getting more and more difficult to watch. Anybody see his performance in "The Interpreter"? He looked like he was channeling Foster Brooks' unfunny brother.


I had an acquaintance once who kept trying to figure out the secret to scoring with women. He'd get lucky sometimes but overall he was quite unsuccessful. He read all the books (can't believe he told me) and learned all the secrets but never understood that in spite of all the strategies he was employing, they were sabotaged because basically he was just an asshole.

Genetic Engineering run amok

Fascinating piece by Will Saletan about dog breeding and its effects.

n the course of engineering dogs to look, feel, and act as we wanted, we ruined millions of them. We gave them legs so short they couldn't run, noses so flat they couldn't breathe, tempers so hostile they couldn't function in society. Even our best intentions backfired. Nature invented sexual reproduction to diversify gene pools and dilute bad variants. By forcing dogs into incest (which we ban among humans for biological reasons), we defied nature.

Ukraine Avian flu spreads slightly

Report here that it is now in 21 settlements.

Light Blogging


Sorry for the light blogging but I was out of the country for a few
days.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Help Ukraine. You can.

As I mentioned here Ukraine still has US trade restrictions on it from a 30 year old law passed during Soviet times. It is time for them to be removed. The senate has voted for this but the house has not had the vote yet.

Rather than me put up another long post, please follow the link above to see congressional members you can contact and a link to more information.

Ukraine is struggling to move forward and artificial restrictions only hamper that development. It is in all of our best interest for this to pass.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Dems' burden

Democrats fret over the political implications of their position on the war. But they have a plan:

The aim is to provide the party enough maneuvering room to allow Democrats to adjust their position as conditions in Iraq change -- and fix public attention mostly on Bush's policies rather the details of a Democratic alternative


What you thought it was a plan for the Iraq war? You can't have a plan while you "adjust your positions". That's crazy talk!

Ukraine Avian Flu "Unique"

Ukraine Bird flu "Unique Strain"

I haven't found the details yet but according to this report, :

Kiev, Dec 11 (Prensa Latina) A strain of the avian flu virus found in nine Ukrainian villages is unique in the world and quite dangerous to humans, TV ICTV reported Sunday.

ICTV said the characteristics of this variant do not coincide with any other mutation on the planet, but definite data on this H5N1 strain will not be known until Western European experts complete their studies.


What are the implications for such a finding?

Flu Drill

The US Government had a flu drill to see how prepared everybody isn't.

resident Bush's homeland security adviser, Fran Townsend said that in the little time left before lawmakers adjourn for the year, Congress should approve the $7.1 billion in emergency flu preparedness funds that the president has requested.

But the prospects for the request are not clear, as conservatives in the House oppose rubber-stamping it without finding spending cuts elsewhere in the budget. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., has advocated for the money.


Yay PorkBusters!

If this is really a need, and their predictions of worst case 90 million Americans getting this flu if it finally jumps to human-human transmission are true, I don't think now is the time to predicate funds on fighting over cuts. It would take them 6 months before they announce that they can't agree on a GD thing and we'd all be coughing up our lungs.

Another note, I picked up the flu here in Feb of this year. I have no idea what strain it was but it definitely was not one I'd ever had before. My temperature soared to a point above the measurement on the thermometer strips we are issued. I was delirious and at one point actually pondered a dire outcome. I attributed that fear to the fever. I simply could not think clearly after a certain point.

My point is, whatever that flu strain was, even though it wasn't Avian, it kicked my butt. I would imagine it could have done serious damage to an older or more frail person. With a 50% mortality rate, if this mutation they are anticipating happens in the near future, it isn't going to be pretty.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Go Joe

Joe Lieberman, the Democrat I wanted to vote for in the last election, continues to incur the wrath of his party with his crazy "Let's win the war!" talk.

Meanwhile, Nancy Pelosi explains when we are allowed to speak:

"I completely disagree with Mr. Lieberman," Ms. Pelosi said at a news conference. "I believe that we have a responsibility to speak out if we think that the course of action that our country is on is not making the American people safer."


James Dean is working on gathering signatures for a letter critical of the Senator. I was sad to hear that the Dems are using a dead actor in their efforts and then I found out he's brother to Howard Dean...and that is even sadder.

"world on my shoulders"

Further suffering by opportunistic dead hero's mom, Cindy Sheehan here :

She's had to cram her six-foot frame into economy class for the trip,


Nothing, I suspect like the suffering of the poor soul crammed in the seat next to her. Mark Steyn recently decried the anti war movements constant portrayal of our soldiers as mere helpless infants and Sheehan continues that tactic when speaking about her son:

"He was a good soldier, he liked being in the army. He only went to Iraq because his buddies were going and they all feel a responsibility for each other."

She has since met many of his fellow soldiers and the sergeant who tried to talk Casey out of going on the mission that killed him. "Casey just said,` 'Where my chief goes, I go', and he left and he was killed.


It boggles the mind.

Situation out of control

Laugh out loud funny stuff from new (to me) blog Wuzzadem


Rumsfeld speaks

Via Tim Blair an interview by Jim Lehrer with Donald Rumsfeld.

It reminds me of a comment my brother made after a particularly heated debate with my cantankerous father.

He's such an arrogant bastard! I just wish he wasn't right so damn much.

The new tories

Norman Podhoretz uses the words of Tom Paine to launch a blistering essay on the voices of retreat. Zbigniew Brzezinski gets a stunning series of blows that go on and on and start wrapping up with this:

Then for a third time Brzezinski looks over the Middle East, and what does he see? He sees more and more sympathy for terrorism, and more and more hatred of America, being generated throughout the region by our actions in Iraq; and in this context, too, that is all he sees. About the momentous encouragement that our actions have given to the forces of reform that never dared act or even speak up before, he is completely silent—though it is a phenomenon that even so inveterate a hater of America as the Lebanese dissident Walid Jumblatt has found himself compelled to recognize. Thus, only a few months after declaring that “the killing of U.S. soldiers in Iraq is legitimate and obligatory,” Jumblatt suddenly woke up to what those U.S. soldiers had actually been doing for the world in which he lived:

"It’s strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq. I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting [in January 2005], 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world."

The columnist Michael Barone has listed some of the developments that bear out Jumblatt’s judgment:

"[The] progress toward democracy in Iraq is leading Middle Easterners to concentrate on the question of how to build decent governments and decent societies. We can see the results—the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon, the first seriously contested elections in Egypt, Libya’s giving up WMD’s, the Jordanian protests against Abu Musab Zarqawi’s recent suicide attacks, and even a bit of reform in Saudi Arabia."

Even in Syria, reports the Washington Post’s David Ignatius,

"people talk politics . . . with a passion I haven’t heard since the 1980’s in Eastern Europe. They’re writing manifestos, dreaming of new political parties, trying to rehabilitate old ones from the 1950’s."

And not only in Syria. As the democratic activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim who, like Jumblatt, originally opposed the invasion of Iraq, told Ignatius’s colleague Jim Hoagland:

"Those [in the Middle East] who believe in democracy and civil society are finally actors . . . [because the invasion of Iraq] has unfrozen the Middle East, just as Napoleon’s 1798 expedition did. Elections in Iraq force the theocrats and autocrats to put democracy on the agenda, even if only to fight against us. Look, neither Napoleon nor President Bush could impregnate the region with political change. But they were able to be midwives."

Nor are such changes confined to the political sphere alone. According to a report in the Economist, a revulsion against terrorism has begun to spread among Muslim clerics, including some who, like the secular Jumblatt, were only recently applauding its use against Americans:

Moderate Muslim clerics have grown increasingly concerned at the abuse of religion to justify killing. In Saudi Arabia, numerous preachers once famed for their fighting words now advise tolerance and restraint. Even so rigid a defender of suicide attacks against Israel . . . as Yusuf Qaradawi, the star preacher of the popular al-Jazeera satellite channel, denounces bombings elsewhere and calls on the perpetrators to repent.


In the piece Podhoretz mentions the ongoing comparisons to Vietnam. As David Ignatius begins the comparison above, what we are seeing happen in the Middle East is best compared, not to Vietnam at all but to the Reagan change of policy in the 80's that led to the fall of the Soviet Union and the emergence of free states in Eastern Europe. And like then, opponents of the administration refuse to acknowledge and welcome the changes that are happening. How could they when it delegitimizes their Middle East policy positions just as Reagan's success did to those policies encouraging decades of Soviet appeasement.

Finally, 15 years after the fall of the Soviets, we are still only learning now about the full extent of the horrors of that regime. And it is difficult to realize that the world stood by while tens of millions suffered and died. What will be revealed about the Middle East in 10-20 years time?

Ukraine Avian Flu Spreading

The government has reported that the Avian flu has spread to the southern and central regions of Crimea. So far they have culled more than 35,700 birds.

Here is a disturbing report that birds are being burned alive

As predicted, chicken prices and sales are plummeting ( in Crimea, no word on greater Ukraine) while meat prices and sales are going up

Update: Ukraine Poultry exports seem to be limited to Russian and Belarus as mentioned here in the previously unknown web site (at least to me) called the "Poultry Site". It seems that the various bans on Ukraine Poultry Imports aren't going to have much of an effect if any.

An interesting note. In this report, the Ukrainian head of Veterinarian Medicine sought to calm public fears by stating that there are no reports of Avian Flu. This was in September, the time that people are now claiming that the first cases were reported.

Also noted is the continuing smuggling of poultry into Ukraine because of high import tariffs.

Unintended Consequences

Iraq war opponent Brendan O'Neill makes the best case that war opponents are increasing the death count.

Is anybody going to claim that O'Neill is calling them unpatriotic?

Friday, December 09, 2005

Please Don't have a happy holiday.

Cathy Young has a post about the current hysteria over the use of "Happy Holidays" As I said in her comments section I started sending out Happy Holidays cards when I got tired of having to buy separate cards for my Jewish friends. Am I cheap or just lazy? Maybe I just capitulated to the worst elements of our culture without even knowing it.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Recovered Memories

Interesting interview in Reason with Susan Clancy on recovered memories of sexual abuse and alien abductions.

Reason: How prevalent is belief in recovered memories? Are they still commonly accepted as evidence in legal proceedings?

Clancy: Yes. It is unbelievable. All of the scientific research shows that repression is just preposterous. But most therapists believe that repression exists. And most people in the world believe that the concept of repression is real. I think that's because of movies and Hollywood, we see it depicted, it's just culturally out there.

Reason: But in the scientific community—

Clancy: It's dead. Dead, dead, dead. For five decades we've known that memory is reconstructive in nature; we've known that memories can be created. The whole issue of repression didn't become a hot topic until the 90s. And for the past ten years scientists have been arguing that repression is preposterous.


A few years ago I had a childhood friend who was having a marital problems that eventually caused her to start seeing a psychologist. I had by then become wary of the whole "recovered memory" movement and warned her to be careful about memories being induced. She assured me that wasn't the type of therapist she was seeing. Within 6 months she announced that she had remembered a whole series of sexual abuse incidents by her uncle and grandfather. From there her mental health took a dramatic downward spiral.

I don't know if she indeed was ever abused but I ultimately had to end the friendship because of her erratic behavior. Even if repressed memories were revealed, which I don't believe, they did nothing to help and actually destroyed this person's life.

On Walmart

Michael Barone has a piece on Wal-Mart with a comparison to GM.

I recently bought a winter jacket at the local market. In Ukraine you have a choice of buying a branded item at an inflated price, much more than you would pay in the west, in an exclusive shop, or pick up a knockoff at a stall in the market. I don't have the numbers but I'm pretty confident that the vast majority of clothing, hell, consumer goods, purchased in Ukraine are knockoffs.

Here's the kicker. I paid a visit to Munich and happened to stumble across a Walmart center. A jacket there very similar to what I had bought was half the price that the knockoff was in Ukraine. And it was better quality.

So the Ukrainian government has a major sector of the retail market working underground (the shadow economy) and paying little if any taxes . I wonder what effect the entry of a Walmart type chain would have on such an economy. Tax revenues would increase dramatically, buying power would increase dramatically, sales would increase dramatically. Competition would spur improvements across the retail sector. Why would you not pursue such a strategy?

Avian Flu Update Dec 9

Ukraine reports additional mass bird deaths although they haven't been definitively linked to Avian Flu. This happened in villages surrounding the originally infected region.

EU bans Ukrainian Poultry. The same article mentions that the virus in Ukraine has been confirmed to be H5N1. I had a report with more on that but lost it. Internet is buggy so won't be able to look that up.

As I said before, I understood that Ukraine depends on poultry imports so I don't know how this affects anything. I'm going to try to look up some more info on this.

Update: Ukraine Poultry exports seem to be limited to Russian and Belarus as mentioned here in the previously unknown web site (at least to me) called the "Poultry Site". It seems that the various bans on Ukraine Poultry Imports aren't going to have much of an effect if any.

An interesting note. In this report, the Ukrainian head of Veterinarian Medicine sought to calm public fears by stating that there are no reports of Avian Flu. This was in September, the time that people are now claiming that the first cases were reported.

Also noted is the continuing smuggling of poultry into Ukraine because of high import tariffs.


This statement by Birdlife International that migratory birds are not at fault for spreading the flu seems more dedicated to saving migratory birds than common sense.

''The limited outbreaks in eastern Europe are on southerly migration routes but are more likely to be caused by other vectors such as the import of poultry or poultry products. The hypothesis that wild birds are to blame is simply far from proven,'' said Rands.


I might buy into this if the area in Ukraine was a hub for imports but it sounds like a remote rural area that probably produces its own poultry. Yea, I guess they haven't proven wild birds are to blame but at this late date, nobody has proven my imaginary friend Bobo the monkey boy isn't the greatest practitioner of traditional celtic dance in the last century.

The US National Center for Policy Analysis warns US hospitals may help spread flu pandemic. Conditions in Ukraine hospitals are appalling. It is not unusual to find a stray dog or cat lounging in the hallways and treatment is dependent on bribes to doctors and nurses. They are simply not paid enough to live on their salaries alone. I can't confirm it now but I am pretty sure that needles are reused. Well, PCVs are not allowed to donate blood for safety reasons so that should tell you something. I would imagine a Ukrainian hospital would be the perfect environment for such a virus to spread.

In the same article, a report from the US Congressional Budget Office predicts that a US pandemic would cost $675 billion if 30 percent of the population were infected, the infection rate for the last 3 pandemics.

US Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican, said the report assumed a 2.5 per cent mortality rate, that the pandemic would last for three months and that 30 per cent of the workforce would become ill and miss three weeks of work.

Tony Pierce and Winds of Change

Winds of Change has a response to the Pajamas Media conspiracy theory posted by Tony Pierce here and that I wrote about here.

Taco Heaven

The cynical side of me finds this weirdly comical.

The sentimental side finds it inspiring.

via LA Observed

Avian Flu Update

A couple of things of interest concerning the Avian Flu before anybody hears some report that gives them a panic attack. There are cases of Avian flu in the US but according to this report this is a completely different kind than the one causing all the concern. It is H5N1 that is the dangerous version and they are waiting for lab results to determine just which H5 subtype has cause bird deaths in Ukraine.

Turkeys on a farm in North Carolina have tested positive for a low-pathogenic form of avian influenza that poses no risk to human health.

The H3N2 strain found on the farm has been detected elsewhere in the United States this past year and is of no concern.

Ed Loyd, a U.S. Department of Agriculture spokesman, explained, 'Bird flu is as common as the human flu. With attention on high (pathogenic forms) in Asia and Eastern Europe, there has been more attention on bird flu this year.'


And I guess I'm going to keep eating my chicken.

-- In response to consumer fears regarding the consumption of poultry, the World Health Organization and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization have reissued a statement confirming that there is no danger of contracting avian influenza from cooked poultry.

Even eating a bird infected with H5N1 does not pose a risk to the consumer as long as the meat was thoroughly cooked at a minimum temperature of 70 Celsius (158 Fahrenheit) and none of the meat is raw or red in appearance.

Cooked eggs are also safe to eat, although eggs from areas with outbreaks of avian influenza in birds should not be consumed with runny yolks.


Also, the deathtoll in Asia rises by 2.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Avian flu Update

I mentioned in a post below, a book about the politicization of science, including the Avian Flu. I can't vouch for the book but I've read Michael Crichton argue the same issue before and was convinced.

Well, the World Bank is evidently gearing up to make hundreds millions of dollars available for Avian Flu aid. This is a moment where I pause. By all means, do whatever it takes to contain this and keep us safe, but don't provide a financial incentive for countries to suddenly discover Avian Flu. Trust me, there is a fine art to skimming off international loans and grants that has been perfected in certain parts of the world. I happen to live in one of those areas. I just hope the World Bank is vigilant in overseeing the distribution of funds.

Also, the UAE has banned Ukraine live poultry imports. This is the second country I've seen do this but frankly I don't know how this changes anything. Last I heard, Ukraine has to import most of its poultry.

Carnivorous Launch

Wow, I come home to find my visitor tally up by a big number because I was linked from Riehlworldview about my Avian flu posts.

Wow, Thanks Dan!

The real Abu Ghraib

I hope Ted Kennedy is listening to this.

It's easy to make comparisons when you don't know what you are talking about.

Avian Flu Update

Another district in Ukraine has has been found to have infected birds. This is in an area an adjacent to the original cases.

Lithuania has banned poultry imports from Ukraine

More talk of human to human transmission along with report of little girl in China being infected as well as claim that first Avian Flu was reported in Ukraine in September.

Finally, to calm things down a little, Science Journalist Tom Bethell has a new book described here that not only questions the politicization of Avian flu but AIDS (see below) and Global Warming.

The Question of AIDS

I happened to run across the Amazon page for The Myth of Heterosexual AIDS by Michael Fumento today and it started this post.

I've always been skeptical about the various statistics offered up concerning AIDS, especially about transmission through heterosexual sex.

Back in the 80s I read a long article in the science magazine Omni that offered a detailed explanation of how HIV was transmitted and the differences between vaginal and anal tissue that affected its transmission. From that one article it seemed clear that transmission was a simple, mechanical issue. Vaginal sex is much less dangerous than anal for various reasons. During that time I saw many, well most, of my gay friends in our small town die from AIDS in quick succession. My neighbor, who was in the early stages of AIDS, once told me that several sudden deaths of married men in our community were being misreported in the obituaries because their doctors were protecting them from the stigma of the real cause, AIDS. My neighbor knew this because he personally knew many of these men to be bisexual and they went to the same parties as he did.

Besides sexual transmission, dirty needles are the most obvious reason next in line for transmission.

Since then, 20 years later, I have seen many more of my gay friends get AIDS and die, but none who are heterosexual even contract it. Why is this the case when we are told by the Office of National AIDS Policy here that 10% of AIDS cases in men are through heterosexual transmission and 75% of female AIDS cases are through heterosexual transmission. By my calculations, with 70% of new HIV cases being men and 30% being women, that adds up to 27% of all new cases being through heterosexual transmission. Does anybody believe that 1/4 of HIV cases are through straight sex?

How can that possibly be correct? I originally come from an area with a lot of very active extracurricular sexual activity, with a lot of partners shifting around and then I moved to a huge metropolitan area with a lot of people making the singles scene. How is it possible that I have never known one straight person who contracted HIV? I've considered the possibility that perhaps I am living in some cocoon of safety but I have never known anybody who knew a straight person that contracted AIDS. And It has been a conversation I've had many times with friends over the years without anybody being able to think of a non-drug-injecting straight AIDS patient they knew.

Granted, you could argue that perhaps people choose to keep it a secret. New drugs have extended lives quite a bit and made it easier for people to keep such a secret. But I find that difficult to believe.

An easier explanation is that people choose to report a cause of transmission that fits their preferred image. Like the married men from my home town, a lot of men probably prefer to blame it on a girl than maybe a beer too many with the boys. On the female side, since there is no statistic for homosexual transmission (which that OMNI article made clear was all but impossible), the other option is injection drug use (term used in report cited). Again, how many women choose to deny an activity that could be embarrassing?

Another explanation is that skewing the statistics serves the purposes of certain interest groups.

All of this is not to argue against AIDS funding or blame anybody for this terrible disease, it is to question why we seem to be determined to lie to ourselves about the realities of this disease. How much funding is wasted on the wrong target groups? How many more lives could be saved if those strategies were realigned to meet the real needs of groups most susceptible to contracting HIV?

My numbers above are admittedly not scientific. I'd have to be a scientist to do that. It was my best effort to compile the information from an official site.

Also, during my search I ran across interesting stories on AIDS in Africa here, here, and here that raise questions about statistics from that part of the world.

I know this is a touchy subject (at this late date, why should it be?) and people tend to be SHOCKED to hear somebody question the accepted doctrine on AIDS, so please feel free to let me know what you think.

Last minute Shopping

Work Safe? Er,

Well, it's from Amazon Health and Personal Care

Just when you thought you didn't know what to get that someone special, try this on for size

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

King Kong

Yet another reason why I wish I could hop on a plane and visit the west, if just for an afternoon.

My only concern is that Jackson has gained so much power that like so many directors before him, has begun to cut his movies much too long with nobody willing to demand he overcome his impulses. It was evident in LOR, especially the last one (I went back and watched Return of the King last week and it is surprisingly better than I remember. The final 30 minutes or so were so gag-inducing that I forgot the great movie I had watched in the previous 2 hours), and with Kong at 3 hours I fear he still can't bring himself to snip the fattier parts. The first great director I noticed falling into this pattern was James Cameron on the Abyss. What could have been a great adventure flick was suddenly bogged down by a whole lot of deep nothingness.

Sometimes a good director needs a strong producer looking over his shoulder in the editing room.

Btw, speaking of the ending for Return of the King, am I the only person who thought the scene towards the end with Frodo waking in bed and all the characters rushing to his room was reminiscent of "The Wizard of Oz"? I half expected him to start telling them all about his amazing dream of going to munchkinland.

I'm a dope part 987

So I installed the Haloscan comments program that provides some benefits I guess. I didn't realize that I would no longer receive email notification for any comments I receive.

It's not like I had hundreds of comments to worry about but I wish I had responded to some.

Don't know if I'll remove the haloscan or just check for comments manually. Trying to figure out what the advantage is to have the haloscan in place.

Avian Flu update

Peace Corps has assured volunteers that the avian flu situation here is under control by the government. Yesterday I wondered why they only announced this a few days ago when the first cases evidently appeared in October. Sorry, I don't have the links to that supposed October date.

Now this story provides new information including the evident potential for 20,000 more birds to become infected here.

The government doesn't give you much confidence when you read what the President says about the head of state veterinarian medicine:

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko yesterday urged the government to fire Verbytskyi for failing to handle the outbreak, Yushchenko's press service reported, without saying exactly how health authorities had failed.

``What happened in these villages is clearly a professional error of the veterinary service and it must accept responsibility,'' Yushchenko was quoted by Reuters as telling reporters yesterday in Nekrasovka. ``In the early stages, the local and central veterinary services proved unable to cope. As a result of this trip I am ordering the dismissal of the chief veterinarian.''


Either the President is over-reacting or the head of veterinarian medicine is incompetent. Neither scenario is good.

Crimea is a peninsula off southern Ukraine. It seems that geography is in everybody's favor here. Evidently there have been no cases of this version of the avian flu being transmitted to humans. In fact it appears that all human cases are limited to Asia. But as I mentioned before, the dangers of this situation (public panic, lack of meat) could go well beyond the actual flu.

In this story we are assured:

Though Ukraine had previously been declared free of bird flu, the H5N1 virus strain had been found near its borders in Romania and Russia. Ukraine's top veterinary surgeon, Petro Verbytsky, however stressed that no humans had been affected by the virus, and that contagion was unlikely. "There is 1,000 times less chance of becoming ill from bird flu than there is from tuberculosis," he said.


Wait a minute, that's the guy the president wants to fire. Yikes!

Monday, December 05, 2005

I ran, you ran, we all ran from Iran

Iran continues its march towards becoming a nuclear power.

The Russian Defence Minister, Sergei Ivanov, confirmed yesterday that Moscow had signed a deal to sell Tor short-range ground-to-air missiles to Iran,


Not to worry, Ivanov :

stressed that "this unequivocally will not change the balance of forces in the region."


I assume that in the coming weeks the EU will continue its march towards ill-relevance.

Chavez Victory

Maybe "Hollow" isn't the right word since he did officially win and evidently will begin the process of making himself president for life. Gateway Pundit has a great story and pictures of the farce called an election.

Avian reports, or lack of

Nothing new to report on the Avian Flu situation. The english news
sources I'm reading still carry the same initial reports. And none of
the locals are talking about it to me yet.

I'm trying to figure out why we are only now being told when there are
reports that this started in Crimea in October.

And I couldn't help but notice that the AP story gets the exchange rate
on the hryvna and dollar wrong by a third. Its not a big deal but you
would think a simple fact like that would be easy to get right.

Russian accident

A tragic indoor swimming pool accident has left 14 dead in Russia.

Frankly, it is surprising that more stories like this aren't common. Shoddy construction is commonplace over here and I imagine Russia suffers the same problem.

Birth of a Conspiracy Theory

I was stopped in my tracks by a post by Stephen Green at VodkaPundit in response to this piece by Tony Pierce. Stephen can get fired up sometimes but I've never read anything quite like this from him:

I suspect Tony Pierce got caught in bed with a live boy or a dead girl

Who can pass up a chance to see what brought that on?

The article by Pierce is an interesting series of conjectures about Pajamas Media, the Bush administration and the uses of propaganda. And it makes several allegations of the corruption of bloggers involved with Pajamas Media. Really serious allegations of being bought and co-opted by Bushco.

Then each allegation is followed by a disclaimer like this: For all I know, and I mean this seriously, Pajamas Media and every single Right Wing Blogger could be totally on the up-and-up. And for all I know the entire Bloggersphere is completely legit, sincere, and in no way the press release for the White House.

But despite all his disclaimers, Tony ends with this: the only question is, when will we find out who those bloggers on the take are, and what will happen to their reputations once they're outted.

developing...


It sounds like Tony finally convinced himself in the course of writing that post.

I think the whole propaganda story is a bunch of hooey. I would be shocked (and angry) if the government wasn't using propaganda during a war. I don't know of any war in which it wasn't.

And I'm not a defender of Pajamas Media. I've been confused by the whole thing since it launched. But I find Tony's "what ifs" to be a bit wingnutty.

But it is fascinating to see a conspiracy theory developed right before your eyes such as this.

ps. I had a civil conversation with Tony in his comments section about several references in his post to Jeff Gannon being gay. We disagree on that point but it didn't get nasty, but Stephen had every reason to react the way he did.

Drip, drip, drip

Drip, drip, drip

More leaking reported at Never Yet Melted.

This all would be funny if it wasn't so enraging.

Another Step

Ukraine gets market economy status with the EU.

Tomas Fiala, with a Kiev based investment house says:

"The potential for growth is very high - Ukraine just needs access," Fiala said. "It won't happen in a day but this is a very important step."


While a communist lawmaker offered the usual words of wisdom sprinkled with the usual paranoia.

"It's just promise and enticements to involve Ukraine in chaos. Ukraine is not a country with a market economy and will not be able to be competitive."

Saturday, December 03, 2005

A Clarification

Just to clarify, one of my earlier posts mentioned evacuation of PCVs.
I'm not calling for that and hope it isn't necessary. Ukraine is a
country that thrives on gossip and such an evacuation of PCVs could
create panic in areas that suddenly see Americans heading for the
hills.

I just want such decisions to be based on health, not political or
economic issues.

And then some more on Avian Flu

Via Instapundit, a post on the possible human to human transfer of Avian Flu that people have worried about.

As Instapundt and Reihlwordview both note This is not good news if confirmed

Check out comments in Reihlworldview for interesting discussion.

Implications of the Avian Flu

Well, there may be a bigger problem here than I originally expected. According to this AP report, in the Billings Gazette:

Ukrainians, meanwhile, began debating whether to stop buying poultry - the only meat many in this poor nation can afford.


Two issues here.

First, poultry is the cheapest meat around, well, if you are talking about "meat" in the traditional sense, and even then, it is not cheap when you compare income vs. costs. A kilo (2.2 lbs) of chicken typically runs around $2-3 which may not sound like much until you remember that the average Ukrainian monthly household income runs somewhere south of $200 (I won't try to pin that down since official reports put it at around $100 per month but most Ukrainians work in some way with the shadow economy that is not recorded.). Beef typically runs about 2.5 times more.

Second, if past experience with Ukrainians is any indication, this will be a big concern. I wouldn't be surprised if a large number of people, the majority, stop eating chicken completely.

Then you have this:

“I don't see any reason for panic, the situation is under control,” Agriculture Minister Oleksandr Baranivsky told reporters in Kiev after announcing a two-mile quarantine around the four villages.


The only problem with Mr. Baranivsky's statement is that the majority of Ukrainians don't trust the government and his assurances are probably falling on deaf ears.

Even more troubling is the issue of pensioners. They are living on less than $50 per month and if they drop the chicken, how can they afford the even more expensive beef. With the winter just starting and vegetables now sky high, it could be tough for a lot of folks. Potatoes and cabbage will become even more of a staple than they were already.

I'm not getting panicky here but this could have ramifications I didn't originally anticipate.

Avian Flu Take 2

First news report I've seen about the avian flu in Ukraine as I mentioned yesterday here.

The only concern I have at this point is government transparency, or lack of it I should say. In the article they say 1,600 birds have died. Wouldn't somebody notice something after the first few hundred bird corpses were littering the ground? I'm a huge supporter of Ukraine and its further development but I hope the Peace Corps isn't depending on the government to tell them if/or when PCVs should be evacuated.

Biggy Smalls day in court

Fascinating story about the Notorious B.I.G murder case and the wrongful death suit being brought against the city of LA.

It starts with this:

Those who arrived as spectators at the federal courthouse in downtown Los Angeles on July 6th expecting to observe the fourth day of testimony in the Notorious B.I.G. wrongful-death suit swiftly discovered that they were on hand to bear witness to something else: history. In an announcement that stunned everyone who had been following the case in the media, presiding judge Florence-Marie Cooper abruptly suspended the proceedings and called a mistrial. Only a handful in the courtroom knew of the remarkable events of the previous days: an anonymous late-night phone tip; the extraordinary lockdown of a Los Angeles Police Department division; a stash of secret, incriminating documents. But the following day, Judge Cooper issued a written ruling stating that she had come to believe the LAPD had deliberately concealed a massive amount of evidence that attested to the involvement of rogue officers in the rapper's slaying.


Long but well worth reading.

Another day...

...another bad guy dead. Yay!

The day we've been waiting for...

Avian Flu has been reported in Crimea. They are evacuating volunteers
from that area "until the situation is stabilized" whatever that means.

Here are some of the precautions we are given:

- Avoid contact with any home-raised chickens, ducks and turkey and
their
waste
- Do not purchase eggs, poultry or products containing eggs from open
markets or street vendors. Buy only where you can be reasonably sure the
poultry was factory-raised.
-- If you come into contact with domestic poultry:
-- Wash your hands immediately with soap and water -- Remove your shoes
outside the house and clean them well
-- Call the PCMO if you come down with a fever
They didn't include:

--Run for your lives
--Stick your head between your knees and kiss your ass goodbye.

We've been anticipating this since it was reported in neighboring
countries and everybody was required to get a regular flu shot as a
precaution. I am about 5 hours by slow train to the affected spots.

As of now there haven't been any reports of transmission to people so
the eternal optimist in me is hanging in there.

No, it's really quite deep

Camille Paglia gets allintellectually on Madonna.

Through her fusion of Graham primitivism with Italian Catholic ritualism, Madonna caught the pagan majesty of disco and embodied it in a stunning body of original compositions that conquered the world and have never gone out of airplay -- "Into the Groove," "Open Your Heart," "Vogue" and a host of others.


Huh?

It depends on what the meaning of the word "Murder" is

Former Attorney General and current nut Ramsey Clark is now working for Saddam's defense. Christopher Hitchens provides this take on Mr. Clark.

Most interesting is an email excerpt from a peace activist that Hitchens reprints:

The problem is … that Clark is one of the most well-known representatives of the anti-war movement and represents the ANSWER coalition and in my mind this is more than the conflict of interest that it unquestionably is. Thus, the message that it sends to the Iraqi people is that the anti-war movement doesn't really care about any Iraqis other than those who have been killed by US and UK forces, that it, in fact, does not condemn Saddam for his long history of human rights violations and for his launching a bloody war against Iran that took well over a million lives.

That is to say the least of it. He adds:

It is long past time for the anti-war movement to drop its double standards. It can begin by saying Ramsey Clark does not speak for us. He certainly does not speak for me.


The bottom line on Clark is he never met a mass murdering tyrant he didn't like.

Latinos in New Orleans

I predicted that the hurricane Katrina was going to have all kinds of unexpected consequences and fantasized about a rebuilt New Orleans with a state-of-the-art infrastructure, after enough the federal money had been skimmed off by local officials of course. The recent announcement of free wireless sounds like the beginnings of what I was imagining.

The influx of Latinos as described here is one of those unexpected consequences I frankly did not expect. There are the inevitable difficulties but at least the Mayor is welcoming them with open arms:

"How do I ensure that New Orleans is not overrun by Mexican workers?"


Nice going.

Meanwhile, Karl Rove was evidently working hard and early in his grand scheme to destroy the city when he managed to sabotage the levee during the design phase.

I wonder if people are going to go to prison for this

She's drunk? Wha!?!?!?!?!

The Live 8 folks filed suite against Anna Nicole Smith for showing up to the event drunk. I'm surprised they didn't ask an expert on Ms. Smith for advice before contracting with her. Oh, somebody like me who, after watching all of one episode of her reality show, could have predicted that outcome.

posting

It rained here today and so of course the internet is acting wacky. I
don't know if and when I will be able to log on. I don't even know if
I can stay on long enough to send this post by email.

We had a blanket of snow a few weeks ago and I was ready for a severe
winter. But last week the temp rose above freezing and now it is
simply cold and wet.

If you're reading this, then I was successful. If not, never mind.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Where did all the Spycatchers go?

I've done a few posts in the past about leaking from the CIA and FBI. John Hindraker from Powerline directs us to his article in The Weekly Standard that takes the agency to task.

I don't need to wonder about the Plame affair, it is all over the news and the case is being breathlessly followed with every twist and turn by the media, but I am wondering why the torrent of leaks from within the CIA (that dwarf the Plame case) is not getting any coverage.

In the good old days we could pretty much identify the bad guys who decided to work against the interest of the US to serve their own personal agendas. Those moles or spies or whatever they were called were properly condemned and prosecuted after an investigation revealed who they were. Why aren't the people responsible for all these leaks being pursued and prosecuted as well? Is there any effort being made? Are their activities any less damaging to US interests?

And why aren't leaders in congress, from both parties, asking these questions? Doesn't anybody care anymore?

You supported the Orange Revolution? Now you can help.

You supported the Revolution? Now what are you going to do?

Everybody knows what happened last year with the Orange Revolution but few are paying attention to the struggle to finally bring Ukraine into the modern world economy. I know the fact that we aren't facing carnage in the streets makes this less newsworthy for the MSM but it is critical that 30 year old trade restrictions be finally lifted to allow Ukraine to move forward. Please go here and click on the link to "Jackson-Vanik Graduation Coalition Information Page."

Please direct your calls/letters to: House Ways and Means Committee

Chairman Bill Thomas, R-CA
Phone (202) 225-2915, Fax (202) 225-8798
Attention: International Trade Aid, Mike Holland

Ranking Minority Member Charles B. Rangel, D-NY
Phone (202) 225-4365, Fax (202) 225-0816
Attention: International Trade Aid, Jon Sheiner

If your Congressman is a member of the House Ways and Means
Committee, please contact him/her with your support for Ukraine's
graduation as well.

   U.S. HOUSE WAYS AND MEANS COMMITTEE MEMBERSHIP

E. Clay Shaw Jr., R-FL
Nancy L. Johnson, R-CT
Wally Herger, R-CA
Jim McCrery, R-LA
Dave Camp, R-MI
Jim Ramstad, R-MN
Jim Nussle, R-IA
Sam Johnson, R-TX
Phil English, R-PA
J.D. Hayworth, R-AZ
Jerry Weller, R-IL
Kenny C. Hulshof, R- MO
Ron Lewis, R-KY
Mark Foley, R-FL
Kevin Brady, R-TX
Thomas M. Reynolds, R-NY
Paul Ryan, R-WI
Eric Cantor, R-VA
John Linder, R-GA
Bob Beauprez, R-CO
Melissa A. Hart, R-PA
Chris Chocola, R-IN
Devin Nunes, R-CA
Fortney Pete Stark, D-CA
Sander M. Levin, D-MI
Benjamin L. Cardin, D-MD
Jim McDermott, D-WA
John Lewis, D-GA
Richard E. Neal, D-MA
Michael R. McNulty, D-NY
William J. Jefferson, D-LA
John S. Tanner, D-TN
Xavier Becerra, D-CA
Lloyd Doggett, D-TX
Earl Pomeroy, D-ND
Stephanie Tubbs Jones, D-OH
Mike Thompson, D-CA
John B. Larson, D-CT
Rahm Emanuel, D-IL

The vote on this issue will happen in only 3 days. It is critical for this country of 50 million that we continue to assist its continuing development.

Reader to PJM. Hello? Anybody there?

Glenn Reynolds over at Instapundit is simply amazing. I really don't know how he is able to gather and post to so many interesting stories on a daily basis. I guess when you are known as the "Blogfather" you have to live up to your reputation. I've recently observed that Glenn has started including a lot of links to Pajamas Media and wondered about this new venture that I don't understand. I don't understand the need for it. I don't understand the business model.

If participating bloggers are contributing to the business bottom line, does that mean that they are obliged to inform their readers of such obligations? If Pajamas Media is excluding certain bloggers from their links because it doesn't serve their business purposes, is it obliged to inform its readers?

Everybody rails about the MSM and its slippery way of distorting or not telling the truth. As the blogging world becomes more powerful and more influential, does it have a responsibility to its audience that has not been addressed?

I'm asking these questions because I have yet to see any blog that is involved with PJM actually address it beyond superficial acknowledgments of opening week glitches and the embarrassing name change. What's going on? Nobody has a problem talking about the NYT's internal problems or the NYT's inability to honestly discuss them in public. Same with every other media outlet.

Before anybody gets their panties in a wad, I know that business demands do not allow a public airing of the behind the scenes activities of such a venture, but I would at least like to understand how the various bloggers that I have come to trust (a few are listed to the right) are possibly shifting their focus to meet their financial interests. Why isn't this being discussed?

As I mentioned previously, Tim Blair has stepped away from PJM. He's not talking so we have no idea what really triggered his move. I don't need, or I guess really have the right, to know, but I sure am curious.

In the absence of information though, there will be speculation. And it will be by bloggers that have already expressed their distaste (to use a polite word) for Pajamas Media that will do the most vocal speculating. I think for the good of PJM, they need to start educating their readers before somebody else does it for them.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

WOW!

That's all you can say when you take a look at this.

I'm not a religious person, was once before but it didn't stick.

Anyway, it is difficult for me to comprehend the concept of "Eternity". That's a long, long time. Aren't you going to run out of things to do? And the whole question of where god came from has always tripped me up.

I'm not an atheist, that requires even more faith than being a believer, and I respect religious (or for those so inclined, "spiritual") beliefs that aren't forced into law to hamper my rights to do all the things that believers believe will send me to hell. But I'm not a believer.

In University Astronomy 101, I had the same problem grasping the scientific explanation for the universe. The sheer vastness of space is simply beyond my ability to comprehend. Maybe it exposes my intellectual shortcomings but the more we learned in that fascinating class, the more difficult it was for me to grasp. Oh I got all the details and made decent grades but it hurt my head sometimes.

So when I see a picture of an object so vast that would take light 6 years to cross, I am astonished, amazed, dumbstruck, blah, blah,blah.

But here's something that I am curious about, maybe we learned this in that class but my head was in the more painful stages of exploding, we are told the Crab Nebula exploded around 1054 AD as stated hereor something like that and the Crab Nebula is 6,000 light years away. Is it a scientific standard to place an astronomical event at the moment it is observed instead of when it actually happened? For instance, by my math, it actually exploded around 5,000 bc.

Is this to keep all the Intelligent Designer's heads from exploding?

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

LebaFUN!

A friend of mine lived in Lebanon a couple of years ago. She raved about it. She enjoyed it so much she ended up preparing to marry a guy from the UAE she had met there. Then she traveled to the UAE and met him on his own turf and he came to visit her...and things were different. Suddenly he informed her of her place in his world an all the requirements of a respectable wife. You can guess what that involved.

She ran.

Over at SuicideGirls.com is an article about this playground of the middle east by Michael J. Totten that describes this sin city.

Party towns aren't the best place to find a potential life partner. I include Cancun with that. One day you're slamming margaritas and the next you're arguing over the way the toilet paper should be hung.

They've got a plan, see?

Scott Burgess at The Daily Ablution provides a translation and commentary of what is called "The Project". It was recently entered into evidence against a member of the Muslim Brotherhood in a Swiss trial.

Evidently we don't know who wrote it but the defendant admitted that it was written by "Islamic Researchers".

Too many points jump out at you but the most obvious is this:

Point of Departure 5: To be used to establish an Islamic State;  parallel, progressive efforts targeted at controlling the local centres of power through institutional action.


Read the whole thing.

"And then, this American soldier actually pulled out a weapon and started shooting real bullets! At the enemy!"

Stephen Green over at VodkaPundit seems to have gotten some extra posting energy from the Thanksgiving feast with more than the normal number of posts recently.

I ran across this story in the LA Times earlier today about US Army propoganda and was confused about the point but was in a hurry and forgot about it. Stephen puts into words what I was thinking but not articulating even to myself.

Smart move, given that the Iraq Campaign is one small part of the Terror War - in which the media is the arm of decision. If you don't manage information, you lose


I know, I know, we are supposed to play by different rules, beheadings are the result of an oppressed insurgency, panties on a guy's head is torture. Maybe the MSM can just go ahead and publish a rule book for us all so that we can anticipate what is and isn't considered polite in a war. It would make my life a lot easier.

Crazy, anti-Semitic, Woman cashing in on the death of her son may have been taking a break after all.

A few days ago I referred to this story that I had been hesitant to link to. My concern was that the photos looked like they could very well have been taken before the book signing began.

Around Thanksgiving I wrote a piece about the importance of being faithful to the truth. Alexandra at All Things Beautiful was kind enough to link to it, my first post that was linked to.

Well in the spirit of that, I have to mention this story that claims the pictures were actually snapped during a break. What do I believe? I have no idea. Either scenario makes sense to me.

But I have railed about the distortion of the media, we all know they do it, so why would I think they wouldn't do it here?

I know, I know, she's a nutcase. but I'm going to do what I wish people would do with stories about plastic turkeys and drop it.

Unless of course somebody goes to the trouble of proving it one way or another.

Double Dog Dare

I dare you to read this article from the NYTimes about the current economic situation without laughing in amazement as the writer lists the many positive economic indicators while insisting that the sky could fall tomorrow. For instance:

Americans have taken advantage of historically low mortgage rates to buy homes, refinance existing loans and borrow money for renovations or other household needs, all of which have been an important and substantial boost to spending, Mr. Shapiro said. While neither he nor others expect that activity to dry up, even a modest tapering off could knock growth down a peg or two. Mr. Shapiro, for one, says growth could drop from 3.5 percent in 2005 to 3.2 percent in 2006.


Well yes, and of course our alien overlords may have arrived by then (and I for one welcome them) and started their human flesh exporting business, so I guess you never know what could happen.

Eeyoo, its the EU

Interesting speech by Helle C. Dale about the EU's future prospects. Stunning statistics:

Let’s compare the EU with the United States. Total employment in the EU stands at 63 percent. In the U.S. it is 75 percent as measured by 15–64-year-old members of households. Where the Unit ed States has 5 percent unemployment, France has 10 percent and Germany has 11 percent. Between 1990 and 2003, the U.S. economy created almost 20 million new jobs. Italy, Germany, and France combined created 3 million. If current trends con tinue, per capita income will go up in Germany over the next 20 years by 44 percent, while it will double in the United States.

Europe continues to lecture the US on its misguided ways. Meanwhile, they continue to base their policies on theory while the US continues to adjust a working model.

Your Band's Crap, Welcome to the Hall of Fame!

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame proved long ago that their standards were low. Sell enough records and get old enough and your in.

The latest inductees include the Sex Pistols, Blondie, Black Sabbath and Lynyrd Skynyrd. I'm not here to rail on any selection but of the 4, the Sex Pistols deserve it the least. In a movement that rejected the cynical, bloated, arena rock of the 70s, the Sex Pistols represented marketing an image over even any attempt at creating music at its zenith. Yes I listened to "Never Mind the Bollocks", more than I care to remember and yes, I sang along to "God Save the Queen" but the Sex Pistols did more to damage the Punk ideal than any bible toting evangelist could ever hope.

Plus they sucked.

I've run across some people who have the mistaken belief that the Sex Pistols were pioneers. That's simply not true. They were followers. Rather than go through a whole list, try The Ramones.

After the Hurricane

Reason's Cathy Young takes to task those on the left and right who pontificated at length about the causes of the New Orleans disaster.

Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but it only validates my original argument, immediately following the hurricane, that everybody should just shut up at least until they bury the bodies.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

trackback test

Trying to test trackback.

Post Secrets

I guess I'm late to the game but I just discovered the brilliant Post Secrets, a collection of anonymous postcards with secrets that range from hilarious to heartbreaking, often at the same time.

The Horror

I dig kids and have been told about the joy of hearing their delightful
laughter and exuberant singing but trust me, when you neighbor buys a
karaoke system to keep their 6 year old entertained ALL DAY LONG, you
start looking for the circuit breaker quick.

Does anybody know if there is a particular age in which kids grasp the
concept of singing in a single key?

This is going to be a long winter.

PM and Tim Blair

Tim Blair has bolted Pajamas Media.

I've posted before about my confusion over the anger PJM has generated among bloggers as well as my confusion over PJM. I'm a regular reader of several blogs who's owners are involved so I trust that there is some point to all this but I haven't figured it out yet.

Having said that, I stopped by an anti-Pajamas site (sorry, don't have it up now and can't remember the URL) today that seems to be all PJM all the time and don't understand why it is such an obsession for anybody.

Frankly, I have only gone to Pajamas Media about 3-4 times and mostly out of curiosity. It certainly doesn't provide me with a service that I need.

Same thing happened with HuffingtonPost.

Oops, I should say I've only gone there intentionally 3-4 times. It seems like Instapundit is using it as a main news source now. At least that is conclusion you might reach from all the Pajamas Media links that are starting to dominate that site.

Anyway, Blair has chosen to keep mum about his reasons and I can respect that but it is going to be ironic if and when this development becomes the subject of blogging speculation.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Go Fug Yourself

Terribly mean and vicious but definitely funny new site for me, Go Fug Yourself

Labels

I am working on a piece about political labels and identification. The always thoughtful The Belmont Club beats me to it.

I am trying to define this problem across the political spectrum and hopefully will be able to eventually boil it down to a readible size soon.

New News

Since before I left for Ukraine I began shifting my news sources from magazines and newspapers to the internet. I probably had 12-15 magazine subscriptions along with my daily newspaper and the trades that I picked up at the office. Since arriving in Ukraine, I receive complimentary Newsweek and International Christian Science Monitor subscriptions. Both are hopelessly outdated when I receive them. I tend to pass over news stories and focus on the latest hot gadget reviews or other pieces that sit in the back of the magazine (does anybody else read magazine backwards?).

Here's an interesting story in the Minnesota Daily about the changing world of news gathering.

When I return to the states, I don't expect to start new magazine subscriptions. There is something nice about holding a copy in your hand but I've grown so used to reading from the internet and I don't know if I have time anymore. I used to do my magazine reading in bed before going to sleep but in their absence I've discovered this really cool thing called a book. I think I'll try reading more of them.

EU upset, issues threats, world trembles

Evidently the EU is issuing threats over alleged hosting of secret CIA prisons by certain Eastern European countries. The accused countries are being threatened with a loss of EU voting rights.

The European commission has also asked the US to confirm the existence of secret CIA military jails, which almost certainly breach the European convention on human rights and the international convention against torture.


Can somebody explain to me why a CIA military jail "almost certainly" breaches European convention on human rights? Have we reached a point that we accept that any US action must involve torture?

OK, I understand, the term "torture" now includes such horrific abuses such as playing In-Sync music and putting women's underwear on a prisoner's head so the bar is set low, but have we reached the point that it is expected that the US jailers are automatically going to be pulling out their cds and pulling off their panties?

Or maybe the problem is the secrecy. Is there a rule in the EU against that? Are they going to be shutting down all the super-secret, double-naught-spy, women-hater, he-man clubs currently frequented by anti-secrecy offending 1st grade boys across the EU?

As of now, the countries deny any involvement so maybe that is the end of that but if the investigation continues, I suggest they take the Iranian tact and demand various economic incentives over the course of the next several years as a condition for their cooperation. By then, after the countries in question have cashed in their windfall for cooperating, any prisoners in their territory would have been released or died of old age.

Rove Attack

When word came out that Time reporter Viveca Novak is being compelled to testify in the Plame-alangaboombang, I assumed it was to provide incriminating evidence. According to this report in the Washington Post, it is just the opposite.

The reporter for Time magazine who recently agreed to testify in the CIA leak case is central to White House senior adviser Karl Rove's effort to fend off an indictment in the two-year-old investigation, according to two people familiar with the situation.

Viveca Novak, who has written intermittently about the leak case for Time, has been asked to provide sworn testimony to Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald in the next few weeks after Rove attorney Robert Luskin told Fitzgerald about a conversation he had with her, the two sources said.


I only have one question. How can I, a fully grown man, go through life without ever personally knowing anybody with the last name Novak and this case has two people with that last name involved but they are in no way related? And they are both...journalists?!?!?!?!? I hope that somebody is working on that conspiracy theory already.

The end is near...well, for Hollywood and all that is holy.

A friend sent me this prediction of doom by Patrick Goldstein from the LA Times about the turbulent future of film.

Maybe I'm an eternal optimist, something I've ever been accused of before, but I just don't buy into these gloomy scenarios. Yes, the window between theatrical and DVD release is narrowing, yes, the options for home viewing are expanding, but I still believe that there is a communal experience of going to the theater that people will always want to have.

My old girlfriend was the best cook I ever knew but we still ate out. Beer is a hell of a lot cheaper at home than a bar but people still go out. Unless people stop "going out" I think they'll keep going out to movies.

The problem with articles like this is that Goldstein ultimately commits the same sin that he is writing about, making sweeping predictions based on one recent event. The recent event was the anemic summer box office. Studio execs and filmmakers and yes, Patrick Goldstein can come to their own conclusions about what it all means but I would argue that they will all be wrong. They simply are not able to understand what most filmgoers know, the movies this summer sucked.

Make good movies and people will come. Make a lot of good movies and people will even come to a crappy one that is thrown in the mix because they are used to coming. Put a good one in the middle of a bunch of bad movies and people will miss it. Don't worry about trends and what's hip and all that stuff. Just...make...good...movies.

I think the members of the United International Fellowship of Theater Owners (or whatever club they belong to) would agree.

Goldstein makes several good points and it is an interesting read but I think his rumors about the coming death of the movie theater are greatly exaggerated.

I'm so Ronery

I was hesitating to link to this because I thought it might be pix of wacky Sheehan before her book signing began but evidently it is in the middle of the big celebration.

I'm the last blogger to link to it. So sue me.

Oh, and this is my first time to try to track back. Wish me luck! YAY!!!!

commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

Firefox test

I'm testing this firefox browser to see

how it works.
I can choose different font colors.

I can justify to the right.
or center.
I can make my fonts large
Or tiny.
Most importantly
I can annoy people with all these things I can do!
But I still can't get haloscan to work!
The end








Sunday, November 27, 2005

An argument for Woodward, for all the wrong reasons

In Slate David Feige makes the argument that Bob Woodward was correct in staying silent over the past 2 years but for all the wrong reasons.

We have laws in this country that designate precisely when citizens are required to rat on other people. The laws, for instance, require doctors who witness injuries consistent with child sex abuse to call authorities; and social workers are obligated to snitch if they confront someone clearly about to physically harm another. Certain other professionals are also deemed by law to be "mandatory reporters." But outside these narrow confines, there is no law in our country imposing an obligation to begin or to assist in a criminal prosecution—not in drug cases, not in mob cases, not even in murder cases.


As much as the news media likes to fantasize about their lofty position in the world, their individual members are still relegated to the lowly status of human beingness. Bob Woodward's obligations are not limited by legal, or god forbid even journalistic concerns. His decision to hold information concerning a criminal investigation or reveal it should be guided by a very human understanding of doing what is right.

I posed the question in another blog's comment section about a month before the Woodward story became a story of whether any journalist should be responsible for providing information that could exonerate a defendant. The question then was rhetorical because I can't imagine any ethical person allowing an innocent person to be convicted when they have information that would set them free.

At this point it seems that this is the criteria that Woodward has been using, he realized that the timeline listed by the prosecutor was faulty and took actions to correct that. As this investigation continues, we'll see exactly who did what and when...hopefully, but for now Woodward was right and not because he followed the letter of the law.

Of course, there is an argument to be made that perhaps Woodward should have spoken up earlier to prevent this indictment. I'll leave that to the conclusion of the case or if more information becomes available.

Things I am thankful for

This is a very late post but what the hey. Below is my annual list of
things I am thankful for. This was originally a mass email to friends
and family so there are references that probably will make no sense. I
started to cut a few but decided to keep it complete.

----------------

It's that time of year again, time for me to list the things that I am
thankful for.

I'm sure that all of you are at your fancy Thanksgiving feasts with
your fancy turkeys and in your fancy self-regulated heated homes so
you'll probably get this belated list even more belatedly than it
already is. And so, we begin.

I'm thankful that they fixed the elevator in my building last week
after only a month out of service.

I'm thankful they are cleaning out the garbage chute has been clogged
for 2 months and is located outside my apartment door.

I'm thankful that god granted me the awesome power of holding my breath
while I wait for the elevator and avoid the stench of 2 months of
rotting garbage that has been pulled out of the chute and left in the
hallway while I wait for the newly fixed elevator.

I'm thankful for the babushkas that helpfully assist me in climbing
into the bus each day by firmly shoving me from behind.

I'm thankful for the hundreds of people I share my daily bus with who
remind me of the importance of daily hygiene and brushing my teeth.

I'm thankful for the haircut I recently received that taught me the
power of living a vanity free life.

I'm thankful that my newfound love for showtunes and Barbara Streisand
records simply reflects a natural evolution of my musical tastes and
nothing else. Really. I mean it.

I'm thankful that I learned early that "Blah, blah, blah" sounds very
similar to the Ukrainian phrase for suggesting somebody should have
carnal knowledge and in a way that they probably wouldn't enjoy.

I'm thankful for my green full face stocking cap, without which I would
probably be returning to the US missing my ears.

I'm thankful that the good lord gave me the intelligence to actually
test "chili powder" I buy at the local market and find that it isn't
the chili powder known to the rest of the world but cayenne pepper. My
dinner guests are thankful for that as well.

I'm thankful that my good friend Steve taught me long ago about the
secret of doubling your socks.

I'm thankful that nobody in Ukraine is familiar with my arch enemy
Cranberry sauce and I won't have that for thanksgiving.

I'm thankful that the additional 60 lbs I've gained since arriving will
provide me with a cozy extra layer of warmth for the winter.

I'm thankful that underwear really can be worn for much longer without
a washing than I ever thought possible.

I'm thankful that Ukrainian fashion stops at the border of Ukraine.

I'm thankful that Jehovah granted me the cat-like reflexes to dodge
inebriated Ukrainians on the sidewalk, in the market, at the park etc.,
etc, etc.

I'm thankful that Shawn made it possible for me to never buy socks for
the next 5 years.

I'm thankful that as a helpless American man I am not expected to
actually iron.

I'm thankful that when I return I will be able to reintroduce myself to
the greatest two inventions known to man, the washer and dryer.

I'm thankful that so many movies that have come out in the last two
years have been terrible and I'm not as sad for missing them.

I'm thankful that my two friends Eric and John have reached an
agreement on the casting decision for the new James Bond.

I'm thankful that with a limited selection of available books, I can
actually become interested in reading about the adventures of an
american girl who travels to spain to live with the Gypsies and learn
the age old secrets of Gypsy flamenco guitar with incredible detail
about the spiritual side of bulerias and soleares as well as insight
into her weirdly sensual relationship with her brother who's dead now
from mysterious circumstances.

But most importantly, I'm thankful that you guys put up with me.

---------------------------------

I'm happy to report that I haven't actually gained 60 lbs but wanted to
put a mental image in everybody's head of an extra large me. I, like
most male PCVs, have actually lost weight since arriving in Ukraine.
For some reason male volunteers tend to lose weight while female volunteers tend to gain. We were told it is a
reaction to stress but I don't know if that means eating patterns are
changed differently according to sex or what.

Anyway, I know this is at the tail end of the holiday weekend so I hope
you had plenty to be thankful for as well.

Friday, November 25, 2005

China

With the constant talk of the inevitable world domination by China, stories like this one remind us that "inevitable" is a mighty complicated word.

Hey guys, while you are out in the streets, openly claiming to live under the 4th Reich and sleeping in peace after publicly insisting that your government is the most evil since Pol Pot's, there really are countries that do things like this:

The spill occurred after an explosion Nov. 13 at the Jilin Petrochemical Co. that killed five workers and injured 70 more. The plant, a subsidiary of one of China's largest energy firms, China National Petroleum Corp., is located about 165 miles upstream from Harbin in neighboring Jilin province.

Party officials at the factory and in the Jilin government at first denied the blast caused any pollution, and continued to repeat such statements as recently as Monday.

But in one of several tough reports on Friday, the state-run China Youth Daily quoted an unidentified city engineer in Jilin saying party officials there were told of the chemical spill within eight hours of the explosion. Citing another unnamed source, it also said the Jilin officials released water from a reservoir into the river in an attempt to dilute the spill and fix the problem without alerting the public.


For all the dvd players and tennis shoes the Chinese are cranking out, they still treat their own citizens like cattle...well, that's silly of course, nobody would let their cows drink poisoned water. 

What happens now? With all the talk of the inevitable, here the unexpected. There, the unexpected. It is events like this that remind us, NOTHING IS INEVITABLE.
 
I expect Greenpeace will be chugging up the river next week to launch a protest.  NOT!

P.S. As I continue my history of this area, I am reading yet another book that describes in detail the horror of the Soviet Union. Not the singular horror of Stalin but the horror of Lenin (quote from a Lenin letter I read last night "We must kill more professors!") and living under a totalitarian regime as well. While the Soviet Union still stood, stories like those I am reading now were dismissed by the intellectual elite and sophisticated as the rantings of paranoid rightwingers. Now they are known as fact.

I believe that when the time comes for the communist government of China to step, or be pushed aside, it will equal if not surpass the USSR in past atrocities revealed.

How can people of any political persuasion march under the images of monsters of history?

Thanksgiving thoughts

The thoughtful and prolific Alexandra at All Things Beautiful has a post with listings of a variety of Thanksgivings posts by bloggers. Check them out.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Late Turkey Day Escape

I'm going to be out of town for a couple of days to celebrate thanksgiving with a couple of PCVs and a scrawny Ukrainian turkey. The Ukrainians tell me that they don't have the massive turkeys that are common in the US because they don't pump theirs with hormons.

Not being a turkey farmer or even expert, I can't attest to the truth of that but right now I crave the supposedly hormon infested delicious and massive turkey breast of my youth.

Anyway, posting will probably be little to none for a couple of days. I'll be back!

Free oil from out friends

Here goes Chavez, helping humanity again.

And here goes an idiot politician, helping Chavez again:

Democratic Congressman William Delahunt of Massachusetts publicly thanked Chavez, as well as the government and people of Venezuela.

"They should know that their generosity will [keep] thousands of families here in Massachusetts from being forced to make an unacceptable choice between food, between heat, between health care, and between paying the rent," he said.


Is there going to be a point where the people of Venezuela will say "Hey wait a minute, can we work on the local stagnant, raw sewage for a while?" I know that Chavez is fomenting the next Latin American people's revolution but how much of that oil does he have to spread around? I can't wait until I personally control the natural resources of my own country.

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